Migration, the Polis, and Colonization

A wealth of information on daily life, housing, women, economy may be viewed at an exhibition sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania Museum.

  1. Age of Migrations 1200-600 BCE (overview; detail) the Greek "Dark Ages")
  2. The Greek Polis / "city state". The polis is first and foremost an independent state.
    1. The polis most successful and enduring political institution in the history of the west. The general question: Why was it so successful and enduring? was also raised by the ancients.
    2. Subject of considerable speculation esp. by Plato and by Aristotle. We are well informed about their views. The ancients proposed many "model" states; "man is political" Barstool (that is, "humans can realize their potential only by living in a polis"). Some examples of theoretical discussions:
      1. development of states: monarchy > tyranny > aristocracy > oligarchy > democracy > ochlocracy.
      2. the polis is the logical end of social development from family and village,
      3. 'polis comes into existence for the sake of mere life; but it exists for the sake of the good life', Aristotle.
      4. Characteristics of polis --in place by 800, though not everywhere at the same time.
        1. Territory and population; the latter counts more than the former.
          1. urban and rural components: Landscape and setting of the polis.
          2. by family, clan
          3. size (5040).
        2. Structure --no sense of representative democracy, but of direct participation. Public buildings, not palaces or royal residences. Note that the basic structure existed from the end of the Bronze Age (see last lecture).
          1. assembly of citizen soldiers --"the nation at arms"
          2. council of elders --> council of former magistrates.
          3. magistrates
          4. court
  3. The Problem/ Issue...more specifically, what factors made the polis successful/enduring... The role of Homeric poetry in the process.
    1. polis = the state of the politai, the citizens a.k.a. consensual government: The Great Rhetra When thou has built a temple to Zeus Syllanius and Athena Syllania, divided the people into phylai (larger voting groups), and divided them into obai (small voting units), and established a Gerousia (a council of elders) of thirty including the Archagetai (magistrates), then from time to time 'appellazein' (summon the citizens) between Babyka and Knakion (months of the year), and there introduce and repeal measures; but the Demos (the 'citizens') must have the decision and the power.
    2. The Hoplite Reform:
      1. The power of the formation. Greek warfare was brutally efficient, and the Greeks were conscious of the price. When the demos vote on war, nobody reckons on his own death...but if death faced him when he cast his vote Greeks would never perish from Battle-madness, says Euripides, an Athenian playwright. What then made people ready to fight and to die?
      2. Underlying principle: the citizens have the privilege of voting only by accepting the responsibility of fighting. 'those who fight, vote' =>the residual effect of the warrior band... Aristotle writes: The first form of constitution which succeeded to monarchy in ancient Greece was one in which the soldiery formed the citizen body [demos]. At first it consisted only of cavalry....When, however, states began to increase in size, and infantry forces acquired a greater degree of strength, more persons were admitted to the enjoyment of political rights. For this reason the name 'democracy' was given at that time to constitutions which we now call "city states". Politics.
      3. Balance of privilege and responsibility: The tradition begins with Homer: Glaucos, why are the two of us go greatly honored among the Lycians ([Trojans] with seats of honor, meat, and numerous cups? Why do all men regard us as gods? Why do we hold a vast estate on the banks of the Xantos, suitable both for orchards and for the tilling of wheat-bearing earth? We must therefore stand among the front line of the Trojans and take part in the raging battle, so that the Trojans may say: "Our kings .. are glorious men; they eat fat sheep and drink the choicest wine. They also have surely the strength of brave men, since they fight in the front rank of the Trojans. That is, the social discipline to stand in line and risk one's life is based on a balance between privilege and responsibility. Herodotus while the Athenians were oppressed under a despotic government, they had no better success at war than any of their neighbors, yet, once the yoke was flung off [i.e., when they became a democratic state], they proved the finest fighters in the world. Hoplites: from a vase.
      4. Note that these three concepts are closely related, namely those who are to risk their lives must be part of the decision to go to war.. This scheme is similar to the structure of the old "warrior band", in that the same components are present, but there has been a decisive shift in the balance of power: the heroic "warrior-king " has disappeared; and the "band" is the source of power.
    3. The rule of law: because the citizen / soldiers made the laws, it was imperative that the citizen / soldiers all subject themselves to the laws [social discipline], hence...On the superiority of law
      1. They (the Spartans ready to die at Thermopylae) are free --yes-- but not entirely free; for they have a master, and that master is Law.(Herodotus)
      2. The city is free, and ruled by no one man. The demos reign in annual succession. they do not yield to the rich; the poor man has an equal share in it [the polis], so Euripides. Hence Antigone can claim: It is no polis that is ruled by one man.
      3. ...for justice in the end defeats violence, but only when he has suffered does the fool learn this, Hesiod. Knowledge thru suffering.
      4. Law as opposed to chaos
        1. ...[we] reached the land of the Cyclopes, a brutal and lawless folk, who...neither plant nor plow...they have neither assemblies where counsels are discussed nor laws...they live in caves...each without concerning himself with the others. Odyssey
        2. For that state in which the Law is subject and has no authority, I perceive to be on the highway to ruin. (Plato);
      5. Law is public; public discussion of all issues. Agreement to abide by decisions
      6. There is a difference between natural and divine law
      7. Men are educated and improved by law
  4. Other Considerations
    1. the goal of politics is the good for humans (Aristotle). Implications?
    2. The Problem of Rule: The percentage of citizens in a polis varied.
    3. Autonomy and freedom
      1. Only in an autonomous state (under own laws) could an individual be guaranteed freedom (i.e., to serve state). The demonstration of autonomy and freedom was to issue own coinage.
      2. Just an agon existed between individuals for limited resources in the Homeric world, so too did it for states. Economic self-sufficiency was always a goal, but hardly possible due to the lack of resources .
      3. Pan Hellenism is over-emphasized; particularism of local culture very important.
    4. Religion and Cult
      1. Religion as basis of citizenship.
      2. Cultural patriotism. Temples as symbols of cities acropolis at Athens and at Perachora.
      3. Pax deorum.
  5. The Age of Colonization (750-550), namely the expansion of the polis system beyond mainland Greece. Began with exploration for raw materials. General map of colonization and the site of Segesta.
    1. Introduction: Colonies are found all around Mediterranean but especially in Italy and Sicily: The polis was the agent and the effect of colonization.
    2. Greek resources and strengths
      1. The sea and seamanship.
      2. Heavily armed hoplite
    3. Character of the colonies: preferred sites. Homer describes the ideal city: "Our city is surrounded by high battlements; it has an excellent harbor on each side and is approached by a narrow causeway, where the curved ships are drawn up to the road..." Syracuse
    4. Aims and Causes of Colonization
      1. The commercial factor.
      2. Internal factors: politics and the land.
      3. There was a temporary (750-500) weakness among the rivals of the Greeks.
      4. the organizational skills
  6. Significance and General Effects:
      1. Most dramatic was the expansion of trade and the general elevation of the level of material existence throughout the Mediterranean world. Trade patterns
      2. Because their superiority was so manifest, the Greeks developed the idea of a racial and cultural superiority that dictated their relationship to non-Greeks for the next centuries.
      3. Of lasting value was the extension of the city-state system and especially the spread of ideas of consensual government and citizenship to the west. It became the vehicle for the propagation of Greek cultural and ethical values first to Rome and then throughout Western Europe.