In Ancient Greece, the ruler was known as a “monarch” or “king.” However, this system of government changed throughout the centuries.
Early Greek Monarchy
During the Mycenaean period (1600 BC – 1100 BC), Greece was ruled by monarchs who were believed to have been chosen by the gods. These monarchs were responsible for leading military expeditions and maintaining law and order. The most famous of these early monarchs was King Agamemnon, who led the Greeks in the Trojan War.
As Greece became more urbanized, wealthy landowners known as aristocrats gained power and influence. The aristocrats controlled the land and held all political power.
They formed councils and assemblies to govern their cities. This system of government became known as an oligarchy.
The Rise of Democracy
Athens is often credited with being the birthplace of democracy. In Athens, citizens were able to vote on laws and policies directly in a legislative assembly. This assembly was made up of all male citizens over the age of 20.
Sparta’s Unique System
Sparta had a unique system of government that differed from other Greek city-states. Sparta was ruled by two kings who served as military leaders, but they did not hold absolute power. A council of elders served as an advisory board to the kings, and an assembly made up of male citizens could vote on certain matters.
The Hellenistic Period
After Alexander the Great conquered much of Greece in 336 BC, Greek culture spread throughout his empire. The Hellenistic period saw a blending of Greek culture with other cultures throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia.
In 146 BC, Greece fell under Roman rule after being conquered by Rome in a series of wars known as the Macedonian Wars. Greece remained a part of the Roman Empire until the fall of Rome in 476 AD.
Throughout its long and complex history, Ancient Greece experienced a variety of different systems of government. From monarchy to aristocracy, democracy to oligarchy, each system left an indelible mark on Greek culture and history. Today, Greece is a democratic republic with a president as its head of state.