Why should one study the Ancient Greeks? The contributions that Greek culture has made to western society in the areas of art, literature, philosophy, drama, architecture and politics are countless and vital. Lasting visions of thought and inspiring intellect helped shaped today's western culture with notions of democracy and personal freedom. Greek scientists made revolutionary discoveries in medicine, mathematics, physics, and astronomy. It was the Greeks who, through philosophy, instilled thoughtful exploration of the mind and consciousness. The beauty of their artwork and the precision of their statues reflected human development and expression of individuality. The most important reason to study the Greeks is for the opportunity to take small glimpses of history related to them, and try to better understand our humanity today.
4500 - 1500 BC - The Bronze Age and The Minoans
The first people to build big palaces and develop a culture in the area we know as Greece were the Minoans, also called Aegeans. The Minoans built their main city on the island of Crete and their culture dominated the region. The most famous Minoan king was called Minos and was extremely powerful. The Minoans were a lively, fun-loving, peaceful people who build huge palaces with running water and flushing toilets. Their clothes and jewelry were lavish and they loved games. They had a written language and very fine artwork. They were very skilled at ship building and making fine products like pottery, jewelry, and items made of metal. Since their work has been found throughout the countries of the Mediterranean, including Egypt, so they were obviously great traders and travelers. Their culture died away in about 1450. Some people think a huge volcanic eruption caused so much damage that their rival, the Mycenaeans, conquered them and absorbed their culture.
The Mycenaeans, also called Achaeans, were another group of people who built their capital at Mycenae, a city on the Greek peninsula. (Insert Map here). Like the Minoans, the Mycenaeans, had a written language. Unfortunately, little of it has survived. They were also spectacular builders. The foundations and walls in their homes and palaces were so big that the people who came to their city a hundred years later thought they were built by giants. Some of their walls were ten feet thick! They were the first people to use the bathtub every day. Wonderful death masts made of pure gold and beautiful cups and jewelry were found in their tombs. They were different than the Minoans because they liked to fight. They were good sailors, but liked to raid other cities and run away with their good stuff. The Mycenaeans were basically pirates, rather than traders.
The Mycenaeans were the ones that fought the Trojan War against the Hittites. The war lasted 10 years and when it was over, their country was in chaos. The migration of the Dorians destroyed their civilization. Soon, much of those two wonderful cultures was lost. Only through songs and stories did the faint memory of their heroes and their culture live.
1100 - 850 BC - Dark Age
A wave of invaders began to pour down on Greece around 1100 BC. They were a tall, warlike, Aryan, nomadic people who marched down from Austria into Greece and conquered it. These people are referred to as the Dorians, and called themselves, collectively, Hellenes. These people were still in the hunting and herding stages of development. They moved constantly to find new pastures for their cattle. The Dorians were very primitive savages, but they brought with them an unheard of quantity of iron in the form of weapons. Wherever they went they killed the local men and boys made slaves of the women. Eventually, they conquered and destroyed the entire Mycenaean civilization.
It took these barbarians a long time to develop skills in shipbuilding and sailing. Eventually they settled on the farms and in the buildings that they had not burned. They learned how to terrace the steep hillsides to hold the water and protect the soil from erosion. They learned how to grow crops to feed themselves and their animals. They even learned to tame their wild and violent ways.
The Dorians usually lived in family clans, expanding as their family grew. They intermarried with the local natives and absorbed bits and pieces of the Mycenaean culture, art, religious practices, technology, and architecture. The mingling of the Minoan, Mycenaean, Dorian and Oriental cultures contributed to produce the variety, flexibility and subtlety of Greek thought and life.
The people of Hellenes were divided into four tribes, the Achaeans, the Ionians, the Dorians, and the Aeolians. There are five elements that unified the scattered city-states of Greece, and they were the same elements that united the early tribes that settled in the area.
