Chapter 4: Ancient Greece Identifications
The Minoan civilization reached its height between 2000 and 1450 B.C.E. The palace at Knossus (near modern Heracleion on Crete), the royal seat of the kings, was an elaborate structure that included numerous private living rooms for the royal family and workshops for making decorated vases, ivory figurines, and jewelry. Even bathrooms, with elaborate drains, like those found at Mohenjo-Daro in India, formed part of the complex. The rooms were decorated with brightly colored frescoes and storerooms held jars of oil, wine, and grain. The remains revealed a rich and prosperous culture with Knossus as the apparent center of a far-ranging sea empire, probably largely commercial in nature.
2. Arthur Evans
The civilization on Crete was discovered at the beginning of the 20th century by the English archaeologist Arthur Evans, who called it Minoan after Minos, the legendary king of Crete. Evans excavations on Crete unearthed an enormous palace complex at Knossus. From his excavations, we know the people of Minoan Crete were accustomed to sea travel and had made contact with the more advanced civilization of Egypt.
3. Greek geography
Geography played an important role in Greek history. Greece occupied a small area, a mountainous peninsula that encompassed only 45,000 square miles of territory, about the size of the state of Louisiana. The mountains and the sea were especially significant. Much of Greece consists of small plains and river valleys surrounded by mountain ranges 8,000 to 10,000 feet high. The mountains isolated Greeks from one another, causing Greek communities to follow their own separate paths and develop their own way of life. Over a period of time, these communities became so fiercely attached to their independence that they were willing to fight one another to gain advantage. The small size of these independent Greek communities fostered political participation and unique cultural expressions, but the rivalry among them ultimately devasted Greek society.
The sea also influenced Greek society. Greece had a long seacoast, dotted by bays and inlets that provided numerous natural harbors. The Greeks also inhabited a number of islands to the west, south, and east of the Greek mainland. They became seafarers who sailed out into the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas to make contact with the outside world and later to establish colonies that would spread Greek civilization.
The Minoans were the earliest civilization in the Aegean region on the island of Crete, a large island southeast of the Greek mainland. The civilization was discovered by Arthur Evans, who called it Minoan after Minos, the king of Crete. By 2800 B.C.E., it was a Bronze Age civilization that used metals, especially bronze, in the construction of weapons.
The Minoan civilization was a far-ranging sea empire largely commercial in nature, were accustomed to sea travel, and had made contact with the more advanced civilization of Egypt. It reached its height from 2000-1450 B.C.E. However, it collapsed after a sudden disaster.
The centers of Minoan civilization on Crete suffered a sudden and catastrophic collapse around 1450 B.C.E. Some historians believe that a tsunami triggered by a powerful volcanic eruption on the island of Thera or the invasion and pillage by mainland Greeks (Mycenaeans) caused the devastation.
The term Mycenaean is derived from Mycenae, a remarkable fortified site excaved by the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. Mycenae was one center in a Mycenaean Greek civilization that flourished between 1600 and 1100 B.C.E. The Mycenaean Greeks were part of the Indo-European family of people who spread from their original location into southern and western Europe, India, and Iran. One group entered Greece from the north around 1900 B.C.E. and eventually managed to gain control of the Greek mainland and develop a civilization.
Mycenaean civilization, which reached its high point between 1400 and 1200 B.C.E., consisted of a number of powerful monarchies based in fortified palace complexes, which were built on hills and surrounded by gigantic stone walls. They were warrior people who prided themselves on their heroic deeds in battle. Mycenaean monarchies also developed an extensive commercial network. Pottery has been found throughout the Mediterranean basin and scholars believe that they spread outward militarily.
7. Heinrich Schliemann
Mycenae was a remarkable fortified site excavated by the amateur German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann starting in 1870.
8. The Greek Dark Ages
After the collapse of Mycenaean civilization, Greece entered a difficult era of declining population and falling food production; not until 850 B.C.E. did farming- and Greece itself- revive. Because of both the difficult conditions and the fact that we have few records to help us reconstruct what happened in this period, historians refer to it as the Dark Age. During the Dark Age, large numbers of Greeks left the mainland and migrated across the Aegean Sea to various islands.
As trade and economic activity began to recover, iron replaced bronze and in the construction of weapons, making them affordable for more people. It was an era of decreasing population and falling food production. Greek villages gradually expanded and evolved into independent city states, too.
