.    Instructor: Dave Tamm / Term: Spring 2008    .



THE GREEKS (Pg. 30-50)



THE POLIS. Gradual pressure of population on resources helps generate the Polis. Now, the phoenician commercial trading was attractive and many greeks took to it. Greece is always less than 150 miles from the sea. anyone who takes a train in greece today knows that its the sea that is best to travel.

1. Spartan way: not enough land? you conquer your neighbors: the Messenians, made helots out of them. helot = state slave.

2. Phoenician way: Athens decided to live by trade: they turned to the sea and made them a commercial sea power.

3. Corinthian way: colonize. you export your surplus people, not "out the door... go" but instead, you send them out to make cities of their own, and remain on friendly terms. Corinth goes to Black sea, north africa, sicily... scyracuse, napoli neapolis is the real name! a corinthian colony. Its greek. magna grecia was italy! And colonization is a hallmark of the West.

In the Homeric poems is the change towards the Polis. And now we have the dawning of the Classical world, the rise of the Polis. Physically: its a formula: City Proper plus Agricultural Hinterland Athens plus Attica = Athenian Polis. Sparta plus Laconia = Spartan Polis.

Features of the polis: agora (informal public life), temples of that city god, then to other god cults, a special building where courts of law, formal public life was... theatre and stadiums like at Olympia. the high point: acropolis, elevated above urban core.

Aristotle said that man is by nature a creature best suited for a Polis. And politics is what we do in a polis. that is natural. About 200. Aristotle and his people studied the laws of each Polis. His treatment of the Athenian laws.


Origins: A mythical lawgiver, Lycergus, gave Sparta a constitution from the gods in 750. From the oracle. The Spartans conquered the Messenians around them. They chose that option... The Spartans did not like change. very conservative. conserve the traditional ways.

Class: The Equals: Homoioi: All men over 18. All voting, all rights- a wide degree of equality!

Class: Perioikoi: People Around the House (dwellers around). People who were respected but not citizens

Class: Helots: The conquered Messenians of Lakdameon. They were slaves sort of, but they did not belong to individuals- they belonged to the Polis.

Two kings (from the same families) son succeeding father- one is the CEO of the polis, and one in the field with the army. Absolute veto over the other. Two consuls in sparta (bicameral). Assembly was direct participation of all the equals. not elected etc., you were there. Propose laws, war, finishing war, treaty, trade etc. but it could not enact, but set an agenda. The council then- guardian of the spartan system- king and 5 ephors and all equals above the age of 60, decides. Who in the world was 60? Antiquity it was 30s (still today in parts of the world), but if you lived to 20, you may well live into the 60s. If a woman made it to 30, you were good. childbirth was tough, and babies died often.

Not like our system. They honored age. If you made it to 60, you knew well the traditions. tough to change. hippies didn't get far. The social system that informed this political system: Moses is exposed, Sargon was, babies were, Oedipus Rex was, but they are found, not to kill, but to be found. inspection and healthy given to parents. At 7: military brotherhood till 18- rigerous physical and military training. serve if Sparta needs you till 60.

Marriage was not for love! one fundamental purpose: make more equals. So, the institution didnt bring the bonds of family affection as much. The whole system was for military excellence, but also loyalty, powerful bonds among equals and to their society. austere and simple archeology, men ate simple food. not being gabby and chattery. Laconic means not having much to say friviously.

Helots worked in the fields farming, made spartan life possible, and this gave Sparta the freedom to make the Peloponnesian League, and lead it. the city states ceded military matters to Sparta. Spartans ate black broth of pork cooked in its own blood and salted with vinegar. it was a very isolated society, spartans discouraged consumptuion by not issuing coins, but heavy iron rods. foreign products were corrupting, so it was thought, and when foreingers were in sparta, their movements were monitored. they were frequently expelled. this system produced the premier hoplite land force for several hundred years. all city states had walls except for sparta because "the spartans need no walls." what was sacraficed? the city was a rude military camp compared with the beauty of athens and other cities. little contribution to human progress except in sport and military manner. But this one little city was the dominant land power in the entire world.

The Spartan system had admirers, they liked its stability, its durability, its simplicity. It lasted until the Romans conquered Greece in the 100s. They respected them. Well, people like stable systems, Russia for example. Even if rights for individuals are skewed.

