Polis (/ˈpɒlɪs/; Greek: πόλις pronounced [pólis]), plural poleis (/ˈpɒleɪz/, πόλεις [póleːs]) literally means city in Greek. It can also mean a body of citizens. In modern historiography, polis is normally used to indicate the ancient Greek city-states, like Classical Athens and its contemporaries, and thus is often translated as "city-state". These cities consisted of a fortified city centre (asty) built on an acropolis or harbor and controlled surrounding territories of land (khôra).

The Ancient Greek city-state developed during the Archaic period as the ancestor of city, state, and citizenship and persisted (though with decreasing influence) well into Roman times, when the equivalent Latin word was civitas, also meaning "citizenhood", while municipium applied to a non-sovereign local entity. The term "city-state", which originated in English (alongside the German Stadtstaat), does not fully translate the Greek term. The poleis were not like other primordial ancient city-states like Tyre or Sidon, which were ruled by a king or a small oligarchy, but rather political entities ruled by their bodies of citizens. The traditional view of archaeologists—that the appearance of urbanization at excavation sites could be read as a sufficient index for the development of a polis—was criticised by François Polignac in 1984[1][a] and has not been taken for granted in recent decades: the polis of Sparta, for example, was established in a network of villages. The term polis, which in archaic Greece meant "city", changed with the development of the governance center in the city to signify "state" (which included its surrounding villages). Finally, with the emergence of a notion of citizenship among landowners, it came to describe the entire body of citizens. The ancient Greeks did not always refer to Athens, Sparta, Thebes, and other poleis as such; they often spoke instead of the Athenians, Lacedaemonians, Thebans and so on. The body of citizens came to be the most important meaning of the term polis in ancient Greece.

The Greek term that specifically meant the totality of urban buildings and spaces is asty (ἄστυ).

Attica 06-13 Athens 50 View from Philopappos - Acropolis Hill
Acropolis of Athens, a noted polis of classical Greece
Plan of Alexandria c 30 BC Otto Puchstein 1890s EN
Ancient Alexandria in c. 30 BC, a polis of Hellenistic Egypt
Theatre at Syracuse, Sicily
Theatre of ancient Syracuse, a classical polis

The polis in Ancient Greek philosophy

Plato analyzes the polis in The Republic, whose Greek title, Πολιτεία (Politeia), itself derives from the word polis. The best form of government of the polis for Plato is the one that leads to the common good. The philosopher king is the best ruler because, as a philosopher, he is acquainted with the Form of the Good. In Plato's analogy of the ship of state, the philosopher king steers the polis, as if it were a ship, in the best direction.

Books II–IV of The Republic are concerned with Plato addressing the makeup of an ideal polis. In The Republic, Socrates is concerned with the two underlying principles of any society: mutual needs and differences in aptitude. Starting from these two principles, Socrates deals with the economic structure of an ideal polis. According to Plato, there are five main economic classes of any polis: producers, merchants, sailors/shipowners, retail traders, and wage earners. Along with the two principles and five economic classes, there are four virtues. The four virtues of a "just city" include, wisdom, courage, moderation, and justice. With all of these principles, classes, and virtues, it was believed that a "just city" (polis) would exist.

Archaic and classical poleis

The basic and indicating elements of a polis are:

