Greco-Roman Civilization

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1 Greco-Roman Civilization "had Greek civilization never existed we would never have become fully conscious, which is to say that we would never have become, for better or worse, fully human. - W. H Auden Distinct eras in Greek history Archaic Greece Mycenaen Greece Dark Ages Greek Renaissance Classical or Hellenic Greece Hellenistic Greece B.C B.C B.C B.C B.C B.C. Role of geography Geography is an important factor mountains, valleys, and large coastlines A number of cultures flourished on the islands of the Cyclades, in Crete and on the Greek mainland. Greeks were encouraged to settle the land in independent political communities. These communities would soon come to be known as city-states. Each city state or polis had its own political organization and thus was truly independent Mycenaean Civilization The largest and most powerful of all the city-states in the period was that of Mycenae. Mycenae was completely destroyed after numerous attacks from Asia Minor. This event is known as the Dorian Invasion 1

2 Dark Ages Following the Dorian Invasion, Greece fell into its own period of the Dark Ages. Greek culture began to go into decline pottery became less elegant, burials were less ornate and the building of large structures and public buildings came to an abrupt halt. But some technological skills survived and the Greek language was preserved by those people who settled in areas unaffected by the Dorian Invasion Greek Renaissance After 800 B.C. a new spirit of optimism and adventure began to appear in Greece. Historians have called the period from the Greek Renaissance. In literature, this is the age of the great epic poets, poets who wrote of the deeds of mortal men as well as of immortal gods. It is also the period of the first Olympic games, held in 776 B.C. The Classical Age By around 500 BC rule by the people, or democracy, had emerged in the city of Athens. Following the defeat of a Persian invasion in BC, mainland Greece and Athens in particular entered into a golden age. In drama and philosophy, literature, art and architecture Athens was second to none. The city s empire stretched from the western Mediterranean to the Black Sea, creating enormous wealth. This paid for one of the biggest public building projects ever seen in Greece, which included the Parthenon. The Classical Age Between 490 and 479 B.C., Greece was invaded by the army and naval fleet of the Persian Empire. By 479 B.C., the Greek forces had all conquered the Persian army and navy. After the Persian Wars, Athens emerged as the most dominant political and economic force in the Greek world. The Athenian polis, buttressed by the strength of its Council of Five Hundred and Assembly of citizens, managed to gain control of a confederation of city-states which gradually became the Athenian Empire. 2

3 Sparta and Athens Two city-states were indicative of Greek city-states as a whole: Sparta and Athens. At Sparta, located on the Peloponnesus, five Dorian villages combined to form the Spartan state. The Spartan state arranged for a basic equality in land holding and provided the citizens with laborers, called helots (conquered people). The economy was based on the idea that slaves would labor to supply the Spartan armies with food, drink and clothing Sparta and Athens While Sparta developed their control over the Peloponnesus, the city-state of Athens controlled the area of the Attic Peninsula, to the east and northeast of Sparta. Athens was similar to other city-states of the period of the Greek Renaissance with two important differences: (1) it was larger both geographically and in terms of its population and (2) those people it conquered were not reduced to servitude. Athenian Democracy Democracy (demokratia) was introduced by Cleisthenes in 507 B.C and by the time of Pericles ( B.C) the Assembly was supreme. A Council of Five Hundred planned the business of the public assemblies. All male citizens over the age of thirty could serve for a term of one year on the Council and no one could serve more than two terms in a lifetime. Such an organization was necessary so that every citizen would learn from direct political experience. Peloponnesian Wars B.C The Peloponnesian War fought between Athens and Sparta was a catastrophe for Athens. The chief result of the War was that the Athenian Empire was divided, the subject states of the Delian league were liberated, and direct democracy failed. The Athenians also suffered a loss of nerve as their democracy gave way to the Reign of the Thirty Tyrants. The major result, however, was that the destruction of Athenian power made it possible for the Macedonian conquest of Greece Socrates, Plato and Aristotle The teachings of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle form the bedrock of Western philosophical enquiry. This is responsible for the respective traditions of rationalism and empiricism. The former relies on a priori knowledge whereas the latter relies on a posteriori knowledge. Origins of Western Thought Greek achievements in the areas of art, architecture, poetry, tragedy, science, mathematics, history, philosophy and government were of the highest order and worthy of emulation by the Romans and others. Western thought begins with the Greeks, who first defined man as an individual with the capacity to use his reason. 3

