Social Status and Government in Ancient Greece

In Athens there were different social classes. These were based on wealth. It was sometimes possible for men to move across the classes if they made more or lost their money. There was no central government in Ancient Greece. City-states governed individually, made their own laws and had their own coinage.

Free male citizens were at the top of the social structure. They were the only people to enjoy the responsibility of politics in Greece. They ruled in government and partook in philosophy and literature. They did not have jobs themselves, but oversaw the work of their slaves.

The middle classes (Metics) were immigrants to Greece. They worked in businesses and as merchant tradesmen. They were not classes as full citizens, couldn’t own property or land, or speak in legal proceedings. They were not allowed to marry above their social class.

Women were ruled over by men in Athenian society. Any legal and social status derived from their husband. They were not permitted to take part in public life.

Slaves were the lowest of Greek society and had no legal rights. They were taken as prisoners of war or traded as slaves. There were public slaves, temple slaves and privately owned slaves.

In Sparta all males when finished their education were classed as equal.

City-states ruled in one of 3 ways.

Democracy

Athens ruled by democracy and the government was elected to rule for one year. Only Athenian citizens that had completed military training could vote and this only constituted approximately 10 – 20% of the population. Voting was completed by a show of hands. Women, children and slaves were not permitted to vote.

Monarchy

City-states ruled by a king or tyrant.

Oligarchy

Ruled by a small group of wealthy people. Sparta was ruled by a minority of rich men (Elders) and respected warriors.

 

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