Monarchy A monarchy is a form of government in which the ruling power is in the hands of a single person. Most monarchies have been ruled by kings, usually with the help of a council of advisors. The word monarchy comes from the Greek terms monos (meaning single) and arkhein (meaning rule). The Mycenaeans, who ruled ancient Greece from about 1600 to 1200 B.C.E., were warrior people who established monarchies to rule their city-states. The king of each city-state lived in a lavish fortress-palace in the capital city. Beyond the capital city was an outlying network of villages. The people of these villages paid taxes to the king, obeyed his laws, and depended on him for their defense. The king often relied on armed soldiers to enforce his rule and to make sure that the people paid taxes and obeyed his laws. He usually kept political
power for life. His eldest sonthe princesucceeded him on the throne. When there was no prince to take the place of the king, the kings closest military advisors often battled among themselves to become the new monarch. The Mycenaean monarchies survived until about 1200 B.C.E. At that time, many of their eastern trade routes began to close because of fighting between kingdoms in Asia Minor. As a result, the Mycenaeans could no longer obtain raw metals, and their ability to make weapons and conquer other lands lessened. Eventually, the Mycenaeans began to fight among themselves for survival, and they slowly destroyed each other. Finally, a people from the northwest, called the Dorians, invaded Greece and destroyed what remained of the Mycenaean monarchies. Monarchy as a form of government gradually disappeared in Greece. It was replaced by a system in which a small number of individuals shared power and ruled as a group.
Oligarchy An oligarchy is a form of government in which the ruling power is in the hands of a few leaders. The word oligarchy comes from the Greek terms oligos (meaning few) and arkhein (meaning rule). Around 800 B.C.E., small groups of people began to share ruling power in several Greek city-states. Political power was often shared among aristocrats, who inherited wealth and power from their families, and a king. Over time, this ruling arrangement changed. Oligarchies developed in which political power rested with a few selected wealthy individuals. Some of these members of the ruling circle were of aristocratic birth, while others were wealthy members of the middle class. Like monarchs, oligarchs usually lived luxurious lives and enforced their rule with military support. Citizens in an oligarchy enjoyed certain protections. But they lacked full political rights, such as voting. Therefore, most citizens of an oligarchy
had very little say in how the city-state was run. Over time, oligarchies began to disappear in Greece for various reasons. In Corinth, for example, the people lived well, but the oligarchy ruled harshly and the citizens eventually overthrew it. In Athens, dissatisfaction with the oligarchy arose as the peasant population increased and food shortages became common. The power of oligarchies was also weakened when powerful and wealthy individuals assembled armies of hired, or mercenary, warriors, called hoplites, and used them to intimidate political leaders. By the 400s B.C.E., a stable oligarchy ruled only one city-state, Sparta. Tyranny A tyranny is a form of government in which the ruling power is in the hands of an individual who has seized control, often by illegal means. The word tyranny comes from the
Greek word tyrannos, which means usurper with supreme power. Over time, a person who ruled by tyranny, or a tyrant, became known for holding onto power by cruel and abusive means. Tyrannies in Greece first arose during the mid-600s B.C.E. In many city-states, a growing wealthy middle class of merchants and manufacturers became angry with their rulers. This middle class demanded political and social privileges to accompany their newfound wealth, but the ruling oligarchies refused to grant them a say in the government. Various individualsmostly former military leadersresponded to the demands of the middle class and promised to make the changes they wanted. Supported by the middle class, these individuals seized power from the ruling groups. Once in power, these leadersor tyrantsoften reformed the laws, helped the poor, canceled debts, and gave citizens other than
nobles a say in the government. As a reward, citizens often gave gifts to tyrants, who in turn became quite wealthy. Many tyrants ruled for short periods of time. In some city-states, tyrants became harsh and greedy, and were simply overthrown by the people. The last important tyrant to rule mainland Greece was Hippias of the city-state of Athens. In 510 B.C.E. a combination of Spartan invaders and Athenians, who were opposed to his harsh rule, forced Hippias to resign and leave Greece. A new form of governmentone in which all citizens shared in the decision making eventually replaced him. Democracy A democracy is a form of government in which the ruling power is in the hands of all the people. The word democracy comes from the Greek terms demos
(meaning people) and kratos (meaning power). Democracy developed in ancient Greece about 500 B.C.E. in the city-state of Athens, where many people began to oppose the rule of the tyrants. The main governing body of the Athenian democracy was the Assembly. The Assembly was open to all 30,000 to 40,000 adult male citizens, but usually only 5,000 people attended. Both rich and poor citizens attended the Assembly. This body met about 40 times a year to direct foreign policy, revise laws, and approve or condemn the conduct of public officials. Assembly members reached all their decisions through public debate and vote. A smaller, important executive body, the Council of 500, was responsible for the day-to-day running of the state. This bodywhose members were chosen annually in a lotteryproposed new laws and enforced the Assemblys decisions, or decrees. The Council also administered the states
finances, received foreign ambassadors, and oversaw the maintenance of the Athenian fleet. An important aspect of Athenian democracy was the fact that its public officials did not have much individual power. In wartime, a group of 10 generals made decisions about military matters. These generals were elected annually and could be reelected several times. Nearly all government officialsincluding generals and assembly and council members, as well as citizens who served on jurieswere paid for their services. This allowed both poor and rich male citizens to fully participate in the Athenian government.
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