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Archaic period

In the 8th century BC, Greece began to emerge from the Dark Ages which
followed the fall of the Mycenaean civilization. Literacy had been lost
and Mycenaean script forgotten, but the Greeks adopted the Phoenician
alphabet, modifying it to create the Greek alphabet. From about the 9th century
BC written records begin to appear.[10] Greece was divided into many small self-
governing communities, a pattern largely dictated by Greek geography: every
island, valley and plain is cut off from its neighbours by the sea or mountain
The Lelantine War (c.710c.650 BC) is the earliest documented war of the
ancient Greek period. It was fought between the importantpoleis (city-states)
of Chalcis and Eretria over the fertile Lelantine plain of Euboea. Both cities seem
to have suffered a decline as result of the long war, though Chalcis was the
nominal victor.
A mercantile class arose in the first half of the 7th century, shown by the
introduction of coinage in about 680 BC.[12] This seems to have introduced
tension to many city-states. The aristocratic regimes which generally governed
the poleis were threatened by the new-found wealth of merchants, who in turn
desired political power. From 650 BC onwards, the aristocracies had to fight not
to be overthrown and replaced by populist tyrants. This word derives from
the non-pejorative Greek tyrannos, meaning 'illegitimate ruler', and
was applicable to both good and bad leaders alike.[13][14]
A growing population and a shortage of land also seem to have created internal
strife between the poor and the rich in many city-states. In Sparta, the Messenian
Wars resulted in the conquest of Messenia and enserfment of the Messenians,
beginning in the latter half of the 8th century BC, an act without precedent or
antecedent in ancient Greece. This practice allowed a social revolution to
occur.[15] The subjugated population, thenceforth known as helots, farmed and
laboured for Sparta, whilst every Spartan male citizen became a soldier of
the Spartan Army in a permanently militarized state. Even the elite were obliged
to live and train as soldiers; this commonality between rich and poor citizens
served to defuse the social conflict. These reforms, attributed to the
shadowy Lycurgus of Sparta, were probably complete by 650 BC.
Athens suffered a land and agrarian crisis in the late 7th century, again resulting
in civil strife. The Archon (chief magistrate) Dracomade severe reforms to the
law code in 621 BC (hence "draconian"), but these failed to quell the conflict.
Eventually the moderate reforms of Solon (594 BC), improving the lot of the poor
but firmly entrenching the aristocracy in power, gave Athens some stability.
By the 6th century BC several cities had emerged as dominant in Greek affairs:
Athens, Sparta, Corinth, and Thebes. Each of them had brought the surrounding
rural areas and smaller towns under their control, and Athens and Corinth had
become major maritime and mercantile powers as well.
Rapidly increasing population in the 8th and 7th centuries had resulted in
emigration of many Greeks to form colonies in Magna Graecia(Southern
Italy and Sicily), Asia Minor and further afield. The emigration effectively ceased
in the 6th century by which time the Greek world had, culturally and
linguistically, become much larger than the area of present-day Greece. Greek
colonies were not politically controlled by their founding cities, although they
often retained religious and commercial links with them.
The emigration process also determined a long series of conflicts between the
Greek cities of Sicily, especially Syracuse, and theCarthaginians. These conflicts
lasted from 600 BC to 265 BC when Rome entered into an alliance with
the Mamertines to fend off the hostilities by the new tyrant of Syracuse, Hiero
II and then the Carthaginians. This way Rome became the new dominant power
against the fading strength of the Sicilian Greek cities and the Carthaginian
supremacy in the region. One year later the First Punic War erupted.
Main article: GreekPunic Wars
In this period, there was huge economic development in Greece, and also in her
overseas colonies which experienced a growth in commerce and manufacturing.
There was a great improvement in the living standards of the population. Some
studies estimate that the average size of the Greek household, in the period from
800 BC to 300 BC, increased five times, which indicates[citation needed] a large
increase in the average income of the population.
In the second half of the 6th century, Athens fell under the tyranny
of Peisistratos and then of his sons Hippias and Hipparchos. However, in 510 BC,
at the instigation of the Athenian aristocrat Cleisthenes, the Spartan
king Cleomenes I helped the Athenians overthrow the tyranny. Afterwards,
Sparta and Athens promptly turned on each other, at which point Cleomenes I
installed Isagoras as a pro-Spartan archon. Eager to prevent Athens from
becoming a Spartan puppet, Cleisthenes responded by proposing to his fellow
citizens that Athens undergo a revolution: that all citizens share in political
power, regardless of status: that Athens become a "democracy". So
enthusiastically did the Athenians take to this idea that, having overthrown
Isagoras and implemented Cleisthenes's reforms, they were easily able to repel a
Spartan-led three-pronged invasion aimed at restoring Isagoras.[16] The advent
of the democracy cured many of the ills of Athens and led to a 'golden age' for the

