PEASANTS AND SOLDIERS
THE structure of the Homeric states, in spite of the increasing changes brought about by industrial and commercial expansion, remained none the less solidly based on the old rural traditions.
This state of equilibrium was to some extent jeopardized by the rapid rise to wealth of a section of the great aristocratic families: these were now in possession of political power and they continued to control their own class-group, that of the hereditary nobility, within the solid structure of the gené. The balance was also disturbed by the increase in population, not always accompanied by an improvement in material conditions, for the increase mainly affected the populace. This section contained many heterogeneous elements, including the free artisans, the agricultural labourers, the smaller landholders, not to mention the members of the servant and slave classes.
Nevertheless, the equilibrium of the state was still assured by the existence of one very important class, which enjoyed material and moral autonomy and was justly proud of the privilege. Its economic independence was based on landownership, for it was a race of peasants. Its social standing was due to the right of taking part in the popular assembly and, in consequence, of holding the rank of citizens. And its prestige was further enhanced by the right of bearing arms, because it was from this class that the phalanx of heavy-armed infantry, which formed the bulk of the army, was recruited. It was therefore a military class.
The mode and conditions of peasant life varied from country to country and from city to city. In general, a preoccupation with land was the dominant interest; but it might happen that military interests so far predominated that the landholder disdained his