ATHENS. Polis: was an idea of how a society should function, an idea of a community of politically active members. Look at early chapters of the illiad to see how the fighters wanted to gain an enfranchisement in the poelis. Why? because archons were elected by aristocrats, and commoners had no say.

Tyrants showed greeks that the people had a will. famous tyrants:

pheidon of argos -675

cypselos of corinth -664

orthagoras of sicyon -650

thrasybulus of miletus -600

polycrates of samos -530

peisistratus of athens -530

These guys were a response to the population problem and the fact that social societies can be swayed by popular people cum rulers. In athens, we can speak of three leaders of infuence who presided over big changes leading to democracy:

Draco 621

Solon 594

people got tired of draconian laws and solon became 'sole-archon'. he began the democratic process: everyone elects the archons, not just nobles.' Athens was not stable, it blazed. In every field of human activity, it was almost unbelievable. Not order, not stable, was proceed in orderly fashion from crisis to crisis. A shift of power from small rulers to the demos. The people. Democracy. We love democracy. The ancients did NOT see it as a super great thing, or the end result of political evolution. No one said "lets have a democracy..." it just happened. Athens' leaders responded to problems and just happened on it:

600s BC - many city states had "tyranny"- not bad but a strongman who was popular. only two did not, Athens and Sparta. Aristocrats ruled, and they were often not quite fair - the Spartans got their Lycurgan system, and in Athens, Draco was asked to post his laws on the agora. It was very harsh. Draconian. but it represented a new and public sense of law, that it was a society ordered by set laws, not aristocrats. Just like Hammurabi. Publishing the law didnt help everything, but it totally did. Farmers still had a boom bust cycle (if grain on black sea is big, their crop loses value). Other group: merchants... many people move to Athens, unrooted. they are not the old Athenians, so what is there place? In 594, Solon, the aristocrat, as a lawgiver like Draco. A reformer.

Groups: Established aristocrats, disinfranshised merchants and boom bust farmers. So: He abolished debt, and debt slavery, bought back debt sold farmers overseas. He divided political power to wealthy merchants to be equal to aristocrats. Council of 400 that set the agenda for the assembly of all male citizens. Opposite of Spartan system! Solon's reforms pleased no one. He must have done the right thing! Pesistratus comes next, he respected Solon's system- and he redistributed some land to farmers that were brought back by Solon. "You get your own new farm!" He made the Pan athenic festival. massive public building projects to booster the spirit of athens. also, to get people to focus the loyalty to the city. Also jobs for the poor. Eventually, Sparta got pissed at these reforms and got the system thrown out. Too able to spread to the Pel League.

Clistenese in 500 now, who got a blank slate. Unintened consequences. He decided to build the people into the Athenian system... and where Pesistratus joined the people emotionally, Clistenese did it institutionally. The Plain the Coast and the HIll. He gerrymandered the political structure into ten groups (part from plain, coast and hill each) and MADE the people cooperate!!! All men are welcome to the political system. Hold office, vote. And, ostracism. Once a year, everyone comes into the agora, and writes a name, if someone gets a few thousand votes, is out. If you angered the demos and went against its interest, you are out for 10 years. Better than jail!

Other Reforms: Clistenes reformed the Athenian navy, which were manned by the rowers- who were the lowest class leftover. Well, after the massive wars the greek world fought with the Persians, Admiral Themistocles, victor of Salamis, was so popular he swayed the assembly to vote for the enfranchisement of the sailors.

PERICLES. modern democracies tend to emphasize individual rights over responsibilty to the community. not so in athens, where demokratia called for total immersion of the citizen into the democratic process.



THE PERSIAN WARS. Croesus wants to attack the empire. get them out. he goes to the oracle of apollo on ionian coast. "what will happen if i attack persia?" "you will destroy a great empire". he did, his own. he attacked and he destroyed his empire. Well, that brought the persians into anatolia they marched into ionia. they conquered the greek world. Croesus was the trigger. herodotus explains it. Herodotus opens with a lesson in great states being arrogant, then. and, in all his travels, he understood for the first time the reality of east and west. "We will not get along." We are different. People in Persia are slaves to a great king. east west, greece persia, freedom tyranny. Free men fight for things which they value. slaves do not, they fight cause they are made to.

