Students are introduced to the key concepts and debates related to the study of the Greek polis. In particular, students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the various institutions (religious cults, laws, political assembly, taxation, state offices, private or public associations, the military) that combined to make the polis work as a state. They will, moreover learn to combine evidence for the polis from multiple sources, including epigraphical and literary sources, as well as archaeological remains. Successful participants in this course apply theoretical insights from the social studies in their research and are able to position themselves with regard to the main debates surrounding the institutions and statehood of the Greek polis.
Ancient Greek society was defined by the polis, often translated as 'citizen-state' because of the importance that was awarded to (“bottom up”) citizen participation. Modern scholarship is divided, however, on the issue whether key institutions such as law and an administrative bureaucracy were sufficiently developed for the polis to be counted as a state, at least in the modern sense of the word. Some would go so far as to discount the existence of Greek statehood altogether, favoring the agency (entrepreneurship) and networking capabilities (associations) of private individuals. Arguing in the opposite directions, some scholars have sought to find the origins of our modern state in Ancient Greece.|
This course surveys key aspects of the polis that might define it as a state in its own terms—though always in contrast with modern concepts of statehood. Particular emphasis is placed on the formal attributes (institutions) that were crucial to the practical operation of the polis. These included laws, political assembly, taxation, state offices and private or public associations, with a prominent place for the many religious cults that defined Greek social life. Various types of polis government are discussed, as well as rivaling tiers of identity, such as demes, federations (ethnē), amphiktyonies and panhellenic associations. Colonial foundations and warfare are, moreover, considered as a driving force in the development of the polis. The focus lies primarily on Archaic and Classical Greece, even though the origins of the polis are traced back to the Early Iron Age. Conversely, students will come away with a clear sense of the enduring importance of the polis in Hellenistic and Roman times. Source material includes epigraphical (documentary) and literary texts, but also archaeological remains and numismatic evidence.
Preparation for academic career, career in cultural sector