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CHAPTER 3

Classical Greece (ca 1650–338 b.c.)

0Instructional Objectives


After reading and studying this chapter, students should be able to explain how geography influenced the development of Greece, the distinguishing characteristics of the Greek polis, and the differences between the city-states of Athens and Sparta. Students should also be able to describe the early Greek experience and discuss its connection to the Greek concept of a heroic past. They should also be able to trace the development of Greek political forms. They should be able to assess Greek intellectual achievements. Finally, they should be able to explain the eventual failure of Greek civilization.

0Chapter Outline0


I0. Hellas: The Land0

A0. Geography

10. Geography played a major role in the development of Greek city-states.

20. The islands of the Aegean served to link the Greek peninsula and Asia Minor.

30. Small but fertile plains sustained Greek agriculture, while native olive trees and grapevines enabled Greeks to export olive oil and wine.

40. Mountains and poor communications prevented the formation in Greece of a single great empire of the Near Eastern type.

B0. The Minoans and the Mycenaeans (ca 2000–1100 b.c.)0

10. A civilization with writing and a noble class appeared on Crete by about 2000 b.c. (the Minoans).

20. About 1650 b.c., Greek-speaking immigrants to the Balkans had formed the kingdom of Mycenae in southern Greece. Mycenaeans already worshipped the pantheon of later “classical” Greece.

30. Around 1450 b.c., the Mycenaeans attacked Crete.

40. The collapse of Mycenae (probably due to internal conflict) was followed by the Dark Age (1100 b.c.800 b.c.).

C0. Homer, Hesiod, Gods, and Heroes (1100800 b.c.)0

10. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey0

a0) The poems of Homer idealized the Greek past.

b0) The Iliad describes the expedition against the Trojans.

c0) The Odyssey tells of the adventures of Odysseus.

20. Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days0

a0) The Theogony traces the origins of Zeus.

b0) The Works and Days tells of Hesiod’s own village life.

II0. The Polis

A0. Origins of the Polis

10. Even during the late Mycenaean period, towns had grown up around palaces.

20. These villages and towns administered political affairs of the community.

30. Each had its local cult to its own deity.

40. They exchanged goods and developed a social system

50. The Dorians took some territory for themselves, but they also assimilated the culture around them.

60. Each polis shared a number of key features.

B0. City and Chora0

10. Life in the polis demanded the integration of the chora and the city.

20. Since the Neolithic Period, agriculture had provided the basis for Greek society.

30. Farmers were the economic basis of the polis and they were also involved in the politics of the city.

40. Most Greek religious practices were rooted in the country.

50. The polis did not have a standing army, but depended on its citizens for protection.

60. The polis was fundamental to Greek life.

C. Governing Structures0

10. Greek city-states had several different types of governments.

20. Only democracy and oligarchy played lasting roles in Greek political life.

30. Greek democracy meant the rule of citizens.

40. Most Greek states were oligarchies.

50. The fierce independence of Greek city-states led to almost constant warfare.0

III0. The Archaic Age (800500 b.c.)0

A0. Overseas Expansion

10. Limited land drove many Greeks to seek homes outside of Greece.

20. Colonization changed the entire Greek world.

30. Colonies posed new challenges for the polis.

B0. The Growth of Sparta

10. The Spartans were the leading power in Greece during the Archaic Age.

20. The Spartans expanded through conquest, not colonization.

30. About 735 b.c., the Spartans conquered Messenia, appropriated Messenian land and turned the Messenians into helots, or state serfs.

40. In the aftermath of a Messenian uprising known as the Second Messenian War, the Spartans instituted the Lycurgan regimen.

50. Sparta became a militarized society.

C0. The Evolution of Athens

10. The Athenians responded to the challenges of the Archaic period by developing their democracy.

20. Solon and Cleisthenes played key roles in the evolution of Athenian democracy.

30. Athenian democracy functioned on the principle that all full citizens were sovereign.

40. Legislation was in the hands of the boule and the ecclesia.

IV0. The Classical Period (500338 b.c.)

A0. The Persian Wars (499–479 b.c.)

10. In 480 the Persian King Xerxes led an invasion force into Greece.

20. Despite being outnumbered, the Greeks prevailed.

30. The victory of the Greeks had profound consequences for later societies.

B0. Growth of the Athenian Empire (478–431 b.c.)

10. The defeat of the Persians created a power vacuum in the Aegean.

20. The Athenians and their allies formed the Delian League.

30. Victories over the Persians prompted the Athenians to become increasingly imperialistic.

40. The growth of Athenian power led to conflict with Sparta.

C0. The Peloponnesian War (431–404 b.c.)

