All of the ancient Greek city states (called polis) had their public assembly. The original meaning of ecclesia or ekkl├Ęsia 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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