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I. Early Greece
A. Geography
i. very little farmland compared to the Mesopotamians or Egyptians
ii. much of it is rocky and mountainous, with some plains and coastal regions
a) Greek cities developed in isolation
• as a result they prized independence, even from other Greeks
iii. access to the sea promoted sea travel and trade
a) this was further promoted by a lack of natural resources
B. Minoans
i. earliest civilization to develop in the Mediterranean 2800-1450 BCE
ii. not considered Greek, but had customs that influenced the Greeks
iii. natural disasters and invasion by early Greeks led to their destruction
C. Mycenae
i. earliest Greek city-state 1600-1100 BCE
ii. originally related to the same Indo-Europeans that spread across Middle East and India
iii. established trade, especially on water
a) this led to conflict with the Minoans, who they later destroyed
iv. Troy
a) the most famous conquest of the Mycenaeans
• recorded by Homer in the Iliad
b) Troy was the most powerful trade city in the Aegean Sea
• attacked by Greeks (city-states conquered by Mycenaeans) led by Agamemnon
• war lasted about 10 years (mostly as siege)
c) ruins of Troy were discovered by Frank Calvert and excavated by Heinrich
v. Mycenae was destroyed in 1190, and by 1100 had basically collapsed
II. Dark Age of Greece
A. with collapse of Mycenaean Civilization, farming techniques and sea trade declined
i. leads to a decline in population
B. regions of Greece came under rule from a few cities
i. Aeolian Greeks in the north and central Greece
ii. Ionian Greeks on islands in the Aegean and western Anatolia (Asia Minor)
iii. Dorian Greeks in southwest (Peloponnesus) and some islands, like Crete and Rhodes
C. under these various rules, Greece made some revival of trade and some began using iron
i. lost the ability to read and write, but then learned and adapted the Phoenician alphabet to
begin writing again
ii. kept oral traditions and told stories of great battles (like Troy) and of the gods
D. Homer
i. Homer is the greatest of the early epic poets
ii. used oral traditions and wrote the stories down in the Iliad
a) combines the battle waged in Troy on earth and the battle between the gods
• many times the gods interfered in the affairs of man
b) Paris stole Helen, wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta
• Menelaus' brother, Agamemnon, led the Greeks to Troy to get her back
• story follows the Greek heroes, especially Achilles, the greatest fighter of the
iii. later wrote the Odyssey, his masterpiece
a) after the fall of Troy, the Odyssey tells the story of the journey of Odysseus back
home to his family
• Odysseus was a great fighter, but his true talent was cunning and patience
• again the gods interfere with his journey, mixing oral history of the Greeks with
their shared religion
E. Homer's Legacy
i. the Iliad and Odyssey, though fiction, were regarded as history by the Greeks
a) the heroes and gods became a shared belief by Greeks no matter their background
b) Homeric values of honor, courage, cunning, and patience become central to the
beliefs of Greek warrior-aristocrats
• women also had expectations, including faithfulness, courage, intelligence, and
preserving the household
III. Greek City-States
A. Polis
i. area that controlled both a Greek city and the surrounding countryside
a) aka city-state
ii. acropolis
a) high point in a polis used for meeting of government and the strongest area of
defense in the polis is attacked
iii. polis wasn't just the region of control, but also the people within
a) citizens with political rights (adult males)
b) citizens without political rights (women and children)
c) noncitizens (slaves and immigrants)
iv. each group had responsibilities and were expected to work for the sake of the polis
a) this led to a division within Greece from city-state to city-state
• while Greeks had much in common culturally, they did not like each other
B. Military
i. previously fought by nobles, usually on horseback
ii. now, they developed a system based on hoplites
a) heavily armed infantry with bronze armor, a round shield, short sword, and long
