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Ancient Greece - Index

Greek Index / Timeline Aegean Sea Civilizations Trojan War Greek Dark Ages Greek Archaic Period
Greek Gods Greek Classical Period - I Persian War Greek Classical Period - II Peloponnesian War
Philosophers Tragedy - Oedipus Greek Classical Period - III Alexander the Great Greek Hellenistic Period

750 - 500 BC - Greek Archaic Period

 

Greek colonies abroad continued to flourish and new settlements were established, particularly in the region of the Black Sea. Colonies were founded at Mediterranean sites such as Cyrene on the North African coast and Massilia (Marseilles) in southern France. Highly developed commercial contacts continued in Egypt, Anatolia and the Levant. These contacts stimulated an influx of eastern imports and the manufacture of Greek objects with an "oriental" appearance or featuring "oriental" motifs.

Coinage was invented by the East Greeks or by the Lydians, the neighbors of the Greeks on the coast of Asia Minor, and was systematically adopted by the Greek city-states. The first Greek monumental stone sculpture appeared. The Doric and Ionic architectural orders were born and the Greek temple reached its developed form.  (Adapted from www.penn.museum/sites/Greek_World/index.html)

750 BC The Polis

 

During this period, the concept of the polis, the Greek city-state, became well developed. Tyrannical political figures seized control of many of these city-states in the 7th and 6th centuries.

Rise of aristocracies --> Kings disappeared after 750 BC except in Sparta, Argos (greatest city-state until 600 BC), etc.

  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Theseus," 24, p. 29-30. Plutarch credits Theseus for having founded Athens. "After Aegeus's [the king of the are where Athens was built] death Theseus conceived a wonderful and far-reaching plan, which was nothing less than to concentrate the inhabitants of Attica into a capital. In this way he transformed them into one people belonging to one city, whereas until then they had lived in widely scattered communities... The common people and the poor responded at once to his appeal, while to the more influential classes he proposed a constitution without a king: there was to be a democracy... [He built] a single town-hall and senate house for the whole community on the site of the present Acropolis, and he named the city Athens."

Greek Polis (city-state)

  • Aristotle, "This is the polis.  It has come into being in order, simply, that life can go on; but now it exists so as to make that life a good life."
  • Homer Odyssey, 6, p. 103-5. Homer describes the mythical country of the Phaeacians (because of the phrase "spinning yarn stained with sea-purple" these people could represent the Phoenicians), offering a glimpse of how a city-state may have looked. Homer writes, "In due course they reached the noble river with its never-failing pools, in which there was enough clear water always bubbling up and swirling by to clean the dirtiest clothes."

Small but sovereign political unit (not originally a democracy)

  • Plato Republic, 2.369b-c, p. 46. Plato writes an account of Socrates' view of the political foundations of a hypothetical city. Socrates says that "each of us isn't self-sufficient but is in need of much." He then says, "So, then, when one man takes on another for one need and another for another need, and, since many things are needed, many men gather in one settlement as partners and helpers, to this common settlement we give the name city."

200 or so city-states.  Largest was 1000 sq./mi., most were much smaller

  Strong devotion to Olympian gods
By 700 BC

Development of democracy in Athens

  • "Democracy" is from the Greek words demos (people) and kratos (rule)
  • All male citizens were allowed to have a role in government
700 BC Written Records

 

Greeks adopted and adapted the Phoenician alphabet

Records show evidence of unification of Aegean population

  • Decline of non-Hellenic languages (unification of languages)
750-700 BC Homer writes the Odyssey
700 BC Hesiod writes Works and Days and Theogony
600 BC Sappho of Mytilene on Lesbos is the most famous woman poet

Island of Lesbos

750-500 BC Colonization
750 BC Movement westward
580 BC First successful Greek colony in Italy at Cumae in south-central near present day Naples
  • Colonized Acragas on the south shore of Sicily
520 BC
  • Colonized near Tripoli in north Africa
After 700 BC Movement eastward
 

Military

750 BC

Use of the phalanx

  • Soldiers known as hoplites

700 BC

First great war was fought (probably over farmland)
 

Art

740 BC?

Orientalizition of pottery

700 BC

Large scale sculpture emerges

650 BC

Kouros - standing nude male statue, kore - standing clothed female statue

 

550 BC

Black figure pottery

 

530 BC

Red figure pottery

 

Trade and Industry

 

Trade and industry expanded and increased

Growth of class systems and slavery

650 BC

First use of coinage and retail trade in the Aegean region was by the kings of Lydia in Asia Minor

  • Herodotus Histories, 1.94, p. 40. "The Lydians were the first people we know of to use a gold and silver coinage and to introduce retail trade, and they also claim to have invented the games which are now commonly played both by themselves and by the Greeks."

