Answer A History Question

Identify two important influences from Ancient Greece that shape or have shaped the evolution of politics. Be sure to provide specfic examples from the western based civilizations we have studied.

A t l a n t i c Ocean




      e             h R  
    ir           i      
  Lo     R            
            .     e      
    G AU L     .      
                ne R.      
                o       P
              R h        
            s   Sardinia




R .


  I   D     CRIMEA
  L   n      
  R   R      
  I   .   Black Sea
I   A BALKAN    
Y       Byzantium
  Tarentum THRACE  
        Troy   ASIA
          IONIA MINOR

image2.jpg image3.jpg



0 250 500 750 Kilometers


Sicily Corinth Athens  
Syracuse Pylos   Sparta    
        Thera Cyprus
d         Tyre
i t e        
    n e an Se a  


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a t


e s

R .

ª Cengage Learning


0 250 500 Miles     Naucratis
    Greece     Phoenicia  
    Greek colonies   Phoenician colonies EGYPT
il Red
R Sea

MAP 3.2 Greece and Its Colonies in the Archaic Age. Impelled by overpopulation and poverty, Greeks spread out from their homelands during the Archaic Age, establishing colonies in many parts of the Mediterranean. The colonies were independent city-states that traded with the older Greek city-states.


What aspects of the colonies’ locations facilitated trade between them and city-states in Greece?

Tyranny in the Greek Polis

When the polis emerged as an important institution in Greece in the eighth century, monarchical power waned, and kings virtually disappeared in most Greek states or survived only as ceremonial figures with little or no real power. Instead, politi-cal power passed into the hands of local aristocracies. But increasing divisions between rich and poor and the aspirations of newly rising industrial and commercial groups in Greek poleis opened the door to the rise of tyrants in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C.E. They were not necessarily oppres-sive or wicked, as our word tyrant connotes. Greek tyrants were rulers who seized power by force and who were not subject to the law. Support for the tyrants came from the new rich, who made their money in trade and industry, as well as from poor peasants, who were in debt to landholding aristo-crats. Both groups were opposed to the domination of politi-cal power by the aristocrats.

Tyrants usually achieved power by a local coup d’e´tat and maintained it by using mercenary soldiers. Once in power, they built new marketplaces, temples, and walls that created jobs, glorified the city, and also enhanced their own popular-ity. Tyrants also favored the interests of merchants and


traders by encouraging the founding of new colonies, devel-oping new coinage, and establishing new systems of weights and measures. In many instances, they added to the prosper-ity of their cities. By their patronage of the arts, they encour-aged cultural development.

THE EXAMPLE OF CORINTH One of the most famous exam-ples of tyranny can be found in Corinth (KOR-inth). During the eighth and early seventh centuries B.C.E., Corinth had become one of the most prosperous states in Greece under the rule of an oligarchy led by members of the Bacchiad fam-ily. Their violent activities, however, made them unpopular and led Cypselus (SIP-suh-luss), a member of the family, to overthrow the oligarchy and assume sole control of Corinth.

Cypselus was so well liked that he could rule without a bodyguard. During his tyranny, Corinth prospered by exporting vast quantities of pottery and founding new colonies to expand its trade empire. Cypselus’s son, Periander, took control of Cor-inth after his father’s death but ruled with such cruelty that shortly after he died in 585 B.C.E., his son, who succeeded him, was killed, and a new oligarchy soon ruled Corinth.

As in Corinth, tyranny elsewhere in Greece was largely extinguished by the end of the sixth century B.C.E. The

The World of the Greek City-States (c. 750–c. 500 B.C.E.) n 61

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children and grandchildren of tyrants, who tended to be cor-rupted by their inherited power and wealth, often became cruel and unjust rulers, making tyranny no longer seem such a desirable institution. Its very nature as a system outside the law seemed contradictory to the ideal of law in a Greek com-munity. Tyranny did not last, but it played a significant role in the evolution of Greek history. The rule of narrow aristo-cratic oligarchies was destroyed. Once the tyrants were elimi-nated, the door was opened to the participation of more people in the affairs of the community. Although this trend culminated in the development of democracy in some com-munities, in other states expanded oligarchies of one kind or another managed to remain in power. Greek states exhibited considerable variety in their governmental structures; this can perhaps best be seen by examining the two most famous and most powerful Greek city-states, Sparta and Athens.


The Greeks of Sparta and Athens spoke different dialects and developed different political systems. The Spartans sought sta-bility and conformity and emphasized order. The Athenians allowed for individual differences and stressed freedom. Although the two states shared a common heritage, their dif-ferences grew so large in their own minds that they were ulti-mately willing to engage in a life-and-death struggle to support their separate realities. When they did so, the entire Greek world was the real loser.

Located in the southeastern Peloponnesus, in an area known as Laconia (luh-KOH-nee-uh), the Spartans had orig-inally occupied four small villages that eventually became uni-fied into a single polis (a fifth soon joined the others). This unification made Sparta a strong community in Laconia and enabled the Spartans to conquer the neighboring Laconians. Many Laconians became perioikoi (per-ee-EE-koh-ee), free inhabitants but not citizens who were required to pay taxes and perform military service for Sparta. Other Laconians became known as helots (HEL-uts) (derived from a Greek word for ‘‘capture’’). They were bound to the land and forced to work on farms and as household servants for the Spartans.

When the land in Laconia proved unable to maintain the growing number of Spartan citizens, the Spartans looked for land nearby and, beginning around 730 B.C.E., undertook the conquest of neighboring Messenia despite its larger size and population. Messenia possessed a spacious, fertile plain ideal for growing grain. After its conquest, which was not completed until the sev-enth century B.C.E., the Messenians were made helots and forced to work for the Spartans. But the helots drastically outnumbered the Spartan citizens (some estimates are ten to one) and con-stantly threatened to revolt. To ensure control over them, the Spartans made a conscious decision to create a military state.

