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date: 18 April 2024



  • Oswyn Murray


Polis (pl. poleis), the Greek city-state. The polis is the characteristic form of Greek urban life; its main features are small size, political *autonomy, social homogeneity, sense of community and respect for law. It can be contrasted with the earlier Mycenaean palace economy (see mycenaean civilization), and with the continuing existence of tribal (ethnos) types of organization in many areas of northern Greece. (See ethnicity. For a different sense of ‘tribe’ see below.) The polis arose in the late Dark Ages. It is present in *Homer; the archaeological signs of city development (public space, temples, walls, public works, town planning) appear in an increasing number of sites in the 8th–7th cents. (Old *Smyrna, *Eretria); the peaceful abandonment of smaller sites and the general decline of archaeological evidence from the countryside in the 7th cent. suggest early *synoecism or concentration of population in specific polis sites.


  • Greek History and Historiography
  • Greek Law

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