Greek Polis Essay

960 WordsOct 13, 20114 Pages
Definition: The polis (plural, poleis) was the ancient Greek city-state. The word politics comes from this Greek word. The polis was the central urban area that may also have controlled the surrounding countryside. Athens was the urban center of Attica; Thebes of Boeotia; Sparta of the southwestern Peloponnese. Each of these 3 poleis was separate from the others. One of the hallmarks of Greek civilization was the polis, or city-state. The city-states were small, independent communities which were male-dominated and bound together by race. The citizens of any given polis were an elite group of people – slaves, peasants, women and resident aliens were not part of the body of citizens. “The citizens of the polis, many of whom were related by blood, knew one another well, and together they engaged in athletic contests and religious rituals. The polis gave individuals a sense of belonging, for its citizens were intimately involved in the political and cultural life of the community” (page 56, paragraph 2). Greek poleis were able to become as strong, great, and affluent as they did by distancing themselves from a theocratic society. “A mature polis was a self-governing community that expressed the will of free citizens, not the many yearnings of gods, hereditary kings or priests. The Greek polis had also begun as a religious institution, in which citizens sought to maintain an alliance with their deities. But gradually the citizens de-emphasized the gods’ role in political life and based government not on magic powers of divine rulers, but on human intelligence as expressed through community” (page 56, paragraph 3). Ultimately, this was the first and greatest step Greeks’ would take into developing their poleis into the strong and paramount city states that we study to this day. By drifting away from religion and it holding such a key importance on everyday life, it

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