Ancient City as City-State: Interpretation and Some Problems

Capogrossi Colognesi L.

Recently the term of city-state has apparently begun to be used too often as an instrument for interpreting and classifying a very mixed variety of historical situations (see e.g. A Сomparative Study of Thirty City-State Cultures / Ed. M.H. Hansen. Copenhagen, 2000). The author does not consider this traditional allusive expression to be of use for comparative studies, where it seems to be taken out of its normal classical context. Moreover, the author warns against its being unreservedly applied to Rome: Rome’s extraordinary ability to integrate external elements did not correspond to the exclusivism which since the 19th century has been considered typical of city-state. He thinks it would be better to reserve this modern scholarly terminology for Greek poleis and to speak of civitas, res publica, civic community or political community where Rome is concerned. To be imprecise with the Romans seems to him a better option than to err with the Moderns.

Keywords: city-state, Rome