Polis

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Polis means a city, a city-state and also citizenship and body of citizens. In context with Ancient Greece polis means nearly always "city-state."

The word originates from the ancient Greek city-states, which developed during the Archaic period and existed well into Roman times, when the equivalent Latin word was civitas, that means 'citizenhood' as well.

An ancient polis often centered around a citadel, called the acropolis. Nearly always it had an agora (market) and typically one or more temples and a gymnasium. Many citizens of a polis did not live in the central city but in the suburbs or countryside. The Greeks regarded the polis as a religious and political association: while the polis would control territory and colonies beyond the city itself, the polis would not simply consist of a geographical area.

Words coming from "polis"[change | change source]

Modern European languages have many words that come from polis. In English there are policy, polity, police and politics. In Greek, words coming from polis include politēs and politismos.

A number of words end in the word "-polis". Most refer to a special kind of city and/or state. Some examples are:

Other refer to part of a city or a group of cities, such as:

  • Acropolis, 'high city' — upper part of a polis, often citadel and/or site of major temple(s).
  • Tripolis, a group of three cities, retained in the names of a Tripoli in Libya and a namesake in Lebanon

Other cities[change | change source]

The names of several other towns and cities in Europe and the Middle East have contained the suffix "-polis" since antiquity; or currently feature modernized spellings, such as "-pol". Some of the examples are:

The names of other cities were also given the suffix "-polis" after antiquity, either referring to ancient names or simply unrelated:

Thermopolis, Wyoming is a town in the United States of America but isn't classified as a city.

Notes[change | change source]


Further reading[change | change source]

  • Hansen, Mogens Herman. Polis: An Introduction to the Ancient Greek City-State. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006 (hardcover, ISBN 0-19-920849-2; paperback, ISBN 0-19-920850-6).
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