What Was the Ruler of Ancient Greece Called?

In Ancient Greece, the ruler was known as the monarch. The word “monarch” comes from the Greek words “monos,” meaning “alone” or “single,” and “arkhein,” meaning “to rule.”

The Evolution of Greek Rulers

Ancient Greece went through various stages of governance, with different types of rulers emerging over time. In the early period, city-states were ruled by basileis, who were essentially kings or chiefs. These basileis were often hereditary rulers, passing down their power and authority through generations.

The Rise of Tyrants

As Greek city-states grew in size and complexity, some basileis became oppressive rulers. This led to a period known as tyranny, where tyrants emerged as rulers who seized power through force or popular support.

Tyrants were not necessarily cruel or despotic; some even introduced reforms that benefited their cities. However, their power was not based on a traditional system of hereditary succession.

The Age of Oligarchy

In some city-states, tyranny was eventually replaced by an oligarchy. Oligarchs were a small group of wealthy individuals who shared power among themselves.

This form of government was characterized by the privileged few controlling political decisions and resources, often at the expense of the majority. Oligarchs typically came from aristocratic backgrounds and maintained their authority through economic influence.

Athens: Birthplace of Democracy

Athens stands out as one of the most influential city-states in Ancient Greece because it introduced democracy – a system in which power is vested in the people.

Athenian democracy allowed citizens to participate directly in decision-making, as opposed to being ruled by a single individual or a small group. However, it is important to note that not everyone in Athens had the right to vote; only adult male citizens who completed military service were eligible.

The Role of Ancient Greek Mythology

Ancient Greek rulers often claimed divine ancestry or invoked the support of gods and goddesses as a way to legitimize their rule.

For example, many Greek monarchs traced their lineage back to gods like Zeus or Poseidon. This connection with mythology helped establish their authority and reinforce the belief that they were chosen by the gods to lead.


The ruler of Ancient Greece took various forms – from hereditary monarchs and tyrants to oligarchs and democratic leaders. Each period shaped the political landscape of Greece, reflecting its evolving social and cultural values.

As you delve deeper into Ancient Greek history, you will discover more about these rulers and how they influenced the development of one of the world’s most fascinating civilizations.