During its earliest years, Greece was not a single country as it is today. Instead, Ancient Greece was comprised of city-states. These city-states did not function as countries but instead were just political divisions. The Ancient Greeks referred to a city-state as “polis.”
The city-states each featured a powerful city that ruled over the area. Each had its own form of government and made its own laws. There were many different types of governments used throughout the city-states, including but not limited to oligarchies, democracies, and monarchies. There were smaller city-states, as well as large city-states that were heavily populated.
The people of the city-states were not known as Greeks, but instead were seen as citizens of their city states. For example, people living in the city-state of Sparta were known amongst themselves and to others as Spartans.
There were hundreds of city-states throughout Greece, and at one time there were over 1,000, but today there are none. There were many that stand out in history because of their power and influence over the region. Some of the most important city-states include Athens, Chalcis, Corinth, Eretria, Delphi, Sparta and Thebes.
Athens was known for being a center of art, science and philosophy. As one of the oldest cities in the world, it is also considered the birthplace of democracy. The city-state of Chalcis became known for its production of minerals and metal work. Corinth was a very famous trade city known for its architecture. Eretria was also an important center of trade, resulting in a population boom in its early history.
Delphi was a Greek city-state that was the center of religion among the Greek city-states. It was also known for its literature, arts, and education. Sparta was one of the most powerful city-states and was known for its strong armies and its battles with Athens. Thebes was another important city-state that defeated the Spartans and won the freedom of Spartan slaves.
The four main Greek city-states are Athens, Sparta, Thebes, Corinth, and Delphi.