The dominate city state for much of Greek history was Athens. Athens was importat before but the Athenian victory at Marathon and leasership in the Persian Wars made the city the most importnt city states. That ledership was wdely, but not universally recognized thoughout Greece. Athens saw itself, and in many ways was, the intellectual center of Greece. It was one of the first city-states to develop after the Greek Dark Ages. The city was dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom. Although Athens was of enormous impact to western civilization, it and the other city states were not large. Athens was the largest and at the height of its power had a population of only about 0.2 million. Only a fraction of this population were actual citizes, about a third of the male population. Much of the population lived in the rural areas outside the city. Other city states, even the other important ones had much smalller populations. It was in Athens that the concept of political democracy was born (508 BC). Athenian democracy was, however, la ,imority, lthough not a small numbers of citizens. While limited, Athenian democracy was direct. The Athenian citizens met monthly in the Assembly to discuss state affairs. Athens after their victory in the Persian Wars (490-479 BC) acquired a large overseas empire. Through the Delian League, Athens enforced the Pax Attica and dominated Greece. The Athenian empire brought wealth as well as a mixing of influences which played a major role in the cultural flowering known as the Golden Age. The Athenians looked at themselves as the School of Hellas. Athenian hegemony created support for Sparta in the Greek world as eventually the defeat of Athens in the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC). [Kagan]
There is evidence of human habitation in What is now modern Athens before 3000 BC. The earliest buildings date from the late Bronze Age (about 1200 BC). The town spread to the south of the citadel on the Acropolis. A defensive wall was built along the edge of the Acropolis. Greece is a rocky peninsula. The land unlike Mesopotamia and Egypt is not conducive to large-scale agricultre. Thus many Greek city states, especilly athens turned to trade for its economy. And this at the time in a world without developed overland trade routes, meant sea trade. This was the case in the early Mycenaean period (1550-1100 BC). Impressive fortresses began rising all over the Greek Peninsula. And early Athens was no exception. The remains of a Mycenaean palace have been found on the Acropolis. Homer's Iliad and Odyssey provide vivid and highly accurate depictions of this era, but notably there is no important Athenian character mentioned. The Mycenaeans were warriors and a seafaring people--a mixture of pirates and traders. They traded widely throughout the known world--well beyond the Agean. They moved into both the Black Sea and eastern Mediterranean. At this point a not very well understood clamity ocurred--the invasion of he Sea People (1200 BC). They invadedGreece an other societies of the Eastern Mediterranen. It is not well understood who these people were. some historins even question their existence. Butwe do know that a great clamity ocurred. And in Greece the Dorians invaded from the north. The result was the Greek Dark Age. The Mycenaean culture survived, but at a much reduced cultural level. The Athenians claimed a special status in that they spoke Ionian rather than Doric, Greek and held to Mycenaean customs they believed were superior to those elsewhere, even other Greeks. The peoples outside of Greece were seen as barbarians.
Athens is one of the first city-states to develop after the Greek Dark Ages. No other Greek city state had such a formidable citadel as the Acropolis. The surrounding region (Attica), was particularly important in Greece. It is located within the Aegean basin and thus perfectly suited to play a dominant role in area. The plains were the most important agricultural region in the Peloponnese and this the foundation for a powerful city state, as it would develop--Greece's most important city state. Tradition has it that Athens was founded by King Theseus who united early settlements in Attica. The royal line is semi-mythical ended with King Kodros (ca 1089-1068 BC). He is remembered for sacrificing his life to save the the City from the Dorians. Historians debate if his son Medon was a king or the first archon (chief magistrate) of Athens. The monarchy was replaced by rule of the nobles (wealthy landowners). The nobles ruled Athens through the Arios Pagos (Supreme Court). The nine archons (magistrates) of Athens were elected from the Arios Pagos. (Note that the American Supreme Court also was fonded with nine justices.) The Ecclesia of Demos (Assembly of Citizens) also existed, but had little power. The city begins to be mentioned in the historical record (late-7th century BC). It expanded rapidly (6th century BC). The early primitive shrines on the Acropolis began to be replaced with stone temples. Thus the Acropolis changed from a citadel to a sanctuary. As Athenians began to become wealthy from trade and shipping, the city expanded. Athens successfully brought the bother towns of Attica under its rule -- process known as synoikismos (the bringing together into one home). This process created the largest and wealthiest city state in Greece. In the process, a large class of people grew who the land-owning nobility excluded from public life. And the citizenry began to demand greater power. At the same time, the poor and indebted began to demand more food, new laws, and land. Riots were reported. The nobles owning land attempted to maintain control. The ambitious Kylon attempted to exploit the disorders anf become a tyrant, but his Kylonion Agos failed. The nobles fearing they were losing control, gave Draco the assignment of designing new laws (7th century BC). Draco was the first recorded legislator of Athens in Ancient Greece and ended the prevailing system of oral law and blood feud with a written code to be enforced by a court. Draco's law were, however, too severe and harsh. This is the origin of the modern word 'draconian'. They were not what Athenians expected. They turned to Solon (638–558 BC), who was universally seen as a very good and wise man, to attempt to compose a new set of laws. Solon addressed both political and economic issues. Solon cancelled the debts of the citizens and freed those who had been enslaved because of debts. Solon's reforms released the many Athenians from heavy burdens and became known as 'seisachtheia'. It is at this time that the Ecclesia of Demos (Assembly) becomes the heart of Athenian democracy.
