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Cretan Cities: Formation and Transformation

Florence Gaignerot-Driessen
Jan Driessen

7. Commensality and the “Citizen State”

The Case of Praisos1

James Whitley

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1. Introduction: varieties of states

Ancient Greece has always posed problems for state formation theorists. States are supposed to enjoy a monopoly of legitimate force (armies, police), to have hierarchical settlement and social structures, and to show, visibly and materially, that they are states. Greek poleis appear to lack the tiered, administrative hierarchies of the palace states of the Near Eastern Bronze Age or the kingdoms of ancient Mesoamerica; they also seem to have been very, very small. Quite how small can be estimated from the number of Greek poleis recorded by the Copenhagen polis centre (Hansen & Nielsen 2004); this lists 1035 Greek political communities of all sizes, located in various places around the Mediterranean and Black Sea that were, at one time or another, thought of or referred to as poleis. Can such small political communities have been states?

For Hellenists, the equation between poleis and states has always been axiomatic, so much so that it is only grud...


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