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Classical Greece

Sal provides an overview of ancient Greece from the Greek Dark Ages to Archaic Greece to the Classical and Hellenistic periods. Familiarity with the major greek city-states (especially Athens and Sparta), including the most known traditions.



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  • blobby green style avatar for user ErickChavez083
    How come the ancient civilization of Greece manage to stay relevant for centuries? What made them different than other past civilizations?
    (28 votes)
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    • starky ultimate style avatar for user VaeSapiens
      Very good question.
      Major reasons:
      1) Alexander the Great and his conquest - Before Alexander Greece wasn't as relevant as one may think. The ancient word was dominated by the influence of firstly Sumerian civilisations then Egyptian and Assyrian, and then mainly by the Assyrian Neo-Babylonians up until the Persians took control of most of the civilized world.
      Everything turned when Alexander conquered the Persian Empire and by his death, most of the civilized world was controlled by Greek kings with their Greek language and their Greek culture.

      2) Greek colonies outside of Greece like Syracuse in Sicily and Massalia in Modern France. Because Greeks were sea-faring folks, their language became the lingua franca (main language) of trade in ancient world. And when people speak, people talk and share their culture.

      3) Greek innovations in mathematics, philosophy and military.

      4) Greek culture was also heavily supported by the greatest empire of the ancient world - the Romans

      There are many more factors which played into this Greek domination, but I think that I listed the main pointers.
      (41 votes)
  • male robot hal style avatar for user KEVIN
    Assuming that Greece remained under Roman control after the birth of Christ, what happened to the civilization of Greece when Rome declined around 450 AD?
    (24 votes)
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    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user magda.prochniak
      Well, it's complicated and partially dependent on what you understand with "civilization". The Eastern part of the Roman Empire lasted until 1453 (the fall on Constantinople under Ottomans) and, funnily enough, they were speaking mostly Greek. They preserved the Greek literature and so on. In the 7th century, the Arabs appeared in the Middle East and they got acquainted with the Greek hereditary. They were thrilled - and started translating Aristotle, Plato, other writers.
      In the meantime, in the West, the Greek language and culture were forgotten. So-called "barbarians" didn't know Greek and barely knew Latin - also they didn't accept pagan writers, considering them contradictory to the Christian tradition (which wasn't the case in the East). Between the 5th and 8th century, schooling went rapidly down. It changed only with Charles the Great (around the 9th century AD), but still, the level of the general knowledge was drastically low.
      In the 11-12th century, Western civilization got confronted with the Arabs (crusades, Reconquista) and they started reading Greek writers preserved and translated by Arabs. It was seminal. They started learning Greek and Arab to get to know Aristotle and Plato in original (and Arabic translations). Universities started to appear around Europe - the curricula were mostly based on the teachings of Aristotle. Since the 14th century, finally, knowledge of the Greek language became popular among intellectuals (so-called "humanists"), and they started to translate, read and comment original texts.
      In that way, the Greek tradition and literature were kept until our times.
      (7 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Ellen Holland
    Helen of Troy was a myth, but was the Trojan War a myth as well? Also how did Greece get its name?
    (10 votes)
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    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Vivian
      No one really knows whether or not the Trojan War was a myth. According to the University of Pennsylvania, most people believed it was just a myth until an archaeologist named Heinrich Schliemann found remains of Troy in the late 1800s. The buildings looked like they had been destroyed by a war that occurred around the same time Homer's epics were written. So the Trojan War probably didn't happen exactly the way the myths said it did, but there is evidence that there was a war that ended Troy.

      As for your second question, it apparently came from the Latin word "graecus", which is what the Romans used to refer to the Greek people.
      (29 votes)
  • old spice man green style avatar for user jujuhopen
    Also, what would you call a Greek king?(Emperor, king, e.t.c)
    (9 votes)
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  • aqualine sapling style avatar for user mcgratoh
    At , when Sal is saying they are independent states, is he meaning they are almost like different countries, or different states like in the USA today with Washington, Oregon, etc?
    (6 votes)
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    • starky tree style avatar for user Em
      Hello! Ancient Greek society was comprised of 'city-states,' which I believe were areas of land similar to states in countries like the USA and Australia, but centred around a single city; for example, the city-states of Athens, Sparta and Corinth. Often, the cities around which the states were based were cultural hubs of sorts (Athens in particular was largely a city of prosperity and intellectual growth, where philosophy and literature flourished). I hope that answers your question. :)
      (3 votes)
  • old spice man green style avatar for user jujuhopen
    Just how old exactly is Greece?
    (3 votes)
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    • female robot grace style avatar for user Avila
      Greece was founded on February 3rd, 1830. If you are meaning Ancient or Archaic Greece, then we are talking the start of the 8th Century BC (as recorded by Homer) to around 600 AD.
      According to Wikipedia, Ancient Greece was a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages(see of video) of the 12th-9th century BC to the end of antiquity(c. 600 AD). Hope this helps!
      (11 votes)
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user Leila Villamar Acevedo
    At , who is Helen of Troy
    (3 votes)
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    • leaf green style avatar for user Eman
      Helen of Troy was a mythical figure involved in the Trojan war described by Homer and classical Greek authors such as Aristophanes, Cicero, and Euripides. She was described as a queen and reputed to have been very beautiful. We cannot verify whether she existed as a real historical figure, however. For that matter, historians debate whether Homer himself was a single historical author or a compilation of many myths and stories attributed to a single author. She is an important legend in Greek mythology and literature.
      (10 votes)
  • old spice man green style avatar for user jujuhopen
    What exactly are the dark times
    (3 votes)
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    • starky ultimate style avatar for user VaeSapiens
      Most of the time , when historians say about "Dark Times/Ages" they mean a period of time were there are no records of or the period lacks any credible sources.

