“Surely, knowing about excellence is not enough. We must try to possess it and use it.” -Aristotle, The Politics, 330 B.C. “Liberty overmasters democracy-the
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Surely, knowing about excellence is not enough. We must try to possess it and use it.-Aristotle, The Politics, 330 B.C.Liberty overmasters democracy-the truth being that excessive increase of anything often causes a reaction in the opposite direction; and this is the case above all formsof government. Plato, Greek Philosopher, from The Public, 360 B.C.
Our administration favors the many instead of the few; this is why it is called a democracyThe freedom we enjoy in our government extends to our ordinary lifeBut all this ease in our private relations do not make us lawless citizens. Against this, fear is our chief safeguard, teaching us to obey the magistrates and the laws. Pericles, Greek leader and general, quoted by the Greek historian Thucydides on The History of the Peloponnesian War, 431 B.C.No one is prevented from being of service to the state because of being poor. Pericles, Greek leader and general, 457 B.C.
The Cycladic culture began around 3000 B.C. in the Aegean Sea on about 200 islands. Most Cycladic people made their living by fishing and trading. Others grew grapes, olives, and other crops. Highly skilled Cycladic craft workers made pottery and small figures. After about 2000 B.C. the Cycladic culture began to weaken, and as it did people started following the customs and traditions of the dominant, or more powerful neighboring cultures.
The Minoan Culture started around 2700 B.C. on a large island known as Crete. Historians names the culture in honor of Minos, the king of Crete in Greek Mythology. A mythology is a collection of myths, or traditional stories, handed down from generation to generation. Myths offer an explanation of how things in nature or human events came to be. The Minoan culture began as an agricultural society, over time farming villages grew into cites. The largest of the cities were Knossos, Phaistos, Mallia, and Kato Zakro. Later they began to build large, richly decorated palaces, the largest was at Knossos. The Minoan were expert sailors. They traded in lands all around the Mediterranean Sea, including Egypt. They also had another process like this, but instead of trading goods they traded ideas. Using an idea from the Asians, the Minoans mixed copper and tin to form bronze. They made weapons and other tools from bronze and other unique metals also. The Minoan people also had both a counting system and a writing system for keeping their records of trade. To count, they used a decimal system, a system based on the number 10. Their system used pictographs written on clay tablets to stand for the sounds in words. Many of the oldest tablets survived a great fire that destroyed nearly all the cities and palaces on Crete in about 1450 B.C. Only the palace at Knossos remained. After the fire a group of people called the Mycenaeans ruled Crete. By the 1100s B.C. the Minoan culture disappeared.
The Mycenaean culture takes its name from the city of Mycenae. This city was located on the large southern peninsula Greece called the Peloponnesus. Archaeologists believe that the settlement started in about 1900 B.C. By the 1500s B.C. the Mycenaean became the dominant culture because of the influence it spread throughout the Aegean region. The Mycenaean adapted the ways of the Minoan. For example they borrowed Minoan art styles and writing. During the 1300s B.C. they built palaces in Mycenae, Athens, Thebes, Pylos, and Tiryns. Like the Minoan the Mycenaean sailed the Mediterranean Sea in all directions. They traveled to trade, to start new settlements, and to make war. In about 1200 B.C. the Mycenaean culture suddenly came to an end. A large earthquake destroyed many Mycenaean settlements. A few were rebuilt, but the Mycenaeans never regained their earlier power. Some believe it was because of weak soldiers, still others believe it was that a group of people known as the Dorians migrated into the area from the north.
The Trojan culture was centered in the ancient city of Troy, in Asia Minor. From as early as the 2900s B.C., thick walls surrounded the city. Troy was located on a high point of land near the Dardanelles, a straight that connects the Aegean Sea with the Sea of Marmara. This waterway, which separates Asia form Europe, allowed passage to the Black Sea for trading or warfare. Troys location was strategic, or of great importance. Today people can learn about Troy from the stories that are a part of world literature. Troy is described in the Iliad and the Odyssey, epics written by the Greek poet Homer. An epic is a long poem that tells about important events in the life of a hero or heroes. Stories about the Trojan War were already hundreds of years old when Homer created epics in about 750 B.C. Most historians believe that the Mycenaean invaded and destroyed Troy around 1250 B.C.
