World History/Ancient Greece
The ancient Greeks were the people who lived in Greece from 2100 BC to 146 BC.
Greece's geography kept cities from contacting each other very well. This is because Greece has hundreds of islands and the mainland has many mountains. However, being located on the Mediterranean Sea helped trade with other countries.
Because of the Mediterranean weather, Greece was able to grow crops such as wheat, olives, and grapes. They traded these items and their products, such as olive oil from olives, and wine from grapes.
The Greek mainland is divided into two peninsulas. A peninsula is a piece of land with water on three sides. The northern peninsula was called Attica. The southern peninsula was called the Peloponnese.
The Greek word for "city" was polis. A Greek city had a fort called an acropolis (which means high city in their language). It was a fort on a high hill to go in times of war to protect the women and children. Some important Greek cities were Athens and Sparta.
Athens created the world's first democracy, a kind of government where the people vote on the laws. Despite creating the world's first democracy, women and slaves weren't citizens and had few rights.
Athens was also known for being a great philosophical center. Philosophy is a science that tries to find new ideas about knowledge and thought. The famous philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle all came from Athens. Plato had a school in Athens called The Academy. Socrates is famous for his way of teaching by asking questions, not just telling students what he knew.
The Athenians also built the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the goddess of war and wisdom, Athena. Athens is the capital of modern Greece.
Sparta was a military-based city located on the Peloponnese. Boys' training focused on war-related skills. All men were required to be in the army. Sparta was ruled by two kings at the same time. Women in Sparta had more rights than women in Athens. While men were away at war, women ran the house. Slaves did most or all of the house chores in Sparta. There were more slaves in Sparta than citizens.
Greece's religion was polytheistic, which means they worshiped many gods. The main gods were called the Twelve Olympians, because they were believed to live on Mount Olympus. The twelve Olympians are:
- Zeus - King of the gods and god of thunder
- Hera - Queen of the gods
- Aphrodite - Goddess of love
- Athena - Goddess of war and wisdom
- Ares - God of war
- Hades - God of the underworld
- Poseidon - God of the ocean and horses
- Hephaestus - God of forging (a forge is a very hot fire where metal can be bent and made into tools)
- Hermes - Messenger god
- Apollo - God of healing, and the sun
The Greeks created the Olympic Games, which took place every four years in the Greek city of Olympia. They were held to honor Zeus. Only men could compete in or watch the Olympics, and they had to compete naked in order to prove that they were men. The games in the ancient Olympics were much more dangerous than the games in the modern Olympics. There were no rules in boxing, and many men who competed were badly hurt. Training for the Olympics took place in a gymnasium, from the Greek word gymnos, which means "naked."
The Greeks are also known for creating a large empire. King Philip II of Macedon (one of the poleis) conquered almost all the other Greek cities by 336 BC, when he died. His young son Alexander began conquering when he was in his twenties. He expanded his new Greek empire. He took over Egypt, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, and the huge Persian Empire. He built a city named after himself at Egypt called Alexandria.
The Greeks also created life-like statues and built beautiful temples to their gods. In their architecture, they included columns. They had three types of columns: Doric, Ionian, and Corinthian. The Doric columns were the plainest and most common type of column. The Ionian columns had a scroll top. Corinthian columns had a very decorative top. Many buildings around the world today are built like Greek buildings.