Classical Greece
5th century

Athens and Sparta would soon have to become allies in the face of the largest
external threat ancient Greece would see until the Roman conquest. After
suppressing the Ionian Revolt, a rebellion of the Greek cities of Ionia, Darius I of
Persia, King of Kings of theAchaemenid Empire, decided to subjugate Greece. His
invasion in 490 BC was ended by the Athenian victory at the Battle of
Marathonunder Miltiades the Younger.
Xerxes I of Persia, son and successor of Darius I, attempted his own invasion 10
years later, but despite his larger army he suffered heavy casualties after the
famous rearguard action at Thermopylae and victories for the allied Greeks at
the Battles of Salamis andPlataea. The Greco-Persian Wars continued until 449
BC, led by the Athenians and their Delian League, during which time
theMacedon, Thrace, the Aegean Islands and Ionia were all liberated from
Persian influence.
The dominant position of the maritime Athenian 'Empire' threatened Sparta and
the Peloponnesian League of mainland Greek cities. Inevitably, this led to
conflict, resulting in the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC). Though effectively a
stalemate for much of the war, Athens suffered a number of setbacks. The Plague
of Athens in 430 BC followed by a disastrous military campaign known as
theSicilian Expedition severely weakened Athens. An estimated one-third of
Athenians died, including Pericles, their leader.[17]
Sparta was able to foment rebellion amongst Athens's allies, further reducing the
Athenian ability to wage war. The decisive moment came in 405 BC when Sparta
cut off the grain supply to Athens from the Hellespont. Forced to attack, the
crippled Athenian fleet was decisively defeated by the Spartans under the
command of Lysander at Aegospotami. In 404 BC Athens sued for peace, and
Sparta dictated a predictably stern settlement: Athens lost her city walls
(including the Long Walls), her fleet, and all of her overseas possessions.
Archaic Greece[edit]
In the 8th century BC, Greece began to emerge from the Dark Ages which
followed the fall of the Mycenaean civilization. Literacy had been lost
and Mycenaean script forgotten, but the Greeks adopted the Phoenician
alphabet, modifying it to create the Greek alphabet. From about the 9th century
BC, written records begin to appear.[11] Greece was divided into many small
self-governing communities, a pattern largely dictated by Greek geography,
where every island, valley and plain is cut off from its neighbours by the sea or
mountain ranges.[12]
The Archaic period can be understood as the Orientalizing period, when Greece
was at the fringe, but not under the sway, of the budding Neo-Assyrian Empire.
Greece adopted significant amounts of cultural elements from the Orient, in art
as well as in religion and mythology. Archaeologically, Archaic Greece is marked
by Geometric pottery.

Classical Greece[edit]

The basic unit of politics in Ancient Greece was the polis, sometimes translated
as city-state. "Politics" literally means "the things of the polis". Each city was
independent, at least in theory. Some cities might be subordinate to others (a
colony traditionally deferred to its mother city), some might have had
governments wholly dependent upon others (the Thirty Tyrants in Athens was
imposed by Spartafollowing the Peloponnesian War), but the titularly supreme
power in each city was located within that city. This meant that when Greece
went to war (e.g., against the Persian Empire), it took the form of an alliance
going to war. It also gave ample opportunity for wars within Greece between
different cities.
Two major wars shaped the Classical Greek world. The Persian Wars (500448
BC) are recounted in Herodotus's Histories. IonianGreek cities revolted from
the Persian Empire and were supported by some of the mainland cities,
eventually led by Athens. The notable battles of this war
include Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamis, and Plataea.)
To prosecute the war and then to defend Greece from further Persian attack,
Athens founded the Delian League in 477 BC. Initially, each city in the League
would contribute ships and soldiers to a common army, but in time Athens
allowed (and then compelled) the smaller cities to contribute funds so that it
could supply their quota of ships. Secession from the League could be punished.
Following military reversals against the Persians, the treasury was moved
from Delos to Athens, further strengthening the latter's control over the League.
The Delian League was eventually referred to pejoratively as the Athenian
In 458 BC, while the Persian Wars were still ongoing, war broke out between the
Delian League and the Peloponnesian League, comprising Sparta and its allies.
After some inconclusive fighting, the two sides signed a peace in 447 BC. That
peace, it was stipulated, was to last thirty years: instead it held only until 431 BC,
with the onset of the Peloponnesian War. Our main sources concerning this war
are Thucydides's History of the Peloponnesian War and Xenophon's Hellenica.
The war began over a dispute
between Corcyra and Epidamnus. Corinth intervened on the Epidamnian side.
Fearful lest Corinth capture the Corcyran navy (second only to the Athenian in
size), Athens intervened. It prevented Corinth from landing on Corcyra at
the Battle of Sybota, laid siege to Potidaea, and forbade all commerce with
Corinth's closely situated ally, Megara (the Megarian decree).
There was disagreement among the Greeks as to which party violated the treaty
between the Delian and Peloponnesian Leagues, as Athens was technically
defending a new ally. The Corinthians turned to Sparta for aid. Fearing the
growing might of Athens, and witnessing Athens' willingness to use it against the
Megarians (the embargo would have ruined them), Sparta declared the treaty to
have been violated and the Peloponnesian War began in earnest.
The first stage of the war (known as the Archidamian War for the Spartan
king, Archidamus II) lasted until 421 BC with the signing of the Peace of Nicias.
The Athenian general Pericles recommended that his city fight a defensive war,
avoiding battle against the superior land forces led by Sparta, and importing
everything needful by maintaining its powerful navy. Athens would simply
outlast Sparta, whose citizens feared to be out of their city for long lest
the helots revolt.
This strategy required that Athens endure regular sieges, and in 430 BC it was
visited with an awful plague that killed about a quarter of its people, including
Pericles. With Pericles gone, less conservative elements gained power in the city
and Athens went on the offensive. It captured 300400 Spartan hoplites at
the Battle of Pylos. This represented a significant fraction of the Spartan fighting
force which the latter decided it could not afford to lose. Meanwhile, Athens had
suffered humiliating defeats at Delium and Amphipolis. The Peace of Nicias
concluded with Sparta recovering its hostages and Athens recovering the city
of Amphipolis.
Those who signed the Peace of Nicias in 421 BC swore to uphold it for fifty years.
The second stage of the Peloponnesian War began in 415 BC when Athens
embarked on the Sicilian Expedition to support an ally (Segesta) attacked
by Syracuse and to conquer Sicily. Initially, Sparta was reluctant, but Alcibiades,
the Athenian general who had argued for the Sicilian Expedition, defected to the
Spartan cause upon being accused of grossly impious acts and convinced them
that they could not allow Athens to subjugate Syracuse. The campaign ended in
disaster for the Athenians.
Athens' Ionian possessions rebelled with the support of Sparta, as advised by
Alcibiades. In 411 BC, an oligarchical revolt in Athens held out the chance for
peace, but the Athenian navy, which remained committed to the democracy,
refused to accept the change and continued fighting in Athens' name. The navy
recalled Alcibiades (who had been forced to abandon the Spartan cause after
reputedly seducing the wife of Agis II, a Spartan king) and made him its head.
The oligarchy in Athens collapsed and Alcibiades reconquered what had been
In 407 BC, Alcibiades was replaced following a minor naval defeat at the Battle of
Notium. The Spartan generalLysander, having fortified his city's naval power,
won victory after victory. Following the Battle of Arginusae, which Athens won
but was prevented by bad weather from rescuing some of its sailors, Athens
executed or exiled eight of its top naval commanders. Lysander followed with a
crushing blow at the Battle of Aegospotami in 405 BC which almost destroyed
the Athenian fleet. Athens surrendered one year later, ending the Peloponnesian
The war had left devastation in its wake. Discontent with the Spartan
hegemony that followed (including the fact that it ceded Ionia and Cyprus to
the Persian Empire at the conclusion of the Corinthian War (395387 BC);
see Treaty of Antalcidas) induced the Thebans to attack. Their
general, Epaminondas, crushed Sparta at the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC,
inaugurating a period of Theban dominance in Greece. In 346 BC, unable to
prevail in its ten-year war with Phocis, Thebes called upon Philip II of
Macedon for aid.Macedon quickly forced the city states into being united by
the League of Corinth which led to the conquering of the Persian Empire and the
Hellenistic Age had begun.

