A polis (plural: poleis) was the typical structure of a community in the ancient Greek world. A polis consisted of an urban centre, often fortified and with a sacred centre built on a natural acropolis or harbour, which controlled a surrounding territory (chora) of land. The term polis has, therefore, been translated as 'city-state' as there was typically only one city and because an individual polis was independent from other poleis in terms of political, judicial, legal, religious and social institutions and practices, each polis was in effect a state. Like a state, each polis was also involved in international affairs, both with other poleis and non-Greek states in the areas of trade, political alliances and wars. Other cultures had a similar social and political structure, notably, the Babylonians, Etruscans and Phoenicians, and the latter are believed to be the originators of the polis as a communal unit.

More about: Polis


  • c. 4000 BCE
    Founding of the city of Sidon.
  • c. 1100 BCE - c. 600 BCE
    Iron Age Development, public buildings erected at the Agora in Athens.
  • c. 1025 BCE
    Migrants from Ionia settle on Naxos.
  • c. 900 BCE
    Sparta is founded.
  • 800 BCE - 500 BCE
    Greek colonization of the Mediterranean and Black Sea.
  • c. 740 BCE - c. 433 BCE
    Greek poleis or city-states establish colonies in Magna Graecia.
  • c. 740 BCE
    Chalcis and Kyme found the colony of Cumae in Magna Graecia.
  • c. 733 BCE
    Traditional date when Corinth founds a colony on Corcyra.
  • 733 BCE
    Corinth founds the colony of Syracuse in Sicily.
  • c. 720 BCE
    Sybaris in Magna Graecia founded by Archaean settlers.
  • c. 710 BCE
    Croton in Magna Graecia founded by Archaean settlers.
  • 706 BCE
    Sparta founds the colony of Tarentum in Magna Graecia.
  • 700 BCE - 600 BCE
    King Phiedon leads Argos to its greatest expansion.
  • 631 BCE
    Greek colonists from the island of Thera found the city of Cyrene in North Africa.
  • 546 BCE - 545 BCE
    Persian conquest of Ionian Greek city-states.
  • c. 540 BCE
    Phocaea founds Elea in Magna Graecia.
  • c. 501 BCE
    Aegina's culture is at its height.
  • c. 443 BCE
    Thurii in Magna Graecia founded by Athenian settlers.
  • 433 BCE
    Tarentum founds Heraclea in Magna Graecia.
  • c. 408 BCE
    The various city-states of Rhodes form a single federal state.
  • 371 BCE - 362 BCE
    Thebes is the dominant city-state in Greece.
  • 89 BCE
    All poleis or city-states in Magna Graecia come under Roman control.