Polis, Ethnos, and Koinon: Approaches to Settlement

History 280A.001

Spring 2006
2231 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
Tu 2-5

Lying at the very heart of the political, social, and economic experience of the ancient Greek world, the polis is a complicated historical phenomenon that poses significant challenges to students of ancient history. Our understanding of the polis has recently been given a hard and salutary shake by the findings of an international, 10-year research project conducted by the Copenhagen Polis Center(CPC). The CPC has, for good or ill, had a major impact on the field of ancient Greek history; we will accordingly consider the successes and the problems of the project as well as its implications for future research. In doing so we will consider some fundamental questions: How, and why, did the Greek polis develop? How distinctive was it from other instances of city-state settlement and political organization in the ancient Mediterranean? We will need to assess the problem of polis autonomy, now regarded by some as a modern fiction, and its implications. In the second part of the seminar we will consider how the polis as an historical phenomenon relates to other forms of social and political organization in the Greek world, the ethnos and the koinon. We will consider the development of these socio-political structures that existed both above and alongside the polis with constant reference to the development of the polis itself. Throughout the semester we will engage with the wide range of evidence necessary to answer these questions, including survey archaeology, epigraphy, and numismatics in addition to literary sources. Students are expected to have a good reading knowledge of ancient Greek. There will be one or two class presentations and one final paper.