A History of Greece Essay

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A History of Greece

Western Civilization owes much of its development to Greek history because most of the current principles and knowledge of man was derived from this ancient culture. The foundations of mathematics, science, medicine, philosophy, politics and even the different forms of art nowadays were first established long before Christ was born in these Mediterranean islands. The Bronze Age (3000 BCE to 1100 BCE) Bronze became a heavily used metal in Greece during 3000 B. C. It was used to make different tools and ancient battle weapons that were all part of Greek daily life.

The three great civilizations that are worth studying were born on different parts of Greece. The Minoans settled on Crete at around 2600 B. C. This community got its name from Minos, a legendary son of Zeus, who ruled Crete and rid it of sea pirates (Minos, 2007). By the year 2000 B. C. , these people were able to establish a very dynamic community life marked by favorable trade activities that helped make its citizens rich. The people of Minoa became known for their palaces and socio-economic political organization. The first evidence of Greek writing called Linear A, came from this period.

There remain specific evidences that Minoans held great but peaceful influence over the islands of the Aegean despite being naval conquerors. At around 1500 B. C. , records seem to imply that a volcano on Santorini erupted which caused major earthquake and huge tidal waves that could have wiped out the Minoan civilization (Greeka, n. d. ). Mycaenaeans, another community evidenced to have come from the north in around 2000 B. C. , settled on the main island and became the center of trade after the reign of the Minoans.

The previous centuries’ records show that these two civilizations had a complex relationship in that it had strong business connections to each other but were also competing in their dominance of the Mediterranean. However, with the sudden disappearance of the Minoan civilization, the Mycenaeans became the trade hub during the 1400 B. C. to 1200 B. C. with “much of the Minoan cultural tradition transferred to the main island” (Mycenaean Civilization, 2007). Some of their differences with the Minoans, however, were shown through their use of armors in battles and better fortified territories.

Mycenaeans are also noted for their beards. The people of Mycenaea chose to live in smaller units or kingdoms but were united by one dialect. The story of the Trojan War seems to be based on some facts between the Mycenaeans and the “inhabitants of the Troad, or Troas, in Anatolia” which is now Turkey (Trojan War, 2007). There are indications that when Troad was afflicted by a terrible fire, the Mycenaeans wanted to conquer the city. The greatness of Mycenaean community ended at around 1200 B. C. when “crops began to fail and famine” gripped Greece (Ancient Greeks, n.

d. ), This caused “peasant rebellions and internal warfare (Greeka, n. d. ). The Cycladic community began in the different isles of the Aegean which were in the middle of Crete and mainland Greece. The Cyclade area was a vital location because it was the Greece’s business connection to the rest of Europe and Asia from which the Greeks learned many of their agricultural practices. This time period was characterized by a very fast growth in population and very dynamic development in all aspects of society.

Sculpture using marble and pottery were popular art forms during this period in this area of Greece. The Dark Ages (1100 B. C. to 800 B. C. ) The Dark Ages are called so because little evidence could indicate what happened during this time frame. There are some findings that Dorians, a Greek-speaking tribe from the North, may have caused the decline of Mycenaean civilization. “The Dorians kept power entirely to themselves, creating a ruling military class which they solely occupied’ (Dorian, 2007).

It seems that the centralized systems were broken and that monarchies dominated the political structure. This period’s significant contribution to Greek history, however, seems to show that it was at this time when Homer wrote the Iliad which included the epic of the Trojan War (Greeka, n. d. ). Archaic Period (800B. C. to 500 B. C. ) During the Archaic Period, Aristocratic Republics replaced the political structure of Greek civilization and foreign influence abound. It is during this time that human and mythological figures began to appear in different art forms.

The first Olympic game was held in 776 B. C. wherein a cook named Koroibas won the 600 foot race called stadion (The Games, n. d. ). These festivals were held for the God on Mount Olympus, Zeus. People felt that Greece at his point in time, was overpopulated and began to migrate to other European territories bringing with them their advanced culture. Coins became a currency at around 600 B. C. (Ancient Greek Civilizations, 2003) due to the influence of traders from Asia Minor where the first coin was supposedly made. Panathenaic festivals became popular sometime in 566 B.

C. This very important occasion celebrated for numerous days sometime between July and August, supposedly Athena’s birthday, was well-anticipated because anyone can join except for slaves. It consisted of contests, processions and sacrifices (The Panathenaic Festival, n. d. ). Democracy Another very significant contribution of this period is the birth of democracy in Athens at around 508 B. C. There were two types of people in Greece. Men who were born in the city they resided in were called citizens while all other individuals are considered non-citizens.

