Sources for the Ancient World Julia Hammond
Classics lecture 1- Sources for the Ancient World
Chronology and Time reckoning
Focuses on the period ca 1500 bc to ca ad 476
These dates are a modern convention, reflecting the modern
The ancient situation was more complex
A strong awareness of the changing seasons and the months
There were many calendars for individual cities
Caesar reformed the roman calendar, bringing it closer to the
modern system – foundation for modern calendar- 10 month
calendar then added two more, one for Caesar- July and one for
agoutis-August (his successor)
Every major city had there own calendar – could always be
different, change drastically
The Ancient situation
Historical events were typically dated by the year of a particular
priest or magistrate in which the fell
Often reference is made to a particular season
Rough length for a single generation were used to date past
The ‗acme‘ system was widely used in ancient biography
Occasionally the distance is measured from some single event,
common eras (e.g. The first Olympics 776, founding of Rome 753/2
BC and the Trojan war 1183/2 BC)
Modern statements of historical chronology represent a conversion
of ancient modes of time-reckoning to modern
o E.g. a Roman writer would say that Caesar was murdered of
the ides of March C. Caesar et M. Antonio consulibus
We would say that Caesar was killed on the 15 of march 44B.C.E
This modern fact represents a series of interpretations
Languages Greek is descended from Indo-European and I.E speakers seem to
have moved in to the Greek world and sometime before the
Mycenaean age (ca 2000 BC)
This new language seems to have displaced an indigenous language
(or languages), but traces of pre-Greek vocabulary remain in the
lexicon of classical Greek. People where the before the language,
they did not speak this language.
People were surrounded by the sea, but did not have a word for it
The Greek world is geographically desperate, and during the
classical period Greeks inhabited not only mainland Greece, but the
Aegean islands, the coast of Asia minor, parts of north Africa and
A number of dialects flourished, each with considerable variation in
phonology, morphology and vocabulary
o A modern student of Greek learns the language from the
This is called ―koine‖ Greek
Latin began as the language of latium the region of which Rome is
the most important centre, and Latin belongs to the Italic group of
Having originally been spoken at Latium from ca 800 BC, Latin
came to be the dominant language of Italy, and later became the
common tongue of the western Mediterranean world and as far as
the Balkans to the east.
The diffusion of Latin is a direct reflection of the growing influence
of Rome, the city that dominated Italy politically and culturally.
After middle of the third century BC- classical Latin emerged
Romans spoke ―speech of the city‖
Greek- reflects number of dialects and so a number of regions,
other Italian dialects had little to no influence on the development
The character of Greek and Latin
Very different from English Inflected languages (meaning and syntactical function are
determined by word form, not word order)
Translation is a difficult and often inexact science
The Greeks and romans each had an extensive literary tradition
Only had a small fraction survives
How did the ancient texts survive?
Methods of survival
o Mediaeval transmission
The transition from orality to literacy
The introduction of writing (the Greek alphabet)
The development of a book trade
The consolidation of ancient texts in the library of
Alexandra after 307 BC
The preservation of Greek and Latin texts in mediaeval
Copies where all made by hand and were all different
o Inscriptions Sources from the Ancient World: Cont‘d Julia Hammond
Lecture 2- continuation 1
Mediaeval transmission presupposes a number of factors
o The transition from orality (letters represent a sound) to
o The introduction of writing (the Greek alphabet). This
alphabet was adapted by another writing unit, was very
precise. The writing affected the culture
o The survival of ancient text was by re-writing the literature.
Usually a scroll, two pieces of wood with a piece a paper
made from a papyrus plant in between.
o If you wanted to refer back to the text you would have to go
looking for the particular scroll. People then started to quote
from memory for that reason
o The development of the book trade (people started to copy
down books for trade)
o The consolidation of ancient text in the library of Alexandria
(first kind of museum) after 307 B.C.
o People had to go looking for books to put inside the library.
o The preservation of Greek and Latin texts in mediaeval
o Many mediaeval copies- this would guarantee survival
o Despite significant los of text, there is a wide variety of Greek
and Latin text
Fragments of ancient copies come to light, often in
rough shape and new to modern time
Papyrus texts shed light on old problems and create
Inscriptions Texts inscribed on stones
There are a large number of inscriptions that survived because
stone is easily preserved
Very valuable, because uncorrupted, and have fairly precise
Stone was valuable so there are no spaces between words
Set up by ancient communities throughout antiquity
Preserve a great deal of information, shedding valuable light on
historical events, social history, religion, etc.
