Periods of Greek History



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Periods of Greek History:



Bronze Age: 3000-1100 BC

Use of copper and bronze tools and weapons. Mycenian kingdoms and the world of Homer.



Dark ages (or Iron Age): 1100-700 BC

No writing but high quality Geometric art. Iron becomes widely available


Archaic Period: 700-500 BC


The era of lyric poetry (Sappho, Archilochos, Pindar et al.), the fall of aristocracy and the rise of tyrants.

Classical Period: 500-323 BC

Both Greece and Achaemenid Persia reach their peak and come into conflict. By the end of the period Persia has been subdued, and a vast Greek empire has been created.



Hellenistic Period: 323-146 BC

The kingdoms of the successors of Alexander. The rise of Rome and final subjugation of the Greek world to Rome.


Republican Period: 146-31 BC


The period when Greece is part of the Roman Republic

Imperial Era: 31 BC-330 AD


Greece as part of the Roman Empire

Byzantine Period: 330 –1453 AD


A Greek speaking, Christian empire is given the name Byzantium by later scholars. This long-lived unit is separated into periods according to the dynasties which ruled it.

The Ottoman period: 1453-1821 AD


The Greek world is under Ottoman rule

The Modern Period: 1821-today
The Greek cities in the archaic period:
The Archaic period politically is characterized by the waning rule of the aristocracy. The Greek states were generally ruled by an elite of birth and wealth. However, social unrest is created by the power abuses of the aristocracy, the economic problems created through the concentration of wealth in a few hands and increasing poor populations, and the new challenges of an ever changing world. Laws are introduced in many Greek states for the first time, in an attempt to redress the extremes of aristocratic rule and calm the spirits. These often are not far-reaching enough to deal with the source of the problem. Tyrants (dictators) take advantage of the popular unrest in several city states and seize control from the aristocracy. Greek Lyric poetry has encapsulated the restless spirit of the time.
Two examples of Archaic cities:
Sparta Athens

The Spartan Constitution in the 7th C. BC The Athenian Constitution in the 7th c. BC
2 kings 9 archons

influential but powerless in Sparta Extensive executive responsibilities

Absolute power outside Sparta as (Social policy, religion, judicial system)

leaders of the army


5 ephors

The most powerful body in Sparta


gerousia Areopagos Council

Legal Responsibilities Legal Responsibilities, extensive power


Assembly (Apella) Assembly

Very limited powers Very limited powers


In the archaic period both Athens and Sparta have similar constitutions. However, while the Athenian constitution constantly evolves to meet the changing needs of an ever growing state, the Spartan constitution stands still and inflexible through the centuries. Ancient authors often praise the stability of the Spartan system and criticize the constant changes in the Athenian system, but in reality, this inflexibility proves to be the downfall of Sparta.
The evolution towards the Classical Period
In Athens the tyrant Peisistratos enfranchises all free Athenian born males and makes them citizens, regardless of land ownership, wealth or social status. Kleisthenes takes it one step further and introduces the Moderate Democracy in 509. The archons lose some of their power which goes to the Assembly, and the Assembly becomes the sovereign body. However, the highest offices of the state are still closed to the lower classes. They can elect people for these offices but not be elected.

A further reform in 462 by Ephialtes removes the last vestiges of the aristocratic state, strips the Areopagos of its powers to oversee the state and interfere at will into public matters, and opens all offices to all Athenians. Now every citizen has an equal right of speech (isegoria), and treatment before the law (isonomia). Scholars call this final phase in the evolution of the democratic constitution 'The Radical Democracy'.


In Sparta very little changes throughout the classical period. The reverence towards the laws of Sparta, beaten into its citizens from a very young age, is far stronger than any practical considerations. By the beginning of the 4th century, when Spartan power reaches its peak, the Archaic system of Sparta looks really archaic, like an anomaly in time, and eventually proves to be a great impediment. Citizenship remains tied to land ownership, and citizens who cannot afford to pay their way lose their status as fully enfranchised Spartan citizens and become inferiors (hypomeiones). Over time this results to a low birth rate and reduction of the citizen body. By the middle of the 4th century this demographic problem becomes critical. Sparta still refuses to change its constitution, and fades into insignificance.

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