Do You Know | What Is Democracy?


When you play with friends, who gets to choose the game? Do you all decide together? Do each of you play a part in the decision? If so, you and your friends are a democracy.

Usually, when we speak of a democracy, we mean a country. In a democratic country, the people choose how they will be governed. Most of the time, they do this by electing leaders who run the government.


There is more than one type of democracy. In a pure democracy, elected leaders simply carry out the wishes of the voters. But this is not easy to do. Voters must get together often to tell elected leaders what they want. They must take part in many, many decisions.

Most democratic countries are republics, not pure democracies. In a republic, elected leaders are supposed to do what they think is best. Then, if the voters don’t like it, they can elect new leaders.


The first democracies sprang up in ancient Greece nearly 3,000 years ago. Greek cities were like separate little countries. They rarely had more than 10,000 people. Only free men born in the city could take part in government. Slaves and women couldn’t vote. The free men could all go to a meeting, speak their minds, and vote in person.

The next important democracy was the Roman Republic in Italy. Rome grew into a big city that ruled a vast territory. The Roman Republic had elected leaders and officials who made decisions for the people. Even people born outside Rome could become citizens and vote. But like ancient Greece, slaves and women had no vote and no power.

Eventually, Rome came under the rule of a single man, the emperor. This ended the democracy in Rome.

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