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Polis

{{#invoke:main|main}} Many thinkers point to the concept of citizenship beginning in the early city-states of ancient Greece, although others see it as primarily a modern phenomenon dating back only a few hundred years and, for mankind, that the concept of citizenship arose with the first laws. Polis meant both the political assembly of the city-state as well as the entire society.{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}} Citizenship has generally been identified as a western phenomenon.{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}} There is a general view that citizenship in ancient times was a simpler relation than modern forms of citizenship, although this view has come under scrutiny.<ref name="tws2Y17"/> The relation of citizenship has not been a fixed or static relation, but constantly changed within each society, and that according to one view, citizenship might "really have worked" only at select periods during certain times, such as when the Athenian politician Solon made reforms in the early Athenian state.<ref name=tws2Y12>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}</ref>

Historian Geoffrey Hosking in his 2005 Modern Scholar lecture course suggested that citizenship in ancient Greece arose from an appreciation for the importance of freedom.<ref name=twsfjiui>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}</ref> Hosking explained:

It can be argued that this growth of slavery was what made Greeks particularly conscious of the value of freedom. After all, any Greek farmer might fall into debt and therefore might become a slave, at almost any time ... When the Greeks fought together, they fought in order to avoid being enslaved by warfare, to avoid being defeated by those who might take them into slavery. And they also arranged their political institutions so as to remain free men.
Geoffrey Hosking suggests that fear of being enslaved was a central motivating force for the development of the Greek sense of citizenship. Sculpture: a Greek woman being served by a slave-child.

Slavery permitted slaveowners to have substantial free time, and enabled participation in public life.<ref name=twsfjiui/> Polis citizenship was marked by exclusivity. Inequality of status was widespread; citizens had a higher status than non-citizens, such as women, slaves or barbarians.<ref name=tws2Y16/>{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}} The first form of citizenship was based on the way people lived in the ancient Greek times, in small-scale organic communities of the polis. Citizenship was not seen as a separate activity from the private life of the individual person, in the sense that there was not a distinction between public and private life. The obligations of citizenship were deeply connected into one's everyday life in the polis. These small-scale organic communities were generally seen as a new development in world history, in contrast to the established ancient civilizations of Egypt or Persia, or the hunter-gatherer bands elsewhere. From the viewpoint of the ancient Greeks, a person's public life was not separated from their private life, and Greeks did not distinguish between the two worlds according to the modern western conception. The obligations of citizenship were deeply connected with everyday life. To be truly human, one had to be an active citizen to the community, which Aristotle famously expressed: "To take no part in the running of the community's affairs is to be either a beast or a god!" This form of citizenship was based on obligations of citizens towards the community, rather than rights given to the citizens of the community. This was not a problem because they all had a strong affinity with the polis; their own destiny and the destiny of the community were strongly linked. Also, citizens of the polis saw obligations to the community as an opportunity to be virtuous, it was a source of honour and respect. In Athens, citizens were both ruler and ruled, important political and judicial offices were rotated and all citizens had the right to speak and vote in the political assembly.

Roman ideas

In the Roman Empire, citizenship expanded from small-scale communities to the entire empire. Romans realized that granting citizenship to people from all over the empire legitimized Roman rule over conquered areas. Roman citizenship was no longer a status of political agency; it had been reduced to a judicial safeguard and the expression of rule and law.<ref>See Civis romanus sum.</ref> Rome carried forth Greek ideas of citizenship such as the principles of equality under the law, civic participation in government, and notions that "no one citizen should have too much power for too long",<ref name=twsffujfk>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}</ref> but Rome offered relatively generous terms to its captives, including chances for lesser forms of citizenship.<ref name=twsffujfk/> If Greek citizenship was an "emancipation from the world of things",{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}} the Roman sense increasingly reflected the fact that citizens could act upon material things as well as other citizens, in the sense of buying or selling property, possessions, titles, goods. One historian explained:

The person was defined and represented through his actions upon things; in the course of time, the term property came to mean, first, the defining characteristic of a human or other being; second, the relation which a person had with a thing; and third, the thing defined as the possession of some person.
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Roman citizenship reflected a struggle between the upper-class patrician interests against the lower-order working groups known as the plebeian class.<ref name=twsffujfk/> A citizen came to be understood as a person "free to act by law, free to ask and expect the law's protection, a citizen of such and such a legal community, of such and such a legal standing in that community".{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}} Citizenship meant having rights to have possessions, immunities, expectations, which were "available in many kinds and degrees, available or unavailable to many kinds of person for many kinds of reason".{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}} And the law, itself, was a kind of bond uniting people.{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}} Roman citizenship was more impersonal, universal, multiform, having different degrees and applications.{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}}

Middle Ages

During the European Middle Ages, citizenship was usually associated with cities and towns, and applied mainly to middle class folk. Titles such as burgher, grand burgher (German Großbürger) and bourgeoisie denoted political affiliation and identity in relation to a particular locality, as well as membership in a mercantile or trading class; thus, individuals of respectable means and socioeconomic status were interchangeable with citizens.

During this era, members of the nobility had a range of privileges above commoners (see aristocracy), though political upheavals and reforms, beginning most prominently with the French Revolution, abolished privileges and created an egalitarian concept of citizenship.

Renaissance

During the Renaissance, people transitioned from being subjects of a king or queen to being citizens of a city and later to a nation.<ref name=tws2Y14/>:p.161 Each city had its own law, courts, and independent administration.{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}} And being a citizen often meant being subject to the city's law in addition to having power in some instances to help choose officials.{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}} City dwellers who had fought alongside nobles in battles to defend their cities were no longer content with having a subordinate social status, but demanded a greater role in the form of citizenship.{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}} Membership in guilds was an indirect form of citizenship in that it helped their members succeed financially.{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}} The rise of citizenship was linked to the rise of republicanism, according to one account, since independent citizens meant that kings had less power.{{#invoke:Footnotes|sfn}} Citizenship became an idealized, almost abstract, concept,<ref name=tws2Y12/> and did not signify a submissive relation with a lord or count, but rather indicated the bond between a person and the state in the rather abstract sense of having rights and duties.<ref name=tws2Y12/>

Modern times

The modern idea of citizenship still respects the idea of political participation, but it is usually done through "elaborate systems of political representation at a distance" such as representative democracy.<ref name=tws2Y17/> Modern citizenship is much more passive; action is delegated to others; citizenship is often a constraint on acting, not an impetus to act.<ref name=tws2Y17/> Nevertheless, citizens are usually aware of their obligations to authorities, and are aware that these bonds often limit what they can do.<ref name=tws2Y17/>

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Citizenship sections
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