ancient Greeks

This article is part of the series on: History of Greece
Prehistory of Greece
Helladic Civilization
Cycladic Civilization
Minoan Civilization
Mycenaean Civilization
Greek Dark Ages
Ancient Greece
Archaic Greece
Classical Greece
Hellenistic Greece
Roman Greece
Medieval Greece
Byzantine Empire
Ottoman Greece
Modern Greece
Greek War of Independence
Kingdom of Greece
Axis Occupation of Greece
Greek Civil War
Military Junta
The Hellenic Republic
Topical History
Economic history of Greece
Military history of Greece
Constitutional history of Greece
Names of the Greeks
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The term ancient Greece refers to the periods of Greek history in Classical Antiquity, lasting ca. 750 BC[1] (the archaic period) to 146 BC (the Roman conquest). It is generally considered to be the seminal culture which provided the foundation of Western Civilization. Greek culture had a powerful influence on the Roman Empire, which carried a version of it to many parts of Europe. The civilization of the ancient Greeks has been immensely influential on the language, politics, educational systems, philosophy, science, and arts, giving rise to the Renaissance in Western Europe and again resurgent during various neo-Classical revivals in 18th and 19th century Europe and the Americas.

Chronology

There are no fixed or universally agreed upon dates for the beginning or the end of the ancient Greek period. In common usage it refers to all Greek history before the Roman Empire, but historians use the term more precisely. Some writers include the periods of the Greek-speaking Mycenaean civilization that collapsed about 1150 BC, though most would argue that the influential Minoan was so different from later Greek cultures that it should be classed separately.

In Greek school books, "ancient times" is a period of about 900 years, from the catastrophe of Mycenae until the conquest of the country by the Romans, divided into four periods based on styles of art and culture and politics. The historical line starts with Greek Dark Ages (1100800 BC). In this period artists use geometrical schemes such as squares, circles and lines to decorate amphoras and other pottery. The archaic period (800480 BC) represents those years when the artists made larger free-standing sculptures in stiff, hieratic poses with the dreamlike "archaic smile". In the classical period (490–323 BC) artists perfected the style that since has been taken as exemplary: "classical", such as the Parthenon. The years following the conquests of Alexander are referred to as the Hellenistic, (323–146 BC), or Alexandrian period; aspects of Hellenic civilization expanded to Egypt, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia and beyond.

Traditionally, the ancient Greek period was taken to begin with the date of the first recorded Olympic Games in 776 BC, but many historians now extend the term back to about 1000 BC. The traditional date for the end of the ancient Greek period is the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. The following period until the integration of Greece into the Roman Republic in 146 BC is classed Hellenistic.

These dates are historians' conventions and some writers treat the ancient Greek civilization as a continuum running until the advent of Christianity in the 3rd century.

Origins

The Greeks are believed to have migrated southward into the Balkan peninsula in several waves beginning in the late 3rd millennium BC, the last being the Dorian invasion. Proto-Greek is assumed to date to some time between the 23rd and 17th centuries BC. The period from 1600 BC to about 1100 BC is described in History of Mycenaean Greece known for the reign of King Agamemnon and the wars against Troy as narrated in the epics of Homer. The period from 1100 BC to the 8th century BC is a "Dark Age" from which no primary texts survive, and only scant archaeological evidence remains. Secondary and tertiary texts such as Herodotus' Histories, Pausanias' Description of Greece, Diodorus' Bibliotheca, and Jerome's Chronicon contain brief chronologies and king lists for this period. The history of Ancient Greece is often taken to end with the reign of Alexander the Great, who died in 323 BC. Subsequent events are described in Hellenistic Greece.

Any history of ancient Greece requires a cautionary note on sources. Those Greek historians and political writers whose works have survived, notably Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Demosthenes, Plato and Aristotle, were mostly either Athenian or pro-Athenian. That is why we know far more about the history and politics of Athens than of any other city, and why we know almost nothing about some cities' histories. These writers, furthermore, concentrate almost wholly on political, military and diplomatic history, and ignore economic and social history. All histories of ancient Greece have to contend with these limits in their sources.

The Greek genetical tree was constructed revealed homogeneity between Europeans. Median networks revealed that most of the Greek haplotypes are clustered to the five known haplogroups and that a number of haplotypes are shared among Greeks and other European and Near Eastern populations. No significant differences with other European populations were found for the loci studied. [2] [3]

History

Archaic period

8th century

In the 8th century BC, Greece began to emerge from the Dark Ages which followed the fall of the Mycenaean civilization. Literacy had been lost and the Mycenaean script forgotten, but the Greeks adopted the Phoenician alphabet, modifying it to create the Greek alphabet. From about the 9th century BC written records begin to appear. Greece was divided into many small self-governing communities, a pattern dictated by Greek geography, where every island, valley and plain is cut off from its neighbours by the sea or mountain ranges.

