Greek states of the early historic period: systematizing the evidence contained in the Homeric poems


  • Olga A. Zolotnikova Athens, Greece



“Homeric” period, Homeric poems, Greek states of the early historic period, Organization of the early Greek states, Basileus, Gerontes, Agora.


The aim of this paper is to present as complete as possible the organization of Greek states as that must have been during the period of the composition of the Homeric poems. It is intended to systematize the evidence contained in the Homeric poems regarding the state institutions characterizing Greek societies contemporary with the poems of Homer. Based on the descriptions of the states occurring in the Homeric poems, it is supposed to demonstrate that, in terms of organization, a state of the early historic period presented a clear tripartite structure – a body of basileis (“kings”), a body of the elders and an assembly (“agora”) of the people; an addition to those, there were also minor public offices, which could be held by representatives of the people. It is the intention of this paper to analyze these institutions with regard to their exact functions, roles, and importance in the states as described in the epic diction. In conclusion, it will be argued that a state as presented in the Homeric poems appeared as a self-governed autonomous community, which in its general features might approximate a city-state (polis); however, it was still too underdeveloped to be compared with states of that type.