Facts About Greek Cities & States

Written by james green
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Facts About Greek Cities & States
Ancient Greece was divided into a variety of small city-states. (Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

Greece existed as a collection of city-states from 800BC to 338BC. They each had their own self-contained system of government, and enacted their own policies and laws. They differed from each other in terms of system of government. The five major Greek city-states were Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Megara and Argos, when measured in terms of influence.

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Athens is the current capital of the Greek republic. In ancient times, it was known as a centre of academic excellence. It rivalled Sparta as one of the two most influential city-states of the time. Athens takes its name from Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom. Children were often educated young in mathematics, writing and reading, drama and poetry. Contrary to other city-states, Athens was run much like a democracy, with city elders meeting once a week to discuss and resolve political and economic problems.


Sparta was well known for training fierce and highly-skilled warriors and armies. Young boys were trained to fight at a very young age, when they were taken from their families and enrolled in barracks. There, they were toughened up by being beaten by older children. Girls also learnt to fight, but at home. Although men were almost always trained as warriors, women enjoyed a high level of personal freedom, often running businesses to support their family. Spartan society was run as an oligarchy, where a select group of elite warriors ruled the state.


Corinth was a monarchy. The Corinthian people were well known for their skills in business and commerce. The state was also adept at providing public facilities, and created its own currency. As in Athens, education was highly regarded; boys from 7 to 14 were taught musical, mathematical and literature skills in state schools.


Megara was Corinth's neighbour, and as such, copied many of its institutions -- such as quality schools and its own currency. Megara was known for its explorers. The ancient city of Byzantium was founded by Megara, as Megarians were fond of planning and building new cities and public works projects. They were also famous for their textiles and public art, such as statues, temples and theatres. Megara's government was known to promote individual freedom among its citizens.


The city-state of Argos is credited for introducing coinage to ancient Greece, which was first copied by the Corinthians and later by the Megarians. Like Corinth, Argos was a monarchy. Argos' most famous contribution to Greek society was likely its arts; the city produced many of Greece's great poets, musicians and dramatists. The city was also famous for its highly detailed sculptures.

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