European History/Ancient Greece
how the Polis was the building block of Greek civilisation
Greece is a country of small plains surrounded by mountains and opened up into the sea. This is true of the mainland and in some ways true of the islands too, although most of the smaller islands are more hilly than flat, so agricultural production is more limited. In each of these plains a city developed that became the commercial military and political center of the surrounding comunities. The agriculture surplace was exported via the sea and the arts developed to augment it. Winme was exported in jars, amphoras were decorated accordingly, oil was likewise exported and its decorative containers were exported too. This geographoic fragmentation creatyed political fragmentation and regionalism. The Spartan of Laconia did not conider himself the same ethnos as the Athenian of Attica, and the Argive of Argolis was at war with the Mycenaean of the same plain. The Macedonian knew that the Epirote was his relative and the Corinthian knew that the Sicilian was his brother but they were often at war with each other. At the same time the Greeks were celebrating in common religious festivals of athletic and artistic competition, and they communicated each other's poetry, ideas, art and intellectual achievements. Once scientific thought and philosophy started, in Ionia, comerce and shipping along with religious festivals helped distribute ideas, art and political systems from one center of the Hellenic world to another. Cooperation of similar groups of cities, usually along Democratic or Oligarchic identity, in a fluid way interchanged with alliances for peace or wars. The Athenians were the leading power, usually grouping around it the democratic city states, with Sparta, Thebes, the kingdom of Macedonia or even foreign powers like Persia uniting other poleis againt Athens. Civic pride, for heroic descent, religious, mythological or military and political exccelence fueled artistic creation, poetry, history, sculpture, painting, drama, comedy, as well as sculpture, painting, and architecture.