Ancient Governments:

A comparison of ancient Greek democracy and Roman republic

Even today, the ideals of government expressed and used by the ancient Greeks and Romans are well known. Although the Greek democracy and the Roman republic have many resemblances they also have many differences. Ancient Greek democracy and the ancient Roman republic may seem the same but they are actually both similar and different in three significant ways: how the system of a democracy and a republic work, how each government elected their officials, and how the hierarchy of each system was oriented.

First, democracies and republics are alike and unlike in the way that their general system works. Both systems give their power to the people. A republic is a form of state based on the concept that sovereignty resides in the people ( Republic 1). A democracy is a political system in which the people of a country rule ( Democracy 1). Additionally, both systems elect representatives. In both republics and democracies, power is given to representatives/officials ( Republic 1/ Democracy 1). However, in a republic, elected representatives are expected to act on their own best judgment of the needs and interests of the country. In a democracy, the representatives more generally and directly reflect the known or ascertained views of their constituents, sometimes subordinating their own judgment. ( Democracy 1). In conclusion, the systems of republics and democracies are similar yet different.

Second, ancient Greek democracies and ancient Roman republics method of electing officials have both similarities and differences. Both ancient Greece (Athens) and Rome had citizens vote on who to elect to be an official. However, each culture s idea of a citizen was different. Greece only gave citizenship to native-born male Greeks; foreigners, women and slaves could not be citizens. However, Rome gave half-citizenship to other peoples in Italy giving them full legal rights but no the right to vote ( Citizen 1). In addition, people who were elected were mostly middle- to upper-class individuals. Greece only elected citizens and Rome only elected patricians, the rich 10% of Rome s population (At first, however, plebeians the lower 90% of Rome s population fought for rights which included the right to hold office later). Furthermore, Greece elected officials by randomly selecting citizens (Krieger, Neill, Reynolds 111-2) whereas Rome s citizens chose who to elect ( The Roman Government 1). In conclusion, the way that Greece and Rome elected officials also had both similarities and differences.

Finally, the hierarchy of ancient Greece s democracy and ancient Rome s republic had likenesses and discrepancies. First of all, Greece did not elect representatives. Representative democracy was not used because the population was small enough to use a direct democracy, where citizens directly participated with politics ( Citizen 1). On the other hand, Rome did use a representative democracy. Rome elected two consuls to be heads of state. These consuls had one-year terms and also could veto each other s actions. ( The Roman Government 1). Below the consuls was the Senate which consisted of 300 men who were originally patricians but later could be plebeians. Alternatively, Greece elected citizens to be on the Athenian assembly which made laws, and also the Council of Five Hundred which proposed laws and advised the Assembly. The hierarchies of Rome s republic and Greece s democracy have similarities but they also contrast (Krieger, Neill, Reynolds 111).

It is evident that although ancient Greek democracy and the ancient Roman republic may seem the same, they are actually both similar and different in many ways, including the way the general system works, the method that officials are elected, and the hierarchy of each system. The words democracy and republic are considered synonyms, but in truth are different in many ways ( Democracy 1).

Works Cited

1. Citizen . Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. 1998 ed.

2. Democracy Democracy in Ancient Greece and Rome . Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. 1998 ed.

3. Krieger, Larry S.; Neill, Kenneth; Reynolds, Dr. Edward; World History: Perspectives on the Past. Evanston, Illinois: McDougal Littell. 1997.

4. Authors unknown; The Roman Government. November 20, 2000.

5. Republic . Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia. 1998 ed.

Related Essays on Ancient Greek