The Ancient Greek World

Around the time the Indus Valley Civilization was coming to an end, another civilization was failing off the coast of Greece on the Island of Crete. You can see it at the bottom of the map below. This is an ancient map, but the purple part is basically where modern-day Greece is.

Map_of_Archaic_Greece_(English)

Their rule ended after a famous war called the Trojan War. After the war, soldiers from Greece who had fought in the war took over the area.

The Trojan War is famous for two reasons. It was written about in a book called the Illiad, which is an epic poem. The whole book is a poem about this war, which began when the Prince of Troy kidnapped Helen, the wife of the king of Sparta (a city in ancient Greece). They fought for ten years but the city walls of Troy kept the Greek soldiers out and protected the city. Achilles was the greatest warrior for Greece, and the Greeks won by using their famous trick of hiding inside of gift horse that the Trojans received and then brought into their city. The Greeks then got out and attacked and conquered the city.

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Someone’s replica of the wooden horse used to trick Troy into letter Greek soldiers into their city

 

After the soldiers took over, there was a “Dark Age” in Greece which means not a lot of new was happening. We don’t have writings, art, music, discoveries, inventions, etc. from there during this period.

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Hector (on the right) was a famous Trojan soldier who was killed by Achilles.

That ended when the Greeks started exploring and claiming colonies. This was around 800 BC. Soon after was the start of the Olympic Games.

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Mount Olympus in Greece

The games were named after this highest mountain in Greece because this is where legend has it the gods of Ancient Greece lived. Think of the Psalm that says, “I lift my eyes up, unto the mountains. Where does my help come from?” He’s saying it doesn’t come from the mountains, not from the false gods who supposedly dwell there. Not just in Greece, but in Ancient Israel, there would be idols set up on the tops of hills and mountains. They were called “high places” for a reason.

A few hundred years after this time is what we call the Classical period in Greek history. It’s also what would be called its golden age, the time where lots of new ideas were born. Some of those ideas gave birth to what we know as Western Civilization, which America is part of. It’s a way of thinking, a way of life. The Romans would be the first to copy it.

They would be the inventors of democracy, the idea that people should vote and have a say in how they are ruled.

Look at the map at the top of the page. The key colors don’t exactly match the map, but use your imagination. The cities labeled in the red-orange part were known as city states. They each had their own ruler. Sometimes they fought against each other; sometimes they fought alongside each other.

Two of those cities were Athens and Sparta. Athens is now the capital of Greece. You may have heard of sports teams or athletic competitions that are called Spartans. They were known as very skilled warriors.

In 300 BC they all came under one ruler. He is known as Alexander the Great. He was born in the area of Macedonia. Today it’s the country of Macedonia, but then it belonged to the territory of Greece.

He conquered not only ruling the cities of Greece but expanded the empire.

Roman_Empire_Trajan_117AD

The white on the map is water. Remember how important water was to early civilizations. (It’s important to us too, but we have more systems in place to get water wherever we want it.) You can see their empire surrounding the Mediterranean Sea there in the middle.

Surrounding water means a lot of the people were fishermen and farmers. Some were traders or soldiers. But Ancient Greece also has scientists and artists. They developed famous architecture and plays.

Picture Credits:

Public Domain unless noted

City-State Map: http://By User:Megistias [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Extent of Empire Map: By Tataryn [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons