Classical and Hellenistic Greek States

Module code: AH2022

In this module we will use literary, archaeological, and epigraphic sources to examine the spectrum of Greek political communities before and after Alexander the Great, breaking down both unipolar (Athenocentric) and bipolar (‘Athens vs. Sparta’) approaches to Greek history. We will look at the developed city-state (polis) of the 4th century BC, other state forms, and how they changed in the 3rd century BC. We will learn about federalism and non-democratic states, and will also discuss the differences between ancient and modern political systems

Although we will cover Sparta and Athens, we will mainly explore the smaller communities in which most Greeks lived. We will debate, in a workshop, a historian’s obligations and the contemporary relevance of the study of the Greek state.

Topics covered

  • Different kinds of Greek state, especially the city-state (polis)
  • The social and economic make-up of the polis
  • Polis landscapes
  • Constitutional systems both within and outside Sparta and Athens
  • How the Greek states changed after Alexander the Great
  • Aristotle’s model of the Greek state: how far it is true
  • Other Classical and Hellenistic writings about the city-state and other kinds of state
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