Democracy in Ancient Greece

Category: Politics
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How did people in Athens and Sparta obtain the right to participate in public life and make decisions affecting the community?

To be eligible to participate in government in either Athens or Sparta, one had to be a free male citizen of the polis. Athens had an additional requirement that the individual male be born of Athenian citizens, whereas Sparta had no such requirement. (Brand, 2010).

In Athens, there was an additional subclass of people that were disenfranchised known as the Metics. Metics were free male citizens that were of foreign decent, or not born to Athenian parents. Metics, although a second class citizen, could own property and some even became wealthy under the Athenian Government. (Brand, 2010).

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Who held public office? What rules governed the selection of public office holders?

Both Athens and Sparta required that anyone participating in political decisions be a citizen of the polis (city state), an adult male, and, a free citizen born of Athenian parents. Women, children, and slaves were specifically prevented from public participation. (Brand, 2010).

How were the two city-states similar in their governmental structures?

Both Sparta and Athens had an assembly. Members of the Spartan Assembly were free, adult males that held Spartan citizenship. If a person was stripped of their citizenship through legal proceedings, they were no longer eligible to participate in government. (Brand, 2010).

There were several additional layers of government in Sparta, each having a different role and requirement for inclusion in the group. These positions were the Euphors, Gerousia. Both were positions that required the individual holding that office be chosen. There were 60 Gerousia, a counsel of elders that required the individual be 60-years of age or older. The Euphors was a court of five magistrate that served a one-year in the appointed office. One additional difference in Spartan government is that the Spartan’s had two kings.(Brand, 2010).

The Athenians, while also having an assembly, operated on a larger scale of public involvement and the final outcome of decisions made was weighted to favor the wealthy. (Brand, 2010).


Brand, P. J. (2010). Athens & Sparta: Democracy vs. Dictatorship. Retrieved February 5, 2018, from

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Democracy in Ancient Greece. (2019, Aug 26). Retrieved from