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City-state, independent political community (particularly in ancient Greece) made up of a city and its surrounding countryside, from which it draws food and labor. The Greek city-state, or polis, which emerged around 700 B.C., ranged in size from Athens (1,000 sq mi/2,590 sq km) to minute states less than one-hundredth of its size, and ranged in government from monarchies to democracies. The Greeks colonized much of the Mediterranean, spreading the city-state form of organization until Rome became the nucleus of an empire that turned all the city-states into subunits of its administration. City-states have flourished during 3 major periods of Western civilization: the ancient civilizations of the Middle East, the classical period of Greece, and in Europe from the 1 1th to the 16th centuries.

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