Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Papers,
Lund University, Department of Economics

No 2001:17: The origins of the Polis. An economic perspective on institutional change in ancient Greece 1000-600 B.C.

Carl Hampus Lyttkens ()
Additional contact information
Carl Hampus Lyttkens: Department of Economics, Lund University, Postal: Department of Economics, School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Box 7082, S-220 07 Lund, Sweden

Abstract: From a beginning of small isolated settlements, the city-state (polis) emerged in Greece in the course of four centuries as a political, geographical and judicial unit, with an assembly, council, magistrates and written laws. Using a rational-actor perspective, it is shown how this process was driven by competition among the members of the elite. A crucial ingredient was the gradual consolidation of boundaries, which contributed to population growth, inter-state conflicts, colonisation and a more fierce competition for power. Variations over time in the conditions for competition explain both the introduction of formal political institutions and their overthrow by tyrants.

Keywords: institutional change; ancient Greece; city-state; competition

JEL-codes: D23; N43; P14; P16

38 pages, First version: September 15, 2001. Revised: September 30, 2004.

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