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Democracy: Mixed Form Of Government In Sparta

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Spartan’s government has been labeled as having a “mixed constitution.” This is because its government is a combination of elements of monarchy, democracy, and oligarchy.

An element of monarchy that is evident in Sparta’s government is having two hereditary kings. The kings had religious roles such as being recognized as priests of Zeus, military roles including having one of the kings leading the army in battle whilst the other remained in Sparta, and limited judicial roles such as being held responsible for matters involving the adoption of children. However, they also had many privileges such as the privilege of always being served first in the syncytia.

Democratic elements that have been incorporated into Sparta’s government include the ekklesia voting on laws and the ephorate. The ekklesia also voted on other matters such as the decision to instigate war, however, this element of democracy was limited as the Gerousia had the power to override decisions. The ephorate is another democratic element as they were elected by the assembly to serve only once in their life for only a year and held great power over the kings.

An element of the oligarchy that is evident in Sparta’s government is the Gerousia as they held a significant amount of power in the government. The Gerousia consisted of the two kings and 28 elders, males that were at least sixty years old and elected by the ekklesia by acclamation, who then retained the position for life. The primary function of the Gerousia was to prepare proposals for the ekklesia as it was a probouleutic body.

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It is from Athenian democracy that basic concepts of freedom have been the base of modern democracy and that is why it has few similarities. This is because characteristics of Athenian democracy have few similarities to modern democracy in regards to rights and having systems set up to maintain democracy.

Characteristics of democracy in regards to rights include the right to vote, run for political office, and freedom of expression. In Athenian democracy, only free male citizens over the age of 18 were allowed to vote, meaning that only around 15% of the population could vote. However, in a modern democracy, where universal suffrage is granted, every adult citizen has the right to vote. Another right that does not exist in Athenian democracy is that no one had the right to run for political office as positions were selected by sortition. In comparison, in a modern democracy, it was possible to run for political office. According to the Parliament of Australia website, ‘In order to be eligible to become a Member of the House of Representatives a person must have reached the age of 18 years, be an Australian citizen; and be an elector, or qualified to become an elector, who is entitled to vote in a House of Representatives election.’ However, in Athenian democracy, male citizens had the right to freedom of speech as the ekklesia provided an opportunity for them to discuss, debate, and vote on matters relating to the government. Similarly, in a modern democracy, it is a human right to freedom of expression and an important part of democracy as it gives anyone the right to freely debate an issue to an extent. Therefore, as seen through rights, there are very few similarities between Athenian democracy and modern democracy.

Characteristics of democracy regarding maintenance include periodically holding free elections for political representatives and structures, powers, and limits of government set forth in a constitution. In Ancient Athens, officials, members of the boule, and jurors for the Chelsea were selected by sortition from citizen volunteers as they did not hold free elections for political representatives. In stark comparison, in a modern democracy, there are free elections held for political representatives periodically. For example, in Australia, free elections are held every three years for the election of 40 senators and 150 members of the House of Representatives. Also, in Athenian democracy, limitations to power such as restricting members of the boule to only serving on it twice is an example of one limit that was set forth. This was done to maintain power as the government was a direct democracy for a period of time. In stark comparison, modern democracy is a representative democracy in which adult citizens elect representatives who will serve for a maximum of three years to represent them. This is an example of a limit set forth in order to maintain democracy.

In conclusion, Athenian democracy has very few similarities to modern democracy regarding rights and systems or limits set forth to maintain democracy.

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Democracy: Mixed Form Of Government In Sparta. (2022, February 26). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 6, 2023, from
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