In the Archaic Period Gehennum is divided up into a multitude of independent and often warring states, few covering more land than a man can stroll across in a day. These are poleis, the city-states of Gehennum.

Essentially, the polis is a community, a people, rather than a place, area, or group of buildings. The sense of kinship, of national and cultural identity, is what makes a city. It is because of this that immigrants are so often excluded from the citizenship and civic life (see metic). Most are already the result of considerable tribal history, and consist of an amalgam, league, or union of several tribes, or tribes. Some even have a ruling and several subject tribes, though these will have begun to develop into privileged and unprivileged classes.

By the Archaic Period the term has come to be particularly associated with the strongholds the peoples built to protect themselves and their temples from pirates and raiders. A tribe without, or denied, such a walled city is of no account, and will soon be forced into subjection. In the Archaic Period the cities each cling to their individuality, despite varying conditions of dominion, alliance, and subjection.

By the Classical Period the term ‘polis’ has come specifically to mean the urban place rather than the tribe. Specifically, it refers to a settlement which the emperor has granted the right of self-government. (This right was extended to all cities when the empire of Gehennum was constituted.) Each polis has the right to elect its own local government, make its own by-laws, and appoint courts to enforce them, but these hold no sway in the countryside. Peasants might be allowed to vote for these governments and laws, but they have no reason to bother. The wealthy citizens of the town and country together elect one of their number to sit in the Apella as representative of the city, otherwise the term might apply only to the city itself. In the Decadent Period, even the Apella is defunct.

Copyright © 1991 by Brett Evill. All rights reserved.