7th century

The Greek cities were originally monarchies, although many of them were very small and the term "king" (basileus) for their rulers is misleadingly grand. In a country always short of farmland, power rested with a small class of landowners, who formed a warrior aristocracy fighting frequent petty inter-city wars over land and rapidly ousting the monarchy. About this time the rise of a mercantile class (shown by the introduction of coinage in about 680 BC) introduced class conflict into the larger cities. From 650 BC onwards, the aristocracies had to fight not to be overthrown and replaced by populist leaders called tyrants (turannoi), a word which did not necessarily have the modern meaning of oppressive dictators.

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Early Athenian coin, 5th century BC. British Museum.
By the 6th century BC several cities had emerged as dominant in Greek affairs: Athens, Sparta, Corinth, and Thebes. Each of them had brought the surrounding rural areas and smaller towns under their control, and Athens and Corinth had become major maritime and mercantile powers as well. Athens and Sparta developed a rivalry that dominated Greek politics for generations.

In Sparta, the landed aristocracy retained their power, and the constitution of Lycurgus (about 650 BC) entrenched their power and gave Sparta a permanent militarist regime under a dual monarchy. Sparta dominated the other cities of the Peloponnese, with the sole exceptions of Argus and Achaia.

In Athens, by contrast, the monarchy was abolished in 683 BC, and the reforms of Solon established a moderate system of aristocratic government. The aristocrats were followed by the tyranny of Pisistratus and his sons, who made the city a great naval and commercial power. When the Pisistratids were overthrown, Cleisthenes established the world's first democracy (500 BC), with power being held by an assembly of all the male citizens. But only a minority of the male inhabitants were citizens, excluding slaves, freedmen and non-Athenians.

Colonies

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Greek influence in the mid 6th century BC.
Further information: Greek colonies Magna Graecia
The population grew beyond the capacity of its limited arable land (according to Mogens Herman Hansen, the population of Ancient Greece increased by a factor larger than ten during the period from 800 BC to 400 BC, increasing from a population of 800,000 to a total estimated population of 10 to 13 million).[4] From about 750 BC the Greeks began 250 years of expansion, settling colonies in all directions. To the east, the Aegean coast of Asia Minor was colonized first, followed by Cyprus and the coasts of Thrace, the Sea of Marmara and south coast of the Black Sea. Eventually Greek colonization reached as far north-east as present day Ukraine and Russia (Taganrog). To the west the coasts of Illyria, Sicily and southern Italy were settled, followed by the south coast of France, Corsica, and even northeastern Spain. Greek colonies were also founded in Egypt and Libya. Modern Syracuse, Naples, Marseille and Istanbul had their beginnings as the Greek colonies Syracusae (Συρακούσαι), Neapolis (Νεάπολις), Massalia (Μασσαλία) and Byzantion (Βυζάντιον).

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Ruins of Greek Theater in the colony at Taormina in present day Italy


By the 6th century BC the Greek world had become a cultural and linguistic area much larger than the geographical area of present Greece. Greek colonies were not politically controlled by their founding cities, although they often retained religious and commercial links with them. The Greeks both at home and abroad organized themselves into independent communities, and the city (polis) became the basic unit of Greek government.

In this period, huge economic development occurred in Greece and also her overseas colonies such as Cyme (Aeolis), Cyrene and Alalia which experienced a growth in commerce and manufacturing. There also was a large improvement in the living standards of the population. Some studies estimate that the average size of the Greek household, in the period from 800 BC to 300 BC, increased five times, which indicates a large increase in the average income of the population.

At its economic height, in the 4th century BC, ancient Greece was the most advanced economy in the world. According to some economic historians, it was one of the most advanced preindustrial economies. This is demonstrated by the average daily wage of the Greek worker, it was, in terms of wheat (about 12 kg), more than 3 times the average daily wage of the Romano-Egyptian worker during the Roman period (about 3.75 kg).[5]

Classical Greece

Main article: Classical Greece
The classical period of Ancient Greece, corresponds to most of the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. (i.e. from the fall of the Athenian tyranny in 510 BC to the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC).

5th century

In 510, Spartan troops helped the Athenians overthrow their king, the tyrant Hippias, son of Peisistratos. Cleomenes I, king of Sparta, put in place a pro-Spartan oligarchy conducted by Isagoras.

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Delian League ("Athenian Empire"), right before the Peloponnesian War in 431 BC.


