Every form of government existed among the various states into which Greece was divided. Nearly all of the Grecian states seem to have passed through three stages, and to have been in turn monarchies, oligarchies and democracies. The Greek kingship displayed many peculiarities. Their conception of a King, perhaps, might be best described as the combination of the attributes of the father of a large family, and the representative of the Gods. Religion and government were ever closely associated with the Greeks, and the laws of the King were in early times held to be the utterances of the Gods speaking through a human medium. The oligarchies, which followed the monarchies, bore more hardly on the people than the rule of the kings had. The oligarchies were in general short lived and during the period of Grecian history most of the states were democracies, Sparta being the only important city to retain the kingly office, and even here the kings were mere figureheads and the important officers were elected. Sparta, in fact, represented the nearest approach to socialism ever put into successful operation. In theory complete equality of property existed among all Spartans, but under them appeared a large conquered population, reduced to the position of serfs and governed with the greatest severity.

In Athens also we see a free and cultured class of citizens living among a body of slaves who outnumbered them, during the period of their greatest prosperity, nearly ten to one. Among the Athenians themselves, democracy was carried to the extreme point. The equality of all citizens was emphasized by the provisions for the choice of nearly all the public officials by lot. Legislative matters concerning the affairs of the State were passed upon by popular general assemblies where Athenian oratory reached its highest development.