Greek civilisation is one of the oldest and one of the most ancient civilisations throughout history. It dates back to about 3650 BCE on the island of Crete, making it the basis and reference for the entire Western civilisation.
The history of ancient Greece is considered one of the most important stages of human history due to the immortal civilisational contributions produced by this history and which are still present in our contemporary culture, especially in the field of political thought, philosophy, literature, and drama. Greek culture has contributed to scientific development in many fields, such as mathematics, physics, and medicine, as well as the Olympic Games.
The civilisation of Ancient Greece existed many centuries before the birth of Christ on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea; their philosopher Plato expressed this by saying: “We have descended on the shores of this sea as frogs descend around a pool of water.” The first Greeks established unstable colonies on the shores of the Mediterranean.
Greeks created prosperous cities in Spain, France, Italy, Sicily, North Africa, the islands of the Aegean Sea, the shores of Asia Minor, the Sea of Marmara, and the Black Sea. The Greek peninsula was only a tiny part of the Greek world. The Greeks inhabited all aspects of the Balkan Peninsula. Still, a group of Greeks considered the Greek island the origin they descended from. Accordingly, the Balkan Peninsula is divided into three regions:
- Northern Greece: includes Macedonia and Thessaly in the east and Elis and Epirus in the west.
- Central Greece: includes several regions, as follows:
i. Aetolia: This region is most famous for hunting pigs.
ii. Locris: It is divided into the counties of Doris and Phocis.
iii. Attica: The most famous and influential region, with the city of Athens in its centre.
iv. Boeotia: The most famous locations in this region are the city of Thebes and the island of Euboea.
Southern Greece (Peloponnese): consists of several regions as well:
i. Achaia: to the northwest,
ii. Alice: to the west, which was famous for the city of Olympia, the cradle of the Olympic Games.
iii. Argolis: to the south, where the influential city of Argos was famous,
iv. Laconia: to the far southeast of the Peloponnese peninsula, where the city of Sparta was established.
v. Messenia: to the southwest, famous for the Messinian Plain and its Gulf, which bore the same name.
The Greek peninsula represents the southern part of the Balkan Peninsula, the Peloponnese peninsula, or the present-day Morea peninsula. It is connected to the northern and central regions through the Gulf of Corinth. The basin of this sea, with its vast shores, is independent of the neighbouring countries.
1. Ancient Greece Geography
Greece is located in southeastern Europe, it is a peninsula stretching from the Balkans to the Mediterranean Sea. It is characterised as a mountainous area interspersed with many forests, in addition to the presence of many bays in it. It also includes areas suitable for planting many types of plants, such as citrus, olives, palms, wheat, barley, and the rocky regions ideal for grazing only.
The geography of ancient Greece occupied a large area of the map, and most of the population centres were in the Greek peninsula, the islands of the Aegean Sea and the shores of Asia Minor; they all share common environmental and geographical characteristics. It is marine and mountainous with excellent territory. The mountain ranges are the Pyrenees, the Alps, and the Balkans, and it is protected from the east by the Taurus and Armenian mountains.
As for the mountainous character of Creed Island, it is not less important in its impact on the shape of the country and its inhabitants than its marine character. The mountains constitute 80% of the total area of the country. He may not be able to cross it.
Greece is surrounded by major mountain chains, which are:
- Crystalline mountain: extends in the form of an arc from Thrace and Macedonia and includes the peninsula of Chalcidice and the eastern part of the province of Thessaly, where Mount Olympus is located, which is the highest mountain in Greece, with a height of 2985 m.
- Pindus mountain range: extends from north to south between the provinces of Thessaly and Epirus.
- Chain of extended mountains: extends from southern Thessaly to central Greece, including the island of Plague.
- Great southern chain: begins in the north from the Peloponnese peninsula in the form of plateaus, then branches in the south into three arteries, and ends in Asia Minor.
The extended mountain ranges and the many landslides that occurred in that region contributed to the emergence of countless plains and broad valleys, the most important of which is the Thessaly district, which is a low land surrounded by mountains on all sides.
The region would have been almost closed if it were not for its connection to the sea; its plains were known for the cultivation of grain and the abundance of horses, as well as the province of Attica, which is one of the most extensive in the plains, known for the cultivation of olives.
- The Climate in Ancient Greece
The geography of ancient Greece occupied a large area of the map, and most of the population centres were in the Greek peninsula, the islands of the Aegean Sea and the shores of Asia Minor. They all share common environmental and geographical characteristics. It is marine and mountainous with excellent territory.