Thucydidies knew herodotus and wrote of the peloponnesian war. athens vs sparta, ending in 400. A 50 year war.  

-Persia in the Greek mind

-Marathon and Darius

-Salamis, Thermopolyae and Platae - Xerxes

Culture of confidence afterwards

The 50 Years. Athens in the age of Pericles 480-431 time of cultural elan

GOLDEN AGE POLITICS. The last vestiges of the higher review were struck down, and pay was now given to public servants. If you did NOT pay for public service, only the idle rich could serve. Pay is a democratizing force. So now democracy is really born. No review, weak executive, the Archons, elected among the people. Indications of how it all worked: debate was vigorous, speak, argue, democratic mainstay. Danger of demagogue , (leader of the people). The assembly was too easily swayed. too erratic. no continuity. Spartan system was against change, but Athenian was freewheeling, but couldn't put the brakes on.

Athenian citizens (males with two Athenian parents), not for women, not resident aliens, not slaves, etc. so like 10% of the population. Financed by tribute money... Athenian Delian League formed cause some Ionian Greeks were still dominated by Persia, some Greeks went home, like Sparta, but some wanted to free them, and Athens led the way. Slavery was based on it too. Many people critisized athens! Plato and Aristotle did! Aristocracy is the way to go! Democracy does not bring the best forward. This demogogery is crappy thucididies said. Its too changable. It fired peoples imagination for 2.5 millenia. Their democracy demostrated what a democracy what it MIGHT BE.

So S and A are political and social institution, but what about a cultural one?

GOLDEN AGE POLIS: A CULTURAL INSTITUTION. Civic culture: all cities have some common things, and then features of their own. The most public of all art forms, architecture, is communal. great civic buildings are just there, we argue about them, criticize them, talk about them. and they tell us about society. Homer mentioned temples (700s), in the Dark Ages, people no longer built urban fortifications or palaces on the scale of the Mycenaen period, now it began to be civic. Public buildings were for meetings, temples for their gods. greek colonies built mirrors of the polis that had sent them out in the first place. Pesistratus built a lot in athens. points to this civic trend. Many of these things were burned by the Persians, rebuilt in the Delian League building spree.  

450-420: many new buildings, inc. the Parthenon. What does it tell us about athens- how can we 'read' this building? consecrated to athena. Phidias sculpted it. Elements of structure: temple was a form- (not a worship center only)- imagine looking at it with supermans xray vision- and then right above it. horizontal and vertical: dimensions: column has : the base or pedestal, the capital, and the column itself. The doric and ionic . is the doric from Sparta and Ionic from asia minor? resounding maybe. Doric conveys durability and sturdiness. Ionic is fluted, graceful and scrolled at the top. a corinthian column is in between in power, but a super capital. The Romans built in corinthian. athens not so much. Post and Lintle architecture. Parthenon was in perfect condition until 1687 when a Venetian ship hit it by accident and blew the roof off (it was a Turkish city) using parthenon as a weapons depot. Drawings made in 1674 thank goodness that shows everything where it was. Today the British Museum houses the best sculptures, and the Greeks are pissed.

Over 100ft long down each side, 17 and 8 across. builders played an optical illusion- if you look at it like at railroad they meet. a mile and a half above the building, they all touch in the middle. Nashville TN has a Parthenon. It was supposed to crown athens, make the athenians accept their position at the top of an empire. it was supposed to be costly, and well loved. it was the place of the festivals. technical proficiency and engaged in a constant conversation of Drama: Pericles gave free tickets to the theater. tragedy and comedy. Actor named Thespis, 530BC was the first actor. We know there were over a hundred greek plays. only 20 survive. we know there were 30 dramatists, we have 3. Aescylus, S and E.

Aristotle invented literary criticism. written in moving and elegant language, to arouse fear and emotions, purify the people. Walk out of a movie theater, "that was great". you feel almost a part of it. Everyone dies, not everyone really lives. If you live and then die, that struggle is ennobling. A public art of the very time: Aescylus wrote "The Persians" to show they are people too, with the same hopes and fears of Greeks. Sophocles wrote about justice and principle. Euripides was unconventional. inventive and still philosophical. revenge emotion, etc. Comedies: Aristophanes Arist-aw-fa-nes, holding up public officials to helarious ridicule. An OPEN SOCIETY!

