Today during evening study hall, a lot of kids were having difficulty with the assignment, which was to write a paragraph about the five types of government known to the poleis of ancient Greece. The first kid to ask is way into trucks, so I used a truck metaphor.
OK, the truck is the city-state, and it’s headed somewhere, right? But the government is what rides in the truck bed. And in this case, there can be five things riding in the truck bed. The first is a king on a throne, and that represents MONARCHY, because he’s being driven somewhere. He’s the legitimate government.
The next kind of truck is one where the cargo bed is filled with hay, and the trailer has warhorses in it. That’s an ARISTOCRACY, because their power is base on controlling the farms, and the land; and having the powers of a cavalry in their control. They’re nobles, and their power is based on land ownership.
The third kind of truck is one where the cargo bed is filled with tag sale goods — things you can buy and sell, things that you can buy for cheap and sell for expensive. The trailer is carrying a ship, a dual-purpose ship for war and for peace. That’s because this kind of government, the OLIGARCHY, is based on the merchants and the artisans — the traders and makers — controlling the seas and long-distance trade.
Then there is the TYRANNY, where a soldier rides in the pickup bed, threatening everyone with his machine gun. Tyrannies in ancient Greece weren’t always military dictatorships, but they usually were.
Finally, there is the DEMOCRACY, where there’s a big float decorated in red, white and blue, American flags, and a sign saying “Vote for Smith!” in it. That’s because this form of government is open to a wide range of political and economic ideas, but the most important focus is on the right of the people to run their own affairs and choose their leaders when needed.
So, if you can remember the five kinds of truck, you can remember the five kinds of government in ancient Greece.