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Lecture 3

Course Code
Dimitri Nakassis

of 5
Monday, September 19, 2011
Lecture #3
Sources for History (cont’d)
– Papyri
Plant that grows in Egypt on the banks of the Nile, and the
paper that is made from that plant
A reed
Pressed and dried into paper
Some preserved
Dry climate in Egypt = good preservation
Ex. Letter of July 19, 97 BC
Letter concerning purchase of a house from the wife
of Didymos
Not public documents
Used to write literary texts (copy of Homer), judicial and
medical texts, official and private letters, contracts,
complaints made to authorities, tax statements, land
Primarily useful for Hellenistic history
Ex. Chigi vase, ca 640 BC
Shows a kind of warfare that dates to
Archaic/Classical period
Features hoplites and phalanx
Some argued that this kind of fighting (mass) can be
dated by the vase
This type of fighting was likely practiced
sometime before this vase was created (prior
to 640 BC)
– Archaeology
Primarily excavation
Greek house we know a little but about them based on
descriptions in literary accounts
Easiest way to find out more is to lead an excavation
Can determine size, how they are furnished,
specialty rooms, etc.
Especially important in early Greek history where
textual/literary sources are patchy
Problems in ancient history
Not a lot of evidence – often dealing with scrappy evidence
Therefore can’t afford to ignore any potential useful
form of evidence (i.e. archaeology)
Must be careful about worrying about trustworthiness of
Often not in the position to question only source of
Need to think who is the author – what claim is
he making
Ex. Herodotus – main source of battle of Marathon
Says 192 Athenians died and 6,400 Persians
We can be fairly sure the Athenians won and
that it was a decisive victory
6,400 probably wrong but 192 right
Athenians created a grave for the dead
(tumulus – a hill)
There are some things we can be 100% sure about, where
we have a lot of evidence supporting a point
Point of studying Greek history
(According to authors of text) “Greek problem” Greece
never had any really well organized religious authority
No well organized priesthood or central text
Most priests were concerned with administrative
“counted beans”
Weren’t spiritual leaders
Resulted in a focus on rational thought = all
decisions were made rationally
*TOO BLACK AND WHITE (according to prof.) – at least not the
only way to look at Greek history
People keep going back to Classics
Ex. Founders of the U.S.
Greek ethos = basically help your friends hurt their
Contrasted with modern notion of treating others the
way you wish to be treated
Radical democracy in Athens
Excludes slaves and women
Difficult to becom a citizen
*so democracy curtailed
So we do keep coming back to it, but it’s like a distorted
Expressed ideas we are interested in or can relate to
– Climate
Fairly dry
Agriculture based around rainfall, little irrigation
Lot of variation in the amount of rainfall
W. Greece = fairly wet
E. Greece = fairly dry (dry as driest part of Canada)
Radical fluctuation in amount of rain form year to year
– Relief
Rocky place, broken up by geography
Creates tendency for Greece to be split up into small
political units
Mountains break it up into self-contained units
Number of valleys
Small size of ancient Greek communities
Athens: ca. 2500 sq km
Compare GTA’s 7125 sq
Kea: 3 cities in 129 sq km (= 43 sq km)
City of Toronto: 630 sq km
*Small communities that are politically autonomous and
competing with each other
Small farms
A farm of an average “middle class” Greek family was 4.5
hectares (1 ha = 10, 000 sq m) (About the size of Queen’s
Wealthy families had farms about 5 times as big
Average modern Canadian farm: 295 ha
The Dominion Lands Act (1872) offered farms to
settlers: 65 ha, farmer had to cultivate at least 16.25
*Greek farms very small --. Economically these communities are
not very
wealthy – on edge of starvation
**About 90% of population engaged in architecture
*** Farms not all in one “chunk spread out in different
- Can diversify crop (area for grapes, area for ---, etc.)
Early prehistory
Francthi (sp?) cave
Next to the shore
Provides unbroken stratigraphical sequence from
Food sources
Deer Snails Small
Yes Yes Yes