Definition: The polis (plural, poleis) was the ancient Greek city-state. The word politics comes from this Greek word. In the ancient world, it was the central urban area that could also have controlled the surrounding countryside. Pseudo-Aristotle [Economica I.2] defines the Greek polis as "an assemblage of houses, lands and property sufficient to enable the inhabitants to lead a civilized life" [source: An Historical Geography of Europe 450 B.C.-A.D. 1330; by Norman John Greville Pounds. American Council of Learned Societies. Cambridge University Press 1973]. It was often a lowland, agricultural central area surrounded by protective hills. It may have started as numerous separate villages that banded together when its mass became large enough to be almost self-sustaining. Athens was the urban center of Attica; Thebes of Boeotia; Sparta of the southwestern Peloponnese, etc. Each of these 3 poleis was separate from the others. The word polis could also refer to the city's body of citizens. There may have been around 1000 Greek poleis, of which at least 343 belonged, at some point, to the Delian League, according to Pounds.
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Also Known As: city-state
Examples:The polis of Athens, the largest of the Greek poleis, was the birthplace of democracy. Aristotle saw the household "oikos" as the basic social unit of the polis, according to J. Roy ["'Polis' and 'Oikos' in Classical Athens," by J. Roy; Greece & Rome, Second Series, Vol. 46, No. 1 (Apr., 1999), pp. 1-18, citing Aristotle's Politics 1253B 1-14.].