- A common language, with local dialects (language)
- A common intellectual life in which only a few political, philosophical and literary
people are known very far beyond their immediate borders (education)
- A common passion for athletics which found a common outlet in local and "inter-state" games (leisure and social activities)
- A love of beauty expressed locally in forms common to all Greeks (art)
- A common way of expressing beliefs through similar rituals (religion)
In the beginning, all the Greeks were equally rich and equally poor. Every man owned a certain number of cows and sheep. They all lived in mud huts, and he was free to come and go as he pleased. Whenever there was anything of importance to discuss, the men gathered in the town square. In case of war, a particularly energetic villager would be elected leader. When the war was over, the "leader" would stop being the leader if the villagers decided.
In the beginning, all people were generally equally well off. But gradually, the villages grew into cities that the Greeks called the polis. Because some people were lazy or unlucky, and others were smarter or luckier, all men were not equally well off. Some were rich and some were poor. The rich and smart people figured out how to get richer and to make it harder for the poor people to compete with them. If a man was in debt, a rich person could have him sold as a slave and take his home and all of his belongings. And because they were rich, they could buy the best weapons and own the most slaves. The rich had more spare time to practice being warriors. They could also hire soldiers to fight for them. Usually, the man with the best soldiers ruled the village, along with the advice and consent of the other noble families. This form of government is called an oligarchy. The aristocracy who governed the polis felt they were superior beings and especially qualified by birth and breeding to the task of look after the affairs of the polis. Since it was in their best interest to keep the polis safe and secure and prosperous, they did so with surprising talent. There were, however continual clashes between the aristocracy and the commoners.
During times of peace, the Greek city-states grew in population. As population grew, raising enough food became a problem. Seizing your neighbor's land was not a good idea, so they capitalized on their seafaring abilities and organized parties of colonists and sent them abroad to settle distant lands. This relieved the drain on food supplies and it also provided the homeland with new sources for produce and raw materials that Greece lacked. The colonization began in the 8th century BC and lasted for 2 centuries. Their colonies were extensive, extending into France, Italy, throughout the Black Sea coastal area and the eastern coastline of the Mediterranean Sea.
Around this time, the great Greek epic poet Homer lived. His poem the Iliad tells the story of the Trojan War, and the Odyssey tells about the adventures of Ulysses.
776 BC The Olympic Games
The Olympic Games was a great athletic contest that began in 776 BC. The Olympics marked a rise of Greek culture and the beginning of the Archaic Period of Greece. During this time period, foreign culture held a great influence over Greek ideas. Artwork began to focus on human figures and of mythology. The culture soared even higher into the Classical Period, approximately 500 BC, which was the highest point of Greek creativity especially in the areas of philosophy, art, and literature.
620 - 527 BC Draco and the Law
Eventually, the commoners demanded and got a written code of laws that protected the poor from the aggressions of the rich. They asked Draco, a respected citizen, to write some of them, but his ideas were so harsh and cruel that they were quickly set aside. One idea that Draco introduced was the distinction between involuntary manslaughter and premeditated murder.
The poet Solon was a man held in high esteem by all classes and was selected to remodel Draco's laws in a fair and beneficial way to all. One of Solon's first acts was to forgive all debt and make it illegal to enslave a man because he could not pay his debts. He also gave the poorest class of people, the Thetes, the right to vote, but not hold office until they could afford to buy their own weapons. He made other reforms that unfortunately did not work out so well. Many people became bitter critics of this new constitution. This opened the door for Peisistratus. Peisistratus was an ambitious nobleman who employed a small army that seized the Acropolis and made himself master of Athens. He became know as a tyrant.
At one time or another, a leader would rise up, usually from the aristocracy or military, with the popular support of the poor, and take over the government. He was called a tyrant. This word did not mean that he was cruel, but simply that he was not a legitimate ruler. Peisistratus was just such a tyrant. (See the section on the Development of Democracy for details of Peisistratus.)
Cleisthenes gains control of Athens and instituted a democratic-like form of government. (See the section on the Development of Democracy for details of Peisistratus.)
