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The archetypical settlement in ancient Greece was the self-governing city state called the polis (Greek: πόλις), but other types of settlement occurred.



A kome (Greek: κώμη) was typically a village that was also a political unit. The translation is inexact, but according to Thucydides, Sparta, though it was a polis, resembled four unwalled villages. Similarly, a kome could be a neighbourhood within a larger polis or its own rural settlement. Thucydides mused that the polis had developed from the kome.[1]


A katoikia (Greek: κατοικία) was similar to a polis, typically a military colony,[2] with some municipal institutions, but not those of a full polis. The word derives from the Ancient Greek: κατοικέω for "to inhabit" (a settlement) and is the cognate[citation needed] of the Latin civitas. In the Classical era, there were few katoikiai; however, with the rise of large centralized empires following the conquests of Alexander the Great, they became the main type of Greek settlement, especially in the newly conquered east.[3]. They were fortresses, inside a city or in an open position. They were an equivalent of the English idea of a fort.


Many of the poleis in ancient Greece established colonies, of which many went on to be fully independent poleis of their own. These include:


  • An Emporion (Greek: ἐμπόριον) was a Greek trading-colony and could be a self-contained settlement or a section of either another Greek polis or of a non-Greek town. Emporia were usually found in ports and could be considered to be the reverse of a politeum.


  • A cleruchy (Greek: κληρουχία) was a colony, typically Athenian, which despite being in a different location from the mother city, did not achieve independence. Instead, it remained part of the mother city's polis, with citizenship being retained by the settlers, and it may have functioned like a kome.


  • politeuma denoted, particularly in the Seleucid kingdom and Ptolemaic Egypt, enclaves of minority populations of Macedonians, Greeks, Persians and Jews, who had some degree of self-government and independent jurisdiction within a city.[4]

Military settlementsEdit

Within the Greek world, several military establishments resembled civilian towns.


  1. ^ Hansen, Mogens Herman; Raaflaub, Kurt A. (1995-01-01). Studies in the Ancient Greek Polis. Franz Steiner Verlag. ISBN 9783515067591.
  2. ^ Bar-Kochva, Bezalel (1976-05-13). The Seleucid Army: Organization and Tactics in the Great Campaigns. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521206679.
  3. ^ "Strong's Greek: 2733. κατοικία (katoikia) -- a dwelling, habitation". Retrieved 2016-04-10.
  4. ^ M. Th. Lenger, Corpus des Ordonnances des Ptolémées, 21980, XVIIIf.