In the 8th century B.C., the polis, or city-state, emerged in Ancient Greece as an independent, self-autonomous area because of the vast demographic and economic changes that characterized the Archaic Period. As colonization, trade, and culture flourished during this time, the polis became the dominant form of community. The chiefdoms, the primary type of organization in the Archaic period, developed into polises as a result of political unification and the emergence of a strong central government. States became politically unified through a process known as Synoecism in which the demos of separate villages became integrated in a single political unit around a central town. Therefore, each polis contained a capital city containing a large urban center with other villages located in the surrounding territory. This configuration encouraged each inhabitant to identify with its capital city rather than its village. In addition, a central government was established in each polis in the form of an oligarchy. This structure developed as the king’s power declined and was superseded by a group of higher government officials known as the council of elders. Finally, because the polises now contained more territory than the chiefdoms, a system of central government was even more important in order to preserve unity and loyalty to the city-state. The two most notable polises, Sparta and Athens, that developed in the Archaic period embodied the evolution of the city-state but with differences that distinguished them from other city-states, making them truly unique for their time.
Like other polises, the Spartan government was founded on the principle that the life of every individual belonged to the state and established a strong oligarchic structure to carry out this function. However, the Spartan government played an even more personal role in the lives of its citizens by instilling a great deal of civic pride in its military. As a result, all male citizens of...
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