The word politics comes from the Greek word for city-states called poleis. We know that ancient Greece did not have a centralized government or authority. Greece was not a single country, but a collection of numerous Greek city-states.
After the Dark Age in Greece, villages started to band together which gradually became the independent Greece City-States. Although the Greek were one people who practiced the same culture and religion, each city-state had its own government, laws, and customs.
Greece was divided into the following Ancient Greek Cities:
1. Peloponnese the peninsula at the southern tip of Balkan Sea. It was connected to the Greek island by the Isthmus of Corinth. The Peloponnese was further divided into seven Ancient Greek cities the Achaea, Arcadia, Corinthia, Elis, Achaea, Messenia, Laconia, Argolis.
2. Central Greece- central Greece consisted of the following ancient cities of Aeniania, Attica, Boeotia, Doris. Euboea, Locris, Malis, Megaris, Oetaea, and Phocis.
3. Western Greece the ancient cities of Western Greece include Acarnania, Aetolia, Aparentia, and Dolopia.
4. Thessaly cities like Achaea Phthiotis, Magnesia, Histiaoetis, Panagiotis, Perrhaebia, Thessaliotis fall in the Thessaly region.
5. Epirus includes the following ancient Greece cities Athamania, Chaonia, Dassaretia, Molossia, Thesprotia, Paraguay, and Tymphaea.
6. Macedonia or Macedonia was an ancient kingdom of Greek which included the ancient Greece city of Pelagonia.
Origin of City-states
City-state or Poleis as the Greeks called it emerged around the Classical period of Ancient Greece. It originated when tribal systems broke up during an economic decline. These splintered tribal groups established themselves as independent states when their population grew.
Due to the geography of Ancient Greece, the states grew up quite distantly with the sea as the main outlet of communication which resulted in varying types of cultures growing in different city-states with their own form of governments and political form.
Characteristics of a City-State
There were almost 1000 city-states in Ancient Greece with their own form of government, laws, customs, and interests.
But each city-state was organized with a central urban area and a surrounding countryside with a wall going around the city area. In the central area of the city, there was a citadel or Acropolis situated at the top of a hill like the one in Athens still surviving today. It consisted of important buildings and temples in general.
Aristocracy in Ancient Greek city-states
Population of Greek city-states
Fight of Greek City-States
The Greek City-States united to fight against a common enemy. During the second Persian invasion of Greece, the unity of these city-states was largely visible. But this unity was of a temporary nature because they often fought among themselves.
Each city-state had its own system of government. Some states were monarchical in form whereas in some other states business was conducted on democratic lines. Between 2000 and 1200 BC, almost all Greek city-states had a monarchical form of government.
Although ancient Greece consisted of hundreds of city-states, the most important among them were Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Megara, and Argos.
The city-state of Athens
Athens is renowned for its contribution to the idea of democracy to the world. It created the worlds first democratic government. It was the birthplace not only of democracy but of great philosophers like Plato. Athens, as an independent city-state grew rapidly after the Greek dark ages. Athena was the patron goddess of the Athenians.
By 753 BC, Athens fell from hereditary magistracy to elected archonship and later under tyranny. It was after this tyranny that Athenians experimented with the democratic system of government. Moreover, it was a direct democracy characterized by the men meeting to discuss problems and reach solutions.
Although citizens had political rights in Athens, slaves and foreigners did not have any such rights. The concept of citizenship was important in ancient Greece. Education was also important to the Athenians although differentiation between males and females was clearly visible in all areas.
The city-state of Sparta
The city-state of Sparta was a state in the Peloponessian region and had an oligarchic system of government. The state was ruled by a small group of warriors. Sparta was famous for its military strength. Spartans were brave, capable warriors. It was not a center of art and philosophy, unlike Athens.
The most important feature of Sparta is the importance given to warfare and military training, and its considered to be the best of its time. Boys were given training from the age of 7. Children were whipped and small fights were encouraged in order to make them capable warriors. Even the women were warriors. Spartan women were comparatively more independent.
The city-state of Corinth
Corinth was characterized by the monarchical of government. It was a cultural and trade center. The city-state of Corinth undertook public works programs, built large aqueducts and created its own coinage. Megara was a coastal city-state.
They had fine schools and a well-developed education system. Megara had beautiful temples, gorgeous statues, and open-air theatres. They also established new towns. Argos, a monarchy was the center of trade and commerce. They also had great sculptures.
The city-state of Thebes
Thebes was a bitter rival to Athens and Sparta, being a major military power who had even sided with the Persians during the Greco-Persian War.
It was known to be a bustling industrial city famous for its commercial activities and silk production. It had a prominent literary culture being the Centre stage of stories like Cadmus, Oedipus, Dionysus, Hercules.
The city-state of Syracuse
Syrachid was a thriving metropolis in ancient times located on the south east coast of Sicily. It had a lot of temples dedicated to the Greek gods like Zeus, Apollo, and Athena which were funded by its rich aristocrats.
The city-state of Megara
Megara was a very respected city in the Ancient Greek world. It was ruled by a monarch and even had public programs which generated employment.
It was mainly a trading city based on a thriving economy famous for its richly colored and beautifully designed fabrics. They had a fearsome army that almost rivaled the likes of Sparta.
There were also other very powerful and important city-states like Aegina, Argos. Rhodes. Elis, Eretria, etc.
Modern division of Greek Island:
Modern Greece or Hellas or the Hellenic Republic was formed in 1830 after their freedom from the Ottoman rulers. The modern civilization of Greece retains many of their ancient cities and states.Many of the ancient Greece cities in the Peloponnese region exist along the coast of Aegean and the Ionian Sea. Athens one of the most prominent ancient cities of Greece is the present capital of Greece.
In ancient Greek history, the Athens and Sparta were the most powerful and advanced states among most states. They were the first ancient Greece cities to have Democratic governors.Modern Greece also has a strong Roman influence as the Romans formed the Byzantine Empire around Constantinople and ruled Greek for a very long time.
During First World War a massive population exchange took place between Greece and Turkey. The plains of Thessaly, central Macedonia, and Thrace are the most the fertile land of this region contributes towards the agricultural products of the country. Thus even in modern days, the history of ancient Greek cities is alive on its soil.