How the Greek Polis Was Organized

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The ancient Greeks developed a basic political and institutional unit called a polis after the Mycenaean period. A polis is a city-state. A polis was a society of people who lived in a city and cultivated the surrounding countryside. The polis contained an elevated Acropolis, and a marketplace Agora. The city’s water supply came from public springs, and the city was usually surrounded by a large wall. The Polis was the center of Greek community life.

There were two main large city states; Sparta and Athens. These city-states were prominent, and very powerful. Sparta stressed upon having strong, fearless warriors. Sparta had many expectations and a Spartan citizen practically had their entire life planned out. Spartans were expected to marry at twenty years old. All men were trained to be warriors. Men were also required to serve in the military from seven to thirty. They were taught discipline, forced to endure pain, and learned bravery. In Sparta, death in battle was the highest honor. Any sickly infants were left outside to die. Sick babies were unable to become strong warriors, so Sparta saw them as useless. People had to bring their babies to the government so that they could decide if a baby lived or died.

Athens was also a powerful city-state. They started as a monarchy, changed to an oligarchy, and finally to a democracy. They were the first to create laws that came from man and not believed from the Gods. Draco wrote the first Greek laws in 621 BC. His laws were very harsh and the death penalty was extremely common. Secondly, Solon wrote laws in 594 BC. He encouraged farmers to grow new crops, resulting in an increase of trade for Athens. All citizens were required to teach sons trade. Pisistratus gained power in 546 BC. He greatly improved conditions, and gave land to the poor. Cleisthenes gained control in 510 BC. Athens was divided into ten areas called demes. He allowed all males over twenty years old to vote, and...
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