The dominate city state for much of Greek history was Athens. Athens was importat before but the Athenian victory at Marathon and leasership in the Persian Wars made the city the most importnt city states. That ledership was wdely, but not universally recognized thoughout Greece. The Persian Wars were the 5th century BC struggle between the Persian Empire and the Greek city states. It can be said that the success of the small Greek city states' success in maintaining their independence was the birth of Western civilization. The Greek victories made possible by the defeat of a large Persian army at Marathon (490 BC)--essentially the birth of freedom. Anther stirring action occuured 10 yeas later at Thermopylae. These victories made possible one of the most important culutral floweing in history. It was also the beginning of the rise of naval combat on a large scale. The Greeks saw their victories due to Greek democracy and Persian oriental absolutism and hybris. Greek discussions of the Persian Wars primarily focused on why they prevailed. What they did not discuss and what is very important for our modern assessment is the impact of the Persiam Wars on the Geek--espeilly the Athnians. And here it is essenially that the Persian Wars created the idea of freedom. There may have been other factors as well, but the Persian threat seems to have acted to coalese ideas that were still in a rudimentary form/Political feedom developed into individual liberty.
The Athenian economy was based on trade. Athens was located near the sea and had an excellent port at Piraeus . In an age before well-develope developed roads, this meant that Athens could trade with other city-states and foreign people thoughout the Mediteraanean world. Athenians traded a large range of commodities, including honey, olive oil, painted pottery. silver, and slaves. Silver was an important medium of exchange. The discovery od silver near Athens was a major factor in both Athen's victory in the Persian Wars and the city's cultural flowering. Greece is a rugged land and its fields were not highly productive. Thus grain was a major commodity sought by Greek traders. Wood was also needed. The major Athenian market place was the agora. It was a kind of large Greek farmer's market or perhaps more accurately a kind of ancient Walmart. Merchants, arisans, and farners sold their goods. This included goods from the city and surrounding country sidee as well as items from distant ports. The population of Athens came the agora to make their purchaes. One can find virtually everthing on offer in the ancient world, including bread, furniture, garlic, jewlry, olive oil, oil lamos, onion, pottery, sandals, wine, and much more.
Athenian uthorities like other city stated minted their own coins to facilitate trade. There were gold, silver, and bronze coins.
They wre all similr. The front siude had a portrait of Athena. The obverse had Athena's sacred bird, the owl.
The city was dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom. This would seem a logical choice because if there was onc central value in Greek culture it is reason and a faith in reason. All of the other great accomplishments of Greek civiliation flow frrom this central alue. No other ancient civilizations, incluing many modern ones exhibited such a concern and interet in reason. It touched on an influenced virtually every aspect of Greek life--with one exception--classical religion. The Greek gods were known for many things, including avarice capriciouness, courage, love, power, valor, vindictiness, and much more. In fct the complete panoply of human attributes, both admirable and evil. In fact they are the vurtual anthisis of the modern concept of God. Rther they are more like comic book heros--wothout moral values. Ironically, the one attribute they did not have was reason, the ultimate value embraced by the Greeks.