Sometime between 800 and 600 B.C.E., the Spartans insti-tuted a series of reforms that are associated with the name of the lawgiver Lycurgus (ly-KUR-guss) (see the box on p. 63). Although historians are not sure that Lycurgus ever existed, there is no doubt about the result of the reforms that were made: Sparta was transformed into a perpetual military camp.

62 n CHAPTER 3 The Civilization of the Greeks


THE NEW SPARTA The lives of Spartans were now rigidly organized. At birth, each child was examined by state officials who decided whether it was fit to live. Those judged unfit were exposed to the elements and left to die. Boys were taken from their mothers at the age of seven and put under control of the state. They lived in barracks, where they were sub-jected 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. Although allowed to marry, they continued to live in the barracks and ate their meals in public dining halls with their fellow soldiers. Meals were simple; the famous Spartan black broth consisted of a piece of pork boiled in blood, salt, and vinegar, causing a visitor who ate in a pub-lic mess to remark that he now understood why Spartans were not afraid to die. At thirty, Spartan males were recog-nized as mature and allowed to vote in the assembly and live at home, but they remained in the army until the age of sixty.

While their husbands remained in military barracks until age thirty, Spartan women lived at home. Because of this sep-aration, Spartan women had greater freedom of movement. Permitted to own and inherit land, Spartan women had more power in the household than was common for women else-where in Greece and could even supervise large estates. They were encouraged to exercise and remain fit to bear and raise healthy children. Like the men, Spartan women engaged in athletic exercises in the nude. At solemn feasts, the young women would march naked in processions, and in the pres-ence of the young men, they would sing songs about those who had showed special gallantry or cowardice on the battle-field. Many Spartan women upheld the strict Spartan values, expecting their husbands and sons to be brave in war. The story is told that as a Spartan mother was burying her son, an old woman came up to her and said, ‘‘You poor woman, what a misfortune.’’ ‘‘No,’’ replied the other, ‘‘because I bore him so that he might die for Sparta and that is what has happened, as I wished.’’7 Another Spartan woman saw her son off to war by telling him to come back carrying his shield or carried on it.

The Spartan social structure was rigidly organized. At the summit were the Spartiates (spar-tee-AH-teez)—full Spartan citizens. Each Spartan citizen owned a piece of land, worked by the helots, to provide economic sustenance. With their material needs provided for them, Spartan citizens could dedi-cate themselves to their duties as a ruling class. Below the Spartiates were the perioikoi. Though free, they did not possess the privileges of citizenship and served as small merchants and artisans. They were subject to military duty, however. At the bottom of the social scale were the helots, perpetually bound to the land. They were assigned to the lands of the Spartan citizens. The helots farmed the land and gave their masters half of the produce. According to one seventh-century Spartan poet, helots worked ‘‘like donkeys exhausted under heavy loads.’’ A secret police force lived among them and was permitted to kill any helot considered dangerous. To le-galize this murder, the state officially declared war on the hel-ots at the beginning of each year.

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image5.jpgThe Lycurgan Reforms

TO MAINTAIN THEIR CONTROL over the helots, the Spartans instituted the reforms that created their military state. In this account of the lawgiver Lycurgus, the Greek historian Plutarch discusses the effect of these reforms on the treatment and education of boys.

Plutarch, Lycurgus

Lycurgus was of another mind; he would not have masters bought out of the market for his young Spartans, . . . nor was it lawful, indeed, for the father himself to breed up the children after his own fancy; but as soon as they were seven years old they were to be enrolled in certain companies and classes, where they all lived under the same order and discipline, doing their exercises and taking their play together. Of these, he who showed the most conduct and courage was made captain; they had their eyes always upon him, obeyed his orders, and underwent patiently whatsoever punishment he inflicted; so that the whole course of their education was one continued exercise of a ready and perfect obedience. The old men, too, were spectators of their performances, and often raised quarrels and disputes among them, to have a good opportunity of finding out their different characters, and of seeing which would be valiant, which a coward, when they should come to more dangerous encounters. Reading and writing they gave them just enough to serve their turn; their chief care was to make them good subjects, and to teach them to endure pain and conquer in battle. To this end, as they grew in years, their discipline was proportionately increased; their heads were close-clipped, they were accustomed to go barefoot, and for the most part to play naked.

After they were twelve years old, they were no longer allowed to wear any undergarments, they had one coat to


serve them a year; their bodies were hard and dry, with but little acquaintance of baths and unguents; these human indulgences they were allowed only on some few particular days in the year. They lodged together in little bands upon beds made of the rushes which grew by the banks of the river Eurotas, which they were to break off with their hands with a knife; if it were winter, they mingled some thistledown with their rushes, which it was thought had the property of giving warmth. By the time they were come to this age there was not any of the more hopeful boys who had not a lover to bear him company. The old men, too, had an eye upon them, coming often to the grounds to hear and see them contend either in wit or strength with one another, and this as seriously . . . as if they were their fathers, their tutors, or their magistrates; so that there scarcely was any time or place without someone present to put them in mind of their duty, and punish them if they had neglected it.

[Spartan boys were also encouraged to steal their food.] They stole, too, all other meat they could lay their hands on, looking out and watching all opportunities, when people were asleep or more careless than usual. If they were caught, they were not only punished with whipping, but hunger, too, being reduced to their ordinary allowance, which was but very slender, and so contrived on purpose, that they might set about to help themselves, and be forced to exercise their energy and address. This was the principal design of their hard fare.