The Persian Wars
The Persian Wars that engaged Greece were the final act of a series of conquests begun by Cyrus, the great Persian king in 548. By 528 he had virtually encircled Greece and her colonies with his conquests. After his death and the death of his son, the Persian nobles made Darius I their leader. He spread his Persian domain through India, Egypt, and Asia, and headed for Europe. His first battle with Greece was at Marathon. There the Greeks soundly beat the Persians. Darius suddenly died in 484, but his son, Xerxes I invaded Greece and cut a path of destruction all the way to Athens. Xerxes I destroyed Athens, the Acropolis and all of the temples and buildings, homes and harbors. He tried to get the Athenians to come to terms with him and permit occupation of their city by his ministers. But the Athenians wisely refused. Xerxes I would have killed the men and sold the children and women into slavery. At the sign of impending danger from the Persians, the Athenians fled to adjacent islands and to their ships that were waiting to take them to safety. Under the leadership of Themistocles, the Greeks then engaged the huge Persian fleet in battle. Xerxes' fleet was cut to shreds by the Grecian fleet, and Xerxes was forced to flee. The power and supremacy of the Persian Empire passed away with the murder of Xerxes in 465 before he had a chance to try another invasion. However, the memory of the incredible destruction of the Persians became a part of their cultural memory and fed the sentiment for revenge that was eventually satisfied by Alexander the Great.
The three great names in the development of the Greek tragedy were, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. These dramatists all wrote during the splendid period that followed the victories of the Persian Wars. They drew the material for their plays chiefly from the myths and legends of that heroic age, just as many of Shakespeare's plays used the legends of the semi-historical periods of his own country or of other lands. Of the two hundred plus dramas produced by these poets, only thirty-two have survived.
Aeschylus (525-546 BC) was a dramatist who knew how to touch the hearts of the generation that had won the victories of the Persian Wars, because he too had fought in Marathon and Salamis. The Athenians called him the Father of Tragedy. The central idea of his dramas is that no mortal should aspire to too much because Zeus likes to trim the sails of the haughty. Prometheus Bound is one of his chief works as was Agamemnon. In his plays he portrays the terrible vengeance of the gods when their ire is aroused. The theme of The Persians was the defeat of Xerxes which gave Aeschylus an excellent opportunity to express his idea of how Nemesis humbled the proud and how a great man's impiety reduced him to nothing.
Sophocles (496-405 BC), when still a young man, won the first prize in a poetic competition in which Aeschylus also competed. It is said that Aeschylus was so upset about his defeat that he moved to Sicily and retired. This left the field open to Socrates who became the leader of tragedy in Athens. He lived through the most brilliant period of life in Greece. His dramas were perfect works of art and centered on the idea that self-pride and selfishness arouses the indignation of the gods, and no one can fight against the will of Zeus.
Euripides (480-406 BC) was the most popular dramatist of the three. His fame spread far beyond the limits of Greece and it is reported that his plays were so popular that many prisoners of war bought their freedom from the Sicilians, who loved the works of Euripides, by teaching them the lines of his plays.
The Greeks were aware that constant war between each other, and constant changes of power structures were destructive for all the parties involved. This explains the sudden interest for fortifications of the cities, but it also explains the clause in the charter of the foundation of the Corinthian League that says that 'each member respects and guarantees the form of government of the other members.' Before this charter, several attempts had been made to end the rivalry among the Greek Polis'. Several peace treaties had been signed in the past that listed general rules for relationships between the independent cities. Such a peace treaty was called a koine eirene, or universal peace, as all cities were invited, or forced, to sign the contract. Unfortunately, the koine eirene had very little effect on the aggressive tendencies of the city-states. An interesting comparison is the success of the United Nations.
479-445 BC - Rebuilding of Athens
When the Athenians who had fled from the Persians returned to their home, they discovered it was in ruins. Under the leadership of Themistocles, they began rebuilding their homes and erecting new, impressive walls. The rival states of the Peloponnesian League (aligned with Sparta) watch the Athenians with jealous interest. The Spartans sent emissaries to dissuade them from rebuilding their walls. Their reason was that if the Persians attacked again, they could use the rebuilt Athenian fortress as a stronghold. But the Athenians persisted and soon had raised the wall to such a height that they could defy interference. They were also rebuilding the fortifications around Piraeus, the vital sister-city at the straights that protected the Athenian harbor. The Athenians believed their survival depended on her superiority at sea. Piraeus quickly became a chief commercial city for trade in the Hellenic world.
In 447 BC a large number of city-states banded together to form the Confederacy of Delos. The league was to be a free association of independent and equal states. Athens was to be the head of the confederacy. Aristides was chosen as the first president of the league and problems were to be handled each year on the sacred island of Delos by a congress of delegated from each city-state. The Peloponnesian League which included Sparta was excluded from this group because many did not trust them.
A common treasury was also kept at Delos. This treasury was to fund a common defense and each city was to contribute both money to the treasury and to build ships that would be used by the military in case of war. The amount that each state was required to contribute was determined by Aristides, a man whom everyone believed was of incorruptible integrity.
The formation of the Delian League constituted a prominent landmark in Grecian history, it underscored the fact that leadership in naval power had transferred from Sparta to Athens. It laid the basis for Athens to become the imperial power. And it meant that now, with the exclusion of the Peloponnesian League, Greece was state divided against itself.
Athens built and empire, almost inadvertently. From the start, Athens took care of the management of the collection of money and the building of ships. Some of the smaller city-states preferred to pay money in lieu of building and maintaining ships. Athens agreed to build these ships on behalf of these city-states, and she added them to her own fleet where they were maintained. In this way the members of the confederacy disarmed themselves and armed their master. Athens soon realized the tremendous power of her position. Athens, as leader, became the "tax collectors" of the league members.
After a while, the city-states became irritated with the heavy handed nature of Athens and wanted to withdraw from the league. In each case, Athens sent its navy and forced the city-state to pay. Within ten years of forming the league, Athens transferred the treasury from Delos to the Acropolis and began diverting the funds into their own treasury for their own use. About this time the congress of the confederacy also ceased to exist, thus converting the organization into a virtual monarchy making Athens a "tyrant city."
Pericles came to power in 445 BC and he set about making Athens the supreme power on sea and land. The income generated by the Delian League also enabled him to nurture the arts, create fabulous public buildings like the Parthenon, build a tremendous fleet, and fortify the city. Never before in the history of the world had any people enjoyed such unrestricted political liberty, as did the citizens of Athens at this time. And never before were any people so well fitted to take part in the administration of government. Pericles made all public events free and he introduced the idea of paying people who worked for the government, like soldiers. At that time nearly every citizen was on the state's payroll.
The glory Athens, however, was to be short lived because it rested on principles that were in opposition to the deepest instincts of the Greek race - political sovereignty. Athens made their fellow city-states and Delian League confederates their subjects. They were forced to pay tribute to Athens. They were dragged into Athenian courts, rather than their own local judiciary. The enraged city-states waited for a reason to revolt and to throw off the yoke of Athenian rule. The Athenians should have listened more carefully to the wisdom of Aeschylus.
Near the end of the life of Pericles, jealousy grew between Ionian Athens and Dorian Sparta and their allies that resulted in a long and calamitous struggle known as the Peloponnesian War. The conflict began with Athenian interference in the affairs of Corinth and her colonies that were allied to Sparta. The Corinthians and the Athenians had a brief sea scuffle, but Corinth lost. The Corinthians asked Sparta for help, and after discussions with the rest of the Peloponnesian Confederation, they started a war against Athens.
The Spartans and their confederation gathered near Corinth and marched to Athens, burning everything they encountered. Fortunately the people had mostly fled to Athens. The Spartans, however, after numerous battles, did not come with enough provisions and eventually retreated back to their homes.
The Spartans were back the next year. And although the walls of Athens were unassailable, the Athenians had no protection from the plague that broke out and quickly killed a quarter of the population. And again, in the third year of the war, the plague decimated the Athenians. One of those who died was Pericles, who had been the heart and soul of Athens. After his death, Athens was ruled by a group of power-hungry men and a mob mentality took over the Assembly. The choices they made were often unwise. On both sides the war was waged with extreme cruelty. All prisoners were killed, in some cases as many as 6,000 men were put to death. All buildings were destroyed, animals slaughtered, and fields burned.
