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Greece Government

Our next stop on our journey through ancient Greece will describe the government of Greece to you. Ask yourself the following questions and read the answers to learn more about how ancient Greece was ruled and who made the laws that you would have followed.

What is a city-state?
photo courtesy of Department of Classical Studies, Indiana University

Ancient Greece was divided into many small areas called city-states. The above picture is of Athens, the largest city-state in ancient Greece. Since the land was very mountainous, city-states were separated from each other and it was very difficult to travel from one to another. Although Greeks within the city-states had similar traditions and trusted the same gods, they often fought with one another. Everyone was stubborn and believed that their city-state was better than all other city-states.

Who ruled the city-states?
Since city-states were separated from one another other, each had its own government. When city-states were first formed, they were ruled by a few wealthy men. However, they later moved towards democracy.

What is democracy?
Greece was the birthplace of democracy. In city-states they practiced a form of democracy known as direct democracy. A direct democracy is one which is governed by the people. Leaders were elected by vote.

Who was allowed to vote?
In Athens, the people were divided into three groups:
  •    Upper class - male citizens of Athens since birth
  •    Middle class - males who were not born in Athens
  •    Lower class - slaves
Only men who were born in Athens were allowed to vote.

How did they make the laws?
Laws were made at public assemblies where upper class citizens discussed laws that might benefit Athens. These assembly meetings often got very noisy and led to many arguments among the men who were there.