As for the marine environment, it is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, but the most crucial sea for it is the Aegean Sea, which is one of the branches of the Mediterranean Sea, and Asia Minor, and the number of those islands with which it is connected is more than 500 islands.
The northern corner of the Aegean Sea is connected to the Dardanelles Strait and the Bosporus Strait, which are the link between Asia and Europe. A meeting point for the three continents.
The basin was in the middle of the burning deserts of the south and the cold forests of the north. Storms rarely blow over it most days of the year regularly. As for the soil, it is not as fertile as the plains irrigated by the Nile, the Tigris or the Euphrates, and the drought begins prematurely or continues more than usual.
Therefore, the farmers do not stop working, lest their efforts are in vain. In general, the country has combined a wealth of fish, animals and plants with excellent production conditions for it so that it can be considered the best place for human habitation.
- The Expansion of Ancient Greece
Many ancient Greek cities began to aspire for expansion during the first half of the first millennium (1 BCE), so they established centres across the Mediterranean Sea. Independent or of a new Greek character, some of them acquired a new culture from the neighbouring peoples.
By the year 500 BCE, the Greeks had established about 500 areas under their control, which included nearly 60,000 Greek citizens who constituted 40% of the total Greeks. These expansions led to the spread of art, the movement of goods, and the Greek way of life in Spain, France, and the sea region The Adriatic, the Black Sea, North Africa, and Italy.
2. The Greek Society
The Greek society in Athens was divided into four classes, which are as follows:
- Upper class: They are the people who were born in the city of Athens and are responsible for matters of government, education and philosophy.
- Middle-class: This class represents the hard-working merchants, not necessarily born in the city of Athens, and although they were considered free, they were not granted the same rights as people of the upper class.
- Lower class: This class is higher than the slave class by only one degree, to the extent that most of them were initially slaves and then were liberated because of their work, and their rights are not up to the rights of the middle class.
- Slaves: This class was responsible for carrying out various service tasks, and they did not have any rights or authority.
Religion in Ancient Greece
Greek society knew twelve main deities; however, there were hundreds of gods and goddesses in Greek myths and literature. Each deity had a dedicated field and personality that distinguished him from other deities. The Greeks went to places of worship, whether in the countryside or the city, to make an offering.
Greek myths showed that most of these gods are located in their homeland, the highest mountain on the Greek mainland, which is Mount Olympus, and among these deities are the following:
- Rhea: She is called the mother of the gods, and she was the one who gave birth to the first generation of gods; Zeus, Hestia, Hades, Poseidon, Hera, and Demeter.
- Athena: She is the goddess of reason, wisdom, skill, peace, and handicrafts. After her wondrous birth from the head of the great goddess Zeus, Athena became her father’s favourite child. Athena was the leader of the three goddesses who never married.
- Hestia: She is a virgin goddess who symbolises the warmth of the home. She rejected all marriage proposals and swore to remain a virgin forever. She is the only one who has never participated in wars or disputes. Thus, she became a symbol of family life, peace, solidarity, and contentment.
- Hebe: She is considered the divine embodiment of eternal youth and beauty, and the Greek word «hebe» means youth. She used to distribute wine to the gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus. She is the daughter of Zeus and Hera.
- Nemesis: She is considered the god of retribution, as she was concerned with executing punishments and judgments on the guilty.
- Leto: She is the goddess of motherhood and was considered a humble and respected maternal figure in Greek mythology.
- Aphrodite: She is the goddess of beauty, love, desire, and pleasure. She was born from sea foam, the daughter of Zeus and Dione. She was married to Hephaestus.
- Apollo: He is the god of music, arts, knowledge, poetry, and archery, son of Zeus and Leto. He was the most beloved god among all the Greek gods. He was worshipped, especially, in the cities of Delphi and Delos, as among the sacred places in the Greek world.
- Ares: He is the god of war, bloodshed, and violence. The son of Zeus and Hera.
- Zeus: He is the king of the gods, ruler of Mount Olympus, and god of the sky, weather, thunder, lightning, law, order, and justice. Zeus is the ruler of all immortal mortal creatures, particularly humans. He is the first protector of humanity in the ancient Greek civilisation.
Family Life in Ancient Greece
Family is the basic foundation of Greek society, as the family is the primary source that provides emotional and material support to its members. Despite the decline in the role of families in Greek society as a result of their small size, they maintained their position in Greek social life.
Extended families have great importance in Greek society. Thus, the name of the family, its origins and the reputation of its members became a source of pride among people. Consequently, Greeks came to praise their families for their noble qualities of generosity, integrity and achievements.
Most ancient Greeks tended to live with their small families, but while maintaining interdependent relationships with the extended family and their relatives, and in some cases, grandparents could live in the same family home, especially if they were older people who needed special care.
Greeks were known to appreciate and respect the elderly and take their opinions and decisions. Some families allowed their children to live with them even after marriage as an aid to them before they could find their own housing.
Ancient Greeks were famous for their simple clothes. Speaking of women’s clothing, it differs from one region to another. They were known for the «peplos», a traditional women’s dress consisting of one piece of cloth with a hole in the head and sleeveless for the arms; aprons and sashes may also be added to it.
The is another renowned garment called the «chiton», which is a traditional dress similar to the dress as mentioned above, except that it contains arm sleeves, and both clothes were made of wool due to its abundance as a result of sheep farming at that time. Different layers made it a heavy costume. Women also wore this dress with a handkerchief on their heads studded with gold coins as a sign of wealth and luxury.
The costume contains 400 folds and a white shirt with wide sleeves, topped by an embroidered woollen jacket. The costume was usually white pantyhose, a scarf, and distinctive pointed shoes. Enslaved people in Greece had their own unique version of the «chiton», as it was distinguished by the fact that the right shoulder of the Enslaved person always remained open.
There is another traditional costume that consists of a white undergarment with wide pants, a white shirt, a sleeveless coat, a scarf and a jacket, and it is worth noting that the Greeks retained their traditions of clothing and some of the essential elements of clothing at present, especially in festivals and national holidays.
3. Greek Civilization
Greek civilisation is defined as the period that followed the Mycenaean civilisation, which extended from 1200 BCE to 223 BCE and ended with the death of Alexander the Great. The period of Greek civilisation was characterised by many achievements in various scientific, artistic, political and philosophical fields, which left a distinguished legacy of Western civilisation.
Important Historical Events in the Greek Civilisation
The Greek civilisation passed through several periods, some of which witnessed discoveries and developments, some of which saw complex events, and the most important of these events are the following:
- Trojan War (1250 BCE)
According to Greek myths, the Trojan War took place between the people of Troy and the Greeks, lasted for several years, and ended with the entry of a group of Greek warriors to the city of Troy with a giant wooden horse after the Trojan king allowed him to enter it without his knowledge of the presence of warriors in it. Then the warriors came out, they opened the gates of the city, and it was captured.
2. The Olympic Games (776 BCE)
Many celebrations and games were held in Olympia as a religious festival. The Olympic Games began as a race in one of the stadiums and then developed into 23 competitions that included many sports, including horse racing, wrestling, discus throw, Javelin throwing, running, boxing, and others.
3. The Era of Pericles (445-429 BCE)
Pericles was one of the rulers of the city of Athens, and the city flourished during his reign because of the many achievements and reforms that took place during his reign, including providing equal opportunities for all groups to obtain public jobs and allowing children to be educated in Homes until the age of seven, then go to schools that focused on music, physical education, and mathematics.
4. The Bubonic Plague in Athens (430 BCE):
This epidemic hit the city of Athens and eradicated it completely. It entered the city through food and supplies through the port of Piraeus and spread to the entire Mediterranean region. It caused massive deaths, and dead bodies were left on the streets, burnt, or buried in mass graves.
5. The Rule of Alexander the Great (336 BC):
Alexander the Great took power after the death of his father, Philip II. He is known for his military and diplomatic prowess and played a role in spreading Greek culture, religion, language and Greek thought in the regions of north Africa and west Asia. He gained the title «the Great» for expanding his empire to include Egypt, Mesopotamia and Persia. He founded nearly 20 cities that bore his name. Alexander was a brilliant military leader who built his own empire and died of malaria in Babylon at the age of 32 years.
6. The Invasion of the Romans (146 BC):
After the Battle of Corinth, the Greek peninsula came under the control of the Romans in 146 BCE, many Greek cities surrendered, some towns were still partially independent, and Corinth became the capital of the new province.
4. Economy in Ancient Greece
Greece had many economic resources due to the diversity of its geographical environments. The peasants cultivated land in the plains surrounded by mountains, but of its vastness, it was not very fertile, as its soil was of a poor type. Hence, the land production was not sufficient for the needs of the people of the country themselves, ad among their most important crops were wheat, barley, grapevine and olives.
Agriculture is followed in economic importance by industries, as their land was rich in some industrial resources such as building marble, silt prepared for ceramic pots, copper and silver for metal industries.
One of the economic resources of great importance to Greece was trade, it was based on three components:
- surplus production,
- land or sea route to deliver the surplus to the consumer, and
- means of dealing between the merchant and the consumer through barter or money created by Athens later.
The Greeks traded many goods, the most important of which were food, such as wheat, cheese, bread, honey, fruits, garlic, wine, meat, and fish, in addition to enslaved people, metal, leather works, and even books.
- Coin Minting (600 BCE)
The Greeks minted coinage to be a reliable system of payment. The first coin was minted in Lydia before 600 BCE, known as electrum, a mixture of gold and silver. Over time, most cities used metal coins with their sculpted symbols and signs.
5. Politics in Ancient Greece
The geographical disparities in the Greek countries led to the creation of separate torn states in what was known as the city-states or the police, in addition to the various economic and political interests that exacerbated the relations between cities, as well as the different tribal origins of the population, as they were keenly aware of their different sources belonging to them and other factors.
These city-states were both a blessing and a curse at the same time. It was a curse as Greek cities were lost due to colonial wars, and they could not respond to the aggression due to their lack of unity. It was a blessing because the Greek love of individualism was what showed all that civilised creativity.
In its history, Greece did not rule in a single system that unified its cities and regions, but different political systems followed it, varying from one town to another. The economic competition between them is intense, and each sect needs the other to survive.
- Authority and Monarchy
The king was the owner of all powers; executive, judicial, religious, and military. He shared legislative power with the heads of tribes and their leaders according to the king’s control over his city.
The monarchy began to gradually turn into an aristocratic system because the landowners realised the importance of the wealth they owned, as it is the mainstay of Greek society. This led them to gradually wrest the powers from the king until he no longer had any authority. Thus, the rule moved from an individual system to a collective approach that adheres to members of the ruling aristocracy.
- Monopoly and Social Injustice
After that, the population turned to the lack of lands and their monopoly in the hands of a small group of the aristocracy to another resource, which is a trade that was dependent on sea shipping, and soon they became interested in political participation and a conflict erupted between merchants and landowners over power, which ended in an agreement between them on creating the oligarchic system.
The oligarchic rule did not last long due to the increasing pressure from the public class, which felt its political weight and importance. The general class was not highly qualified to lead, so some of the wealthy classes took advantage of this weakness as they found in revolutions an opportunity to reach the helm of power.
- Greek Tyrants (650 BCE)
A group of aristocratic rulers continued to rule with the help of mercenary soldiers and were distinguished for being opportunists. Therefore, they were hated by ordinary people. The era of tyrants ended in 510 BCE at the hands of the King of Sparta by expelling Peisistratus’ son.
The new rulers were known as tyrants; the origin of the word means the ruler who came to power illegally; they could satisfy the ordinary people and kept them from ruling by confiscating parts of the lands of the aristocrats and distributing these lands to commoners.
- Early tyrants
Tyrants realised the power of ordinary people and what they could do. Therefore, they managed them and were careful not to provoke them. There were no uprisings during the era of the first generation of tyrants.
2. Second generation
As for the tyrants of the second generation, they ruled the people with tyranny that led to the outbreak of revolutions in which a number of them were assassinated, and others fled to end the rule of tyrants.
The rule was no longer in the hands of the public and did not return to what was common before the era of tyrants, but rather the democratic system began to appear, which was based on the association of the commonplace, not the revolution or the tribe.
- Important Wars in Ancient Greece
The Greek lands witnessed several internal conflicts and wars between the Greeks themselves due to their dispute over political or economic issues or between Greece and external enemies who were greedy for the country’s strategic position. The most important of these wars are:
- Battle of the Marathon Plain: The first Persian campaign against Greece occurred in the year (490 BCE), in which the Athenians and Spartans united to confront the Persian threat, and the result of the war was that the Greeks landed the Persians with a heavy defeat.
- Second Persian Campaign: This war took place in a Persian attempt to take revenge on the Greeks. The battle lasted for two years (480-479 BCE), during which several sites took place between the two armies, the most important of which are:
i. Battle of Thermopylae (480 BCE): The Persians succeeded in besieging a Spartan force and eliminating it altogether.
ii. Battle of Salamis (480 BCE): The Athenian fleet inflicted a crushing defeat on the Persian fleet.
iii. Battle of Plataea (479 BCE): a land battle in which the Greeks defeated the Persians.
iv. Battle of Mycale (479 BCE): It was a naval battle that was the last between the two sides, as a result of which the Persian threat was removed from Greece.
3. Athenian-Spartan conflict: It was a bloody conflict that took place between the two Greek cities, spanning three decades through three phases:
i. First phase: It lasted for ten years, starting from the year (430 BCE). It took place in the Greek peninsula, south of the Balkan Peninsula, and ended with the conclusion of a peace agreement between the two parties in the year (421 BCE) called the Nikias ladder after the Athenian leader who represented the Athenian side of reconciliation.
ii. Second phase: In which Athens revoked the peace treaty with Sparta, but the confrontations between the two forces had led to a disagreement with hope, as the Athenian army was crushed by land and sea in (413 BCE).
iii. Third phase: It was an attempt by the Spartan forces to complete their victory, but this was delayed for several years due to the weakness of their troops and the delay in the supply they requested from the Persians.