What does this passage from Plutarch’s account of Lycurgus tell you about the nature of the Spartan state? Why would the entire program have been distasteful to the Athenians?

Source: From The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans by Plutarch, translated by John Dryden and edited by Arthur H. Clough.

THE SPARTAN STATE The so-called Lycurgan reforms also reorganized the Spartan government, creating an oligarchy. Two kings from different families were primarily responsible for military affairs and served as the leaders of the Spartan army on its campaigns. Five men, known as the ephors (EFF-urz), were elected each year and were responsible for the education of youth and the conduct of all citizens. A council of elders, com-posed of the two kings and twenty-eight citizens over the age of sixty, decided what issues would be presented to an assembly of all male citizens. This assembly did not debate but only voted on the proposals put before it by the council of elders. The as-sembly also elected the council of elders and the ephors.

To make their new military state secure, the Spartans deliberately turned their backs on the outside world. Foreign-ers, who might bring in new ideas, were discouraged from visiting Sparta. Nor were Spartans, except for military reasons,


encouraged to travel abroad where they might pick up new ideas. Trade and commerce were likewise minimized. Spartan citizens were discouraged from pursuing philosophy, litera-ture, the arts, or any subject that might foster novel thoughts dangerous to the stability of the state. The art of war and rul-ing was the Spartan ideal. All other arts were frowned on.

In the sixth century, Sparta used its military might and the fear it inspired to gain greater control of the Peloponnesus by organizing an alliance of almost all the Peloponnesian states. Sparta’s strength enabled it to dominate this Peloponnesian League and determine its policies. By 500 B.C.E., the Spartans had organized a powerful military state that maintained order and stability in the Peloponnesus. Raised from early childhood to believe that total loyalty to the Spartan state was the basic reason for existence, the Spartans viewed their strength as jus-tification for their militaristic ideals and regimented society.

The World of the Greek City-States (c. 750–c. 500 B.C.E.) n 63

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CHRONOLOGY Archaic Greece: Sparta and Athens

Conquest of Messenia c. 730–710 B.C.E.
Beginning of Peloponnesian League c. 560–550 B.C.E.
Solon’s reforms 594–593 B.C.E.
Tyranny of Pisistratus c. 560–556 and
  546–527 B.C.E.
End of tyranny 510 B.C.E.
Cleisthenes’s reforms c. 508–501 B.C.E.


By 700 B.C.E., Athens had established a unified polis on the peninsula of Attica. Although early Athens had been ruled by a monarchy, by the seventh century B.C.E. it had fallen under the control of its aristocrats. They possessed the best land and controlled political and religious life by means of a council of nobles called the Areopagus (ar-ee-OP-uh-guss), assisted by a board of nine archons. Although there was an assembly of full citizens, it possessed few powers.

Near the end of the seventh century B.C.E., Athens faced political turmoil because of serious economic problems. Many Athenian farmers found themselves sold into slavery when they were unable to repay the loans they had borrowed from their aristocratic neighbors, pledging themselves as collateral. Over and over, there were cries to cancel the debts and give land to the poor. Athens seemed on the verge of civil war.

THE REFORMS OF SOLON Hoping to avoid tyranny, the rul-ing Athenian aristocrats responded to this crisis by choosing Solon (SOH-lun), a reform-minded aristocrat, as sole archon in 594 B.C.E. and giving him full power to make reforms. Solon canceled all current land debts, outlawed new loans based on humans as collateral, and freed people who had fallen into slavery for debt. He refused, however, to carry out the redistribution of the land and hence failed to deal with the basic cause of the economic crisis.

Like his economic reforms, Solon’s political measures were also a compromise. Though by no means eliminating the power of the aristocracy, they opened the door to the partici-pation of new people, especially the nonaristocratic wealthy, in the government. Wealth instead of birth now qualified peo-ple for holding political office, thus creating upward political mobility. Solon divided all Athenian citizens into four classes on the basis of wealth. Only men in the first two classes (the wealthiest classes) could hold the archonship and be members of the Areopagus.

THE MOVE TO TYRANNY But Solon’s reforms, though popu-lar, did not solve Athens’s problems. Aristocratic factions contin-ued to vie for power, and the poorer peasants resented Solon’s failure to institute land redistribution. Internal strife finally led to the very institution Solon had hoped to avoid—tyranny.

64 n CHAPTER 3 The Civilization of the Greeks

Pisistratus (puh-SIS-truh-tuss), an aristocrat and a distant relative of Solon’s, seized power in 560 B.C.E. and made himself a tyrant.

Pisistratus did not tamper very much with the constitu-tion. The assembly, councils, and courts continued to func-tion while he made sure that his supporters were elected as magistrates and council members. Pisistratus curried favor with the small farmers by offering land and loans to the needy. His ambitious building program, aimed at beautifying the city, also created jobs. Pursuing a foreign policy that aided Athenian trade, Pisistratus also maintained the support of the mercantile and industrial classes. Pisistra-tus’s mild tyranny was popular with many Athenians, but they rebelled against his son and ended the tyranny in 510 B.C.E. Although the aristocrats attempted to reestablish an aristocratic oligarchy, Cleisthenes (KLYSS-thuh-neez), an aristocratic reformer, opposed this plan and, with the backing of the Athenian people, gained the upper hand in 508 B.C.E. The reforms of Cleisthenes now established the basis for Athenian democracy.

