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A polis (πολις) — plural: poleis (πολεις) — is a city, or a city-state. The word originates from the ancient Greek city-states, which developed in the Hellenic period and survived (though with decreasing influence) well into Roman times.

The territory of an ancient polis centered around a citadel, called the acropolis, and would of necessity also have an agora (market) and a gymnasion. Most people lived in the countryside, but only a short journey away from the civic center. The Greeks did not regard the polis as a territorial unit so much as a religious and political association. Each city was composed of several tribes or demes, which were in turn composed of phratries and finally gentes. Metics (resident foreigners) and slaves lay outside this organization. Birth typically determined citizenship. Each polis also had a number of protecting gods and its own particular festivals and customs.

Derivative words in modern English, such as policy, polity, police and politics, indicate the influence of the polis-centred Hellenic world view.

See also