The Greco-Persian Wars (499-449 BC), concluded by the Peace of Callias resulted in the dominant position of Athens in the Delian League, which led to conflict with Sparta and the Peloponnesian League, resulting in the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC).

At Mantinea Sparta defeated the combined armies of Athens and her allies. The resumption of fighting brought the war party, led by Alcibiades, back to power in Athens. In 415 BC Alcibiades persuaded the Athenian Assembly to launch a major expedition against Syracuse, a Peloponnesian ally in Sicily, resulting in a complete disaster.

Sparta now challenged Athenian naval supremacy, and had found a brilliant military leader in Lysander, who decisively defeated Athens at Aegospotami (405 BC). The loss of her fleet threatened Athens with bankruptcy. In 404 BC Athens sued for peace, and Sparta dictated a predictably stern settlement: Athens lost her city walls, her fleet, and all of her overseas possessions. Lysander abolished the democracy and appointed a council of thirty to govern Athens in its place.

4th century

Greece entered the 4th century under Spartan hegemony. But by 395 BC the Spartan rulers removed Lysander from office, and Sparta lost her naval supremacy. Athens, Argos, Thebes, and Corinth, the latter two formerly Spartan allies, challenged Spartan dominance in the Corinthian War, which ended inconclusively in 387 BC.

Then the Theban generals Epaminondas and Pelopidas won a decisive victory at Leuctra (371 BC). The result of this battle was the end of Spartan supremacy and the establishment of Theban hegemony. Sparta remained an important power and some cities continued to turn against her. The confederal framework was artificial, for a confederacy mustered cities that could never agree. This was the case with the cities of Tegea and Mantinea which reallied in the Arcardian confederacy. The Mantineans received the support of the Athenians and the Tegeans that of the Thebans. The Thebans prevailed, but this triumph was short-lived, for Epaminondas died in the battle. In the end, the Thebans renounced their policy of intervention in the Peloponnesus. Xenophon thus ended his history of the Greek world in 362 BC. Thebes sought to maintain its position until finally eclipsed by the rising power of Macedon in 346 BC.

Under Philip II, (359336 BC), Macedon expanded into the territory of the Paionians, Thracians, and Illyrians. Macedon became more politically involved with the south-central city-states of Greece, but it also retained more archaic features like the palace-culture, first at Aegae (modern Vergina) then at Pella, resembling Mycenaean culture more than the classic city-states.

Philip's son Alexander the Great (356323 BC) managed to briefly extend Macedonian power not only over the central Greek city-states, but also to the Persian empire, including Egypt and lands as far east as the fringes of India.

The classical period conventionally ends at the death of Alexander in 323 BC and the fragmentation of his empire, divided among the Diadochi.

Hellenistic Greece

Main article: Hellenistic Greece
The Hellenistic period of Greek lasts from 323 BC to the annexation of the Greek peninsula and islands by Rome in 146 BC. Although the establishment of Roman rule did not break the continuity of Hellenistic society and culture, which remained essentially unchanged until the advent of Christianity, it did mark the end of Greek political independence.

During the Hellenistic period the importance of "Greece proper" (that is, the territory of modern Greece) within the Greek-speaking world declined sharply. The great centers of Hellenistic culture were Alexandria and Antioch, capitals of Ptolemaic Egypt and Seleucid Syria respectively. See Hellenistic civilization for the history of Greek culture outside of Greece in this period.

The conquests of Alexander had a number of consequences for the Greek city-states. It greatly widened the horizons of the Greeks, and led to a steady emigration, particularly of the young and ambitious, to the new Greek empires in the east. Many Greeks migrated to Alexandria, Antioch and the many other new Hellenistic cities founded in Alexander's wake, as far away as what are now Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom and the Indo-Greek Kingdom survived until the end of the 1st century BC.

3rd century

The Seleucid Empire disintegrated gradually, torn apart by the wars of the Diadochi 323-285 BC, by 247 BC giving way to Parthia.

Antigonus II died in 239 BC. His death saw another revolt of the city-states of the Achaean League, whose dominant figure was Aratus of Sicyon. Antigonus's son Demetrius II died in 229 BC, leaving a child (Philip V) as king, with the general Antigonus Doson as regent. The Achaeans, while nominally subject to Ptolemy, were in effect independent, and controlled most of southern Greece. Athens remained aloof from this conflict by common consent.

Sparta remained hostile to the Achaeans, and in 227 BC Sparta's king Cleomenes III invaded Achaea and seized control of the League. Aratus preferred distant Macedon to nearby Sparta, and allied himself with Doson, who in 222 BC defeated the Spartans and annexed their city – the first time Sparta had ever been occupied by a foreign power.

