Greece History – From the Origins to the Persian Wars Part 3

Greece History – From the Origins to the Persian Wars Part 3

The polis, in addition to concentrating the political and administrative life of the state, attracted to itself a large part of the religious, commercial, industrial, cultural life, also becoming a center of demographic attraction. Noble families, merchants, artisans, property-owners looking for work settled there: it became the heart of the state, so much so that, in the Greek custom, the same word, polis, thus designates the city as the state; although a large part of the population was still in the countryside, and agricultural possession was always the condition for enjoying political rights. The polis was, as a state, made up of all the free residents of its territory, who were able to defend it, arm themselves and support themselves during the wars at their own expense. Citizens actually gathered in the polis, city,

According to, this city organization, if it did not prevent the achievement of a certain cultural unity of the Greeks, effectively hindered attempts at political unity. Since the territorial increase of a polis could only take place with the political annihilation of other polleis. This increase sometimes occurred, on a fairly small scale, in a region of homogeneous people, due to more or less spontaneous aggregation of smaller neighboring cities, as in Attica and northern Laconia, whose residents, while continuing to live in the old centers, they became citizens of the one great polis, Athens or Sparta. Mostly, instead of this sympoliteía, there were political buildings obtained with violence, reducing the poleis to conditions of subjection, without granting their residents the citizenship of the dominating polis (as for the perieci in front of the Spartiates, for the Orneati in front of the Argives); or worse, by also depriving them of personal freedom, reducing them to slaves of the glebe (like the penestas of Thessaly, the helots of Laconia and Messenia).

The Greeks reached broader, pan-Hellenic political unions only in the face of very serious and general external dangers, deriving from aggressions, such as those of the Persians and the Gauls; but these were then completely ephemeral unions, because the danger that caused them was ephemeral. The broadest and relatively lasting form of political unification of several poleis, of almost equivalent power, occurred with federations, not too narrow and generally for defensive purposes, in whose supreme magistracies it was customary for each city to participate with a fixed rate of representatives.

The origin of these federations (see federation) is, in all likelihood, to be traced back to the ancient amphictyons, or sacral leagues, for the purpose of worship. Apparently the most archaic of these are those of the Asian colonies: the Ionians around the temple of Posidone Eliconius on the promontory of Mycale, the Dorians around that of Apollo Triopio near Cnidus, and the southern Aeolians; then others arose in Delos, an island sacred to Apollo; in Calauria, a sacred island in Posidone; and in the peninsula, where they centered on the sanctuaries of Zeus of Dodona and Olympia, and on the Apollonian sanctuaries, first spring in Thermopylae, and then transplanted to Delphi.

The amphictyonic diets, at first only sacral, then began to deal with other topics of common interest: viability, commercial and political relations, intended against common enemies or dangers. The amphitionary thus turned into a kind of social-political federation of many cities, often competing to get the direction. The common term of “Hellenes” derives from one of these amphitioes: the first name of the residents of Hellás, a small area of ​​southern Thessaly whose residents prevailed over the original amphitionism of Thermopylae, later used for all the peoples belonging to that amphictyonic, even after his transplant to Delphi, and the entry into it of all the important states of the peninsula.

The second colonization. – While in Greece the monarchies fell and the first states of some extension were being formed (in Thessaly, Attica, Argolida, Laconia) and the first federations (Beutia, Elis, etc.), a new colonial exodus began from it; part for the superpopulation of Greece, part for the many discontents of political changes, part for the mirage of easy earnings and an easy life in distant lands and markets of fabulous fame.

Preceded by pirates and merchants, the Greek colonists broke new ground, to establish their headquarters in all the Mediterranean countries that were suitable: and so, from 800 to 600 BC. C., along the eastern coasts of the Ionian Sea and passed the Otranto channel, they went down to the region then called Magna Grecia, then to Sicily and then up in Campania and up to Massalia (Marseille); overcoming the Dardanelles they settled in the Bosphorus, in the Pontus Eusine, in the Mentide; and, moving from the already rich coasts of the Aegean islands and of Anatolia, they set up trading companies in Egypt, and colonies in Cyrenaica. The conditions of the Greeks and their colonists in the various areas were naturally not uniform and the original differences worsened over the centuries, in the various geographical, economic, cultural and historical environments.

Greece Persian Wars 3