They did not reach them until the year (406 BCE) when they tried to seize the entrances to the Black Sea, where the supply line Athens defeated the Spartan forces at the beginning of the battle of Arginosae but was defeated in the next fight two years (404 BCE) at the battle of Egospotami, in which the Athenian forces were utterly destroyed.
4. Battle of Lyucantra near Thebes (371 BCE): It was a battle between the forces of Thebes to wrest power from the Spartans, and they inflicted a crushing defeat on them.
5. Macedonian War: a war waged by King Philip; He took advantage of the disintegration of the Greek force and the presence of its north on the northern border, inflicting a crushing defeat on the joint Theban and Athenian forces at the battle of Chaeronea in the year (338 BCE), this led to the fall of the whole country under the rule of the Greeks who ruled them indirectly through an alliance known as the Hellenistic Pact based in Corinth.
6. Invasion of the Persians: These are battles led by Alexander the Great, Alexander the Great, the son of King Philip, after the death of his father. It lasted for nine years (334-325 BCE), in which Alexander relied most on the Greek soldiers and subjected that country to his control.
- Important Kings of Ancient Greece
Accounts differ in the number of kings who succeeded each other in the Greek cities, confusing kings, heroes, and gods. However, the most important of them are:
- Cypselus: He followed a wise policy that led to the prosperity of political life in Qornet for a period of thirty years.
- Periander, son of Cypselus: He stimulated trading until Corinth became the most famous Greek city during his reign.
- Pisistratus: (died 527 BCE) He was distinguished by culture, intelligence and administrative skill. Aristotle described his rule as fair. He was known for his strength and severity in law, which was the reason for the unification of the city of Attica, and he was the reason behind the prosperity of the city of Athena.
After great battles he fought against the city of Athens, he was able to win and become king. He remained in power until his death.
- Hippias, son of Pisistratus: (born around 570 BCE) He followed in his father’s footsteps for thirteen years until he was exposed to an assassination attempt in which his brother was killed, and he miraculously escaped from it and turned into a dictator.
- Cleisthenes: He defeated Hippias with the help of the aristocrats in the year (510 BCE), ridding the Athenians of dictatorship, consolidating democracy, and undermining the aristocratic regime.
- Simon: (born 510 BCE and died 459 BCE) He was known for being a statesman and a seasoned politician. He also led the fleet of the Athenian state in many battles and wars in that city, especially against Pausanias and the Persians. He was later exiled from Athena and was unable to regain his position, but he retained his excellent reputation as one of the most outstanding military leaders.
During his reign, Simon did several works aiming at improving citizens’ public life, such as building public places, extending water courses and creating special places to practice sports and other social services.
- Demosthenes: (born 384 BCE and died 322 BCE) He was known for his excellent style of rhetoric and mobilising the masses. He was one of the greatest orators in ancient Greek civilisation. Most of those speeches revolved around the political, economic and social life in Athens, and through these influential speeches, he was able to create a significant opposition to King Philip of Macedonia.
- Alexander the Great: (born 356 BCE and died in 323 BCE) He was known as Alexander III or Alexander the Great; he took the throne of Macedonia in 336 BCE and continued until he died in 323 BCE.
Alexander led the army to achieve many victories, especially in the lands of the Persian state, Asia Minor, Egypt and Syria, and this powerful army was not defeated in any battle it entered. He took power in Macedonia when he was young and became king at the age of 25. Alexander founded as many as 70 cities, the Greek Empire stretched across three continents and created a global trade network between many countries of the ancient world.
- Cassander: (born in 358 BCE and died 297 BCE) Son of the Macedonian regent Antipater, and he took over the reins of power in Macedonia in 305 BC. M. and continued to rule until 297 BCE. He waged many wars, especially after the death of Alexander the Great. He was able to control the entire territory of Macedonia as well as most of the territory of Greece, including the city of Athens.
For incorrect alliances, Cassander lost Athens and most of southern Thessaly, which was in the year 307 BCE. He murdered Alexander IV and Roxana, the son and widow of Alexander the Great, then obtained the royal title in 305 BCE.
- Demetrius I (born 336 BCE and died 283 BCE), Son of Antigonus I Monophthalmus, took the throne of Macedonia in 294 BCE and continued to rule the country until 288 BCE.
7. Culture in Ancient Greece
The ancient Greek civilisation can be considered the cradle of Western civilisation, where there are many similarities between the two cultures. Many of the activities and practices that are adopted in Western civilisation have their origin in the Greek civilisation, such as using the alphabet for reading, and enjoying the Olympic Games every two years, in addition to some customs, traditions, and methods of constructing buildings.
The political fragmentation and intense competition in which Greek cities lived greatly impacted Greek culture, as Durant points out.From the beginning of the 5th century to the middle of the 4th century BCE, Athens was considered the capital of culture in the whole world, and among those Greek cultural manifestations:
- Greek language
The Greek language belongs to the Indo-European group of languages, which includes Persian, Sanskrit, Slavonic, Latin, German and English, then branched out into different dialects, such as Aeolian, Dorian, Ionian, and Attic. These dialects are not very different, and the Greeks, despite their various dialects, understand each other.
- Greek Alphabet
The Greek alphabet was based on the Semitic alphabet of the Phoenicians, which consisted of 22 letters with some symbols that added movements to the letters. Phoenician by creating separate vowels and changing some characters, in addition to making the alphabet more phonetically correct.
- Translation Movement
The conversion of the countries of the Mediterranean basin to Christianity had a significant impact in spreading the Greek language, as it was the official language of the Church at that time. When Christianity entered the countries of Egypt, Syria, Italy and the areas of the Jewish diaspora, translation movements became active.
2. Literature in Ancient Greece
Ancient Greek literature is considered of great importance, despite the scarcity of it reaching the present era, due to its high quality. In addition to the input of a large part of Western literature until the middle of the 19th century by accomplished authors who are distinguished by their comprehensive knowledge of the Greek traditions and their acknowledgement that the literary models were mainly based on Greek models and were written directly in Greek or Latin. The history of Greek literature can be divided into three periods, which are as follows:
- Ancient Literature: continued until the end of the 6th century BCE.
- Classical literature: spread during the 5th and 4th centuries BCE.
- Hellenistic and Greco-Roman literature: spread from the 3rd century BCE onwards.
The Greeks placed rhetoric in a lofty position from themselves, and competition intensified between individuals in the acquisition of rhetoric and tools of persuasion, especially when democracy spread in the country and judicial debates became widespread. Speeches that were delivered in the era of its prosperity were divided into lessons of:
- Forums: the sermons of forums, they were those that were given to glorify or lament; the most famous of their orators were Gorgias.
- Judicial speeches: the judicial sermons, they were those that were given in the courts for a fee paid by the litigant to the orator, and the most famous orator was Lucas.
- Political speeches: were given in public assemblies to discuss state policy; the most famous was Demosthenes.
Songs and epics were the first arts of Greek literature, as they appeared in the prehistoric period or in the era of heroes and myths in the 15th century to the 8th century BCE, and the most important of what it produced is the poetry of religious hymns and epics.
The poets of religious hymns belong to the world of myths, as they belong to the sons of the gods, and nothing remains of their traces. Among the most famous of their poets are Orpheus, Linus, and Mosaeus. As for the epics, Hesiodus organised his epic Works and Days and Homer’s greatest epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey, and counting the most famous systems of epics in literary history.
After the succession of the various political systems in Greek societies, the spirit of individualism emerged among the Greeks, and a new type of poetry appeared that fit the requirements of the new political and social life. However, none of them sang about the gods and the glories of their early heroes.
The new lyrical poetry flourished in the Ionian colonies, and among the most significant poets who pioneered that poetic genre:
Plays were closely associated with Greek religions. The acting scenes appeared with the worship of Apollon, Demeter and Dionysus; the Dionysus feasts were the most important occasions that helped in the emergence of this genre, as the life of this deity, in particular, was filled with many sad accidents and pleasant events.
The first type of lyrical poetry organised by poets to represent the basic building block of theatre art is the poetry of Dithyrambs. They sang it in the festivals of Dionysus. The accounts gather that the first to create this poetic genre was Arion (650 BCE), and the heads of the choir sang it and made movements consistent with these improvised songs, as well as acting classes, which became the worship of heroes on their holidays.
8. Art in Ancient Greece
Greek art and sculpture had a profound impact throughout the ages, many of the methods that were used in the past were reproduced, and contemporary art in the eastern world is derived from Greek art. The importance of Greek art and sculptures is that they reflect Greek life, including events, heroes, Gods, mythical creatures, and Greek culture.
Many materials and tools were used in Greek sculptures, such as marble and various stones available in Greece, in addition to the use of clay. Still, most of the statues made of clay were destroyed, and most of the sculptures of Roman origin remained.
