Classical Greece, 2000 B. C. 300 B. C

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Chapter 5

Classical Greece, 2000 B.C.–300 B.C.

The history and culture of classical Greece has a significant impact on the modern world.

Cultures of the Mountains and the Sea

Geography Shapes Greek Life

• Collection of separate lands where Greek-speaking people live

• Includes mainland and about 2,000 islands

The Sea

• The sea shapes Greek civilization

• Proximity to sea, lack of resources encourage sea travel and trade

The Land

• Mountains slow travel, divide land into regions

• Lack of fertile land leads to small populations, need for colonies

The Climate

• Moderate climate promotes outdoor life

• Greek men, especially, spend much of their time outside

Mycenaean Civilization Develops


• Mycenaeans—Indo-Europeans who settled on Greek mainland in 2000 B.C.

• Took their name from their leading city, Mycenae

• Mycenaean warrior-kings dominate Greece from 1600–1100 B.C.

Contact with Minoans

• After 1500 B.C., Mycenaeans adopt Minoan sea trade and culture

The Trojan War

• Trojan War—fought by Mycenaeans against city of Troy in 1200s B.C.

• Once thought to be fictional, archaeological evidence has been found

Greek Culture Declines Under the Dorians

Dorians Replace Mycenaeans

• Mycenaean civilization collapses around 1200 B.C.

• Dorians—possibly relatives of Bronze Age Greeks—move into Greece

• Less advanced than Mycenaeans, Dorians leave no written records

Epics of Homer

Oral tradition grows, especially epics of Homer—a blind storyteller

• Epic—a narrative poem about heroic deeds

• Homer’s epic the Iliad, about Trojan War, shows Greek heroic ideal

Greeks Create Myths

• Greeks develop their own myths—traditional stories about gods

• Greeks seek to understand mysteries of life through myths

• Greeks attribute human qualities—love, hate, jealousy—to their gods

• Zeus, ruler of Gods, lives on Mount Olympus with his wife, Hera

• Zeus’s daughter Athena is goddess of wisdom and guardian of cities

Rule and Order in Greek City-States

The City-State

• By 750 B.C. the Greek city-state, or polis, is the formal government

• A polis is a city and its surrounding villages; 50 to 500 square miles

• Population of a city-state is often less than 10,000

• Citizens gather in the marketplace and acropolis—a fortified hilltop

Greek Political Structures

• City-states have different forms of government

• Monarchy—rule by a king; aristocracy—rule by nobility

• Oligarchy—rule by small group of powerful merchants and artisans

Tyrants Seize Power

• Rulers and common people clash in many city-states

• Tyrants—nobles and wealthy citizens win support of common people

• They seize control and rule in the interests of ordinary people
Athens Builds a Limited Democracy

Building Democracy

• About 621 B.C., democracy—rule by the people—develops in Athens

• Nobleman, Draco, develops legal code based on equality of citizens

• Ruler Solon abolishes debt slavery; Cleisthenes has citizens make laws

• Only native-born, property-owning males are citizens

Athenian Education

• Schooling only for sons of wealthy families

• Girls learn from mothers and other female members of household
Sparta Builds a Military State

A Unique City-State

• Sparta, isolated from much of Greece, builds military state

Sparta Dominates Messenians

• Around 725 B.C., Sparta conquers Messenia

• Messenians become helots—peasants forced to farm the land

• Harsh rule leads to Messenian revolt; Spartans build stronger state

Sparta’s Government and Society

• Sparta government has four branches; citizens elect officials

• Three social classes: citizens, free noncitizens, helots—slaves

Spartan Daily Life

• Spartan values: duty, strength, individuality, discipline over freedom

• Sparta has the most powerful army in Greece

• Males move into barracks at age 7, train until 30, serve until 60

• Girls receive some military training and live hardy lives

• Girls also taught to value service to Sparta above all else

The Persian Wars

A New Kind of Army Emerges

• Cheaper iron replaces bronze, making arms and armor cheaper

• Leads to new kind of army; includes soldiers from all classes

• Phalanx—feared by all, formation of soldiers with spears, shields

Battle at Marathon

• Persian Wars—between Greece and Persian Empire—begin in Ionia

• Persian army attacks Athens, is defeated at Marathon in 490 B.C.

Pheidippides Brings News

• Runner Pheidippides races to Athens to announce Greek victory

Thermopylae and Salamis

• In 480 B.C., Persians launch new invasion of Greece

• Greeks are divided; many stay neutral or side with Persians

• Greek forces hold Thermopylae for three days before retreating

• Athenians defeat Persians at sea, near island of Salamis

• Victories at Salamis and Plataea force Persian retreat

• Many city-states form Delian League and continue to fight Persians

Consequences of the Persian Wars

• New self-confidence in Greece due to victory

• Athens emerges as leader of Delian League

• Athens controls the league by using force against opponents

• League members essentially become provinces of Athenian empire

• Stage is set for a dazzling burst of creativity in Athens

Democracy and Greece’s Golden Age

Pericles’ Plan for Athens

Pericles as Leader

• Skillful politician, inspiring speaker, respected general

• Dominates life in Athens from 461 to 429 B.C.