The physical remains of antiquity
Numerous kinds of physical evidence
o Painting (vases or walls)
o Jewellery The Bronze Age: The Minoans and Mycenaean‘s Julia Hammond
Historical frame work
Palaeolithic Period- before 70,000 B.C (stone age)
Neolithic Period- 6000-3000 B.C (new stone age)
Bronze Age -3000-1150 B.C
o Pre Greeks
o Reconstruct this world without the benefit of contemporary
witnesses (only what comes out of the ground)
Historical Period- 1150-AD 476
Evidence for habitation in the Greek world
Hunting and gathering society
Tools and weapons of stone, wood, and bone
No evidence for social organization (they moved around, never built
structure, or permanent stay)
Evidence more abundant
Beginnings of agriculture cultivation, domestication of animals, use
Perhaps development of social structure
Figurines found that may suggest the worship of a female fertility
(or earth-) goddess and her ithyphallic male consort
Male depictions of the male sex organ are not sexual but represent
Historical Context: The ancient Near East
In contrast to the Greek world, the Near had developed elaborate
civilizations (high culture)
Numerous surviving documents Influence on the Greek world controversial but scholarly acceptance
is growing [e.g., M.L. West, The East Face of Helicon (1997)]
Historical Context: Egypt
An elaborate high culture.
Trade relations as early as the 3rd mil. BC
Some see Egypt as the source of key aspects of Greek culture (e.g.
the pantheon of gods)
o This is suggestive, but unconvincing
Clear Egyptian influence on early Greek art (esp. in representing
Art jumps across the linguistic and cultural barriers
The Bronze Age
Refer to table slide 9 “the Bronze Age”
―Palace of Minos‖
Discovered by Arthur Evans in 1899
Located on Crete near the modern port-city of Iraklio
Complexity of the site supported the view that Crete had been the
centre of a powerful thalassocracy.
Evans named this early Aegean civilization ‗Minoan‘ after Minos,
King of Crete in myth
Minos had no defensive walls. This means they had high control of
the seas and did not have to worry about land assault
The Palace is one of a number of Bronze Age sites on Crete
It was built ca 2000 BC (several phases of development are
Damaged by an earthquake ca 1700 BC
Evans restoration is highly speculative: an ‗archaeological
Disneyland‘ The Bronze Age: cont‘d Julia Hammond
Lecture 2 cont‘d- The Bronze Age: The Minoans and Mycenaean‘s
A bronze age town deserted before the final eruption of the volcano
Ca 1600 BC (Santorini)
o Examples of desertion
No findings of jewelry suggesting that people packed
No evidence of dead people killed by the eruption
Remarkable preservation of building
Provides unique insights into everyday life
Arresting examples of Minoan wall-painting
o Small paintings were found and preserved into modern day
Pre-palatial or early Minoan (3500-2000 BC)
o Small faming communities
o Arts and crafts established (ceremonies, wood-working,
o Communal tombs
o Varied grave-goods suggest a hierarchical society
o Ca 2000 BC palaces established
o Knossos is the most famous, but there are other sites
o System of writing (hieroglyphic)- still today not able to
understand the language carved into the stones
o Trade, and a wide range of products
o Ca 1700 BC damage from earth quakes
o Rebuilding and development of palaces
o Ca 1600-1500 BC
High point of Minaon culture
Influence throughout the Aegean world
Evidence of warfare Violent sports (bull-leaping)
Decline of Minoan Society
Centralization of power and authority
o Relied on crops grown in local communities
o If there was a drought, crops would suffer and the would be a
o Eruption of Santorini
After 1500 BC settlements were destroyed (often by force), and not
The Mycenaean‘s were the chief beneficiaries, who took over Crete
Ca 1450 BC The Bronze Age: Cont‘d Julia Hammond
Located in mainland Greece, It was a hilltop.
A major center of power during the later Helladic period
Known from Homer as the home of Agamemnon, leader of the
Achaean forces at Troy.
Excavations of tombs by Schliemann brought to light many
―Lions gate‖- front gate of the ruin, the lion symbolized power and
was a symbol of the royals.
Death is polluting in Greek thought, many cemeteries were outside
the border of Greece.
Grave circle in Mycenae contained god within the burial sites. Must
be important people as Greeks thought death was polluting.