10. Ten years of bitter fighting concluded with the Peace of Nicias in 421 b.c.

20. The Peace of Nicias resulted in a cold war.

30. The Athenian attack on Syracuse led to renewed fighting.

40. Athens was finally defeated by an alliance of the Spartans and Persians in 404 b.c.

D0. Athenian Arts in the Age of Pericles

10. Pericles turned Athens into the showplace of Greece.

20. The Acropolis became the site of some of the world’s most important monuments.

30. In many ways the Acropolis epitomizes the Greek spirit.

40. The development of drama was tied to the religious festivals of the city.

E0. Daily Life in Periclean Athens

10. Athenians had few material possessions.

20. Athenian houses and food were simple.

30. Slavery was common in Greece.

40. Most Athenians supported themselves by agriculture.

F0. Gender and Sexuality

10. The social condition of Athenian women has been the subject of much debate.

20. The status of free woman of the citizen class was strictly protected by law.

30. Women received a certain amount of social and legal protection from their dowries.

40. A female citizen’s man functions were to have and raise children.

50. Female citizens never appeared in court nor in public political assemblies.

60. Economic necessity required some ordinary women to work.

70. Prosperous and respectable women spent most of the time in the house.

80. We know a great deal about attitudes toward sexuality among the educated male elite.

90. The Greek idea of a mind/body split had far reaching implications.

100. Male adolescent citizen’s training entailed a sexual and tutorial relationship with an older man.

110. Female and male prostitution was common.

G0. Greek Religion

10. The Greeks had no uniform faith or creed.

20. Temples to the gods were common, but were unlike modern churches or synagogues.

30. The most important members of the Greek pantheon were Zeus and Hera.

40. The Greeks also honored some heroes.

50. Each polis had its own minor deities.

60. Some Greeks turned to mystery religions.

70. The Greeks shared some Pan-Hellenic festivals, the chief of which were held at Olympia.

H0. The Flowering of Philosophy

10. The Pre-Socratics took individual facts and wove them into general theories.

20. Thales viewed astronomical events as natural phenomena.

30. Anaximander continued the work of Thales.

40. The culmination of Pre-Socratic thought was the theory that the universe was made up of air, fire, water, and earth.

50. Hippocrates applied the work of the Pre-Socratics to medicine.

60. The Sophists believed everything was open to discussion and debate.

70. Socrates thought human happiness lay in the pursuit of excellence.

80. Plato and Aristotle carried on the philosophical tradition of Socrates.

V0. The Final Act (404338 b.c.).0

A0. The Common Peace and Federalism

10. The Greeks of the fourth century b.c. experimented with two political concepts in the hope of preventing war.

20. The Common Peace was the idea that the states of Greece should live together in peace and freedom.

30. The second concept, federalism, was supported by those who thought Greece could gain security through numbers.

B0. The Struggle for Hegemony

10. Neither the Common Peace nor federalism put an end to interstate rivalry.

20. The Spartans used their victory over Athens to build an empire and to punish cities that had opposed Sparta during the war.

30. The defeat of Sparta by Thebes made Thebes the leader of Greece until 359 b.c.

C0. Philip and the Macedonian Ascendancy

10. Philip II became king of Macedonia in 359 B.C.

20. Philip launched a series of attacks on Athens and its dependents.

30. Philip’s military victories led to the formation of a unified Greece under Macedonian leadership.

0Lecture Suggestions0


10. “Greeks and Outsiders.” How did the Greeks view foreigners? Did they readily include them in their city-states? How did their attitudes toward foreigners affect their continued growth as a civilization? Source: H. D. F. Kitto, The Greeks (1973); W. H. Auden, “The Greeks and Us,” in Forwards and Afterwards (1973).

20. “What Sports Meant to the Greeks.” What role did sports play in ancient Greece? Was there a distinction between amateur and professional sports? How did athletic competition reflect Greek society? Was there a difference between sports for the aristocracy and sports for the common folk? Sources: Judith Swaddling, The Ancient Olympic Games (1999); E. N. Gardiner, Athletics of the Ancient World (1930); M. I. Finley and H. W. Pleket, The Olympic Games: The First Thousand Years (1976); V. Olivova, Sports and Games in the Ancient World (1984); D. Sansone, Greek Athletics and the Genesis of Spoil (1988).

