Definition of oligarchy
Oligarchy means the rule of the few, and those few are generally the people who are richer and more powerful than the others, what you might call the aristocrats or the nobles.
These are not always men: just as monarchies have both kings and queens, women sometimes appear in councils of aristocrats, and even when they are not members, they are often there telling their husbands or their sons what to do.
What is a monarchy?
So oligarchies are generally bad for the poor, but they are pretty good for women, at least for rich women from powerful families.
Women in ancient Greece
Lots more Ancient Greece articles
How does oligarchic government work?
Usually the way an oligarchy works is that there is a group of people who are in charge, somehow. Sometimes they may be elected, and sometimes they are born into their position, and at other times you might have to have a certain amount of money or land in order to be in the council.
The history of money
Then this group of people meets every so often – every week or every month – to decide important questions, and to appoint somebody to deal with things. Like they might decide that it should be illegal to steal, and then they would appoint one of the nobles to be a judge, and decide if people were guilty of stealing, and decide what to do with them if they were.
When and where did people have oligarchies?
Oligarchies were not as common as monarchies in the ancient world. Right after the Dark Ages, most of the city-states in Greece were oligarchies, between about 1000 and about 500 BC. Athens was an oligarchy, and so were Thebes and Corinth. The Etruscans were also oligarchic. The Roman Republic, which started around 500 BC, was in some ways an oligarchy too. All of these systems effectively prevented women from getting political power.
Life in Archaic Athens
What was Thebes like?
How about Corinth?
Read about the Etruscans
And the Roman Republic
In the Middle Ages, after the death of Matilda of Canossa, the cities of northern Italy became independent. They had to develop their own systems of government. Some of them – Genoa, Florence, Venice – were ruled by groups of rich people. Some were more like democracies, but others were more oligarchic. Like the ancient oligarchies, these medieval ones were mostly run by men, even though before the oligarchies, Italy had been under the control of a woman. Outside of Europe, oligarchies have always been rare – and women have often had more power because of it.
The Republic of Venice
One weakness of an oligarchy is that the men involved are always competing with each other to see who can get more power. Often one of these men figures out that if he gets the poor people on his side – which is the same thing as getting control of the army – he can use the army to defeat his rivals and get all the power for himself. He promises the poor people that he will forgive debts and redistribute land if they support him. If that works, then what you have is a tyranny.
haha Caesar gone
Didn’t work out so well for Brutus in the end either…
THE MONEY WAS GOLD THAT THE COLONISORS TOOK FROM THE NATIVE AMERICANS
The colonizers took a lot of gold, but they took even more silver than gold. And they are still taking silver, even today.
Do you have any ideas of some laws/ th constitution in an olicharchy?
Maybe you’re thinking of Draco’s laws?: https://quatr.us/greeks/archaic-athens-ancient-greece.htm
What religion did oligarchy believe in?
Oligarchy is a system of government, not a group of people – lots of different groups of people have used an oligarchy as their government. They’ve had all different religions, too. In ancient Greece, they were polytheists – they had a lot of gods. You can read more about them here: https://quatr.us/greeks/greek-religion-ancient-greece.htm
In medieval Europe, though, they were Christians.
why would they let aristocrats rule they could”ve over power them.also didn”t they g through every government but dictartorship
Hi Nicholas – I think dictatorship pretty much falls under tyranny or monarchy: https://quatr.us/government/what-is-tyranny-definition.htm and https://quatr.us/government/what-is-a-monarchy-definition.htm. As to why people put up with it, generally because the army is on the side of the oligarchs – check out this explanation: https://quatr.us/greeks/greek-hoplites-democracy.htm
thx for the website Karen
thx helped me for school
nice wab site
I know right
Thanks it helps with my project for school 10/10 recommender
Hi, under Oligarchy rule, are important things like education, health and agriculture etc impotant?
Yes, Josh, they are – well, farming is always important, because most people were farmers, and because everybody got most of their food from farming. Under an oligarchy, what matters to the rulers is their own health and their own kids’ education – they’re not so worried about education or health for the poor farmers they rule! That’s why a lot of people prefer democracy.
This website contains a lot of useful information for my school, Thanks!
You’re welcome, Gavin! I’d love if your teacher or your school could link to Quatr.us Study Guides so more students like you would be able to find us?
What rights do people have?
The concept of natural rights really comes later than Greek oligarchies, I think. Their legal rights depended on their status: enslaved people had few rights, while rich men had many.
Do you know any more info about the vase? (I.e. who it was made by etc)
It’s in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; this is their page about it: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/56.171.14/
this is too hard
I’d be happy to answer your questions if you want to ask them here.
why do people do Oligarchy?
Well, rich people like oligarchy because then they get to tell everybody else what to do. Often these rich people are the heads of big clans (like the Montagues and the Capulets in Romeo and Juliet), lots of cousins and second cousins and friends, so that each member of the council has a lot of followers that support him (or her). These people like having the head of their clan speak for them in the government.
Karen Carr did you make this website by your self? Because its really good!!!!
I did do it by myself, but it took a long time and a lot of work. I’m glad you like it!
how is it different from monarchy
Monarchy is rule by one person, like monogamy is being married to only one person (“mono” means “one” in Greek). Oligarchy is rule by a few people (usually rich people), because “oligo” means “a few” in Greek).
What year did oligarchy start?
Oligarchy is just a few rich men ruling a town; that’s a pretty simple idea that has been with us as long as there have been towns, so since at least 5000 BC or so. In Greece, though, the main period of oligarchy got started in the Archaic period, around 1000-900 BC: before that most city-states had kings.
I dont think so. A rich oligarchy would be a plutocracy. Not every Oligarchy is rich. For all we know, some might even be poor! It does not matter. They can also rule a business, with the idea of CEO, CFO, etc etc. So an oligarchy can not only rule a nation. And it does not HAVE to be rich.
All of your quibbles, Henry, seem to me to be covered by words like “usually” in the article. Yes, there could theoretically be exceptions, but we don’t actually use the word “oligarchy” in the ways you suggest in English: there are no real examples where we call something an oligarchy of poor people, or within a non-governmental organization.
Who is the ruler/rulers of the Oligarchy?
An oligarchy is a group of rich people (usually men, though it can include women) who rule a country or a city-state. There’s no one person in charge, and of course over time the rich people get old and retire and their children or relatives join the council instead. If you’re asking about Archaic Athens, we do know the names of some of these rich council members, but it’s not really important who they are.
This is a really good website, I love it
Thank you! That really brightened up my day!