Chapter 4: The Classical Civilization in the Mediterranean: Persia, Greece and Rome The Persian Tradition



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AP World History Mr. Soff

Chapter 4: The Classical Civilization in the Mediterranean:

Persia, Greece and Rome
The Persian Tradition:

  • Founded by Cyrus the Great, the Persian Empire was tolerant of local customs, developed iron technology, organized an effective government and military, developed a new religion (Zoroastrianism), and supported a great artistic tradition.


Patterns of Greek and Roman History:

  • The rise of the dynamic city-states of classical Greece began around 800 BCE, reaching a high point in the fifth century BCEW, when Pericles governed Athens.

  • Following the Peloponnesian Wars between Athens and Sparta, decline set in, but a new pattern of expansion occurred under Alexander the Great. Greek values spread widely in the ensuing Hellenistic period.

  • As Hellenism declined, Rome was emerging as an expanding republic, defeating Carthage in the Punic Wars and later becoming the Roman Empire after the death of Julius Caesar. For roughly 200 years, the Empire enjoyed great power and prosperity.

  • Despite the efforts of emperors like Diocletian and Constantine, the ensuing 250 years brought a slow but decisive fall.


Greek and Roman Political Institutions:

  • Greece and Rome featured an important variety of political forms. Both tended to emphasize aristocratic rule, but there were significant democratic elements as well.

  • In the Greek polis, those who were citizens participated actively in political life. In Athens, the system of direct democracy allowed citizens to shape policy in general assemblies.

  • In the Roman republic, the senate was the main legislative body, but under the autocratic empire, the Senate’s influence waned.

  • Later, Rome added emphasis on law and created the institutions necessary to run a vast and decentralized empire.


Religion and Culture:

  • Greek and Roman culture did not directly generate a lasting major religion, though Christianity arose in the classical Mediterranean context. Greco-Roman religion used epic poetry and mythology to explore human foibles and passions.

  • An emphasis on rationality, especially in philosophy, science, and a strong artistic and architectural tradition, permeated classical Mediterranean culture.

  • Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are the most well known Greek philosophers.


Economy and Society in the Mediterranean:

  • Greek and Roman societies mirrored many standard social features of the agricultural economy, including a large peasantry and a land-owning aristocracy, and dependence on trade and commerce.

  • Differing versions of the patriarchal family structure existed in both Greek and Roman culture.

  • Distinctive features included slavery and a slightly less oppressive attitude towards women than was true in classical China.


Toward the Fall of Rome:

  • Rome began to decline after about 180 CE. Symptoms were gradual, including loss of territory and economic reversals.

  • Ultimately, invaders periodically raided Rome until the empire finally collapsed.

Key terminology:

1. Zoroastrianism:

2. Hellenism:


3. Polis:


4. Direct democracy:


5. Persian Wars:


6. Peloponnesian War:


7. Stoics:


8. Doric, Ionic, Corinthian:


9. Consuls:


10. Punic Wars:


Focus Questions:

1. If the Greek genius was politics, what was the Roman genius?

2. Compared to modern American ideas of democracy, how was Athenian democracy distinctive?


3. How did Greek politics resemble Indian politics?
4. From a Confucian viewpoint, the Roman Empire might have been criticized for placing too much confidence in…?

5. Who did the Senate of republican Rome particularly represent?


6. How did Roman emperors try to prevent popular disorder?


7. Explain the Greek and Hellenistic approach in science.


8. How did Greek and Roman architecture compare to Chinese architecture?



9. Where (what kind of occupations/labor) were Roman slaves used and not used?

10. Both ancient Rome and Greece depended on slavery. What were some of the results of this dependence?

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