In one battle the Athenians were able to surround the Spartans who had taken the city of Pylos. The Spartans surrendered to the Athenians, which was an unheard of thing. No one ever expected the Spartans to give up a fight. With this surrender, the image of the supreme Spartan warrior was broken. But it did not end the war. The Athenians were finally forced to surrender after 4 more years of fighting. They were betrayed by their own leader, Alcibiades, who ran away from the war when Athenians became disillusioned with him. He deserted and took refuge with the enemy, the Spartans. He told them how to best attack the Athenians. The Spartans followed his instructions and they trapped and destroyed most of the Athenian fleet.
The Spartans did not destroy Athens, but forced her to take down her walls and the walls around the harbor city of Piraeus. They made them give up all but 12 of their ships and to bind themselves to Sparta in both military and political matters.
During the Peloponnesian War, both the Athenians and Spartans were extremely cruel to the people who sided against them. Thousands of people died. Whenever each captured a city, it was burned to the ground and the men were killed and women and children sold into slavery. It's important to remember that they fought against their fellow city-states and that these were often cousins, aunts and uncles or business associates that they were fighting against. The extreme cruelty to people who were distant relatives and acquaintances is quite appalling. Think of how easily these soldiers gave up their sense of morality and humanity when they had a city full of defenseless "victims" upon which to inflict any form of punishment they chose. The destruction of buildings and loss of food, animals, grain fields and people decimated Greece. All of Hellas wore the marks of the long war.
Spartan Supremacy, Ten Thousand Greeks and Death of Socrates
The Spartans only maintained their supremacy over Athens for 67 years. And although the purpose of the terrible war that Sparta waged against Athens was to restore certain "liberties" to the city-states of the league that Athens had denied them, the Spartans quickly assumed the role of tyrants over Athens. The Spartans had thrown out the Athenian constitution that had given Athenians so much freedom, and established a panel of "30 Tyrants" who governed Athens. The Athenians only tolerated the "30 Tyrants" for 8 months before they instituted their old constitution, with a few changes of their own.
During this time of Spartan supremacy, a famous expedition of the "Ten Thousand Greeks" was undertaken. Basically, Cyrus, brother of the Persian king Artaxerxes II, wanted to over throw his brother. He hired a 100,000 barbarians and 13,000 Greek mercenaries to fight for him. Even though they were outnumbered 8 to one, the Greeks won the battle for Cyrus. However, Cyrus died during the battle. The Greek generals were lured to a conference by the enemy and all the Greek generals were killed. The Greeks quickly elected new generals and proceeded to retreat across the hot plains of the Tigris and the icy passes of Armenia. Finally the men reached the Black Sea and the friendly home of the Greek colonies. This amazing feat of endurance showed the future conqueror, Alexander the Great, that the Persian Empire was in decay and that an army of well trained men could certainly conquer her.
The death of the Athenian, Socrates, was one of the saddest tragedies in its history. The fickle nature of the Greeks is exemplified by the trial and condemnation by the Athenians of their fellow citizen, Socrates, who was one the world's a greatest teacher of morality. The charge upon which he was convicted was worded, "Socrates is guilty of crime -- first, for not worshiping the gods whom the city worships, but in introducing new divinities of his own; next, for corrupting out youth." The trial was presented before a group of citizens who formed a dicastry that was a group that performed the function of both judge and jury. There were over 500 jurors and the sentence of death was passed by a majority of the dicastry.
Coincidentally, the ship that took the yearly offering to Delos to commemorate the freeing of the Athenian youths from the Minotaur on the island of Crete, had just set sail. By Athenian law, no one could be put to death while the ship was on its holy mission. Socrates was led to jail and remained there for about 30 days before he was executed. When at last the hour for his death came, he said goodbye to his friends and calmly drank the cup of hemlock.
Mercenaries as tyrants.