Stronger Democracy

• Pericles hires more public officials; creates direct democracy

• Direct democracy—citizens rule directly, not through representatives

Athenian Empire

• Takes over Delian League; uses money to strengthen Athenian fleet

• Sparta and other cities resent Athenian power

Glorifying Athens

• Pericles buys gold, ivory, marble; hires artisans to beautify Athens
Glorious Art and Architecture

Architecture and Sculpture

• Pericles builds the Parthenon—a large temple to honor goddess Athena

• Within temple, sculptor Phidias crafts 30-foot statue of Athena

Sculptors create graceful, strong, perfectly formed figures

• Classical art—values harmony, order, balance, proportion, beauty

Drama and History

Tragedy and Comedy

• Greeks invent drama as an art form; includes chorus, dance, poetry

• Two forms of drama: tragedy and comedy

• Tragedy—tells story of heroes’ downfall; themes of love, hate, war

• Comedy—makes fun of politics and respected people; slapstick humor

• Greek dramatists include Aeschylus, Euripides, Aristophanes


• Historians Herodotus and Thucydides record and study past events
Athenians and Spartans Go to War

War Begins

• 431 B.C. city-states Sparta and Athens at war—Peloponnesian War

Peloponnesian War

• Sparta has better army, Athens has better navy

• Plague strikes Athens in 430 B.C., kills many—including Pericles

• Sparta and Athens sign truce in 421 B.C.

Sparta Gains Victory

• 415 B.C. Athens renews war, attacks Syracruse; is defeated in 413 B.C.

• Athens and allies surrender to Sparta in 404 B.C.

Philosophers Search for Truth

Rise of Great Philosophers

• After the war, rise of philosophers—thinkers, "lovers of wisdom"

• Believe universe is subject to absolute and unchanging laws

• People could understand these laws through logic, reason

• Sophist philosopher Protagoras questions the existence of Greek gods


• Socrates—believes in questioning, self-examination of values, actions

• Convicted of corrupting young people; sentenced to death in 399 B.C.


• Plato—student of Socrates; writes The Republic—an ideal society

• In 387 B.C., establishes Athens school, the Academy; lasts 900 years

• His writings dominate European philosophy for 1,500 years


• Aristotle—student of Plato; uses rules of logic for argument

• His work provides the basis for scientific method, still used today

• Tutors 13-year-old prince who becomes Alexander the Great

Alexander’s Empire

Philip Builds Macedonian Power


• Macedonia—kingdom of mountain villages north of Greece

• King Philip II—ruler, brilliant general; dreams of controlling Greece

• Macedonians call themselves Greek; rest of Greece does not

Philip’s Army

• Philip creates well-trained professional army; plans to invade Greece

Conquest of Greece

• 338 B.C. Macedonians defeat Greece; 336 B.C. King Philip murdered

• His son named king of Macedonia—becomes Alexander the Great

Alexander Defeats Persia

Alexander’s Early Life

• Tutored by Aristotle; inspired by the Iliad; has military training

• Becomes king when 20 years old; destroys Thebes to curb rebellion

Invasion of Persia

• 334 B.C. Alexander invades Persia; quick victory at Granicus River

• Darius III—king of Persia, assembles army of 50,000–75,000 men

• Alexander defeats Persians again, forces King of Persia to flee

Conquering the Persian Empire

• Alexander marches into Egypt, crowned pharaoh in 332 B.C.

• At Gaugamela in Mesopotamia, Alexander defeats Persians again

• Alexander captures cities of Babylon, Susa, and Persepolis

• Persepolis, the Persian capital, burned to the ground

• Ashes of Persepolis signal total destruction of Persian Empire

Alexander’s Other Conquests

Alexander in India

• Alexander fights his way across the deserts of Central Asia to India

• Alexander conquers Indus Valley area in 326 B.C.

• Reluctantly returns to Babylon, dies in 323 B.C.

Alexander’s Legacy

• Alexander melds Greek and Persian cultures; wife is Persian

• Empire becomes three kingdoms: (1) Macedonia, Greek city-states;

• (2) Egypt; (3) old Persia, also known as Seleucid kingdom

The Spread of Hellenistic Culture

The Spread of Hellenistic Culture

Hellenistic Culture in Alexandria

• Result of Alexander’s policies—a new vibrant culture

• Hellenistic culture—Greek blended with Egyptian, Persian, Indian

Trade and Cultural Diversity

• Alexandria—Egyptian city becomes center of Hellenistic civilization

Alexandria’s Attractions

• Lighthouse, called the Pharos, stands over 350 feet tall

• Museum contains art galleries, a zoo, botanical gardens, dining hall

• Library holds masterpieces of ancient literature; supports scholars

Science and Technology

Alexandria’s Scholars

• Scholars preserve Greek and Egyptian learning in the sciences


• Astronomer Aristarchus proves sun is larger than Earth

• Proposes planets revolve around sun; not accepted for 14 centuries

• Eratosthenes uses geometry to calculate Earth’s circumference

Mathematics and Physics

• Euclid—mathematician; Elements the basis for courses in geometry

• Archimedes—scientist; ideas help build force pump and steam engine

Philosophy and Art

Stoicism and Epicureanism

• Zeno founds Stoic school; promoted virtuous, simple lives

• Epicurus believes people should focus on what senses perceive

Realism in Sculpture

• Colossus of Rhodes—Hellenistic bronze sculpture over 100 feet tall

• Sculptors move to non-classical, natural forms; real people

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