Athenian Democracy: The Role Of Democracy In Ancient Greece

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The government throughout the archaic period in Greece was extremely diverse across the many city-states and varied greatly over time. Depending on the area of Greece and the era, the power could have been in the hands of one person, in either a Monarchy or a Tyranny, in the hands of a few, in an Oligarchy or an Aristocracy and lastly, in the hands of every single male citizen, as seen in a Democracy.

Last week we became somewhat familiar with Ancient Athenian government and the roles it played in introducing the concept of Democracy to the world. However, the concept of Athenian Democracy didn’t form until after it was governed by the hands of an Aristocracy. Athens and a multitude of other city-states in Ancient Greece were run by small
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Within these city states democracy allowed the views of all its native male citizens typically over the age of 18 to partake in the assembly and have a vote on the political matters. Although, the wealthiest citizens obtained the most influence and I’d assume that the majority of them ended up on the Boule, everyone had somewhat of a say in the democratic city states.

Much like the boule in Athens, we see the Spartan Gerousian council of elders. However, unlike democratic Athens, Sparta was an Oligarchy, meaning it was governed by the few or in Sparta’s case two kings. Oligarchy was common around Ancient Greece and existed not only in Sparta, but, in the city states of Corinth, Stymphalos and shortly in Thebes, who eventually switched to democracy. ("Ancient Greece - Staff Room",
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In ancient Greece two different single dictatorships occurred, either Monarchy or Tyranny. Although, both of these words appear to mean the same thing -rule by a single powerful dictator, their ways varied greatly.

Much more common than a Monarchy, Tyranny occurred when power was taken by force. This was seen with the demise of democracy in Athens when the King of Macedonia, Phillip II and later his son Alexander the Great, took power of Athens. Tyranny was also present in many other city-states including, Argos, Connith, Sioyon, Megara, Mytilene and Miletus. ("Ancient Greece - Staff Room", n.d.) A Tyrant usually ruled for a short period of time and held the power over the city-state; however, the majority of the time Tyrants did not fit the current meaning of tyranny and were far from horrific and unfair rulers. Ancient Greek Tyrants were often seen as symbols of hope and signs of a better life. According to the Tyrant facts, in order for a tyranny to exist, the ruler would win popular support, take over the current government, and confiscate reign for himself. ("Tyrant Facts, information, pictures | articles about Tyrant",

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