What Were Police Called in Ancient Greece?

In Ancient Greece, the idea of policing was quite different from what we know today. There were no official police forces or law enforcement agencies as we have now. However, there were some forms of policing that existed in Ancient Greece.

What Were Police Called in Ancient Greece?

The word ‘police’ comes from the Greek word ‘polis’, which means city-state. In ancient times, the city-state was a central part of Greek society and culture. The polis was responsible for maintaining order and protecting citizens from harm.

The primary form of policing in Ancient Greece was done by citizens themselves. Every citizen had a responsibility to maintain public order and safety. They had to report any crimes or suspicious activities to the authorities or take action themselves if necessary.

The Role of Magistrates

Magistrates were elected officials who served as judges and mediators in disputes. They were responsible for maintaining public order and enforcing laws within their jurisdiction. They also had the power to arrest individuals who violated the law.

The Athenian Police System

Athenian society had a unique system of policing that relied heavily on citizen participation. The Athenian police force was made up of ordinary citizens who volunteered for service. These volunteers were known as ‘Scythians’ and were selected based on physical fitness, bravery, and loyalty to the state.

These Scythians patrolled the streets to prevent crime and maintain public order. They also served as guards at public events such as festivals and religious ceremonies.

The Spartan Police System

Sparta’s police system was different from Athens’. Sparta had a professional police force called ‘Krypteia.’ This force consisted of young Spartan men who underwent rigorous training before being selected for service.

Krypteia agents operated undercover to detect any potential threats to Sparta’s security. They also acted as spies within their own society to ensure that citizens were following the laws and customs of Sparta.

The Importance of Community

One thing that stands out in Ancient Greece’s policing system is the importance of community involvement. Citizens were responsible for maintaining public order and safety, and they took this responsibility seriously.

The Greek city-state was a close-knit community where everyone knew each other. This sense of community made it easier to maintain law and order as citizens were more likely to report any suspicious activities or crimes.


In conclusion, Ancient Greece did not have a formal police force as we know it today. Instead, citizens played a vital role in maintaining public order and safety.

The Athenian police system relied on citizen volunteers while Sparta had a professional police force. However, both systems shared the same emphasis on community involvement and responsibility. This sense of community helped maintain law and order in Ancient Greece despite the lack of a formal policing system.