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Ch 3: History of Ancient Greece

About This Chapter

Watch history videos to learn about Greek mythology, religion, philosophy, art, warfare and more. At the end of each lesson, take a quiz to test your knowledge on the history of ancient Greece.

Ancient Greece had it all: leaders, warriors, philosophers, scholars, architects and artists. As they progressed from bronze to iron, the Greeks reached their zenith during the Hellenistic Age. We'll cover this exciting time from A-Z, including the actual alphabet and the shift from unwieldy pictographs to consonants and vowels representing sounds.

Prepare for a personalized tour of the Greek city-states and learn what phenomena allowed these bastions of civilization to retain their independence for so long. You'll also gain perspective on Greek forms of government, such as democracies, monarchies and oligarchies. Athens, with its social and political reforms, will take center stage, but what will happen when they face the Persians? We'll school you in the ways of war, the brutal efficiency of the phalanx and the Peloponnesian War.

You'll meet with the mental giants of their time: Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. We'll see how their views may have ruffled a few feathers and how their concepts influenced future philosophers. In fact, Aristotle was personal tutor to a legend known as Alexander the Great. You'll join Alexander in your conquest for knowledge and explore his empire by visiting each of its seven wonders.

The Greeks, the overachievers, were also master historians and storytellers. We'll survey the epic tradition from Homer to Vergil and get a glimpse of the characters and themes present in Greek mythology and religion. Watch the theatrics from the front row as we observe tragedies, comedies and their Greek roots. When you ponder ancient Greece's remarkable influence on today's civilization, you'll know that we've climbed to greater heights by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Lessons in Chapter 3: History of Ancient Greece
The Minoans

1. The Minoans

This lesson explores Minoan civilization. Beginning with Arthur Evans' discoveries at Knossos, we move on to explore the mysteries of Minoan art and writing, as well as their mysterious decline in the 15th century BCE.

History of the Alphabet: From Cuneiform to Greek Writing

2. History of the Alphabet: From Cuneiform to Greek Writing

This lecture follows the development of writing, from the pictographs of proto-cuneiform to the symbolic phonemes of cuneiform and hieroglyphics. Then from the abjads of the Phoenecians, Minoans, Hebrews and Arabs to the complete alphabets of the Greeks. It explores the limitations and strengths of each development and draws modern parallels.

The Iliad: Greek Epic

3. The Iliad: Greek Epic

This lecture traces the history of Greek epics. It then examines the central themes of 'The Iliad': Xenia, Achilles' wrath, and his quest for immortality. The plot of 'The Iliad' is summarized and attention is drawn to themes from the Sumerian tradition.

The Odyssey: Greek Epic

4. The Odyssey: Greek Epic

This lecture provides a rough outline of the exploits of Odysseus in Homer's epic poem ''The Odyssey''. You'll learn plot details about this epic poem, in addition to hearing about how this important tale relates to Greek culture and literary works throughout history.

Bronze Age Greece: Schliemann's Quest for Troy

5. Bronze Age Greece: Schliemann's Quest for Troy

This lecture covers the history of Bronze Age Greece, beginning with the discovery of its greatest city, Mycenae, by Heinrich Schliemann, emphasizing that the quest to find these cities was inspired by works of classical literature. It then describes the architecture of Mycenae and some of the relics found there. Finally, the lesson examines the Mycenaean achievement and its place in Western history.

From Mycenae's Collapse to Greek Colonization

6. From Mycenae's Collapse to Greek Colonization

This lesson covers the history of Greece from the collapse of Mycenae to the start of Greek Colonization. We watch its dissolution during the Dorian Invasion and take a look at Greece in the Dark Ages.

Greek Myth and Religion

7. Greek Myth and Religion

This lecture examines the troubles of generalizing Greek religion, before doing just that. It lists the major Olympian gods and their roles. It then explores the function of heroes in Greek religion. Next, the relationship between gods and men is laid out. Finally, it explores aspects of Greek myth that reemerge in Christianity.

Greek City-States and Governments

8. Greek City-States and Governments

This is a lecture about Greek city states. It begins with an examination of the influence geography had on Greek politics, by comparing Greece to Egypt and Mesopotamia. This is followed by a loose characterization of Greek poleis in general, with specific attention paid to constitutions, colonialism and competition.

Women of Greece

9. Women of Greece

This lesson covers the terrible plight of women in ancient Greece. We explore the portrayal of women in Greek myth, epic, theater and philosophy. We then look at some of the harsh realities of women's lives in ancient Greece. Finally, we examine a notable exception in the freedom and authority of Spartan women.

Ancient Greek Art, Pottery and Sculpture

10. Ancient Greek Art, Pottery and Sculpture

A survey of the transitions in Greek art, with special emphasis placed on the importance of materials and technique. This lecture explores Greek pottery styles from geometric to Orientalizing to black- and red-figure vases. It then turns to sculpture from Archaic styles to realism to idealism. Slides are shown throughout to get students familiar with these Greek styles.

Ancient Greek Architecture: Dorian, Ionic & Corinthian

11. Ancient Greek Architecture: Dorian, Ionic & Corinthian

This lecture discusses Greek architecture and its legacy. Enjoy our exploration of Greek columns, temples, stadiums, treasuries and theaters, and see why the Greeks might have reached the pinnacle of architectural achievement.

The Birth of Philosophy: The Presocratics

12. The Birth of Philosophy: The Presocratics

This lecture covers the advent of philosophy. It first differentiates philosophy from religion, drawing parallels to modern science. It then establishes the basic questions of Presocratic philosophy: What is matter? and What causes change? The rest of the lecture demonstrates how these questions developed as they were tackled by generations of Presocratic philosophers. Finally, it makes plain our incredible debt to the Presocratics.

Phalanx Warfare in Ancient Greece

13. Phalanx Warfare in Ancient Greece

This lecture compares phalanx warfare to its hit-and-run predecessors, drawing distinctions between hit-and-run skirmishing and decisive warfare. It examines the cultural, political, and geographical features of Greece that made phalanx warfare possible and necessary, and it describes the hoplite gear and mentality.

History of Sparta

14. History of Sparta

In this lesson, you'll examine forces that shaped a Spartan society of elite warriors. We'll also explore the stratified caste system created by Lycurgus.

Birth of History: Herodotus' Persian War

15. Birth of History: Herodotus' Persian War

This lecture begins with Herodotus' special place in history. It then looks at the miracle at Marathon and seeks to explain how it happened by comparing phalanx warfare to Persian warfare. Following that, we'll run through a brief summary of the rest of the war, with special attention drawn to Greek triremes.

Slavery in Ancient Greece

16. Slavery in Ancient Greece

This lesson explores slavery in ancient Greece. We examine the various forms slavery took in Greece, comparing Spartan serfdom to Athenian chattel slavery. Finally, we enumerate the duties and rights of Athenian slaves.

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