The Concept of State in Ancient Greece

Tumans Harris

The article is devoted to an analysis of the ancient Greek concept of state as it was during the period of development and maturing of the ancient Greece state (polis). The author analyzes the polis not as the social-political phenomenon but as the idea of state as such - in terms of concepts and images which constituted ancient Greek understanding of state. Naturally, the first concept of state developed in the field of religion. It was closely connected with the cult of hearth, its sacred and symbolic meaning. The hearth was the sacral centre of every community which embodied the substance of family and community. Thus, state was comprehended by ancient Greeks as the big family with common hearth located in prytaneion. Affiliation to the community as well as to the family was manifested by participation in common meals. These meals had a sacral as well as a political meaning. Social hierarchy was also substantiated according to family paradigm. Due to the tradition of sharing food conceptions of righteousness and justice were developed: hierarchic equality between the equal and general equality within the community. These concepts were determinant factors for the development of hierarchic and democratic states. Another concept of state was reflected in Greek literature and poetry - metaphor of ship. This metaphor demonstrates the state as an organized people's community and starts discussion about the rule. Both conceptions - religious conception of family and poetic conception of ship - discover ancient Greek essential idea of state as the united community which exists for common favour.