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The Ancient Greek Ways of

Government:
From Aristocracy to
Tyranny
Class: HIST 1421

Teacher: Mr. Bob Chambers


With city structure came those that rule said structures. Ancient Greece was no

exception. The city-states of Ancient Greece had their own ways of structure and

government, with many forms to choose from. Here, we will define and explain these

many forms, when it comes to their governments. They are as follows: Aristocracy,

Democracy, Monarchy, Oligarchy and Tyranny.

Derived from the Greek word aristokratia (rule of the best) and the sub-

words aristos (excellent) and kratos, (power, and not the God of War character),

Aristocracy is the form of government that has its power placed in the hands of a few.

These few, like the aforementioned Greek meaning, were the best that were qualified to

rule. They are the ones that rule for the purposes of the interest of the population.

Democracy, in contrast from Aristocracy, is a form of government that places

power in the hands of the many, or the group that is referred to today as the people.

Those that are in powerful positions get there because of the people (mainly men) voting

them in. Depending on how many terms those in power can serve, and how often, the

people in these powerful positions change. Athens was the Greek city-state that we all

know of that used democracy by letting men have the right to vote, as well as speak at the

Assembly.

While a democracy puts the power in the hands of many and aristocracy puts

power in the hands of a few, a monarchy is different. A Monarchy is a form of

government that put its power in the hands of just one. That one person is the King of the

land. He remains the king for the rest of his life, and once he dies, his offspring will take

over as the heir to the throne. The city-states of Macedonia and Epeiros were the main

two in Ancient Greece to implement the monarchy.


Oligarchy, like Aristocracy, is the form of government that has its power placed

in the hands of a few. Unlike Aristocracy, these so called few in an oligarchy were the

very rich and wealthy. With money and wealth, came arrogance and carelessness,

especially for those that arent as rich as they are. It is because of this thought process

that these powerful rich people didnt care for the poor too much, so everything that they

do is done to benefit themselves and their own wallets. Oligarchy is often contrasted with

Democracy, which is why some would say that an oligarchy only happens when a

democracy fails.

When some felt that the other forms of government didnt work well, uprisings

would take place. There would also be one person here and there that would take matters

into his own hands and become a tyrant for tyranny. Tyranny is the form of government

that, like a Monarchy, has one ruler, but unlike a Monarchy, did not inherit the title. This

person took power for himself, through methods that would be deemed wrong and

unconstitutional, such as killing the previous ruler. Funny enough, youd think that a

tyrant would do all of this strictly for himself, but he doesnt. Despite the meaning of the

word today, a tyrant in Ancient Greece would not only come to rule for himself and his

own interests, but would also do it for his people and stand for them. It can be described

as a You dont like how the government is being run? Then work with me and lets turn

this around. type of scenario.

Yes, in the times of Ancient Greece, there were many forms of government. They

had their plusses and minuses, their positives and negatives, and their ups and downs. As

time wet on, some lasted a while for certain cities, while others were short lived. We, in

our current time, can only hope to learn from history and to not have it repeat itself. At

the same time, we are currently in a Democracy ourselves that has the wrong people in
power and that is slowly falling apart, so, well, you be the judge here, on where you think

we are headed. Only time will tell.


References

Forms of Government - Democracy, Oligarchy and Tyranny. (n.d.). Retrieved


September 16, 2017, from
http://www.ancientgreece.co.uk/staff/resources/background/bg10/home.html

Cartwright, M. (2013, March 17). Greek Government. Retrieved September 16,


2017, from http://www.ancient.eu/Greek_Government/

Rowe, A. (2014, December 02). Monarchy, Aristocracy, Tyranny & Democracy


in Ancient Greece. Retrieved September 16, 2017, from
https://prezi.com/owtd3ma_aisk/monarchy-aristocracy-tyranny-democracy-in-
ancient-greece/

Brand, P. J. (2010). Athens & Sparta: Democracy vs. Dictatorship. Retrieved


September 8, 2017