Gold faceplates were found resting on the faces of the deceased.
Other pieces of gold included drinking glasses and headdresses.
―Nestors cup‖ – it is said that whoever drinks from this cup will be
filled with desire. Found in a grave that is thought to be one of a
Clay tablets were found with inscriptions of the language Linear A
and linear B. Linear A is still unknown, but in the 1950‘s they were
able to decipher Linear B.
No literature or poetry was found from the Mycenaean‘s. Any god
that was worshiped was one found in Linear B.
Linear B gave us a great outlook on the time period including the
economy and further insight into the Mycenaean world.
Term applied to the inhabitants of Mycenae, as well as to the
inhabitants of southern central Greece during the LH (ca 1600-1050
Descended from Indo-European speakers
o Immigrants from northwest Anatolia?
Ruled by a warrior elite Influenced by Minoan culture, but remained distinct.
14 and 13 cent. BC were the acme of Mycenaean power and
Possibly called Ahhiyawa in Hittite texts, whose ruler is called ‗Great
Suggest that the Hittite‘s were aware of the Mycenaean‘s and that
had great respect for them.
End of 13 cent. BC evidence of earthquake activity
Decline in Mycenaean power
Hostile forces from the east?
Schliemann and Troy
Heinrich Schliemann : found troy, not a professional archaeologist,
he was a businessman. Had an interest in the classics and
discovered the ancient ruins of Mycenae and Troy (set about to find
Troy is located in Turkey. Most of the ruin has not yet been
The site was discovered in 1820, and excavated by Schliemann
The most influential excavations were caries out by Carl Blegen of
the University o Cincinnati (1932-1938)
Important recent excavations by Manfred Korfimann (1988-present) Troy and Homer 11/21/2011 11:18:00 AM
Classics Lecture 3 – Troy and Homer
The Site of Troy
Was discovered in 1820, and excavated by Schliemann from 1870-
The site was occupied from ca 3000 B.C.E to 1200 C.E
There were more than 46 building phases, which are grouped in 9
bands (meaning the area had been built and rebuilt around 46
The Troy from the story of the Iliad is identified with layers VI-VIIb
There is still much controversy over Troy
There is a belief that ‗The Iliad‘ was inspired by true events
After being excavated, Troy turned out to be just as large as
described in ‗The Iliad‘
The area around Troy was a prominent trade route, making Troy
the controller of the trade routes, which would make them wealthy.
Troy was probably an outpost of the Hittite Empire, not a Greek
speaking area as described in ‗The Iliad‘
The Homeric Poems
Considered the central texts of Greek culture
Greek poetry was sung in a performance, instead of simply being
Homeric poems were epics
o A substantial narrative poem in dactylic hexameters
o Elevated tone
o Concerns the exploits of Gods and Heroes
o Subject matter derived from traditional myth
o Many conventional features (e.g. formulaic language,
archaisms, type-scenes, extended similes)
o Usually very long o The stories have been handed down through generations, told
and retold, copied and re-copied
There are inconsistencies within the Homeric poems
There are views that the Homeric poems where a collection of
poems written by different authors
Milman Parry was a major contributor to the Homeric debate
He studied the ‗formulae‘ of the Homeric poems
Concluded that ‗The Iliad‘ and ‗The Odyssey‘ were the products f
the oral tradition of heroic song.
Found a modern tradition in the former Yugoslavia
He concluded that Homer‘s poems were the product of a tradition of
The Homeric poems were thought by him to be the product of a
tradition of sung stories Troy and Homer Cont‘d 11/21/2011 11:18:00 AM
Possible implications of oral theory
No single poet is fully responsible for the composition of the
o And so no ‗Homer‘ in the usual sense of an author
Language and content shaped over time
No single authoritative version
o Extemporization was important in the tradition
The Homeric poems had collective importance
o ―A tribal encyclopedia‖ (Havelock)?
Poets gave expression that no one poet could rival.
They remain the foundation of cultural thinking
Limitations of oral theory
May overrate the strength of the tradition, and underrate the
contributions of individuals singers
Fails to explain the emergence of a fixed text
Fails to explain convincingly the transition from oral poem to
Has not formulated strategy for ‗reading‘ these texts
A lot of Homeric poems did not survive, yet some of the summaries
An oral singer could not write- some other way to write these
poems down. (While the singer was performing, someone else
When singer learned to write, they learned to express there
emotion properly and formally
First recorded Olympic 776 BC – first written text
Salient characteristics: narrative, speeches, similes, divine
‗machinery‘, etc. Basic divisions (24 ‗books‘) at one point could have physically
corresponded to scrolls
Covers 14 days of a war that lasted 10 years – gives you a feel of
the whole war
Expansive narrative combined with remarkable compression.
