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World Civilization


Ancient Greek civiliza3on (along with ancient
Rome) is termed classical, because this was the
culmina)on of the achievements of ancient
civiliza3ons. It is generally divided into two periods:
Hellenic (1200 323 BC) the period of pure
Greek civiliza3on, and Hellenis)c (323 31 BC) or
Greek-like the period of a mixed Greek-oriental

Greece and Asia Minor were separated by a sea named

Aegean Sea. This sea had many big and small islands.
Before the birth of the Greek civiliza)on an advanced
urban civiliza3on grew in the Aegean region, which was
combined of two cultures.
Minoan culture, which was formed based on Crete Island.
Mycenaean culture, the Minoan people gave birth to a
new culture in the southern Greek.

These two cultures paved the way for the rise of the Greek
civiliza3on together. With the decline of the Aegean
civiliza)on in 1150 BC there was lull in progress for the
3me being but it was removed very soon by the rise of a
new civiliza3on named Greek civiliza3on.


Natural Condi)ons
Long coastline, penetrated by the sea in many places,
formed excellent ports and made Greece an ideal place
for naviga)on of small ships
A favourable wind allowed sailboats to travel to and
from Asia Minor with ease
Land was not very suitable for agriculture
Numerous mountains acted like natural walls, dividing
Greece into small communi3es and promo3ng city
Abundance of good quality stone raw material for
architecture and sculpture
Sub-tropical, moderate climate
Abundance of sh and olives


One of the greatest poli3cal innova3on of ancient
Greeks was the establishment of the Polis or city
During the Bronze Age, Greeks lived in small, waroriented kingdoms. Between 1200-1100 BC onwards
they abandoned ci)es and started living in sedentary
or nomadic tribal groups. Also known as the Dark Age
in Greek history.
From 800 BC, trade began to accelerate, marketplaces
started growing up in villages and communi3es started
gathering together in large defensive units, building
Poli3cal units that were centrally based on a single


These city states were independent states controlling

a limited amount of territory surrounding it. Largest of
these city states was Sparta, controlling 3000 sq.
miles. (Photo Next Slide)
City-state is a dened geographical area comprising a
central city and its adjacent territory, which together
make up a single, self-governing poli)cal unit. The
Greeks called this arrangement a polis, which gives us
poli3cal, poli3cs and policy.
Government: The poli3cal union could not have
occurred unless the local leaders of the territory
wished for it. These men, the new landowning
aristocracy, were the planners and architects of the
new centralized government of the emerging citystates. Together it was decided that the posi3on of the
paramount basileus (hereditary King) be eliminated
and rule collec)vely.



A variety of poli)cal alterna)ves were experimented

with, which included oligarchy (rule of a few),
)mocracy (rule by the wealthy), tyranny and
The most common form of government in Greek city
states was oligarchy, the members being drawn from
the noble classes or from the wealthiest ci3zens of the
The oligarchs most o`en rules absolutely; had many
powers granted to the King; however many oligarchs
rules in conjunc3on with other poli)cal structures in
Sparta the oligarchy ruled over with a pair of Kings, a
council and a democra)c assembly.
Oligarchy could become unstable form of government
since it was ruled by a wealthy few. Oligarchs o`en
assumed absolute control in the name of reform.

By 6th century several oligarchies were replaced

by the rule of demos, democracy, although
ancient Greek democracy was not what it means
today. These were not representa)ve
government; governed by the free male ci)zens
of the city states. However, not all the members
could rule: foreigners, slaves and women were
disbarred from democracy. In other words,
Oligarchy of a rela3vely larger minority.
City states determined ci3zenship by descent.
They had a working sense of the kinship
rela3onship and well versed in their alia3on.
Every once in a while though, the administra3on
of Polis would admit people into the ci3zenship
from outside; concept of ci)zenship by



One of the unique phenomenon according to ancient
standards that inuenced our world was the
development of a democra)c form of government.
Two of the most prominent leaders of the 3me who
shaped the ideas of democracy were: Solon and
Solon annulled all mortgages, thus freeing people from
slavery. This social reform was called Seisachtheia
shaking o the burden. Solon discovered the secret of
democracy, and build up the cons)tu)on on
democra)c founda)on. Under him, even the poor
class of ci)zens were introduced within the sphere of
democra3c rights.

