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The Greek word phӯlē, usually but misleadingly translated ‘tribe’, was widely used in the Greek world to denote the principal divisions of the citizen body. Two sets are well attested in the Archaic period: the Dorian tribes Hylleis, Dymanes, and Pamphyloi, known as such in 7th‐cent. Sparta and elsewhere, and the Ionian–Attic tribes known in Archaic Athens, some Aegean islands, and Ionia. Archaic tribes appear to have functioned as military units (as Tyrtaeus says) and as constituencies for the selection of magistrates or councillors.

The best‐attested new system was that created by Cleisthenes (2) for Attica in or just after 508/7 bc. The landscape was regarded as comprising three zones, Urban, Coastal, and Inland. Each zone was split into ten sections called trittyĕs (‘thirdings’), to each of which were assigned between one and ten of the 139 existing settlements, villages, or town‐quarters, which were henceforth termed dēmoi (‘demes’). Three sections, one each from Urban, Coastal, and Inland, were then put together to form a tribe. The 30 sections therefore yielded ten tribes, each named after a local hero and each with a geographically scattered membership roughly equal in size and hereditary in the male line thenceforward. They rapidly took on various functions. They became the brigading units for the army; constituencies for the election of magistrates, esp. the ten generals (see strategoi), for the selection of members of the Council of 500 (see boule) and of the 6,000 jurors, and for the selection of boards of administrative officials of every kind; and bases for the selection of competing teams of runners, singers, or dancers at various festivals. They had their own corporate life, with officials and sanctuaries, and came to have an official order: Erechtheis, Aigeis, Pandionis, Leontis, Akamantis, Oineis, Kekropis, Hippothontis, Aiantis, and Antiochis.

Subjects: Classical Studies.

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