Only citizens have the choice of politicians and vote in plebiscites. There were large conventions called “The Assembly” that must be attended by at least 6, 000 citizens before it was considered official enough to be heard by the government. This meeting was done regularly wherein citizens may address their concerns regarding laws that needed to be implemented. A body of law-makers called Council was made up of 500 citizens which was changed annually. The members held the task of making new laws and debated on how these could be best implemented. Life in Greece

There was an “agora” in the middle of each Greek city (Ancient Greeks, n. d. ) which was sort of like a town square wherein merchants can trade their various goods whether native or foreign. This was the center of commerce wherein anyone, even foreigners, was allowed to buy what they wanted. It was also where men may hang out to with friends, know the latest political announcement or trade views with foreigners. Very few women could be seen in the agora and they were mostly female slaves who have been sent by their rich masters to shop for market goods.

The most important infrastructure of the city were built around the agora. Because of the hot climate, Greeks prefer to wear light clothes which are evidenced on the carvings that present-day archeologists have been able to study. Depending on the warmth, some men even prefer to wear only their loincloth. During cold weather, they place a cloak over their normal clothes which are tunics or “chitons” – square shaped textile that are held at the shoulders using pins and around the waist by belts (Ancient Greeks, n. d. ).

Women often wore a fancier shorter version called a peplos that was worn on top of the chiton. To take off boredom, these tunics were usually dyed and embroidered according to tastes. Protection for the feet was usually used when outside of the house and these came in the form of sandals and leather boots. Brooches and pins were necessary jewelry to fasten their chitons. The women adored every form of jewelry. The wealthy females also used make-up and allowed their slaves to fix their hair according to what was in fashion. At around 500 B. C. , men saw it fashionable to wear beards and short hair styles.

Greek women family members usually shared the tasks of cooking but the wealthier ones could hire slaves to handle the responsibility. The diet was a merry mixture of fruits and vegetables during the summer and dried versions during the winter. Sometimes, the families are able to store enough fruit and make cheeses in summer months which could be enough to tide them over the winter. Those who were near the sea enjoyed its produce as long as the weather permitted a catch. Meat was considered to be an expensive food and the poor of society cannot afford it.

When occasions do allow the impoverished to eat meat, they take advantage of the situation to eat every edible part…even the brains. The Role of Women in Greece Women enjoyed very little freedom in Greek society. Only wealthy women were allowed to get music or writing lessons at home. Only the rich seven year old boys were sent to the gymnasium (school) and returned after eight years to wait for another three years to become citizens. However, girls were not allowed to get education outside of the confines of her house. Much of a girl’s knowledge in music, dancing, cooking and weaving are imparted by their mothers.

They were expected to follow whatever their husbands or fathers asked. A girl can get married even when she is just fifteen years old and is expected not to go back to her former home anymore. It is the wife’s responsibility to run the chores of the house and ensure the good services of the slaves. Because the streets were considered unsafe, most women are tied down to spend most of their time at home. Every now and then, the husband may give the woman a reprieve from boredom by taking her to the theater or allowing her to be accompanied outside the house by a male servant.

Aside from doing housework, women made the clothes, blankets and whatever textile needs of their families. They also were expected to prepare the food needed for winter. How the Gods Influenced Greece The Greeks believed in many gods and built temples for each one. Each god was powerful up to a certain extent depending on what they ruled on: Poseidon was the god of the Sea, Hades ruled the underworld, Hera was the goddess of youth, Aris was the god of war, Athena was the goddess of wisdom, Apollo was the god of truth, and many more.

Whenever misfortune beset them, the Greeks believed that these were caused by the gods’ anger. The temples were usually constructed on hilltops to show that the god or goddess was protecting their community. The area on which a temple is built is called acropolis. One can tell the riches of the city by looking at its temples. The wealthy ones built their temples using stone and had many different forms of artwork to beautify it. Each temple had a huge statue of the god or goddess. Athens built their statue of Athena using ivory and gold (Ancient Greeks, n.

d. ). Sacrifice offerings such as food and animals were placed on a table within the temple before the individual pursues to worship his god in the courtyard which had an altar. Intellectual Growth in Greece Although the Greeks attributed most of the occurrences of their daily lives to the activities of the gods, at around 500 B. C. , they began to find out more about the world. Philosophers and many scholars who thirsted for more knowledge regarding mathematics, medicine, astronomy and geography lived during this time.

