Power and Citizenship

Mario Liverani

in The Oxford Handbook of Cities in World History

Published in print February 2013 | ISBN: 9780199589531
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Power and Citizenship


Given that many early cities were political constructs, the structures of power and citizenship were vital for urban development. This article discards the conventional idea of neat divide between an ‘Oriental city’ based on power and a ‘Western city’ based on citizenship. Instead it argues that while structures of power had existed from the first urbanization, communal institutions grew over time, with a sudden upsurge in the mid-twenty-first millennium bce, centred in Greece. But most communal institutions were inherited both in the West (Roman empire) and in the East (Hellenistic, Byzantine, but also Islamic cities). The existence of an ‘Oriental city’, based on a continuity from the ancient Mesopotamian to the Islamic city, interrupted by the ‘intrusion’ of the Graeco-Roman city, is clearly an anti-historical construct.

Keywords: power; citizenship; urban development; communal institutions; cities; ancient world; urban society

Article.  8003 words. 

Subjects: History ; Social and Cultural History

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