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Lecture 7

CLCV 1002 Lecture 7: 1) Government in Greece


Classical Civilization
Course Code
CLCV 1002

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Government in Greece
Recap from last week
The transition of the fall of Mycenaean civilization down to Homer.
The Mycenaean palaces were destroyed from west to east in about 1100
After that came the dark age, taking place in 1100-750.
After 750 came the writings of Homer.
The 13th to the 8th centuries were the time of poetic recitations (oral poetry). Homer is at the end
of the cycle of epic poetry.
Evolution of government in Greece
The first kind of government that we have written evidence for is a monarchy. In the Homeric
poems, the government is organized with a king at the top. The king has an assembly of men, and a
o Odysseus is the king of Ithaka, Agamemnon is the king of Mycenae.
o Through the assembly, we get a good picture of the monarchal government in the iron age.
o In Athens, the king had become an elect magistrate before historical times (before the
invention of writing).
o The date to all this is 700 BC. By this time, the king had disappeared from the government of
Greece, and was replaced by the council, the land-based body of nobles that had originally
been the king's advisors.
Natural evolution changed the government. The monarchy became an aristocratic council, or
Eupatridae (they are the well born). This was not long lasting, because of envy of those that were
excluded. These kinds of governments were replaced throughout Greece by tyrants in the mid 7th
century (650 BC)
Tyranny came next. To form a tyranny, an individual would make himself a champion that he
thought the society would support him, becoming the base for his power. A king represented all the
people, a Tyrant represented a dissatisfied group. A tyrant would assume power.
o Was done by overthrowing the ruling aristocrats. A tyrant was in the Greek sense an
illegitimate ruler, but there was no more sense to the old business than that. A tyrant by
definition asn’t a ad person.
o Tyrants of Athens, Cylon and Peisistratus. Although they are unconstitutional, they were not
necessarily bad rulers. Cylon became the tyrant of Athens, he was an Olympic athlete.
Peisistratus ruled Athens in 561 BC, and 546. there were so many versions of Homer around
that he appointed a panel to find the definitive Iliad and the Odyssey.
o There were bad tyrants that were open to corruption. Tyrant became negative to the Greeks
as it is for us today. Tyranny is a form of government that has disappeared in Greece.
Next came Plutocratic oligarchy (the wealthy few), or in the case of Athens a democracy (a
government by the people). Demos=people, cracy=rule. Tyranny gave way into this. The oligarchy
was wealth based instead of land-based.
o The pattern of ruling through the evolution: one ruler, then a few/ one/ then many.
The king is responsible for all the people, a tyrant is responsible for a small dissatisfied group.
Post bronze age chronology expanded and explained
Greece (1100-500 BC):
1100-750 BC is the dark ages of Greece. Lasted 350 years. In this time there was a lot going on. It is
hard to talk about Greece as a whole because the city became a building unit and the blocks did not
come together, the cities could not come together to make a country. There is a special kind of
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