From the Archaic to the Classical Periods
The Archaic Period (800-500 BCE) is characterized by the introduction of Republics
instead of Monarchies (which, in Athens, moved toward Democratic rule) organised as a
single city-state or polis, the institution of laws (Dracos reforms in Athens), the great
Panathenaeic Festival was established, distinctive Greek pottery andGreek
sculpture were born, and the first coins minted on the island kingdom of Aegina. This,
then, set the stage for the flourishing of the Classical Period of Greece given as 500-400
BCE or, more precisely, as 480-323 BCE, from the Greek victory at Salamis to the death
of Alexander the Great. This was the Golden Age of Athens, when Pericles initiated the
building of the Acropolis and spoke his famous eulogy for the men who died defending
Greece at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BCE. Greece reached the heights in almost
every area of human learning during this time and the great thinkers and artists of
antiquity (Phidias, Plato, Aristophanes, to mention only three) flourished. Leonidas and
his 300 Spartans fell at Thermopylae and, the same year (480 BCE), Themistocles won
victory over the superior Persian naval fleet at Salamis leading to the final defeat of the
Persians at Plataea in 379 BCE.
Democracy (literally Demos = people and Kratos = power, so power of the people) was
established in Athens allowing all male citizens over the age of twenty a voice in
government. The Pre-Socratic philosophers, following Thales' lead, initiated what would
become the scientific method in exploring natural phenomena. Men like
Anixamander, Anaximenes, Pythagoras, Democritus, Xenophanes, and Heraclitus
abandoned the theistic model of the universe and strove to uncover the underlying, first
cause of life and the universe.
Their successors, among whom were Euclid and Archimedes, continued philosophical
inquiry and further established mathematics as a serious discipline. The example of
Socrates, and the writings of Plato and Aristotle after him, have influenced western culture
and society for over two thousand years. This period also saw advances in architecture and
art with a movement away from the ideal to the realistic. Famous works of Greek sculpture
such as the Parthenon Marbles and Discobolos (the discus thrower) date from this time
and epitomize the artist's interest in depicting human emotion, beauty, and
accomplishment realistically, even if those qualities are presented in works featuring
All of these developments in culture were made possible by the ascent of Athens following
her victory over the Persians in 480 BCE. The peace and prosperity which followed the
Persian defeat provided the finances and stability for culture to flourish. Athens became
the superpower of her day and, with the most powerful navy, was able to demand tribute
from other city states and enforce her wishes. Athens formed the Delian League, a
defensive alliance whose stated purpose was to deter the Persians from further hostilities.
The city-state of Sparta, however, doubted Athenian sincerity and formed their own
association for protection against their enemies, the Peloponnesian League (so named for
the Peloponnesus region where Sparta and the others were located). The city-states which
sided with Sparta increasingly perceived Athens as a bully and a tyrant, while those cities
which sided with Athens viewed Sparta and her allies with growing distrust. The tension
between these two parties eventually erupted in what has become known as
the Peloponnesian Wars. The first conflict (c. 460-445 BCE) ended in a truce and
continued prosperity for both parties while the second (431-404 BCE) left Athens in ruins
and Sparta, the victor, bankrupt after her protracted war with Thebes.
This time is generally referred to as the Late Classical Period (c. 400-330 BCE). The power
vacuum left by the fall of these two cities was filled by Philip II of Macedon (382-336
BCE) after his victory over the Athenian forces and their allies at the Battle of
Chaeronea in 338 BCE. Philip united the Greek city states under Macedonian rule and,
upon his assassination in 336 BCE, his son Alexander assumed the throne.
History of Greece: Archaic
The next period of Greek History is described as Archaic and lasted for about two
hundred years from (700 480 BCE). During this epoch Greek population recovered
and organized politically in city-states (Polis) comprised of citizens, foreign residents,
and slaves. This kind of complex social organization required the development of an
advanced legal structure that ensured the smooth coexistence of different classes and
the equality of the citizens irrespective of their economic status. This was a required
precursor for the Democratic principles that we see developed two hundred years later
in Athens.
Greek city-states of the Archaic epoch spread throughout the Mediterranean basin
through vigorous colonization. As the major city-states grew in size they spawn a
plethora of coastal towns in the Aegean, the Ionian, Anatolia (todays Turkey),
Phoenicia (the Middle East), Libya, Southern Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, and as far as
southern France, Spain, and the Black Sea. These states, settlements, and trading posts
numbered in the hundreds, and became part of an extensive commercial network that
involved all the advanced civilizations of the time. As a consequence, Greece came into
contact and aided in the exchange of goods and ideas throughout ancient Africa, Asia,
and Europe. Through domination of commerce in the Mediterranean, aggressive
expansion abroad, and competition at home, several very strong city-states began
emerging as dominant cultural centers, most notably Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Thebes,
Syracuse, Miletus, Halicarnassus among other.
History of Greece: Classical Greece
The flurry of development and expansion of the Archaic Era was followed by the
period of maturity we came to know as Classical Greece. Between 480 and until 323
BCE Athens and Sparta dominated the Hellenic world with their cultural and military
achievements. These two cities, with the involvement of the other Hellenic states, rose
to power through alliances, reforms, and a series of victories against the invading
Persian armies. They eventually resolved their rivalry in a long, and particularly nasty
