polis = city-state
Structure of the polis: (roughly in ascending order)
- Barbarians: non-greeks.
- Helots (state-slaves, particularly in Sparta)
- Debt-serfs (except where prohibited by law, like post-Solon Athens)
- Metics (merchants, foreigners and freedmen)
- Free people (men, women and children).
- Citizens (usually wealthiest land- and slave-owner men).
Features of the polis:
- Acropolis (high ground, for defense and worship of chief deity)
- Agora (meeting-place and market)
- Stoa (colonnades/porticos; gathering spots)
- Gymnasiums and Stadiums
- shrines (eventually temples)
- No palaces
- few formal streets
- no city planning to speak of.
Political features: (no single standard; description is of Athens, which is both leader and typical)
- isonomia (Equality before the law)
- demos (masses)
- aristoi (“the best”)
- oligoi (the few)
- tyranny (rule by an illegitimate dictator instead of a legitimate monarch)
- ostrakon (pottery shards on which ostracism votes were taken)
- pedagogue (educational slave for older boys)
- symposium (drinking party, with lots of poetry and philosophy; competitive)
- hetaerae (slave-courtesans, often educated and entertaining)
- Hoplite (soldiers in Greek armies, heavily armed and armored, close formation tactics)
- Oikos (household)
- gynaeceum (women’s quarters)
© 2003 — Jonathan Dresner