Class Notes (1,100,000)
CA (650,000)
UTSG (50,000)
CLA (1,000)
CLA232H1 (200)


Course Code
Victoria Wohl

of 5
CLA232 Intro to Greek Culture and SocietyMonday January 10th 2011
Who were the Ancient Greeks?
They often defined themselves as what/who they werent
Not being a non-Greek
Learning about what made a non-Greek helps us understand what is was to be a
Male vs. Female
Greeks saw themselves as masculine and non-Greeks as feminine
The Greeks also defined themselves against the Gods to think not about what made
them superior (as with barbarians and women) but what gave them limitations
Also used slaves, animals to think about their identity
So, we will be looking at these Others’ through Greek eyes in order to define the
Greek self
It is important to remember that were looking at the Others’ through Greek eyes,
not through their own eyes
The same should be remembered when looking at women looking at them through
male eyes
We will also look at the consequences of these assumptions (seeing women as
irrational would result in Greeks not wanting irrational beings voting/taking part in
politics, for example)
Alterity: the relationship between the Self and Other
One of the dangers alterity entails is giving a false or simplistic definition of the
other so instead of defining what they are, youre just defining them as what you
Can result in xenophobia and misogyny
The other problem with this mode of self-definition is that it can obscure the
similarities between the Self and the Other
CLA232 Intro to Greek Culture and SocietyMonday January 10th 2011
Many of the Greek institutions were actually borrowed from other cultures
(alphabet, language, civic institutions, architecture, etc.)
Geography and Topography of Greece
Economic and cultural interaction throughout the Mediterranean
However, these were the people the Greeks thought were barbarians
So, although there was cultural and economic interdependency, there was also a
sense of cultural superiority and difference
Two important facts about Greek culture follow from its geography:
1.The Greeks were dependent on the sea for their livelihood (food, power, etc.).
Control of the Mediterranean controls the power. So, the parts of Greece with
the strongest navy were the most powerful. Within Athens, those with the most
power were those who rode the navy (the lowest class) which is most likely why
Athens was a democracy
2.The topography. Greece is an extremely mountainous country. Implicates the
daily lives of the Greeks (only about 20-30% of Greece was arable). The stables of
the Greek diet, apart from ocean products, were grains like barley which could be
grown without a lot of land, olives and olive oil, and grapes. Also implicates the
communication between the different parts of Greece ( was difficult). The cities
tended to grow in the valleys between the mountains, meaning that in order to
communicate with a neighbouring city, you had to go through the mountains
(laborious). This affected the growth and development of the cities, rise of the
poleis. The different communities all shared the same language and religion, but
often had different loyalties (generally to their own community) and interests.
So, when we talk about Greece in the ancient period, were talking about a group of
individual poleis
Quick History of the first 1200 years of Greece
Mycenaean Culture
1600 1200 BCE
Important to Greek history because its the topic of the Iliad and the Odyssey
CLA232 Intro to Greek Culture and SocietyMonday January 10th 2011
Mycenaean Culture was a society of very powerful kings who controlled the
surrounding landscape
Archaeology remains have uncovered very large, luxurious, and powerful palaces,
proving that it was a very hierarchical society
Also a very militaristic society… heroes buried with their military equipment
Linear B was their written language, Greek but with a different alphabet
Most of the written evidence found are administrative documents
The culture went into decline after 1200 BC, and nobody knows why
The palaces around 1200 BCE begin to be abandoned, destroyed, the tombs show
less wealth, the skeletons were malnourished
In fact, this was part of a widespread trend across the Mediterranean
Dark Ages
C. 1200 800 BCE
The Dark Ages were characterized by poverty, decline in population, social
organization changes (instead of grand kingdoms with grand palaces there are small
villages), much less differentiation between the leaders and the rest of the people
(one house may be a little nicer than the others, but they’re all very basic), Linear B
was lost
So, there was about 400 years without written text
However, there was a vibrant world of literature during this period (just not written)
Trained singers would perform long, elaborate poems composed orally
So, through this oral tradition they kept the memory of the Mycenaean Culture alive
These traditional songs about the past handed down through generations formed
the basis of the Iliad and the Odyssey
They both deal with the Trojan War
For a very long time, historians assumed these poems were complete works of
fictions, but in the 1970s a man named Heinrich Schliemann decided that if he read