History is born. The Bible is partly a historical narrative. And history had a powerful historical mindedness. The Egyptians marked down the dynastys of pharaohs. But hebrew history was the relationship between their God and the people. One side of that History is a public conversation. Is it weird? Voltaire said "History are the lies the living tell about the dead." Henry Ford said "history is bunk." Hebrews had powerful historical mindedness... prophetic force too... the past can help you chart the future. But... in Greece its different. history was a way to understand NOW, and also to show why we are like that. like hebrew, but religous component is gone. they invented a new literary form.  

Aristorle wrote poetics. "poetry and history are the same... but poets don't lie." Historians talk about details, poets have sweet ways to talk though. history tells why people did what they did, not only what they did. herodotus and thucididies insert the extraordinary into the ordinary. i can derive a large principle from some small thing (marathon), and give a grand lesson. Good history connects us with reality. Herodotus, father of history, wrote one great book. Persian Wars. defining moment. He was from Ionia. It was not just athens and sparta! ionia too. Lost of invoking of homer, but more than that. he travelled thorughout the persian empire to learn about them before writing. travelled to egypt, interviewed people, all over greece.

Now, the greatest empire in the world, was defeated by the Greeks. what a bet! herodotus was fascinated by it. how the hell did it happen? Have we ever asked how a group of arguing half loyal colonists defeated the greatest empire of the time? Herodotus asks the who what when where why and how.

Greece is cradle of western education. living in city states, greeks considered education a major service of the state and an essential instrument for the training of its citizens. life and death struggles, peril from within the city state itself, education was looked to for training citizens defending the city in a crisis. majority of course were not educated, but a large number were. each city had its own system. spartans were the minority, but dominant group so they aimed for military education. promotion of courage and obedience. xenophon physical fitness was paramount. corporal punishment. boxing was encouraged. Spartans did not like art and poetry, they did like Homer though, his military epics. They liked dancing. wrestling. care in the upbringing of girls. motherhood was high ideal.

COLONIES. Greeks went all over, thrace by land, macedonia by land, euxine sea

(named hospitable to disguise its real nature- to attract settlers!) Syracuse was to Athens what New York is to London.

RELIGION, OLYMPIANS AND MYTHOLOGY: meant to tell a much larger truth than the words that are in the story. But the gods themselves were nothing to look up to except for their strength. Zeus and his consort Hera ruled over the headstrong family of olympians. apollo, pallas, athene, haydes, etc. they were joined by satyrs, nymphs, muses who the greeks paid their oblations to through animal sacrafice, usually burned to a crisp. there was no devil, ares and posideon could be vengeful, but no evil force to prey on man's deeper fears. mans supreme fault was not sin, but hubris. this was punished by nemesis, the wrath of the gods. endless stories (myths) abound over the everyday happenings of the olympians. all had their cults. when Jesus walk (around the time of the 200th olympiad, cults for the olympians were going around, as well as those of eastern gods isis, mithra etc. look up timeline of mythology in daves notes.

CLASSICAL CULTURE. Culture is art, literature, thought, religion. Culture is: system of shared ideas and meanings that pattern a society. Want to understand a culture? look at values- what you ought or not do. what is the importance of honesty, charity, chastity laws- what political authorities have decided people should do and not do, penalties rules and taboos- what a society has decided is ok and not (marriage, child rearing etc.) social catagories... tacit models: how to address a police officer or judge or elders vs. friends. assumptions: hard work will be repaid, things will get better (this used to be in american culture a huge thing) fundamental: catagories of thinking about people - dualities male female, greece: applonoian vs dionysian culture: appolonian is like delphi oracles incriptions on the gate: know thyself and nothing in excess. appolonian is the greatness in greek culture, the individual - expressed in art, philo etc. dionysian is ecstasy, loss of control, celebration of sex, human tragedy and comedy.

Greeks lived in both of these worlds at the same time. apollo was a major god, his temples at delos and delphi were central to understanding- but there was dionysis, too. festivals in every city and under whose care theater came about.















Cleisthenes (508)

9 archons (must be wealthy)

assembly (ekklesia)




Delian League founded in 478

Naxos tries to leave the League, crushed by athens 470

League fleet destroys Persian fleet off Eurymedon River 469

Thasos revolts and is defeated by League 465

League aids egyptians by sea in failed revolt against Persia 454

League treasury moved from delos to athens 454

Peace of Callias in 450 officially ends hostilities with Persia


democracy and imperialism?



