There was no central
government in ancient Greece. Greece, back then, was not even one
country. People lived in city-states. Each city-state was an independent unit.
Each city-state made their own laws, they had their own coinage, they
had their own way of doing things. But, they all spoke Greek, they all
believed in the same gods, and they all shared a common history.
As time went on, there
were probably over a thousand city-states established on the Greek
peninsula, possibly even more. Some were very small. Others, like
Athens, Corinth, Megara, Argos, and Sparta, were large and powerful.
Be it big or small, the ancient Greeks were very loyal to their city-state, and very proud of
their city-state's accomplishments.
City-states went to war
with each other. They teamed up to fight another Greek city-state or
to fight a common enemy from outside the Greek peninsula. They traded
with each other. They negotiated with each other. They knew each
other. But if you asked a Greek if he was a Greek, he
would probably give you a puzzled look and identify himself by his
city-state. He might say: "I am a man of Corinth" (or
Olympia or whatever city-state he called home.)
There were three main
forms of government used in ancient Greece by various
by a king: Some
city-states were ruled by a king. This type of government is
called a monarchy. The city-state of Corinth is an example;
Corinth was ruled by a king.
Ruled by a
small group: Some
city-states were ruled by a small group of people. This type
of government is called an oligarchy. The city-state of
Sparta was ruled by a small group of retired and highly
by many: One
city-state, Athens, experimented with democracy, or rule by
many. For a while, every citizen in Athens could vote on laws
and changes in the laws. This form of government continued until
Athens was conquered by Sparta.
of Democracy in Athens