All of the ancient Greek city states (called polis) had their public assembly. The original meaning of ecclesia or ekklèsia was something like 'army assembly'. Although the assembly in theory consisted of all free and independent civilians, in ancient society there was always a relation between military and political influence.

Fully fledged civilians were those who also were the decisive group at defending the polis against their enemies. And you could only be a full soldier if you had enough means to buy effective weaponry. This required a certain state of individual welfare, so in fact it was the group of landowners who were in real control in the ancient Greek city states. Yet, it was a first step towards democracy.

Ec*cle"si*a (?), n.; pl. Ecclesiae (). [L., fr. Gr. .]

1. Gr. Antiq.

The public legislative assembly of the Athenians.

2. Eccl.

A church, either as a body or as a building.

 

© Webster 1913.

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