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Life in the city-states of Ancient Greece

Ancient Greek civilization began with the rise of the city-states in Greece in about
800BC. Of the 150 city-states of ancient Greece, Athens and Sparta were the strongest
and most well-known though the two city-states were very different in culture and
lifestyle. Athens lies on the southern coast of the Greek peninsula while Sparta is located
on the southern inland areas of the peninsula. Athenians developed their own democratic
forms of government and citizens in Athens could join the assembly to discuss politics.
Spartans, on the other hand, were ruled by kings and elders. Athenians were mainly
farmers, fisherman and traders while most Spartans were farmers. Children in Athens
were sent to schools to be educated but children in Sparta were trained to fight in battle at
an early age. Athenians were religious people and loved art and learning but Spartans
were warlike people with a strong army.

The impact of Greek civilization

Ancient Greece is also known as the “Cradle of Western Civilization” because

ancient Greek civilisation has influenced modern Western civilization. This influence can
be seen in modern sporting activities, in art and architecture and many other aspects.

Religion and Sport

The ancient Greeks worshipped many gods and goddesses, and celebrated
religious festivals such as the Panathenaic Festival. They also held games to honour their
god Zeus in Olympia. Though The Olympic Games is no longer a religious festival, it is
now held as an important international sporting event.

Art and Architectural style

The ancient Greeks loved all kinds of art. They used marble and bronze to make
realistic sculpture. They built temples with large stone pillars. Their architectural designs
still influence modern architects.

The ancient Greeks invented an alphabet of 24 letters. Units and symbols from
their written language are still used in science and mathematics today. The ancient Greek
alphabet was copied by the Romans and used in their language, Latin, and later
developed into modern European languages.

Literature and Drama

The works of ancient Greek literature are still popular classics today. They
include The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer, Aesop’s Fables and Herodotus’ Histories.
The Histories of Herodotus is an important source for the study of ancient Greece still
used by historians today.

Ancient Greek drama was written as a god-worshipping activity and as

entertainment for people in open-air theatres. They performed tragedies about gods,
heroes and kings, and comedies about daily life. Greek theatre design and dramatic forms
still influence the performing arts nowadays.

Mathematics, Science and Medicine

The ancient Greek discoveries in mathematics, science and medicine provided the
foundation for the study of modern sciences e.g. physics and biology. Ancient Greek
mathematicians and scientists, such as Pythagoras, Archimedes and Euclid, discovered
principles and theories that we still use today.

Hippocrates, also known as the Father of Medicine, was the first person to
recognize that diseases were caused by germs instead of being a punishment from the
gods as had been believed in the past. He also set a moral code for doctors which is still
used in the medical profession today and known as the Hippocratic Oath.


Famous philosophers in ancient Greece such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle laid
the foundations of Western philosophy. Socrates encouraged people to pursue knowledge
by thinking deeply and raising questions; Plato started a school and wrote a book to
organize the sayings of Socrates; Aristotle taught people to study facts to learn the truth
and was the first person to classify knowledge.

The Land and Early History of Greece

Greece is a rocky peninsula with lots of mountains.Few crops can grow in its
stony soil.But Greece is surrounded by water, which is its greatest natural
resource.Ancient Greeks depended on the sea for fishing and trade. As their population
grew,ancient Greeks formed city-states. A city-state had a central city called a polis.Each
city-state had its own form of government and laws.All the city-states shared a common
language,religion,and way of life. Three kinds of government were common in the Greek
city-states.In an ,a few powerful and wealthy people ruled.Other city-states were ruled by
a single person who took control against the wishes of the people.This kind of
government is called a .Some city-states were democracies.In a ,people take part in their
own government. Two of the most important city-states were Athens and
Sparta.Athens,located in the center of the Greek Peninsula, was a democracy.Sparta was
in the southern part of the Greek Peninsula.It was an oligarchy ruled by two kings.

Learning and the Arts

The ancient Greeks were known for their great literature, learning,and
architecture.Plays are among the finest pieces of literature from ancient Greece.Some
modern operas and films are based on these plays. Ancient Greece had several important
thinkers called philosophers.Socrates was a well-known philosopher.He taught about
knowledge,friendship,and justice.One of Socrates’ students was a philosopher named
Plato.Plato wrote about government,mathematics,and astronomy.He also wrote about
how people behaved. The city-states of ancient Greece fought with each other. In 338
B.C. they were conquered by King Phillip II of Macedonia.After Phillip died,his
son,Alexander the Great, took control.Alexander conquered new lands.This spread Greek
culture,language,and ideas throughout the Mediterranean and as far east as India.

Greek myths were an important part of the education of Greek citizens. The myths
were often recited aloud, not simply to entertain, but to teach about many subjects, such
as the following:

― Responsibilities of humans
― Weaknesses and strengths of humans
― Emotions
― Rivalry and conflicts
― Ideas about evil and good
― Ideas about love and hate
― Right and wrong behaviour
― Ideas about the nature and role of women, men, and children
― Family relationships and inter-generational conflicts
― Explanations of nature and the physical world
― Stories of origins
― Attitudes toward heroism and courage
― Explanations of the mysteries of life

Most Greek myths include elements of fantasy, adventure, and violence, but they
were not viewed by the Greeks as simply “exciting stories.” Many of them were used as
“paradeigma” or education by example; others were warnings to human beings about
behaviour the gods found unacceptable. The Greek gods sometimes personified ideas or
events in human life that are difficult to understand, such as Death, Time, or Fate.

Most Greek gods had similar characteristics, both good and bad, to human beings.
They were portrayed as men or women, but they were thought to be immortal and to hold
special powers. The gods could exercise their powers on one another and on human
beings as they wished, for their own vengeance or pleasure. For this reason it was
important to pay attention to the gods and to appease them by making food offerings such
as nectar and ambrosia, or by making animal sacrifices at the temples.
The most important Greek gods were the 12 Olympians, who were said to live on
Mount Olympus and to have descended from the first generation of Gods: the Titans.
Greek stories and legends also include stories of demigods and heroes, who had some of
the special powers of the gods but who were not immortal. These included Atlas,
Achilles, Heracles, Daedelus and Icarus, and Narcissus.

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