The Polis: Greek City-States The Greek polis (city) was made of a town or city or even a village

and its surrounding countryside. The town or city or village served as the central point where the citizens of the polis could gather for political, social, and religious activities. In most cases, all polis had three parts. Each had a hill, called an Acropolis, which would serve as a place of safety during attack. This location had walls around it and was also used later as the religious center on which temples and public monuments were built. Below the acropolis would be an agora, an open place that served as a marketplace for shopping and for a meeting place. Also each polis would have a theatre and participate in religious festivals and athletic events to honor the polis’ patron god. The size of each polis varied from place to place, from a few square miles to a few hundred square miles. The larger ones resulted from when a smaller polis would join together with another, resulting in one, larger polis. The territory of Attica was at one point made up of 12 poleis

(plural of polis), but eventually became one, single polis over time (Athens). Our word politics comes from the Greek term polis, although the polis was much more than just a government. It was a community of citizens in which all parts of human activity were focused. As a community, the polis only allowed adult men political rights. The citizens with no political rights were women and children, and slaves and outsiders. The unity of citizens was important and often meant that states would take an active role in deciding how the citizens should live. One result of this unity was that citizens of one polis would greatly distrust the citizens of a different polis. This distrust along with geography kept Greece divided into strongly individual city-states. Colonization In time, large numbers of Greeks left their homeland to settle distant lands. Poverty, land-hunger , overpopulation, and the development of trade were all factors that led to the establishment of colonies. Some Greek colonies were trading

posts or centers from where goods could be shipped to the Greek mainland. Many colonies were larger settlements that included good farm land taken by force from the people found in those areas. Each colony was arranged as a polis and was usually independent of the metropolis (“mother polis”) that had set it up. This colonization also led to increased trade and industry. The Greeks on the mainland sent their pottery, wine, and olive oil to these areas; in return, they received grains and metals from the west, fish, timber, wheat, metals, and slaves from the Black Sea region. In many poleis, the growth of trade and industry created a new group of rich men(merchants) who wanted more political privileges (rights), but found it impossible because of the power of the ruling aristocrats(large landowners).

Greek tyrants were rulers who seized power by force and who were not subject to the law. Tyrants usually achieved power by overthrowing the aristocrats, using mercenary soldiers (paid soldiers). Support for the tyrants came from the new rich men who made their money in trade and industry. Support also came from poor peasants who were in debt to the landholding aristocrats. Once in power, they built new marketplaces, temples, and walls that not only glorified the city but also enhanced their own popularity. Tyrants also favored the interests of merchants and traders. Tyranny, quickly lost popularity and soon faded. Greater numbers of people started taking part in government. This led to the development of democracy in some city-states, while in other city-states some aristocrats managed to hold on to some power. A wide variety of governmental structures and organizations spread amongst the many different city-states, clearly seen in the two most famous and most powerful Greek city-states, Sparta and Athens.

Rise of Tyrants The wants of these new rich men led to the rise of tyrants.

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