  • Self-governance, autonomy, and independence (city-state)
  • Agora: the social hub and financial marketplace, on and around a centrally located, large open space
  • Acropolis: the citadel, inside which a temple had replaced the erstwhile Mycenaean anáktoron (palace) or mégaron (hall)
  • Greek urban planning and architecture, public, religious, and private (see Hippodamian plan)
  • Temples, altars, and sacred precincts: one or more are dedicated to the poliouchos, the patron deity of the city; each polis kept its own particular festivals and customs (Political religion, as opposed to the individualized religion of later antiquity). Priests and priestesses, although often drawn from certain families by tradition, did not form a separate collegiality or class; they were ordinary citizens who on certain occasions were called to perform certain functions.
  • Gymnasia
  • Theatres
  • Walls: used for protection from invaders
  • Coins: minted by the city, and bearing its symbols
  • Colonies being founded by the oikistes of the metropolis
  • Political life: it revolved around the sovereign Ekklesia (the assembly of all adult male citizens for deliberation and voting), the standing boule and other civic or judicial councils, the archons and other officials or magistrates elected either by vote or by lot, clubs, etc., and sometimes punctuated by stasis (civil strife between parties, factions or socioeconomic classes, e.g., aristocrats, oligarchs, democrats, tyrants, the wealthy, the poor, large, or small landowners, etc.). They practised direct democracy.
  • Publication of state functions: laws, decrees, and major fiscal accounts were published, and criminal and civil trials were also held in public.
  • Synoecism, conurbation: Absorption of nearby villages and countryside, and the incorporation of their tribes into the substructure of the polis. Many of a polis' citizens lived in the suburbs or countryside. The Greeks regarded the polis less as a territorial grouping than as a religious and political association: while the polis would control territory and colonies beyond the city itself, the polis would not simply consist of a geographical area. Most cities were composed of several tribes or phylai, which were in turn composed of phratries (common-ancestry lineages), and finally génea (extended families).
  • Social classes and citizenship: Dwellers of the polis were generally divided into four types of inhabitants, with status typically determined by birth:
    • Citizens with full legal and political rights—that is, free adult men born legitimately of citizen parents. They had the right to vote, be elected into office, and bear arms, and the obligation to serve when at war.
    • Citizens without formal political rights but with full legal rights: the citizens' female relatives and underage children, whose political rights and interests were meant to be represented by their adult male relatives.
    • Citizens of other poleis who chose to reside elsewhere (the metics, μέτοικοι, métoikoi, literally "transdwellers"): though free-born and possessing full rights in their place of origin, they had full legal rights but no political rights in their place of residence. Metics could not vote or be elected to office. A liberated slave was likewise given a metic's status if he chose to remain in the polis, at least that was the case in Athens.[2] They otherwise had full personal and property rights, albeit subject to taxation.
    • Slaves: chattel in full possession of their owner, and with no privileges other than those that their owner would grant (or revoke) at will.

Hellenistic and Roman

During the Hellenistic period, which marks the decline of the classical polis, the following cities remained independent: Sparta until 195 BC after the War against Nabis. Achaean League is the last example of original Greek city-state federations (dissolved after the Battle of Corinth (146 BC)). The Cretan city-states continued to be independent (except Itanus and Arsinoe, which lay under Ptolemaic influence) until the conquest of Crete in 69 BC by Rome. The cities of Magna Graecia, with the notable examples of Syracuse and Tarentum, were conquered by Rome in the late 3rd century BC. There are also some cities with recurring independence like Samos, Priene, Miletus, and Athens.[3] A remarkable example of a city-state that flourished during this era is Rhodes, through its merchant navy,[4] until 43 BC and the Roman conquest.

The Hellenistic colonies and cities of the era retain some basic characteristics of a polis, except the status of independence (city-state) and the political life. There is self-governance (like the new Macedonian title politarch), but under a ruler and king. The political life of the classical era was transformed into an individualized religious and philosophical view of life (see Hellenistic philosophy and religion). Demographic decline forced the cities to abolish the status of metic and bestow citizenship; in 228 BC, Miletus enfranchised over 1,000 Cretans.[5] Dyme sold its citizenship for one talent, payable in two installments. The foreign residents in a city are now called paroikoi. In an age when most political establishments in Asia are kingdoms, the Chrysaorian League in Caria was a Hellenistic federation of poleis.

During the Roman era, some cities were granted the status of a polis, or free city, self-governed under the Roman Empire.[6] The last institution commemorating the old Greek poleis was the Panhellenion, established by Hadrian.

Derived words

Derivatives of polis are common in many modern European languages. This is indicative of the influence of the polis-centred Hellenic world view. Derivative words in English include policy, polity, police, and politics. In Greek, words deriving from polis include politēs and politismos, whose exact equivalents in Latin, Romance, and other European languages, respectively civis ("citizen"), civilisatio ("civilization"), etc., are similarly derived.

A number of words end in -polis. Most refer to a special kind of city or state. Examples include:

  • Astropolis – a star-scaled city/industry area; a complex space station; a European star-related festival
  • Cosmopolis – a large urban centre with a population of many different cultural backgrounds; a novel written by Don DeLillo
  • Ecumenopolis – a city that covers an entire planet, usually seen in science fiction
  • Megalopolis – created by the merging of several cities and their suburbs
  • Metropolis – the mother city of a colony; the see of a metropolitan archbishop; a metropolitan area (major urban population centre)
  • Necropolis ("city of the dead") – a graveyard
  • Technopolis – a city with high-tech industry; a room of computers; the Internet

Others refer to part of a city or a group of cities, such as:

  • Acropolis ("high city") – the upper part of a polis, often a citadel or the site of major temples
  • Decapolis – a group of ten cities
  • Dodecapolis – a group of twelve cities
  • Pentapolis – a group of five cities
  • Tripolis – a group of three cities, retained in the names of Tripoli in Libya, in Greece, and a namesake in Lebanon


Polis, Cyprus

Located on the northwest coast of Cyprus is the town of Polis, or Polis Chrysochous (Greek: Πόλις Χρυσοχούς), situated within the Paphos District and on the edge of the Akamas peninsula. During the Cypro-Classical period, Polis became one of the most important ancient Cypriot city-kingdoms on the island, with important commercial relations with the eastern Aegean Islands, Attica, and Corinth. The town is also well known due to its mythological history, including the site of the Baths of Aphrodite.

