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Classical Greece
SSWH3 The student will examine the political,
philosophical, and cultural interaction of Classical
Mediterranean societies from 700 BCE to 400 CE.
a. Compare the origins and structure of the Greek polis, the
Roman Republic, and the Roman Empire.
b. Identify the ideas and impact of important individuals;
include Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle and describe the
diffusion of Greek culture by Aristotle’s pupil Alexander
the Great and the impact of Julius and Augustus Caesar.
c. Analyze the contributions of Hellenistic and Roman culture;
include law, gender, and science.
d. Describe polytheism in the Greek and Roman world and
the origins and diffusion of Christianity in the Roman
Origins and Structure of Greek
Greek Polis
Polis means city-state and became the focus
of Greek life around 750 BC
Origins of the Greek Polis
 Kept out invaders
 Isolated the Greeks from one another
The Sea
Their economy was based on sailing (trade & fishing)
 Kept out invaders
Two civilizations prior to the Polis
The Minoans (Island of Crete)
Named for king, Minos
His palace was Knossos
Skilled in bronze
Extensive trade
They collapsed around 1450 BC
Possibly due to tidal wave.
More likely invaded
and taken over by
Two civilizations prior to the Polis
The Mycenaeans 1600-1100 BC
IndoEuropean warriors who married the
locals on the mainland of Hellenes.
Set up powerful monarchies and fortified palaces
Used alliance system
They were taken over by the Dorians
around 1100 BC
At this point Greece entered the Dark Ages.
The Trojan War
Homer w
Greatest of the Greek poets
 1,000 years B.C.
 Epic poems- 1st to make stories a unified whole
 Sung for entertainment
 Stories taught Greek ideals
Homer wrote The Iliad
Ilium- Greek for
Story of the Trojan
10 years
Fought over Helen
of Troy
The Odyssey
Follows the Trojan
10 years
journey to return
to Greece
A metaphor for
every person’s
journey through
• Paris, a Trojan prince, kidnaps Helen, the
wife of the king of Sparta.
• It is said that Helen was the face that
launched a thousand ships, for that is
how many eventually set sail for Troy.
The Greeks were supported by the
goddesses Hera and Athena, and
also benefited from the services of a
number of mighty warriors within
their ranks. The greatest of these
was undoubtedly Achilles, whose
mother had dipped him into the
river Styx when he was a baby,
thereby causing him to be virtually
invincible in battle.
The Greeks and the Trojans fought
fiercely on the coastal plain, and
although the Greeks won many
battles they were unable to
penetrate the defences of the Trojan
The war reached its tenth year, and yet neither side could gain
the upper hand.
At last Odysseus, the king of
Ithaca, came up with a cunning
plan. He suggested that the
Greeks should build a huge
wooden horse, inside which fifty
of the strongest warriors could
be hidden.
 Eventually everyone agreed to
this idea, and the horse was
built. The chosen men,
including Odysseus, climbed up
into the belly of the horse, and
the horse was left on the shore.
The rest of the Greeks deserted
their camp, and sailed to the
other side of the nearby island,
The Trojans dragged the wooden horse
into their city, unaware of the danger that
was concealed inside the huge belly.
Happy that the war was over the Trojans
planned parties and celebrations that
would last late into the night. They did not
even bother to post guards on the
ramparts, so sure were they that all
danger of attack had passed with the
departure of the Greeks.
The sleeping Trojans were easy prey for
the rampaging Greeks, and, with the city
burning, the Trojans were slaughtered
without mercy.
Did any Trojan survive the Greek
massacre? According to legend, prince
Aeneas escaped from the burning city with
his young family and his elderly father.
The Roman poet, Virgil, would have us
believe that Aeneas sailed to Italy and
there founded a new settlement. From this
settlement emerged the great city of
Structure of the Greek polis
The polis consisted of a town, city or
village and the surrounding countryside
The town, city or village served as the
center of the polis where political, social,
and religious activities were held.
At the center of the city was an acropolis
This was a fortified hill that served as refuge
during attack and came to be a religious center.
At the foot of the Acropolis was the Agora (park)
that served as a market place and a meeting
Structure of the Greek polis
The polis was a community that shared a
common identity and goals.
The polis consisted of citizens (adult
males), citizens of no rights (women and
children), and noncitizens (slaves and
resident aliens).
