Range Voting: The Democracy in Ancient Sparta

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When you think about ancient Sparta as a society, one of the last things you would think about when you look at this old nation is democracy. While limited, however, there was a democratic process that did exist at some point in ancient Sparta. Ancient Sparta as the city-state we know a lot about started around 900 BCE according to Sparta and Lakonia: A Regional History 1300 to 362 BC by Paul Cartledge. However, something interesting happened in Sparta as recently as the year 700 BCE in the ancient city-state - a form of limited democracy was implemented to give some of the people in Sparta a say in how they were governed!

A form of voting called range voting appeared in Sparta as far back as the early 700s BCE. It took the structure of the Spartan ecclesia - a citizens' assembly that allowed Spartan male citizens to vote for or against proposals made by the diarchy (the system of two kings). This assembly would come together once a month and would allow every male citizen of at least 20 years of age or older to participate. This particular form of voting is described in Literacy in Ancient Sparta by modern historian Terrence A. Boring & History of the Peloponnesian War by the ancient historian Thucydides.

Spartans would also use range voting to elect local leaders and cast votes using the method of range voting that is still used by people today. Because of this method, we have modern score voting: a system implemented in some parts of the world where voters rate candidates on a scale and the candidate with the highest rating wins.

One of the things that makes this so interesting is that this particular form of voting existed in Sparta from 700 BC to 192 BC when ancient Sparta fell as a city-state. This means this form of democracy lasted in ancient Sparta for over five hundred years before it was defeated & continued even when Sparta became a major power in the ancient world. Sparta was not the most ideal place to live since they had slaves and practiced eugenics, but it was not completely totalitarian like it is depicted in many forms of popular culture and citizens did have some say in how they were governed.

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A person working in cybersecurity and living in the United States who loves to write about topics like U.S. history, technology news, and a bit of philosophy.

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