9. Ionians, Aeolians, and Dorians
During the Dark Age, large numbers of Greeks left the mainland and migrated across the Aegean Sea to various islands and especially to the southwestern shore of Asia Minor, a strip of territory that came to be called Ionia. Two other major groups of Greeks settle in established parts of Greece. The Aeolian Greeks of northern and central Greece colonized the large island of Lesbos and the adjacent territory of the mainland. The Dorians established themselves in southwestern Greece, especially in the Peloponnesus, as well as on some of the south Aegean islands, including Crete.
10. Phoenician Alphabet
At some point in the 8th century B.C.E., the Greeks adopted the Phoenician alphabet to give themselves a new system of writing. After the alphabet was adopted, Homer introduced his poetry works: the Iliad and the Odyssey.
South of the Gulf of Corinth was the Peloponnesus, virtually an island attached by a tiny isthmus to the mainland. It consisted mostly of hills, mountains, and small valleys. It was the location of Sparta, as well as the site of Olympia, where the famous athletic games were held.
12. Iliad and Odyssey
The Iliad and the Odyssey were the first great epic poems of early Greece, based on stories that had been passed down from generation to generation. It is generally assumed that Homer made us of these oral traditions to compose the Iliad, his epic poem of the Trojan War. The war was caused when Paris, a prince of Troy, kidnapped Helen, wife of the king of the Greek state of Sparta, outraging all the Greeks. Under the leadership of the Spartan kings brother, Agamemnon of Mycenae, the Greeks attacked Troy. After ten years of combat, the Greeks finally sacked the city. The Iliad is not so much the story of the war itself, however, as it is the tale of the Greek hero Achilles and how the wrath of Achilles led to disaster.
The Odyssey, Homers other masterpiece, is an epic romance that recounts the journeys of one of the Greek heroes, Odysseus, after the fall of Troy and his eventual return to his wife, Penelope, after twenty years. But there is a larger vision here as well: the testing of the heroic stature of Odysseus until, by both cunning and patience, he prevails. IN the course of this testing, the underlying moral message is that virtue is a better policy than vice.
Near the very end of the Dark Age appeared the work of Homer, who has come to be viewed as one of the great poets of all time. Many scholars believe that his Iliad and the Odyssey describe the social conditions of the Dark Age. According to the Homeric view, Greece was a society based on agriculture in which a landed warrior-aristocracy controlled much wealth and exercised considerable power. Homers world reflects the values of aristocratic heroes.
Homer did not so much record history as make it. The Greeks regard the Iliad and the Odyssey as authentic history, giving the Greeks an ideal past with a legendary age of heroes and came to be used as standard text for the education of generations of Greek males. The values Homer inculcated were essentially the aristocratic values of courage and honor. To later generations of Greeks, these heroic values formed the core of aristocratic virtue, a fact that explains the tremendous popularity of Homer as an educational tool. Homer gave to the Greeks a single universally accepted model of heroism, honor, and nobility.
It was important to strive for the excellence befitting a hero, which the Greeks called arte. In the warrior-aristocratic world of Homer arte is won in struggle or contest. Through his willingness to fight, the hero protects his family and friends, preserves his own honor and his familys, and earns his reputation. In the Homeric world, aristocratic women, too, were expected to pursue excellence. Penelope, for example, the wife of Odysseus, the hero of the Odyssey, remains faithful to her husband and displays great courage and intelligence in preserving their household during her husbands long absence.
A polis could be defined as a small but autonomous political unit in which all major political, social, and religious activities were carried out at one central location. The polis consisted of a city, town, or village and its surrounding countryside. The city, town, or village was the focus, a central point where the citizens of the polis could assemble for political, social, and religious activities. In some poleis, this central meeting point was a hill, like the Acropolis at Athens, which could serve as a place of refuge during an attack and later in some sites came to be the religious center on which temples and public monuments were erected. Below the acropolis would be an agora, an open place that served both as a market and as a place where citizens could assemble
Poleis varied greatly in size, from a few square miles to a few hundred square miles. They also varied in population. Although our word politics is derived from the Greek term polis, the polis itself was much more than a political intuition. Rather, it was a community of citizens in which all political, economic, social, cultural, and religious activities were focused. As a community, the polis consisted of citizens with political right (adult males), citizens with no political rights (women and children), and non-citizens (slaves and resident aliens). All citizens of a polis possessed fundamental rights, but these rights were coupled with responsibilities.