600 BC

Agricultural revolution
  • Development of "cash crops" of wine and olive oil
  • Expansion of farmland
 

Philosophy

600 BC

Thales of Miletus is the first philosopher (philosophia = "love of wisdom")

  • Development of formal logic

550 BC

Anaximander of Miletus contemplates the origin of the world (from one primary substance? Evolution?)

545 BC

Xenophanes of Colophon was a skeptic and relativist

530 BC

Pythagoras of Samos develops Pythagorean theorem for right-angled triangles

The Greeks discover geometry (already long established in the Near East)

 

Growth of Sparta

730-710 BC

Spartans conquer southwest Peloponnese in the First Messenian War

Spartan social classes

  • Full citizens (Lacedemonians) - lived in Sparta and four adjoining villages
  • Non-voting Lacedemonians who fought in army - lived in hill villages (perioikoi)
  • Small peasants, especially Messenians - serfs (helots)

640-620 BC

Sparta contains and subdues Messenians in Second Messenian War

  • Herodotus Histories, 3.47, note 20, p. 570. The Messenians were western neighbors of Sparta. Sparta subjugated and enslaved the Messenians, who later revolted against Sparta.

Established military society rooted in "public duty"

  • Plato Republic, 2.374d-378e, p. 51-6. Probably somewhat similar to the Spartan system, Socrates describes how the military "guardians" of a city should be trained so that they fulfill their duty of protecting the citizens without being a threat to the city's safety. His model includes "gymnastic for bodies and music for the soul," as well as censorship of Homer and other works that might make men fear death or be immoral.
  • Plato Republic, 8.549a, p. 226. Socrates describes a timocracy, which is a militaristic government based on honor. This type of government is likely similar to that of Sparta. Describing a citizen, Socrates say that he "must be a lover of hearing although he's by no means skilled in rhetoric...he would be tame and to rulers most obedient. He is a lover of ruling and of honor, not basing his claim to rule speaking or anything of the sort, but on warlike deeds and everything connected with war; he is a lover of gymnastic and the hunt."

500 BC

Sparta becomes the greatest military power in mainland Greece

 

Growth of Athens under Solon the Idealist

594 BC

Solon is elected archon or "reconciler" (virtually a dictator)

  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Solon," 13, p. 54. "The city stood on the brink of revolution, and it seemed as if the only way to put a stop to its perpetual disorders and achieve stability was to set up a tyranny."
  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Solon," 14, p. 55. So, Solon "was chosen archon...to act both as arbitrator and as legislator, for the rich were ready to accept him as a man of wealth and the poor as a man of principle." One of his famous dictums was "equality breeds no strife."
 

Concerned with social, economic, and political welfare of Athens

  • Herodotus Histories, 1.29, p. 12. Herodotus claims that "at the request of his countrymen [Solon] had made a code of laws for Athens." Furthermore, "The Athenians could not alter any of Solon's laws without him, because they had solemnly sworn to give them a ten years' trial."
  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Solon," 17, p. 59. Solon "repealed all the Draconian laws because of their harshness and the excessively heavy penalties they carried; the only exceptions were the laws relating to homicide."
 

Built an Athenian class system in which only the top two groups could hold an office, but all had a voice in the assembly

1. "500-bushel men"

  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Solon," 18, p. 59-60. "Those who received an annual income of 500 measures or more of wet and dry produce, he placed in the first class and called Pentacosiomedimni."

2. "cavalry" or "knights" (300 bushels)

  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Solon," 18, p. 60. "The second class consisted of men who could afford a horse, or possessed and income of 300 measures, and these, because they paid a 'horse tax', were known as Knights."

3. "men of the line" (200 bushels, fought on foot)

  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Solon," 18, p. 60. The third class were the Zeugitai, whose yearly income amounted to 200 measures of wet and dry produce."

