The civilization of mainland Greece and the Aegean coast of Turkey had a continuous literary and political tradition from the eighth century bc. With the exception of areas such as Thessaly, and Arcadia in the Peloponnese, Greek culture was based on numerous poleis (city-states), most comprising a settled centre and its surrounding countryside (chora). Even in the Classical period of the fth century bc, when the Athenian empire ourished, but especially since the rise to power of Alexander of Macedon in the fourth century bc, such urban communities had sometimes been combined into wider political units, either under the control of Macedonian kings, or in the form of defensive leagues. But in the beginning of the Roman imperial period, loyalties were still primarily local.