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Greek democracy

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Title: Greek democracy  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Classical Greece, Anarchism in Greece
Collection: Classical Greece
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Greek democracy

During the Classical era of Ancient Greece many city-states had forms of government based on democracy, in which the free (non-slave), native (non-foreigner) adult male citizens of the city took a major and direct part in the management of the affairs of state, such as declaring war, voting supplies, dispatching diplomatic missions and ratifying treaties. These activities were often handled by a form of direct democracy, based on a popular assembly. Others, of judicial nature, were often handled by large juries, drawn from the citizen body.

By far the most significant and well-understood example is Athenian democracy in Athens. However, other important cities like Corinth, Megara, Syracuse and others also had democratic regimes during part of their history.

Federal democracy

During the 3rd century BC, the political center of gravity in Greece shifted from individual city-states to leagues, such as the Aetolian League and the Achaean League. These were confederations that jointly handled the foreign and military affairs for the member cities. Their internal structure was democratic with respect to the member cities, that is, each city was had within the league weight roughly proportional to its size and power. On the other hand, the cities themselves were largely represented in the leagues by the wealthy elites.

These leagues differed from earlier groupings of Greek city-states, like the Peloponnesian League or the Delian League, in that they were not dominated by a single city as the earlier leagues used to be dominated by Athens and Sparta.

Further reading

  • Eric W. Robinson, Ancient Greek Democracy: Readings and Sources, John Wiley and Sons Ltd, 2003.
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