By 700 B.C.E., Athens had established a unified polis on the peninsula of Attica. Athens was ruled by aristocrats, who possessed the best land and controlled political and religious life by means of a council of nobles, assisted by a board of nine officials called archons. Although there was an assembly of full citizens, it possessed few powers. Near the end of the 7th century B.C.E., Athens faced political turmoil because of serious economic problems. Increasing numbers of Athenian farmers found themselves sold into slavery when they were unable to repay loans they had obtained from their aristocratic neighbors, pledging themselves as collateral. Repeatedly, there were cries to cancel the debts and give land to the poor.
Solon was elected to make changes. As a result, he canceled all land debts, outlawed new loans based on humans as collateral, and freed people who had fallen into slavery for debts. He refused, however, to carry out land redistribution and hence failed to deal with the basic cause of the economic crisis. This failure, however, was overshadowed by the commercial and industrial prosperity that Athens began to experience in the following decades.
Afterwards, internal strife led to tyranny with Pisistratus, an aristocrat remaining popular with the mercantile and industrial classes. Along came Cleisthenes, another aristocratic reformer, who opposed the plan to reestablish an aristocratic oligarchy, and gained the upper hand in 508 B.C.E. He created a Council of Five Hundred and made an assembly of all male citizens have final authority. The reforms of Cleisthenes created the foundations for Athenian democracy.
Located in the southwestern Peloponnesus, Sparta, like other Greek states, faced the need for more land. The Spartans conquered the neighboring Laconians and later, beginning around 730 B.C.E., undertook the conquest of neighboring Messenia despite its larger size and population. Both the Messenians and Laconians were reduced to serfdom and made to work for the Spartans. Between 800 and 600 B.C.E., the Spartans instituted a series of reforms that are associated with Lycurgus. After Lycurgus, the lives of
Spartans were rigidly organized and tightly controlled (spartan means highly self-disciplined). Boys were taken from their mothers at the age of seven and put under control of the state. They lived in military-style barracks, where they were subjected to harsh discipline to make them tough and given an education that stressed military training and obedience to authority. At twenty, Spartan males were enrolled in the army for regular military service. Meals were simple; the famous Spartan black broth consisted of a piece of pork boiled in blood, salt, and vinegar. At thirty, Spartan males were recognized as mature and allowed to vote in the assembly and live at home, but they remained in military service until the age of 60.
The Lycurgan reforms reorganized the Spartan government, creating an oligarchy. Two kings were primarily responsible for military affairs and served as the leaders of the Spartan army on its campaigns. They shared power with the gerousia, a council of elders consisting of 28 citizens over the age of 60 who were elected for life. The primary task of the gerousia was to prepare proposals that would be presented to the paella, an assembly of all male citizens. The assembly elected the gerousia and the ephors, a group of five men responsible for supervising the education of youth and conduct of all citizens.
Finally, the Spartans turned their backs on the outside world; foreigners, possibly bringing new ideas, were discouraged from visiting. Spartans also werent allowed to travel abroad except for military reason. Spartan citizens were discouraged from studying philosophy, literature, or the arts- subjects that might encourage new thoughts.
Greek fighting had previously been dominated by aristocratic cavalrymen, who reveled in individual duels with enemy soldiers. But by the end of the 8th century B.C.E., the hoplite infantry formation came into being. Hoplites were heavily armed infantrymen who wore bronze or leather helmets, breastplates, and greave (shin guards). Each carried a round shield, a short sword, and a thrusting spear about 9 feet long. Hoplites advanced into battle as a unit, forming a phalanx (a rectangular formation) in tight order, usually 8 ranks deep. As one 7th century B.C.E. poet noted, a good hoplite was a short man firmly placed upon his legs, with a courageous heart, not to be uprooted from the sport where he plants his legs.
The hoplite force had political as well as military repercussions. The aristocratic cavalry was now outdated. Since each hoplite provided his own armor, men of property, both aristocrats and small farmers, made up the new phalanx. Those who could become hoplites and fight for the state could also challenge aristocratic control.
Hoplites advanced into battle as a unit, forming a phalanx (a rectangular formation) in tight order, usually 8 ranks deep. As long as the hoplites kept their order, were not outflanked, and did not break, they either secured victory or, at the very least, suffered no harm. The phalanx was easily routed, however, if it broke its order. Thus the safety of the phalanx depended, above all, on the solidarity and discipline of its members.