war that concluded with the demise of Athens first, Sparta second, and the emergence
of Macedonia as the dominant power of Greece. Other city-states like Miletus, Thebes,
Corinth, and Syracuse among many others played a major role in the cultural
achievements of Classical Greece.
Early in the Classical era Athens and Sparta coexisted peacefully through their
underlying suspicion of each other until the middle of the 5th c. BCE. The political and
cultural disposition of the two city-states occupied the opposite ends of the spectrum.
Sparta was a closed society governed by an oligarchic government led by two kings, and
occupying the harsh southern end of the Peloponnesus, organized its affairs around a
powerful military that protected the Spartan citizens from both external invasion and
internal revolt of the helots. Athens on the other hand grew to an adventurous, open
society, governed by a Democratic government that thrived through commercial
activity. The period of Perikles leadership in Athens is described as the Golden Age.
It was during this period that the massive building project, that included theAcropolis,
was undertaken.
Bronze helmet of Miltiades. Dedicated at Olympia, now at the Olympia museum.
The Athenian adventurous spirit, and their loyalty to their Ionian kin led them to come
to the aid of the Asia Minor colonies that were feuding with the powerful Persian
Empire. To aid the Ionian Revolt, led by Miletus, the Athenians landed a small
garrison in Ionia to fight against the Persians and to spread the revolt. The Greek forces
burned the capital of Lydia, Sardis in 498 enraging the Persians, before they were finally
defeated in 494 BCE. The sacking of Sardis invoked the wrath of the Persian king
Darius who vowed revenge. In 490 BCE, he landed his forces twenty miles north of
Athens, at Marathon. While the Spartans were occupied with a religious festival, the
outnumbered Athenians under the leadership of Miltiades mounted a surprise attack
and routed the dumbfounded Persians at Marathon to preserve Greek independence
for the time being.
It took ten years, but the Persian king Xerxes, determined to succeed where Darius
failed, amassed what Herodotus described as the greatest army ever put together in
order to attack Greece again. The Athenians, expecting a full attack from the Persians
prepared for that moment as well. Under the leadership of Themistokles, they cashed
the silver extracted from the newly dug mines of Lavrion, and built a formidable navy of
triremes. Xerxes crossed the Hellespont in 480 BCE with his massive army and began
annexing Greece through land and sea. The first line of defense for the Greek alliance
of city-states was at the narrow passage of Thermopylae where Leonidas with 300
Spartans and 700 Thespians held back the mighty Persian army for three days before
they fell to a man through deceit. At the same time the Athenian ships fought the
Persian navy to a stalemate at nearby Artemision before it withdrew to the straights of
The Athenians vacated the entire non-combat population from their city, so when the
Persians arrived they met no resistance. They took vengeance on the buildings and
temples of Athens by burning them to the ground, and anchored their fleet at Faliron in
pursuit of the Greek navy that was sheltered at nearby Salamina Island. While the joint
leadership of the Hellenes argued in typical Greek fashion if they should withdraw to
the Peloponnese and where to engage the Pesians next, Themistokles, seeking an
advantageous quick battle, invoked the Persian fleet into attacking as the Greek ships
faked an early morning escape from Salamina. As the Persians pursued what they
thought was a fleeing foe, the Greck triremes turned and engaged the surprised Persians
inflicting massive casualties and decimating the Persian navy. With his navy destroyed,
Xerxes feared that the Greek triremes would rush to the Hellespont to cut off his only
way home, so he withdrew back to Asia leaving his able general Mardonious to fight the
Greeks. The next year, in 479 BCE, this Persian army was defeated at Plataea by the
alliance of Greek states under the leadership of the Spartan general Pausanias, putting a
permanent end to further Persian ambitions to annex Greece.
The victory of the Greek forces at Marathon and Salamis are hailed as pivotal points in
the development of western civilization. The reason being that, if the Persians were
victorious all the achievements of Greece (and especially Athens) that followed
immediately after and what is widely consider to be the foundation of western
civilization, would not have transpired. Following the successful defense of their
homeland, the Greek states entered a state of high development. Athens especially
emerged as a major superpower that led a host of other Greek city-states (some willing,
some unwilling, and some reluctant) in a defensive alliance, the Delian League, against
the Persians. The tributes collected by the allies helped Athens expand and maintain a
formidable, yet difficult, empire in the Aegean world. At the same time, Sparta led the
Peloponnesian League, an alliance of states mostly from the Peloponnese that acted as
a counter-balance against the perceived Athenian hegemony of Greece.
The competitive spirit, suspicion, and animosity toward each other that characterized all
Greek cities re-emerged once the external danger of the Persians threat subsided, and
with the two dominant empires occupying opposite ends of the political and cultural
spectrum, it was not long before the underlying differences and mistrust spilled over in
a particularly long and nasty conflict: the Peloponnesian War. While Sparta and Athens
were the primary adversaries, just about every other Greek city took part at one time or
another. With Sparta possessing the stronger land forces, and Athens dominating at sea
with its navy of triremes, the war lasted for from 431 until 404 BCE with the Peace of
Nicias interrupting it briefly in 421-418 BCE. After surviving a decimating plague in
430/9 BCE and a devastating defeat in Sicily by Syracuse in 413 BCE, Athens drained
of resources finally capitulated to the Spartans in 404 BCE.
The Classical Period produced remarkable cultural and scientific achievements. The
city of Athens introduced to the world a direct Democracy the likes of which had never
been seen hitherto, or subsequently, with western governments like Great Britain,
