By Sebastian

Greek Polis are the foundation of the entire Greek civilization and the idea of Polis has been used for centuries.

Polis (Plural is Poleis) means city in Greek. It is most often translated to “city-state”. The term originated in English and also in German (as the term “Sadtstaat”) but neither one of these fully translates to the Greek term Polis. A Polis was not ruled by a king or oligarchy but by a political figure ruled by its citizens. A Polis is both a society and a city-state. It is a densely populated area with a center or capital, also defined boundries and each Polis has its own government and laws that must be abided. The Polis as a form of a city-state and society, was the base of Greek civilization. (Hansen)
Temple in Athens, with the Acropolis in the background

It began in the Paleolithic Era, when as groups became larger over time it became possible to settle and adopt an “urban” life. With that there became the need to create a culture of mutual interests. (Pearson) Then in the Neolithic Period the development of agriculture began. Through agriculture there was no need to continue their nomadic ways since there would always be a sufficient supply of food. Then through-out the Bronze Age, people evolved and became more and more sophisticated. Yet, then came the Dark Ages in which seemingly all civilization, advancement, and culture had come to a stop. Out of this period of time the Polis evolved, at the beginning of a new Period. The political structure of the Polis began in the Archaic Period, around 700 B.C. (EBSCO) This resulted in the settlement of many different places around the Mediterranean Sea. Cities appeared and began to grow and many places were colonized. These settlements varied from minor trading posts, to cities, to states. In 750 B.C. an aristocratic class came to power. Now, the Greek people were attempting to become more independent so that individuals could advance because the clan-based structure held back individual advancement. As a result the society of Greece became much more aggressive and powerful. Gradually social distinctions became evident, a lot of trading took place, a Phalanx or military was formed and all this brought to light a more conscious analysis of a persons nature and place. Then there were a series of difficult times with tyrants in 650 B.C. but were soon overcome. Now came the Golden Age, the high point of advancement in arts, theatre, philosophy and other things. Between these eras were many hardships to overcome and wars were fought such as the Peloponnesian War, the Persian War, and many others. These all strengthened certain Poleis and strengthened bonds between the people. The Polis had succeeded in Greece for about three hundred years and some general ideas from it are still used to this day. (Hansen)

No matter what type of government was established (whether a democracy in Athens or military oligarchy in Sparta) the Poleis allowed people to get together for art, music, political issues and other things. It also gave citizens a feeling of harmony and freedom and equality. Through the creation of this social structure everything flourished. It became a culture that was built around the expansion of intellect. Now for the first time, knowledge and simply knowing was important. Through this philosophy, mathematics, sciences, arts all bloomed and made great advancements. Certain Polis became centers of trade, intellectual advancement, arts, theatre, innovation and many other things. (B.J.)
Athens Acropolis

The Greeks have influenced the western society since the re-discovery of the Hellenic Culture in the Middle Ages. The Greeks also influenced great civilizations, among others the Romans and areas such as southern Europe and the Middle East. Even though the concept of the Polis was thought of centuries ago it is still used today. It has evolved and changed through the years but the basic concept is still used in many continents and countries. The Polis also influenced the modern English language. Many of the words we use today derive from Polis. Most of which are common in European languages. The words, policy, polity, police, politics and many that simply end with polis, such as Astroplois, Cosmopolis, Metropolis, Acropolis, Tripolis, etc. The Greeks have made a huge impact on the world. (Rhodes)

The concept of the Polis is definitely still used today. Some of countries that use similar systems are Germany, Russia, Austria, Italy and many others. The US uses a very similar system as well. Our states are not unlike the Polis or city-states of Greece. People have modified and altered the original concept of Polis but some fundamental principles are still remain. For example, having the right to vote and participate in the decision making process. It is amazing how civilizations can influence each other to such an extent. (Pearson)

The political structure of the Polis had been used in Greece for three hundred years, helped society flourish as a whole and influenced many civilizations. The Greeks have inspired many throughout the years and one can truly appreciate the amazing things they have done.

Work Cited


  1. B, J. "The Greek Polis: Sparta Vs. Athens." The Greeks. Web. 14 Dec. 2011. <>.
  2. Anderson, Greg. "The Personality Of The Greek State." EBSCO Publishing Service Selection Page. Web. 14 Dec. 2011. <>.
  3. "Polis." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 14 Dec. 2011. <>.
  4. "Western Civilization." Greek Polis Overview. Pearson Education Inc., n.d. Web. 14 Dec 2011. <,6774,207415-,00.html>.


  1. Rhodes, Peter. //The Greek city states//. New York: Cambridge University Press, Web. < on greek city states&hl=en&sa=X&ei=xXHpTuD2FbOMigLgrPGEBw&ved=0CDQQ6AEwAA
  2. Mogens, Hansen. //Polis An Introduction to the Greek City-Sate//. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2006. Web. < introduction to greek polis&hl=en&ei=ojbpTqe5A6qciAKDzNj7Cw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAA