Geography Of Ancient Greece

Geography-Physical environment and how it may influence an economy and culture.

Modern day Greece sits on the Balkan Peninsula. To its west is the Ionian Sea and to its east is the Aegean Sea. The most southern part of Greece is called Peloponnesus. It’s only connected to the mainland by an isthmus (narrow strip of land). Three quarters of Greece is covered by mountains, leaving the soil thin and rocky. The Pindus Mountains run north to south, creating many narrow valleys with small plains. People in Ancient Greece settled in the valleys between mountains, which kept them from uniting. The mountains made trade and travel difficult. Only 20% of the land was good for agriculture due to the dry and rocky soil.

People adapted to the land by raising animals that needed little land to survive like, sheep, goats, and pigs. These animals provided them with wool, hides, and cheese. They planted crops that needed little water like, barley and wheat that they used to make bread and cakes. They also grew drought tolerant olive trees. Olives provided them with oil that was used for cooking, lamp fuel, bathing, and perfume.  Grapes grew well in this region, which they ate and used to make wine. People mostly settled by the coast as, the Ionian and Aegean seas provided fish and travel routes. This also created a route of communication by which people shared ideas and beliefs.


Economy Of Ancient Greece

Economy-How a civilization makes money through the buying and selling of goods and services.

Many Ancient Greeks took to farming, fishing, sailing, and trading. With the success of farmers, food was more plentiful, enabling a new era of Greek craft workers. Craft workers specialized in tool-making, along with novelties out of wood, clay, bone, wool, steal, and  metal. Potters made jars from clay for holding olive oil and wine for easy transport. Greeks began to trade with other people in the Mediterranean, often exporting wine, olive oil, pottery, and wood, and importing wheat.

Around 700 BCE Greeks achieved large-scale trade. Among their own city-states they traded grain, wine, olive oil, wood, pottery, and metal works. Iron was found in the mountains enabling the new technological advancement of iron tools. Iron tools were stronger, which helped farmers to produce more food that was needed for the growing population. By 500 BCE, people in search of more land had moved along the coastline of the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Greeks settled in new colonies along Europe, Africa, and Asia. They operated independently, but were tied to the homeland by their cultural identity, such as language, history, writing, religion, and athletics.


Achievements Of Ancient Greece #1

Achievements-The lasting contributions of a civilization.

The Greeks had created their own alphabet in the 700s BCE, based off the Phoenician writing system. It allowed them to record business and trade, codes of law, and government taxes.

The Greeks started the Olympics as an athletic festival to honor Zeus. The first Olympics included wrestling, long jumping, discus and javelin throwing, boxing, and running. Winners from each city-state were treated as heroes. Currently, most countries around the world participate in both a Winter and Summer Olympics that were inspired by the Ancient Greek Olympics.

Much of Greek art and architecture is still admired and replicated around the world today. Intricately carved Greek columns are typical supports of many Greek structures. An example of Greek architecture of this period is the Parthenon. Athenian leader Pericles oversaw the building of the Parthenon, which took nine years and was completed in 438 B.C. It was decorated with statues of Greek Gods and people. Artists covered walls with murals and portraits that often depicted scenes from Greek myths.

Trips to Greek theaters were all-day events. They often told tragedies or comedies which dealt with issues of Greek life. The word theater is based off the Greek word meaning, “a place to see.” Greek tragedies were among the favorites. Homer wrote the Iliad and Odyssey, two exceptional Greek tragedies both set in the Trojan War. 


Achievements Of Ancient Greece #2

Achievements-The lasting contributions of a civilization.

Ancient thinkers in Greece doubted that Greek Gods created events in nature and sought to study the world. Scientists used scientific methods and developed theories much like they still do today. Pythagoras studied math and came up with the Pythagorean theorem still used today in geometry. Hippocrates was a Greek doctor who introduced the idea that illnesses had natural causes, as opposed to being punishment by the Gods. Democritus was a scientist who is attributed to discovering all living things are made of atoms. Herodotus was the first Greek historian and wrote books on the Persian Wars, which included opposing views on the wars and what caused them. Thucydides was also a Greek historian who wrote about Greek wars. He wrote about the Sparta and Athens war in which he was a General for the Athenian Army. He was noted for writing history without opinion.

Socrates was a Greek philosopher who studied morals and taught through questioning his students, which is known as the Socratic method, and is still used today as a method for debating. He was disliked for criticizing Athenian leaders. In 399 BCE. Socrates was found guilty of teaching dangerous ideas, and was sentenced to drink poison to end his own life. Plato was a student of Socrates and after Socrates’s death, opened the Academy in Athens where he taught law, philosophy, and science. Aristotle was a student of Plato who studied astronomy, law, and economics. He also broke new ground in the fields of zoology and botany.


Social Classes Of Ancient Greece

Social Class-How a civilization is divided into classes that have different roles, responsibilities and privileges.

In Greek armies, a man’s wealth determined his rank. The wealthiest men were leaders, followed by those who could afford a horse, who were Calvary. The Armies were mostly made up of Hoplites, who were foot soldiers, and the lowest rank were archers and stone throwers.

Agricultural wealth determined social status in Greece. Male citizens over the age of 18 were allowed to vote, while women and slaves were not.

In Athens, about 36% of people were slaves, while 19% were male citizens over the age of 18, 33% were families of male citizens, and 12% were noncitizens. In 416 BCE, Pericles began to lead Athens toward more democratic reforms. He pushed for equality for the rich and poor in government decisions.


Religion Of Ancient Greece

Religion-A belief system that influences the development of a civilization. 

Mythology played an important part in Greek religion. They shared stories of gods and    Goddesses and passed them on from generation to generation. The myths explained how the actions of gods and goddesses affected their everyday lives. These stories would explain how things came to be in nature and in human life. Zeus was the god of thunder and lightning and was the king of all Gods. Hera was the Goddess of marriage and childbirth and was Zeus’s wife. Athena was the goddess of wisdom, and Poseidon was the god of the sea. Sailors often prayed to Poseidon for protection.


Government Of Ancient Greece

Leadership/ Government- How a civilization creates an organized way of leadership.

Sparta was the most powerful city-state of Ancient Greece. It was located on the Peloponnesus and was   inland, off of the coast. Spartans conquered their neighbors and forced them to be slaves, or helots, who at one point, outnumbered them four to one. They were ruled by two kings in time of war which shared decision-making power, and in times of peace were ruled by an oligarchy (a small ruling group), made up of thirty elders over sixty years old. The assembly voted on laws proposed by the oligarchy and they also assigned ephors, five wealthy landowners to control day-to-day government responsibilities.

Athens, located on the coast of the Aegean Sea, had an excellent location for trade and wealth. In about 508 BCE, the leader Cleisthenes helped to create a direct democracy for Athens. This meant that instead of  elected leaders making decisions, such as in a representative democracy, the citizens got to make decisions directly.

Later, like Sparta, Athens was ruled by an oligarchy. Draco wrote the first laws in Athens, which were very harsh. After a crisis in 600 BCE, Solon, a well-respected leader, cleared debts and freed those who had sold themselves into slavery. He then laid the foundation for a democratic system based on wealth, not birth. One’s agricultural wealth determined his/her social status. All citizens could attend assembly and decisions were made by majority rule. Solon also was responsible for creating a council, which decided which topics would be brought to assembly. He is admired for his groundbreaking contributions to democracy.