      For a long time Early Medieval age was described as "The Dark Age" because there were problems with finding any credible source of information from that period.

      The same goes with the Greek Dark times - The Mycenaean civilization collapsed and there is little to no historical record what exactly was going on in Greece at that time.
      (9 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user mathematicalmaths
    This is sparta
    (4 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Jenna Stoddard
    did the oracle actually tell real prophecies
    (4 votes)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      Oracles are common in cultures around the world, and have been ever since people sought out meanings beyond their ability to figure things out. The Oracle at Delphi was probably as genuine and accurate as oracles in other cultures and societies. Compare what was going on then and there to the Astrology column in a newspaper or people who give Psychic readings for pay.
      (2 votes)

Video transcript

- [Salman] I am now going to give an overview of ancient Greece. In future videos we're gonna go into a lot more depth on a lot of these events and ideas. But this one is to give you context on the big picture. And just to start, let's begin with the name Greece. It turns out that the Greeks do not call where they live, Greece, neither did the ancient Greeks. They called it Hellas. Hellas, Hellas. And the word Hellas comes from Hellen, so this comes from Hellen, which is this legendary figure who is viewed as a progenitor of the Greek people. You could kind of view him as the father of the Greek people. And it's not well established in the historical record when Hellen actually existed, but this is where we get the name Hellas from. And it's very important. Do not confuse this Hellen, who was a man, with Helen of Troy. Helen of Troy was a different person. When I was a child and I heard about Hellenic things or the Hellenic period, or the Hellenes, I was like, oh, maybe that's something to do with Helen of Troy. No. That's referring to the Greek progenitor Hellen. And so that's where the word Hellas comes from, and ideas like Hellenes, which is the Greek people. Or Hellenic, which is referring to something that is Greek, or the Hellenistic Period, which we'll talk about many videos from now, which is this period of Greek influence. Not just over Greece and the Anatolian Peninsula, but over Persia and over Egypt. So with that out of the way, let's now talk about the big arc of history of ancient Greece. And it's believed that the Greek Peninsula has been settled by human beings for thousands and thousands of years. And as time goes on we'll hopefully understand more and more about them. But my timeline right over here starts with Mycenaean Greece, or it starts with the end of Mycenaean Greece. In other videos we might talk more about the Mycenaean Empire. And as that empire falls, we enter into the Greek Dark Ages. And the reason why it's called the Dark Ages, is there's not a lot of historical record of this period roughly between 1100BCE and 800BCE. Now there's one event, and I'll kind of say that with a slight emphasis or a question that is worth noting here. I have Trojan War question mark around 1200BCE. Once again, there's not a strong historic record for the Trojan War, but it is a famous war, that was chronicled by Homer. And even Homer, we don't know if he really existed, or whether he was an entire literary tradition. But it was chronicled in the Iliad in the aftermath in the Odyssey. And once again, this was chronicled many hundreds of years later, and even Homer is a semi-legendary figure. But when people talk about the Trojan Wars or you see movies about it, we're talking about something that, if it happened the way it happened, it's on the order of 1200BCE. Now as we exit the Greek Dark Ages, that's when we start to have some of the institutions that really, that we now identify with the ancient Greeks, get established. You have the Oracle at Delphi. The Oracle of Delphi, or Pythia, often known as the Oracle of Delphi. This is where leaders of the Greek city-states went for direction to understand what was likely to happen, to get prophecies. And this institution, the Oracle at Delphi, lasts through this entire period I have on my timeline, into Roman rule, for over 1000 years, where the Oracle at Delphi is a very, very prominent figure in influencing Greek leaders. At around the same time, you also have the Olympic Games, where they're held at Olympia, where people compete to show their athletic prowess. And this ancient Olympic Games once again, it continues on for over 1000 years. Our modern Olympics are just kind of a flash in the pan, and it was obviously modeled after the ancient Olympics, compared to how long this lasted. Now when most people think of Greece, they're actually talking about classical Greece. So this is the Classical Period right over here. And we're gonna do videos on a lot of these events, but it's roughly the period between the Persian invasions that were successfully put off, and the rise of Alexander and the fall of Alexander. And that's where you have all of these ideas of Greek democracy really kind of coming to the surface. Pericles, the Strategos of Athens, who had the influence to really help democracy flourish. Under his leadership, or during his leadership, you have the Acropolis and the Parthenon, these famous icons of Greek culture being established. But once again, this is in this period. That's in this period right over here. This is also the period that we associate with the famous Greek philosophers. These lines right over here are the lives of Socrates and Plato, who is Socrates' student, established