The poem treats only 14 days in a war that lasted 10 years.
General structure and themes
Themes of anger (Achilles) – as you read the poem you have
trouble to connecting or identifying with Achilles. Hector is a
character we connect with as he his fighting for his home and his
family. Achilles kills Hector, but does not appease his anger, so he
continues to mutilate Hectors corpse.
Greatest work of literature on human conflict Troy and homer cont‘d 11/21/2011 11:18:00 AM
Similar to the Iliad in character but very different in themes and
Regarded as the lesser poem in antiquity
Focus on the wanderings and sufferings of Odysseus
Explores the nature of human society by viewing it from without
Extensive use of folktales, often with striking parallels from the near
About society in the larger sense- family, community – much more
interested in the roles we play in non military life
Greeks had a clear sense of the physical world and how it looked
What happens? All the princes want to marry the princess who now
may be a widow.
The early Epic Tradition
The Epic Cycle
o Works and days
o Catalogue of women etc.
Popular art, vase painting. Usually a drinking glass, and decorate
their houses with them.
Another popular scene seen on vases is Odysseus escaping on the
underside of a sheep
From the Dark age to the Archaic period 11/21/2011 11:18:00 AM
Fall of Mycenaean Civilization
Beginning ca 1200 BC Mycenaean civilization began to falter
o Palaces were attacked and destroyed
o Many were abandoned
o A breakdown of social cohesion
By 1100 BC the palace-communities were gone.
Great NE empires (Hittites, Egypt) were also in trouble
Troy fell ca 1250-1200 BC
It is easier to describe what happened than account for it
o Marauding ‗sea-people‘ (as they are called in Egyptian texts)
o Dorian ‗invasion‘
o A massive system collapse – could have been a plague,
natural disaster (earthquake)
Dark Age (115-700 BC)
A period of decline and slow reorganization and recovery.
Archaeological evidence sparse (graves for the most part).
The expression ‗dark age‘ suggests more consistency than the
archaeological record has shown.
Some regions recovered sooner than others.
Not a return to a primitive state.
The elaborate architecture of the palaces and the bureaucracy of
Mycenaean Civilization were gone.
So too was literacy
But life continued:
o Spinning and weaving (a diminution of skill and quality)
o Pottery (improved technology) o Smelting and working iron (after 1050 BC) – people were
buried with iron weapons
o By 950 BC weapons in graves were typically made of iron, not
Beginning of colonization of Asia Minor
Greek presence opened the door to a later ‗Orientalizing‘ period.
Consolidation of settlements such as Corinth and Athens (become
Large-scale bureaucracy replaced by local power structures.
o E.g. ‗chieftains‘, clan-groups, ‗warrior class‘
o There was considerable variety.
o The foundation for the development of the city-states (poleis)
End of the Dark Age
Rise of a land-owning elite (aristocracy)
Emphasized divisions in society
Forced many to relocate
Colonization and trade
New settlements in southern Italy and Sicily
Establishments of trading ties abroad
Alphabet and literacy
Considerable development of religious festival
o PanHellenic worship
o Certain cult-centres became prominent (e.g. Delphi, Dodona)
o Olympic games (first recorded in 776 BC)
o Renewed interest I Mycenaean tombs (and burial practices)
(Powerful dead men worshiped in cult, worshiped their
own dead ancestors)
They all serve the function to reinforce a sense of
identity Archaic Period 11/21/2011 11:18:00 AM
ca 700-500 BC
Trade and colonization
o Cities are prosperous
o A lot of colonization, disease at a minimum, no plague
reproduction (population increase)
o International relations
Panhellenic religious festivals proliferated and grew in importance
o People would make the trip to attend certain festivals
o Popular ―the great Pan-Hellenic festival‖
Prominence of ‗new‘ literary forms
o People started to keep poems as texts, earliest surviving
Development of artistic expression
o realism (incredible detail within the sculpture)
‗Birth‘ of philosophy
Rise of the city-state (polis)
a by-product of the stratification of society
an aristocratic elite is naturally complement by a subordinate poor.