THE REFORMS OF CLEISTHENES A major aim of Cleisthe-

nes’s reforms was to weaken the power of traditional localities and regions, which had provided the foundation for aristocratic strength. He made the demes, the villages and townships of Attica, the basic units of political life. Cleisthenes enrolled all the citizens of the demes in ten new tribes, each of which con-tained inhabitants located in the country districts of Attica, the coastal areas, and Athens itself. The ten tribes thus contained a cross section of the population and reflected all of Attica, a move that gave local areas a basic role in the political structure. Each of the ten tribes chose fifty members by lot each year for a new Council of Five Hundred, which was responsible for the administration of both foreign and financial affairs and prepared the business that would be handled by the assembly. This as-sembly of all male citizens had final authority in the passing of laws after free and open debate; thus, Cleisthenes’s reforms strengthened the central role of the assembly of citizens in the Athenian political system.

The reforms of Cleisthenes laid the foundations for Athe-nian democracy. More changes would come in the fifth cen-tury when the Athenians themselves would begin to use the word democracy (from the Greek words demos, ‘‘people,’’ and kratia, ‘‘power’’; thus, ‘‘power to the people’’) to describe their system. By 500 B.C.E., Athens was more united than it had been and was about to assume a more important role in Greek affairs.

Greek Culture in the Archaic Age

The period after the Dark Age witnessed a revitalization of Greek life that is also evident in Greek art and literature. Some aspects of Archaic Greek culture, such as pottery and sculpture, were especially influenced by the East. Greek sculp-ture, particularly that of the Ionian Greek settlements in southwestern Asia Minor, demonstrates the impact of the con-siderably older Egyptian civilization. There we first see the

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            that homosexual and heterosexual feelings could exist
            in the same individual. Sappho was a wife and a mother
            who also wrote poems about love between men and
NY     between women.      
      Archaic Greece is also known for poets who
      reflected the lifestyles of both aristocrats and peasants.
Art     A wide gulf, however, separated the wealthy aristocrat
      with his large landed estates from the poor peasants
      and small farmers who eked out their existence as best
Image     they could. Hesiod (HEE-see-uhd), a poet from Boeo-
of Art.     tia in central Greece who lived around 700 B.C.E., wrote
      a lengthy epic poem titled Works and Days. Himself a
      farmer, Hesiod distrusted aristocrats and looked down
Metropolitan     on what he considered the aristocratic emphasis on
      pride and war. One of his aims was to show that the
            gods punished injustice and that the way to success was
Theª     to work: ‘‘Famine and blight do not beset the just, who
      till their well-worked fields and feast. The earth sup-
TheMetropolitanMuseumofArt,NewYork//Image   EgyptianMuseum,Cairo//Scala/ArtResource,NY  
      Theognis of Megara (THEE-og-niss of MEG-er-uh)
            ports them lavishly.’’ Therefore:  
            . . . you must learn to organize your work  
            So you may have full barns at harvest time.  
            From working, men grow rich in flocks and gold
            And dearer to the deathless gods. In work  
            There is no shame; shame is in idleness.8  
            Works and Days is the first known paean to work in
            Western literature.      
            described a way of life considerably different from Hesi-
  Kouros. On the left is an early example of Greek kouros sculpture, a statue of a  
    od’s. Theognis was an aristocrat who lived and wrote
  young male nude from around 600 B.C.E. Such statues, which were placed in      
        primarily in the sixth century B.C.E. As a result of revolu-
  temples along with companion figures of clothed young women, known as      
        tionary upheaval, he, like other aristocrats in sixth-cen-
  korai, were meant to be representations of the faithful dedicated to the gods. At  
  the right is an early-seventh-century B.C.E. statue of an Egyptian nobleman. The tury poleis, lost his position and probably his wealth.
  influence of Egyptian sculpture on Greek art is evident. Unlike the Egyptians,     Sent into exile, he became a bitter man. In his poetry, he
  however, Greek sculptors preferred to depict nude male figures.     portrayed aristocrats as the only good people who are
            distinguished from others by their natural intelligence,
            virtue, honor, and moderation. The lower classes or
  life-size stone statues of young male nudes known as kouros     common people were by nature bad and debased:
  (KOO-rohss) figures. The kouros bears considerable resem-     Only a fool does favors for the base;  
blance to Egyptian statues of the New Kingdom. The figures        
are not realistic but stiff, with a slight smile; one leg is     You’d do as well to sow the gray salt sea.  
advanced ahead of the other, and the arms are held rigidly at     No crop of corn would come up from the deep,  
the sides of the body.     No gratitude, no favors from the base.  
  Greek literature of the seventh century is perhaps best     The scum are never sated. If you slip,  
known for its lyric poetry. The lyric is considerably shorter     Just once, their former friendship melts away.  
than epic poetry (such as Homer’s) and focuses on personal     But put a gentleman once in your debt,  
emotions, usually the power of love and its impact on human     You have a friend for life; he won’t forget.  
lives. Later Greeks acknowledged Sappho as their greatest            
female lyric poet (see the box on p. 66). Born in the seventh Aristocrats, then, should associate only with other aristocrats:
century, Sappho lived on the island of Lesbos in the ‘‘Avoid low company, mix only with the better sort of men. . . .
Aegean Sea, where she taught music and poetry to her young From them you will learn goodness. Men of little worth will
charges. Many of her poems are love songs to her female spoil the natural beauty of your birth.’’9 The poems of Theog-
students. Our word lesbian is derived from Sappho’s island nis reveal the political views and biases of a typical sixth-
of Lesbos. Sappho, like many upper-class Greeks, accepted century aristocrat.      


The World of the Greek City-States (c. 750–c. 500 B.C.E.) n 65

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The Lyric Poetry of Sappho

THESE LOVE POEMS ARE examples of the work of Sappho of Lesbos, regarded as one of the Greeks’ greatest lyric poets. She wrote directly about her personal world of emotions. Sappho is an unusual figure, an independent woman in a world dominated by males. Her attitude toward the Trojan War, as seen in the poem To Anaktoria, is quite different from that found in Homer’s Iliad.

