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Alternatives to AthensVarieties of Political Organization and Community in Ancient Greece$
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Roger Brock and Stephen Hodkinson

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780199258109

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199258109.001.0001

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The Polis in Italy: Ethnicity, Colonization, and Citizenship in the Western Mediterranean

The Polis in Italy: Ethnicity, Colonization, and Citizenship in the Western Mediterranean

(p.167) 10 The Polis in Italy: Ethnicity, Colonization, and Citizenship in the Western Mediterranean
Alternatives to Athens


Oxford University Press

The concept of the democratic polis is one which is very much based on studies of the way the polis developed in mainland Greece, and in particular on examination of Athens — not surprisingly, given that there is far more detailed evidence available for the constitutional development and political life of Athens than there is for other cities in the Greek world. However, there are significant differences in the way in which the polis developed in the western Mediterranean. One of the most noticeable is the relative weakness of democratic government in the western colonies. There is no doubt that the main form of statehood in the colonial world was the polis but in most cases it was considerably less democratic in nature. The political history of the archaic and classical periods is dominated to a much greater extent by tyrannies, and by the interplay of oligarchic factions. On a more fundamental level, there are divergences in the ways in which the basic forms of definition and identity within the state were constructed. This chapter explores these differences in the Greek colonies of southern Italy and examines the implications for the ways in which these states developed.

Keywords:   democratic polis, Greek colonies, Athens, western colonies

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