Citizen Conscription


The concept of the Greek city-state – or ‘polis’ - was born from the Archaic Period, when tribal groups and families banded together into ‘civilised’ communities for mutual protection, self-governance and autonomy. Naturally, as remains the case in modern society, everyone who lived within a polis had to justify his place within its walls and his share of the food and benefits city living provided. Free men of the ‘middle class’ and above – those who were skilled artisans or owners of property - were expected to take part in politics and provide military service in return for their citizenship. As the state did not provide equipment for its soldiers, only those who could afford the necessary bronze armour and weapons required for such service were eligible for conscription during times of war. This meant that the poor were exempted - although this probably had as much to do with the fact that they carried out the menial tasks no one else wanted to do, making military service a prestigious privilege as well as a duty.

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