In this chapter you will learn that the ancient Greeks were both fierce fighters and great builders. The ruins shown in this photo are from the Parthenon, a beautiful temple built to celebrate a Greek victory in war.
Section 1: Greece and Persia
THE PERIOD OF DISUNION Early in their history, the Persians often fought other peoples of Southwest Asia. In 550 BC the Persian king Cyrus II won independence from a group called the Medes. He went on to conquer almost all of Southwest Asia. His well-organized army included many war chariots and a powerful cavalry. Cyrus let the people he conquered keep their own customs. As a result, few people rebelled and the empire remained strong. By the time he died around 529 BC, Cyrus ruled the largest empire the world had ever seen. He became known in history as Cyrus the Great.
THE PERSIAN EMPIRE GROWS STRONGER Darius I seized power when the death of Cyrus's son left Persia without a clear leader. Darius organized the empire by dividing it into 20 provinces. Then he chose governors called satraps (SAY-traps) to rule the provinces for him. Darius expanded the Persian Empire eastward to the Indus Valley and westward into Southeastern Europe. He called himself king of kings to remind other rulers of his power.
Darius's many improvements to Persian society included roads. Messengers used these roads to travel quickly throughout Persia. Darius also built a new capital called Persepolis.
During his reign a popular new religion called Zoroastrianism (zawr-uh-WAS-tree-uh-nih-zuhm) arose in Persia. This religion taught that the forces of good and evil were fighting for control of the universe.
THE PERSIANS FIGHT GREECE In 499 BC several Greek cities in what is now Turkey rebelled against Persian rule. They were joined by a few city-states from mainland Greece. The Persians put down the revolt, but nine years later Darius invaded Greece and began the Persian Wars. The Greeks won the first battle, at Marathon, because they had better weapons and armor.
Ten years later, Persian Emperor Xerxes I (ZUHRK-seez) sent another army into Greece. The city-states of Athens and Sparta joined forces to defend Greece. Despite a brave stand by the Spartans at Thermopylae (thuhr-MAH-puh-lee), the Persians succeeded in attacking and burning Athens. However in the subsequent battles of Salamis (SAH-luh-muhs) and Plataea (pluh-TEE-uh), the Greeks prevailed and brought an end to the wars. They had defeated a powerful foe and defended their homeland.
Section 2: Sparta and Athens
SPARTA BUILDS A MILITARY SOCIETY Spartan life was dominated by the army. Courage and strength were the highest values. Unhealthy babies were taken outside the city and left to die. Boys who survived were trained from an early age to be soldiers. Boys ran, jumped, swam, and threw javelins to increase their strength. Men between the ages of 20 and 30 lived in army barracks and only occasionally visited their families. Spartan men stayed in the army until they turned 60.
Because Spartan men were often away at war, Spartan women had more rights than other Greek women. Women owned much of the land in Sparta and ran their households. Women also learned how to run, jump, wrestle, and throw javelins, and even competed with men in sporting events.
Slaves grew the city's crops and did many other jobs. Although slaves outnumbered Spartan citizens, fear of the army kept them from rebelling.
Sparta was officially ruled by two kings who jointly led the army. But elected officials ran Sparta's day-to-day activities and handled dealings between Sparta and other city-states.
ATHENIANS ADMIRE THE MIND Sparta's main rival in Greece was Athens. Although Athens had a powerful military and valued physical training, the Athenians also prized education, clear thinking, and the arts. They believed that studying the arts made people better citizens.
In addition to physical training, many Athenian students learned to read, write, and count as well as sing and play musical instruments. Boys from rich families often had private tutors who taught them philosophy, geometry, astronomy, and other subjects, as well as public speaking. Boys from poor families, however, did not receive much education and girls got almost none. Despite Athens' reputation for freedom and democracy, Athenian women had almost no rights at all.
SPARTA AND ATHENS FIGHT After the Persian Wars, many Greek city-states joined an alliance to help defend each other and protect trade. With its navy protecting the islands, Athens was the most powerful member of the league. Soon Athenians began to treat other citystates as their subjects. In 431 BC Sparta and other cities formed a league of their own and declared war on Athens. In the long Peloponnesian War that followed the Athenians won at first, but were forced to surrender in 404 BC. For about 30 years after this the Spartans controlled nearly all of Greece, but resentment from other city-states led to a long period of war that weakened all of Greece and left it open to attack from outside.
Section 3: Alexander the Great
MACEDONIA CONQUERS GREECE About 360 BC Philip II of Macedonia invaded Athens and won easily. The rest of Greece surrendered. Philip's victory resulted from his military strategy and weaponry. For instance, he extended the Greek idea of the phalanx by giving each soldier a spear 16 feet long. Philip planned to conquer Persia, but he was murdered in 336 BC and his throne passed to his 20-year-old son Alexander.
ALEXANDER BUILDS AN EMPIRE When Philip died, the people in the Greek city of Thebes rebelled. Alexander attacked Thebes and enslaved the Theban people. He used Thebes as an example of what would happen if any other Greek cities rebelled against him. Alexander went on to defeat the Persians time after time and to conquer Egypt. He became ruler of what had been the Persian empire. Before his death at 33 years of age, Alexander the Great (as he came to be called) had built an empire stretching from the Adriatic Sea west to India and to the Upper Nile in the south.
Alexander admired Greek culture and worked to spread Greek influence by founding cities in the lands he conquered. He encouraged Greek settlers to move to these new cities and as a result, Greek became a common language throughout Alexander's empire. Even as he supported the spread of Greek culture, however, Alexander encouraged common people to keep their own customs and traditions. The new, blended culture that developed is called Hellenistic. It was not purely Greek, but it was heavily influenced by Greek ideas.
HELLENISTIC KINGDOMS Alexander died unexpectedly without an obvious heir. With no clear direction, his generals fought for power. Eventually, three distinct Hellenistic kingdoms emerged: Macedonia (which included Greece), Syria, and Egypt. Although Hellenistic culture flourished in all three kingdoms-in particular, Alexandria in Egypt became a great center of culture and learning-all three kingdoms fell to the growing power of Rome between 60 and 30 BC.
Section 4: Greek Achievements
THE ARTS The ancient Greeks were master artists. Their paintings and statues have been admired for hundreds of years. Greek sculptors studied the human body, especially how it looks when it is moving. They used what they learned when they made their statues. Greek artists painted detailed scenes on vases, pots, and other vessels. The remains of Greek architecture show how much care the Greeks took in designing their buildings so they would reflect the beauty of their cities.
Greek writers created new literary forms, including drama and history. Dramatists wrote tragedies, which described hardships faced by Greek heroes, and comedies, which made fun of people and ideas.
Historians were interested in the lessons that history could teach. They tried to figure out what caused wars so the Greeks could learn from their mistakes and avoid similar wars in the future.
PHILOSOPHY The ancient Greeks worshipped gods and goddesses whose actions explained many of the mysteries of the world. But around 500 BC a few people began to think about other explanations. We call these people philosophers. Philosophers believe in the power of the human mind to think, explain, and understand life.
Socrates (SAHK-ruh-teez) believed that people must never stop looking for knowledge. He taught by asking questions. When people answered, he challenged their answers with more questions. His student Plato (PLAYT-oh) created a school called the Academy to which students, philosophers, and scientists could come to discuss ideas. Plato's student Aristotle (ar-uh-STAH-tuhl) taught that people should live lives of moderation, or balance. He believed that moderation was based on reason. Aristotle also made great advances in the field of logic, the process of making inferences.
SCIENCE Many of the rules we still use today to measure and calculate were first developed by Greek mathematicians like Euclid (YOO-kluhd). Greek doctors like Hippocrates (hip-AHK-ruh-teez) wanted to cure diseases and keep people healthy. Greek inventors also made many discoveries that are still in use, from practical devices like water screws (which bring water up from a lower level to a higher one) to playful mechanical toys.