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SS.6.G.4.1. The Golden Age of Athens. Athens’ Golden Age. From about 479-431 B.C.E., Athens experienced a period of great peace and wealth. The threat from Persia was over, and Athens became the artistic and cultural center of Greece.

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The Golden Age of Athens

athens golden age
Athens’ Golden Age
  • From about 479-431 B.C.E., Athens experienced a period of great peace and wealth.
  • The threat from Persia was over, and Athens became the artistic and cultural center of Greece.
  • Educated citizens would help to create new advances in architecture, sculpture, drama, philosophy, and sports.
a city of contrasts
A City of Contrasts
  • Even though the public places in Athens were beautiful and impressive, the people of Athens lived in small, uncomfortable houses that lined narrow streets.
  • People threw their garbage into the streets, so neighborhoods often smelled bad.
  • Even the homes of the rich were plain and often uncomfortable.
the pride of athens
The Pride of Athens
  • To the Athenians, city life was much more important than private life, so their public places were the real pride of the city.
  • On the acropolis, the hill above the city, the Athenians built magnificent temples which were believed to serve as homes for the gods and goddesses.
  • The most famous temple was the Parthenon, built to honor Athena.
the temple at delphi
The Temple at Delphi
  • Another famous temple was located in Delphi and dedicated to the god Apollo.
  • Here, people could ask Apollo questions through a priestess called the oracle.
  • To answer a question, she would go into a trance, and the words she spoke were thought to come from Apollo himself.
  • Temples were built with rows of tall columns.
  • The Greeks used 3 kinds of columns.
  • Doric: the simplest, no base, slimmer toward the top
  • Ionic: thinner, sat on a base, spirals carved into the top
  • Corinthian: most complex, usually had carvings of leaves at the top
  • Creating lifelike statues was one of the greatest achievements of Greek sculptors.
  • Figures held natural poses with much more detailed muscles, hair, and clothing than in earlier Greek or Egyptian sculptures.
  • Greek sculptures were colorful with bronze, wax, or bright paint used to accent hair, lips, and clothes.
  • The colors on surviving statues, of course, have faded.
  • Going to the theater was a regular part of Athenian life.
  • Plays were staged in open-air theaters built into the side of a hill.
  • The theater was shaped like a bowl, and seats rose in a semicircle around the stage at the bottom so everyone could hear and see.
  • The Athenians even had contests for best playwrights and actors, although only men were allowed to perform on stage.
  • The ancient Athenians loved to talk and argue, especially about things they couldn’t see such as the meaning of life, justice, truth, and beauty.
  • They called this kind of thinking philosophy, which means “the love of wisdom.”
  • One of the greatest philosophers in Athens was Socrates who always encouraged people to question the things they thought they knew.
  • He taught others by asking them questions that forced them to think about their beliefs.
  • Socrates once said he was the wisest man in Greece because he knew that he did not know anything!
trouble for socrates
Trouble for Socrates
  • Many disagreed with Socrates’ methods saying he led young people to disobey their elders by questioning their beliefs.
  • In 399 B.C.E., Socrates stood trial and was found guilty of crimes against Athens.
  • Although his friends urged him to escape, Socrates said he would honor the law and drank the poison hemlock.
  • His message continued, though, with his most famous student, Plato, who would later teach another great philosopher, Aristotle.
athens athletes get it
Athens…Athletes…Get it??
  • The Greeks’ interest in philosophy shows how much they valued the mind, but their love of sports shows that they also prized a healthy body.
  • The Greeks often held athletic events to honor gods and goddesses.
  • To Athenians, the most important of these competitions was the Panathenaea which honored Athena.
  • The most famous throughout Greece, though, were the Olympics, a set of games played every 4 years at Olympia to honor Zeus.
  • These games were so important, the Greeks would call a truce from all wars so that athletes could travel safely to the games.