• some also used javelins, which were spears designed for throwing
b) new fighting system called phalanx
• whoever was best at the phalanx dominated war
c) each hoplite had to provide his own armor, but any man with the money could gain
fame at war
iii. Greeks were nearly constantly at war, perfecting their techniques
a) eventually led to armies going through extensive training before going to war
b) soldiers marched head-on into battle and ended the fighting quickly
c) heavy infantry became the backbone of warfare
• all of these styles influenced the way war was fought in Europe until the 1900s
C. Colonization and Trade
i. as populations increased, many left the mainland for other areas in the Mediterranean
a) created new poleis in present day Italy, France, Spain, Sicily, and parts of Africa
b) also moved north and set up cities in Thrace (very good for farming) and shores of
the Black Sea, notably Byzantium (later Constantinople and even later Istanbul)
ii. effects of colonization
a) spreading out meant spreading Greek culture, which influenced other cultures that
they came in contact with
b) increased trade meant they became richer, giving rise to rich men who were unable
to rise politically due to the established aristocracy
• this would lead to a desire for change in how government was run
D. Tyranny
i. early Greek city-states were run by kings, but with the polis, the power of kings faded to
near nothing
ii. most poleis were ruled by the wealthy aristocracy (wealthy land owning elite citizens)
iii. as wealth passed to new non-aristocrats, those men began to throw their support behind
a) these individuals also had the support of the poor peasants, who didn't much like the
aristocracy in charge
iv. the individuals used the wealthy's money to buy trained mercenaries, then used them to
overthrow the aristocracy
a) they then built new marketplaces, temples, walls, and allowed artists to begin
decorating the city
• this created new jobs, increasing their popularity
b) tyrant- a person with absolute power who is not subject to the law
• they were not inherently bad, like tyrants are today
v. Corinth
a) the aristocracy was so unpopular that Cypselus, a member of the ruling family,
overthrew the rest of them and took personal control
• he was so well liked he didn't even keep around a bodyguard
• his policies expanded the wealth and influence of Corinth around the
b) Cypselus' son took over after his death, but had been raised in luxury and power
• he ended up being cruel, and when his son took over he was almost immediately
killed and replaced with a new aristocratic oligarchy
c) by the 500's BCE, this pattern was repeating itself around Greece
• first generation tyrants were liked, but sons and grandsons were cruel and soon
d) some communities looked for new ways to govern without a tyrant or aristocratic
E. Sparta
i. focused on conformity and order
ii. located in the Peloponnesian peninsula
a) originally a collection of four villages, but then combined into one great polis
• this strength led them to conquer others in the region
b) developed separate levels of society
• Spartan citizens
• perioikoi- free people but not citizens
• still fought wars and paid taxes
• helots- slaves
c) increasing population led to further conquests, leading to more helots
• after many years as helots, the slaves rebelled, but lost
• to prevent other uprisings, Sparta became a military state
iii. New Sparta
a) at birth, infants were inspected by state officials
• if the child was puny or deformed, they were left to the elements to die
b) at the age of 7, boys were taken to live in barracks
• subjected to harsh discipline to make them tough
• given education, especially in warfare
• stressed obedience to commanders and service to Sparta
• at 12 they began to train in fighting techniques to become soldiers, or dropped
out to join the lower class of citizens to be merchants, farmers, etc
c) girls also left at 7 for basic training, and at 12 were taught to be tough wives of the
• they helped drive the men to serve properly and bravely
• “Come back with your shield, or on it.”