20. Greek colonization
Between 750 and 550 B.C.E., large numbers of Greeks left their homeland to settle in distant lands. The growing gulf between rich and poor, overpopulation, and the development of trade were all factors that spurred the establishment of colonies. Invariably, each colony saw itself as an independent polis whose links to the mother polis (the metropolis) were not political but based on sharing common social, economic, and especially religious practices. There were new Greek settlements, in southern Italy, southern France, eastern Spain, northern Africa, Thrace, the shores of the Black Sea, and Byzantium, all the while spreading their culture.
Colonization also led to increased trade and industry. The Greeks on the mainland sent their pottery, wine, and olive oil to these areas, receiving grains, metals, fish, timber, wheat, and slaves. In many poleis, the expansion of trade and industry created a new group of rich men who desired political privileges commensurate with their wealth but found such privileges impossible to gain because of the power of the ruling aristocrats.
The aspirations of the new industrial and commercial groups laid the groundwork for the rise of tyrants in the 7th and 6th centuries B.C.E. They were not necessarily oppressive or wicked, as our word tyrant connotes. Greek tyrants were rulers who came to power in an unconstitutional way; a tyrant was not subject to the law. Many tyrants were actually aristocrats who opposed the control of the ruling aristocratic faction in their cities. The support for the tyrants, however, came from the new rich who made their money in trade and industry, as well as from poor peasants who were becoming increasingly indebted to landholding aristocrats. Both groups were opposed to the domination of political power by aristocratic oligarchies.
Once in power, the tyrants built new marketplaces, temples, and walls that not only glorified the city but also enhanced their own popularity. Tyrants also favored the interests of merchants and traders. Despite these achievements, tyranny was largely extinguished by the end of the 6th century B.C.E. Greeks believed in the rule of law, and tyranny made a mockery of that ideal.
22. Oligarchy and Democracy
Although tyranny didnt last, it played a significant role in the evolution of Greek history by ending the rule of narrow aristocratic oligarchies. Oligarchy in Sparta was when two kings were primarily responsible for military affairs and served as the leaders of the Spartan army on its campaigns. Once the tyrants were eliminated, the door was opened to the participation of new and more people in governing the affairs of the community. Although this trend culminated in the development of democracy in some communities, in other states expanded oligarchies of one kind or another managed to remain in power. Democracy involved the reforms of Cleisthenes, which created the foundations for Athenian democracy; it was the central role of the assembly of citizens in the Athenian political system. Greek states exhibited considerable variety in their governmental structures.
Helots is a name derived from a Greek word for capture. Messenia, like the Laconians, were reduced to serfdom known as helots and made to work for the Spartans. In order to ensure control over their conquered Laconians and Messenia helots, the Spartans made a conscious decision to create a military state.
24. Women in Sparta
While their husbands remained in military barracks until age thirty, Spartan women lived at home. Because of this separation, Spartan women had greater freedom of movement and greater power in the household than was common for women elsewhere in Greece. Spartan women were encourage to exercise and remain fit to bear and raise healthy children. Like the men, Spartan women engaged in athletic exercises in the nude. Many Spartan women upheld the strict Spartan values, expecting their husbands and sons to be brave in war.
25. Solon and Cleisthenes
Solon was a reform-minded aristocrat summonded as the sole archon in 594 B.C.E. and giving him full power to make changes. Solon canceled all land debts, outlawed new loans based on humans as collateral, and freed people who had fallen into slavery for debts. He refused, however, to carry out land redistribution and hence failed to deal with the basic cause of the economic crisis. Like his economic reforms, Solons political measures were also a compromise. Though by no means eliminating the power of the aristocracy, they opened the door to the participation of new people, especially the non-aristocratic wealthy, in the government. But Solons reforms didnt truly solve Athens problems. Aristocratic factions continued to vie for power, and the poorer peasants resented Solons failure to institute land redistribution. Internal strife led to the very institution Solon had hoped to avoid-tyranny.
Cleisthenes opposed the plan to reestablish an aristocratic oligarchy and gained power in 508 B.C.E. He created a new Council of Five Hundred, chosen by lot by the ten tribes in which all citizens had been enrolled. The Council of Five Hundred was responsible for the administration of both foreign and financial affairs and prepared the business that would be handled by the assembly. This assembly of all male citizens had final authority in the passing of laws after free and open debate; thus Cleisthenes reforms had reinforced the central role of the assembly of citizens in the Athenian political system. The reforms of Cleisthenes created the foundations for Athenian democracy. More changes would come in the 5th century, when the Athenians themselves would begin to use the word democracy to describe their system (coming from Greek words demos people and kratia power).
