How did Greece's geography influence the development of city-states, and their way of life?

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The Greek city-states, most famously Athens and Sparta, developed as individual polis instead of organizing into a centralized empire like rival neighbors Persia. A large reason for this political organization is geography.

The terrain in Greece is very mountainous, which makes it notoriously difficult for a centralized government to govern....

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The Greek city-states, most famously Athens and Sparta, developed as individual polis instead of organizing into a centralized empire like rival neighbors Persia. A large reason for this political organization is geography.

The terrain in Greece is very mountainous, which makes it notoriously difficult for a centralized government to govern. The Inca, for example, was able to do this by instituting many social and political policies designed to control the people. For Greece, it was easier to stay as individual city-states that engaged in trade and would come to each other's aid in times of crisis.

Another reason we see city-states in Greece is its location in the Mediterranean. Other civilizations at the time were set up on rivers, such as Persia on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Greek city-states did not have to worry about organizing over river systems and teaming up to work agricultural fields in the way that Persian and other centralized empires did, as each city-state had adequate access to water. Their fields were lush, they had access to fishing, and they had an adequate labor force.

As Greek city-states had these advantages, they never had to develop into a centralized empire. Over time, their cultures differed enough that a cohesive empire would have been difficult, especially after the Persian War when Athens, Sparta, and their allies developed into strong city-states with their own agendas.

Eventually, the city-state model failed when squabbling after the Peloponnesian War weakened Greek city-states to a point where Philip II and Alexander the Great conquered them and incorporated them into the Hellenistic Empire.

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This is a great question. 

First, Greece was mountainous. Mountains cover about 75% of Greece. These mountains are not particularly high but they did a good job of separating the Greeks from each other. This was, undoubtedly, a contributing factor for the vast number of Greek cities and the lack of a formation of a centralized Greek state. 

Second, what also contributed to the rise of the city states was the lack of a great river system. A glance at other ancient civilizations shows that a great river system usually leads to a unified centralized government, such as in Mesopotamia (Euphrates and Tigris rivers), Egypt (Nile river), and China (the Yellow river). 

Third, Greece was divided by a sea. And on this sea are many islands. This point, too, created more independent city states. 

Based on these points, it was only natural for Greece to have city states that were separate from each other. 

As for way of life, Greeks were traders and seafaring. This, too, makes sense, because they lacked natural resources. So, they needed to travel abroad to get what they needed. 

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