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An Introduction to the Ancient Greek City-State

Mogens Herman Hansen

Publication Date - 30 November 2006

ISBN: 9780199208500

246 pages

An excellent introduction to the polis, or Greek city-state, presenting the latest research findings.


From antiquity until the nineteenth century, there have been two types of state: macro-states, each dotted with a number of cities, and regions broken up into city-states, each consisting of an urban center and its hinterland. A region settled with interacting city-states constituted a city-state culture and Polis opens with a description of the concepts of city, state, city-state, and city-state culture, and a survey of the 37 city-state cultures so far identified.

Mogens Herman Hansen provides a thoroughly accessible introduction to the polis (plural: poleis), or ancient Greek city-state, which represents by far the largest of all city-state cultures. He addresses such topics as the emergence of the polis, its size and population, and its political organization, ranging from famous poleis such as Athens and Sparta through more than 1,000 known examples.


  • An excellent introduction to the polis, or Greek city-state, presenting the latest research findings
  • Analyses the Greek polis as a city-state culture comparable with other city-states in world history
  • Moves the focus from Athens and Sparta to the thousand or so poleis so far identified

About the Author(s)

Mogens Herman Hansen is Reader in Classics at Copenhagen University.


"This book will help those venturing for the first time outside of the Athenocentric realm of polis-studies; it provides an overview and introduction to comparative studies in the city-state and 'city-state culture.'" --Classical Outlook

Table of Contents

    I. City-States in World History
    1. Cities, City-States and City-State Cultures
    2. A Sketch of the 37 Identified City-State Cultures
    3. `Country-States' versus City-State Cultures
    II. The City-State Culture in Ancient Greece
    4. The Unity of the City-State Culture of Ancient Greece
    5. The Rise of the Ancient Greek City-State Culture
    6. The End of the City-State Culture in Ancient Greece
    7. How Poleis Arose and Disappeared
    8. What is a Polis? An Investigation of the Concept of `Polis'
    9. The Polis as City and State
    10. Polis as City
    11. The Settlement Pattern of the Ancient Greek City-States
    12. The Size and Population of the Cities
    13. The Demography of the Ancient Greek City-State Culture
    14. The Economy of the Cities: Max Weber's `Ideal Type'
    15. Polis as City in the Archaic Period
    16. The Greek Conception of Polis as a City with a Hinterland
    17. Polis as State
    18. Army
    19. Religion
    20. State and Society
    21. Civil War (Stasis)
    22. Relationships between Poleis
    23. The Hellenistic Poleis
    III. Conclusion
    24. The Polis Compared with Other City-State Cultures

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