During the Archaic period Greek states were governed
by Aristocrats which were groups of rich land owners. This system of government
is known as an Oligarchy, which means ruled by the few. Merchants, Craftsmen,
and bankers were styles of strong businesses. Their business began to grow
and they wanted a say in government, but they still couldn't take part.
Because of the Aristocrats power, many rich citizens were angry and often
broke out in riots. This is when a tyrant form of leadership began. The
tyrant, which meant ruler, was allowed to rule the group of people. Most
Tyrants only stayed in power for a short time.
During the Archaic period, c.750-620 BC, Athens was ruled by a council or Areopagus. Their policies were carried out by 3 magistrates called Archons. They were all Aristocrats. During the next 100 years many changes took place and Athens laws became very severe until an Aristocrat named Solon was made Archon. He made new laws which were very popular. For example, he prevented merchants to send grain to other cities so there was more food for the poor in Athens. He also made it so Middle Class people could have administrative positions. Even poor people had some say through the cities affairs through an assembly. There were several tyrants who came and left and after 2 years of civil war an Aristocrat named Cleisthenes introduced Democracy.
Democracy comes from the Greek words demos which means people and kratos which means rule. In this system all the citizens had a say in their city-state. Today democracy means everybody has a vote, but in ancient Greece only citizens could vote. Woman, foreign residents, and slaves were excluded from voting.
Sparta had 2 kings who rules together. Their main purpose was to lead in war, but when at home, their power was limited to religious duties. More power laid with the 5 ephors who were overseers and were annually elected by the Assembly. They looked after the running state. The gerousia, or council and was made up of 2 kings and 28 councilors. Councilors were men over 60 who were elected for life by the Assembly. They made laws and served as judges. The Councilís proposals were passed by the apella, or Assembly. These were citizens who were over 30. They shouted Yes, or No towards ideas or laws and the party who's opinion was called was the loudest, won. This was how they voted.
The Golden Age was c.479-431 BC was a great time of achievement for Athens and the city became very rich. It became a center of art. It attracted potters, painters, philosophers, and historians. This security was shattered when the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta broke out. It tore the Greek world apart. The states were left weak, and Athens never regained it's same, full power.