Ancient Greek City-States

Ancient Greece was composed of city-states also known as a polis.

The country was not controlled by a central government or by a king.

The only time Ancient Greece was one country was during the reign of Alexander the Great.

Each city-state operated independently of each other.

In the middle of each city-state was a dominant city.

The dominant city controlled all the lands around the city.

There were some instances of a city-state controlling a nearby smaller city.

Map of Greece, drawn in 1791 by William Faden

 

Different Governments

City-states or the polis were controlled by various forms of government.

There were several different ways that city-states were ruled.

In some city-states monarchies controlled the polis with one powerful king or tyrant.

Other city-states depended on a council of oligarchies comprised of rich or powerful men to rule.

Some used a combination such as Sparta which had two kings and a council of oligarchs.

One city-state, Athens, developed a form of government called democracy which allowed the people to rule the polis.

Different but the same

City-states in Ancient Greece had many things in common.

For instance, the people of each city-state had similar gods and prayed the alike. The city-states spoke the same language.

The culture of each city-state was similar too. City-states liked competing against one another and each city-state would send a team of athletes to compete in the Olympic Games.

City-states were also proud and each proclaimed to have the best of everything like athletes, fabrics, art work, and theater. They traded goods with each other.

City-states also created different currencies which forced traders to use specific currency in each city-state.

There were numerous city-states within Ancient Greece.

The most powerful or influential city-states were Athens, Sparta, Thebes, Corinth, and Delphi. The people of each city-state did not refer to themselves as Greeks.

Instead they would refer to themselves as an Athenian, Spartan, or Corinthian.

 

Ancient Greek city-states were known for something specific too.

For instance, Corinth was a wealthy city because of trade. It also was known for its architecture.

Delphi was known as the spiritual center of all city-states and Sparta was known for its militaristic attitude.

They also fought against each other like during the Peloponnesian Wars between Athens and Sparta. City-states look out for their own interests at times of war.

For instance, Thebes was known to switch sides during war and fight against Athens with Sparta as well as fight with Athens against Sparta.

At times city-states would ban together to fight off invasion from a common enemy like Persia.

Street in ancient Corinth

Facts about Greek City-States

  • Ancient Greek city-states are known as polis.
  • Although there were numerous city-states, the five most influential were Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Thebes, and Delphi.
  • Thebes was known to switch sides during times of war.
  • Ancient Greek city-states were controlled by monarchies, councils of oligarchies, or through democracy.
  • Athens invented democracy which allowed the people to rule the city-state.
  • The only time Ancient Greek was unified under one ruler was during the reign of Alexander the Great.
  • People could move freely between Ancient Greek city-states.
  • Sparta was ruled by two kings and a council of oligarchs.

FAQ

What were the five most powerful or influential city-states in Ancient Greece?

Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Thebes, and Delphi

What is an Ancient Greek city-states called?

Polis

Which Ancient Greek city-states invented democracy?

Athens

What type of governments ruled Ancient Greek city-states?

A Monarchy, a council of oligarchs, or democracy

Did Ancient Greek city-states speak the same language?

Yes. Each ancient Greek city-state spoke Greek and shared much of the same culture.

 

What did you learn?

  1. When was the only time Ancient Greece was controlled by one government?

Under Alexander the Great

  1. Which Ancient Greek city-state was ruled by two kings and a council of oligarchs?

Sparta

  1. Ancient Greek city-states would send a team of athletes to compete in what games?

Olympic Games

  1. What language did the ancient Greek city-states speak?

Greek

  1. What two ancient Greek city-states were considered to be the most powerful?

Athens and Sparta