The position of the polis in the Iliad and the Odyssey is equivocal. Because there is a great span in time between the formal subject material of the poems (ca. 1250 BC) and the time of their composition (ca. 750-700 BC, by convention), the poems present a hybrid world picture with varying and occasionally contradictory systems of social organization. As much as the poems are part of a long epic and formulaic tradition which looks back to an ancestral Mycenaean past, they also have been adapted to the conditions of Homer's lifetime. In political organization, the Iliad and the Odyssey look back through the small tribal groupings and warrior aristocracy of the Dark Ages, to a highly centralized and bureaucratic society governed by divinely ordained kings; but they also look forward to that form of social organization which Homer saw emerging about him — the polis. With this wide disparity in socio-political orientation apparent in the poems, one scholar can say, ‘For Homer and his audience the polis is regarded as the typical form of human community’, whereas another can argue that the significance of the polis is masked and superseded by that of the oikos (the means of social unification preeminent in the Dark Ages). And even if the polis were agreed to be the typical form of human habitation, it is nevertheless argued that the focus in the poems upon the individualistic warrior aristocracy prevents the polis from playing a significant dramatic role in the poems as a higher coercive power: ‘die Stadt habe für die fuhrende Schicht nur an der Peripherie des Daseins gestanden.’ More extensively the same critic writes (p. 164):
Der adlige Herr mag häufig in seinem Kreis besondere Formen des Lebens pflegen, an denen die übrige Menge keinen Teil hat, für ihn mag eine, nur ihm bemässe, ritterliche Ethik geben, der er sich verpflichtet fühlt, aberer kann sich im grund nicht von dem Boden der Stadt lösen, die seine Heimat ist.