Ancient History 101 : Greece 01 - Introduction

Introduction

greece, chapter 1 (3000 BCE to 1 CE)

500 to 300 BC (at its peak)

Western society owes a huge debt to the ancient Greeks. It’s from them that we’ve gotten ideas about government, science, philosophy, theater, trial by jury, Olympics sports, and many more.

Greek civilization was at its peak from about 500 to 300 BCE (about 2300 years ago). It’s called Greece’s Classical Age. We now know that many of their myths from this time came from their memories of a previous high civilization they called The Age of Heroes; known to us now as Greece’s Bronze Age.

Geography

Greece is a peninsular country in southern Europe made up of about 3,000 little islands clustered together in the Mediterranean and Ionian Seas. The closest countries to it are Turkey and Albania.

Peninsula
a mass of land that sticks out and is bordered by water on three sides

Bronze Age (1500 - 1150 BCE)

People used tools and weapons made of bronze, which is a mixture of the metals copper and tin.

Somewhere in this time period, Greece was divided into two general areas.

One was in the islands of the Aegean Sea. The Minoans lived here on the island of Crete. They built huge, sprawling palaces that had running water and flush toilets, as well as large fleets of ships that traded with lands as far away as Egypt.

The other was the Greek mainland. The Mycenaeans lived here. They made bridges and fortresses made of enormous stones. Sometime around 1400 BCE, they attacked Crete and destroyed many of the Minoan towns and palaces. Sad.

Dark Ages (1200 BCE)

The Mycenaeans cruised along for a while, building their bridges and making their fortresses. But in the 1180s (or so), things started going downhill. We don’t know exactly what happened, and the famous Trojan War (see: Homer’s Iliad) probably took place around this time.

It’s difficult to know whether the Trojan War was a single, real event or whether it’s a mish-mash of a number of different events. Regardless of the exact timeline, somewhere in this period armies swarmed through and destroyed many of their cities and much of their culture.

Greek culture disappeared for a period of time we call the Dark Ages. Reading and writing were lost; poverty was widespread and people forgot about their heritage. Sad.

City-States 800 BCE

Eventually, these areas began to prosper again and city-states begin to form. They met people from other civilizations like the Phoenicians, from whom they adopted the alphabet. Hundreds of city-states developed across the region. Each was independent and made up of a central town and surrounding villages, farms, and land.

City-state
a small independent country that consists of a single city

Around the dawn of the Classical Age, two city-states came to dominate Greece:

Athens, a city-state of a couple hundred thousand, was located in the east mainland. They had the biggest navy and created the world’s first democracy, although those democratic ideals were not extended to slaves or women.

Democracy
citizens govern themselves

Sparta was in the peninsula that made up Greece’s southern third, called the Peloponnesus. It had the strongest land army. They ruled by kings and a council of elders. If you were a boy that enjoyed things like sewing and baking, then Sparta would not have been an ideal place for you to grow up. More on that later.

Most states had fewer than 5,000-10,000 citizens.

Footnote

Introduction to Ancient History, from the Paleolithic Era to the fall of Rome, and how the lives, cultures, decisions, and actions of these periods affects our modern lives.

Education for most ages and for all curious people.
Written by Joseph Ivan Long with curiosity, humbleness, and a big grin.