Philosophy: comes from the Greek word for “love of wisdom.” Greek philosophy led to the study of history, political science, science, and mathematics. Philosophers

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Greek Philosophers

Philosophy: comes from the Greek word for “love of wisdom.” Greek philosophy led to the study of history, political science, science, and mathematics.

Philosophers: Greek thinkers who believe the human mind could understand everything.

There were many philosophers. A Greek philosopher named Pythagoras taught his pupils that the universe followed the same laws that governed music and numbers. He believed that all relationships in the world could be expressed in numbers and developed many ideas about mathematics.

Pythagoras developed the Pythagorean theory used in geometry.

Sophists were professional teachers in ancient Greece. They traveled from city to city teaching others. They taught how to win an argument and make good political speeches.

Sophists did not believe in gods and goddesses and rejected the idea of absolute right and wrong. They also believed what is right for one could be wrong for another.


Socrates was an Athenian sculptor whose true love was philosophy. He was a critic of the Sophists. Socrates left no writings behind. Everything we know about Socrates was learned from his students.

Socrates believed that absolute truth existed and that all real knowledge was within each person.

Socratic Method: Asking pointed questions to force his pupils to used their reason and to see things for themselves.

Athenian leaders considered Socratic method a threat to their power. At one time there was open debate in Athens, but the Athenian leaders did not trust open debate after their defeat in the Peloponnesian War.

In 399 B.C., leaders accused Socrates of teaching young Athenians to rebel against the state. A jury found him guilty and sentenced him to death.

Socrates could have fled the city but instead argued that he had to obey the city’s law and drank poison to carry out the jury’s sentence.


Plato: was one of Socrates’ students. Historians were able to learn a great deal from the writings of Plato.

Republic: a work written by Plato. It explained his ideas about government. He stated that democracy was not a good system of government and did not think that rule of the people produced fair or sensible policies. Plato believed that people could not live good lives unless they had a just and reasonable government.

In the Republic, Plato described his ideal government. He divided people into three groups

1. Philosopher-kings who ruled with logic and wisdom

2. Warriors—they defended the state from attack

3. Everyone else—driven by desire, not by wisdom. They produced the states food, clothing, and shelter. Plato also believed men and women should have the same education and an equal chance to have the same job.


Plato established a school in Athens known as the Academy. The best student in the Academy was named Aristotle

Aristotle: wrote more than 200 books on topics ranging from government to the planets and stars.

In 335 B.C., Aristotle opened his own school called Lyceum. He taught his pupils the “golden mean.” This idea holds that a person should do nothing in excess. For example, a person should not eat too little or too much but just enough to stay well.

Aristotle advanced in science and urged people to use their senses to make observations, just as scientist do today. Aristotle was the first person to group observations according to similarities and differences and then made generalizations based on the facts.

Aristotle studied 158 forms of government to come up with the best form in the book Politics. Divided government into three types:

1. Government by one person: king or queen or tyrant

2. Government by few people: aristocracy or oligarchy

3. Government by many people: Democracy

Aristotle’s ideas shaped the way Europeans and Americans thought about government. The founders of the United States Constitution tried to create a mixed government based on Aristotle’s ideas.

Greek Historians

In most ancient societies the people did not write down the history. Myths and legends explained their past and culture.

In 435 B.C., Herodotus wrote the History of the Persian Wars. Herodotus tried to separate fact from fiction. He asked questions, recorded answers, and checked the truthfulness of his sources. He uses gods and goddesses to explain events.

Western historians consider him the “father of history.”

Thucydides fought in the Peloponnesian War. After he lost a battle, he was sent into exile. He then wrote History of the Peloponnesian War.

Thucydides saw war and politics as the activities of human beings, not gods. He also stressed the importance of having accurate facts.

Quote: “Either I was present myself at the events which I have described or else I heard of them from eyewitnesses whose reports I have checked with as much thoroughness as possible.”


Many historians describe Thucydides the greatest historian of the ancient world.

Macedonia Attacks Greece

Macedonia lays to the north of Greece. They raised sheep, horses and grew crops in the river valleys. They were a warrior people who fought on horseback. The Greeks looked down on them, but they were a powerful kingdom in 400 B.C.

In 359 B.C., Philip II became the king. He admired the Greeks: their art, ideas and armies. He wanted to have a strong empire in order to defeat the Persian Empire.

Philip trained his army to fight like the Greeks and took over the Greek city-states one by one. Some united with his kingdom.

Demosthenes was a lawyer and an Athenian public speaker. Gave powerful speeches that warned the Athenians that Philip was a threat to the Greeks and urged them to unite against Macedonia.

The Greeks were weak and divided and in 338 B.C. the Macedonians crushed the Greek allies at the Battle of Chaeronea near Thebes. Philip now controlled most of Greece.

Greek Philosphers




Greek Historians


Greek Philosophy and History

Greek Philosophers
1. What does the Greek word Philosophy mean and what studies did it lead too?

2. What is the definition of Philosophers?

3. What did Pythagoras teach his pupils? What did he believe in?

4. What theory did Pythagoras come up with?

5. What are Sophists? What did they teach?

1. Who was Socrates and what did he believe in?

2. What is the Socratic Method?

3. What did Athenian leaders accuse Socrates of doing?

4. What was his punishment and how did Socrates do to carry out his sentence?

1. Who was Plato?

2. What did Plato’s book the Republic explain?

3. Why did Plato think democracy was not a good form of government?

4. What are the three groups of Plato’s ideal government and describe them?

1. What school did Plato establish?

2. Describe Aristotle and the “golden mean”.

3. What was Aristotle the first to do in grouping?

4. In the book Politics, describe the three types of governments mentioned. Who used the Aristotle’s ideas on government?

Greek Historians
1. What book did Herodotus write and in what year?

2. How did Herodotus explain events and what is his nickname by Western Historians?

3. Describe Thucydides. What book did he write? What did historians consider him?

4. How does Thucydides differ Herodotus when explain the events in his book History of the Peloponnesian War?

1. Describe the Macedonians. How did they live, fight, and how did the Greeks think of them?

2. What did Philip II admire about the Greeks?

3. Who was Demosthenes and what did he do to warn the Greeks of Macedonia?

4. Why did the Greeks lose the Battle of Chaeronea?

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