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The Civilization of the G reeks. 431 BCE: Period of Warring States in China and beginning of Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta Pericles Funeral Oration: democracy and importance of the individual

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431 BCE: Period of Warring States in China and beginning of Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta

Pericles Funeral Oration: democracy and importance of the individual

Greeks questioned the world around them and created system of logical, analytical thought to examine

8th c BCE city-state (polis) emerged

Classical era= 5th c. BCE

Ultimately defeated by Philip II of Macedonia, but Greek culture continued to spread by Alexander the Great

(Hellenic “Greek” vs. Hellenistic “Greek-like” culture)

early greece
Mountainous terrain/ limited arable land: couldn’t unify- rise of independent city-states

Mediterranean Sea was Key

Sparta on Peloponnesus

Athens on Attica Peninsula

Early Greece
minoan crete

earliest civilization in Aegean region on island of Crete around 2800 BCE

  • Palace at Knossos- sea empire
  • Contact with Egypt: evidence in trade
  • Height between 2000 and 1450 BCE
  • Palace had bathrooms with drains!
  • Bull-vaulting
  • Around 1450BCE sudden and catastrophic collapse- cause still debated: perhaps an invasion by the Mycenaeans?
Minoan Crete
first greek state mycenae

Greek civilization that flourished between 1600 and 1100BCE

  • Key city= Thebes
  • Epic poetry of Homer- did Mycenaean Greeks, led by Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, sack the city of Troy c. 1250BCE?
  • Was Troy a vassal of the Hittites?
  • Decline due to invasion
First GREEK State- Mycenae
the greeks in a dark age c 1100 750bce

Declining population and failing food production

  • Large number of Greeks migrated to other places, including SW shore of Asia Minor “Ionia”
  • Iron replaced bronze in weapons= more affordable and prevalent
  • 8th c. BCE: Greeks adopted Phoenecian alphabet

Homer – Iliad and Odyssey

The Greeks in a Dark Age (c. 1100-750BCE)

Homer and Homeric Greece

  • Iliad and Odyssey based on oral tradition
  • Gave Greeks an idealized past
  • Iliad: poem of Trjoan War- sparked by Paris, a prince of Troy, kidnapping Helen, wife of King of Sparta. Spartan king’s brother, Agamemnon of Mycenae Greeks attacked Troy
  • Helen was “The Face which launched a thousand ships.”
  • Tale of Greek hero Achilles “Achilles heel”
  • Odyssey: Epic Romance- journeys of Greek hero, Odysseus, from fall of Troy until reunited with his wife Penelope, 20 years later
  • Values of aristocratic heroes
  • Homer’s Enduring Importance
  • Gave Greeks a common and idealized past
  • Arete: excellence befitting a hero…won in a struggle or a contest
  • Popularity of Homer’s epics as educational tools: memorization
  • Homer’s Ideal of Excellence: The Iliad “Fate is a thing that no man born of woman, coward, or hero can escape.”
the greek city states c 750 c 500 bce

The Greek City States (c. 750-c. 500 BCE)

What were the chief features of the polis, or city – state, and how did Athens and Sparta differ?

the polis

Plural poleis

  • Small, autonomous political unity…consisted of city and its surrounding countryside
  • Acropolis: fortified hill
  • Agora: open marketplace (agoraphobia: fear of crowds)
  • Polis: community of citizens in which all political, economic, social, cultural, and religious activities were focused.
  • Citizens with political rights (free adult males), citizens with no political rights (women and children, and noncitizens (slaves and resident aliens)
The Polis
greek way of war

Colonization and Trade

  • New military order based on hoplites: heavily armed infantrymen who wore bronze or leather helmets, breastplates, and greaves (shin guards)…round shield, short sward, and thrusting spear about 9 feet long
  • Battle formation= phalanx…safety of which depended on the solidarity and discipline of its members
  • War was an integral part of the Greek way of life
  • Excellent weapons and body armor, wide number of citizen-soldiers (rather than mercenaries), use of heavy infantry
  • Between 750 to 550BCE large numbers of Greeks left to settle in distant lands due to the growing gulf between rich and poor, overpopulation, and the development of trade.
  • New Greek settlements: coastline of southern Italy, southern France, eastern Spain, and northern Africa, west of Egypt…city of Byzantium in the north…fostered greater sense of Greek identity
  • Colonization also led to increased trade and industry…new wealthy class to compete with aristocrats
Greek Way of War

