Athens Government Timeline

Timeline of the Evolution of Government in Ancient Athens, Greece.

Government Periods

When each type of Government started, ended, and what it was like.

Monarchy

Approx. 900 B.C. - 800 B.C.

Around the 9th Century B.C., a king ruled Athens and had a group of nobles to advise him. The nobles gained more power through the success of the economy. The nobles grew into a body known as Areopagus, this body would evolve into Athens’s Oligarchy.

Oligarchy

800 B.C. - 650 B.C.

As the nobles gained more power through the economic growth, they were able to have more power than the king, creating an Oligarchy. This Oligarchy was made up of 9 “Archons” elected by the Areopagus (the nobles from the monarchy). The Archons made decisions for Athens and those decisions were sent to the Areopagus to be approved or denied. This is where Athens’s Democracy began to form.

Tyranny

Approx. 650 B.C. - Approx. 500 B.C.

Unfortunately, Athens fragmented into several factors including rioting, unrest, general disapproval of the government, etc due to the nobles in the Oligarchy taking people’s land because they couldn’t repay their debt (like a mortgage). Because of this fragmentation, many Tyrants took power either by force or with the support of the people. The Tyrants of Athens were not anything like the Tyrants of today, they wanted mostly what was best for the people. Three of these Tyrants were very important to the evolution of Athens’s government to a Democracy.

Solon (Leader)

Approx. 594 B.C.

Solon was elected in 594 B.C. by the people of Athens. He removed debt slavery, made laws to relieve the suffering citizens, made a four-class system based on income. The top 2 classes would become part of the Areopagus, the third class would be on the Council of 400, the 4th and poorest would still be able to vote and participate in court.

Pisistratus (Leader)

Approx. 560 B.C.

Pisistratus (560 B.C.) did much of the opposite, he took power using a mercenary army which he also used to keep control of Athens. He gave the most power to the poorest citizens. He encouraged economic growth, and reduce power from the wealthy. When said he did the opposite of what Solon did, it is meant when Solon gave power to the wealthy, Pisistratus just did the opposite by giving power to the poor instead. Secondly, he took power through force.

Cleisthenes (Leader)

Approx. 510 B.C.

Cleisthenes (508 B.C.) was the last step to Democracy, he had all free men citizens, allowing them to participate in government. Elder citizens would be picked by lottery to serve on the Council of 400. The Assembly was comprised of male citizens, could veto any Council decision. It was also the only legislative body with the ability to declare wars. This separation of power pushes Democracy into Athens.

Democracy

Approx. 508 B.C. - Present

Those three Tyrants: Solon, Pisistratus, and Cleisthenes were all in favor of a Democracy. In a Democracy, government leaders are chosen by the citizens of the country/state, instead of being chosen by other government officials or by the one ruler (monarch). The Athenian Democracy allowed elders to be picked onto the Council through a lottery. An Assembly was made of male citizens, which could veto any Council decision. The Assembly was also the only legislative body to declare wars. This separation of power gave way to the Democracy.