Ancient Greece was a dominant civilization that flourished in the Mediterranean thousands of years ago. During the reign of Alexander the Great, it ruled most of Europe and western Asia. Much of Roman culture was influenced by the Greeks. It became the basis for much of today’s Western civilization from the government, philosophy, science, mathematics, art, literature, and even sports got its roots from the ancient Greeks.
Ancient Greece can be divided into three periods:
- The Archaic period is between the dawn of Greek civilization in 800 BC, and 508 BC before democracy was introduced. This period includes the beginning of the Olympic Games and Homer’s Odyssey, and The Iliad.
- The Classic Period is what most people consider as Ancient Greece. During this time, democracy ruled Athens and great philosophers such as Socrates and Plato emerged. It was also during this period that there was a war between Sparta and Athens. This period ended with the rise and death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. C.
- Hellenistic period: the Hellenistic period lasted from the death of Alexander the Great until Rome defeated Egypt at the Battle of Actin in 31 BC. C. The name “Hellenistic” comes from the Greek “Hellas,” which is the original Greek word.
Ancient Greece consisted of hundreds of relatively independent (political) city-states. This differs from most other modern societies, which are tribes or kingdoms that rule rather large areas. One cannot deny the fact that the geography of Greece, which is comprised of hills, mountains, and rivers, contributed to the fragmentation of ancient Greece. On the one hand, the ancient Greeks did not doubt that they were a “nation”: they had one religion, one central culture, and one language. Furthermore, the Greeks are well aware of their tribal origins.
Herodotus was able to categorize city-states by tribes broadly. However, despite these relationships at a higher level, it seems that they rarely play a significant role in Greek politics. Each of the polar regions fiercely fought for its independence. Unification rarely crossed the mind of the ancient Greeks. Even during the second Persian invasion of Greece, a group of city-states united to defend Greece, and the vast majority of Poles remained neutral. After the defeat of Persia, the Allies soon began to fight again.
Athens and Sparta Athens and Sparta were the two significant city-states that ruled most of Ancient Greece. The two considered each other as fierce rivals and fought each other during the Peloponnesian War. Sometimes they joined together to defend the Greek land from invaders. Each had its own distinct culture. Sparta focused almost entirely on warfare and the art of fighting, while Athens concentrated on skill and training.
The Rise Of The Tyrant
With time and population growth, many of these agricultural city-states began to produce consumer goods such as ceramics, textiles, wine, and metalwork. The trade-in of these products has made some people, usually not members of the old nobility, very wealthy. These people hate the runaway rule of the oligarchs and join forces, sometimes with heavily armed soldiers called heavy infantry, to bring new leaders to power.
These leaders are called tyrants who turned out to be as authoritarian as their oligarch predecessors. However, other tyrants turned out to be enlightened leaders. (For example, Fitton de Argos established an orderly system of weights and measures, while Diageni de Megara brought plumbing to town from him.) However, his reign did not last long – the classical period. A series of political reforms created the ancient Greek democratic system called democracy or “government of the people.”