30. “Greek Ideas of Education: Their Impact on Modern Society.” What kind of education did the Greeks pursue? What constituted an educated man or woman? What Greek ideas continue to have an impact on educational systems in the West today? Sources: W. Jaeger, Paideia, 3 vols. (English translation, 1944–1945); E. B. Castle, Ancient Education and Today (1961); H. I. Marrou, A History of Education in Antiquity (1964).

0Using Primary Sources0


10. Have students read Book XXIII of Homer’s Iliad. Have students list the games in which the Greek warriors engaged. Then, have them draft a short paper in which they discuss the significance of these games for Greek society. What did the “playing” of the games mean to the Greeks? How did they commemorate the slain Patroclus?

20. Have students read and identify references to non-Greek cultures in Herodotus’s Histories. Discuss how the Greeks viewed “barbarian cultures” and the significance of the “free West/slave East” distinction Greeks made for later Western cultures, including our own.


00classroom 0Activities 00


I0. Classroom Discussion Suggestions

A0. Who was Homer? What is the evidence for his existence and authorship of the Iliad and the Odyssey?

B0. What are some of the major factors in the Greeks’ victory over the Persian Empire?

C0. What is the real significance of Athenian democracy? Was Athens democratic in the modern sense?

D0. Discuss what a day in the life of the polis might have been like.
II0. Doing History0

A0. Have students compare the schools of thought promoted by Greek historians Herodotus and Thucydides. Have them read excerpts from Herodotus and Thucydides in M. I. Finley, The Portable Greek Historians—The Essence of Herodotus, Thucydides, and Others (Viking edition, 1960); and H. E. Barnes, A History of Historical Writing (Dover edition, 1963).

B0. Have students read Book XXIII of the Iliad and list the sports played by the Greeks at the funeral games for Patroclus. According to Homer, what was this warrior society like in the thirteenth century b.c.?

C0. Students can be assigned term paper topics on women’s roles in Sparta and Athens. Which city-state provided the most opportunities and freedom for women? Sources: R. Just, Women in Athenian Law and Life (1988); D. M. Schaps, Economic Rights of Women in Ancient Greece (1984).

III0. Cooperative Learning Activities0

A0. Governing the Polis

Organize students into jigsaw teams (explained in Activity 1 in Chapter 2). Each team should be responsible for learning about a different Greek polis: 1) Athens, 2) Sparta, 3) Thebes, 4) Corinth, 5) Lesbos. Team members are responsible for learning how the polis was organized and governed and for teaching what they have learned to the other teams. One member of each team should list key points on the chalkboard, on an overhead transparency, or on a handout.

B0. Polis Sweet Polis

Using the jigsaw teams from Activity 1 above, have each group learn about the geography and culture of its polis. Then have teams write letters to other teams describing the life and culture of their particular polis. You may wish to allow a series of letter writing among the various polis and to have someone from each team read the letters aloud in class. This activity should encourage students to pay closer attention to geographical and cultural detail and stimulate them to focus on clear, descriptive writing.

0Map Activity0


10. Using an outline map of Greece and the eastern Mediterranean area, label the following places:

a0. Macedonia

b0. Mt. Olympus

c0. Epirus

d0. Thessaly

e0. Marathon

f0. Lesbos

g0. Troy


h0. Lydia

i0. Athens

j0. Sparta

k0. Corinth

l0. Thebes

m0. Pylos

n0. Crete

o0. Rhodes

p0. Aegean Sea

q0. Mediterranean Sea

r0. Ionian Sea

s0. Thrace

t0. Delos

20. Using Map 3.1 Ancient Greece as a reference, answer the following questions.

a0. How did geography shape the political development of ancient Greece?

b0. Describe the relationship between Greece and Persia. What advantages did each civilization have in their numerous military clashes?

c0. What role did geography play in the disparate development of Sparta and Athens?