– Citizens had rights but those rights were
coupled with responsibilities
Athens – ~700 BC
Government in Athens
It started as an oligarchy (rule by few)
Because of political turmoil around 594 BC
Solon was given full power.
Solon was very reform-minded
Pisistratus came to power in 560 BC
He encouraged trade.
Athens – ~700 BC
Cleisthenes gained power in 510 BC
He was also reform-minded
He created a Council of 500
Supervised foreign affairs
Oversaw treasury
Proposed laws to be voted on by the assembly of
Though the Council of 500 had power, the
Assembly of citizens had final authority over
passing laws after debating the issues
These actions by Cleisthenes created the
foundation for Athenian Democracy.
of Athens
Temple of Zeus
Military state
Males spend their childhood learning
military discipline and all had to serve in the
Age 7 – began training in military tactics
Age 20 – joined military
Age 30 – move out of military barracks
Stayed in military until age 60
If a sickly child was born, they would leave
child to die upon a hillside.
Women had a lot of power and freedom
because their husbands lived in barracks.
They had an oligarchy with 2 kings
5 men elected each year were responsible for
education and conduct of citizens
Council of Elders
Consisted of 2 kings and 28 citizens over age 60.
Decided what issues were taken up in assembly
The Greeks at War!
Between 500 and 400 B.C. the Greeks
fought several wars.
Two were against the powerful Persian
Empire to the east of Greece.
Then a civil war broke out among the citystates of Greece.
Why did the Persians invade Greece?
In 519 B.C. the Persians
conquered a group of people who
lived in Asia Minor called the
Ionian Greeks.
In 499
B.C. the Ionian
asked the mainland
to help them rebel
the Persians.
Those Greeks
will pay for
We’re on
the way
Athens sent warships to help
them, but they were not strong
enough to defeat the Persian
The made the Persian King, Darius, very angry
with Greece.
In 490 B.C. Darius sent 600 ships and thousands of soldiers to invade
Greece. He wanted to punish the Athenians for helping the rebels.
The Persian army landed at
Marathon, north of Athens,
in 490 B.C.
The Persians greatly
outnumbered the Greeks.
The Persians were
amazed at the strong
will of the small
Athenian force.
They had no horses or
archers, only fierce
foot soldiers.
After a few days, the
Persians decided to
attack Athens by sea.
While they were loading their ships, the
Athenians attacked and defeated them.
The Persians Retreated.
The Greeks sent their fastest runner Pheidippides to carry home
news of the victory.
He sprinted 26.2 miles from the battle site to the city-state of
He arrived and said, “Rejoice, we conquer,” and died from
The Marathon race is named after this event.
What Happened at Thermopylae?
The Greek ruler Themistocles knew this was a temporary victory.
He encouraged the Athenians to build up their fleet and prepare for
battle with the Persians.
In 480 B.C. Darius’ son Xerxes sent a larger
force to conquer Greece.
He sent 200,000 soldiers and nearly 1,000 ships.
By this time Athens had convinced Sparta to join
them in battle. Twenty Greek city-states joined
together to meet the Persian invaders.
Sparta took charge of the army.
Persia Invades
The Persian army had little trouble as it moved through
northern Greece.
It came to a narrow mountain pass called Thermopylae,
there 7,000 Greeks waited for the Persians.
For several days they stopped the Persian army from
moving forward
Someone led the Persians behind the Greek army, the
Spartan soldier began to retreat to their ships as the
Persians marched forward.
A Small Spartan force of about 300 men commanded by King Leonidas,
guarded the mountain pass of Thermopylae.
They held out heroically against he enormous Persian force for three days.
They were betrayed when someone told the Persians how to get in behind
the army.
They were defeated, but won valuable time for the rest of the Greeks.
Who won at Salamis?
The Persians marched
south after their
victory at
Thermopylae and
destroyed the city of
The Athenians had
already moved to
Salamis, a small
nearby island.
More than 800
Persian ships
attacked the
Athenian navy
near the island.
The large Persian ships could not maneuver in the water.
The smaller Greek ships destroyed them.
Results of the Persian Wars
The Greek sense of uniqueness was increased.
Athens emerged as the most powerful city-state in Greece.
Athens organized the Delian League, an alliance with other Greek
Athens used the league to assert power and build an Athenian
They moved the treasury to Athens, and forced people to stay in
the league against their will.
Athens in the Age of Pericles
The wise and skillful leadership of Pericles brought
about a Golden age in Athens.