Sappho, To Anaktoria, Now a Soldier’s Wife

in Lydia

Some say cavalry and some would claim infantry or a fleet of long oars

is the supreme sight on the black earth. I say it is

the girl you love. And easily proved. Did not Helen, who was queen of mortal beauty, choose as first among mankind

the very scourge

of Trojan honor? Haunted by Love she forgot kinsmen, her own dear child and wandered off to a remote country.

O weak and fitful

woman bending before any man: so Anaktoria, although you are

far, do not forget your loving friends. And I for one

would rather listen to your soft step and see your radiant face—than watch all the dazzling horsemen and armored

hoplites of Lydia.


To Atthis


So I shall never see Atthis again, and really I long to be dead, although she too cried bitterly

when she left and she said to me, ‘‘Ah, what a nightmare we’ve suffered. Sappho, I swear I go unwillingly.’’

And I answered, ‘‘Go, and be happy. But remember me, for surely you know how I worshiped you. If not,

then I want you to remember all the exquisite days we too shared;

how when near me you would adorn

your hanging locks with violets and tiny roses and your sapling throat with necklets of a hundred blossoms;

how your young flesh was rich with kingly myrrh as you leaned near my breasts on the soft couch where delicate girls

served us all an Ionian could desire; how we went to every hill, brook, and holy place, and when early spring

filled the woods with noises of birds and a choir of nightingales—we two in solitude were wandering there.’’

Compare Sappho’s To Anaktoria with the passage from Homer’s Iliad (see p. 58). What does this comparison reveal about different forms of Greek literary expression, differences in Greek society, and the role of gender in Greek descriptions of emotion?

Source: From Greek Lyric Poetry by Willis Barnstone, copyright ª 1962, 1967, 1988 by Willis Barnstone. Reprinted by permission of the author.

The High Point of Greek

Civilization: Classical Greece


FOCUS QUESTIONS: What did the Greeks mean by democracy, and in what ways was the Athenian political system a democracy? What effect did the Persian Wars have on Greek military and political developments?

What effect did the Great Peloponnesian War have on Greek economic, military, and political developments?

Classical Greece is the name given to the period of Greek his-tory from around 500 B.C.E. to the conquest of Greece by the Macedonian king Philip II in 338 B.C.E. It was a period of bril-liant achievement, much of it associated with the flowering of


democracy in Athens under the leadership of Pericles. Many of the lasting contributions of the Greeks occurred during this period. The age began with a mighty confrontation between the Greek states and the mammoth Persian Empire.

The Challenge of Persia

As Greek civilization expanded throughout the Mediterranean region, it was inevitable that it would come into contact with the Persian Empire to the east. In his play The Persians, the Greek playwright Aeschylus (ESS-kuh-luss) expressed what some Greeks perceived to be the essential difference between themselves and the Persians. The Persian queen, curious to find out more about the Athenians, asks: ‘‘Who commands them? Who is shepherd of their host?’’ The chorus responds:

66 n CHAPTER 3 The Civilization of the Greeks

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‘‘They are slaves to none, nor are they subject.’’10 Thus, at least some Greeks saw the struggle with the Persians as a con-test between freedom and slavery. To the Greeks, a person was a citizen of the state, not a subject.

The Ionian Greek cities in southwestern Asia Minor had al-ready fallen subject to the Persian Empire by the mid-sixth century B.C.E. (see Chapter 2). An unsuccessful revolt by the Ionian cities in 499, assisted by the Athenian navy, led the Per-sian ruler Darius to seek revenge by attacking the mainland Greeks in 490. Darius may also have wished to expand his empire westward.

THE FIRST PERSIAN ATTACK The Persians sailed across the Aegean, captured Eretria (which had also aided the Ionian rebels) on the island of Euboea across from Attica, and then transferred their army to the plain of Marathon, only 26 miles from Athens (see Map 3.3). The Athenians, aided by the Pla-taeans (from a neighboring town in Boeotia), confronted the Persians without additional assistance. The two armies were quite different. The Persians, with their light-armed troops,


were more mobile and flexible and relied heavily on missiles; the Greek hoplites were armed with heavy shields and relied on spear thrusts at close range. The Athenians and Plataeans were clearly outnumbered, but led by Miltiades (mil-TY-uh-deez), one of the Athenian leaders who insisted on attacking, the Greek hoplites charged across the plain of Marathon and crushed the Persian forces (see the box on p. 68). The Per-sians did not mount another attack against mainland Greece for ten years.

In the meantime, Athens had acquired a new leader, The-mistocles (thuh-MISS-tuh-kleez), a man lacking in aristo-cratic connections but strongly favored by Athenian merchants and highly skilled in speaking in the democratic as-sembly. Themistocles persuaded his fellow citizens to pursue a new military policy, namely, the development of a navy. The Athenians used a newly discovered vein of silver from Laurium to finance the construction of ships and new port facilities. By 480 B.C.E., Athens had produced a navy of about two hundred vessels, primarily triremes (TRY-reemz) (ships with three banks of oars).

ª Cengage Learning


      Black Sea
    THRACE Propontis
    Thasos (Sea of Marmara)
    Canal Bridge of Ships
Corcyra THESSALY Aegean  
    Sea Lesbos ASIA MINOR


  Thermopylae Euboea      
  480 B.C.E.       Sardis
  BOEOTIA Eretria Chios  
  Delphi Thebes ATTICA   IONIA
Ionian Gulf of   490 B.C.E. Samos  
  Corinth Marathon   Mycale
Sea 479 B.C.E. Athens   479 B.C.E.
  Corinth Salamis     Miletus
    480 B.C.E.      
          494 B.C.E.
                PELOPONNESUS Delos
                      Sparta Naxos
  0 100 200 300 Kilometers Melos
  0         100         200 Miles  
                    S e a o f C r e t e
      Persian War battles              
      Invasion route of Xerxes’s army    
      Invasion route of Xerxes’s navy   Crete

MAP 3.3 The Persian Wars. The Athenians defeated Persia in 490 B.C.E. at Marathon. Athens later led a coalition of Greek city-states that decisively defeated Xerxes’s navy at the Battle of Salamis in 480 B.C.E., causing Xerxes to withdraw most of his troops back to Asia.