0Audiovisual Bibliography0


10. Athens: The Golden Age. (30 min. Color. Encyclopedia Britannica Films.)

20. The Greek Myths: Myth as Fiction, History, and Ritual. (27 min. Color. Encyclopedia Britannica Films.)

30. The Greek Myths: Myth as Science, Religion, and Drama. (25 min. Color. Encyclopedia Britannica Films.)

40. The Trojan Women. (111 min. Color. Films for the Humanities and Sciences.)

50. Greek Epic. (40 min. Color. Films for the Humanities and Sciences.)

60. The Rise of Greek Tragedy—Sophocles: Oedipus the King. (45 min. Color. Films for the Humanities and Sciences.)

70. Aristophanes: Women in Power. (58 min. Color. Films for the Humanities and Sciences.)

80. Ancient Greeks. (CD-ROM, Films for the Humanities and Sciences, 1998.)

90. Ancient Greece. (VHS, Films for the Humanities and Sciences, 1996.)

100. The British Museum: Greece (http://www.ancientgreece.co.uk/)

110. The Parthenon (photos and 3D model) (www.greatbuildings.com/buildings/The_Parthenon.html)

Internet Resources0


10. The Ancient City of Athens (www.stoa.org/athens)

20. The Ancient Greek World (www.museum.upenn.edu/Greek_World/index2.html)

30. The Ancient Olympic Games Virtual Museum (minbar.cs.dartmouth.edu/greecom/olympics)

40. Cultural Map of Greece (http://www.culture.gr/war/index_en.jsp)

50. Mythology in Western Art (lib.haifa.ac.il/www/art/mythology_westart.html)

60. The Perseus Digital Library (www.perseus.tufts.edu)

70. The Last Days of Socrates (socrates.clarke.edu)

00001Suggested reading


Translations of the most important writings of the Greeks and Romans can be found in the volumes of the Loeb Classical Library published by Harvard University Press. Paperback editions of the major Greek and Latin authors are available in the Penguin Classics. Translations of documents include C. Fornara, Translated Documents of Greece and Rome, vol. 1 (1977), and P. Harding, vol. 2 (1985) and M.R. Lefkowitz and M.B. Fant, Women’s Life in Greece and Rome: A Sourcebook in Translation (1992).

Among the many general treatments of Greek history is H. Bengtson, History of Greece (English trans., 1988). J. Boardman et al produced between 1982 and 1994, the second edition of the Cambridge Ancient History, vols. 3 to 6, which covers all of classical Greek history. Although the work is written by many distinguished classical scholars, the delays in publication unfortunately make some of the contributions out-of-date. On the whole, however, the work is solid.

A number of books on early Greece are readily available, including O. Dickinson, The Aegean from Bronze Age to Iron Age (2006), which covers topics ranging from the structures and economics of communities to trade, exchange, and religion. T. Hados, Local Responses to Colonization in the Iron Age Mediterranean (2006), is a welcome treatment of native reactions to Phoenician and Greek settlements throughout the region. J.M. Hall, A History of the Archaic World (2007), discusses Archaic Greece through the literary and archaeological evidence. R. Drews, The End of the Bronze Age (1993), gives an excellent treatment of the fall of the Mycenaean kingdoms. R. Osborne, Greece in the Making (1996), is a general survey of developments from 1200 to 479 b.c. J. Boardman, The Greeks Overseas (2001), provides a masterful examination of Greek expansion into the Mediterranean. J. N. Coldstream, Geometric Greece, 2d ed. (2003), studies the evolution of Greek society from 900 to 700 b.c. I. Malkin, ed., Ancient Perceptions of Greek Ethnicity (2001), deals with how the Greeks and their neighbors defined themselves as a people. C. Morgan, Early Greek States Beyond the Polis (2003), demonstrates that Greek states went far beyond the concept of the polis. Her study is important for its exploration of conditions in central Greece and the northern Peloponnesus.

Some of the most original recent work on the development of the polis comes from H.M. Hansen, Polis (2006), the definitive book on the subject, nothing better on the topic. A. Burford, Land and Labor in the Greek World (1993), covers the entire topic of agriculture. M.N. and R. Higgins, A Geological Companion to Greece (1993), is the first modern study to link geology, archaeology, and patterns of ancient settlement. T. Amemiya, Economy of Ancient Greece (2007), examines the nature of the Greek economy in its broadest setting.

W. Burkert, The Orientalizing Revolution (1992), is a masterful discussion of Near Eastern influence on early Greek culture. A good survey of work on Sparta is P. Cartledge, Sparta and Lakonia (1979), and his The Spartans (2002) presents a general survey of Sparta’s role in Greek history. S. Hodkinson, Property and Wealth in Classical Sparta (2000), discusses the basic aspects of Spartan life and S. Pomeroy, Spartan Women (2002) focuses on women. The Athenian democracy and the society that produced it continue to attract scholarly attention. Interesting and important are M. Ostwald, From Popular Sovereignty to the Sovereignty of Law (1986); M. H. Hansen, The Athenian Assembly (1987); and J. Ober, Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens (1989). M. Ostwald, Oligarchia (2000), is the first new treatment of oligarchy in decades.

The history of the fifth century b.c. and the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War are treated in M. McGregor, The Athenians and Their Empire (1987); G. E. M. de Ste. Crois, The Origins of the Peloponnesian War (1972), despite its defects; A. Ferrill, The Origins of War (1985), chap. 4; and E. Badian, From Plataea to Potidaea (1993), a collection of essay on major aspects of the period.

