Ancient History

How did the topography of Greece influence the growth of city-states?
Answered by Planet Green
  • Planet Green

    Planet Green

  1. City-states were independent, self-governing territories in which citizens banded together to defend their areas, such as Ancient Athens and pre-empire Rome. They were also marked by shared religious beliefs and practices. City-states usually claimed elevated sites, such as the Acropolis in Athens or the Seven Hills in Rome, for fortification and for civic and religious activities. Although most ancient city-states disappeared into the Roman Empire, some Italian ones developed again during the Middle Ages, before nationalism swept Europe.

    The development of city-states in ancient Greece was a natural consequence of the topography of the Greek peninsula. Greece has many small valleys enclosed by walls of mountains, so it made sense for people to settle in these valleys for the natural protection they offered. The geographic separations also made it more difficult to rule ancient Greece as one kingdom, so small governments made more sense. In essence, the city-states evolved into the first democracy in the world.

    The most famous city-states are Athens and Sparta -- which also were some of the earliest to form -- along with Thebes, Argos and Corinth. Although these are the well-known, there were more than 1,500 city-states in the ancient Greek world. Many of them were much smaller, however, than today's American towns. Even Athens, which was the largest city-state by far, had about 200,000 residents in 500 B.C. [source: PBS]. The smaller size helped maintain strong senses of community within each city-state. The people often held gatherings, festivals and athletic contests.

    City-states at first were ruled by single monarchs with ruling councils, but by the end of the Dark Ages, many were ruled by groups of aristocrats. When one person would take control of a city-state, he was known by the title of "tyrant." Although they were dictators, tyrants often were well loved by the people.

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