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Geography was important in the development ofGreek civilization. Greece occupies a small area, haslots of mountains, and many small islands. Greece isabout the same size as the state of Louisiana.The mountains and sea were especially significant inthe development of Greek culture. The mountainsisolated the Greek towns and cities from eachother, causing different communities to developindependently.
Greece had numerous harbors that providedaccess to the sea. This, along with the islandssurrounding the mainland, helped the Greeks tobecome seafarers and establish coloniesthroughout the Mediterranean.
The Minoans were a civilization that existed duringthe Bronze Age. They lived on the island of CRETE.The Minoans left behind an enormous palace inKnossos. The palace remains reveal a rich cultureand evidence of large-scale sea trade. The Minoanswent to Egypt and other areas in the Mediterranean.The Minoans suffered a cataclysmic collapse inaround 1450 BCE. Some historians believe a tidalwave triggered by a volcanic eruption on Thera(another island) was responsible for their collapse.Most historians agree that the Minoans collapsedbecause of an invasion by the Myceneans, who livedon the mainland of Greece.
The Mycenaeans flourished in Greece from around 1600 BCE to 1100 BCE. They gained control of the Greek mainland and developed aLions Gate Tombs civilization. The Mycenaean civilization was made up of powerful monarchs. Each king lived in a fortified palace, built on hills and surrounded by giant stone walls. The palace complexes were also used as tombs (called tholos) for the royal families. The Myceneans were warriors who took great pride in battle. The artwork they left behind often portrayed battles and hunting scenes. There is vast evidence of trade throughout the Mediterranean world.
The most famous military adventure of the Myceneans was the Trojan War. Homer, a traveling poet, is credited with writing the Iliad, which is the story of the Trojan War led by Agamemnon, king of Mycenae. (Maybe you’ve seen the movie Troy –it’s the same story?)Homer also told the story of the Odyssey, which tellsthe tale of Odyssey’s return home from the Trojan War,which took him years.Both the Odyssey and the Iliad are epic poems – longpoems that tell the story of a great hero or heroes.
From 1100 BCE to around 750 BCE, Greeceexperienced a “dark age,” called such because fewrecords exist of this time period.During the Dark Age, large numbers of Greeks left themainland and sailed to the islands around Greece or toIonia in Asia minor (modern day Turkey).Two major groups of Greeks settled in alreadyestablished areas – the Aeolian Greeks and the DorianGreeks. Trade was revived and iron began to be used tomake weapons and tools.Sometime during the 8th century BCE, the Greeksadopted the Phoenician alphabet, giving themselves anew system of writing.Homer’s works appeared at the end of the Dark Age, andtaught the Greeks important values to their culture –courage, honor, and excellence (called arete).
The main gathering place in any polis wasusually the top of a hill. The Greeks wouldfortify (strengthen) the area – called anacropolis – so it could be defended if thepolis came under attack.Temples and other public buildings wereoften built in the acropolis.Below the acropolis was the agora, an openarea where people could assemble to hearpolis leaders. When not meeting, the agoraserved as a marketplace, where people soldgoods and food.City-states were protected by the military.The military was based on hoplites,heavily-armed infantry who carried a roundshield, short sword and a spear. Hopliteswent into battle in a rectangular formationcalled the phalanx that could create a wallof shields to protect the soldiers.
Around 730 BCE, Sparta began the conquest of Messenia, a neighboring city- state. Sparta needed more land for its citizens. Sparta conquered both Messenia and Laconia, and forced their citizens to become serfs (slave/servants) and work for the Spartans. In order to control their conquered populations (called helots), Sparta became a military state.The lives of Spartans wasrigidly organized. Males spenttheir childhood learning militarydiscipline. They enrolled in thearmy at age 20 and lived in themilitary barracks until theywere 30. At 30, men couldvote in the assembly, but they King Leonidasstayed in the army until theywere 60.
The Spartan government was headed by twokings who led the army on their campaings.A group of five men known as the ephorswere elected each year and were responsiblefor the education of youth and the conduct ofthe citizens.A council of elders, composed of the two kingsand 28 citizens over the age of 60, decided onthe issues that would be presented to theassembly. The assembly, made up of malecitizens, did not debate, they only voted onthe issues.The Spartans were an isolated society; theydiscouraged foreigners from visiting and didnot allow their citizens to travel (unless it waswith the military). Spartan citizens did notstudy philosophy, literature or the arts. Theystudied the art of war and the military ideal.
Athens was one of AncientGreece’s largest city-states. Inthe fifth century BCE, Athenshad a population of more than300,000 people.Early Athens was ruled by aking, but by the seventh centuryBCE, an oligarchy (rule bywealthy aristocrats).The aristocrats owned the best land and controlled thepolitics of Athens. Serious economic problems broughtabout the end of the oligarchy. Farmers were sold intoslavery to pay debts to the wealthy. People asked thegovernment for relief, but got none. Athens was close tocivil war.
Fearing a civil war, the oligarchs gave full power toSolon, an aristocrat willing to enact some reforms. Soloncancelled all land debts and freed the farmers who hadbeen sold into slavery for their debts. He refused to takeland from the rich and give it to the poor, and Athensended up being ruled by Pisistratus, an aristocrat whoseized power in 560 BCE. Pisistratus took land from thewealth and gave it to the poor.The tyranny ended when Pisistratus’ son lost power.Cleisthenes took over and created the foundations for ademocracy.Cleisthenes created a council of five hundred that supervised foreignaffairs, oversaw the treasury, and proposed laws that were voted onby the Athenian assembly.The assembly, composed of free male citizens, had the finalauthority to pass laws after public debate. The assemblybecame the central authority for laws, makingthe assembly the foundations for AthenianDemocracy.
Athens Sparta• democratic • military• women not alone in public, • women allowed more stay home freedom• education • education • well-rounded • to be soldiers • physical fitness • physical fitness • boys only • girls, too • philosophy encouraged • new thoughts discouraged