Monarchy: One Person Inherits Power From 2000 to 800 B.C., most Greek city-states were ruled by a monarch. Monarch also means king. In a monarch, the power is in the hands of only one person, who is usually the king. At first, the people got to choose who they wanted to be their king. If that king died, then they got to choose another king. THEN! The kings decided to be unfair and wanted to give their power to their children after they died. If you are the oldest SON in your house, and your dad was king and he dies. Guess what? YOU’RE THE NEW KING! YAY! When a king passes his power to his own son, this is called inheriting power. So they went to the king and said “hey king man, lets share the power?” King man says “no way, the power is MINE! ALL MINE!!” So the aristocrats decided to own him. So they overthrew the kings and took the power for themselves. By 800 B.C.E. kings no longer ruled the city-states. The kings had a group of people that gave him good advice called aristocrats. They were really rich guys who inherited a lot of land. There’s that word inherit again! That means they got it from their father. At first, the aristocrats were noobs and they didn’t have much power, but then the kings needed help during wars and then they discovered TOGETHER with their ‘powers combined’ they were stronger than the king!
Oligarchy: A Few People Share Power These aristocrats hired slaves to work all day long in the fields and they weren’t even invited to the parties! The oligarchy made laws that were unfair and used the army to make the poor people obey them. They even ignored what the poor people needed. Soon, the slaves thought, “why am I such a poor noob while these aristocrats are making bank?” Yup, under the oligarchy, the rich got richer and poor got poorer. After a while, the people asked the army to back them up, and to poor people used the soldiers to own the oligarchs and throw them out of power. So after the Monarchy got owned like ionno what! Most of the Greek city- states were ruled by a small group of rich guys. When a small group like this rules, its called an oligarchy. Like I said, these oligarchs were made up of rich guys called aristocrats who inherited their land from their families. They lived very comfortable lives. So here’s the scoop: these aristocrats in the day went hunting and raced chariots and at night they lay on couches, drank wine, and partied! So then, who did the work!?!
Tyranny: One Person Takes Power by Force During the 600s B.C.E the Greeks turned to men who pinky promised to change the government. The men that forced oligarchs out of power and took it were called tyrants. In a tyranny the ruling power is in the hands of one person who by law was not elected a king. Tyranny sounds like a monarchy right? So then what’s the difference? Well I’ll tell you, they are different in 2 ways. 1. A tyrant can’t say that he is legally allowed to rule 2. A tyrant’s son doesn’t inherit the power Tyrants kept their power by force! And they could because most of them were military leaders who got the trust of the people by telling them they would give them more rights. Some good things tyrants did were: * they took land away from the rich aristocrats and gave it to the poor * they canceled debt that the poor owed * gave citizens more say in government Other tyrants weren’t so cool like this guy named Hippias, who was the last tyrant of Athens. At first he was cool, then when his brother got owned by enemies, he started to become more harsh. Who can blame the guy! I mean his brother DID get killed. Finally the people again thought “this guy is ridiculous and the worst of times! So they finally forced the tyrant out of power and tried another form of government, one to share with all the citizens.
Democracy: All Citizens Share Power Athens had something called an assembly aka a lawmaking group. Any free man could take part in the assembly and vote on a new law or decide to go to war. Sorry ladies, we’re left out of this one too! Even though all this democracy razzle dazzle sounds like a sweet deal, some times it was bad because powerful speakers would convince and persuade ordinary people to vote unwisely. Some city-states decided to go back to an oligarchy after problems like this but the idea that people should rule themselves survived! Democracy is one of the great gifts that ancient Greece would give to the modern world! Around 500 B.C.E. the people of Athens decided they wanted to try governing themselves. They developed a democracy! SWEET! Democracy means “rule by the people” In in a democracy, there are citizens who are people who are members of the democracy with rights and responsibilities. I know you probably think you know about democracy because we have that here in the U.S. but wait! Ancient Greek democracy was different from democracy today. (okay guys, pay attention, its about to get a little technical here) Athens had a DIRECT democracy which means that every citizen can vote on EVERY issue. In the US, we have a representative democracy which means people vote for other people to make decisions about what they think we want. So we have to choose these guys carefully don’t you think?