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Ancient Greece

Political Organization
• c. 2,200: Earliest Minoan civilization (Crete)

• c. 1,600-1,500: Earliest Mycenae graves

BRIEF TIMELINE • c. 1,000 - c. 750: Greek “Dark Ages”, remarkable changes in

ON conditions of Greek life, following the destruction of


Mycenean and Minoan civilizations.
ANCIENT GREEK
• c. 750 - c. 500: Archaic Age. City-states developed during
CULTURE these two periods (Dark and Archaic ages).

• c. 480-323: Classical Period – “Greek philosophy”; rise of the


kingdom of Macedonia

FOR A MORE DETAILED CHRONOLOGY • C. 323-146: Hellenistic Period


SEE
• C. 146-30: Late Hellenistic or Greco-Roman period
https://ancient-greece.org/resources/timeline.html
• 30 BC: Death of Cleopatra, end of ”Ancient Greece” period.
• Mainland dominated by mountains, plains and valleys,
which kept communities “politically separated from one
another while still maintaining contacts for trade and
diplomacy” (TM, 1)

NATURAL • Irregular distribution of resources (timber, metals and


stones), causing some areas to be much wealthier than
CHARACTERISTICS
others

• “Since annual rainfall varied significantly, Greek farmers


endured a precarious cycle of boom and bust, fearing
both drought and floods.” (TM, 4)

• Sea travel through the Mediterranean meant contact with


other civilizations, new technologies, religious ideas, etc.
“The narrative has the bell-curve shape of many stories of
ancient Greece. That is, more pages are devoted to the middle of
the story than to the beginning and the end because I concentrate
on the full development of the Greek city-state as a religious,
SOCIAL AND social, political, and economic entity in the eight to fourth
centuries B.C. Athens receives the most space because the
POLITICAL overwhelming preponderance of the evidence surviving from

ORGANIZATION ancient Greece concerns Athens in the Classical period (c. 500-
323 B.C.). Since Greece was home to hundreds of other city-
states, many of which differed in significant ways from
Athens, studying the history of Athens cannot be taken as
equivalent to studying the history of Greece. “ (TM,
introduction, page X)
Notes on class of October 21st

 Greeks were not politically united, they had different political systems

 No political unity, there was autonomy in the cities. Sparta, however, conquered many people and ruled over them.

 City-states, which had risen between the fall of Mycenean and Minoan cultures, were political autonomous, i.e., each polis

decided how they were ruled (different systems) and by who.

 They shared common language and religious beliefs. Even if each city had one god which is more important than the

other; they don’t always have the same practices.

 They are not defined by the geographical area. They spread and set colonies, and conquered each other and so on.

 Historians define some periods in their history according to the characteristics.

 Greece was not a ‘nation’, but rather “Greeks (or Hellenes, as they preferred to call themselves) were, more than an

homogeneous people, a series of tribes who had in common language, the main gods, and the idea that they descended of

common ancestors.” (3)


Oligarchy
 “In Sparta, and some other Greek states, a limited number
Types of Government of men from the citizen body exercised meaningful
political power, thus creating a political system called an
oligarchy (oligarchia in Greek, meaning “rule by the
few”)”
“Although the Greek city-states differed in
 Spartan’s political and social organization were an
size and natural resources, over the course of outgrowth of their policies towards their neighbors: to
the Archaic Age they came to share certain keep their power over the enslaved people who maintained
Spartans’ economy, “Spartan men had to turn themselves
fundamental political institutions and social
into a society of soldiers constantly on guard”. This
traditions: citizenship, slavery, the legal society was known for the discipline and military
disadvantages and political exclusion of readiness.
women, and the continuing predominance of  The Spartan oligarchy was organized with two kings
(hereditary military leaders) who were also the city’s
wealthy elites in public life. But city-states
religious heads, and, together with a group of 28 men over
developed these shared characteristics in sixty years old (gerousia) submitted proposals to an
strikingly different ways.” (TM, 91)
assembly of all free adult males. The kings and gerousia’s
power was couterbalenced by a boaed of five annually
elected ephors, or overseers who exercised judicial
powers.
 “Other city-states experienced periods of domination by the kind of sole
ruler who seized power in some irregular, even violent way and whom
the Greeks called a tyrant (from the Greek tyrannos). Tyranny, passed
down from father to son, existed at various times across the breadth of
the Greek world (…) most of these regimes failed to stay in control for
more than a generation.” (91)

Tyranny  “A desire to avoid the domination of oligarchies brought the first Greek
tyrants to power in various Greek states. The most famous early tyranny
arose at Corinth around 657 B.C. in opposition to the rule of an
oligarchy led by a family called the Bacchiads.” (103)

 “As at Corinth, most tyrannies needed to cultivate support among the


masses of their city-states to remain in power because those were the
men making up the majority of their armies.” (104)

 A tyrant could be considered good or bad, according to his behavior as a


ruler.
 Between 800-700: population boom in Attica; small agricultural producers (free
peasants), a growing segment of the population, seem to have insisted on

Democracy participating in decisions in the Athenian policies. “Some of these modest landowners
became wealthy enough to afford hoplite armor, and these men, like similarly
prosperous men elsewhere, probably made strong demands on the elite, who had up
Rule by the people. “This was an to this time ruled Athens as what amounted to a relatively broad oligarchy.” (107)
extraordinary new form of government; its
 Probably by late 7th century both rich and poor male Athenian citizens had established
creation has a significance that modern people
the first ‘democracy’ in Greece and the world.
can miss if they assume from their own
 It took time, many changes and struggle (between rich and poor) for this system to
experience that democracy is the “default
reach its full form; although T. Martin considers it a ‘limited and incomplete form of
value” of human political organization. (…)
democracy’
Greek democracy broke unprecedent new
ground with the amount of political power  Athens “was not Greece’s only democracy; other Greek city—states (about which we

that it invested in its male citizen body. The have much less information) also created democracies.”

Athenians established Greece’s most  “The scanty evidence seems to indicate that by the seventh century B.C. all freeborn
renowned democracy.” (TM, 92) adult male citizens of Athens had the right to attend open meetings, in a body called
the assembly (ecclesia, ”a gathering of those who have been called out”), which
elected nine magistrates called archons (“rulers”) each year.” (108)