The Romans deeply respected Greek sculptures, and they copied many of them, which preserved myths from being lost. Greek sculptures were divided into seven time periods, which are as follows:
- Mycenaean art.
- Semi-Mycenaean Art (Dark Age).
- Proto-geometric art.
- Geometric art.
- Abandoned art.
- Classic art.
- Hellenistic art.
The Greek sculpture reached its peak during the Classical period. This is due to the application of advanced mathematics principles when designing sculptures, which contributed to supporting their aesthetics. Among the most prominent Greek statues are the following:
- The statue of Alexander the Great: It is a statue of a ruler and a military leader. Byblos Core Statue: It is a statue of a girl wearing a worn shawl.
- The statues of Harmodius and Aristogeiton: They consist of two people who were considered a symbol of freedom and democracy in Athens.
- The statue of the Dying Gaul: This statue depicts the wounds and pains of a warrior’s last moments.
- The statue of Laocoon and his sons: It is a figure that represents the murder of father Laocoon and two of his sons because they attempted to discover the Trojan Horse.
i. Visual Arts in Ancient Greece
One of the most important aspects of civilisation known to Greece is the visual arts, which are arts that appeared at a relatively late stage. The first great Greek painter was Polygnotos (475–447 BCE). He executed his works in wall paintings in most of his works. He also presented drawings that used wax in their implementation.
In the late 5th century, Greece witnessed significant progress in these arts. The Athenian painter Apollodorus introduced the idea of gradual shading, which gives the illusion of the embodiment of the image. The most famous Greek painter is Zeuxis, whose paintings and his students’ paintings were celebrated in the late 4th century BCE. He executed portraits of King Philip of Macedon, his son Alexander and some of the people surrounding them.
ii. Architectural Arts in Ancient Greece
The Greeks developed the art of architecture through what they had learned from the ancient Near East civilisations, i.e., Western Asia, which was once the historical Fertile Crescent, later called the Levant, Turkey, and Egypt. Their architecture appeared in palaces and large public buildings. As for tiny houses, they were built from primitive materials, such as wood and mud. As for public buildings and palaces, stones were basically used in their construction from an early era.
Greek architecture differed from Egyptian architecture in a number of aspects, most notably: the Greek construction abandoned the vast dimensions that appear in Egyptian public buildings, Greek architecture left the many Egyptian details in its public buildings, and Greece added more elements that were unique to them, the most important of which are the front facades of temples that became a remarkable aspect of Greek architecture.
9. Science in Ancient Greece
Greek life flourished after the reign of Alexander, and tangible progress was made in the branches of natural sciences, such as medicine, astronomy, mathematics, and physics. Their sciences can be summarised as follows:
i. Natural Sciences
Natural sciences emerged at the hands of philosophers in Greece as an attempt to study the problems raised by poets in their poems, as well as their proximity to the eastern civilisations that had preceded them in the study of some natural phenomena, such as the Egyptian civilisation.
Greek scientists and early scholars researched the universe’s origin and its phenomena. Still, their research has been mixed with philosophy and other sciences, so their studies were unclear and thorough in a given field. Among the most famous scientists who researched in the various natural sciences fields are those who were called sages, and the most famous of them are:
- Thales: He is the first sage among the renowned who learned the origins of space from Egypt and supported the idea that water is the first substance and the substance of which things are composed.
- Anaximander: He was a disciple of Thales who rejected his teacher’s doctrine and advocated the idea that air was the origin of the world.
- Heraclitus: He considered the n to be the first principle of things, and he was famous for his doctrine, which says: «Things are in constant change, and if it were not for change, nothing would exist».
- Pythagoras: It is said that he was the first to create the word philosopher. He and his followers were the first to establish a tendency to understand the world with clear mathematical laws and particular numbers.
ii. Philosophy in Ancient Greece
The word philosophy was taken from the Greek word «Philosophia», consisting of two syllables. The first syllable (Philos) means love, and the second syllable (Sophia) means wisdom, it means the love of learning, and the word love infers interest in or fondness for something; it denotes giving value to something. A philosopher, according to the ancient Greeks, is a person who loves wisdom and seeks comprehensive knowledge.
The sciences of philosophy and logic began in Ionia at the hands of Thales in an attempt to understand natural phenomena and research the origin of the universe. Then came Socrates, who was not interested in religion, metaphysics, or life explanations, but rather a passion for politics and moral teachings.
Plato, the great philosopher, appeared next, accompanied his teacher Socrates and became famous for his philosophical theory in which he spoke about the world of ideals. Then, Aristotle’s philosophy emerged, and his teachings were a reversed response to the Platonic ideals. In that era, Greek philosophy reached its peak during the period of these three philosophers, and other names rose, such as Epicurus, who advocated that true pleasure is happiness.
