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Paragraph 3.2. The government of the polis. Theseus and Ariadne. Theseus was the King who united a lot of tribes in the 13 th century BC. He called it Athens. He killed the Minotaur, a monster half bull/man, that lived in a labyrinth in the palace of king Minos on Crete.

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Paragraph 3.2

The government of the polis

Theseus and ariadne
Theseus and Ariadne

  • Theseus was the King who united a lot of tribes in the 13th century BC.

  • He called it Athens.

  • He killed the Minotaur, a monster half bull/man, that lived in a labyrinth in the palace of king Minos on Crete.

  • The Minotaur was fed with Athenian children, and one day young Theseus was send there.

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Monarchy aristocracy tyranny
Monarchy, aristocracy, Tyranny

  • Athens and a lot of other city-states were a monarchy.

  • They were ruled by a king.

  • From the 8th century on, some city-states were taken over by a small group of landowners.

  • They were often rich or important people ( the best= aristos)

  • A government ruled by these men was called an aristocracy.

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  • Sparta was always an aristocracy.

  • The city was governed by a council of men from the most important families of the polis.

  • Sometimes 1 member of the council could get all the power, using violence.

  • That person was a tyrant, and the polis became a tyranny.

  • There were some good tyrants as well.

The people s assembly of athens
The people’s assembly of Athens

  • 6th century BC, Athens was an aristocracy.

  • 546 BC Peisistratos took power, and it became a tyranny.

  • He was a good leader.

  • Helped small farmers, improved the justice system and gave the city new buildings.

  • 510 BC aristocrat Cleisthenes devised a new system for Athens.

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  • There would be a people’s assembly: a meeting.

  • They would decide about:

  • War, peace, money, civil servants.

  • Every citizen of Athens, poor or rich, was allowed to participate (=meedoen).

  • The people (= demos) of Athens had a vote: this is called a democracy.

Skilful speakers
Skilful speakers

  • The assemblywould meet manytimes on a hill close to the agora.

  • For imporantdecisions, 6000 people had tobe present.

  • Ifyouwantedto talk tosomanypeople, you had to have a goodvoiceandconvinction ( =overtuiging)

  • Youcanlearnhowto do this.

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  • Youcan take lessonsfrom a sophist.

  • That is a teacher whocanteachyouhowto talk in public. (rhetoric)

  • A skilful speaker couldbecome the new leader.

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  • The assemblyalsodecidedto built a large temple on the acropolis.

  • It was called the Parthenon, andit was built forAthena, the goddess of the city.


  • 1 time a year the assemblywouldvoteforanostracism.

  • If 1 person had toomuch power he couldbesendaway (expelled) from the polis for 10 years.

  • Allpeople at the agora had to scratch a name of anunwanted person on a piece of pottery.

  • The man with the most votes had toleavewithin 10 days.

  • This way the democracy was safe.


  • Citizens had a say in the government.

  • But notallpeoplethatlived in Athens werecitizens.

  • Only adult, free men, withbothparentsfrom Athens werecitizens.

  • Theycouldown land, andjoin in the assembly.

  • Women, foreigners, slaves had no rights.

  • Theywerenotcitizens.

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  • Notallpeople in Greece believedthatdemocracy was the best system.

  • Therewere a lot of debatesaboutadvantagesanddisadvantages of the types of government.

  • Philosopherslikesocratesand Plato didn’tlikedemocarcy. Common peoplecouldn’t make suchdifficultdecisions. Wisepeopleshould do it.