The development of Classical Greek civilization began with the rise of city-states. City-states were formed as people living in neighboring villages joined to protect themselves from outside dangers. Many of these groups built walled forts for safety during enemy attacks. Each fort was usually built on a hilltop. It was called an acropolis, which means high city in Greek. Over time, villages grew into cities around the acropolis. Houses, public building, and an open-air market called an agora stood below the acropolis. Beyond these were farmland and smaller villages. Some city-states became overcrowded and did not have enough resources to meet everyone's needs. To ease the overcrowding, Greek colonies were set up in southern Italy, on the island of Sicily, and in the other areas.
The city of Sparta had an inland location on the Peloponnesian Peninsula. The inland location caused them to establish a military economy. Their society was made up of three classes. Only males in the ruling class were considered to be Spartan citizens. They were the descendants of the Dorians, who had migrated to the Greek peninsula in the 1100s B.C. Helots were enslaved farm workers who were the largest class. People feared this class because they outnumbered them 10 to 1. So the Spartan society began to focus on their military. To prepare life as a soldier, Spartan boys started training at six or seven. Sparta had a oligarchy where a few people from the ruling class made decisions for everyone.
The city-sate of Athens was located on Attica, a part of the Balkan Peninsula northwest of the Peloponnesus. After the Dark Age, Athens was ruled by an aristocracy, or a small group of leaders from wealthy landowning families who inherit the right to rule. In 594 B.C. the Athenians asked a leader named Solon to make reforms, or changes, in their government to end struggles. Solon divided the Athenians into classes based on wealth and birth. Those with the most wealth became part of the ruling class. Yet the Athenians wanted a larger role in making decisions. More reforms in 508 B.C. made the Athenian city-state into the worlds first democracy. A democracy is a system of government in which the people rule. A leader named Cleisthenes opened the government to all free men 18 years of age or older, not just the wealthiest. He also created a new council. The council suggested laws for the assembly and decided on government policies. A policy is a plan of action.
The different city-states had a cultural identity, a connection with one another. Over time, this common cultural identity began to help people begin to think of themselves as a single civilization. According to the mythology, the people of all city-states shared a common ancestor. His name was Hellen, for this reason they called their country Hellas and themselves Hellens. The Greeks believed that their god, Zeus, controlled events both in nature and in human life. Athena was the goddess of wisdom and warfare, Aphrodite was the goddess of love and beauty, and Hermes was the messenger of the gods. In addition to their language, mythology, and religion, the Greeks were united by other activities. The ancient games were held about 776 B.C. To A.D. 393. Writing also helped bring the city-sates together. In the 700s B.C. the Greeks developed a writing system based on the one used by the Phoenician traders. The word alphabet comes from the names of the first two Greek letters, alpha and beta. A common mythology, religion, activities, and language helps unite the Greeks as people. It also set them apart from others living in the Mediterranean region. The Greeks thought of themselves as different from all other peoples. They called anyone who could not speak a barbarian. Today a barbarian is a person who is considered uncivilized, or rough mannered.
At the begging of 500s B.C. A common enemy brought the Greek people together for a time. The common enemy was Persia. Citizen-soldiers from Athens met a larger Persian force on the plain of Marathon, not far from Athens. Although the Persians had more soldiers, the well-trained Athenians managed to defeat them in just one day of fighting. Legends about the battle tell of a messenger who ran all the was from Marathon to Athens to report the amazing victory. Athens today re-create this run in the marathon, a race that covers 26 miles. Then in 480 B.C. the Persians tried to attack Balkan Peninsula, but they were met by Greek forces made up of armies and navies from many city-states, including Athens and Sparta. They defeated the Persians once again near the island of Salamis and on land at Plataea. City-states from Attica, Asian Minor, and some of the Aegean Islands joined Athens to form the Delian league. A league is a group of allies.
Athens was led by Pericles a member of the city-states wealthiest ruling class. Pericles was a relative of Cleisthenes, who had taken away the authority from the aristocracy and given it to the city-states assembly. In 460 B.C. Pericles was elected as a leader in t