26. Darius and Xerxes
Darius Persian rule who sought revenge for a revolt by the Ionian cities in 499 B.C.E. by attacking the mainland Greeks. In 490 B.C.E., Persians landed an army and were defeated by the Greek hoplites.
Xerxes New Persian monarch after death of Darius in 486 B.C.E. that vowed revenge and planned to invade. He led a massive invasion force into Greece: close to 150,000 troops, almost 700 naval ships, and 100s of supply ships to keep the large army fed.
27. Battles of Thermopylae, Marathon, Salamis, and Plataea
In 490 B.C.E. Persians landed an army on the plain of Marathon, only 26 miles from Athens. Athenians and allies were outnumbered, but the Greek hoplites charged across the plain of Marathon and defeated the Persian forces
Greeks tried to delay Persians at the pass of Thermopylae, along the main road into central Greece. Greek force of 9,000 under Spartan king Leonidas held off the Persians for two days and all the Spartans fought until their death.
Greek fleet remained offshore near the island of Salamis and challenged the Persian navy to fight. Though the Greeks were outnumbered, they outmaneuvered the Persian fleet and defeated it.
Early in 479 B.C.E., the Greeks formed the largest Greek army seen and defeated the Persian army at Plataea, northwest of Attica. This was the end of the war with Persia, as the Greeks had won.
28. Delian League
Athens took over the leadership of the Greek world by forming a defensive alliance against the Persians called the Delian League in the winter of 478-477 B.C.E. Its main headquarters was on the island of Delos, but its chief officials were Athenian.
It pursued the attack against the Persian Empire. In 454 B.C.E., the Athenians moved the treasury of the league from Delos to Athens and by controlling the Delian League, Athens had created an empire.
A dominant figure in Athenian politics for over three decades who was a young aristocrat. The period when Athens embarked on a policy of expanding democracy at home and its new empire is subsequently labeled the Age of Pericles, which is the height of Athenian power and its culmination as a civilization. In the Age of Pericles, Athenians became deeply attached to their democratic system and the sovereignty of the people was embodied in the assembly, which consisted of all male citizens over 18.
Pericles expanded the Athenians involvement in their democracy by making lower-class citizens eligible for public offices formerly closed to them and introducing state pay for officeholders, including those who served on the large Athenian juries. The overall directors of policy were known as generals, who were elected by public vote. An example would be Pericles who was elected 30 times between 461-429 B.C.E.
Pericles used the treasury money of the Delian League to set in motion a massive rebuilding program, eventually being called the school of Greece.
30. Peloponnesian War
The Greek world was divided into 2 major groups- Sparta and its supporters and the Athenian empire. These two never got along and a series of disputes finally led to war in 431 B.C.E. At beginning of the war, both sides believed they had winning strategies. The Athenians planned to remain behind the walls of Athens while the overseas empire and navy would keep them supplied. The Spartan strategy was to beat the Athenians in open battles.
The Spartans and allies invaded Attica and ravaged the fields and orchards, hoping that the Athenians would send out their army to fight beyond the walls. In second year of the war, plague devasted the crowded city of Athens and wiped out around 1/3 of the Athenian population. Pericles died in 429 B.C.E. and Athenians fought for another 27 years until in 405 B.C.E. the Athenian fleet was destroyed at Aegospotami on the Hellespont. Athens was besieged and surrendered in 404 B.C.E. The walls were torn down, the navy disbanded, and the Athenian empire was no more. This war weakened the major Greek states and destroyed any possibility of cooperation among the Greek states.
Herodotus (c. 484- c. 425 B.C.E.) wrote History of the Persian Wars, a work regarded as the first real history in Western civilization. The central theme of his work is the conflict between the Greeks and the Persians, which he viewed as a struggle between freedom and despotism.
Herodotus traveled extensively and questioned many people to obtain his information. He was a master storyteller and sometimes included considerable fanciful material, but he was also capable of exhibiting a critical attitude toward the materials he used
Thucydides (c. 460- c. 400 B.C.E.) was a better historian by far and considered the greatest historian of the ancient world. He was an Athenian and a participant in the Peloponnesian War. He had been elected a general, but a defeat in battle led the fickle Athenian assembly to send him into exile, which gave him the opportunity to write his History of the Peloponnesian War.