4. "laborers"

  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Solon," 18, p. 60. "The rest of the citizen body were known as Thetes; they were not entitled to hold office and their only political function consisted in sitting in the Assembly or on a jury. This latter privilege appeared at first to be worth very little, but later became extremely important."
  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Solon," 2, p. 44. Although Solon developed this class system, he thought that all men were equally wealthy even when one "has great possessions, Silver and gold and broad wheat-bearing acres, Herds and horses and mules: while the other's portion is but his daily bread, clothes for his back, Shoes for his feet and a fair wife and child With a span of years to share their lives together."
  • Plato Republic, 3.414d-415c, p. 94. Although written nearly two hundred years later, Plato's Republic offers Socrates' "Noble Lie" and method of effecting class stratification in his hypothetical city. "I'll attempt to persuade first the rulers and the soldiers, then the rest of the city, that the rearing and education we gave them were like dreams." He continues to say that he would convince them that the gods in the earth created people. Some people have golden blood and should rule. Some have silver blood and should serve as "auxiliaries" and soldiers. Finally, some people have bronze or iron blood and should serve as tradesmen and laborers. The tale is recorded in 415a-c.
600-500 BC Time of Great Change
  The city-states continued to flourish during the Archaic period, in spite of internal political and social unrest.  By the 6th century BC a majority of the most important and powerful city-states were ruled by tyrants. Commerce and the arts flourished under the auspices of these more or less benevolent dictators.  Corinth especially prospered. Athens undertook a massive building program, and the region of Attica dominated the pottery market for about a century and a half with its high-quality pottery.

The origins of democracy can be traced to Athens in the years following the fall of the tyrannical Pisistratids (560-510 BC).  By the beginning of the Archaic period large statues of nude males (kouroi ) and draped females (korai ) were produced as dedications for sanctuaries and as markers for graves. Colossal marble temples to house huge cult images of the gods were built in various parts of the Greek world.
561-510 BC Tyranny of Peisistratus

 

Peisistratus gains control temporarily as tyrant

  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Solon," 1, p. 43. Peisistratus and Solon were thought to have been related. "The two men were at first great friends, partly because they were related."
  • Herodotus Histories, 1.59, p. 22-3. "Peisistratus with a view to seizing power for himself organized a third party. He collected adherents," and through a ruse, "Peisistratus captured the Acropolis, and from that moment found himself master of Athens. In this way he ruled the Athenians, governing in accordance with custom, and neither eliminating the existing magistracies nor changing the laws. And he adorned the city well and beautifully."
  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Solon," 30, p. 73. Plutarch relates and account of the ruse. "The day came when Peisistratus deliberately wounded himself, drove into the market-place in a chariot and tried to rouse the people with a story that his enemies had organized a conspiracy to murder him because of his political programme [sic]. A crowd of sympathizers was beginning to utter angry shouts in his favour [sic], when Solon approached them." Solon rebuked the people and tried to make them see that Peisistratus was trying to trick them.

546-527 BC

Peisistratus regains control of Athens

  • Herodotus Histories, 1.60, p. 23-4. Although he was driven out of power by the two leading political parties, he was restored to power because one of the political leaders "found himself so harassed [by the opposition party] that he made overtures to Peisistratus and promised to restore him to power if he would consent to marry his daughter." Peisistratus agreed, so using "what seems to [Herodotus] the silliest trick which history has to record," a tall woman was dressed in armor and rode into Athens claiming to be Athena. The people of Athens "spread this nonsense all over the town, and it was not long before rumour [sic] reached the outlying villages that Athena was bringing Peisistratus back." They welcomed Peisistratus back "with open arms."

527-510 BC

With the help of his sons Hippias and Hipparchus, Peisistratus retakes Athens a third time

  • Herodotus Histories, 1.61-4, p. 24-5. Because Peisistratus did not want children from his newly acquired wife, he slept with her in an "unnatural" way. This insulted his wife and father in law, causing Peisistratus to flee. He and his sons conquered Marathon and other areas, eventually retaking Athens. Thus, "for the third time Peisistratus made himself master of the city."

525/4-456 BC

Aeschylus writes 80 plays, including Oresteia and Agamemnon

510 BC

Spartans assist Athenians in deposing Hippias and the Pisistratidae regime

  • Herodotus Histories, 5.63, p. 301. Some of the Athenians "bribed the Priestess [at Delphi] to tell any Spartans that might happen to consult the oracle, either on state or private business, that it was their duty to liberate Athens; and the Spartans, as a result of the constant repetition of the same injunction, sent Anchimolius, the son of Aster, a distinguished citizen, at the head of an army to drive out the Pisistratidae. The Pisistratidae were good friends of theirs; but no matter--the commands of God were more important to them than human ties."

