The Politics of Ancient Greece

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the idea of Ancient Greece creating the first democratic government system. However, only a few Ancient Greek city-states actually utilized this system. Altogether there were almost 1,500 (all numbers will be based around 500 BCE) city-states, however many of these were so small that in modern times we could barely call them towns. In fact, Athens, the largest city-state, had an estimated population of 200,000. As a comparison, in 2013 the city of Denver had a population of around 649,000. Anyway, the Greek city-states had many different government systems. These systems included, but were not limited to; monarchies, tyrants, oligarchies and democracy. I will discuss the political sysems of the two most powerful city-states starting with Sparta. The city-state of Sparta utilized a monarch/tyrant to rule their incredibly large land (around 4,000 square miles) despite having a small population of almost 16,000 (males). This harsh rule complimented their harsh society, boys were taken at the age of 7 to begin military training and remained in the military until the age of 60. Another harsh reality was that a majority of the population were Helot slaves. All of this allowed a small city-state to be arguably one of the two most powerful city-states with the other one being Athens. Athens utilized a democratic system where every male citizen was part of the government and was allowed to help make governmental decisions. This means that Athens had a government that consisted of almost 35,000 people. Just as the harsh monarch system complimented Sparta, this democratic system complimented Athens. The Athenian people were always trying to work for the future and military service was optional. The democratic system is often considered the best thing to come out of Ancient Greece which also compliments Athens as the people were always looking to the future and wanting to create a positive influence and it is for this reason that most of the great Ancient Greek philosophers originated in Athens.



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