When cities first come on to the stage of history in the mid-8th century, the power of the anax or the kyrannos has already been overthrown or curtailed by the great landowners, as is clear from Homeric epic. References to the transition from kingship to the power of the eupatridae are scattered throughout the texts of later writers. At Athens, for example, the legend was that it had been Codrus' self-sacrifice in order that the city should not be captured by the Dorians that had led to the abolition of kingship. It is however not possible for us to pin down the date of this change, which took place at a different time in each city. In the Dorian cities of the Peloponnese, kings declared that they were descended from the tribal chieftains who, traditionally, had conquered the cities. At Sparta a unique phenomenon, double kingship, was to be observed: this was shared between the Agiad and Eurypontid families. Even here, however, their power was curtailed by the Senate, the Ephors, and the Apella. Among the Hellenic races of the North, on the other hand - the Macedonians and the Epirots - kings retained their power up to the Roman conquest, and it was subject only to the control of the army assembly.
Before the appearance of the hoplite phalanx, the nobles, whose might relied on horsebreeding, held the civic posts as being the defenders of the city. In certain cases, indeed, one or two families - for instance the Bacchiads at Corinth, the Hippobotes at Chalcis, and the Hippeis at Eretria - had a monopoly of power. The form of this aristocratic government survived in the Thessalian League.
The change of political tactics with the introduction of the hoplite phalanx in the 7th century combined with the agricultural crisis to change the data in the interior of cities. Conflict between nobles and lower social classes was intensified by confrontations between aristocratic families. In order to defuse a crisis, nobles would very often call in a person enjoying general respect to mediate and draw up a code of laws. In some instances, again, this person would be designated archon, with absolute power, though only for a limited period of time, and would take the title of aisymnetes. But in a fair number of cities - for instance Athens, Corinth and Samos, social conflict favoured the rise of tyrants to power, frequently with the support of the underprivileged classes. The fall of the tyrannies in the late 6th century brought to the surface the struggle between nobles for the possession of power. At Athens, however, with the support of the demos, Cleisthenes proceeded to reforms that for the first time granted real power to the people, thus creating the basis of Athenian Democracy.
Lastly, certain peoples such as the Aetolians, Acarnanians and Locrians (in central Hellas) and the Achaeans, Arcadians and Elians (in the Peloponnese), for reasons - as Thucydides mentions with reference to the Aetolians - of territorial formation, went on living kata komas (in village communities). After the consolidation of cities, the tribal states, where they did not simply disintegrate (as happened with the union of Ionian cities in Attica and Euboea in the 8th century B.C.), turned into leagues having as their centre the temple of their patron god, for instance the temple of Apollo Thermius in Aetolia.
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