Classical Influence in American Government

Ancient Greek Political Thought and the model of Roman Government Influenced America’s Foundations

Ned Richardson

The founding fathers of the United States  drew upon multiple sources for inspiration during the establishment of American government. The ideas of Enlightenment philosophers were extremely important; Voltaire, Montesquieu, and John Locke were figures whose ideas shaped the new nation. However, the founders drew not only upon Enlightenment  philosophy for political inspiration but also looked towards the cultural heritage of the classical west. Philosophers from classical Greece proposed the separation of powers in government, an idea that the American founders adopted for their new nation. In addition, The Roman Republic  (509-27 BC) served as a direct model of government for the writers of the constitution.  The political thought of the ancient Greek and Roman world profoundly influenced the government of the United States of America.


I. Plato’s Mixed Government

II. Aristotle: Separation of Powers

III: Polybius and the Roman Republic

IV: Classical Education and Influence in Revolutionary America

V: American Mixed Republican Government

I. Plato’s Mixed Government

Ancient Greek philosophers created the concept of separation of powers, an idea integral to the government of the United States. The Greeks developed other ideas that would be central to the American Constitution. Despite the vast cultural achievements of the Greek world, the greatest legacy of Ancient Greece was in the intellectual tradition philosophy. Many of the philosophers developed political ideas that would later influence the development of the United States of America, over two thousand years later.

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