The use of mercenaries in a large scale developed because of the bad economic situation resulting from wars that ravaged Greece. One strong captain who received payment from the employer created armies of mercenaries. He then paid his men from the payments he received. Consequently, a captain with a large army of well-trained mercenaries could be a great threat to any city-state. In the case of Spartan Lysander, he was able to influence the politics of Sparta thanks to his own private army.
The social and political consequences of the increased use of mercenaries were destructive. A captain of a group of mercenaries could permit himself more liberty than a normal commander: he did not have to justify himself to the citizens. As long has he paid his men he could do whatever he wanted.
Occasionally, a mercenary managed to become tyrant of a city with the help of his army of mercenaries. Such a sudden change in the balance of power was mostly accompanied with a partial or full social revolt, remission of all debts, re-allocation of the land, and expulsion of some of the local upper classes. These exiles often attempted to regain their power with another army of mercenaries. An example is Dionysius I who managed to become tyrant of Syracuse in 405. His leadership was very successful and he turned Syracuse into the strongest fortification in the world.
Battle of Leuctra and the end of Spartan power
From the end of the Peloponnesian War until the Battle of Leuctra, Sparta was the tyrant of other Greek city-states besides Athens. One of their worse mistakes was to take over the Acropolis of Thebes and to station a garrison of soldiers in it. All Greece stood aghast at this high-handed act and predicted an awful misfortune to befall Sparta in retribution. Their misfortune came speedily enough. The Spartan garrison was driven out of the citadel by an uprising by Pelopidas and his mercenary army. Pelopidas was a Theban exile who was from a wealthy family.
Epaminondas was a captain in the Theban army and was a military genius who configured the Theban troops differently and won a decisive battle at Leuctra. The Thebans had a brief period of supremacy after this battle that lasted until 362 BC. For the first time in a century, an invader attacked the Spartans lands and Spartan women saw fire on the horizon. Sparta and their old enemy Athens put together an alliance and had two more battles against the Thebans. In the last battle, Epaminondas was killed and the brief span of Theban power was over.
The Decline of the Spartan
Many Spartans warriors died in the course of the incessant wars, and it was very hard to replace them. Not only did the training to become a warrior and equal take ages, but also many families could not support more than one son in this venture. As was the tradition in Greece, the land was divided to support the contributions to the army of a father and one son. As population grew, arable land was at a premium. Consequently, if the family did not have enough money to pay the contributions for their son or sons to undertake military training, the sons were relegated to a very low and shameful class in Spartan society called the minors. Being a minor caused a man to lose his place among the equals and their rightful place in the elite phalanx. The men of reduced status became part of a new social class: the minors.
Becoming a minor was a terrible thing to happen to a Spartan and it brought shame on the whole family. There were only a few ways to prevent this from happening. Some managed to marry a woman who would inherit the land of her family, while others were adopted by families who had lost their sons in battle. The most extreme solution was when two brothers lived on the same land with one woman. Over time, the financial stresses of war and destruction of property forced many landowners to sell their land to rich people, thus losing their position in the political phalanx and becoming a minor. Over time, there were many more minors than there were "equals" in Sparta. The loss to Thebes finally reduced Sparta to a second-class city-state among the Greek Poleis.
The slow deterioration or the social structures and traditions of Greece that had assured equality among citizens eroded the spirit and moral foundations of the city-state. They were weary of war and fearful of the future. There was now no haven of protection, so place that could guarantee safety and security for the people. The vision of Phillip II of Macedonia and the action of the conqueror Alexander the Great were met with little resistance, so resigned were the Greeks to their fate as victims of war.
Alexander the Great and the Decline of Greece
Alexander the Great became king of Macedon after his father, Phillip II, was murdered. He realized the plans formulated by Phillip II of a combined Greek attack on its archenemy, Persia. In 334 Alexander invaded Asia and proceeded on his conquests for twelve years where he eventually conquered lands as far as the steppes of Russia, Afghanistan and Punjab. A detailed account of his life is found within his biography.
At his death, he invited the strongest among his soldiers to take over the empire he carved. There were none who were strong enough to take his place so Hellenistic world was divided into three kingdoms and Greek culture was spread throughout Asia. These kingdoms slowly fell into smaller pieces and finally it was Rome who ended the Hellenistic world.