Slavery was endemic throughout Greece. Greek democracy did not create slavery. Slavery existed in Greece before democracy, but once democracy arrivd, there was no effort to end or lmit slavery.
Greece is the first ancient civilization for which we have a full understanding of Slavery. This is a little complicated because unlike Rome, there was no nunified state. Each city state had their own laws and in some cases like Sparta there were major differences with the rest if Greece. Our understanding of Athens is the most detailed, but a good bit is known about other city states as well. The Greek city states, despite their tradition of democracy, had economies which were to a substantial degree based on slavery. Some historians have described the Greeks as the first true slave society in history. Large scale Greek slavery emerged between the 6th and 4th centuries BC. Major slave markets developed in the larger city states (Athens, Rhodes, Corinth, Delos, and others). As many as a thousand slaves might be sold in a single day. This was in large measure determined by military action. After a particularly important engagement, a Greek city state like Athens might have as many as 20,000 captives to deal with. The institution of slavery, however, varied widely among the different city states. Athens and the other city states had what can be seen as slavery in the the standard form. Sparta was substantially different. The Spartan economy was based on labor performed by the helots. Some authors suggest that is more correct to refer to them as serfs. They were a conquered people, They did work on lrge estates run by the Spartans, but lived in family groups on hereditary land. They were required to turn over the bulk of their harvest to their Spartan master who was an absentee landholder. The rights of Greek slaves varied from city state to city state. This varied as to who owned them and the tasks assigned. Slaves were owned by both the state and idividuals. Conditions varied significantly. The mines owned by the state were worked by slaves. The state leased the mines to private proprietors who often drive the slaves savagely to maximize profits. Other state slaves were treated better. The best treated were 300 Scythian archers who somewhat strangely served as the Athens police force. Most Athenian slaves were privately owned. Most of these were employed as domestic servants. Freeborn Athenians did not work as domestics. The conditions of slavery for privately owned slaves was primarily determined by the relationship whuch developed with their masters. Here close relations were possible. Women might be used to care for the children and thus become trusted family retainers. They also might be used as concubines offering the opportunity to become emotionally close withe masters. Male slaves by take on the role of a steward and actually run the household.
It is in Athens with the Battle of Marahon that freedom and Western civilzation ws born. And it was in Athens that the concept of political democracy was born in 508 BC. Athenian democracy was, however, limited to a relatively small numbers of citizens. While limited, Athenian democracy was direct. The Athenian citizens met monthly in the Assembly to discuss state affairs. The Greek word for freedom was ελευθερία (elef̱thería). And the most Greeks had no doubts about its importance. Aeschylus fought at Marathon. One of his great plays written nearly two decades after Marathon was 'The Persians' (472 BC). He argued in the play that the Athenian victory was that of free men fughting the slaves if an oriental despy. He also insited that the Persians had committed hybris--towering arrogance. Herodotus in the first important histoicl study, Histories reached the same conclusion (445 BC). Democracy was, however, not the only current at play in ancient Greece. The Greek city states all had their differences. Athens was the nost influential, but not the only powerful city state. Sparta was very different, in many ways the athesis of Athens. It was the wotld's first totalitaruan state and gor this reason much admird iun NAZI Germany. Notably there was no cultural floweing in Sparta. But Sparta was able to generate raw military power and enslave neighboring Laconia and Messenia creating a slave poopulation of Helots. Even in Athens, free speech was not un limited. Athenians famouly put Socrates to death. Athens and the other Greek city states were not without their faults. Democracy can be messy. And humans are falable.
Athens created a navalempire and exploited the other member states.
Athens after their victory in the Persian Wars (490-479 BC) aacquired a large overseas empire. Through the Delian League, Athens enforced the Pax Attica and dominated Greece. The Athenian empire brought wealth as well as a mixing of influences which played a major role in the cultural flowering known as the Goden Age. The Athenians looked at themselves as the School of Hellas. Athenian hegemony created support for Sparta in the Greek world as eventually the defeat of Athens in the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC). [Kagan]
Although Athens was of enormous impact to western civilization, it and the other city states were not large. Athens was the largest and at the height of its power had a population of only about 0.2 million. Only a fraction of this population were actual citizes, about a third of the male population. Much of the population lived in the rural areas outside the city. Other city states, even the other important ones had much smalller populations.