Some of these famous people are Plato, who wrote about politics, Aristotle whose interest led him to discover many information on biology, Parmenides who hypothesized that the world was spherical, Archimedes who invented the Archimedian screw that spiraled irrigation to high farmlands and Phythagoras who is still popular in the mathematical arena for his right angles. The Abode Most homes in Greece at that time were made of stone or clay. There were bungalows and two-storey houses with roofs made of tiles or reeds. The flooring was also made of tiles to ensure the cool temperature inside the houses.

These houses were built in the middle of courtyards with walls and a sturdy gate. Altars were not only found to be in the temples but also within the courtyards of the houses as well. This was where the family members can worship their gods and leave their food and wine as offerings. Wood was the primary element used to make furniture but these can sometimes be accentuated with ivory and different metals. More families lived in the rural areas compared to the cities wherein the rich usually prefer to reside. The wealthy may have residences in the city while their servants take the responsibility of maintaining their countryside homes.

The poorer farmers had the help of the children to do the agricultural chores such as herding sheep and goats or ploughing the fields. Crops like grapes and olives grew well in the stony land but wheat to make bread had to be bought from Egyptians. These grapes either became raisins or wine while the olives became oil or pickles. Farmers also took care of farm animals because they are excellent sources of basic needs like clothing, milk and meat. The Persian Wars The Persian Wars began to affect Greek life in 490 BC, “with a Persian invasion in Greece led by Darius the Great of Thrace” (History of Ancient Greece, n.

d. ). Darius’ army was almost crushed by his first attempt to conquer the Danube if not for the Ionian Greeks who were his allies at that time. However, this made the Ionians realize that they should rebel from the empire and they asked for the support of the other city-states to go against Persia. This started the popularly known Ionian Revolt. Only the Athenians gave ships to the effort and were able to win the war. The Persians proudly retaliated, recaptured their supremacy in the battle of Lade in 494 B. C. and destroyed the city of Miletus by massacring or enslaving the inhabitants (Setzer, n.

d. ). Angered by the Athenian bravado, Darius sought to battle on mainland Greece at around 492 B. C. but the ship that held his army became badly hit by a storm. Another fleet was sent and this time, Eretria was completely destroyed. The next target was Athens and the army went onshore at Marathon which led towards Athens. The Athenians tried to ask Spartans for help but due to “a religious festival, the Spartans were detained, and the 10,000 Athenians had to face the Persians aided only by 1,000 men from Plataea” (Greco-Persian Wars, 2007).

However, the Athenians under the leadership of ten generals including Miltiades, were able to block this attempt which made the Persians retreat and reorganize to try and attack from the Saronic Belf. They were surprised to find the Athenian army back in their territory and ready to fight them again. The Persians went back to Asia Minor, defeated. A runner was sent to Athens to deliver the good news and this was how the Marathon Race got its name (The Persian War, n. d. ). After a decade from the first attempt of invasion, Darius’ son, Xerxes took the throne of Persian Emperor and wanted to target Greece.

His strategy involved less violence because instead of attacking head on, he decided it would be best to send envoys to start negotiating with the different cities to surrender without battle. He constructed a bridge at Hellespont and ensured that a canal was dug across the isthmus to protect his army from storms while rounding the Cape of Mount Athos (Setzer, n. d. ). He collected his troops from every satrapy (territory within the Persian Empire) which numbered about 150,000 of the best soldiers from Persia and Mede while his naval fleet had about 1200 ships that were prepared against an estimated 300 brave warriors from Athens and Sparta.

The large army of the Persians resulted to a slower pace in their attack and this gave the Greeks a chance to plan out their defense (Greco-Persian Wars, 2007). The different cities of Greece held a meeting to plan their defense which resulted to the delegation of the army to Sparta while Athens was in-charge of the navy fleet under Themistocles, an Athenian statesman (Kreis, 2006). They also consulted the Delphic Oracle. The oracle of Delphi was at Mount Parnassus where a Pythia (woman supposedly used by the God Apollo as his medium) could be asked to predict answers to their questions (Roach, 2001).