Opening up the Assembly to the lowest class of

popula3on was an important step towards democra)c
The corner stone of the cons3tu3on introduced
by Solon was the Courts of Jus3ce.
According to Aristotle, Solon had achieved three
crucial points: aboli)on of enslavement for debt,
crea)on of right of a third party to seek jus)ce in
court, and the introduc)on of appeals to a par)cular
According to scholars, these three steps had one thing
in common: they were designed to advance the
community idea by protec3ng the weaker majority
from the extra legal powers of nobili3es. Steps
towards equality before law.

Cleisthenes: Father of Athenian Democracy.

According David Stockton, Cleisthenes brought the
masses of the people (demos) into poli)cs.
Cleisthenes introduced laws called nomoi, as an
expression of norms imposed on and by the people.
Cleisthenes gave his new order: isonomia equal
distribu3ons and equality among the ci3zens,
equality before the law as well as equal poli3cal
rights, equal share of the state.
Cleisthenes introduced a Council of 500 or the
Boute, which was at the heart of new democracy;
only execu3ve powers not policy making. However,
for daily aairs, in order to give many ci3zens a share
in the government, 50 members from each individual
tribe served in turn.


Amongst Cleithenes democra3c measures, Aristotle

men3ons the Law of Ostracism. By ostracism a man
was sent into exile of ten years. Process: every ci3zen
could write a name on a shred (ostrakon). It was a
secret ballot and a total of 6000 votes were needed.
Ostracism was designed to prevent internal strife and
was prac3ced because of the power and authority of
some individual.
U n l i k e S o l o n , C l e i s t h e n e s p o l i c i e s a n d
implementa3ons were truly democra)c. Everything he
wanted to carry out had to be conrmed by the
Assembly, making his reforms the nest examples of
democra3c methods.
Under Cleisthenes, democracy was more broad based,
more comprehensive than Solon. Under Cleisthenes
the cons3tu3on rested on solid, unalterable

vUnlike the philosophers who sought to understand the

world, sophists contented themselves with teaching
eager, paying pupils how to get by in it. The rise of
democracy in city states demanded the art of public
speaking. Consequently amongst the younger
genera)on there was a demand for higher educa)on
to meet the needs of democracy in Greece. The
sophists oered to teach these skills.
vWho did sophists reach out to? The sophists mainly
alracted younger genera3ons of some means. The
new educa3on gave them the chance of emancipa)on
from the old world. They hoped to respond to the
requests of a changing society by ac3ve par3cipa3on.
As such the sophists made an important contribu3ons
to the rst age of enlightenment.

vThe emergence of Sophists signied an intellectual
reac3on against the materialis)c conclusions of the
3me in classical Greece
v5th century onwards there was a no3ceable turn from
natural science to philosophical cri)cism, from the
universe around us to man the greatest miracle. This
was the age of Sophists, who turned the search against
old assump3ons and brought with them new
vThe word sophists is derived from the Greek word
sophistes meaning prac33oner of wisdom or simply
wise man.

vThe sophists were mainly paid professional teachers of

middle class background who educated the young people of
the wealthy and noble. They charged high fees and were
o`en unpopular because only the rich men beneled from
them, and also because they encouraged sophis3ca3on, the
art of making the worse appear as the beler reason. They
mostly provided the poli)cal and rhetorical educa)on as
was needed in democracy.
vWhat did the sophists teach? The sophists studied and
taught condi3ons of human life, with special emphasis on
mans speech and thought. Protagoras of Abdera, the
greatest of the Sophists held the views that there was no
absolute good or evil: Man is the measure of all things, of
those beings that they are, of those beings that they are
not. The underlying assump3on is that ethical values and
beliefs are not absolute, they are rela3ve. No one can tell
you what is right or wrong, what is real or true no state
ocial, no parent, no God.


vC oncerning God, Protagoras observed:

Concerning Gods, I am unable to say whether
they exist or not, if they do, what are they like. In
all possibility, he was, like many other Sophists,
vTheir ideas of law and jus)ce were also
unselling. Although they acknowledged that Polis
was a state based on law, but insisted that all
progress was mans own work. Man having learnt
to know what is just and what is venerable,
created tradi3ons and conven3ons, customs and
laws. Central to the teaching of the art of poli3cs
was persuasion, an awareness of two
contradictory logic about everything. This was a
major interven3on in poli3cal theory.

