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The Birth of Territory$
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Stuart Elden

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226202563

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226041285.001.0001

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The Polis and the Khora

The Polis and the Khora

(p.21) Chapter One The Polis and the Khora
The Birth of Territory

Stuart Elden

University of Chicago Press

This chapter analyses the Ancient Greek relation between place and power in a number of texts. It begins with Greek myths of autochthony, the idea that founders of cities were born from the very soil they are situated upon. It provides readings of a range of historians and poets, including Homer, Euripides and Aeschylus, but particularly concentrates on what Sophocles’ Antigone can tell us about the relation between place and the polis. The chapter then moves to a detailed discussion of Kleisthenes’ urban reforms of Athens, and readings of Plato’s Laws and Aristotle’s Politics for their determination of political rule and its geographical basis. While Plato was concerned with outlining a design for the polis, Aristotle’s intent was much more to catalogue its manifestations and to derive some more general rules. The chapter concludes with a discussion of how we should understand the polis as simultaneously a site and a community, in the Greek sense of a koinon, a place and the people who inhabit it.

Keywords:   Ancient Greece, Plato, Aristotle, polis, khora, Antigone, community, Kleisthenes, autochthony, Greek tragedy

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