The Polis Essay

This essay has a total of 1174 words and 6 pages.

The Polis



During the Archaic Period of Ancient Greece, many communities segregated themselves into
small, subdivided city-states. Such cities were small, but managed to establish the very
roots of democracy today. The term “polis” can be defined as an independent state governed
by its population. Such a definition is accurate, however also could be considered broad
and constricted. In deeper aspects, the polis was an organized state or community that
worked together in upholding equivalent rights with an effort to prevent tyranny, or a
state governed by one person. The polis went through extensive political efforts to
maintain its unity and natural rights. Such qualities of a state led to other enhancements
of the polis such as the social, religious, and economic aspects of joined community.

The polis developed shortly after Cultural Revolution of ancient Greece during the early
Archaic Period. During this time period almost every aspect of life went experienced a
major change. Socially and politically Greece began to develop greater stability. Unlike
other areas, which developed mostly into personal leadership, Greece followed an
antagonistic political principle of unity and basic equality. The polis emerged from such
political ideology to form a state of equal “natural” rights and the absence of tyranny.
Some of the major reasons why Greece did not develop single rulers were because of
financially weak kings, weapons which made war chiefs obsolete in strategic commanding,
geographical isolation, and a simplicity of Greek life which withheld principles of
equality. Such conditions helped curve the development of the polis.

Politically, the polis was known to be well established. The political structure of the
polis was based upon its value of equal representation and natural rights. Therefore



the major office was filled with different officials managing different aspects of the
community. One official might conduct religious ceremonies, another official would control
civil aspects, and son on. Such members of the cabinet were only temporary, and were
replaced on a regular basis to avoid anyone gaining too much political strength.
Individually, citizens of the polis had equal rights and commitments to their communities.
Every citizen had an equal representation and say in their beliefs and ideas which would
strengthen their community. Likewise, everyone also had equal votes and voices to elect
officials in performing higher tasks. Eventually such officials grew into a council which

Gained higher roles and duties parallel with the growing population. In time political and
military organizations began fighting with other independent states over possession of
farmland and other important geographical aspects. As the population of such states grew,
complications did as well. However the polis continually managed to maintain its ideology
of communal unity. (Starr, p.206)

Socially the polis contained moral and ideal qualities that are still contained in modern
democracy. Aside from equal representation, citizens of the polis had great appreciation
for their state in government, and worked collectively to preserve such a state. Their
society was composed of equal citizens who constantly worked to supply their needs for
both survival and growth. Although the polis did consist of several classes, none were
distinguished too sharply and everyone was focused more on their community rather than
themselves. The social classes of a typical polis consists of an upper class where one
must be a citizen without a job but a method of high income. A member of the upper class
would also be free from economic tasks such as trading or






farming, but instead must get slaves or others to attend material concerns such as
property and fortune. Only by such liberation of work can an upperclassman find time for
government, war, literature, and philosophy. The Greeks also believed there must be a
leisure class, or there would be no standard for good taste, no encouragement of the arts,
and no civilization. Such a class fell into the category of the middle class. The middle
class also had a large number of non-citizens from foreign birth. Although they were
ineligible for citizenship, they would spend their lives professionally as merchants,
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