|Guess the Test #1 Name: _________________________
Find these words in the reading and explain or describe each one.
The Trojan War:
Essay Questions: Write 5 fact-filled sentences for each!
1. Who were the Minoans and what was their culture like? (Don’t forget dates!)
2. Who were the Mycenaeans and how were they different from the Minoans?
3. What was a typical Greek polis like?
4. How was Sparta different from the other Greek poleis?
5. Describe Greek gods and the Oracle at Delphi
Ancient Greek Civilization:
MINOANS AND MYCENAEANS
Much of early Greek history has been lost to us, but we do know that two cultures developed and flourished between 2000 and 1000 AD. The Minoan civilization appeared on the island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea around 2100 BC and lasted at least 700 years. Minoans settled on many Aegean islands and traded among these colonies and Crete. We know about Minoans from excavations at their capital city, Knossos, on Crete. Minoans had writing, but historians have not been able to translate it. Minoan life was tied deeply to the sea, particularly from their artwork on pottery and wall murals. Women had important roles in society, and warfare did not seem to be a part of life. We know their civilization fell apart quickly. The eruption of the volcano on Thera near Crete destroyed the royal palace and may have weakened society in general. Soon after, the Mycenaeans from the Greek mainland invaded and conquered the Minoans.
The Mycenaeans (my-sun-NEE-unz) built city-states that often fought one another on mainland Greece. Because they spoke an early form of Greek, they are considered the first true Greeks. They traded with the Minoans, then expanded their own trade after conquering Crete. Mycenaean civilization was dominated by war, competition, and powerful kings who built palaces and monuments. One legend connects the Mycenaeans to the Trojan War, in which Greeks, led by Mycenae, fought against the city of Troy. It is unclear whether the Trojan War really happened. But it is known that war, along with drought, famine, the collapse of trade, and invaders from the north called Dorians, helped to end Mycenaean civilization. Mycenean bronze weapons were no match for Dorian iron and most Mycenean city-states lay in ruins by 1100 BC. A dark age followed in which the use of writing was lost for several centuries. Because the people in this period struggled to feed and protect themselves, they didn’t have the time or interest in education. Greek civilization almost disappeared.
By the 800s BC, a new type of society emerged in Greece, centered around the polis, or city-state. (More than one polis is spelled “poleis”). The polis was a fortified town surrounded by farmland and was the basic political unit and center of daily life and culture. People were very loyal to their polis and often attacked neighboring poleis. Even in times of peace, the poleis were suspicious of each other and kept to themselves. Greek geography played a big part in this. There is very little good farmland in Greece and rugged mountains divide and isolate one fertile valley from another. It wasn’t long before the poleis grew too large for the food supply, so early on, the Greeks became colonists. They sailed east across the Aegean Sea to establish poleis on the islands and along the coast of modern day Turkey, and west across the Adriatic Sea to colonize Southern Italy.
The typical polis spread out below a high area called an acropolis, which was originally a fortress, but later became a holy site with temples to the gods and open space for ceremonies. Below the acropolis was the agora or open air marketplace (where Athenians argued politics), surrounded by shops, houses, more temples, and a gymnasium. Around the outskirts of the polis was a wall for defense, and beyond that, fields for crops. These poleis were kind of like towns in Alaska – centers for commerce surrounded by absolute wilderness.
Each polis developed its own political system. While civilizations outside of Greece were run by priest-kings, the polis of Corinth was an oligarchy – a rule by several leaders at once. Athens was a democracy, run by the people. Thebes was an aristocracy, ruled by members of the wealthy class only.
Sparta was a mighty polis, but unlike the others. Spartans conquered nearby towns and forced the people to be helots or state slaves. Helots were given to Spartans to do their manual labor so that the citizens could spend all their time training for war. This was believed to be the only way to keep order because the helots outnumbered the Spartans and might rebel at any time. Therefore, Spartans demanded that their citizens be tough from birth. Babies that were not healthy were left in the wild to die. Boys entered a school for combat at age 7. At 20, they became hoplites or foot soldiers, and served in the army for 10 years. Women were also expected to be physically fit and help run the city when men were away at war. Sparta was led by two military commander kings but eventually, an elected council of elders made many decisions.
GODS AND HEROES
Ancient Greeks believed in hundreds of gods and goddesses. Each ruled over nature or life. The Greeks believed the gods would protect them if they offered sacrifices. About 12 of the gods were especially important and were thought to live on Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece. The gods were powerful, but they were not perfect. They often got jealous or made mistakes just like people. However, they had unlimited power, so Greeks tried really hard to avoid irritating any of them!
Each polis also claimed one special god or goddess as its protector. In addition, all Greeks considered some locations sacred, such as Delphi, where priestesses were thought to receive visions of the future, and Olympia, where athletic games were held every four years. Athletes from different city-states competed in honor of the gods. Greeks also had myths about heroes that could inspire people to live virtuously but without hubris, or “great pride” that often led heroes to tragic ends. The stories also encouraged all Greeks to pursue arete – the quest for perfection. Therefore, from birth, Greeks tried to be the best they could possibly be, yet not get over-confident and full of self-pride. The gods hated to see mortals with hubris and would punish them every time!
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