Other cities

The names of several other towns and cities in Europe and the Middle East have contained the suffix -polis since antiquity or currently feature modernized spellings, such as -pol. Notable examples include:

The names of other cities were also given the suffix -polis after antiquity, either referring to ancient names or unrelated:

Some cities have also been given nicknames ending with the suffix -polis, usually referring to their characteristics: Cardiff, Wales, UK, once dubbed "Terracottaopolis" due to its fame for buildings faced in terracotta, local red brickwork and ceramics.

  • Swansea, United Kingdom, once dubbed Copperopolis due to its vast production of the metal
  • Manchester. United Kingdom, nicknamed Cottonopolis during the 19th century due to its status as an industrial centre for cotton spinning
  • Middlesbrough United Kingdom, known as Ironopolis during Victorian times because of the area's production of pig iron
  • Puebla City, Mexico, known as Angelópolis due to its founding legend and profusion of Baroque architecture
  • Gallipoli, city in Apulia, Italy. It probably means "Beautiful City" (from Greek "Καλλίπολις").

See also


  1. ^ An attempt to dissociate urbanization from state formation was undertaken by Morris, I (1991), "The early polis as city and state", in Rich, J; Wallace-Hadrill, A (eds.), City and Country in the Ancient World, London, pp. 27–40


  1. ^ Polignac, François (1984), La naissance de la cité grecque (in French), Paris.
  2. ^ MacDowell, Douglas Maurice (1986). The Law in Classical Athens. Cornell University Press. p. 82. ISBN 9780801493652.
  3. ^ Dmitriev, Sviatoslav (2005), City government in Hellenistic and Roman Asia minor, p. 68, ISBN 0-19-517042-3.
  4. ^ Wilson, Nigel Guy (2006), Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece, p. 627, ISBN 978-0-415-97334-2, archived from the original on 2015-03-17.
  5. ^ Milet I, 3, pp. 33–38.
  6. ^ Howgego, Christopher; Heuchert, Volhker; Burnett, Andrew (2007), Coinage and Identity in the Roman Provinces, p. 158, ISBN 0-19-923784-0.

Further reading

  • Ando, Clifford. 1999. "Was Rome a Polis?". Classical Antiquity 18.1: 5–34.
  • Brock, R., and S. Hodkinson, eds. 2000. Alternatives to Athens: Varieties of Political Organisation and Community in Ancient Greece. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.
  • Davies, J. K. 1977–1978. "Athenian Citizenship: The Descent Group and the Alternatives." Classical Journal 73.2: 105–121.
  • Hall, J. M. 2007. "Polis, Community and Ethnic Identity." In The Cambridge companion to Archaic Greece. Edited by H. A. Shapiro, 40–60. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.
  • Hansen, M. H., and T. H. Nielsen, eds. 2004. An Inventory of Archaic and Classical Poleis. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.
  • Hansen, M. H. 2006. Polis: An Introduction to the Ancient Greek City-State. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.
  • Hansen, M. H., ed. 1993. The Ancient Greek City-State: Symposium on the Occasion of the 250th Anniversary of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, July 1–4, 1992. Copenhagen: Royal Danish Academy.
  • Hansen, M. H. 1999. The Athenian Democracy in the age of Demosthenes: Structure, Principles and Ideology. 2d ed. London: Bristol Classical Press.
  • Hansen, M. H., ed. 1997. The Polis as an Urban Centre and Political Community. Copenhagen: Royal Danish Academy.
  • Jones, N. F. 1987. Public Organization in Ancient Greece: A Documentary Study. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society.
  • Kraay, C. M. 1976. Archaic and Classical Greek Coins. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.
  • Osborne, R. 2009. Greece in the Making. 2d ed. London: Routledge.
  • Millar, F. G. B. 1993. "The Greek City in the Roman Period. In The Ancient Greek City-State: Symposium on the Occasion of the 250th Anniversary of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, July 1–4, 1992. Edited by M. H. Hansen, 232–260. Copenhagen: Royal Danish Academy.
  • Polignac, F. de. 1995. Cults, Territory, and the Origins of the Greek City-State. Translated by J. Lloyd. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.
  • van der Vliet, E. 2012. "The Durability and Decline of Democracy in Hellenistic Poleis." Mnemosyne 65.4-5: 771-786.