Their unconventional views on religion was liable to be

construed as atheism, and antithetical to the religious belief
of the time. One example: Anaxagoras who claimed that
Sun was not a divinity but rather an extremely hot stone.
Their approach to education also created a cleavage
between the enlightened and the simple. Education became
specialized and professionalized open to only those who
could pay for it.
As a consequence they found themselves under attack more
often. It was only during the 18th and 19th centuries that the
true value of their teaching was properly recognized.
qIt was the intellectual excitement that was the most
significant contribution of the sophists.

Hippocrates: a medical man. He and his friends

freed themselves from old supers))ons and
many religious men condemned them as Godless.
Epilepsy (Mrigi-rog) was regarded by Greeks as
sacred malady. Hippocrates cri3cized this and
held that all diseases are due to natural causes.
Men regarded it divine only because of
ignorance. Such a revolu3on in medicine
heralded the growth of ra)onalis)c temper.
Concluding Points: The ideas of sophists caused
grave concerns amongst the ci)zens of city
states, who felt that 3me-honored beliefs and
moral standards were being undermined. The
sophists cri3cized the tradi)onal morality, the
bedrock of communitarian life at Polis. The moral
rela3vism was also being cri3cized by those who
enjoyed universalist ethos of the city states.

vSocrates is regarded as the greatest teacher in European
history. Idolized by Plato, his greatest student,
Socrates left no written word, but was responsible in
causing a tremendous stir in Greek intellectual life. He
was singlehandedly responsible for a revolution in
Greek philosophy in the 5th century.
v Sources on Socrates are thin and varied. Early
life: Born in 470 BC as Athenian citizen, he
served as the President of Assembly. He was
more inclined towards ruling the mind rather
than the polity.


His main friends were young men of aristocratic

background. Socrates believed that the best way to
develop ideas was in the give and take of
conversations, and the best way to educate people
was to ask them a series of questions leading to a
particular direction.
vSocrates was the first champion of the supremacy of
the intellect as a court from which there is no appeal.
While the sophists were teachers who dealt with many
things, Socrates was a formidable philosopher
concerned with fundamental questions concerning
mans existence.

vSocrates insisted that man is capable of knowing

himself by rigorous rational thought, by the
dialectical methods of analysis which weighs
alternative hypothesis against each other. He believed
that true knowledge cannot be, strictly speaking,
be taught but must be apprehended for and in
oneself. Also, mans knowledge of himself, of his
nature, was the true end of knowledge and therefore of
life. Knowledge produces virtue which, in turn,
produces happiness. The ultimate equation:
knowledge = virtue = happiness. Famous Socrates
paradox: no man willingly does wrong, but only
through ignorance, for no one would not will his
own happiness.

vThe content of the ideas of Socrates had a radical

reaction that also attracted young devoted friends
like Plato. But his association with young men and
the enemies of of democracy exposed him to
charges of subverting democracy. Some of
these charges were: 1. that he did not believe in
the Gods of Polis, and has introduced new
divine powers based on distorted reasoning.
Sources suggest that Socrates spoke of an inner
voice, a divine force that guided him. 2. that he
corrupted the minds of young people who
preferred his company than their parents. 3. that
he was an opponent of democracy.

As a consequence, Socrates was convicted and was

given death orders. However, Athenian city state had
an alternative, exile, if the convicted asks for it. But
Socrates stood farm and instead asked for death by
drinking poisonous draft of Hemlock.
Socrates prophesized, according to Plato, that Athens
would bring great harm for his death. He was right:
throughout history, the execution of Socrates was the
most serious charges that was brought by the critics of
Athenian democracy.


vPrior to 6th century, Greek religion was a tribal one.
Northern Greek tribes mainly worshipped the Homeric
Gods, i.e., a refined and aristocratic family of Gods
representing the upper air and sky. The southern tribes
worshipped the Mystery Cult, i.e., the earth and the
under earth spirits, who were more down to earth. By the
end of the 6th century BC, these two religious practices
were integrated
resulting in multiplicities of Greek
vPeople as a community worshipped Gods for promotion
of fertility in respect of religion, animals and humans.
In certain seasons, harvesting, winter and spring religious
ceremonies were performed. Ceremonial killing and eating
of sacred animals, even Humans, took place at an earlier

vAccording to Moses Finley, Greek religion was not a

religion of peace. The Olympian Gods were
quarrelsome and often came to power through brutal
struggle. The Gods were completely human, differing
from men only in superior power, immortality and
beauty. By believing such divinities, Greeks felt secured
at home in a world governed by powers so like
vSome of the Greek Gods were: Zeus - The great King
of Gods, universally respected; Poseidon: Ruler of Sea;
Pluto/Hades: God of underworld and death;
Aphrodite: Goddess of love and passion; Apollo: God
of Music and Knowledge; Ares: God of war; Athena:
Goddess of intelligence.








