The Ancient Greeks

The Early Greeks

  • Geography
  • They made a living from the sea as well as from land.
  • They raised sheep rather than cattle and grew olive trees rather than wheat because they were mountainous.
  • They lived in isolated villages.
  • They didn’t like to travel on land because they found traveling through the mountains difficult.
  • The Minoans and the Mycenaeans
  • The Minoans were not Greeks, but their civilization was the first to arise in the region that later became Greece. They made a living from trade.
  • The Mycenaeans were originally from central Asia.
  • Heinrich Schliemann (German) discovered one of the walled palaces in Mycenae and named the people of this civilization the Mycenaeans.
  • Dark Age
  • Trade slowed and poverty took hold.
  • Before long, Greeks had forgotten the importance of reading and writing.
  • Greek city-states
  • A Greek city-state was called a polis.
  • Agorawas the open area below the acropolis that was a marketplace. (a market and a place to meet and debate issues)
  • Greek citizens were free native-born men who owned land.

Sparta and Athens

  • Types of governments:
  • Monarchy = one ruler who usually inherited power and passed on leadership to his son.
  • Democracy= where all citizens share in running the government.
  • Tyrant = person who takes power by force and rules with total authority.
  • Oligarchy= allows for a few people to make decisions.
  • Direct Democracy= allows all people to decide government matters.
  • Around 600 B.C., a tyrant came to power in Greece.
  • Sparta
  • The government was used to control its citizens.
  • A boy’s life in Sparta:
  • At 7 - lived in barracks and treated harshly to make them tough
  • At 20 – entered regular army
  • At 30 – returned home but stayed in army until age 60
  • Spartan women:
  • were trained in running, wrestling, and javelin throwing.
  • Freer than other Greek women
  • Owned property and could go anywhere they wanted
  • Athens
  • A boy’s life in Athens:
  • Went to school
  • At age 18, finished school and became a citizen
  • Athenian women:
  • Girls stayed home and were taught by their mothers.
  • Women stayed at home and taught their children.
  • How did one become a member of Athens’ Council of 500? He was chosen by a random drawing.

Persia attacks the Greeks

  • Persia is located in southwestern part of present day Iran.
  • Cyrus the Great was the leader who united the Persians into the largest empire in the world and focused on government and education.
  • The religion of Persia was called zoroastrianaism. They believed in one god.
  • In 499 B.C., the Spartan army and the Athenian army worked together to defeat the Persians. This demonstrates that these rivals will join together to defeat a common enemy.
  • The Battle of Marathon, the Battle of Salamis, and the Battle of Thermopylae have this in common. –They were all won by using clever strategy.

The Age of Pericles

  • The Age of Pericles was known as a period of creativity and learning.
  • Beginning in 478 B.C., the Delian League served as the treasury and commander of the fleet.
  • Pericles was a dominate figure in Athenian politics.
  • In 431 B.C., Sparta and other city-states joined forces against Athens to fight in the Peloponnesian War.
  • What made it easier for the Greeks to destroy the Persians at Salamis? Their ships moved more quickly.


  • Relationship between people and their surroundings –Human/Environment Interaction
  • People who study and write about the human past are historians.
  • Nomads followed animals for their food source.
  • Skilled workers in Mesopotamia were called artisans.
  • Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Sinai Desert.
  • Belief that there is only one god; became the basis for Islam and Christianity.