Lesson 3: How did the ancient Greeks develop the idea of citizenship?


Lesson Objective:

  • Students will be able to describe the ways that Greeks developed the ideas of citizenship and democracy
  • Students will be able to compare and contrast the meanings of citizenship and democracy in ancient Greece and in America today


Key Terms to Know

Look up each term in your textbook (pages 116-120) and define each in your Social Studies Notebook.

  • city-state
  • colony
  • polis
  • agora

Life in the City-state

After a period in Greece called the Dark Ages, cities began sending people outside of Greece to set up colonies. They went to Italy, Spain, North Africa, and western Asia n order to spread Greek culture. The colonies traded grain, metals, fish, timber and slaves with Greece.The growth in trade led to the exchanging goods for money rather than more goods. As industry grew, people became craftsmen based on what products their region supplied.

Ask Yourself

  • How was Greece to easily countries in Africa, Europe, and Asia?
  • Why do you think Greece wanted to spread their culture to different countries?
  • How did establishing new colonies affect Greek industry?

Becoming a Citizen

Greek city-states were known as a polis. The acropolis was the main gathering place. The acropolis also served as a religious center where temples and alters were built to honor their many gods and goddesses. The agora served as a market place and a meeting place. Most city-states were small, but Athens had as many as 300,000 people.

The polis was run by its citizens. Citizenship meant:

  • you were a member of a political community
  • you were a native born man
  • you owned land

Citizens were allowed to:

  • gather in the agora to choose leaders and pass laws
  • vote
  • hold office
  • own property

Citizens had to serve in government and as soldiers. The citizens soldiers formed a hoplite. Citizens made good soldiers because of their loyalty to their home polis. Those loyalties also caused problems for the hoplites.


Ask Yourself

  • Why do you think it was important for a Greek to be a citizen?
  • How was the citizenship in ancient Greece different from the citizenship we enjoy today?
  • Why do you think loyalties to one's polis caused problems for the armies of citizen soldiers?



  • Create a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast citizenship in ancient Greece and citizenship in America today.
  • Think about who is eligible for citizenship
  • Think about the rights of a citizen
  • Think about the requirements of citizenship

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It's All Greek To Me!