In referring to ancient Greek influence, the powerful city-state of Athens is generally the model. In terms of political ideas, democracy—rule by the people, or demos—was probably the most influential Athenian concept embraced by the men who created the new American republic in the eighteenth century. English and French Enlightenment interpretations of democratic ideals and institutions strongly influenced the American versions. Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson wrote about the models and cautions that Athens provided.
At the most fundamental level, the importance of the people is at the heart of democracy. The United States was founded on the principle of popular governance. In neither case, however, does this mean that every person participated equally. Specific requirements were attached to voting, or suffrage. Ancient Athens, like the British colonies and the United States, was a slave-holding society, and slaves could not vote or be elected to office. Other restrictions relate to citizenship, age, gender, and property ownership.
Athens primarily used direct democracy; through periodic meetings of the ekklesia, all citizens voted, while the Unites States uses representative democracy through electing people to the two houses of congress. While the American congress was influenced by another Athenian institution, the council, it was also shaped by the British Parliament.