Athenian freedom not only sparked a creative outburst of thought about the natural world that would not be rivaled until the invention of science by Western thinkets (16th century). Intrestingly many of the scientific princies that were recognized in the 19th century were first theorized by the ancent Greeks. Even more startlig is how the Greeks egan to explore the consequemnces of freedom. And here even in our modern age the extet of Greek thinking has not been equaled. This was perhaps the main theme of the Greek tragedies and foremost among them was Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. Athens saw itself, and in many ways was, the intellectual center of Greece. The Golden Age of Greece is in large measure the achievment of Athenian democracy, but there were important achievements in other Greek city states. Herodutus came from Halicarnassus Hippocrates was from Cos. Pythagoras was from Samos. Simonides was from Ceos. But by far it ws Athens that produced the largest numbers of men upon which Western Civilization and freedom was founded, including Aeschylus, Aristolle, Aristophanes, Euripides, Pericles, Phidias, Plato, Socretes, Sophocles, Thucydides, and Xenophon. Note the absence of Spartans. And even those Greeks not from Athens developed in societies with many of the same political and economic currents that moved in Athens. Rarely in human history has there been such a flowering of human thought and achievement. Greeks invented the liberal arts as an edcational process to prepare its citizens. And it is no accident that this cultural flowering occured in Greece amidst the freedom of democracy. Nothing like this had occured in the previous 10 millenia of human civilization.
Pericles was born in Athens (495 BC). His father, Xanthippus, was an important general and statesman who came from a wealthy aristocratic family. His mother, Agariste, was niece to the famed statesman and reformer Cleisthenes, leader of the the powerful, but controversial Alcmaeonidae clan -- from whicj Alcibiades rose. Of all the recered figures of ancient Greece, no one is more imprtant than Pericles. Pericles was recognized at the time and still so as the the most prominent and influential Greek statesman, orator and general during the Golden Age. He ws the leader of Athens between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars. Pericles did not create Atenian democracy, but culture flourished as never before under the leadership of Pericles. Thucydides called him the 'first citizen' of democratic Athens. Pericles came to power (460 BC) in the midst of the Persian Wars. He was a powerul prponent for democracy. His Funeral Oration along with Lincoln's Gettyburg Address or the most famous starements of democratic governmnt.
Pericles delivered the ovation after the first year of the Peloponnesian War (431 BC). It was part of the funeral for the war dead --an annual public ceremony. Pericles was still a todler at the time of the Battle of Marathon (490 BC), vur it was Pericles who enginered the Greek victory over Xerxes huge army and navy. He also oversaw the transformation of Athens’ alliances into an large empire and a mechanism for obtaining tribute from other Greek city states. It was Pericles who engineered the construction of the Parthenon. arguably the most beautiful building ever construcyed, to grace grace the Acropolis over Athens. Pericles despite all his achievements also developed the the policies and strategies that eventually plunge all Greece into the devastating Peloponnesian War.
Athenian hegemony created support for Sparta in the Greek world as eventually the defeat of Athens in the Peloponnesian War (431-04 BC). [Kagan] The Peloponesian War was on of the epic struggles of the ancient world. The most important source of information on the Peloponnesian War was written by Thucydides in 431 BC. The Peloponnesian war started beginning in 431 B.C. The war centered on the struggle between Athens and Sparta fvor dominance in the Greek world. Most wars between Greek City states were short, non-conclusive battles. The Peloponesian War lasted 27 years. Athens at the time was the leading power in reece, primarily because of its fleet and maritime empire. It was the Atenian fleet that had defeated the Persians. Sparta, playing upon the resentment of other Greek city states over Athenian hegenomy, asembeled an alliance. Realizing that the Athenian fleet wlould have to be destroyed, the Spatand sought help from the Persians. The Atenian fleet was destroyed at Aegospotami. The Spartans after the Battle of Attica were able to besiege and ultimately defeat Athens.
Kagan, Donald. The Peloponesian War (Viking, 2003), 511p.
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