France, and USA emulating it a thousand years later. The rational approach to
exploring and explaining the world as reflected in Classical Art, Philosophy, and
Literature became the well-grounded springboard that western culture used to leap
forward, beginning with the subsequent Hellenistic Age. The thinkers of the Classical
Greek era have since dominated thought for thousands of years, and have remained
relevant to our day. The teachings of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle among others, either
directly, in opposition, or mutation, have been used as reference point of countless
western thinkers in the last two thousand years. Hippocrates became the Father of
modern medicine, and the Hippocratic oath is still used today. The dramas of
Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides, and the comedies of Aristophanes are considered
among the masterpieces of western culture.
The art of Classical Greece began the trend towards a more naturalistic (even in its
early idealistic state) depiction of the world, thus reflecting a shift in philosophy from
the abstract and supernatural to more immediate earthly concerns. Artists stopped
merely suggesting the human form and began describing it with accuracy. Man
became the focus, and measure of all things in daily life through Democratic politics,
and in cultural representations. Rational thinking and Logic became the driving force
behind this cultural revolution at the expense of emotion and impulse. The most
striking illustration of this Logic over Emotion approach is frozen on the faces of the
statues of the temple of Zeus west pediment at Olympia. In the complex array of
sculptures, it is easy to know who is a Barbarian and who is a civilized Hellene
through the expression of their faces. Barbarian Centaurs exhibit an excess of emotion,
while Lapithae women and Apollo remain collected and emotionless even in the direst
of situations (photo on the right).
Even after its defeat at the Peloponnesian war, Athens remained a guiding light for the
rest of Greece for a long time, but this light that shone so bright, began to slowly fade.
Sparta won the Peloponnesian war and emerged as the dominant power in Greece, but
her political prowess failed to match her military reputation. While Sparta fought
against other city-states all over Greece, Athens reconstructed her empire after
rebuilding her walls, her navy and army. Spartas power and military might were
eventually diminished, especially after two crashing defeats at the hands of the Thebans
first in Leuctra in 371 BCE, and again nine years later at Mantinea. This power vacuum
was quickly filled however by the Macedonians who under the leadership of Philip II
emerged as the only major military authority of Greece after their victory at Chaeronea
against the Athenians in 338 BCE.
Through diplomacy and might, Philip II who became king in 359 BCE, managed to
consolidate the areas around northern Greece under his power, and until his
assassination in 336 BCE had added central and southern Greece to his hegemony.
The pretext for his military expeditions to southern Greece was the protection of the
Delphi Oracle from the Phoceans, but his sight was fixed beyond the borders of
Greece. His ambition was to lead a military expedition of united Greece against the
Persian Empire to avenge the Persian incursions of Greece. This ambition was
fulfilled by his son Alexander the Great who became king after his fathers assassination.
With a copy of the Iliad and a dagger in his hand, Alexander continued the centuries-
old conflict between East and West by leading a united Greek army into Asia. His
success on the battlefield and the amount of land he conquered became legendary and
earned him the epithet the Great. Besides brilliant military tactics, Alexander
possessed leadership skills and charisma that made his army unbeatable in numerous
battles against more numerous opponents, pushing the Greeks all the way to Egypt,
India, and Bactria (today Afghanistan). Alexander led his army in battle always placing
his own self at the point of attack, partaking in the common soldiers jeopardy, and thus
won a series of major battles that obliterated all opposition in its path. In the process he
amassed the largest empire hitherto known and altered the composition of the ancient
In 334 BCE, Alexander led his army across the Hellespond into Asia and scored
successive wins against the Persian Empire. His fist success came at Granicus River in
northwest Asia Minor where his Calvary routed the outnumbered Persian mercenaries
who fought under the leadership of Memnon of Rhodes. In 333 BCE Alexanders
outnumbered army defeated the Persians at Issus and forced king Darius to flee for his
life. The subsequent conquest of Miletus, Tyre (332 BCE), and Egypt (331 BCE) gave
the Greeks control of the entire eastern shore of the Mediterranean, and allowed
Alexander to move inland towards the heart of the Persian Empire. In Egypt Alexander
was proclaimed to be the son of god Ammon (the equivalent of the Greek Zeus), and
he proclaimed himself King of Asia after his victory at the battle at Gaugamela in 331
BCE, which sealed the fate of the Persian Empire.
From Babylon, Alexander led his army towards the heart of south Asia, subduing all
resistance and establishing cities along the way. Despite the objections of his officers, he
incorporated into his army forces from the conquered lands, adopted local customs,
and married a Bactrian woman, Roxane. His march eastward eventually stopped on the
edge of India partly due to the objections of his fatigued army. He returned from the
frontier to Babylon to plan his next expedition southward, towards Arabia, but in 323
BCE his sudden death of a fever at the age of 32 put an end to a brilliant military
career, and left his vast conquered land without an apparent heir.
The conquests of Alexander the Great changed the course of Ancient history. The
center of gravity of the Greek world moved from the self-containment of city-states to a
more vast territory that spanned the entire coast of Eastern Mediterranean and reached
far into Asia. Alexanders conquests placed a plethora of diverse cultures under
common hegemony and Greek influence around the Mediterranean and southern
Asia, paving the way for the distinct Hellenistic culture that followed his death.