4 Origins of Western Thought Greeks had discovered the means to give rational order to nature and to human society. The Greeks also created the concept (if not quite the reality) of political freedom; the notion that man (the citizen) is capable of governing himself was a profound one. Underlying the Greek achievement was humanism - a belief in the worth, significance, and dignity of the individual. Alexander the Great ( B.C) Alexander III succeeded his father Philip of Macedon in 336 B.C to become ruler of the Macedonian kingdom. Within 15 months he quelled rebellions, subdued various Greek cities, sent his armies as far north as the Danube River, and destroyed the city of Thebes. In 334 B.C with 37,000 men under his command, he marched into Asia, still conquering lands for his empire. By 327 B.C Alexander's armies had moved as far east as India End of the City State Following the death of Alexander and the division of his empire, the Hellenistic period ( BC) saw Greek power and culture extended across the Middle East and as far as the Indus Valley. After a century of warfare the city-state could no longer supply a tolerable way of life for its citizens. Many reasons; financial burden of military, loss of sense of community, shift of responsibility etc. Ancient Rome 3 episodes Early Rome B.C Roman Republic B.C Roman Empire 31 B.C. to A.D. 476 Early Rome and the Republic In legend Rome was founded in 753 BC by Romulus, its first king. In 509 BC Rome became a republic ruled by the Senate (wealthy landowners and elders) and the Roman people. During the 450 years of the republic Rome conquered the rest of Italy and then expanded into France, Spain, Turkey, North Africa and Greece. 4

5 Roman Republic A series of documents were drawn up which together make up the Roman constitution. The constitution outlined the legal rights of citizens and in Rome, everyone with the exception of women, slaves and resident aliens, qualified as a citizen. Instead, the Roman Republic was more like a confederation of states under the control of a representative, central authority. Roman Republic The Romans also embarked on a path which would soon culminate in the establishment of the Roman Empire. Around 493 B.C., the Romans established the Latin League to protect themselves from rival neighbors such as the Etruscans. Rome was also an aggressive and imperialistic power. Roman Republic Unlike the Greeks who, under Alexander and those who followed him, forced conquered lands into slavery or submission, the Romans took the conquered and made them partners. In other words, they assimilated them into the Roman cosmopolis. This policy of compromise and assimilation continually built up the strength of the Roman Republic. Roman Empire Rome became very Greek influenced or Hellenised, filled with Greek architecture, literature, statues, wall-paintings, mosaics, pottery and glass. Several events marked the transition from Republic to Empire Julius Caesar's appointment as perpetual dictator (44 BC) Battle of Actium (2 September 31 BC) Granting of the honorific Augustus to Octavian by the Roman Senate (16 January 27 BC). 5

6 Roman Empire Starting with Augustus in 27 BC, the emperors ruled for five hundred years. They expanded Rome s territory and by about AD 200, their vast empire stretched from Syria to Spain and from Britain to Egypt. Networks of roads connected rich and vibrant cities, filled with beautiful public buildings. A shared Greco-Roman culture linked people, goods and ideas. Decline of the Roman Empire There is no single explanation that accounts for Rome's decline and fall. Although Rome ultimately fell in A.D. 476, its decline was a process that had been going on for centuries BC Roman Kingdom begins BC Roman Republic begins BC to 146 BC Punic Wars (Rome vs. Carthage) - 2 nd century BC dominance in Mediterranean - 44 BC Julius Caesar's appointment as perpetual dictator - 31 BC Battle of Actium - 27 BC Octavian is sole Roman leader Empire begins BC height of Empire under Trajan Sources Watson, Peter. Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention, from Fire to Freud. Harper Perennial rd century crisis (internal strife, external invasions, etc.) - early 4 th century Christianization of Empire - late 4 th century visible deterioration of Empire - 5 th century Western Empire sees huge territory reduction - AD 476 rule of Rome in the West regarded as finished 6

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