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Greek Polis

In: Historical Events

Submitted By kingwes15
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When defining words that are used to describe ancient times we try to simplify the word into our everyday language as much as one can without taking away from its true meaning. Often one does this to make it seem not so complex to grasp what one is reading and or studying. This is no different for the ancient Greek word “polis” as we define as “city-state.”(Nagel pg 1) However does this simple definition fully define the true meaning of a polis? With city being portrayed as a large socialeconomically diverse urban center and with state suggesting a formal government, we are lead to wonder if these two words blended together begin to explain what a polis really is. It is never easy to answer the question “What is an ancient Greek polis?” because everyone had their own answer to the question. For instance Aristotle says a polis was a community of self-governing citizens.(Nagel pg 1) Aristotle was said to be the most important ancient analysis of the polis system, his most famous quote being “Man is a polis animal.” (Nagel pg 1) Aristotle tells us that politeia, today’s constitution, is not just a set of laws but cultural, economical, and social way of life. (Nagel pg 9)Homer author of the Iliad and Odyssey feels a polis is formed when villages in a community unite and become large enough to be self-sufficient.(Nagel pg 8) Herodotus of The Histories of Herodotus saw polesis as a body of citizens sufficiently numerous for Securing a self-sufficient existence. As we can see that throughout time we have many authors who each carry a different point of view on how to properly view a polis of Ancient Greece. Every author has an idea and facts to back this idea up which makes it impossible to properly state that one definition is more correct than the other. It seems that the definition of the polis can also be affect by what polis one is reading about.

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