How far did the Persian army have to walk to get to Athens, and through what types of terrain?

The High Point of Greek Civilization: Classical Greece n 67

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The Battle of Marathon

THE BATTLE OF MARATHON (490 B.C.E.) was an important event in the struggle between the Greeks and the Persians. The defeat of the mighty Persians gave Athenian confidence a tremendous boost. In The Persian Wars, the Greek historian Herodotus gave an account of this momentous battle.

Herodotus, The Persian Wars

So when the battle was set in array, and the victims showed themselves favorable, instantly the Athenians, so soon as they were let go, charged the barbarians at a run. Now the distance between the two armies was little short of a mile. The Persians, therefore, when they saw the Greeks coming on at speed, made ready to receive them, although it seemed to them that the Athenians were bereft of their senses, and bent upon their own destruction; for they saw a mere handful of men coming on at a run without either horsemen or archers. Such was the opinion of the barbarians; but the Athenians in close array fell upon them, and fought in a manner worthy of being recorded. They were the first of the Greeks, so far as I know, who introduced the custom of charging the enemy at a run, and they were likewise the first who dared to look upon the Median garb, and to face men clad in that fashion. Until this time the very name of the Medes had been a terror to the Greeks to hear.


The two armies fought together on the plain of Marathon for a length of time; and in the midbattle, where the Persians themselves and the Sacae had their place, the barbarians were victorious, and broke and pursued the Greeks into the inner country; but on the two wings the Athenians and the Plataeans defeated the enemy. Having so done, they suffered the routed barbarians to fly at their ease, and joining the two wings in one, fell upon those who had broken their own center, and fought and conquered them. These likewise fled, and now the Athenians hung upon the runaways and cut them down, chasing them all the way to the shore, on reaching which they laid hold of the ships and called for

image13.jpgfire. . . .

After the full of the moon 2,000 Lacedaemonians [Spartans] came to Athens. So eager had they been to arrive in time, that they took but three days to reach Attica from Sparta. They came, however, too late for the battle; yet, as they had a longing to behold the Medes, they continued their march to Marathon and there viewed the slain. Then, after giving the Athenians all praise for their achievement, they departed and returned home.

How does this passage reflect Herodotus’s pride in the Greeks?

Source: From THE PERSIAN WARS by Herodotus, translated by George Rawlinson, copyright 1942 by Random House, Inc. Used by permission of Modern Library, a division of Random House, Inc.

A revolt in Egypt, compounded by the death of Darius in 486 B.C.E., kept the Persians from mounting another attack on Greece. Xerxes (ZURK-seez), the new Persian monarch, was bent on revenge and expansion, however. Some of the Greeks prepared by forming a defensive league under Spartan leader-ship, although many Greek states remained neutral; some even fought on the Persian side.

THE INVASION OF XERXES The Persians under Xerxes mounted their invasion in 480 B.C.E. Their military forces were massive: close to 150,000 troops, almost seven hundred naval ships, and hundreds of supply ships to feed their large army. The Persians crossed the Hellespont by forming a bridge of ships and then moved through Thrace and Macedonia on their way into Greece. The Greek plan, as it evolved, was to fight a holding action at the pass of Thermopylae (thur-MAHP-uh-lee) along the main road from Thessaly into Boeotia, probably to give the Greek fleet of three hundred ships at Artemisium, off northern Euboea, the chance to fight the Persian fleet. The Greeks knew that the Persian army depended on the fleet for supplies. A Greek force numbering close to nine thousand, under the leadership of the Spartan king Leonidas (lee-AHN-ih-duss) and his contingent of three hundred Spartans, held off the Persian army at Thermopylae for two days. The Spartan troops were especially brave. When told that Persian arrows


would darken the sky in battle, one Spartan warrior supposedly responded, ‘‘That is good news. We will fight in the shade!’’ Unfortunately for the Greeks, a traitor told the Persians of a mountain path they could use to outflank the Greek force. King Leonidas and the three hundred Spartans fought to the last man (see the Film & History feature on p. 69).

The Athenians, now threatened by the onslaught of the Per-sian forces, decided to abandon Athens and evacuated the pop-ulation of Attica to the offshore island of Salamis (SAH-luh-miss). Meanwhile, the Greek fleet remained in the straits off Salamis while the Persians sacked Athens. The Peloponnesians wanted the Greeks to retreat to the Peloponnesus and the Greek ships to move to the isthmus as well. Themistocles’s re-fusal and his threat to withdraw the Athenian ships altogether if a fight was not made forced the ships to remain and set up the naval Battle of Salamis. Although the Greeks were outnum-bered, they managed to outmaneuver the Persian fleet (mostly Phoenicians and Ionians) and decisively defeated it. The Per-sians still had their army and much of their fleet intact, but Xerxes, frightened at the prospect of another Ionian revolt, returned to Asia but left a Persian force in Thessaly.

Early in 479 B.C.E., the Greeks formed the largest Greek army seen up to that time. The Athenians forced the Spartans to move north of the Peloponnesus and take on the Persians at Plataea (pluh-TEE-uh), northwest of Athens, where the

68 n CHAPTER 3 The Civilization of the Greeks

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The three hundred Spartans prepare for battle.

