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by Archaeology Newsroom

The City-Polis (city-state) during the Late Geometric and Archaic period

The subject is approached within the context of existing research.Scholars have long disagreed on the concepts of the city-settlement and the city-state (polis) during the Early Geometric and Geometric period.In this essay the subject is broached at a time in Protohistory when the two concepts -the one of the settlement, the other of the state-, asymptotic in time as regards their appearance, started to coexist. This probably took place from the mid-eighth century BC onwards in specific regions of Greece, Asia Minor and colonies. The characteristics of the parallel course — of the city-polis hereafter— until the end of the Archaic period are the following:

1. Some critical figures are relatively measurable and inter-comparable. Considering the official number of communities in the Greek state that can be called settlements ( the 1991 census shows 12,817 settlements), findings from the Early Geometric period have been recorded in 336 settlements, while there are findings from the Geometric period in 554 settlements. Within the context of architecture and town-planning, findings from the Late Geometric and Archaic periods have been recorded in 137 settlements in Greece and in Asia Minor.

2. The history of the town-planning of the time not only includes the few existing indications of town-planning complexes, but also takes into account the town-planning cores, as well as architecture, which is a component of the town-planning network: walls, the agora, temples, the sanctuaries, technical works. A typical feature of a city plan is, generally speaking, the evolution from the curved to the quadrilateral and rectangular schemes. The progress towards the architecture of beams on columns is thus reflected in this evolution, as well as a social evolution signaling the final abandonment of nomadic life, the determinant relation with the land and the nomads’ coexistence with the land’s earlier inhabitants.

3. Reviewing town-planning in terms of geographical patterns, the study first turns to examples of town-planning complexes in Asia Minor. The inability to reach a conclusion, due to the diversity of cases, reorientates the study to “readable” examples in the Greek colonies in Sicily and South Italy. Even here however, a town planning model that is common to all Greek towns, clear town-planning schemes, heralds of the Hippodamean system are not recognizable.

4. Finally, when reviewing the phases of Greek Protohistory, we come to the conclusion that the history of town-planning of the Late Geometric and Archaic periods can only be seen in the light of certain cities of the period, until research both in quality and quantity will permit us to draw a clearer picture of the town-planning of the period.