The Pythia foretold that they would lose the battle and that their only chance of success was through a wooden wall. There were so many interpretations that could mean “wooden wall” but in the end, the Athenians took it to imply that the wooden walls were their ships. The Spartans suggested that the only way to position themselves well against the great army of Persia was by blocking them at the Isthmus of Corinth. The Athenians and authorities from Central Greece did not agree because their territories will be pillaged by the Persians before they reach the Isthmus of Corinth.

However, Evaenetus, commander of the 10,000 Hoplites who decided to help Greece agreed with Sparta and so the minute number of soldiers repositioned themselves at the Isthmus of Corinth. The Spartans and Hoplites were at an advantageous position in Thermopylae until a “traitorous Greek led a Persian force through the hills to the rear of the Greek forces” (Kreis, 2006) for a surprise attack that led to a massacre. On the naval side, the Athenians left their city which allowed the Persians to burn it.

Themistocles realized that battling with the Persians in the open sea will make them lose because of their minute number. He realized that the only way to win against the Persians was to turn their large army into their own handicap. This he did in the Battle of Salamis – a very narrow strait between Athens and the Island of Salamis. “He sent his best slave to Xerxes to tell him that the Greek navy was retreating to the Isthmus of Corinth to form a combined force with the army” (Moerbeek, 1998). He tricked Xerxes by sending a misleading message that the time of the Persian army to attack was at hand.

Xerxes then allowed his unsuspecting contingent to enter the strait between Athens and the island of Salamis where a surprise attack by the Greeks was waiting for them. This caused the eventual defeat of the Persians. By 479 B. C. , the Greek forces had all conquered the Persian army and navy (Kreis, 2006). Conclusion The fast paced development of civilization owes its foundations to the very intelligent and industrious Greeks. Every aspect of modern day life has its roots on Ancient Greek mathematics, logic, philosophy, science, art and even politics. Wars were intelligently won through cunning minds and not annihilating weaponry.

Our modern world can truly learn so much just by looking at its past. References Ancient Greek Civilizations. (2003). In Minnesota State University Mankato Online. Retrieved June 11, 2007, from http://www. mnsu. edu/emuseum/prehistory/aegean/timeline. html Ancient Greeks. (n. d. ). In Anglia Campus Online. Retrieved June 11, 2007, from http://www. angliacampus. com/public/pri/history/greeks/index. htm Dorian. (2007). In Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 12, 2007, from Encyclop? dia Britannica Online: http://www. eb. com:180/cgi-bin/g? DocF=micro/175/77. html Greco-Persian Wars. (2007).

In Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 12, 2007, from Encyclop? dia Britannica Online: http://www. britannica. com/ebc/article-9037907 Greeka. (n. d. ). Greece History: Stone – Bronze Age. Retrieved June 11, 2007, from http://www. greeka. com/greece-stone-bronze-age. htm History of Ancient Greece. (n. d. ). In Think Quest. Retrieved June 11, 2007, from http://library. thinkquest. org/10805/history-g. html Kreis, S. (2006). Lecture 7: Classical Greece. In The History Guide. Retrieved June 12, 2007, from http://www. historyguide. org/ancient/lecture7b. html Minos. (2007). In Encyclop? dia Britannica.

Retrieved June 11, 2007, from Encyclop? dia Britannica Online: http://www. britannica. com/eb/article-9052881 Moerbeek, M. (1998). Warfare in Hellas. Retrieved June 12, 2007, from http://monolith. dnsalias. org/~marsares/warfare/battle/salamis. html Mycenaean Civilization. In The Columbia Electronic Encyclopledia, 6th ed. Retrieved June 11, 2007, from http://www. infoplease. com/ce6/history/A0834633. html The Panathenaic Festival. (n. d. ). Brooklyn College Classics Department. Retrieved June 12, 2007, from http://depthome. brooklyn. cuny. edu/classics/dunkle/athnlife/rligious. htm The Persian War. (n. d. ). In Think Quest.

Retrieved June 11, 2007, from http://library. think quest. org/CR0210200/ancient_greece/persian_war. htm Roach, J. (2001). Delphic Oracle’s Lips May Have Been Loosened by Gas Vapors. In National Geographic News. Retrieved June 11, 2007, from http://news. nationalgeographic. com/ news/2001/08/0814_delphioracle. html Setzer, T. (n. d. ). The Persian Invasion of Greece. Retrieved June 11, 2007, from http://www. cais- soas. com/CAIS/History/hakhamaneshian/greece_invasion. htm Trojan War. (2007). In Encarta Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 11, 2007, from Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia: http://encarta. msn. com

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