This was from about 460 to 429 B.C. and is often
called the Age of Pericles.
Pericles believed that all male citizens, regardless of wealth or social class, should take part
in government.
He paid salaries to men who held public office.
This enabled the poor to serve in the government.
The assembly met several times a month and needed at least 6,000 members present to take
a vote. This was direct democracy, a large number of citizens took part in the day to day
affairs of the government.
Pericles stated, “We alone, regard a man who takes no interest in public affairs, not as
harmless, but as a useless character.
Pericles rebuilt the Acropolis and turned Athens into the cultural center of Greece.
Greek against Greek
Many Greeks resented the Athenian domination.
The Greek world split into rival camps.
To counter the Delian League, Sparta and other enemies of
Athens formed the Peloponnesian League.
Sparta encouraged an Oligarchy (government run by business)
in the states of the Peloponnesian League, and Athens
supported democracy.
A 27 year war broke out in 431 B.C. engulfing all of Greece
Peloponnesian War
Athens faced a serious geographic disadvantage from the start.
Sparta was located inland, the Athenian navy was no good against
When Sparta invaded Athens, Pericles allowed people from the
countryside to move inside the city.
Overcrowding led to a plague that killed a third of the people.
Internal struggles undermined the Democratic government of Athens.
Sparta even allied with Persia, their old enemy, against the Delian
Finally, in 404 B.C., with the help of the Persian navy, the Spartans
captured Athens and stripped it of its fleet and empire.
The Aftermath of War
The Peloponnesian war ended Athenian greatness.
In Athens Democratic government suffered: Corruption and selfish interests
replaced order.
Fighting continued to disrupt the Greek world.
Sparta itself suffered defeat at the hands of Thebes, another Greek citystate.
Greece was left vulnerable to invasion.
Cultural development was arrested.
Macedonia and
Alexander the Great
In 338 B.C. King Phillip II of Macedonia
led his army from the north and
conquered Greece.
After his death his son, Alexander the
Great, went on to conquer the entire
Greek world.
Greek Philosophers
Believed the goal of education was only to
improve the individual
His teaching method is known as the
Socratic Method.
Question & answer method
Knowledge inside needed to be brought out
Questioned authority
Arrested for corrupting Athenian youth
Killed by drinking hemlock juice
Greek Philosophers
Socrates' main themes were:
– know thyself
– Monotheism
– immortality of the soul
– belief in education
– everyone had virtue and that
bad behavior was a result of
Education in philosophy, literature, and
arts was frowned upon because they
were strong in the military
Greek Philosophers
– Student of Socrates
– Opened an academy
– Wrote The Republic
 Explained ideas about gov’t
 Did not trust Athenian democracy
– Ideal state would have 3 groups
 Upper class of philosopher-king
 Warriors to protect society
 Third group were the masses
– People not driven by courage or wisdom but by
Greek Philosophers
Plato’s main themes were:
– Thought about the natural world. He wanted men to
understand the world better by trying to predict or
understand the world without being able to see it.
– He believed the soul was made up of three parts:
natural desires
Will allows people to resist their natural desires. Reason tells
people when to resist their natural desires and when to obey.
Balance = success; unbalanced = badness
Greek Philosophers
– Studied at Plato’s academy for 20 years
– Believed in classifying things using
observation & investigation: Empirical method
 Found evidence using inductive reasoning (observing as
many examples as possible then working out the underlying
principles. - the foundation of the Western scientific
 Example: He wrote Politics
– Analyzed existing gov’ts to find best form
– Looked at 158 states & constitutions & discovered
governmental types:
Still used today
 Monarchies
To classify governments
 Oligarchies
 Tyrannies
 Democracies
 Republics
Greek Philosophers
Aristotle’s other main themes were:
– Classification of Knowledge. resolved the question of
certainty of knowledge by categorizing knowledge based on their
objects and the relative certainty with which you could know
those objects.
 certain objects (such as in mathematics or logic) permit you
to have a knowledge that is true all the time (two plus two
always equals four). These types of knowledge are characterized by
certainty and precise explanations.
 Uncertain objects - objects that don't permit certain
knowledge. These types of knowledge are characterized by
probability and imprecise explanations. Knowledge that would fall
into this category would include ethics, psychology, or politics.
– Four Causes: In order to know a thing, anything at all, Aristotle
says that one must be able to answer four questions:
'What is it made from?' (material cause);
'What is its form or essence?' (formal cause);
'What produced it?' (efficient cause);
'For what purpose?' (final cause).