Thucydides wasnt concerned with underlying divine forces or gods as explanatory causal factors in history. He saw war and politics in purely rational terms, as the activities of human beings. He also examined the causes of the Peloponnesian War in a clear, methodical, objective fashion, placing much emphasis on accuracy and precision of his facts. Finally, Thucydides provided remarkable insight into the human condition, believing that political situations recur in similar fashion and that the study of history is therefore of great value in understanding the present.
33. Aeschylus Oresteia
The Oresteia is the only complete trilogy we possess, written by Aeschylus. The theme of this trilogy is derived from Homer. Agamemnon, the king of Mycenae, returns a hero from the defeat of Troy. His wife, Clytemnestra, avenges the sacrificial death of her daughter Iphigenia by murdering Agamemnon, who had been responsible for Iphigenias death.
In the second play of the trilogy, Agamemnons son Orestes avenges his father by killing his mother and Orestes is now pursued by the avenging Furies, who torment him for killing his mother. Evil acts breed evil acts, and suffering is ones lot, suggests Aeschylus. But Orestes is put on trial and acquitted by Athena, the patron goddess of Athens. Personal vendetta has been eliminated, and law has prevailed. Reason has triumphed over the forces of evil.
34. Sophocles Oedipus the King
In the play Oedipus the King, the oracle of Apollo foretells that a man (Oedipus) will kill his own father and marry his mother. Despite all attempts at prevention, the tragic events occur.
Although it appears that Oedipus suffered the fate determined by the gods, Oedipus also accepts that he himself as a free man must bear responsibility for his actions.
Aristophanes (c. 450-c. 385 B.C.E.) used both grotesque masks and obscene jokes to entertain the Athenian audience, whose plays are examples of Old Comedy. But comedy in Athens was also more clearly political than tragedy. It was used to attack or savagely satirize both politicians and intellectuals.
In The Clouds, for example, Aristophanes characterized the philosopher Socrates as the operator of a thought factory where people could learn deceitful ways of handling other people. Later plays gave up the element of personal attack and featured contemporary issues. Of special importance to Aristophanes was his opposition to the Peloponnesian War. Lysistrata, performed in 411 B.C.E., at a time when Athens was in serious danger of losing the war, had a comic but effective message against the war.
36. The Parthenon
The Parthenon is regarded as the greatest example of the classical Greek temple, built between 447 and 432 B.C.E. The master builders Ictinus and Callicrates directed the construction of this temple holy to Athena, patron goddess of Athens.
It is an expression of Athenian enthusiasm and was also dedicated to the glory of Athens and the Athenians. The Parthenon typifies the principles of classical architecture: the search for calm, clarity, and freedom from superfluous detail.
37. Socrates and his Socratic method
Socrates (469-399 B.C.E.) left no writing of his own, but we know about him from his pupils, especially, Plato. He was a stonemason whose true love was philosophy. He taught a number of pupils for free because he believed that the goal of education was to improve the individual. His approach, still known as the Socratic method, employs a question-and-answer technique to lead pupils to see things for themselves using their own reason.
Socrates believed that all knowledge is within each person; only critical examination is needed to call it forth. This was the real task of philosophy, since the unexamined life is not worth living. He questioned authority, leading him to being accused and convicted of corrupting the youth of Athens by his teaching. An Athenian jury sentenced him to death.
38. Platos ideal forms
Plato (c.429-347 B.C.E. wrote a great deal and was fascinated with the question of reality. According to Plato, a higher world of eternal, unchanging Ideas or Forms has always existed. To know these Forms is to know truth.
These ideal Forms constitute reality and can only be apprehended by a trained mind- which is the goal of philosophy. The objects we perceive with our senses are simply reflections of the ideal Forms. They are shadows; reality is in the Forms themselves.
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.) was a pupil of Platos Academy that studied there for 20 years. He later became a tutor to Alexander the Great and didnt accept Platos theory of ideal Forms. Instead he believed that by examining individual objects, we can perceive their form and arrive at universal principles, but that these principles do not exist as a separate higher world of reality beyond material things but are a part of things themselves. Aristotles interests then lay in analyzing and classifying things based on thorough research and investigation. His interests were wide-ranging and he wrote treatises on an enormous number of subjects: ethics, politics, poetry, astronomy, geology, biology, and physics.