Tensions mount between Athens and Sparta

508 BC

Short-lived Spartan oligopoly is overthrown by Athenians

500 BC

Athens is the most culturally advanced of the city-states

  • Herodotus Histories, 1.30, p. 12-3. Solon journeys to the palace of King Croesus of Lydia. Croesus asks Solon to name the happiest person Solon had ever seen, thinking Solon would name Croesus. Solon responded that an Athenian, named Tellus, was the happiest person he had ever seen. Solon said, "There are good reasons, first, his city was prosperous, and he had fine sons, and lived to see children born to each of them, and all these children surviving: secondly, he had wealth enough by our standards; and he had a glorious death... and the Athenians paid him the honour [sic] of a public funeral on the spot where he fell."
  • Plutarch Parallel Lives, "Solon," 27, p. 69-71. Plutarch also relates an account of this meeting.
  • Thucydides Peloponnesian War, 1.70, 76. "As for their bodies, they regard them as expendable for their city's sake, as though they were not their own; but each man cultivates his own intelligence, again with a view to doing something notable for his city. If they aim at something and do not get it, they think that they have been deprived of what belonged to them already; whereas, if their enterprise is successful, they regard that success as nothing compared to what they will do next."
 

The Persian Threat

  External troubles came from both east and west.  The Persian Empire conquered the Neo-Babylonians, Egyptians, and attempted to extend its control over the Greeks in Asia Minor by conquering the Lydian Empire.

559-530 BC

Cyrus the Great, of Persia, unites warrior nobles of Iran

  • Herodotus Histories, 1.71, p. 29. A Lydian named Sandanis describes the Persians to King Croesus of Lydia, who is preparing to attack Cyrus and his Persians. He says that they "dress in leather--both breeches and everything else. So rough is their country that they eat as much as they have, never as much as they want. They drink no wine but only water. They have no good things at all, not even figs for dessert."

550 BC

Conquers Media

  • Herodotus Histories, 1.127, p. 53. "The Persians had long resented their subjection to the Medes. At last they had found a leader [Cyrus, son of Cambyses], and welcomed with enthusiasm the prospect of liberty."
  • Herodotus Histories, 1.125-30, p. 52-4. Cyrus encourages the Persians to revolt against the Medes and successfully conquers the Median army. According to Herodotus, "Astyages [king of Media] had reigned for thirty-five years before he was deposed in the manner I have described. Because of his harsh rule the Medes, who had been masters of Asia beyond the Halys for a hundred and twenty-eight years except for the period of Scythian domination, were forced to bow before the power of Persia."

547 BC

Conquers Lydia

  • Herodotus Histories, 1.71, p. 29. Before King Croesus of Lydia attacks Cyrus and his Persians, Sandanis continues his plead for Croesus to reconsider. After describing the Persians as rough and needy people, Sandanis says, "Now if you conquer this people, what will you get from them, seeing they have nothing for you to take? And if they conquer you, think how many good things you will lose; for once they taste the luxuries of Lydia they will hold on to them so tightly that nothing will make them let go. I am thankful myself that the gods have never put it into the Persians' heads to attack the Lydians."
  • Herodotus Histories, 1.80, p. 33. Cyrus instructed the Persians to "kill without mercy every Lydian they met--except Croesus."
  • Herodotus Histories, 1.141, p. 58. After the fall of Lydia, the Ionians request "the same terms as they had under King Croesus [of Lydia], their former master." Cyrus tells them that he had previously asked the Ionians to revolt against Croesus to assist Cyrus. However, the Ionians refused. Now, the Ionians are "ready enough to offer their allegiance now that everything was settled in [Cyrus'] favour [sic]." Hence, Cyrus is not interested in granting Ionia any special favors.
  • Herodotus Histories, 1.143, p. 59. According to Herodotus, of all the Greek races, the Ionians had the least "power and influence." Furthermore, the Greek nation as a whole "took a dislike to the very name 'Ionian' and refused to admit to it."
  • Herodotus Histories, 1.141, p. 58. Ionian cities meet in council and agree to ask Sparta for help.
  • Herodotus Histories, 1.152-3, p. 61-2. "The Spartans refused to help the Ionians...Nevertheless, in spite of their rejection of the Ionian request, the Spartans dispatched a fifty-oared galley to the Asiatic coast, in order, I suppose, to watch Cyrus and what was going on in Ionia." One of the leaders on the galley forbade Cyrus from harming any Greek city or the Greeks would "take action." Cyrus responded, "I have never yet been afraid of men who have a special meeting place in the centre [sic] of their city, where they swear this and that and cheat each other. Such people, if I have anything to do with it, will not have the troubles of Ionia to chatter about, but their own."

539 BC

Conquers Babylon (frees the Israelites from their captivity)

  • Herodotus Histories, 1.191, p. 76. "The Babylonians themselves say that owing to the great size of the city the outskirts were captured without the people in the centre [sic] knowing anything about it; there was a festival going on, and they continued to dance and enjoy themselves, until they learned the news the hard way."