Warner Bros/Legendary Pictures/The Kobal Collection at Art Resource, NY


300 (2007)

300, DIRECTED BY ZACK SNYDER, is an action film

adapted from a graphic novel. The movie is a fictional portrayal of the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C.E. in which the Greeks fought a delaying action against a much larger Persian army at the pass of Thermopylae. In the movie, the Spartan king Leonidas (Gerard Butler), contrary to the wishes of the Spartan government, leads a group of three hundred Spartan warriors—‘‘hard and strong’’—to Thermopylae to defend the ‘‘freedom’’ of the Greeks against the Persians, characterized by Leonidas as an army of slaves led by a despotic tyrant, King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). The Spartans hold their own against the Persian army through a series of bloody encounters until a Spartan traitor informs the Persians of a secret path through the mountains that they can use to outflank and surround the Spartans. The three hundred Spartans die courageously (‘‘freedom comes with a high

cost,’’ as Leonidas says) but not before Leonidas sends one Spartan, Dilios (David Wenham), back to Sparta to tell of the bravery of the three hundred and the need to continue the struggle. The movie ends with a large Greek army of 30,000 men (including 10,000 Spartans) preparing to attack the Persians at the Battle of Plataea.

300 is a strange mix of history and fantasy. Because the film is adapted from a graphic novel, it has a surreal quality in which special visual effects play a dominant role. Battle scenes rely on stylized violence using slow motion techniques, but they do capture the bloody nature of ancient warfare. The major historical events are accurate and so too are some of the prominent features of Spartan society. The Spartans were adamant about maintaining a code of honor based on martial values, but the film romanticizes that code by depicting the Spartan warriors with perfect physiques. As the film suggests, Spartan women also supported these martial values. The film uses the words of the Spartan mother


who saw her son off to war by telling him to come back carrying his shield or carried on it, although they are put in the mouth of Leonidas’s wife as she sends him off to battle. Indeed, quotations and facts from ancient authors are sprinkled throughout the film, but they are usually misused or spoken by the wrong people. The film follows the ancient historian Herodotus in portraying the struggle between Greeks and Persians as a clash of civilizations, between free men and slaves.

The portrayal of the Persians and their subject soldiers as monsters, however, is a gross distortion of reality and reflects the world of graphic novel fantasy rather than history. This portrayal also angered current Iranian leaders who condemned the depiction of ancient Persians as barbaric and demonic monsters. Leonidas’s putdown of the Athenians as ‘‘boy lovers’’ is certainly misleading in view of the homosexual practices of Spartan warriors, practices that were encouraged by the Spartan educational system.

Greek forces decisively defeated the Persian army. The rem-nants of the Persian forces retreated to Asia. At the same time, the Greeks destroyed much of the Persian fleet in a na-val battle at Mycale (MIH-kuh-lee) in Ionia. The Greeks were overjoyed at their victory but remained cautious. Would the Persians try again?

The Growth of an Athenian Empire

After the defeat of the Persians, Athens stepped in to provide new leadership against the Persians by forming a confedera-tion called the Delian League. Organized in the winter of


478–477 B.C.E., the Delian League was dominated by the Athenians from the beginning. Its main headquarters was the island of Delos (DEE-lahs), sacred to the Ionian Greeks, but its chief officials, including the treasurers and commanders of the fleet, were Athenians. Athens also provided most of the league’s three hundred ships. Under the leadership of the Athenians, the Delian League pursued the attack against the Persian Empire. Virtually all of the Greek states in the Aegean were liberated from Persian control, and the Persian fleet and army were decisively defeated in 469 B.C.E. in southern Asia Minor. Arguing that the Persian threat was now over, some members of the Delian League wished to withdraw. Naxos

The High Point of Greek Civilization: Classical Greece n 69

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      The Greek Trireme. The trireme became the standard
      warship of ancient Greece. Highly maneuverable, fast, and
      outfitted with metal prows, Greek triremes were especially
      effective at ramming enemy ships. The bas-relief below shows
      a fifth-century B.C.E. Athenian trireme. The photo shows the
      Olympias, a trireme reconstructed by the Greek navy.
AAAC/Topham/The Image Worksª       Orti/
        Acropolis Museum, Athens//Gianni DagliTheArtArchiveatArtResource,NY


did so in 470 and Thasos in 465 B.C.E. The Athenians responded vigorously. They attacked both states, destroyed their walls, took over their fleets, eliminated their liberty, and forced them to pay tribute. ‘‘No secession’’ became Athenian policy. The Delian League was rapidly becoming an instru-ment of Athenian imperialism and the nucleus of an Athenian empire.

THE AGE OF PERICLES At home, Athenians favored the new imperial policy, especially in the 450s B.C.E., when an aristo-crat named Pericles (PER-i-kleez) began to play an important political role. Under Pericles, Athens embarked on a policy of expanding democracy at home while severing its ties with Sparta and expanding its new empire abroad. This period of Athenian and Greek history, which historians have subse-quently labeled the Age of Pericles, witnessed the height of Athenian power and the culmination of its brilliance as a civilization.

In the Age of Pericles, the Athenians became deeply attached to their democratic system. The sovereignty of the


CHRONOLOGY The Persian Wars

Persian control of Greek cities in southwestern By 540s B.C.E.
Asia Minor  
Rebellion of Greek cities in Asia Minor 499–494 B.C.E.
Battle of Marathon 490 B.C.E.
Xerxes invades Greece 480–479 B.C.E.
Battles of Thermopylae and Salamis 480 B.C.E.
Battles of Plataea and Mycale 479 B.C.E.


people was embodied in the assembly, which consisted of all male citizens over eighteen years of age. In the 440s, that was probably a group of about 43,000. Meetings of the assembly were held on the hillside of the Pnyx (NIKS), east of the Acropolis. Not all could attend, and the number present sel-dom exceeded 6,000, which was the capacity of the Pnyx. The assembly passed all laws and made final decisions on war and foreign policy. Although anyone could speak, usually only respected leaders did so, a feat that required considerable speaking ability in such a large crowd. The reforms of Cleis-thenes had introduced the Council of Five Hundred, elected by lot from the ten tribes. It prepared the agenda for the as-sembly and made recommendations for action. Thus, the council served as a control on the assembly.