Classical Athens

The city of Athens during the classical period of Ancient Greece (508322
BC)[1] was the major urban center of the notablepolis (city-state) of the same
name, located in Attica, Greece, leading the Delian League in the Peloponnesian
War againstSparta and the Peloponnesian League. Athenian democracy was
established in 508 BC under Cleisthenes following thetyranny of Isagoras. This
system remained remarkably stable, and with a few brief interruptions remained
in place for 180 years, until 322 BC (aftermath of Lamian War). The peak of
Athenian hegemony was achieved in the 440s to 430s BC, known as the Age of
In the classical period, Athens was a center for the arts, learning and philosophy,
home of Plato's Akademia and Aristotle'sLyceum,[2][3] Athens was also the
birthplace of Socrates, Pericles, Sophocles, and many other prominent
philosophers, writers and politicians of the ancient world. It is widely referred to
as the cradle of Western Civilization, and the birthplace ofdemocracy,[4] largely
due to the impact of its cultural and political achievements during the 5th and
4th centuries BC on the rest of the then known European continent.[5]

Rise to power (508448 BC)[edit]

Main articles: Ionian Revolt, Persian Wars, and First Peloponnesian War
Hippias - of the Peisistratid family - established a dictatorship in 514 BC, which
proved very unpopular, although it established stability and prosperity, and was
eventually overthrown with the help of an army from Sparta, in 511/510 BC. The
radical politician of aristocratic background (the Alcmaeonid
family), Cleisthenes, then took charge and established democracy in Athens. The
reforms of Cleisthenes replaced the traditional four Ionic "tribes" (phyle) with
ten new ones, named after legendary heroes of Greece and having no class basis,
which acted as electorates. Each tribe was in turn divided into three trittyes (one
from the coast; one from the city and one from the inland divisions), while
each trittys had one or more demes (see deme)depending on their
populationwhich became the basis of local government. The tribes each
selected fifty members by lot for the Boule, the council which governed Athens
on a day-to-day basis. The public opinion of voters could be influenced by
the political satires written by the comic poets and performed in the
city theaters.[6] The Assembly or Ecclesia was open to all full citizens and was
both a legislature and a supreme court, except in murder cases and religious
matters, which became the only remaining functions of the Areopagus. Most
offices were filled by lot, although the ten strategoi (generals) were elected.
Prior to the rise of Athens, Sparta, a city-state with a militaristic culture,
considered itself the leader of the Greeks, and enforced anhegemony. In 499 BC
Athens sent troops to aid the Ionian Greeks of Asia Minor, who were rebelling
against the Persian Empire (seeIonian Revolt). This provoked two Persian
invasions of Greece, both of which were repelled under the leadership of the
soldier-statesmen Miltiades and Themistocles (see Persian Wars). In 490 the
Athenians, led by Miltiades, prevented the first invasion of the Persians, guided
by king Darius I, at the Battle of Marathon. In 480 the Persians returned under a
new ruler, Xerxes I. The Hellenic League led by the Spartan King Leonidas led
7,000 men to hold the narrow passageway of Thermopylae against the 100,000-
250,000 army of Xerxes, during which time Leonidas and 300 other Spartan
elites were killed. Simultaneously the Athenians led an indecisive naval battle
off Artemisium. However, this delaying action was not enough to discourage the
Persian advance which soon marched through Boeotia, setting up Thebes as
their base of operations, and entered southern Greece. This forced the Athenians
to evacuate Athens, which was taken by the Persians, and seek the protection of
their fleet. Subsequently the Athenians and their allies, led byThemistocles,
defeated the Persian navy at sea in the Battle of Salamis. It is interesting to note
that Xerxes had built himself a throne on the coast in order to see the Greeks
defeated. Instead, the Persians were routed. Sparta's hegemony was passing to
Athens, and it was Athens that took the war to Asia Minor. These victories
enabled it to bring most of the Aegean and many other parts of Greece together
in the Delian League, an Athenian-dominated alliance.

Athenian hegemony (448430 BC)[edit]
Age of Pericles

Periclesan Athenian general, politician and oratordistinguished himself
above the other personalities of the era, men who excelled
in politics, philosophy, architecture,sculpture, history and literature. He fostered
arts and literature and gave to Athens a splendor which would never return
throughout its history. He executed a large number of public works projects and
improved the life of the citizens. Hence, he gave his name to the Athenian Golden
Age. Silver mined in Laurium in southeastern Attica contributed greatly to the
prosperity of this "Golden" Age of Athens.
During the time of the ascendancy of Ephialtes as leader of the democratic
faction, Pericles was his deputy. When Ephialtes was assassinated by personal
enemies, Pericles stepped in and was elected general, or strategos, in 445 BC; a
post he held continuously until his death in 429 BC, always by election of
the Athenian Assembly.

Peloponnesian War (431404 BC)[edit]

Resentment by other cities at the hegemony of Athens led to the Peloponnesian
War in 431, which pitted Athens and her increasingly rebellious sea empire
against a coalition of land-based states led by Sparta. The conflict marked the
end of Atheniancommand of the sea. The war between Athens and the city-state
Sparta ended with an Athenian defeat after Sparta started its own navy.
Athenian democracy was briefly overthrown by the coup of 411, brought about
because of its poor handling of the war, but it was quickly restored. The war
ended with the complete defeat of Athens in 404. Since the defeat was largely
blamed on democratic politicians such as Cleon and Cleophon, there was a brief
reaction against democracy, aided by the Spartan army (the rule of theThirty
Tyrants). In 403, democracy was restored by Thrasybulus and an amnesty

Corinthian War and the Second Athenian League (395355 BC)[edit]

