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In addition to belonging to a citizenry ( polis ), a Greek in antiquity also belonged to a tribe, the phyle ( Greek  φυλή , "the tribe, the people", from the verb φύεσθαι phyesthai "descended"), and was a member of his family through family ties Clan . The kinship aspect of the clan was questioned in particular by Denis Roussel, who connects the phyle with the polis and focuses on it as its administrative unit. However, the roots of this community are difficult to find, as there are no written sources for the Dark Age of Greek history. In Athens , these tribal affiliations later developed into regional administrative districts , which formed the basis for the military districts.

Phylen with Homer

The first written reference is found in Homer in the Iliad . There Nestor proposes to arrange the army according to Phylen and Phratrien . Furthermore, in the Iliad in the so-called ship catalog, on the one hand the Rhodians and on the other hand the Pelasgians are subdivided according to Phylen. The extent to which clans or poleis are subdivided here is not entirely conclusive, as Homer remains very vague and does not clearly assign terminology. For him, the focus is on poetry.


The Dorians originally had three Phylenes , Hylleis , Dymanes and Pamphyloi , which were preserved in many cities in the Doric settlement area. In some cities there was a fourth phyle for the non-Doric population.

In the Doric Crete the phyle (here called πυλα) was of particular importance. As the Great Law of Gortyn shows, the most important officials of the Cretan city-states, the cosms , were elected from among the citizens of a phyle, the so-called startos , who were fit for military service . Every year a different Startos and thus a different Phyle got the order to choose the College of Cosms, so that each Phyle was equally involved in the exercise of power. The phyle also appears in the paragraphs of the Great Law that deal with the right to inheritance. The heirloom was encouraged to marry in her own phyle if none of the related beneficiaries were there or if the heirloom did not want to marry any of these. Only when marriage efforts in her phyle were unsuccessful was she allowed to marry someone from another phyle.


Phyls among the Ionians are best known from Athens.

Early Attic phylums

In the early days the attic was divided into four phyls. These phyls were named after the sons of Ion . These in turn consisted of three treads of four naukrarias each .

Phyle Son of Ion
Aigikoreis Aigikores
Argadeis Argades
Geleontes Geleon
Opletes Hoples

Kleisthenic phyls

A phyle consisted of part of the urban area, part of land and part of coast. After the reform by Kleisthenes , there were a total of 10 phyls, each of which had a representation in the council of 500 (i.e. 50 members per phyle). Each military district provided army units, which were also called Phylen (comparable to today's companies ) and formed the basis of the army. The ten phyls of Attica were named after heroes , which is why they are also called eponyms (from ancient Greek ἐπονομάζειν = afterwards (be) called ).

Phyle hero
Aiantis Aias , son of Telamon 9. Phyle
Aigeis Aigeus 2. Phyle
Akamantis Akamas , son of Theseus 5. Phyle
Antiochis Antiochus , son of Heracles and Meda 10. Phyle
Erechtheis Erechtheus 1. Phyle
Hippoth (e) ontis Hippothoon , son of Poseidon and the Alope 8. Phyle
Kekropis Biscuits 7. Phyle
Leontis Leos , son of Orpheus 4. Phyle
Oineis Oineus , illegitimate son of Pandion 6. Phyle
Pandionis Pandion 3. Phyle

Later came Attalus I , Ptolemy III as a special honor . and Hadrian as Phylenheroen after Demetrios I. Poliorketes and his father Antigonus I. Monophthalmos had already been awarded this honor in the meantime.

Other Ionian cities

In other Ionian cities there were partly the same phyls as in the early days of Athens, which can be explained with common origins or a deliberate adoption, partly different names of the often three phyls.

See also


  • Heinz Bellen : Phyle. In: The Little Pauly (KlP). Volume 4, Stuttgart 1972, Col. 835 f.
  • Oliver Grote: The Greek Phyls. Function - development - services. Steiner, Stuttgart 2016, ISBN 978-3-515-11450-9 .
  • Reinhard Koerner : Inscribed legal texts of the early Greek polis (= files of the Society for Greek and Hellenistic Legal History. Vol. 9). Edited by Klaus Hallof from Reinhard Koerner's estate . Böhlau, Cologne a. a. 1993, ISBN 3-412-02393-0 .
  • Denis Roussel: Tribu et cité. (Études sur les groupes sociaux dans les cités Grecques aux époques archaique et classique) (= Annales littéraires de l'Universite de Franche-Comté. Vol. 193, ISSN  0523-0535 = Center de recherces d'histoire ancienne. Vol. 23. ) Les Belles lettres, Paris 1976.


  1. Homer, Iliad 2,362.
  2. Homer, Iliad 2,668.
  3. Homer, Iliad 2,840.
  4. Koerner: Inscribed legal texts of the early Greek polis. 1993, No. 169.
  5. Koerner: Inscribed legal texts of the early Greek polis. 1993, no.174.
  6. Herodotus, Histories 5, 66.
  7. ^ Pausanias, Travels in Greece 1, 5, 1–3.