Ch 8: Early Greek Civilizations

About This Chapter

Watch video lessons to discover the rich cultures and societies of early Greek civilizations. Take a short quiz after each lesson to help you gauge your understanding of the chapter material.

Early Greek Civilizations - Chapter Summary and Learning Objectives

If you've ever had to read The Iliad or The Odyssey in English class, you've already had a taste of ancient Greek culture. These epics, which are attributed to Homer, tell stories of Bronze Age Greece. In this chapter, you'll learn about the Bronze Age and multiple early Greek civilizations. By the time you finish the lessons, you'll have insight into topics like:

  • How climate and geography impacted the early Greeks
  • What theories explain the fall of Minoan civilization
  • How Greek writing developed
  • What caused Mycenae's rise and fall
  • What slavery's role in ancient Greece was
  • How the phalanx impacted warfare
  • How Spartan society was structured

How Geography & Climate Shaped Early Greek LifeExplore the ways climate and geography impacted early Greek society and activities.
The MinoansFind out about the Minoan civilization's achievements and see what may have caused its collapse.
History of the Alphabet: From Cuneiform to Greek WritingTrace the development of writing across multiple cultures, including the ancient Greeks.
Bronze Age Greece: Schliemann's Quest for TroyTake a look at Schliemann's archaeological discoveries of Troy and Mycenae.
Mycenaean Civilization DevelopsExamine how Mycenaean civilization developed, and learn about its achievements.
From Mycenae's Collapse to Greek ColonizationTrace the history of Mycenae's collapse, the Dark Ages in Greece and the rise of Greek colonization.
The Iliad: Greek EpicLearn about the plot and themes in The Iliad.
The Odyssey: Greek EpicDiscover the plot of The Odyssey and the impact of Greek epics on literature.
Greek City-States and GovernmentsExplore the defining characteristics of the different Greek city-states, or poleis.
Phalanx Warfare in Ancient GreeceLearn about the design and impact of phalanx warfare in ancient Greece.
History of SpartaDiscover Sparta's unique culture and its military of elite warriors.
Slavery in Ancient GreeceGet details on the kinds of slavery in Ancient Greece and the rights of Athenian slaves.

12 Lessons in Chapter 8: Early Greek Civilizations
Test your knowledge with a 30-question chapter practice test
How Geography & Climate Shaped Early Greek Life

1. How Geography & Climate Shaped Early Greek Life

Just as the Nile shaped Egypt, so too did the unique geography of Greece help to shape one of the most enduring cultures in history. From politics and war to the economy and colonies, the geography of Greece impacted them all.

The Minoans

2. 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

3. 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.

Bronze Age Greece: Schliemann's Quest for Troy

4. 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.

Mycenaean Civilization Develops

5. Mycenaean Civilization Develops

The Mycenaeans were among the first people to settle in Greece and ultimately would set the stage of much of Greek Culture for the centuries to follow, from mythology to the tales of Homer.

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.

The Iliad: Greek Epic

7. 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

8. 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.

Greek City-States and Governments

9. 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.

Phalanx Warfare in Ancient Greece

10. 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

11. 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.

Slavery in Ancient Greece

12. 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.

Chapter Practice Exam
Test your knowledge of this chapter with a 30 question practice chapter exam.
Not Taken
Practice Final Exam
Test your knowledge of the entire course with a 50 question practice final exam.
Not Taken

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.