the famous academy. Aristotle who was Plato's student and famous tutor of Alexander the Great. Now as I mentioned, you had these city-states, and the ones that are worth mentioning, all of them are worth mentioning. But I have in this diagram, the most significant city-states of ancient Greece that you'll hear a lot about. We talked about the Oracle at Delphi, the Olympic Games at Olympia. A lot of the conversation tends to focus around Sparta and around Athens. And then you'll also hear a lot about Corinth and Thebes. Sparta is famous for its militaristic society. It's often glorified. But it's also worth noting that they were significant slave owners. At different parts in Spartan history, they had somewhere between seven and 20 slaves for every Spartan. Athens is famous for its philosophy. It's famous for the birthplace of democracy. It's famous for its art, it's famous for its architecture, all of these areas are famous for its architecture. But it's also worth noting that during the Golden Age, and you have the Athenian Empire, they were also pretty brutal in putting down rebellion and in some ways subjugating different people. So it depends how you want to view things. And we're gonna have a lot of videos on all of these things. But at that time, we talk about these city-states, even though they shared a common language and common culture, they sent folks to the Olympic games, they went to the Oracle of Delphi, they were independent states. And it wasn't until you have Philip of Macedonia in the fourth century right over here, where he starts to really unify these Greek city-states, and it culminates with his son, Alexander the Great. And Alexander the Great not only unifies Greece, but he takes over the Persian Empire, and really kind of with his death, and he has a very short life, he ushers in the Hellenistic period, where you have Greek culture influencing that entire region. Not only Greece, not only what was the Persian Empire, the Middle East, Egypt, that whole region gets influenced by Greek culture. And Greece, I guess you could say, at the end, finally gets under Roman control, and it depends which date you wanna use it. In the middle of the second century BCE is when Greece itself falls to Rome, but then other parts of, I guess you could say, the Hellenistic world, finally succumb to Rome. For example, Ptolemaic Egypt in the first century BCE. But even then, even when it becomes part of the Roman Empire, it influences the Roman Empire very, very, very heavily. Now other things that you will hear us talk about when we discuss the Greeks, besides the democracy and the philosophy, we're gonna talk a lot about wars. And it's worth noting what Greek warriors looked like. So this is a depiction of Hoplites, which are Greek citizen soldiers in ancient Greece. And you'll also here about a phalanx. A phalanx is a formation where they walked or they marched very tightly together. And when archers came they would put all their shields up, and they'd almost be like this armored tank. And it was a very effective method of warfare. Another word that you will hear associated with Sparta and those slaves is Helots. Those were the names of those slaves. They weren't owned by individuals, they were actually owned by the state. Now some of the other cities here, Corinth, will come up a lot. It has a very strategic location in the Isthmus of Corinth. Notice to get from the mainland, or I guess into the Peloponnesian Peninsula, you have to go through this Isthmus. Thebes right here was a significant rival to Athens at different periods of Greek history. It was the dominant city. Now the last thing I wanna mention is there is a ton of culture that comes from the Greeks, and a lot of words that we even use today. For example, the word draconian, which is used for something that's very harsh. Well that comes from Draco's law, which came in the seventh century BCE from Athens. He was an Athenian legislator who composed a very harsh series of laws. That's where the word draconian comes from. When people say something is spartan, they kind of imagine it's something that's very basic or you just have the necessities. And it comes from the idea of Spartan culture that they really, everything revolved around military necessity. Even the word laconic, which means someone who says just enough to get their meaning across. It comes from the region where Sparta is, Laconia. The Spartans were famous for their kind of very terse speech. Famously, when Philip of Macedon was threatening the Spartans, and he's saying, "If you don't come on to my side "I'm going to do this and that to you "if you don't become part of my kingdom, my empire, "I'm going to do this to your city, "I'm going to do that to your people." And the Spartan's famous reply was, "If." which is kind of a good example of laconic speech. With that one word they were able to convey a lot. So I'm going to leave you there. In the next few videos, we're going to go into some depth on this. But it's important to realize that when people talk about ancient Greece, they're talking about a large span of history, and most of what we associate with ancient Greece, the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Persian Wars, the great Greek philosophers, most of that is associated with the classical period, often associated with the Golden Age. Which is right around there. Well before this period, the Greeks weren't all these philosophers sitting around in togas. They might've been wearing togas, but at these earlier periods they were more adventurers and conquerors, and they might have been in small villages. And eventually those evolved into the city-states that especially in Athens and Sparta had their Golden Age in this period right over here.