Aristotle wished for an effective form of government that would rationally direct human affairs. He didnt seek an ideal state based on the embodiment of an ideal Form of justice but tried to find the best form of government by a rational examination of existing governments. For his Politics, Aristotle examined the constitutions of 158 states and arrived at general categories for organizing governments. Aristotle also identified three good forms of government: monarchy (can turn into tyranny), aristocracy (can turn into oligarchy), and constitutional government (can turn into radical democracy or anarchy and favored). Aristotle maintained that women were biologically inferior to men and that women must be subordinated to men in community as well as marriage.
40. Oracle at Delphi
Since Greeks wanted to know the will of the gods, they made use of the oracle, a sacred shrine dedicated to a god or goddess who revealed the future. The most famous was the oracle of Apollo at Delphi, located on the side of Mount Parnassus, overlooking the Gulf of Corinth. At Delphi, a priestess listened to questions while in a state of ecstasy believed to be induced by Apollo. Her responses were interpreted by the priests and given in verse form to the person asking questions.
Representatives of states and individuals traveled to Delphi to consult the oracle of Apollo. States might inquire whether they should undertake a military expedition. Responses were often enigmatic and at times even politically motivates. Croesus, king of Lydia in Asia Minor sent messengers to the oracle at Delphi, asking whether he should go to war with the Persians. The oracle replied that if Croesus attacked the Persians, he would destroy a mighty empire, which turned out to be his own.
41. Olympic Games and Zeus
Zeus was the chief deity and father of the gods. As a way to honor the gods and goddesses, festivals were held. Some of these (the Pan-Hellenic celebrations) came to have international significance and were held at special locations, such as those dedicated to the worship of Zeus at Olympia or to Apollo at Delphi. Numerous events were held in honor of the gods at the great festivals, including athletic competitions to which all Greeks were invited.
The first such games were held at the Olympic festival in 776 B.C.E. and were then held every four years thereafter to honor Zeus. Initially, the Olympic contests consisted of footraces and wrestling, but later boxing, javelin throwing, and various other contests were added.
42. Macedonia and Philip II
The Macedonians in the north were viewed as barbarians by the Greeks. They were mostly rural folk, organized in tribes, not city-states, and not until the end of the 5th century B.C.E. did Macedonia emerge as an important kingdom. When Philip II (359-336 B.C.E.) came to the throne, he built an efficient army and turned Macedonia into the strongest power of the Greek world.
The alliance of Greek states battled against the Macedonians at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 B.C.E. After Philip II gained control over the Greek peninsula, he insisted that the Greek states end their rivalries and cooperate with him in a war against Persia. However, he was assassinated.
43. Battle of Chaeronea
Fear of Philip II led the Greek states allying against the Macedonians at the Battle of Chaeronea, near Thebes, in 338 B.C.E. The Macedonian army crushed the Greeks, and Philip was now free to consolidate his control over the Greek peninsula. The Greek states were joined together in an alliance we call the Corinthian League, every member having to take an oath of loyalty swearing I will abide by the peace, and I will not break the agreements with Philip the Macedonian, nor will I take up arms with hostile intent against any one of those who abide by the oaths either by land or by sea. Finally, Alexander was given control of the cavalry at the important battle of Chaeronea.
44. Alexander the Great
Alexander was only twenty when he became king of Macedonia. After his fathers assassination, Alexander moved quickly to assert his authority, securing the Macedonian frontiers and smothering a rebellion in Greece. He then turned to his fathers dream, the invasion of the Persian Empire. In the spring of 334 B.C.E., Alexander entered Asia Minor with an army of 37,000 men. At the battle at the Granicus river, Alexander almost lost his life, but resulted in a major victory. Darius III, the Persian king, mobilized his forces to stop Alexanders army. Although the Persian troops outnumber Alexanders, the Battle of Issus was fought on a narrow field, canceling the advantage of superior numbers and resulted in another Macedonian success.
By the winter of 332 B.C.E., Syria, Palestine, and Egypt were under his domination. He took the traditional title of pharaoh of Egypt and founded the first of a series of cities named after him (Alexandria). After fighting the Persians at Gaugamela and winning, Alexander entered Babylon and then proceeded to the Persian capitals at Susa and Persepolis, where he acquired the Persian treasuries and took possession of vast quantities of gold and silver. After Darius was killed by one of his own men, Alexander took the title and office of Great King of the Persians. However, he was ever restless and not content with his spoils. He moved from Pakistan to India, where he fought at the Battle of the Hydaspes River, which he won. Although Alexander determined that his army would march east to conquer more of India, his soldiers mutinied and refused to go on. Reluctantly, Alexander turned back, leading his men across the arid lands of southern Iran. Thousands died in the harsh desert lands upon reaching Babylon, but in June 323 B.C.E., weakened from wounds, fever, and probably excessive alcohol consumption, he died at the age of 32. We know that Alexander the Great sought to imitate Achilles, the warrior-hero of Homers Iliad and claimed to be descended from Heracles.
