Ancient Philosophy on Polis - Dictionary of Arguments
Gaus I 304
Polis/Ancient philosophy/Keyt/Miller: (...) [polis] originally referred to a citadel or high stronghold. (The acropolis of Athens was still called the polis in the late fifth century: Thucydides Il. 15.6.) The polis came to include the households and businesses gathered around the citadel and later the surrounding territory, and thus evolved by the sixth and fifth centuries into the classical Greek city-state: for example, Attica with Athens as its urban centre (astu), and Laconia with Sparta as its urban centre. There were as many as 800 Greek poleis, and Aristotle and his students composed descriptions of 158 different constitutions. Despite important similarities, the poleis
varied considerably in size, location (on the coast, inland, or on an island), economic activity (agricultural or mercantile in varying degrees), customs, and temperament. Each polis was a microcosm, geographically distinct, and, to a significant extent, economically self-sufficient and politically independent. Although its members remained tightly intertwined by relationships of kinship, economic exchange, custom, and religious practice, a polis was often subject to powerful revolutionary forces. Moreover, as the Greeks continued to found new colonies around the Mediterranean and Black Sea, they had to address basic constitutional issues: for example, what laws and political institutions should be established? Who should be recognized as citizens? It is understandable, then, that the polis was the object of reflection by Greek philosophers.
A broad historical investigation of the Greek polis is currently being conducted by a team of scholars under the auspices of the >Copenhagen Polis Center and its director, Mogens Herman Hansen.
Keyt, David and Miller, Fred D. jr. 2004. „Ancient Greek Political Thought“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications_____________Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Gerald F. Gaus
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004