chapter  I
The Greek Political Dream
Pages 14

The lyric epigram by the sixth-century poet Phocylides (here quoted in C. M. Bowra’s translation) gives in a succinct artistic moment apt expression to both the complacency and the aspiration which lay as twin elements in the heart of Greek feeling about the polis. The sense that this small, beleaguered unit, leading its precarious struggle for existence in the midst of a hostile and unpromising natural environment, was yet the repository of a nobler way of life than that of the autocratic splendours of Near Eastern civilisations, is strikingly obvious; but so is the qualifying demand that to retain this ideal superiority the polis must embody certain principles of legitimate order, without which it had no justifiable raison d'etre. The whole of Greek political thinking revolved round the debate on what these principles exactly were and how they could be best translated into the world of practice.