In 215 BC, Philip V formed an alliance with Rome's enemy Carthage, which drew Rome directly into Greek affairs for the first time. Rome promptly lured the Achaean cities away from their nominal loyalty to Philip, and formed alliances with Rhodes and Pergamum, now the strongest power in Asia Minor. The First Macedonian War broke out in 212 BC, and ended inconclusively in 205 BC, but Macedon was now marked as an enemy of Rome. Rome's ally Rhodes gained control of the Aegean islands.

2nd century

In 202 BC Rome defeated Carthage,and was free to turn her attention eastwards, urged on by her Greek allies, Rhodes and Pergamum. In 198 the Second Macedonian War broke out for obscure reasons, but basically because Rome saw Macedon as a potential ally of the Seleucids, the greatest power in the east. Philip's allies in Greece deserted him and in 197 BC he was decisively defeated at the Cynoscephalae by the Roman proconsul Titus Quinctius Flamininus.

In 192 BC war broke out between Rome and the Seleucid ruler Antiochus III, who was defeated at Thermopylae in 191 BC. During the course of this war Roman troops crossed into Asia for the first time, where they defeated Antiochus again at Magnesia on the Sipylum (190 BC). Greece now lay across Rome's line of communications with the east, and Roman troops became a permanent presence. The Peace of Apamaea (188 BC) left Rome in a dominant position throughout Greece. When Philip V died in 179 BC he was succeeded by his son Perseus, who like all the Macedonian kings dreamed of uniting the Greeks under Macedonian rule. Macedon was now too weak to achieve this objective, but Rome's ally Eumenes II of Pergamum persuaded Rome that Perseus was a threat to Rome's position.

In 168 BC the Romans sent Lucius Aemilius Paullus to Greece, and at Pydna the Macedonians were crushingly defeated. Perseus was captured and taken to Rome, the Macedonian kingdom was broken up into four smaller states. Under the leadership of an adventurer called Andriscus, Macedon rebelled against Roman rule in 149 BC: as a result it was directly annexed the following year and became a Roman province, the first of the Greek states to suffer this fate. Rome now demanded that the Achaean League, the last stronghold of Greek independence, be dissolved. The Achaeans refused and declared war on Rome. The Roman consul Lucius Mummius advanced from Macedonia and defeated the Greeks at Corinth, which was razed to the ground. In 146 BC the Greek peninsula, though not the islands, became a Roman protectorate. Roman taxes were imposed, except in Athens and Sparta, and all the cities had to accept rule by Rome's local allies. In 133 BC the last king of Pergamum died and left his kingdom to Rome: this brought most of the Aegean peninsula under direct Roman rule as part of the province of Asia.

Society

The distinguishing features of Ancient Greek society were the division between free and slave, the differing roles of men and women, the relative lack of status distinctions based on birth, and the importance of religion. The way of life of the Athenians was common in the Greek world compared to Sparta's special system. The citizens of ancient Greece were known for their artistic designs on pottery. Most artwork consisted of pornographic scenes, which was normal for the time.

Social Structure

Only free, land owning, native-born men could be citizens entitled to the full protection of the law in a city-state (later Pericles introduced exceptions to the native-born restriction). In most city-states, unlike Rome, social prominence did not allow special rights. For example, being born in a certain family generally brought no special privileges. Sometimes families controlled public religious functions, but this ordinarily did not give any extra power in the government. In Athens, the population was divided into four social classes based on wealth. People could change classes if they made more money. In Sparta, all male citizens were given the title of "equal" if they finished their education. However, Spartan kings, who served as the city-state's dual military and religious leaders, came from two families. Slaves had no power or status. They had the right to have a family and own property, however they had no political rights. By 600 BC chattel slavery had spread in Greece. By the 5th century BC slaves made up one-third of the total population in some city-states. Slaves outside of Sparta almost never revolted because they were made up of too many nationalities and were too scattered to organize.

Most families owned slaves as household servants and labourers, and even poor families might have owned a few slaves. Owners were not allowed to beat or kill their slaves. Owners often promised to free slaves in the future to encourage slaves to work hard. Unlike in Rome, slaves who were freed did not become citizens. Instead, they were mixed into the population of metics, which included people from foreign countries or other city-states who were officially allowed to live in the state.

City-states legally owned slaves. These public slaves had a larger measure of independence than slaves owned by families, living on their own and performing specialized tasks. In Athens, public slaves were trained to look out for counterfeit coinage, while temple slaves acted as servants of the temple's deity.