The fourth century was one of the most fertile fields of late-twentieth-century research. P. Cartledge, Agesilaos and the Crisis of Sparta (1987), treats Sparta government and society in its period of greatness and collapse. J. Buckler, The Theban Hegemony, 371–362 b.c. (1980), examines the period of Theban ascendancy, and his Philip II and the Sacred War (1989) studies the ways in which Philip of Macedonia used Greek politics to his own ends. His broader study, Aegean Greece in the Fourth Century b.c. (2003), covers a previously unexplored period. Similarly, H. beck and J. Buckler, Central Greece and the Politics of Power in the Fourth Century b.c. (2007), not only questions the value of Athenocentricism but also emphasizes the significance of states elsewhere in Greece. J. Cargill, The Second Athenian League (1981), a significant study, trances Athenian policy during the fourth century. G. Cawkwell, Philip of Macedon (1978), analyzes the career of the great conqueror, and R. M. Errington, A History of Macedonia (English trans., 1990), is the best general treatment of the topic published in recent years. Last, see L. A. Tritle, ed., The Greek World in the Fourth Century (1997), a comprehensive but somewhat uneven collection of essays on the period, and P. Georges, Barbarian Asia and the Greek Experience (1994), which explores Greek responses to the native peoples of Asia Minor in the fifth and fourth centuries b.c.

Greek social life has received a great deal of attention constituting a theme of continuing interest among classical scholars. J. T. Roberts, Athens on Trial (1996), discusses how Athens, the pristine democracy, nurtured its own anti-democratic thought. C. B. Patterson, The Family in Greek History (2001), treats the public and private relations of the family, which were interconnected as does N. Demand, Birth, Death, and Motherhood in Classical Greece (1994). M. Golden, Children and Childhood in Ancient Athens (1993), studies a neglected topic. D. Cohen, Law, Sexuality, and Society (1992), discusses what the Athenians thought was proper moral behavior and how they tried to enforce it. J. J. Winkler, The Constraints of Desire (1989), examines the anthropology of sex and gender in ancient Greece. D. Sonsone, Greek Athletics and the Genesis of Sport (1988), which is well illustrated, provides a good and far-ranging treatment of what athletics meant to the classical Greek world. The topic of slavery is addressed in Y. Garlan, Slavery in Ancient Greece (1988), and in the more adventurous E. M. Wood, Peasant-Citizen and Slave (1988), which links the two groups to the founding of Athenian democracy.

For Greek literature, culture, and science, see A. Lesky’s classic History of Greek Literature (English trans., 1963), and F. Zeitlin, Playing the Other: Gender and Society in Classical Greek Literature (1996), and for drama, H. C. Baldry, The Greek Tragic Theater (1971). Still unsurpassed in Greek philosophy is J. Burnet, Greek Philosophy (1914). M. Clagett, Greek Science in Antiquity (1971), is the best place to start on this somewhat neglected topic. Relatively new work on Greek philosophy is presented in P. Kingsley, Ancient Philosophy (1996), which studies the effects of myth and magic on the development of Greek philosophy. A novel approach to the topics is J. K. Ward, ed., Feminism in Ancient Philosophy (1996). M. Ferejohn, The Origins of Aristotelian Science (1991), discusses earlier Greek scientific thought and Aristotle’s response to it. Two works explore medicine: M. D. Grmek, Diseases in the Ancient Greek World (1991), and J. Longrigg, Greek Rational Medicine (1993), which emphasizes the importance of Greek physicians who concentrated on natural causes of illness and their cure rather than on magic and religion.

Studies of Greek religion and myth include J. D. Mikalson, Athenian Popular Religion (reprint 1987), which opens a valuable avenue to the understanding of Greek popular religion in general. P. N. Hunt, ed., Encyclopedia of Classical Mystery Religions (1993), provides more than a thousand entries on mystery religions. It also discusses the later competition between them and Christianity. The classical book E. R. Dodds, The Greeks and the Irrational (1951), discusses a hitherto neglected side of intellectual history. In general, W. Burkert, Greek Religion (1987), gives a masterful survey of ancient religious beliefs. More recently he has explored the effects of biology on the evolution of Greek religion in Creation of the Sacred (1996). M. Dillon, Girls and Women in Classical Greek Religion (2002) examines gender issues. Last, K. Dowden, The Uses of Greek Mythology (1992), is a systematic study of the importance of mythology to Greek history, which explores its originality and its relation to Greek culture in general.



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