Social Studies – Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece was dominated by two city states. Athens was a coastal city made wealthy by overseas trade.
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Since they were on the coast, they were able to trade far and wide, and that’s what produced the wealth for Athens. They had a democratic form of government.
The next lesson: Anti-Colonial Struggles: Central and South America, both lessons are included in Practice Tests.The following transcript is provided for your convenience.
So, they treated each person as if they were important. There weren’t classes, each person was a part of this democracy. They are known as leaders in philosophy and the arts. In fact, Socrates engaged in dialogues in the street. His student, Plato, recorded his philosophies, and Plato’s student, Aristotle, developed a strict form of reasoning that forms the basis of Western philosophy even today. And Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, these are all names that I’m sure you’ve heard before. Athens is also famous for its architecture, namely, the Parthenon. This is something that is still standing today, even if isn’t in as great of a shape as it was back then, and it’s just an example of the advanced architecture that Athens was able to develop.
Now, this is one of the two city-states. Athens is one of the two city-states that was important in Greece, that dominated Greece, one of the two main city states. The other one was Sparta. Sparta was a city devoted to agriculture and the military. Located away from the coast, and therefore, somewhat isolated. So, Sparta wasn’t as concerned with trade. They didn’t live near the coast. They were concerned with agriculture, and they developed a strong military. They didn’t try to interact with their neighbors very much. They didn’t use open sea to travel anywhere very often, they weren’t as big on trade. They were bigger on staying where they were, focusing on agriculture, focusing on the military. So, they were able to defend themselves and conquer other areas if necessary.
Sparta was governed by a strict class system, in which people worked the land of other people. So, there were higher classes and lower classes, and the lower class people basically worked as serfs. So, they worked the land or the fields of the higher class people in exchange for having a place to live and food to eat. But they didn’t own any of the land themselves and weren’t able to decide what to do with it.
Military training was mandatory, with children leaving their homes and families at a very young age to go off and train. Sparta stressed the good of the group over the individual. So, they didn’t value one person as much as they valued the good or the success of their group, of their culture as a whole, while Athens celebrated the achievements of the individual. And you’ll remember Athens was a democracy. Athens celebrated philosophy and the arts, and so, they were more focused on the individual’s value, where Sparta was more focused on the value and success of the group versus just one individual succeeding or surviving.
Now, during the time that Athens and Sparta were the dominant two city-states, there were a few different periods that Greece went through. So, one was the Periclean Age, and that was during the 5th century BC. And most of the great contributions to the Western culture were made during this period. The philosophy of Socrates, the medical work of Hippocrates, great dramatic works by Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. So, all of these contributions that – you still read these dramatic works, you hear about the Greek tragedies, these were written during the Periclean Age. You hear the Hippocratic Oath that doctors take. That had to do with the medical work of Hippocrates during the Periclean Age. So, the philosophers and other thinkers of this time made some great contributions during the Periclean Age.
Now, what helped everyone else find about these things was the Hellenistic Age, and during the Hellenistic Age, around the 4th century BC, this period is mostly known for Alexander the Great’s military expansions. But, without his conquest, without his expansions, without him making the empire larger and larger that he was in charge of, these philosophies and innovations from Ancient Greece wouldn’t have gotten very far. So, the fact that Alexander the Great did go out and conquer all these other areas, he spread the Greek culture. And so, he spread these philosophies and these innovations, and caused them to have a great impact on the Western culture, the Western world, how everything else developed from thereon. If it had only stayed in Sparta, and Athens, where the Greek homelands were, it would be a little bit different than if it had actually gone out of Sparta, as it did whenever Alexander the Great conquered all the surrounding area and made Greece a much larger area.
So, Ancient Greece was dominated by two city states: Athens and Sparta. And Athens was a democracy that focused more on the individual, where Sparta focused more on the group. Athens was focused on philosophy and the arts, where Sparta was focused more on the military side of things. And that’s kind of reflected in these two ages. The Periclean Age had to do with the development of philosophies. It was a time of thinking and developing the contributions they were going to have for the world. The Hellenistic Age had more to do with military conquest, and the spreading of those contributions to the Western world.
The next lesson: Anti-Colonial Struggles: Central and South America, both lessons are included in Practice Tests.