Philosophical Phases in the Greek Civilization
Ancient Greek philosophy can be divided into two periods: pre-Socratic and post-Socratic periods. This is because of the importance and ambiguity of Socrates’ personality at the same time, as he influenced the philosophy of both Aristotle and Plato, whose philosophy gained prominence and popularity for a period of up to 2500 years, and the Greek civilisation was distinguished by the presence of a large number of philosophers.
Most of them had distinct philosophical ideas, but some of them were able to balance their philosophical ideas about primitive natural sciences with the ethical application of intellectual values, which made them distinguished until the present time. Among the most important Greek philosophers are the following:
- Parmenides (560–510 BCE).
- Anaxagoras (500–428 BCE).
- Anaximander (610–546 BCE).
- Empedocles (490–430 BCE).
- Zeno (490–430 BCE).
- Pythagoras (570–495 BCE).
- Socrates (469–399 BCE).
- Plato (427–347 BCE).
- Aristotle (384–322 BCE).
- Thales of Malti (620–546 BCE).
iii. Medicine in Ancient Greece
Modern medicine was born in ancient Greece, where doctors like Hippocrates began to search for a more scientific approach. Medical scholars of ancient Greece borrowed many ideas from ancient Egypt, while many people searched for supernatural explanations for their illnesses, such as curses and judgments of gods.
Hippocrates (460– 375 BCE) was one of the most prominent physicians who advocated science and reason; he was called the father of medicine. He was one of the first physicians to accurately describe conditions such as epilepsy.
His prominent thoughts and theories helped immensely in the development of medicine, as he reinforced the theory of the four humours that are usually liquids within the body blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm and that maintaining the balance between them helps in keeping the human body healthy and strong.
Thanks to the work of Hippocrates and his followers over the generations, in distinguishing between acute (short and sudden) and chronic (long-term) diseases and in emphasising the importance of follow-up.
iv. Astronomy in Ancient Greece
Since the 6th century BCE, the Greeks have been interested in astronomy. They considered it a theoretical science far from experience but instead based on engineering systems and the calculation of surface and spherical triangles. They could explain the daily movement of celestial bodies, such as the sun, moon, and planets, and they measured the circumference of the Earth.
Early Greek Astronomers
One of the first Greek philosophers who took an interest in astronomy was the Greek philosopher Thales, who lived between (640–562 BCE) and is considered one of the Seven Ancients and the founders of natural science. Thales excelled in various sciences, including astronomy, the movement of stars, and predicting solar eclipses. The mathematician and astronomer Eudoxus of Cnidus marks the beginning of Hellenistic astronomy.
The earliest Greek astronomical observations appeared in several works, such as Hesiod’s Works and Days, as he introduced some pieces of advice to the farmers that might be considered as astronomical observations. The Greek observation of astronomy was rather philosophical than scientific.
Early Greek philosophers established their beliefs on the universe according to their own philosophical interpretations. Such ideas appeared in the works of Thales of Miletus, Anaximander of Miletus, Heraclitus, Parmenides of Elea, and Xenophanes of Colophon.
10. Greek Civilization between Progress and Decline
Greek civilisation extended for many centuries, punctuated by eras of advancement or decline according to the ruling political system and what the internal relations between the Greek states imposed on the population, as well as the external relations with the countries surrounding them, and the two stages can be summarised as follows:
The stage of prosperity is the one that begins in the last 3rd of the 4th century BCE, which is the most mature stage known to Greek society in the field of economic activity and political development in thought and application due to the unification of the Greek states through Macedonian control.
The stage of decline in the Greek state began in the 4th century BCE and continued until the collapse of the Macedonian state, and the most important reasons for the decline are:
- The leadership struggle between the Greek states.
- The disruption in the internal conditions of the states.
- The emergence of Macedonia and the subjugation of the states.
- The rich and most influential groups over political decisions directly and behind the scenes.
- The prevalence of tyrants who sought their personal interests only and their abuse of power.
Greek culture enjoyed a civilized society due to its prosperity in arts, science, literature, language, educational systems, etc. Nevertheless, society had a great impact on its collapse, and one of the most prominent social factors of the collapse of Greek civilization:
- The poor layers rebelled against the wealthy and aristocratic layers.
- The loyalty of every people to their city alone and not to Greece as a whole, despite the fact that those cities share large parts of their culture.
- Social class conflicts that led to the rise of lower classes against the ruling elite.
- Internal uprisings and chaos between the people and the rulers.