The Ancient Greek Democracy

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The ancient Greeks can tell us a lot about democracy. We can reference three fields: ancient history, classical political theory, and political science. These three fields teach us that the classic Greek knowledge has more to tell us about the roots and definition of democracy, and about the relationship between participatory democracy and formal institutions, rhetoric, political values, culture, and religion.
Where does democracy come from? Given that Greek democracy is the earliest known case of the appearance of democracy in an intricate society, the question of its origins is of specific significance. Democracy, in the Greek context, is best understood as a strong form of “Greek republicanism” – that is, of governments in which a large part of the native male population enjoys full political opinion (active citizenship), based on an assumed rough equality of public standing among citizens. Republics of this type discard the political monopoly of small and preventive bodies of elites. Democracy is an important part of the legacy of the Greeks.


The Greek word dêmokratia conjoins kratos, a term for power, and dêmos, a term for “the people.” Therefore, Greek democracy is usually and rightly viewed as contrary to most modern forms of democracy in its emphasis on the significance of the direct participation of normal people in collective self-governance. The question remains, “power” and “people” in what sense? One way to advance this definitional question

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