• encouraged to stay in shape so they might bear strong children
d) at 20, those who survived training joined the army
• they typically pledged themselves to a full soldier and helped him in battle, with
treating wounds, carrying his armor, and sometimes acting as his lover when
away from his wife for long periods
• if one was not selected to serve a soldier, they were sent into the lower class
of citizens
e) by 30, survivors became full warriors
• gained the right to vote in the assembly
• stayed in the army until 60
f) still had the perioikoi as noncitizens
• had no voting rights, but were mostly free and were subject to military duty if
g) helots were needed for undesirable labor
• in order to legally kill a helot for any slight, the Spartans officially declared war
on them at the beginning of every year
iv. Spartan State
a) reorganized the government into an oligarchy
• two kings from different families were the military leaders and chief priests
• shared power with the gerousia, a council of elders
• 28 citizens over 60 elected for life
• primary task was to make proposals to the apella, the assembly of male
• apella voted on the proposals given to them
• also elected the gerousia and the ephors
• the college of ephors
• group of 5 men who convened the gerousia and supervised the education of
the youth and conduct of citizens
• were also the judges in civil cases and could bring charges against a king if
b) discouraged immigration to keep any new ideas from infecting Sparta
• Spartans also weren't supposed to travel unless marching to war
• also didn't do much trade with outsiders or pursue the arts or philosophy
c) by 500 BCE, Sparta brought together the other cities in the Peloponnesian peninsula
using fear and military might (Peloponnesian League)
• they dominated the league of cities and maintained order and stability in the
F. Athens
i. Early Rule
a) originally ruled by a monarchy, but later by the aristocracy
b) the aristocracy had the best land and ruled with a council of 9, but by the end of the
600s economic problems led to a need for change
• many farmers were selling themselves into slavery to pay debts
ii. Reforms of Solon
a) due to the economic problems, the aristocrats chose Solon and gave him power to
make changes
• he immediately canceled all land debts, outlawed loans based on using slavery to
pay them, and freed the people who had already sold themselves
• did not fix the underlying problems that originally caused the crisis
• also made changes to the ruling group, allowing anyone with wealth to gain
political power instead of being born into it
• separated all men into 4 classes of wealth
• first two could be in the ruling groups
• third class could be in the boule, who prepared issues for the assembly
• fourth couldn't have office, but could vote in the assembly
• all 4 groups could participate in civil court cases (like a jury today)
• they could even bring charges against government officials for wrongdoing
b) legacy
• Solon's reforms began the principle of democracy, and Athens would be run by
the people for a very long time
• democracy- rule by the people
• people/citizens = men, not women
iii. Move to Tyranny
a) even with all of Solon's reforms, the original problems did not go away
b) within 30 years, Athens came under the control of Pisistratus, a tyrant
• was popular especially with the poor
• didn't make any major changes to the constitution, so the assembly, councils, and
courts kept going
• he did make sure his friends were in those groups though
• he gave land to farmers and loans to the poor
• created jobs by encouraging art within the city and tried to make it as beautiful
as possible
• this made him popular with the merchants and artisans
c) as happened in other cities, his son was so bad he was exiled and tyranny was over
in Athens
iv. Reforms of Cleisthenes
a) Cleisthenes took over the aristocratic oligarchy after Pisistratus' son was exiled
• oligarchy- rule by a small group, usually of wealthy men
b) wanted to make lasting changes to keep the city from falling to another tyrant
• absorbed nearby villages and reorganized them and Athens into ten tribes
• this gave the local regions more control over the day to day things
• each tribe chose 50 men to serve in the new Council of Five Hundred
• responsible for foreign and financial affairs and prepared issues for the
assembly to vote on
• had final authority in passing laws after having open debates
• this is considered the true beginning of democracy
G. Greek Culture in the Archaic Age
i. pottery and sculpture was influenced after trade with the East (Phoenicia)
a) as Greek trade took over the Mediterranean, it also started to take ideas from
ii. literature focused on lyric poetry
a) shorter and easier to memorize than epic poetry (Homer)
b) focused on personal emotions, especially love
• greatest poet of the age was Sappho, a woman who taught music and poetry on
the island of Lesbos
• her writing and the overall Greek pattern of accepting both heterosexual and
homosexual love led to the word lesbian, after her home
• another well known poet was Hesiod
• he stressed the hard work of farmers and peasants as being more important to
the gods than the aristocrats making decisions for the city
• opposite of Hesiod was Theognis, who argued that aristocrats (like himself) were
the only good people, set apart by their natural intelligence, virtue, honor, and
• said peasants were naturally bad and debased, so aristocrats should only deal
with other aristocrats