Sparta's former allies soon turned against her due to her imperialist policies, and
Athens's former enemies, Thebes and Corinth, became her
allies. Argos, Thebes and Corinth, allied with Athens, fought against Sparta in the
decisive Corinthian War of 395 BC387 BC. Opposition to Sparta enabled Athens
to establish a Second Athenian League. Finally Thebes defeated Sparta in 371 in
the Battle of Leuctra. However, other Greek cities, including Athens, turned
against Thebes, and its dominance was brought to an end at the Battle of
Mantinea (362 BC) with the death of its leader, the military genius Epaminondas.
Athens under Macedon (355322 BC)[edit]
Further information: Alexander the Great, Antipatrid dynasty, and Antigonid
By mid century, however, the northern kingdom of Macedon was becoming
dominant in Athenian affairs, despite the warnings of the last great statesman of
independent Athens,Demosthenes. In 338 BC the armies of Philip II defeated
Athens at the Battle of Chaeronea, effectively limiting Athenian independence.
Athens and other states became part of the League of Corinth. Further, the
conquests of his son, Alexander the Great, widened Greek horizons and made the
traditional Greek city state obsolete. Antipater dissolved the Athenian
government and established a plutocratic system in 322 BC (see Lamian
War and Demetrius Phalereus). Athens remained a wealthy city with a brilliant
cultural life, but ceased to be an independent power.
In the 2nd century BC, following the Battle of Corinth (146 BC), Greece was
absorbed into the Roman Republic as part of the Achaea Province, concluding
200 years of Macedonian supremacy.


Athens was in Attica, about 30 stadia from the sea, on the southwest slope
of Mount Lycabettus, between the small riversCephissus to the west, Ilissos to
the south, and the Eridanos to the north, the latter of which flowed through the
town. The walled city measured about 1.5 km (0.93 mi) in diameter, although at
its peak the city had suburbs extending well beyond these walls.
The Acropolis was just south of the centre of this walled area. The city was burnt
by Xerxes in 480 BC, but was soon rebuilt under the administration
of Themistocles, and was adorned with public buildings by Cimon and especially
by Pericles, in whose time (461-429 BC) it reached its greatest splendour. Its
beauty was chiefly due to its public buildings, for the private houses were mostly
insignificant, and its streets badly laid out. Towards the end of the Peloponnesian
War, it contained more than 10,000 houses,[7] which at a rate of 12 inhabitants
to a house would give a population of 120,000, though some writers make the
inhabitants as many as 180,000. Athens consisted of two distinct parts:
The City, properly so called, divided into The Upper City or Acropolis, and The
Lower City, surrounded with walls by Themistocles.
The port city of Piraeus, also surrounded with walls by Themistocles and
connected to the city with the Long Walls, built underConon and Pericles.

The Long Walls[edit]

The Long Walls consisted of two walls leading to Piraeus, 40 stadia long (4.5
miles, 7 km), running parallel to each other, with a narrow passage between
them. In addition, there was a wall to Phalerum on the east, 35 stadia long (4
miles, 6.5 km). There were therefore three long walls in all; but the name Long
Walls seems to have been confined to the two leading to the Piraeus, while the
one leading to Phalerum was called the Phalerian Wall. The entire circuit of the
walls was 174.5 stadia (nearly 22 miles, 35 km), of which 43 stadia (5.5 miles,
9 km) belonged to the city, 75 stadia (9.5 miles, 15 km) to the long walls, and
56.5 stadia (7 miles, 11 km) to Piraeus, Munichia, and Phalerum.

The Acropolis (Upper city)[edit]

The Acropolis, also called Cecropia from its reputed founder, Cecrops, was a
steep rock in the middle of the city, about 50 meters high, 350 meters long, and
150 meters wide; its sides were naturally scarped on all sides except the west
end. It was originally surrounded by an ancient Cyclopean wall said to have been
built by the Pelasgians. At the time of the Peloponnesian war only the north part
of this wall remained, and this portion was still called the Pelasgic Wall; while
the south part which had been rebuilt byCimon, was called the Cimonian Wall.
On the west end of the Acropolis, where access is alone practicable, were the
magnificentPropylaea, "the Entrances," built by Pericles, before the right wing of
which was the small Temple of Athena Nike. The summit of the Acropolis was
covered with temples, statues of bronze and marble, and various other works of
art. Of the temples, the grandest was the Parthenon, sacred to the "Virgin"
goddess Athena; and north of the Parthenon was the magnificent Erechtheion,
containing three separate temples, one toAthena Polias, or the "Protectress of
the State," the Erechtheion proper, or sanctuary of Erechtheus, and
the Pandroseion, or sanctuary of Pandrosos, the daughter of Cecrops. Between
the Parthenon and Erechtheion was the colossal Statue of Athena Promachos, or
the "Fighter in the Front," whose helmet and spear was the first object on the
Acropolis visible from the sea.

Lower city[edit]

The lower city was built in the plain round the Acropolis, but this plain also
contained several hills, especially in the southwest part. On the west side the
walls embraced the Hill of the Nymphs and the Pnyx, and to the southeast they
ran along beside the Ilissos.

There were many gates, among the more important there were:
On the West side: Dipylon, the most frequented gate of the city, leading from the
inner Kerameikos to the outer Kerameikos, and to the Academy. The Sacred Gate,
where the sacred road to Eleusis began. The Knight's Gate, probably between the
Hill of the Nymphs and the Pnyx. The Piraean Gate, between the Pnyx and the
Mouseion, leading to the carriage road between the Long Walls to the
Piraeus. The Melitian Gate, so called because it led to thedeme Melite, within the
On the South side: The Gate of the Dead in the neighbourhood of the
Mouseion. The Itonian Gate, near the Ilissos, where the road to Phalerum began.
On the East side: The Gate of Diochares, leading to the Lyceum. The Diomean
Gate, leading to Cynosarges and the deme Diomea.
On the North side: The Acharnian Gate, leading to the deme Acharnai.

