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Ancient Greek Government: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

In this history lesson, we'll learn about ancient Greek governments and how they created their political structures. Check out this lesson now to learn more about governments of ancient Greece.

The First Voters

We like to think of the United States as the world's first democracy, a government where people elect their leaders. In reality, however, the ancient Greeks developed democracy over two thousand years ago.Their example has guided the governments of many nations across the globe, including our own.

The democracies of ancient Greece looked very different than America's government. There were no TV ads or political parties. Only a relatively small group people out of the entire population had the right to vote. This meant that a few thousand people with voting rights could make decisions affecting hundreds of thousands of others.

Types of Government

We think of Greece today as one country, but in ancient Greece, cities ruled their individual regions instead of coming together as a whole. Each city had a different governmental structure, but in general Greeks used three different types of government. Democracies elected rulers. Oligarchies had a small group of people ruling over all others. Monarchies had a king who ruled alone.

The city of Athens had the most famous democracy. We know about Athenian politics thanks to over one hundred speeches, five hundred rules, and ten laws that have survived through history. About ten or twenty percent of all people who lived in Athens had the right to vote. Women, foreigners, and slaves had no voting rights. The richest and most influential Athenians dominated politics. Some Athenians disliked democracy, believing that a persuasive speaker could convince voters to side with them.

Acropolis, the government center of Athens
Acropolis

Sparta, the famous warrior-state of Greece, had a complicated type of government. Their democratic assembly voted on issues, but Sparta also had a monarchy with two kings. These kings had lots of power during times of war, but in times of peace their power was limited by members of an oligarchy. This made Sparta a democracy, a monarchy, and an oligarchy all in one.

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