The philosophical and political thought of Ancient world had a great impact on the development of modern governments. If we are to compare the governments of Ancient Greece, Rome, Sparta, and Persia to the modern state of democracy in the US it can be seen that Persian government contributed more to the development of tyranny and authoritarianism, while Greece, Rome, and Sparta - to democracy. Nevertheless, there are many points at which ancient and modern governments differ. The ancient governments differed from modern democracy in the USA by the scope of citizen involvement to the political life, the system of checks and balances, and the severity of punishments for violation of laws.
The citizens of the Ancient Greece, Rome, and Sparta were actively involved into political life of the country due to the limited access to the citizenship, while in modern US not all citizens actively participate in the political activities of the government however keep the right to do so when needed. According to Aristotle, the Greek polis was a political sphere of life where only citizens had the right to participate. In Sparta only warriors possessed the full scope of citizen rights and privileges (helots and perieks had limited rights). In Ancient Rome the higher executive bodies also considered only the citizens’ interest, disregarding slaves and non-Romans. On the contrary, the US democracy recognizes the equality of political rights between all its citizens. The fact that there is no slavery in modern democracy increases the number of citizens with political rights significantly. The most important difference in this context is that US citizens do not necessarily participate in governing their country, but have the right to use their political rights every 4 years during elections or run for office when needed.
Democracy in the US is based on the system of balance power where executive, legislative, and judicial branches of power control each other and do not let any branch establish absolute rule over the other two. On the contrary, among political institutions in Ancient Greece, Rome, and Sparta, not to mention Persia where king was the only source of political power, it was a common practice when a demagogue, Caesar or aristocracy consolidated all power in the state, disregarding the citizens’ will. Although ancient states had laws, they were nothing like Constitution of the US, which comes from the idea of common good and justice. Failing to secure the balance of power in ancient states always led to a single person or group of privileged people changing the legal system of the state. In case of modern governments constitution fulfills the function of the source of legal system, which can be changed only upon the majority’s agreement.
Finally, penalties for violations of the laws in ancient countries did not consider basic principles of human rights and freedoms, on which modern democracy lies. If we are to compare the most progressive code of laws in Ancient Rome “The Laws of the Twelve Tablets” with modern laws in the US, we will see that Roman laws completely disregarded human dignity and life. A person could become slave, divided into parts, or sold if could not pay his/her debts. On the contrary, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act approved in 1977 in the US protects debtors from creditor’s abuses. Humanity of laws and penalties is the most distinguishing feature between modern and ancient governments, as it values human life as the most precious and inseparable right of each person, which ancient people did not have.
The research paper distinguished between the main differences of ancient and modern governance on the examples of Ancient Rome, Greece, Sparta and modern democracy in the US. Ancient Persia was not discussed closer due to completely different system of governance. The most striking difference between ancient and modern government lies in the notions of citizen, balance of power, and severity of punishment for law violation. While democratic principles of US governance claim universal suffrage, balance of power and respect for human rights and freedoms, the principles of governance in ancient states were based on limited access to citizenship, concentration of power and severe criminal law.