Sparta had a special type of slaves called helots. Helots were Greek war captives owned by the state and assigned to families where they were forced to stay. Helots raised food and did household chores so that women could concentrate on raising strong children while men could devote their time to training as hoplites. Their masters treated them harshly and helots often revolted.

Education

For most of Greek history, education was private, except in Sparta. During the Hellenistic period, some city-states established public schools. Only wealthy families could afford a teacher. Boys learned how to read, write and quote literature. They also learned to sing and play one musical instrument and were trained as athletes for military service. They studied not for a job, but to become an effective citizen. Girls also learned to read, write and do simple arithmetic so they could manage the household. They almost never received education after childhood.

Boys went to school at the age of seven, or went to the barracks, if they lived in Sparta. The three types of teachings were: grammatistes for arithmetic, kitharistes for music and dancing, and paidotribes for sports.

Boys from wealthy families attending the private school lessons were taken care by a paidagogos, a household slave selected for this task who accompanied the boy during the day. Classes were held in teachers' private houses and included reading, writing, mathematics, singing, and playing of the lyre and flute. When the boy became 12 years old the schooling started to include sports as wrestling, running, and throwing discus and javelin. In Athens some older youths attended academy for the finer disciplines such as culture, sciences, music, and the arts. The schooling ended at the age of 18, followed by military training in the army usually for one or two years.[6]

A small number of boys continued their education after childhood, as in the Spartan agoge. A crucial part of a wealthy teenager's education was a mentorship with an elder, which in some places and times may have included pederastic love. The teenager learned by watching his mentor talking about politics in the agora, helping him perform his public duties, exercising with him in the gymnasium and attending symposia with him. The richest students continued their education by studying with famous teachers. Some of Athens' greatest such schools included the Lyceum and the Academy.

The education system of the wealthy ancient Greeks is also called Paideia.

Culture

Philosophy

Greek philosophy focused on the role of reason and inquiry. In many ways, it had an important influence on modern philosophy, as well as modern science. Clear unbroken lines of influence lead from ancient Greek and Hellenistic philosophers, to medieval Muslim philosophers and scientists, to the European Renaissance and Enlightenment, to the secular sciences of the modern day.

Neither reason nor inquiry began with the Greeks. Defining the difference between the Greek quest for knowledge and the quests of the elder civilizations, such as the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, has long been a topic of study by theorists of civilization.

Literature

Main articles: Ancient Greek literature, Homer, Greek tragedy, and Greek comedy
Alfred North Whitehead once claimed that all of philosophy is but a footnote to Plato. To suggest that all of Western literature is no more than a footnote to the writings of ancient Greece is an exaggeration, but it is nevertheless true that the Greek world of thought was so far-ranging that there is scarcely an idea discussed today not already debated by the ancient writers.

Sciences

Art

Enlarge picture
Apollo and Nike in marble, a Roman copy from the 1 st century CE of the original hellenistic work
Main article: Art in ancient Greece
The art of ancient Greece has exercised a huge influence on the culture of many countries from ancient times until the

Religion and mythology

Greek mythology consists of stories belonging to the Ancient Greeks concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world and the origins and significance of their religious practices.

Notes

1. ^ a standard date is 776 BC or the first Olympiad. Some would extend the period to ca. 1000 BC to the inclusion of the Dorian invasion and the Greek Dark Ages.
2. ^ Genetic studies in 5 Greek population samples using 12 highly polymorphic DNA loci, Human Biology, Feb 1999 [1]
3. ^ Mitochondrial DNA sequence variation in Greeks.Hum Biol, Vol. 73, No. 6. (December 2001), pp. 855-869. [2]
4. ^ Population of the Greek city-states
5. ^ Real Slave prices and the relative cost of slave labour in the Greco-Roman world
6. ^ Angus Konstam: "Historical Atlas of Ancient Greece", pp. 94-95. Thalamus publishing, UK, 2003, ISBN 1-904668-16-x

Bibliography

  • Charles Freeman (1996). Egypt, Greece and Rome. Oxford University Press. 
  • Paul MacKendrick (1962). The Greek Stones Speak: The Story of Archaeology in Greek Lands. St. Martin's Press. 

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History of Greece traditionally encompasses the study of the Greek people, the areas they ruled historically, and the territory now composing the modern state of Greece.
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Helladic is a modern term of archaeological origin to identify a sequence of periods characterizing the culture of mainland ancient Greece during the Bronze Age. The term is commonly used in archaeology and art history.
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Cycladic civilization (also known as Cycladic culture or The Cycladic period) is an Early Bronze Age culture of the Cyclades in the Aegean Sea, spanning the period from approximately 3000 BC-2000 BC.
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