Rise of the Polis


Homeric Society

Oikos vs. Polis

organization of the community around the household

ideal of self-sufficiency and the need for contacts

assemblies and justice


Warrior code:

aretÉ – excellence, virtue, the quality of being good at something

timÉ – honor, status, the physical manifestations of respect from others

kleos – fame, glory, the preservation of deeds in song and memory


Glaucus, why do they hold us both in honor, first by far with pride of place, choice meats and brimming cups, in Lycia where all our people look on us like gods?  Why make us lords of estates along the Xanthus' banks, rich in vineyards and plowland rolling wheat?  So that now the duty's ours - we are the ones to head our Lycian front, brace and fling ourselves in the blaze of war, so a comrade strapped in combat gear may say, 'Not without fame, the men who rule in Lycia, these kings of ours who eat fat cuts of lamb and drink sweet wine, the finest stock we have.  But they owe it all to their own fighting strength - they lead our way in battle!'  Ah my friend, if you and I could escape this fray and live forever, never a trace of age, immortal, I would never fight on the front lines again or command you to the field where men win fame.  But now, as it is, the fates of death await us, thousands poised to strike, and not a man alive can flee them or escape - so in we go for attack!  Give our enemy glory or win it for ourselves!  (Homer, Iliad,  XII.359-381)


Hospitality Code - Xenia

Guest friend and host

Gift exchange vs. market economy

Marriage alliances and the traffic in women


Mycenaean Civilization and the Trojan War

Heinrich Schliemann -1870

Troy VIIa - destroyed circa 1250-1200 BCE

Minoan Civilization - Crete c. 2200-1450 BCE

Mycenaean Palace Culture destroyed circa 1200 BCE  -- Linear B writing

illiterate 'Dark Ages'  (roughly 1200-750 BCE)

Phoenician alphabet comes to Greece - first surviving evidence around 750 BCE


Collapse of Mycenaean Civilization

Myth of the Dorian Invasion - the Sons of Herakles (Heraclids)

Sea Peoples

Natural Disasters

Migrations and dialect groups







Homer and Hesiod as Pan-Hellenic poets


But whence each of these gods came into existence, or whether they were for ever, and what kind of shape they had were not known until the day before yesterday, if I may use the expression; for I believe that Homer and Hesiod were four hundred years before my own time - and no more than that.  It is they who created for the Greeks their theogony; it is they who gave to the gods the special names for their descent from their ancestors and divided among them their honors, their arts, and their shapes. (Herodotus 2.53)



Homer -

Iliad composed circa 750-725 BCE??

Odyssey composed circa 743-713 BCE??

Homeric Oral Epic - traditional form of poetry in dactylic hexameter

six metrical feet of dactyls (° ¨ ¨) and spondees (° °)


Hesiod (born 750 BCE??) - father immigrated from Cyme on the Aeolian coast of Asia Minor, settled at Ascra, near Mt. Helikon in Boeotia

Hesiod's Theogony

The Creation of the World:

Chaos    Gaia       Eros       Tartaros

Erebos Night

Pontos  Ouranos

Titans - Kronos

Olympians - Zeus


Hesiod's Works and Days

Pandora - the creation of the Race of Women - a beautiful evil


Myth of the Five Races

Golden Race - ruled by Kronos, like gods without sorrow or toil, feasted endlessly, earth bore food in abundance, become pure spirits after death

Silver Race - hundred year infancy, short maturity filled with wrongdoing to men and gods, become underworld spirits after death

Bronze Race - great strength and violence, bronze weapons and houses, destroyed each other in war and went to Hades

Race of Heroes - demigods, killed in battle in the Theban wars or the Trojan war, some sent to the Isles of the Blessed - ruled by Kronos, without sorrow or toil, earth bears fruit thrice a year

Iron Race - no rest from sorrow and toil, endless troubles, destroyed when born with grey hair and families disintegrate





Dark Age to Archaic - end of 9th to beginning of 8th century BCE

shift from oikos ruled by basileus to polis ruled by aristocratic clans

shift from pastoralism to agriculture

population explosion – differing effects in mountains and fertile plains


ĎMen came together by cities and by tribes, because they naturally tend to hold things in common, and at the same time because of their need of one another;  and they met at the sacred places that were common to them for the same reasons, holding festivals and general assemblies;  for everything of this kind tends to friendship, beginning with eating at the same table, drinking libations together, and lodging under the same roof.Ë Strabo 9.3.5


Temple Building - temenos, temple, altar

increase in votive dedications

nonurban, suburban and urban sanctuaries

nonurban sanctuaries the earliest and most monumental

marking the boundaries:  defending the fields, defining the citizens

Thesmophoria and the role of women


Temple of Hera at Argos

Temple of Hera on Samos

Temple of Hera at Perachora near Corinth

Temple of Poseidon near Corinth

Temple of Artemis at Brauron near Athens

Temple to Demeter at Eleusis near Athens

Temple to Apollo Hyacinthos in Amyclae near Sparta



For Next Week Read:

Buckley ch. 2

Herodotus IV, esp. 144-159

Thucydides VI 1-8

Fornara # 5 (Naxos & Megara), 6 (Croton), 9 (Tarentum), 33 (Locrian laws)

Founding of Cyrene Documents

Greek Lyrics: Archilochus (pp. 1-6) Alcman, Stesichorus, Ibycus, Sappho (pp. 33-42)

Pindar Pythian IV, V, and IX


What were the reasons for Greek colonization?

What cities took the lead in colonizing?  What areas were colonized?

How do the concepts of center and periphery apply to this process of colonization?

What do the colonization narratives in Herodotus and the lyric poets tell us about the process of colonizing?  What common themes and patterns recur in these stories?

Compare Herodotus IV.145-159 with the accounts in Pindar's Pythian Odes and the Theran Decree in the Foundation of Cyrene documents:  What was the motivation for colonization?  What was the role of Delphi in the process?  How did the colonizers get information on where to settle?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of Herodotus and the poetic sources?