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The origins of the Polis. An economic perspective on institutional change in ancient Greece 1000-600 B.C




From a beginning of small isolated settlements, the city-state (polis) emerged in Greece in the course of four centuries as a political, geographical and judicial unit, with an assembly, council, magistrates and written laws. Using a rational-actor perspective, it is shown how this process was driven by competition among the members of the elite. A crucial ingredient was the gradual consolidation of boundaries, which contributed to population growth, inter-state conflicts, colonisation and a more fierce competition for power. Variations over time in the conditions for competition explain both the introduction of formal political institutions and their overthrow by tyrants.

Suggested Citation

  • Lyttkens, Carl Hampus, 2001. "The origins of the Polis. An economic perspective on institutional change in ancient Greece 1000-600 B.C," Working Papers 2001:17, Lund University, Department of Economics, revised 30 Sep 2004.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:lunewp:2001_017

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robert H. Bates & Avner Greif & Margaret Levi & Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, 1998. "Analytic Narratives," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 6355.
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    More about this item


    institutional change; ancient Greece; city-state; competition;

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • N43 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • P14 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Property Rights
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism

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