Ancient Greece Oligarchy is a form of power structure in which power rests in the hands of a small or limited number of people. These few people generally belong to the rich and powerful section of the society. The word Ancient Greece Oligarchy has derived from the Greek words oligos, meaning a few and archon, meaning to rule, to govern, to command. Such states are often controlled by a few well-known families who pass their influence from one generation to the next thereby carrying on this legacy.

Ancient sparta oligarchy

Ancient Greece Oligarchy

The Greeks had a lot of different kinds of governments, owing to the several numbers of independent city-states in ancient Greece, and they each had their own government. In addition to this, people’s ideas and concept with regard to a good government kept changing over time thereby resulting into the incorporation of certain modifications in their present government which led to the change in the entire form of the government. At that time, oligarchies were not as common as monarchies. In fact, immediately after the Dark Ages, between 1000 and 500 BC, most of the city-states in Greece were oligarchies.

Aristotle divided Greek governments into monarchies, oligarchies, tyrannies, and democracies. This classification is being used by most historians to date. Initially, Greece began by having monarchies, followed by oligarchies, and then tyrannies before finally becoming democracies, but at each period there were plenty of city-states using a different system. Apart from this, there were many city-states which never became democracies or tyrannies at all.

Ancient greek Aristotle

In the Late Bronze Age that is in the Mycenaean period between 2000 and 1200BC, all Greek city-states had a monarchical form of government which was, ruled by kings. After the Dark Age, only a few of the city-states had a monarchical form of government with Sparta being the most popular among these.

Democracy Ancient Greece Definition

In the Archaic period, most of the city-states were ruled by oligarchies which continued till about the 600 and 500 BC a when the tyrants took over. In 510 BC, the city-state of Athens created the first democratic government, and soon other Greek city-states imitated them. As a matter of fact, during the 4th century BC, after the restoration of democracy from oligarchic coups, the Athenians used the drawing of lots for selecting government officers in order to counter what the Athenians acutely saw as a tendency toward oligarchy in government if a professional governing class were allowed to use their skills for their own benefit.

spartans greek pottery

They drew lots from large groups of adult volunteers as a selection technique for civil servants performing judicial, executive, and administrative functions. They even used lots of very important posts, such as judges and jurors in the political courts which had the power to overrule the Assembly.

Monarchy in Ancient Greece

Thus history has indeed been live evidence witnessing the transition of most oligarchies into tyrannies. Aristotle has been the torch bearer to use the term as a synonym for rule by the rich, for which the exact term is a plutocracy, though oligarchy is not always a rule by wealth, and can simply be a privileged group, without having the links or necessary connections like in the case of the monarchy.