Polis Time Line
• c. 700 Homer
• 750-550 Age of Colonization
• 490 Athenians defeat Persians at Marathon
• 480 Xerxes invades Greece
• 479 Spartans defeat Persians at Platea
• 478-477 Formation of Delian League
• 431 Start of Peloponnesian War
• 413 Athenian defeat at Syracuse
• Greece and surrounding islands are
• no major rivers
• little grassland
• much marble.
• supported olives and grapes
• lack of arable land necessitates trade for
other food stuffs
• seafood forms a major source of diet.
What is a Polis?
• A city state
• A community of citizens with distinctive
customs, gods, and was also an object of
intense religious-patriotic devotion
• the Greeks answer to the perennial conflict
between an individual and the community
• What are some famous polei?
– Athens, Sparta, Thebes, Corinth, Argos, Delphi.
Components of a Polis
• Population between 5,000 and 35,000
• city populations about 10 times the citizen -
mainly free farmers
• interaction with other members of the polis
• Attica, patron deity is Athena
• Center city of learning and democracy
• position of women
• Athenian democracy pros and cons.
• Political Structure
– common man
• Social Structure
• helots (Messenians)
• turned into a military camp to maintain
– age seven
– tutor from amongst young citizens
– public dining and “black broth”
– “now I know why Spartans don’t fear death”.
Persian Wars (490-479 BCE)
• Ionian cities revolt against Persia
– were Greek colonies
– Greek city states support the revolt
• King Darius retaliates by invading Greece
– Battle of Marathon.
Persian Wars (490-479 BCE)
• Second Persian War 480 BCE
• Xerxes (from chp 2 in textbook) invades
– Thermopyle: Leonidas and 300 Spartans hold out
– Platea: Spartan army victorious
– Salamis: Athenian navy victorious.
• 150+ member city-
• drove Persians and
pirates from the
• Athenian imperialism.
• aristocrat, general, leader in Athens,
directed Delian league
• moved treasury from Delos to
– religious justification
• rebuilt buildings on the Acropolis
• dissention within the league, Athens
Pericles Funeral Oration
“We are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of the
many and not the few. But while the law secures equal justice to all
alike in their private disputes, the claim of excellence is also
recognized; and when a citizen is in any way distinguished, he is
[selected for] public service… as the reward of merit. Neither is
poverty a bar, but a man may benefit his country whatever may be the
obscurity of his condition… There is no exclusiveness in our public
life, and in our private intercourse we are not suspicious of one
another, nor angry with our neighbor if he does what he likes; we do
not put on sour looks at him which though harmless are unpleasant…
a spirit of reverence pervades our public acts; we are prevented from
doing wrong by respect for authority and for the laws…”
• Recorded by Thucydides
– first “true” historian
• emergence of the Peloponnesian League
– preemptive strike.
• Sparta was successful on land - invasion of
• no conclusive battle against an Athenian
• 421 BCE both sides agree to a truce.
• 415 BCE Athenian Syracuse campaign
– loss of 50,000 men and over 200 ships
• Sparta resumes war 414 BCE
– defection of Athenian allies
– economic support from Persia
– naval assistance from Syracuse
• siege and defeat of Athens (404 BCE)
• weakening of social and political system
• “Thirty Tyrants”.
• Sparta unable to administer a large area
• Weakened and divided Greek city states
• professionalization of government
• mercenaries replaced citizen soldiers
• outbreak of civil wars in many poleis
• rise of Macedonia.