External links

2018 Colorado gubernatorial election

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Aphrodisias (; Ancient Greek: Ἀφροδισιάς, romanized: Aphrodisiás) was a small ancient Greek Hellenistic city in the historic Caria cultural region of western Anatolia, Turkey. It is located near the modern village of Geyre, about 100 km (62 mi) east/inland from the coast of the Aegean Sea, and 230 km (140 mi) southeast of İzmir.

Aphrodisias was named after Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, who had here her unique cult image, the Aphrodite of Aphrodisias. According to the Suda, a Byzantine encyclopedic compilation, before the city became known as Aphrodisias (c.3rd century BCE) it had three previous names: Lelégōn Pólis (Λελέγων πόλις, "City of the Leleges"), Megálē Pólis (Μεγάλη Πόλις, "Great City"), and Ninóē (Νινόη).Sometime before 640, in the Late Antiquity period when it was within the Byzantine Empire, the city was renamed Stauroúpolis (Σταυρούπολις, "City of the Cross").In 2017 it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

Classical Athens

The city of Athens (Ancient Greek: Ἀθῆναι, Athênai [a.tʰɛ̂ː.nai̯]; Modern Greek: Αθήναι Athine [a.ˈθi.ne̞] or, more commonly and in singular, Αθήνα Athina [a.'θi.na]) during the classical period of Ancient Greece (480–323 BC) was the major urban center of the notable polis (city-state) of the same name, located in Attica, Greece, leading the Delian League in the Peloponnesian War against Sparta and the Peloponnesian League. Athenian democracy was established in 508 BC under Cleisthenes following the tyranny of Isagoras. This system remained remarkably stable, and with a few brief interruptions remained in place for 180 years, until 322 BC (aftermath of Lamian War). The peak of Athenian hegemony was achieved in the 440s to 430s BC, known as the Age of Pericles.

In the classical period, Athens was a center for the arts, learning and philosophy, home of Plato's Akademia and Aristotle's Lyceum, Athens was also the birthplace of Socrates, Plato, Pericles, Aristophanes, Sophocles, and many other prominent philosophers, writers and politicians of the ancient world. It is widely referred to as the cradle of Western Civilization, and the birthplace of democracy, largely due to the impact of its cultural and political achievements during the 5th and 4th centuries BC on the rest of the then-known European continent.

Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge

The Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge (abbreviated POLIS) is the department at the University of Cambridge responsible for research and instruction in political science, international relations and public policy. It is part of the Faculty of Human, Social, and Political Science.

ENAD Polis Chrysochous FC

ENAD Polis Chrysochous FC (Greek: ΕΝΑΔ Πόλης Χρυσοχούς) is a football club based in Polis, Paphos, Cyprus that competes in the Cypriot Second Division. The team was established in 1994 after two local teams, Akamas Polis Chrysochous and Demetrakis Argakas, were united.

Jared Polis

Jared Schutz Polis (; born May 12, 1975) is an American politician, entrepreneur and philanthropist serving as the 43rd Governor of Colorado since January 2019. A member of the Democratic Party, he previously served on the Colorado State Board of Education from 2001 to 2007 and was the U.S. Representative for Colorado's 2nd congressional district from 2009 to 2019. Polis was elected Governor of Colorado in 2018, defeating Republican Walker Stapleton.

Polis is the first openly gay person and second openly LGBT person (after Kate Brown of Oregon) to be elected governor in the United States. He is also the first Jew to be elected Governor of Colorado. During his tenure in Congress, he was among its wealthiest members, with a personal net worth estimated at over $300 million.

John St. Polis

John M. St. Polis (November 24, 1873 – October 8, 1946) was an American actor.

List of cities in ancient Epirus

This is a list of cities in ancient Epirus. These were Greek poleis, komes or fortresses except for Nicopolis, which was founded by Octavian. Classical Epirus was divided into three regions: Chaonia, Molossia, Thesprotia, each named after the dominant tribe that lived there. A number of ancient settlements in these regions remain unidentified.

Marion, Cyprus

Marion (Greek: Μάριον) was one of the Ten city-kingdoms of Cyprus. It was situated in the north-west of the island in the Akamas region, close to or under the present town of Polis. Both Strabo and Pliny the Elder mention the city in their writings.