The word Hellenistic is derived from a Greek word meaning to imitate Greeks. It is an appropriate way, then to describe an age that saw the extension of the Greek language and ideas to the non-Greek world of the Middle East. Alexanders destruction of the Persian monarch created opportunities for Greek engineers, intellectuals, merchants, soldiers, and administrators. His successors used force to establish military monarchies that dominated the Hellenistic world after his death. Autocratic power became a regular feature of those Hellenistic monarchies and part of Alexanders political legacy to the Hellenistic world.
As a result of Alexanders conquests, Greek language, art, architecture, and literature spread throughout the Middle East. The urban centers of the Hellenistic age, many founded by Alexander and his successors, became springboards for the diffusion of Greek culture. His legacy created one of the basic characteristics of the Hellenistic world: the clash and fusion of different cultures.
Alexander took the traditional title of pharaoh of Egypt and founded the first of a series of cities named after him, such as Alexandria. It became the Greek administrative capital of Egypt. It became, and still remains today, one of Egypts and the Mediterranean worlds most important cities. Alexandria was the largest city in the Mediterranean region by the 1st century B.C.E.
47. Antigonid, Seleucid, Attalid, and Ptolemaic Dynasties
By 300 B.C.E., all hope of unity was dead, and eventually four Hellenistic kingdoms emerged as the successors to Alexander: Macedonia under the Antigonid dynasty, Syria and the east under the Seleucids, the Attalid kingdom of Pergamum in western Asia Minor, and Egypt under the Ptolemies. All were eventually conquered by the Romans. The Hellenistic monarchies created a semblance of stability for several centuries.
Archimedes (287-212 B.C.E.) of Syracuse was the most famous scientist during the Hellenistic age. He was especially important for his work on the geometry of spheres and cylinders and for establishing the value of the mathematical constant pi. Archimedes was also a practical inventor, and may have devised the Archimedean screw, used to pump water out of mines and to lift irrigation water, as well as a compound pulley for transporting heavy weights. During the roman siege of Syracuse, he constructed a number of devices to thwart the attackers.
The Romans became extremely frightened and fled as a result according to Plutarchs account. Archimedes accomplishments inspired a wealth of semi-legendary stories. Supposedly, he discovered specific gravity by observing the water he displaced in his bath and became so excited by his realization that he jumped out of the water and ran home naked, shouting, Eureka! (I have found it!). He is said to have emphasized the importance of levers by proclaiming to the king of Syracuse, Give me a lever and a place to stand, and I will move the earth. The king was so impressed that he encouraged Archimedes to lower his sights and build defensive weapons instead.
Epicurus (341-270 B.C.E.), the founder of Epicureanism, established a school in Athens near the end of the 4th century B.C.E. Epicurus believed that human beings were free to follow self-interest as a basic motivating force. Happiness was the goal of life, and the means to achieve it was the pursuit of pleasure, the only true good. But the pursuit of pleasure was not meant in a physical, hedonistic sense.
Pleasure was not satisfying ones desire in an active, gluttonous fashion but rather freedom from emotional turmoil, freedom from worry, and the freedom that came from a mind at rest. To achieve this kind of pleasure, one had to free oneself from public affairs and politics. But his was not a renunciation of all social life, for to Epicurus, a life could be complete only when it was centered on friendship. Epicurus own life in Athens was an embodiment of his teachings. He and his friends created their own private community where they could pursue their ideal of true happiness.
Zeno (335-263 B.C.E.) was a teacher who produced Stoicism, which became the most popular philosophy of the Hellenistic world and later flourished in the Roman Empire as well. He came to Athens and began to teach in a public colonnade known as the Painted Portico (the Stoa Poikile hence Stoicism). Like Epicureanism, Stoicism was concerned with how individuals find happiness. But Stoics took a radically different approach to the problem.
To them, happiness, the supreme good, could be found only by living in harmony with the will of the gods, by which people gained inner peace. Lifes problems could not disturb these people, and they could bear whatever life offered. Unlike Epicureans, Stoics didnt believe in the need to separate oneself from the world and politics. Public service was regarded as noble, and the real Stoic was a good citizen and could even be a good government official.