Rise of the City state
City-state (polis) is a convenient modern term to describe the most
conspicuous political unit of Archaic and Classical Greece:
A central city and its surrounding territory
o E.g., Athens and Attica
o The arrangement is a natural development of political
conditions of the Dark Age
Aspects are implicit in the Homeric poems
Synoecism (Political Unification) The basic political elements of early Greek society
o A Basileus (chieftain)
o Council of others
o Assembly (of men of fighting age
o The demos – suspected that they had control of things, but
sometimes never achieved any kind of authority. They only
contained adult male citizens. No women or children could
participate in government
Clan-ties were used to bing together the various group both within
the city and in the surrounding region
This is called the Greek synoikismos
Forms of Government
There was a tendency to eliminate or reduce the rôle of the basileus
Re-allocation of various leadership rôles
Aristocratic council (‗elders‘) gains importance
Decrease in importance of popular council
Development of complex civic structures
Of central importance was the army
Greek Lyric Poetry
This title is somewhat misleading, although it has been important
for many intellectual histories of Greece.
A great deal of ‗lyric‘ poetry was written down during the 7 and 6
little has survived into the modern world
There were clearly rich and varied traditions of solo-song stretching
well back to the Bronze Age (and beyond).
Lyric vs. Lyric
We use the word lyric to refer to a broad range of personal poetry. The word properly refers to poetry sung to the accompaniment of a
The aulos was also used to accompany some kinds of poetry.
The early Greeks often used the word melos (‗song‘)
o Melic poetry
Characteristics of early Greek poetry
Very different from modern notions of personal poetry
a ―spontaneous outpouring of emotion‖ (Wordsworth)
It was sung and so performed, not designed for reading.
Closely bound to occasions:
o Religious festivals
Formal and often traditional in character
Highly complex language
o Elevated and artificial
o Doric dialect common in some types, Ionic in others (even
when produced in non-Dorian and non-Ionian communities).
Two basic modes:
o Solo-song (monody)
o Choral poetry
The major figures
Monody o Alcaeus
o Theognis Sculptures 11/21/2011 11:18:00 AM
From the dark age to the Archaic Age
The skills necessary to produce a large-scale work like the Lion
Gate at Mycenae seem to have been lost
But the production of smaller (often sacred) figurines continued
Some evidence for continuity from the bronze age, as well as
innovations (warriors, centaurs etc. )
―kouras‖ sculpture (slide 2 ) represents the change from a boy to a
man. Usually naked
Sculpture in the Archaic Period
Bronze continued to be a prized metal
Decorated cauldrons and tripods
Numerous small mold-made (and so mass-produced) terracotta
o A female figure reminiscent of the NE goddess Astarte
Marble becomes and important medium beginning near the end of
the 7 thcentury BC.
Two major types
o Standing male kouros
o Standing clothed female kore
A development from rather abstract stylization to greater
Sculpture of Zeus: remarkable detail (vein work in the foot) life
size. Sculpture of Poseidon missing the trident, probably because it
was made of bronze and melted down.
Techniques continued to develop
In later antiquity Greeks sculptors created pieces characterized by
naturalness that would not be out of place in the Baroque or Rococo
The building of temples to the gods remained a priority for Greek
communities The temples were surrounded by colonnades
The architectural ‗orders‘ were designed for these exteriors
The ‗orders‘ represent a lasting contribution to western architecture
and help define the classical style
Three main ‗orders‘
o Corinthian The Persian Wars 11/21/2011 11:18:00 AM
War was a persistent feature of Greek society
Conflicts grew in scale as large power blocks emerged
War shaped the institutions, society, and economy of the Greek
Military function and social and political status were closely related
o Important statements of this in both Homer and Aristotle
o This accounts, in part at least, for the exclusion of women
from political and public life
o Political life was all about military life, and women were not a
part of that
Victory in what was seen as indicative of divine favour
o There is a large religious component to war in antiquity
At Athens the war dead were buried with an annual public
ceremony and an oration that linked he fallen with the
achievements of the polis
o War underpins civic ideology
The Greeks were very much aware of the destructive side of war
o ―No one is so foolish as to prefer war to peace: in peace
children bury their fathers, while in war fathers bury their
o A common theme in tragedy and comedy.
o Historians regularly focused on the suffering of communities
o War is ―a violent teacher‖ (Thucydides)
After the Persian Wars (Greeks vs Foreigners) the view that Greeks
should not fight Greeks was often expressed (e.g. by Plato), but the
legitimacy of war itself was rarely questioned. Techniques of Greek Warfare
No theoretical treatises from early Greece.