Tyranny in the Greek PolisGreek tyrants came to power in an unconstitutional way (usurpers of power)…support for tyrants mostly came from new rich and poorOligarchies “rule by small group of wealthy people”Common transition of power in Athens: monarchy-oligarchy-tyranny-democracy


located in the southeastern Peloponnesus

  • Spartans conquered the Laconians and Messenians and reduced them to serfdom…known as HELOTS- forced to work for Spartans…created military state to control the helots

The New Sparta 800-600BCE

  • Lycurgan Reforms: in Sparta to maintain control over the conquered Messenians
  • Spartan’s lives were rigidly organized and controlled
  • Spartan= highly self-disciplined (ex: Spartan lifestyle)
  • Boys moved to military barracks at 7…could marry at 20…could live at home at 30…could visit home, but not get caught
  • Military life: “come back with your shield, or on top of it…”
  • Spartan women had greater rights/freedom…marry later, exercise
  • The Spartan State
  • Government organized as an oligarchy
  • 2 kings, led army, shared power with the gerousia, (council of elders)
  • apella= assembly of all male citizens
  • Isolationist
  • Philosophy discouraged, focus on war
  • By 500 BCE: Sparta dominated the Peloponnesian League

Government in Athens: Monarchy to Oligarchy to Tyranny to Democracy

  • Disparity between rich and poor, some Athenian farmers were being sold into slavery if they couldn’t pay debts by their aristocratic neighbors

The Reforms of Solon

  • Solon= reform-minded aristocrat as sole archon in 594BCE w/ full power to make changes…Solon canceled all land debts, no human collateral, and freed slaves from debts…did not redistribute the land
  • Pisistratus seized power in 560BCE as a tyrant (usurper of power)
the birth of democracy

The Reforms of Cleisthenes

  • Created the Council of 500, chosen by lot by the ten tribes in which all citizens had been enrolled…administration of both foreign and financial affairs
  • Assembly of all male citizens had final say
  • Reforms of Cleisthenes created the foundation for Athenian democracy
  • Democracy= demos, “people”, kratia, “power”
The Birth of Democracy

Foreign Influence on Early Greek Culture

  • Cultural diffusion between the Greeks and the older civilizations of the Near East and Egypt
  • Ex: multiple gods and goddesses and the story of a flood from Mesopotamia
  • Kouros statues= example of diffusion between Egypt and Greece
  • Greeks adopted the Phoenician alphabet, but added vowels…Greek was a truly phonetic alphabet, easier to read and use

Greeks versus Persians, Greeks saw the struggle with the Persians was a contest between freedom and slavery

  • Ionian Greek cities in Asia Minor were subjects of the Persians
  • Unsuccessful Ionian revolt, aided by Athenian navy, led to Persian ruler Darius to seek revenge by attacking mainland Greeks
  • 490BCE Persians defeated by Athenians at Marathon
  • Xerxes succeeded Darius
  • Greek Trireme= standard warship of ancient Greece…especially effective at ramming enemy ships
  • Xerxes led an invasion of Greece…Greeks tried to delay the Persians at the pass of Thermopylae…Greek force led by Spartan King Leonidas and 300 Spartans held pass for 2 days…then a traitor showed the Persians a pass to outflank the Greeks…Spartans fought to the last man
  • Athenians abandoned their city and Persians burned it
  • Defeat of the Persians with use of the navy at Salamis
athenian empire in the age of pericles

