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The City-State

•, By Bionic Mosquito

Van Creveld's opening chapter covers what he describes as the time before the state ? pre-history to AD 1300.  In this chapter, he reviews tribes ? with and without rulers, city-states, and early empires ? e.g. China and Egypt.  In this post I will focus on his section regarding the city-state.  As in all such sweeping views of even a specific aspect of history, much of what is written is a generalization ? not all aspects will be found in every city-state.

?the outstanding feature of classical city-states was that their citizens appointed certain persons among themselves to govern all of them. ?we are talking here not of rulers but of magistrates.

Unlike many of the tribal societies before, governance of the city-state was not based on descent.  This position also did not come with the concept of "ownership"; the appointed magistrates did not "own" all of the property or the people ? they were not necessarily the wealthiest or most powerful citizens of the city, they did not lord over the other citizens:

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