Routine administration of public affairs was handled by a large body of city magistrates, usually chosen by lot without regard to class and usually serving only one-year terms. This meant that many male citizens held public office at some time in their lives. A board of ten officials known as generals— strategoi (strah-tay-GOH-ee)—was elected by public vote to guide affairs of state, although their power depended on the respect they had attained. Generals were usually wealthy aristocrats, even though the people were free to select otherwise. The generals could be reelected, enabling individ-ual leaders to play an important political role. Pericles’s frequent reelection (fifteen times) as one of the ten generals made him one of the leading politicians between 461 and 429 B.C.E.

All public officials were subject to scrutiny and could be deposed from office if they lost the people’s confidence. After 488 B.C.E., the Athenians occasionally made use of a tactic called ostracism. Members of the assembly could write on a

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Athenian Democracy: The Funeral Oration of Pericles


historian Thucydides presented his reconstruction of the eulogy given by Pericles in the winter of 431–430 B.C.E. to honor the Athenians killed in the first campaigns of the Great Peloponnesian War. It is a magnificent, idealized description of the Athenian democracy at its height.

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

Our constitution is called a democracy because power is in the hands not of a minority but of the whole people. When it is a question of settling private disputes, everyone is equal before the law; when it is a question of putting one person before another in positions of public responsibility, what counts is not membership of a particular class, but the actual ability which the man possesses. No one, so long

as he has it in him to be of service to the state, is kept in political obscurity because of poverty. And, just as our political life is free and open, so is our day-to-day life in our relations with each other. We do not get into a state with our next-door neighbor if he enjoys himself in his own way, nor do we give him the kind of black looks which, though they do no real harm, still do hurt people’s feeling. We are free and tolerant in our private lives; but in public affairs we keep to the law. This is because it commands our

deep respect.

We give our obedience to those whom we put in positions of authority, and we obey the laws themselves, especially those which are for the protection of the oppressed, and those


unwritten laws which it is an acknowledged shame to break. . . . Here each individual is interested not only in his own affairs but in the affairs of the state as well: even those who are mostly occupied with their own business are extremely well-informed on general politics—this is a peculiarity of ours: we do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics is a man who minds his own business; we say that he has no business here at all. We Athenians, in our own persons, take our decisions on policy or submit them to proper discussions: for we do not think that there is an incompatibility between words and deeds; the worst thing is to rush into action before the consequences have been properly debated. . . . Taking everything together then, I declare that our city is an education to Greece, and I declare that in my opinion each single one of our citizens, in all the manifold aspects of life, is able to show himself the rightful lord and owner of his own person and do this, moreover, with exceptional grace and exceptional versatility. And to show that this is no empty boasting for the present occasion, but real tangible fact, you have only to consider the power which our city possesses and which has been won by those very qualities which I have mentioned.

In the eyes of Pericles, what are the ideals of Athenian democracy? In what ways does Pericles exaggerate his claims? Why would the Athenian passion for debate described by Pericles have been distasteful to the Spartans?

Source: From THE HISTORY OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR by Thucydides, translated by Rex Warner, with an introduction and notes by M. I. Finley (Penguin Classics, 1954, Revised edition 1972). Translation copyright ª Rex Warner, 1954. Introduction and Appendices copyright ª 1972. Reproduced by permission of Penguin Books, Ltd.

broken pottery fragment, or ostrakon (AHSS-truh-kahn), the name of the person they most disliked or considered most harmful to the polis. Frequently, this was someone whose pol-icy, approved at first by the assembly, had failed. A person who received a majority (if at least six thousand votes were cast) was exiled for ten years, although the practical Athenians often recalled a man from exile if they needed him.

Pericles expanded the Athenians’ involvement in democ-racy, which was by now what Athenians had come to call their form of government (see the box above). Power was in the hands of the people: male citizens voted in the assemblies and served as jurors in the courts. Lower-class citizens were now eligible for public offices formerly closed to them. Pericles also introduced state pay for officeholders, including the widely held jury duty. This meant that even poor citizens could hold public office and afford to participate in public affairs. Nevertheless, although the Athenian system of govern-ment was unique in its time in that citizens had equal rights and the people were the government, aristocrats continued to hold the most important offices, and many people, including


women, slaves, and foreigners residing in Athens, were not given the same political rights.

ATHENIAN IMPERIALISM The Athenian pursuit of democ-racy at home was coupled with increasing imperialism abroad as Athens attempted to create both a land empire in Greece and a maritime empire in the Aegean. As we have seen, after 470 B.C.E., Athenian policies had the effect of converting the voluntary allies of the Delian League into the involuntary sub-jects of an Athenian naval empire. After 462 B.C.E., Athens attempted to expand its empire on the Greek mainland as well. The creation of a land empire, however, overextended the Athenians and involved them in a series of skirmishes with Sparta and its allies known as the First Peloponnesian War (c. 460–445 B.C.E.). After a series of defeats in 445 B.C.E., the land empire of Athens disintegrated, and Athens agreed to a thirty years’ peace with the Spartans in the following year. Athens consented to give up most of its land empire, and in return, Sparta recognized the existence of Athens’s maritime empire.

The High Point of Greek Civilization: Classical Greece n 71

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