From the eighth to the sixth centuries BCE the Greeks settled an astounding number of new cities on foreign lands from the Black Sea to the coast of Spain, and these new civic foundations generated narratives designed to record and celebrate a city's origin. In general, the Greeks loved to speculate about beginnings; the births of heroes, the origins of cults, and the founding of cities all formed part of their aetiological repertoire. While tales of city foundations appear prominently in archaic literature, I will argue that foundation (or ktisis) poetry does not, as is commonly assumed, function as an autonomous literary genre in the archaic period. Genre is determined by type of occasion, not by content, at this time, and there is no evidence for any one specific occasion for which ktisis poetry was intentionally composed and performed. Instead, the foundation narrative always functions as part of a larger project; we find it embedded in many different poetic genres. For these reasons, the ktisis is better understood as a literary topos or theme which adds geographical detail and aetiological focus to a variety of poetic contexts and thus is performed on more than one occasion.