A brief presentation (erasmus+circe) the ancient greeks
The Ancient Greeks
The pinnacle of Greek civilization
Greek civilization goes far
back in time, as early as the
Stone Age. At that time in
Greece, some of the first
agricultural settlements in the
European continent flourished,
while brave mariners dared to
travel in primitive boats
around the Aegean sea.
The Bronze Age, a period that
lasted roughly three
thousand years (3000-1000
B.C.), saw major social,
economic, and technological
advances that made Greece
a pioneer in European
continent and a hub of
activity in the Mediterranean.
The Cycladic civilization
developed around the
Cyclades islands in the
Aegean and became
worldwide known when the
enigmatic marble figurines
The Minoans lived peacefully in the large island of
Crete and are considered the most advanced
prehistoric civilization in Europe. Their arts, their
palaces and their cults are remarkable.
Mycenaean is called the
civilization in the Greek
mainland from 1600 to 1100 B.C.,
also called “Age of Heroes”
because it is the source of
mythological heroes, like
Theseus, Hercules and the
Argonauts, and also epics, like
the Iliad and the Odyssey.
Mycenae fortified citadel in
described by Homer as the
capital of mythical king’s
Much of classical Greece’s
religion and culture has its
roots in Mycenaean and
During the next period (1100-
700 BC) the old settlements
were abandoned (except
Athens), the population was
reduced and massive
numbers of people moved
across the Aegean and
colonized Asia Minor,
establishing great cities.
It was during this period that the
Greek alphabet was created and
formed the base of the alphabet
used by European nations today.
Notable events from this period
include the first Olympics in 776
BC, and the writing of the Homeric
epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey.
The next period is called Archaic
(700 – 480 BC). The Greek people
were organized politically in
independent city-states (Polis)
comprised of citizens in the basis of
an advanced legal structure. This
was a required precursor for the
Democratic principles that were
developed in Athens at the end of
Greek city-states of the Archaic epoch spread throughout
the Mediterranean through colonization, namely in Anatolia
(Asia Minor), Libya, Southern Italy, Sicily and Sardinia, even
as far as southern France, Spain and the Black Sea.
Hundreds of states, settlements and trading posts became
part of an extensive commercial network that involved all
the advanced civilizations of the time. Several very strong
city-states began emerging as dominant cultural centers,
most notably Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Thebes, Syracuse,
Taranto, Miletus, Halicarnassus, Marseille, Tanais among
Athens and Sparta led the
Greeks to a series of legendary
victories in Marathon, Salamis
and Plataea against the
invading Persian armies (490-
479 B.C.) thus securing the
freedom of Greece and the rest
The flurry of development and
expansion of the Archaic Era
was followed by the period of
maturity we came to know
as Classical Greece. Between
480 and until 323 B.C. Athens
and Sparta dominated the
Hellenic world with their
cultural and military
achievements that became a
common legacy for Europe.
The political and cultural
disposition of the two city-
states occupied the opposite
ends of the spectrum.
Sparta was a closed oligarchic
Athens, grew to an
adventurous, open society,
governed in Democracy that
thrived through commerce.
The period of Perikles’ leadership in Athens is described as
the “Golden Age”. It was during this period (5th c. B.C.) that
a massive artistic project coordinated by Phidias, was
undertaken as a celebration of the Athenian democracy
Athens and Sparta eventually resolved
their rivalry in a long war that resulted in
both of them losing their power. Then
came the Macedonians who under the
leadership of king Philip II emerged as the
major military authority of Greece in 338
His ambition was to lead a military
expedition of a united Greece against the
Persian Empire. This ambition was
fulfilled by his son Alexander the Great.
With a copy of the Iliad in his
hand, Alexander the Great
continued the centuries-old
conflict between East and West
by leading a Greek army into
Asia in 334 B.C. and crushing
the Persian Empire. His fine
leadership and his success on
the battlefield became
legendary and changed the
course of Ancient history.
