The Greek State

The Greek State

The Greek State

The Greek State

Excerpt

When we speak of the Hellenic State, we are thinking of the political forms that grew out of the age of Greek immigration into the Aegean. I shall try to depict the development and character of these political units, and to establish the forms that in the course of history were decisive. Without anticipating too much, it may be worth while at this point -- briefly and within the requirements of our theme -- to distinguish what was essentially Greek from an earlier age and a surrounding world that were not. That the Greeks learnt and borrowed much from the East is an admitted fact; but there is no direct road leading from the territorial state of the East under its kings to the Greek community of citizens, even should it be established that the Mycenaean Greeks were under a priestly kingship, such as can hardly be imagined without Eastern influence. Another matter of special importance for the later Greek development, a matter, say, of social geography, is the extent to which the country was urbanized. The cities of the East, and indeed of the Minoans and Mycenaeans, found their centre in the royal palace; such a centre is not to be found among the later Greeks, even where there were kings. Nevertheless, it is possible that the typical city civilization of the East may have undergone changes in the Aegean before the Greeks came, and that it may have facilitated the transition to Greek forms of life. The influence of land and sea in the Aegean world had also shaped the predecessors of the Greeks. Out of this twofold inheritance -- the preponderance of urban settlement and the geographical conditions -- the new immigrants, hitherto bound to one another by the personal and social relationships of the tribe, created those new political forms of which the Polis, the Greek city-state, was the crown.

The question now arises: how far are we justified in speaking of 'the' Polis in general? We have to draw our picture of it from a number of states, and, to do so, we must recognize the unity that underlies the plurality. 'Polis' is to some extent an abstraction; it will be our task to describe what is typical, or what Max Weber calls the 'ideal type' (Idealtypus), without forgetting the differences that exist beside the common elements. Research in the last . . .

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