Lesson Plan - Get It!
How do you think ancient Greeks ran their government thousands of years ago?
Thousands of years ago, the ancient city-state of Athens developed a direct democracy.
A direct democracy is a form of government where all citizens are able to vote on rules and laws. Citizens even have the opportunity to create these rules and laws. Does the term “democracy” sound familiar? That’s because the United States’ government is a democracy. However, the U.S. is a representative democracy where the citizens elect individuals as representatives who then create the rules and laws that govern the people of a community.
In Athens, only citizens were allowed to participate in the government. To be considered a citizen, you must have been a free male. Women, children and slaves were not permitted to be citizens!
Every year, names were drawn at random from a pool of citizens. Those chosen were required to participate in the discussion, planning, and development of laws and rules. Athenians believed it was a citizen’s duty to serve once selected. If an individual decided not to take part, they were marked with red paint as punishment to show the rest of the community that they did not want to fulfill their duties.
In addition, this type of democracy had a court system. Court was typically arranged at the Agora. The court contained hundreds of juries intended to make fair decisions for each case. A jury is a group of people that decide on the outcome of a case. Citizens did not have lawyers like you might see in today’s courts. Instead, citizens were required to represent themselves.
Below is a photo of the remains of the Agora in Athens:
This form of democracy was short-lived for Athenians after losing a war with Sparta, another ancient Greek city-state, but the concept continued throughout history. As regions and communities grew larger, a representative democracy made more sense because it became difficult to allow every citizen equal opportunities to develop rules and laws.
- Which form of democracy do you think works better, a direct or representative democracy?
- Do you think the ancient Athenians would agree with you? Why or why not?
Share your thoughts with your parent or teacher. Ask them for their opinion and compare.
Once you have finished your discussion, move on to the Got It? section where you will answer a few questions about ancient Greece democracy.