The Greek Cities
There happened to grow up over a far wider area than modern Greece a civilisation with a common language and culture of men who called themselves Hellenes, but which was divided into many different polis. From polis come words like ‘politics’ and ‘political’, but polis itself is hard to translate — perhaps ‘polity’ comes nearest, but the word is archaic and pompous sounding.14 ‘City-state’ is perhaps the best we can do, for even though the majority of citizens would have lived outside the walls or boundaries of the actual city, the city itself dominated the rural areas. But polis also implies community, and not merely an independent community but communal government. It is easy for us to accept that tyrants can rule city-states, as in parts of the Moslem world and in Renaissance Italy. But to the Hellene, the very language implied that there was something unnatural and unstable in one man governing a polis.
KeywordsFellow Citizen Independent Community High Spirit Communal Government Actual City
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