The Inner Kerameikos, or "Potter's Quarter," in the west of the city, extending
north as far as the Dipylon gate, by which it was separated from the outer
Kerameikos; the Kerameikos contained the Agora, or "market-place," the only
one in the city, lying northwest of the Acropolis, and north of the Areopagus.
The deme Melite, in the west of the city, south of the inner Kerameikos.
The deme Skambonidai, in the northern part of the city, east of the inner
The Kollytos, in the southern part of the city, south and southwest of the
Koele, a district in the southwest of the city.
Limnai, a district east of Milete and Kollytos, between the Acropolis and the
Diomea, a district in the east of the city, near the gate of the same name and
the Cynosarges.
Agrai, a district south of Diomea.
The Areopagus, the "Hill of Ares," west of the Acropolis, which gave its name to
the celebrated council that held its sittings there, was accessible on the south
side by a flight of steps cut out of the rock.
The Hill of the Nymphs, northwest of the Areopagus.
The Pnyx, a semicircular hill, southwest of the Areopagus, where
the ekklesia (assemblies) of the people were held in earlier times, for afterwards
the people usually met in theTheatre of Dionysus.
The Mouseion, "the Hill of the Muses," south of the Pnyx and the Areopagus.
Among the more important streets, there were:
The Piraean Street, which led from the Piraean gate to the Agora.
The Panathenaic Way, which led from the Dipylon gate to the Acropolis via
the Agora, along which a solemn procession was made during the Panathenaic
The Street of the Tripods, on the east side of the Acropolis.

Public buildings[edit]

Temples. Of these the most important was the Olympieion, or Temple of
Olympian Zeus, southeast of the Acropolis, near the Ilissos and the fountain
Callirrho, which was long unfinished, and was first completed by Hadrian.
The Temple of Hephaestus, located to the west of the Agora. The Temple of Ares,
to the north of the Agora. Metroon, or temple of the mother of the gods, on the
west side of the Agora. Besides these, there was a vast number of other temples
in all parts of the city.
The Bouleuterion (Senate House), at the west side of the Agora.
The Tholos, a round building close to the Bouleuterion, built c. 470 BC by Cimon,
which served as the Prytaneion, in which thePrytaneis took their meals and
offered their sacrifices.
Stoae, or Colonnades, supported by pillars, and used as places of resort in the
heat of the day, of which there were several in Athens. In the Agora there were:
the Stoa Basileios, the court of the King-Archon, on the west side of the Agora;
the Stoa Eleutherios, or Colonnade of Zeus Eleutherios, on the west side of the
Agora; the Stoa Poikile, so called because it was adorned with fresco painting of
the Battle of Marathon by Polygnotus, on the north side of the Agora.
Theatres. The Theatre of Dionysus, on the southeast slope of the Acropolis, was
the great theatre of the state. Besides this there were Odeons, for contests in
vocal and instrumental music, an ancient one near the fountain Callirrho, and a
second built by Pericles, close to the theatre of Dionysius, on the southeast slope
of the Acropolis. The large odeon surviving today, the Odeon of Herodes
Atticus was built in Roman times.
Panathenaic Stadium, south of the Ilissos, in the district Agrai, where the athletic
portion of the Panathenaic Games were held.


The Outer Kerameikos, northwest of the city, was the finest suburb of Athens;
here were buried the Athenians who had fallen in war, and at the further end of
it was the Academy, 6 stadia from the city.
Cynosarges, east of the city, across the Ilissos, reached from the Diomea gate,
a gymnasium sacred to Heracles, where theCynic Antisthenes taught.
Lyceum, east of the city, a gymnasium sacred to Apollo Lyceus,
where Aristotle taught.


The period from the end of the Persian Wars to the Macedonian conquest
marked the zenith of Athens as a center of literature, philosophy (see Greek
philosophy) and the arts (see Greek theatre). Some of the most important figures
of Western cultural and intellectual history lived in Athens during this period:
the dramatists Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripides and Sophocles, the
philosophers Aristotle, Plato and Socrates, the
historians Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon, the poet Simonides and the
sculptor Phidias. The leading statesman of this period was Pericles, who used the
tribute paid by the members of the Delian League to build the Parthenon and
other great monuments of classical Athens. The city became, in Pericles's words,
"the school of Hellas [Greece]."[8]

Contribution to the Governance of Athens[edit]

After this victory Cleisthenes began to reform the government of Athens. In
order to forestall strife between the traditional clans, which had led to
the tyranny in the first place, he changed the political organization from the four
traditional tribes, which were based on family relations, into ten tribes according
to their area of residence (their deme). It is thought that there may have been
139 demes (though this is still a matter of debate) which were organized into
three groups called trittyes ("thirds"), with ten demes divided among three
regions in each trittyes (a city region, asty; a coastal region, paralia; and an
inland region, mesogeia).[8] Cleisthenes also abolished patronymics in favour
of demonymics (a name given according to the deme to which one belongs), thus
increasing Athenians' sense of belonging to a deme.[9] He also established
legislative bodies run by individuals chosen by lottery, a true test of real
democracy, rather than kinship or heredity. He reorganized the Boule, created
with 400 members under Solon, so that it had 500 members, 50 from each tribe.
He also introduced the bouletic oath, "To advise according to the laws what was
best for the people".[10] The court system (Dikasteria law courts) was
reorganized and had from 2015001 jurors selected each day, up to 500 from
each tribe. It was the role of the Boule to propose laws to the assembly of voters,
who convened in Athens around forty times a year for this purpose. The bills
proposed could be rejected, passed or returned for amendments by the
Cleisthenes also may have introduced ostracism (first used in 487 BC), whereby
a vote from more than 6,000 of the citizens would exile a citizen for 10 years. The
initial trend was to vote for a citizen deemed a threat to the democracy (e.g., by
having ambitions to set himself up as tyrant). However, soon after, any citizen
judged to have too much power in the city tended to be targeted for exile
(e.g., Xanthippus in 485/84 BC).[11] Under this system, the exiled man's
property was maintained, but he was not physically in the city where he could
possibly create a new tyranny.
Cleisthenes called these reforms isonomia ("equality vis vis law", iso=equality;
nomos=law), instead of demokratia. Cleisthenes life after his reforms is
unknown as no ancient texts mention him thereafter.