Greek Religion
Religion affected every aspect of Greek life.
If events occurred which they could not explain, they
created a story about it, involving gods and heroes. This
all came together to make Greek mythology.
The gods
- were a family.
- lived on Mount Olympus (the main ones).
Afterlife: all people went to a gloomy underworld
Performed rituals to please the gods, including festivals,
the most famous of which was the Olympic festival
(begun in 776BC)
Greek Religion
• Main Greek Gods
Goddess of love and beauty
God of the sun, music, healing, prophecy.
God of war, vengeance, anger
Goddess of the Moon, hunting and archery
Goddess of wisdom, crafts, defensive warfare
Goddess of agriculture, grain, harvest and earth
God of the Dead and lord of the Underworld
God of fire and the forge
Goddess of marriage, family, motherhood
God of travel, thieves, commerce
Goddess of the hearth and domestic life
God of the sea, horses, and earthquakes
King of the gods, god of thunder & lightening
Religion in Greece
To learn the will of the gods, the people
brought gifts to the oracle (shrine) at
Delphi and he would commune with the
gods and tell the people the future.
of Drama
Ideals in Art
Major Greek
Diffusion of Greek Culture
Greece fell to Macedonia – under Philip & his son
Greek culture spread greatly during Alexander the
Great’s rule of Greece.
– Greek language, architecture, literature, & art spread throughout
SW Asia & the Near East.
– Also adopted aspects of Eastern culture
At first his goal in invading Persia was to punish them for
burning Athens
– As he gained territory his goal changed
He began to want an Empire that would unite Europe
and Asia and combine the best of Greek & Persian
– He founded 70 cities that served a military outposts and centers
for spreading Greek language and culture throughout Empire.
Hellenistic Culture SPRITE
Hellenistic – “to imitate Greeks”
 Social:
– (Gender) Women’s status greatly improved during this
period, could move about freely, could learn to read
and write, could enter occupations such as banking,
real estate, and government
– As Alexander spread throughout the Persian Empire
(Asia Minor) he encouraged intermarriage between
Greeks/Macedonians and the native populations,
blending cultures together at a base level
Hellenistic Culture SPRITE
Political: (Law)
– This Hellenistic Era was created by Alexander
the Great, who left a legacy of military
– Alexander allowed the conquered people to
rule themselves focused on personal behavior
– People were governed by natural laws
Religious: -
Hellenistic Culture SPRITE
Intellectual: (Science)
– Aristarchus—astronomer, theorized that the
sun was the center of the universe (not
accepted for years to come)
– Eratosthenes—astronomer, said the earth was
round and estimated its circumference at
24,675 miles (within 185 miles of truth)
– Archimedes—Mathematician, Worked with
spheres and cylinders, established pi,
discovered specific gravity, invented many
things including a machine for pumping water
Hellenistic Culture SPRITE
Intellectual (continued)…
– Alexandria, Egypt built the largest library for
scholarly research
– Philosophy—Epicureanism (achieve happiness
through pursuit of pleasure) and Stoicism (live
in harmony with the will of God)
Hellenistic Culture SPRITE
– patronized sculptors and architects,
characteristic Greek architecture spread
throughout Mediterranean & Asia Minor
(columns, baths, temples, theatres)
– Art was emotional & realistic
– military conquest brought in much gold and
silver, which stimulated the economies
Classical Age of Greece
Development of drama and history
Finest examples of Greek architecture
Sculpture depicted idealized male figures
Athens was the center of philosophy
Technical skill in sculpture
Hellenistic Era
Great wealth
Expansion of Greek culture and language
Sculpture more realistic
Advances in science and math
Diffusion of Hellenism
Goals of Alexander:
– 1) Defeat the Persian Empire & take revenge
for the burning of Athens
– 2) Gain personal glory
– 3) Spread Greek language and ideals
– 4) Fuse Macedonian, Greek, and Persians into
a single race.
Diffusion of Hellenism
How Alexander spread Hellenism:
– Military conquest (strategy & tactics) to
gain political control of territories
– Economic stimulation among territories
– Education and patronage of Greek
culture throughout conquered territories
Diffusion of Hellenism
Territories of conquest:
Parts of Northern Libya
Parts of Egypt
Northern corner of India
Areas of Learning
Explored by the Greeks
Bodies of