A metropolis () is a large city or conurbation which is a significant economic, political, and cultural center for a country or region, and an important hub for regional or international connections, commerce, and communications. The term is Ancient Greek (μητρόπολις) and means the "mother city" of a colony (in the ancient sense), that is, the city which sent out settlers. This was later generalized to a city regarded as a center of a specified activity, or any large, important city in a nation.

A big city belonging to a larger urban agglomeration, but which is not the core of that agglomeration, is not generally considered a metropolis but a part of it. The plural of the word is metropolises, although the Latin plural is metropoles, from the Greek metropoleis (μητρoπόλεις).

For urban centers outside metropolitan areas that generate a similar attraction at smaller scale for their region, the concept of the regiopolis ("regio" for short) was introduced by German academics in 2006.

Mu Sagittarii

Mu Sagittarii (μ Sagittarii, abbreviated Mu Sgr, μ Sgr) is a multiple star system in the constellation of Sagittarius. The brightest component, designated Mu Sagittarii Aa, is formally named Polis . The system is 3,000 light-years from the Sun and is part of the Sgr OB1 stellar association.

Murder at the Savoy

Murder at the Savoy (original title: Polis, polis, potatismos! literally "Police, Police, Mashed Potatoes!") is a crime novel by Swedish writers Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. It is the sixth book out of ten in the detective series by revolving around police detective Martin Beck.

Murder at the Savoy (film)

Murder at the Savoy (Swedish: Polis, polis, potatismos) is a Swedish/German film from 1993, based on the book Murder at the Savoy.


Royal Malaysia Police Football Association or simply known as Royal Police is an association football club associated with the entity of the Royal Malaysia Police, who play in the Malaysia Premier League, the second division of Malaysian football. The team is based in Kuala Lumpur.

Domestically, Royal Police has won the Malaysia Premier League, the second tier of Malaysian football in 2006–07 and 2014. They also won the People of Maldives Invitational Cup in 2015.


In the culture of ancient Greece, the term paideia (also spelled paedeia) (; Greek: παιδεία, paideía) referred to the rearing and education of the ideal member of the polis. It incorporated both practical, subject-based schooling and a focus upon the socialization of individuals within the aristocratic order of the polis. The practical aspects of this education included subjects subsumed under the modern designation of the liberal arts (rhetoric, grammar, and philosophy are examples), as well as scientific disciplines like arithmetic and medicine. An ideal and successful member of the polis would possess intellectual, moral and physical refinement, so training in gymnastics and wrestling was valued for its effect on the body alongside the moral education which the Greeks believed was imparted by the study of music, poetry, and philosophy. This approach to the rearing of a well-rounded Greek male was common to the Greek-speaking world, with the exception of Sparta where a rigid and militaristic form of education known as the agoge was practiced.


Pladasa was a town of ancient Caria. Its name does not appear in ancient authors, but is inferred from epigraphic evidence. It was a polis (city-state) and a member of the Delian League. The was a strong Carian presence in the town's ethnic makeup.Its site is located near Çandüşüren, Asiatic Turkey.

Polis, Cyprus

Polis (or Polis Chrysochous; Greek: Πόλη Χρυσοχούς or Πόλις Χρυσοχούς) is a small town at the north-west end of the island of Cyprus, at the centre of Chrysochous Bay, and on the edge of the Akamas peninsula nature reserve. It is a quiet tourist resort, the inhabitants' income being supplemented by agriculture and fishing.

Polis is served by the fishing port of Latchi. Polis is close to the beautiful Akamas peninsula, a nature reserve.

Royal Malaysia Police

The Royal Malaysia Police (often abbreviated RMP) (Malay: Polis Diraja Malaysia (PDRM)), is a (primarily) uniformed federal police force in Malaysia. The force is a centralised organisation. Its headquarters are located at Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur. The police force is led by an Inspector-General of Police (IGP) who, as of 4 May 2019, is Abdul Hamid Bador.

The constitution, control, employment, recruitment, funding, discipline, duties and powers of the police force are specified and governed by the Police Act 1967. In carrying out its responsibilities, the regular RMP is also assisted by a support group of Extra Police Constables, Police Volunteer Reserves, Auxiliary Police, Police Cadets and a civilian service element.

The RMP constantly co-operates closely with police forces worldwide, including from those six neighbouring countries Malaysia shares a border with: Indonesian National Police, Philippine National Police, Royal Brunei Police Force, Royal Thai Police, Singapore Police Force and Vietnam People's Public Security.


Thasthara (Ancient Greek: Θασθαρα) was a town of ancient Caria. It was a polis (city-state) and a member of the Delian League.Its site is located near Çavdarköy, Asiatic Turkey.

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