chapter  4
Pages 57

The polis, the city of Classical Greece, is often presented as an ideal. Mumford (1991 [1961]: 142-200), Kitto (1951: 64-79; 109-35), Murray (1980; cf. Tomlinson 1992; Hölscher 1991) and countless others have idealized Greek urbanism, by which is normally meant the rather peculiar form it took in Athens. The polis is depicted as a political entity which closely bound together its inhabitants, turning isolated individuals into something more, citizens, who enjoyed membership of a community and a sense of belonging to the city so that Athens became the Athenians and the Athenians were Athens. The drama for which Athens is renowned celebrated this sense of identity, bringing the people together to worship the divine and to experience a common culture. Philhellene commentators eulogize the unitary Athenian community (perhaps surprisingly given the spectacular and violent crises that gripped the Athenian state in the late fifth century), discovering in it lessons for modern urbanism. The tradition reaches down through the influential Mumford (1991 [1961]) and Hall (1998), and Kitto’s purple praise is reprinted in a recent textbook of readings on the city (LeGates and Stout 1996: 31-6). The polis is read as a preindustrial ideal, a mythic city, united, though perhaps sometimes quarrelsome. Kitto (1951: 129) compares the polis to an extended and all-encompassing family, bound together by fictive ties of blood, a family which forged an intensity of creation.