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The ethnos was a category of Greek state which existed alongside the polis. Ethnē (pl.) are diverse, with no single form of constitution. In ethne, by contrast with poleis (which retained autonomy), individual communities surrendered some political powers (usually control of warfare and foreign relations) to a common assembly. By contrast with poleis, the role of urban centres in ethne varied greatly; settlement structures range from a high degree of urbanization and local autonomy (e.g. Boeotia, which was tantamount to a collection of small poleis) to scattered villages with little urban development (e.g. Aetolia). Although the ethnos is sometimes equated with primitive tribalism, social and political developments from the 8th cent. bc onwards (e.g. in religion and colonization) often bear comparison with evidence from poleis, and the ethnos was a long‐lived phenomenon.

Subjects: Classical Studies.

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