Problem with athens dominating the Delian League was that the

cornerstone of Greek life since the Archaic Age was the indpendent

polis, a system which is now undermined. by playing top dog, athens

itself is no longer self determinant either, as it relies on the other

members of the league- as they do it. Also, athens was democratic, but

did not rule their League democratically. cities were preturbed by the

arrogance of athens, but were afraid of persia. rivalries get more

intense, esp. athens and corinth, greece's longtime third power. some

look to sparta for help.



Land power Sparta vs Sea power Athens

1st PW: 460-445: Sparta opposes athens attempt to subjugate thebes and

add Boeotia to its empire


2nd PW: 431-405: Pericles, Kleon and Nicias vs. Archidamus, Brasidas

and Lysander

-Athens establishes a strategic island garrison off Messenia and

Sparta must call for peace (421)

-Athens send an expedition to Sicily which ends in disaster (413)

-Financial ruin, political problems, Sparta's army, Syracuse's Navy,

finances from Persia force Athens to surrender.



athens saw sparta as against their democratic values and xenophobic

sparta feared continual empowerment of cosmopolitan athens. In 432

sparta moved against athens and declared war, while other city states

took sides, but not along ideological lines. democratic syracuse

allied with sparta.


the spartan land force laid waste to attica, forcing all the people of

the region behind city defenses, which included a powerful 10 mile

'long wall' that protected access from Athens to its harbor at

Pireaus. The spartans could not starve them into surrender so long as

they had access to food from the sea. the seige lasted many years.


In 430 a plague broke out in athens, overpopulated with refugees. many

died including pericles. athens zenith would never return, and a dark

day had come. during the next 10 years the war continued and the rest

of Greece was brought into it. Sparta ruled the land, so Athens tried

to use its mastery of the sea. A fleet was sent by Acibaldes to

Syracuse to take the city and its fabled wealth. This was the major

blunder of the war, for the fleet was repulsed with huge losses.

Unrest at home resulted, and the democratic order was removed by the

upper class, who were then overthrown themselves. Power was weakening

and Spartan sieges continued. Persia was courted by Sparta, which

sells out the Ionian Greek cities to the Empire in exchange for

support against Athens.


In 404 the rest of Athens fleet surrendered at the Hellespont. The

city surrendered thereafter. Shorn of its empire and with its navy at

the bottom of the sea, the Athenian luster was dulled. In the words of

Pericles during the eulegy for the 1st year's fallen, "they all walked

the same streets and watched the same parthenon being built. and the

oracles prediction was fulfilled, 'you will become an eagle among the

clouds for all time.'"



Sparta moved against Persia now, to reclaim the cities it sold out in

Ionia. A Persian force was wasted near Babylon, but the

Perisan-Phoenician navy sunk Sparta's ships near Cnidus, after 10

years of intermettant fighting. Sparta withdrew back to Greece. Persia

did not invade Greece, where Sparta held its own, but the Emperor

Artaxerxes played a balance of power game against them, keeping Greece

divided and weakened (not that they needed help to be divided!).

Corinth and Thebes incited helot revolts in Lacedameon, while Persia

kept the cities of Ionia. A far-sighted Athenian, Isocrates, (check

the dates on him) revealed the intentions of artaxerxes, "he doesnt

care about any of us, only that we fight each other." His position, to

band against Persia, is called pan hellenism. Thebes tries, Athens

tries by proposing a 2nd delian league, but these are rejected on

grounds of distrust. Athens cannot rebuild its navy either, as it has

not enough money. Thebes becomes Sparta's chief rival now, which now

tries to take Athens place.


Sparta proved incapable of leading Greece. It offends with arrogance

and breeds resentment- and Spartan orators lacked the skills valued by

other Greeks. Thebes, corinth and athens finally combine against it in

the  CORINTHIAN WAR (387) which is inconclusive and ends in

humiliation because the peace was adjudicated by the Emperor of



In the mid 300s, then, Greece's independence is waning, but not yet

gone. There will be an outsider, schooled in the philosophy of

Aristotle by Aristotle himself, who will unify the cities, and bring

back glory to the land of Greece.






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