530 BC

Cyrus is killed in a battle against the Massagetae, who are similar to the Scythians

  • Herodotus Histories, 1.204, p. 80-1. The Massagetae live where "the Caspian is bounded by the Caucasus." In this area "lies an immense tract of flat country over which the eye wanders till it is lost in the distance.
  • Herodotus Histories, 1.214-5, p. 84. Herodotus describes the death of Cyrus. He writes, "when [the body of Cyrus] was found [Queen Tomyris of the Massagetae] pushed his head into a skin which she had filled with human blood, and cried out as she committed this outrage...'you have your fill of blood.'" Herodotus then describes the customs and lifestyle of the Massagetae. "In their dress and way of living the Massagetae are like the Scythians..."

His son Cambyses succeeds him

525 BC

Cambyses conquers Egypt

  • Herodotus Histories, 3.1-4, p. 154-5. Herodotus enumerates some reasons why Cambyses decided to attack Egypt. First, in the Persian account, Cyrus asked for the services of the best oculist in Egypt. The oculist was not happy with his assignment with Cyrus so he told Cambyses to ask for the daughter of Egyptian King Amasis in marriage. Amasis sent the daughter, named Nitetis, of the late King Apries in disguise instead. She told Cambyses that he had been duped, and Cambyses vowed to conquer Egypt. Second, in the Egyptian account, the Egyptians claimed that Cambyses was the son of Nitetis, for Cyrus ordered for the girl in marriage, not Cambyses. Herodotus discounts this possibility. Another important incident occurred when one of King Amasis' soldiers escaped Egypt and told Cambyses the secrets of Amasis and his military.
  • Herodotus Histories, 3.27-30, p. 164-5. After the conquest, the Egyptians claim to have received the presence of a god in the form of an Apis-calf. "This Apis--or Epaphus--is the calf of a cow which is never afterwards able to have another. The Egyptians say that a flash of light descends upon the cow from heaven, and this causes her to receive Apis." At Cambyses' request, "The priests brought the animal and Cambyses, half mad as he was, drew his dagger, aimed a blow at the Apis' belly, but missed and struck his thigh." He then insults the priests and ends the festival. Although Cambyses is already insane, the Egyptians blame the slaying of the Apis-calf for his dwindling sanity.
 

Cambyses goes insane and nearly loses his reign

  • Herodotus Histories, 3.30-2, p. 165-7. Cambyses murders his brother Smerdis and his sister, who was also his wife.
  • Herodotus Histories, 3.61-2, p. 178-9. Two Magi brothers plot to take the throne from Cambyses by pretending to be Smerdis, the murdered brother of Cambyses.

522-521 BC

Death of Cambyses leads to civil war and conspiracy

  • Herodotus Histories, 3.64-6, p. 179-81. On his way to Susa to defeat the Magus who posed as his brother, "the cap fell off the sheath of [Cambyses'] sword, exposing the blade, which pierced his thigh--just in the spot where he had previously struck the Apis the sacred Egyptian bull." Later, Herodotus writes, "Cambyses bitterly lamented the cruelty of his lot...Shortly afterwards gangrene and mortification of the thigh set in, and Cambyses died, after a reign in all of seven years and five months. He had no children, either sons or daughters."
  • Herodotus Histories, 3.69-71, p. 182-3. Several men unite and plot against the Magus (the imposter of Smerdis).

521 BC

Darius takes control of Persian empire

  • Herodotus Histories, 6.98, p. 357. "Darius is equivalent to 'Worker' in Greek; Xerxes means 'Warrior', and Artaxerxes means 'Great Warrior'."
  • Herodotus Histories, 3.78, p. 186. Darius, son of Hystaspes, travels to Susa. In a dark room, Darius kills the Magus imposter.
  • Herodotus Histories, 3.88, p. 190-1. "Darius son of Hystaspes became king of Persia. Following the conquests of Cyrus and Cambyses, his dominion extended over the whole of Asia, with the exception of Arabia." Darius married two of Cyrus' daughters and a daughter of one of his co-conspirators.
  • Herodotus Histories, 4.64, p. 235. Herodotus chronicles Darius' conflict with the Scythians. Herodotus also describes the culture and lifestyle of the Scythians. "As regards war, the Scythian custom is for every man to drink the blood of the first man he kills. The heads of all enemies killed in battle are taken to the king; if he brings a head, a soldier is admitted to his share of the loot; no head, no loot. He strips the skin off the head..." Herodotus goes into great detail.

513 BC

Darius extends Persian empire across the Aegean

  • Herodotus Histories, 4.118, p. 252. According to Herodotus, "Darius crossed into Europe, where he had already brought Thrace into subjection and was now engaged in throwing a bridge across the Danube, with the intention of making himself master of all Europe too."


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