Major features of Greek Religion

One of the major feature of Greek religion was its
polytheism. Besides new Gods were also
introduced 3me to 3me. For instance, in the 6th
century BC Gods of Fear and Hope was introduced.
Greeks were God fearing people. They had a vision
of a`erlife, which they believed was a painless
existence. Thus, unless they worshipped Gods
properly, they would be punished in the acerlife
with pain.
Greek religion had no secret books.
The religion had no creed. People were free to
accept any accounts of Gods that they cared to.
The religion had lille ethical content. There was
no precise code of conduct.

There was no mother church or na)onal

priesthood. There was no conict with
the state and the religion. Although
religion was the business of the state but
it was not under state monopoly.
Finally, Greek religion was a religion of
extraordinary tolerance and diversity.
The most essen3al element of the
religion was ritualis)c worship.


The most recognizably Greek structure is the temple

(even though the architecture of Greek temples is
actually quitediverse). The Greeks referred to temples
with the ter m (ho nas) meaning
"dwelling;"temple derives from the Latin term,templum.
The earliest shrines were built to honor divinities and
were made from materials such as a wood and mud
brickmaterialsthat typically don't survive very long.
Greek city-states invested substantial resources in
temple buildingas they competed with each other not
just in strategic and economic terms, but also in their
architecture. For example, Athens devoted enormous
resources to the construction of the acropolis in the
5th century B.C.E.

Greek architecture refers to the architecture of the

Greek-speaking people who inhabited the Greek
mainland and the Peloponnese, the islands of the
Aegean Sea, the Greek colonies in Ionia (coastal Asia
Minor), and Magna Graecia (Greek colonies in Italy and
Greek architecture influenced Roman architecture and
architects in profound ways, such that Roman Imperial
architecture adopts and incorporates many Greek
elements into its own practice.


Greek temples are often categorized in terms of their

ground plan and the way in which the columns are
arranged. A prostyle temple is a temple that has
columns only at the front, while an amphiprostyle
temple has columns at the front and the rear.
Stoa () is a Greek architectural term that
describes a covered walkway or colonnade that was
usually designed for public use. Greek city planners
came to prefer the stoa as a device for framing the
agora (public market place) of a city or town. In
Athens the famous Stoa Poikile (Painted Stoa), c.
fifth century B.C.E., housed paintings of famous Greek
military exploits including the battle of Marathon, while
the Stoa Basileios (Royal Stoa), c. fifth century
B.C.E., was the seat of a chief civic official (archon

The Bouleuterion () was

an important civic building in a Greek city, as it was the
meeting place of the boule (citizen council) of the city.
These select representatives assembled to handle public
affairs and represent the citizenry of the polis (in
ancient Athens the boule was comprised of 500
members). The bouleuterion generally was a covered,
rectilinear building with stepped seating surrounding a
central speakers well in which an altar was placed.

The Greek theater was a large, open-air structure used

for dramatic performance. Theaters often took
advantage of hillsides and naturally sloping terrain and,
in general, utilized the panoramic landscape as the
backdrop to the stage itself. The Greek theater is
composed of the seating area (theatron), a circular
space for the chorus to perform (orchestra), and the
stage (skene). Tiered seats in the theatron provided
space for spectators. Two side aisles (parados, pl.paradoi)
provided access to the orchestra.

Greek houses of the Archaic and Classical periods

were relatively simple in design. Houses usually were
centered on a courtyard that would have been the scene
for various ritual activities; the courtyard also provided
natural light for the often small houses. The ground
floor rooms would have included kitchen and storage
rooms, perhaps an animal pen and a latrine; the chief
room was the andronsite of the male-dominated
drinking party (symposion). The quarters for women and
children (gynaikeion) could be located on the second
level (if present) and were, in any case, segregated from
the mens area.