The Growth of an Athenian Empire in the Age of Pericles

  • Formation of the Delian League, led by Athens…city-states had to pay tribute, Athens controlled the treasury
  • Age of Pericles, 461-431 BCE, height of Athenian power and the culmination of its brilliance as a civilization
  • Magistrates chosen by lot, many male citizens got the chance to serve during their lifetime
  • Strategoi: board of 10 officials elected by public vote to guide affairs of the state
  • Lower-class citizens were now eligible for public offices with state pay for officeholders
  • However, aristocrats still held most important offices
  • Pericles used the treasury money of the Delian League to rebuild Athens, for example: the Parthenon
  • Sparta accused Athens of mismanaging Delian League funds
Athenian Empire in the age of Pericles

The Great Peloponnesian War and the Decline of the Greek States

  • Sparta vs. Athens
  • 431BCE outbreak of war
  • Athenians wanted to rely on their walls and their navy, Spartans wanted to rely on their army
  • Plague broke out in Athens, losing 1/3 of population, including Pericles
  • 404BCE Athens was defeated by Sparta, and was forced to tear down the walls of their city
  • Ultimately weakened the Greek City-states, next 70 years Athens, Sparta, and Thebes jockeyed for position, oblivious to growing threat of Macedonia to the north.
Greek Culture

The Arts

Classical style- reason, moderation, symmetry, balance, and harmony in all things

Parthenon: ideal classical style


Philosophy= Greek word meaning “Love of Wisdom”

Sophists: group of philosophers in the 5th century BCE – believed in relative truth and that understanding the universe was beyond the reach of the human mind…importance of rhetoric…”true wisdom consisted of being able to perceive and pursue one’s own good”

Socrates: believed in absolute truth…Socratic Method…believed all knowledge is within each person, only critical examination was needed to call it forth…sentenced to death for corrupting the youth

3 orders of columns: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian

  • Athens was the center of culture
  • The Writing of History
  • Herodotus – Persian Wars
  • Thucydides- Peloponnesian War


  • First Greek dramas were tragedies with all parts played by men.
  • Aeschylus: first tragedia
  • Sophocles: most famous work= Oedipus Rex (or Oedipus the King)…man is destined to kill his father and marry his mother
  • Euripedes: questioned traditional moral and religious values
  • Common theme: humans are free but can only operate within limitations imposed by the gods
  • Comedies came later: Aristophanes= famous comedian with Lysistrata and The Clouds

Plato: student of Socrates…how do we know what is real? The objects that we perceive with our senses are simply reflections of the ideal Forms.

  • Plato’s government ideas- book: The Republic…rule by “philosopher-kings”…established school in Athens called The Academy…believed men and women should have the same education and equal access to all positions
  • Aristotle: student of Plato, teacher to Alexander the Great. Analyzing and classifying things based on thorough research and investigation
  • Aristotle’s book on government: Politics…3 good forms of government: monarchy, aristocracy, and constitutional government…believed women were biologically inferior to men
  • Aristotle
  • Socrates
  • Plato

Religion was integral to Greek society

  • Public festivals important…civic cult necessary for the well-being of the state…multiple gods/ goddesses
  • Axial Age: between 700 and 300 BCE: development of ideas or “axes” that remained the basis for religions and philosophies for hundreds of years: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Zoroaster, Hebrews, Confucianism, Daoism, Hinduism, Buddhism
  • Polytheistic, 12 chief gods who lived on Mt. Olympus
  • Zeus, Hera, Athena, Apollo, Aphrodite, Poseidon
  • Rituals and sacrifice
  • Olympic games originated to honor Zeus
  • Oracles as interpreters of the gods

Life in Classical Athens

  • Polis was a male community, women, slaves, and foreign residents of Athens were excluded (about 85% of total pop.)
  • Slavery was pervasive
  • Economy and Lifestyle
  • Athenian economy was based on agriculture and trade
  • Lack of arable land…Athens had to import 50 to 80% of its grain, therefore trade was very important
  • Olive oil
  • Family and Relationships
  • Family was central institution in ancient Athens
  • Women’s primary role was to bear children, especially boys
  • Athenian women married at 14 or 15…Spartan women later 18 to 20
  • Male homosexuality was a prominent feature of Athenian life.