The Role of the Polis in Development of Greek Culture

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The Role of the Polis in Development of Greek Culture

A polis is an independent city in ancient Greece and in most cases with its immediate neighboring areas included under the jurisdiction of a unified government. A polis thus acted as both as a city and a state. Subsequently, a polis may be defined more exhaustively as a ‘city-state’. The boundaries of a polis were usually defined by natural features such as coastlines, rivers, and mountain ranges among others. Demographically, a polis was often based on tribal, religious and family divisions and was usually more significant than the territorial view.

The classical form of Greek culture has its origin in the polis. While the aristocrats’ and rural peasants’ lifestyle was not wholly replaced by this new cultural reality. However, the hitherto spiritual–political system of the Greek society was replaced by the new city based culture to (Jaeger & Highet 77). Thus, the polis set the ground for the rapid shift of rural to urban based culture of the Greek society. Cities such as Sparta and Athens grew rapidly as poleis. The cities played a major role as centers of learning and philosophical thought with philosophers from various polis forming schools of thought.

The polis had social classification at their heart. The classes were based on citizenship. Resident foreigners and slaves were not part of the social classes. Citizenship was based on birth and the polis’ residents were categorized into three broad groups. The groups were, citizens with political rights which were the highest group, citizens without political rights, and finally foreigners. This system of classification became the standard throughout Greece as was later the case in the rest of the West.

The poleis were usually small units compared to kingdoms, empires and countries which were the other political and social units around the world. Their small sizes were conducive for experimentation on various political systems by the Greeks. The first Greek city-states operated as monarchies ruled by a king based on hereditary. Resentment of kingship among the Greeks rose sharply in the 700s resulting in the overthrow of a considerable number of the king led governments. The deposed leaders were re.............


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