An Essay on the Characteristics and Development of Ancient City-States

Topics: Sumer, Phoenicia, City Pages: 3 (913 words) Published: April 16, 2012
An Essay on the Characteristics and Development of Ancient City-States

A city-state is defined as an independent or autonomous entity whose territory consists of a city which is not administered as part of a local government. Through reading the articles of Larson, Westenholz, and Neihmer it becomes apparent that city-states differ depending on the region and time they are in, and the purpose they serve. The three specific examples that come to mind are the Phoenicians, Assyrians, and the Sumerians. All three of these had unique characteristics that define each society; however, all three societies displayed enough similarities to make them definable as ancient city-states.

One of the defining characteristics of a city-state is the fact that it is a self-governing and self-sufficient entity. Ancient city-states provided the first clear evidence for social stratification and most city-states contained a ruling family or dynasty, which controlled the city-state and it’s surrounding hinterlands by managing the land, water, and other natural resources. Each city state also contained a council of elders which helped the ruling family serve as a controlling body of local policy. However in Assyrian city-states there also existed a year-eponymy, which was a person who was elected for a single year to serve as the head of the city hall. He acted as the head of the city and carried out the executive orders form the higher officials suchas the king and the elders. In Sumerian city states, kings were referred to as “ensi” or “lugal” which were names that were meant to display to citizens his power and importance, and made his rule indisputable within society. Kings were relied upon to build not only monumental structures and temples for their respective deities, but also to maintain a functional infrastructure. In Phoenician city states,

The king was landlord of pretentious places and sacrificial buildings. This display exists in many city- states and not...
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