The Classical Period produced remarkable cultural and
scientific achievements and the city that emerged as the
protagonist was Athens. The city of goddess Athena
introduced to the world Democracy, a political system
that, today, has spread everywhere in the world.
The rational approach to
explaining the world as
reflected in Art, Philosophy,
Rhetoric and Literature
became the foundation in
which western civilization is
still based today.
Some of the most influential
men of all time lived in
Athens in the 5th – 4th c. B.C.
The teachings of Socrates, Plato and
Aristotle have been used as reference
point of countless western thinkers.
Hippocrates became the “father of
modern medicine” and Thucydides
the “father of scientific history”.
The dramas of Sophocles, Aeschylus,
Euripides, and the comedies of
Aristophanes are considered among
the masterpieces of western culture.
The art of Classical Greece began
the trend towards a naturalistic
rendering of the world, while at the
same time depicted the Ideal man.
People became the “measure of all
things” through Democratic politics.
Logic was the driving force behind
this cultural revolution.
The monuments of the Acropolis of
Athens are the trademark of the era.
The Hellenistic Age (323 – 30 BC)
marks the transformation of Greek
society from the localized city-
states to an open and cosmopolitan
culture that spanned to the entire
Mediterranean and Middle East
through Alexander’s conquests.
Greek thinking and way of life
dominated the public affairs of the
All aspects of culture evolved,
with the Greek language being
established as an international
language in all known world.
Art and literature were
transformed accordingly. Instead
of the previous preoccupation with
the Ideal, Hellenistic art focused
on reality and emphasized human
passion and drama.
The autonomy of individual
cities of the Classical era gave
way to the will of the large
Greek kingdoms like Egypt
under Ptolemy dynasty.
Several kingdoms were
established. Notably, the Attalid
kingdom was formed around
Pergamum in Asia Minor and the
kingdom of Bactria (Afghanistan)
was created in Central Asia.
City-states of classical Greece
like Athens, Corinth, Rhodes,
Miletus, and Syracuse
continued to flourish, while
others emerged as major
Pergamum, Ephesus, Antioch,
Damascus, and Trapezus are
few of the cities whose
reputation have survived to our
None was more influential than Alexandria in Egypt.
Founded by Alexander the Great in 331 B.C. it became the
center of commerce and culture of the Hellenistic world.
The city hosted one of the 7 Wonders of the World, the
“Lighthouse of Alexandria”, and the famed Library that
aspired to host the entire knowledge of the known world.
Many famous thinkers and artists of
the Hellenistic era created works
that remained influential for
Schools of thought like the Stoics
and the Epicurians continued the
philosophical tradition of Greece,
while art, literature, and poetry
reached new heights of innovation.
Hellenistic Greece became a time of
maturity of the sciences. In geometry,
Euclid’s elements became the standard
all the way up to the 20th c., while the
work of Archimedes from Syracuse on
mathematics was proven influential.
Eratosthenes calculated the
circumference of the earth and
Aristarchus presented the first
known heliocentric model.
During Hellenistic Era, Rome
had risen to a formidable
power and by 200 B.C.
occupied the Greek cities of
Italy, starting thus a series of
wars with the Greeks that led to
the eventual annexation of
Greece and most of the
Hellenistic kingdoms by the
In 31 B.C. Octavian defeated the rulers
of Egypt, the Roman Marc Anthony and
the Greek queen Cleopatra, in the
naval battle of Actium, and completed
the demise of the Hellenistic world.
After the battle of Actium, the entire
Hellenic world became subject to
Since then, ancient Greek civilization has made its mark in
various circumstances through the ages. Combined with
Roman culture, both of them became the foundation of
European culture (Greco-Roman culture).
Through the Middle Ages, ancient Greek and Roman
culture combined with Christianity formed the unique
Byzantine Empire which heavily influenced the Arabs and
the Europeans of the East (Slavs) and West.
This legacy enhanced not only the Renaissance
movement in Italy, but also the European arts and way of
life and thinking until today.
Are you ready to walk…
in the footsteps of the
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