An accumulation of many negative situations added to the destruction of Greece. Deforestation had washed away much of the best farmland and incessant reuse of the arable land had both used up the minerals and depleted its fertility. Many farms were simply abandoned. The silver mines that had also been depleted, and cheaper silver could be gotten from Spain. The gold that had once poured wealth into Athens now increased the coffers of Macedonia. The villages, once a source of virile, independent citizenry, were dying out. The wealthy became even wealthier, building factories, banks, and shipping companies who traded between the new colonies. The northern cities were no longer on the great trade routes. Their navies were gone and they had no control of the critical grain supply that both Sparta and Athens has mastered. Athens and other cities instituted a form of taxation to help support the poor. This was very unpopular with the rich, especially in Macedonia. Rich soon became a synonym for 'pro-Macedon' and 'oligarch'. The Athenian democracy was finally liquidated in 321 by Macedonia after a revolt in 323 and 322 under the leadership of the imperialist Demosthenes.
From then on the right of citizenship depended on ownership of a rather large amount of property. Ten thousands of property-less, and now also political right-less Athenians were offered to settle down as colonists on an area in Thrace, which was given to them by Macedon. The rich Athenians who stayed behind no longer had to share their wealth with the poor classes because of this hidden form of deportation, but it also meant the end of Athenian power. The Athenian democracy that was installed in a time of prosperity thanks to the rivalry of the nobility was now ended with foreign interference in a time of wealth for some, and social insecurity for many.
Meanwhile, the working class, subject to great fluctuations in work, barely managed not to starve. As cities became highly diverse, populated with foreign merchants and traders who had no vested interest in the city. They were cynical about the local religious beliefs and religion also began to decay. Obviously, the Greek gods could not protect the people from endless war and calamity. This new doubt coupled with extreme poverty promoted a strong sentiment of socialism and communism that would solve the problems of the vast underclass. The ideas of Plato, the Utopian, take sharp contrast to the Stoic and the Epicurean philosophies that and created chaos in attitudes and beliefs. Open class war, killing, robbing, and destruction of property became common.
The internal destruction of Greece came from these main facts:
" deforestation and abuse of the soil
" depletion of precious metals
" migration of trade routes
" disturbance of economic life by political disorder
" corruption of democracy and degeneration of stable family dynasties
" decay of morals and patriotism
" decline or deterioration of the population
" replacement of citizen armies with mercenary troops
" murder and violence to humans and their property within cities and villages
"The death of Greek democracy was both a violent and a natural death in which the fatal agents were the organic disorders of the system; the sword of Macedon merely added the final blow. The city-state had proved incapable of solving the problems of government: it had failed to preserve order within, and defense without; despite the appeals of Gorgias, Isocrates, and Plato, for some Dorian discipline to tame Ionian freedom, it had discovered no way of reconciling local autonomy with national stability and power; and its love of liberty had seldom interfered with its passion for empire. The class war had become bitter beyond control, and had turned democracy into a contest in legislative looting. The Assembly, a noble boy in its better days, had degenerated into a mob hating all superiority, rejecting all restraint, ruthless before weakness but cringing before power, voting itself every favor, and taxing property to the point of crushing initiative, industry, and thrift. Philip, Alexander, and Antipater did not destroy Greek freedom; it had destroyed itself; and the order that they forged preserved for centuries longer, and disseminated through Egypt and the East, a civilization that might otherwise have died of its own tyrannous anarchy."
Our Greek Heritage
The Greek civilization is not dead. The philosophy, the art, the literature, the athletics, the architecture, the democracy, the individualism, the independence were elements that invaded the minds of politicians, scholars, artisans, writers and scientists from then until today. Civilizations never die. Their decay makes room for another, fresh and young and revitalized. For all of its defects, it's pitiless wars, lack or moral restraint, subjection of women, corrupt individualism, tragic failure to unite liberty with order and peace, and stagnant slavery, the Greeks were a bright morning of that Western civilization which continues to nourish our life.