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Ancient Greece

Mei 4, 2016

Sorry I was absent from last Saturday’s history class because I was invited as a speaker in a family gathering for special children in Hikmah Teladan Primary School. In case you have (wait for it) wondered, the Ancient Greek group were presenting their civilization when I was absent, along with the Ancient Roman group.

Greece is located in the southern tip of the Balkan Peninsula, in the southeastern tip of Europe. Greece’s territory is mostly islands in the Aegean and Ionian Seas. Greece borders Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Turkey to the north, the Aegean Sea to the east, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, and the Ionian Sea to the west.

Between 2,000 and 800 BC, there was a wave of invasion of the Indo-Germans (Hellas/Hellena) from the grasslands around the Caspian Sea to Greece. The Indo-Germans consist of the Aeolian, Ionian, and Dorian tribes. Upon arriving in Greece, their life settled in about 1,200 BC.

  1. The Dorian people settled in the Peloponnese Peninsula, with its capital in Sparta.
  2. The Ionian people settled in the Attic Peninsula, with its capital in Delphi.
  3. The Aeolian people settled in Northern Greece, with its capital in Olympia.

After settling in Greece, they developed the Greek culture which is a mix between Hellenic, Cretan, and Mycenaean cultures. Under the Hellenic people, Greece split into hundreds of polis (city states). Polis are fortified cities and centers of trade. The formation of these polis were caused by the following:

  1. Greece’s territories are mountainous, making it difficult for transportations and communications between regions.
  2. The Greeks were carried away by the Hellenic people’s customs who tended to roam and live in groups.

Although split into polis, Ancient Greek people had a sense of unity as one nation because of the following:

  1. Their unity of language, namely Greek;
  2. Equally worshiped Zeus as the supreme god of Greece;
  3. The existence of the Olympic Games, a week of sports and bazaar every four years in honor of Zeus;
  4. Every Greek knows the epic works of Homer, namely Iliad and Odyssey; and
  5. The existence of the unity of the famous ceremony of necromancers in Delphi.

Ancient Greek civilization started from the Cretan civilization. The island of Crete is situated in the eastern territorial waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The territory is an intersection between Egypt and Greece and between regions of Italy and Carthage. Because of its very strategic location, Crete became the regional liaison between centers of trade in Sicily, Egypt, the Levant, Byzantine, and Greece.

Historical sources about Cretan civilization were derived from the poems of poet Homer in the books of Iliad and Odyssey. The stories in these books told about the life in Crete mixed with mythological stories. Another source is archaeological excavations that successfully found ruins of old city buildings as found in Knossos.

Cretan people had already known a form of writing known as Minoan writing. The name “Minoan” itself came from the name of a great king of the kingdom, King Minos.

Around 3000 BC, Crete developed into a crowded center of trade. At the time there were two important port cities, namely Knossos and Phaistos. The royal capital of Crete was Knossos. The palace was a mazed, cochlear building which we call a labyrinth.

Around the 15th century BC, the Kingdom of Crete lost ground and finally collapsed. It was caused by the following factors:

  1. Trade pullback in Crete due to the release of trading colonies.
  2. The growth and development of the Kingdom of Mycenae in Greece (around 1,400 BC) which was initially a Cretan colony.
  3. The presence of a massive earthquake.
  4. The presence of a wave of invasion by Hellenic people.

The collapse of the Kingdom of Crete was very influential to trading in the Mediterranean. The center of trade moved to the Kingdom of Mycenae with its center of trade in Troy (Minor Asia) in the Hellespont, in the entrance to the Black Sea.

Around 1,180 BC, the city of Troy was invaded by Greeks. The war between Greece and Troy was immortalized by Homer in his book, Iliad, which comprised of 24 books divided into 16,000 poems. This book told the story of Princess Helena, the empress of King Menelaus of Greece, who was taken away by Prince Paris, the crown prince of Troy.

The Greek-Persian War started from the ambition of King Darius of Persia to expand his power to Minor Asia that included many little polis colonies of Greece. Athena gave help to those polis. King Darius considered Athena’s help as a challenge of war against Persia. For ten years the war was stopped. King Darius passed away and was succeeded by his son named Xerxes. In 480 BC, Persia invaded back for the third time through land and sea.

Sparta led by King Leonidas could not stem the attacks of the Persian army. However, the Greek army from Athens led by Themistocles successfully destroyed the Persian Navy in the Saronic Gulf, forcing Xerxes and his army to escape back to his land. Thanks to the toughness of the joint forces of Sparta and Athens, most of the Persian army could be destroyed in Palatae, so the polis in the Minor Asian coast could be freed from the Persian power. Finally, in 448 BC, peace between Greece and Persia was held.

Today, Greece is a developing modern country.

Ancient Greeks were polytheists. They worshiped Zeus, Ares (god of war), Artemis (goddess of hunt), Hermes (god of trade), Poseidon (god of the sea), Apollo (god of art), Pallas Athena (goddess of knowledge), Aphrodite (goddess of beauty), and many others.

Greece reached its heyday around the 5th century BC, with the appearance of two polis recognized as the leaders, namely Athens and Sparta. Greek influence regional powers included the eastern Mediterranean, the coast of Minor Asia, and the Black Sea.

However in this 5th century BC, Greece was threatened by deterioration and collapse from civil wars (431-404 BC) between polis groups, namely the Peloponnese Guild led by Sparta with Delian-Attic Unity led by Athens.

King Philip II was killed in 336 BC, his son Alexander the Great ascended the throne, succeeding him.

Alexander returned to Babylon and died from cold in 323 BC.

Thanks to Kirana Srihapsari Bimoputri, Hanifah Khairunnisa, Rafii Muhammad Riszikrullah, Muhammad Faiz Alam Sukmana, and Najla Fissilmi Kaffah who helped me writing about Ancient Greece.

NEXT – Ancient Rome!

P.S.: I will write more about Greece in the TCoH 4 Greek story. There will also be a new character, Aphrodite Nguyen Nikolaou.

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