Democracy and Greece are strongly related, the first form of democracy was first introduced in Ancient Greece. Greece history can be retrieved from 2,500 years ago (500-336 BCE). Ancient Greece was the first country to introduce the democratic system of government. Athena and Sparta did not follow the mainstream system rather they introduced new system of government “democracy”. While at that time, most of countries adopted the kingdom system of government. In this research, the history of Ancient Greece will be discussed while at the same time how this history connects with the rise of “democracy” will be discussed as well.
History of Ancient Greece
- The existence of people of Kykladen was nearly 5,000 years ago (3,000-1,000 BCE)
- People of Kretis or Minois entered Kreta 2,600-1,200 BCE and they ended because of Volcano.
- The arrival of Mykene culture around 1,600-1,200 BCE.
- Geometric time around 1,200-800 BCE.
- Arkhais time (Greece dark time) around 800-500 BCE.
- Time of war with Persia around 500-336 BCE.
- Hellenistic epics around 336-145 BCE.
- Time of the Roman nation around 146 BCE – 330 CE
- Period of Byzantine 330-1453 CE
Athena and Sparta
At ancient time, Greece was a strong and important nation at the Mediterranean Sea for around 2,000 BCE – 200 CE. Their glory time was referred as ancient/classic time in 500-400 BCE. The important date that influenced the development of European civilization was between 800-146 BCE, it was when Greece was part of the Romans.
At the ancient time Greece was not a unitary state, rather it was consisted of small country towns –and the most important country towns were Athena and Sparta-. Both of them often time were in conflict and war to gain power over the whole part of Greece. The wars between both of them were known as war of Peloponnes that happened for 30 years around 431-404 BCE, and Sparta defeated Athena most of the time.
The Defeat of Greece to the Romans
The history of European started in Greece. Herodot was the first author of scientific history. After the death of Alexander der Grosse, Akhair and Sparta were in war and conflict. While Romans were in expansion, they took advantage of the situation in Greece. Finally, the Romans took over Greece in 146 BCE. The Romans gained control over Greece, but the culture and tradition of Greece that were more organized took over their cultures.
The History of Democracy
Around 500 years BCE, the history of democracy was written because small group of people in the Greece started to develop a new system of government that gave chance for public to participate in making decision. People in Athena and Sparta were given freedom to participate in the government, to give opinion, and to choose who is worthy to become the leader of their country. The existence of activity to choose the head of government was proof that the Greeks knew the democratic system even though it was not as expected.
History writes that Plato and Aristotle were two figures that contributed their thoughts about the form of democratic system of government. Plato expressed that democracy came from the word democratia that was taken from the Ancient Greek language. The word was formed from 2 root of words that were combined, which were demos and cratos. Demos meant people, while cratos meant government.
Thus, Plato concluded that democracy meant a system of government that came from the people. But on his statement, Plato emphasized that “people” he meant were only the philosophers. According to Plato the philosophers were the people that were capable to form concept and thought. The philosophers were also capable of determining a value of good and bad correctly. However, the thoughts of Plato were considered wrong by the historians. According to writer, the similar form of the ideas of Plato were close with the idea of Shoora (Islamic way of consultation) in the time of Caliph Omar ibn al-Khattab. Both of the forms seek knowledge from scholars in order to enlighten the process of making decisions at that time if we may say. However, this similar idea does not cover the authority of rule that in Islam the only authority of law come from Allah as the Lawgiver, while the secular democracy put the majority of people as the determiners of law.
Beside Plato and Aristotle, many other figures appeared after them such as Chleisthenes, Pericles, Demosthenes, and also Solon. Chleisthenes was well-known by his merit in the renewal of the government system in Athena. Chleishtenes divided Athena into 10 groups. Every group had their representative on the assembly.
Pericles was famous because his thought on the establishing of law. He was the first to suggest that Greece needed written law. Because of his thought, he was referred as the leading jurist in Greece. While Demosthenes contributed by giving ideas on how to build an ideal government. He was the prominent historian at that time, he wanted to build Greece with the ideal system of democracy.
Even though Greece had adopted democracy as a government system, however, the system of government at that time was not mature and found to be infelicity. It was of course different with the democracy system nowadays in the modern states. At that time, Greece was still a form of ancient state with cluster of small countries inside.
Nevertheless, people of Athena and Sparta had adopted democracy then, while other nations had not known democracy system in the sense of consultation such as to form a strategic war plane, to determine when to do truce, to elect their leader by participation of the public. However, there was a lack of justice in the democracy system at that time.
Most of the right to democracy was only limited to men from the elite background. While the slaves rarely were granted right or even did not have right to participate in the election and to give opinion or consultation. The country then did not guarantee the right of slaves such at the time after the advent of Islam. Thus, the slaves were forced to work without salary, or the slaves might become an object for buying and selling.
Athena and Sparta became the two strongest country towns in Greece at that time. The democracy developed and flourished fast enough at those places. However, as mentioned earlier they got used to engage in war and conflict with each other with Sparta won most of the wars.
In conclusion, we have looked at the twist and turn of the history of social and political aspects in Greece. Athena and Sparta were the first to establish and adopt the democracy system while other nations had not known then. Democracy was not mature and did not reach the whole people such as the slaves and mainly men. This research should be taken as a different and deep perspective in knowing more and understanding democracy that born from the Greece. Further research in the comparison secular democracy and Islamic consultation shoora will enrich the literature for student of knowledge.
- Bimbingan Belajar Tuk Pelajar. (2015) Asal Usul Sejarah Demokrasi Yunani – Origin of the Democracy in Greece (Online). Available at
Accessed on 19th Dec 2015, 10:51 am.
- Putri, Nisita Indah. “Sejarah Demokrasi Yunani – History of Greeks Democracy.” Scribd (2013) : n. pag. Web. 19 Dec 2015.