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Lecture 7

HIS 104 Lecture Notes - Lecture 7: Polis, Some Cities, Hegemony


Department
History
Course Code
HIS 104
Professor
Daniel J. Gargola
Lecture
7

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~ History 104 Lecture #7 ~
The Hellenistic World
09/23/19
o The underlying subject that will be discussed is the failure of the polis and what comes out of this
failure.
o The polis doesn’t come to an end, it turns into something else.
o The polis is a self-governed city-state that will become an institution for world enlightenment.
o If one says that the polis fails, you may well want to clarify in your own mind what it means to say
that.
o There will be questions about it on the midterm.
o Be able to put together a brief account of what this means.
o What is the polis? What are its features? How did it fail? What did it become? How are these
connected to literary developments?
o The polis can be said to have failed in a number of ways.
o It’s persistent difficulty in uniting for any kind of purpose.
We know of over 500 poleis and they were all very jealous and suspicious of their
neighbors.
o At the height of the polis as an independent political form, just to the East of the Greek world is the
Persian Empire, the greatest empire of their era.
o This consistently affected Greek life.
o Comparatively, the Greek poleis are miniscule, and the Greek people are aware of this.
They feel threatened by the Persian state.
There are several examples of them standing up to this large power, however.
A proverbial David vs. Goliath
o In some ways, the Grecian victory over Persia is not as great as it might seem because Persia still
existed.
o Persia might have vast wealth and a large population, but it’s so big that it takes a lot of time
and effort to mobilize it.
If you’re fighting in Greece and trouble arises in India, it’s going to take you months
or even years to get there.
o It was a major accomplishment, however, and it was made by about 100 Greek city-states
coming together to fight a common enemy.
If your cities can unite, you are stronger together than the strongest empire of the
day.
This is going to be constantly in mind for over a century.
o This alliance of 100 poleis didn’t survive but about a year or two; it fell apart fairly quickly.
Part of this was its structure.
How do you put together an alliance of 100 cities?
Who gets to decide what’s done?
o You have to have a commander (hegemon).
o One city leads, the others follow.
o In the invasion that ended in 480 and 479, they were led by Sparta and their two kings commanded
the armies.
o This doesn’t mean that everyone else was happy about this.
All poleis are touchy about their independence.
They were also jealous.
If a polis is the same size as Sparta, why don’t they get to lead?
o This is a big reason why the alliance broke up.
o Some cities thought they had done enough while some closer to
Persia wanted to keep fighting.
o There are a lot of reasons for this.
o Athenians were jealous of Spartan leadership.
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