The Iliad seems to emphasize single combat.
Tyrtaeus stresses the cohesion of the group
o the phalanx
Our idea of tactics is sketchy
o In the Persian Wars the Greeks seem to have thought in
terms of large-scale strategy for the first time.
The Athenian development of sea power introduced a new element
In the narrow sense Persia is the name of the country lying in the
folds of the Zagros mountains
In a broader sense Persia ( and the Persians) refers to the territory
ruled form Persia that extended to the Greek cities on the coast of
Asian Minor in the 6 century BC
Like many people the Persians amassed and empire
At the beginning of the 5 century BC (490 and 480) the Persians
made to attempt to expand the empire to include Greece
o Hence the Persian wars
There were complex ties between Greece and the Persians both
before and after Persian wars
The approaching Persian forces polarized the Greek city-states
o Some saw Persian victory as inevitable and advocated
The Greeks often referred to Persians as Medes
o Others resisted (Sparta and Athens were the leaders)
Located in Lanconia, the Peloponnese in mainland Greece
Evidence for substantial Neolithic community in the area Origins of Sparta shrouded in myth and legend:
the return of the Heraclids (descendants of Heracles)
the ‗Dorian invasion‘
Archaeology suggests a break with the Bronze Age
Sparta emerged as a major power in the 8 thcentury BC by
conquering neighboring Messenia and enslaving its population
(helots- which means taken or the captured)
Sparta was transformed both culturally and militarily
o Dedications at the Temple of Artemis Orthia
o Visits from distinguished poets
During the 7 thcentury Sparta was beset by numerous problems
o A major Messenian revolt ( the second Messenian war)
o Internal discontent from poor citizens
o Military defeat by Argos in 669 BC
During the 6 century Sparta successfully addressed its external
o several successful wars
o the creation of the so-called Peloponnesian League (which in
turn provide support against the Helots)
Internal problems were addressed by
extending control over the whole of Messenia
re-organizing the structure of Spartan society to achieve a
compromise between rich and poor (Lycurgus, the law-giver).
An economic system, according to which citizenship was given to
several thousand men who served as full-time hoplites and were
supported by produce provided by helots; the hoplites could
perform no manual labour. Sole function was to fight
A political system which consolidated power in a small group
(magistrates, two kings, council of elders). (group of officials )
o Maintained all political authority
A social and ritual system in which all Spartiates (except the two
kings and their immediate heirs) underwent an austere upbringing
and education that stressed corporate military values.
o All about becoming a fighter
The result was eunomia (‗good order‘), which was admired for its
long-term stability. o Lasted a long time – the diverse culture that attracted poets,
was largely sacrificed
a society of peers rather than equals (homoioi)
o result- very impressive society
Not a major centre in the Bronze age
o Not a significant player
Continuous habitation has largely effaced any archaeological record
of prehistoric settlements
Attracted ―refuge‖ groups after the collapse of Mycenaean society
The Athenians perpetuated the myth of authochthony
Achieved eminence and influence during the archaic period
The Persian Wars
The father of history
His account of the Persian wars is the first real work of
historiography, and remained a central masterpiece of Greek
Little is known of his life or precise chronology
o B. ―a little before the Persian wars‖?
o From Halicarnassus (modern Bordrum on the Aegean coast of
o Halicarnassus was under Persian control at this time
Strong ties with Athens
His histories was well known ca 425 BC
His language , however, is that of the Ionian coast
Seems to have participated in a struggle against the Persians in his
The result was exile.
Travel to many places (including Egypt).
Spent considerable time in Athens. A friend of the tragic poet Sophocles.
Died in the 420s BC?
A series of detailed, inter connected narratives focused around the
o begins with the fall of Lydia in 545 BC, and looks forward to
the 420s BC.
o A rich variety of style.
o A ‗joy at story-telling‘ (‗Freude an der Erzählung’).
o Very different from Thucydides, the great historian of the
Persian wars: the conflict
Two Persian attempts to conquer mainland Greece:
490 BC (under Darius)
480/79 BC (under Xerxes)
The origins go back to the revolt of Asiatic Greeks at the beginning
of the 5thcentury.
Herodotus dramatizes the Persian desire for revenge.
In reality the campaigns were intended to secure Persian rule over
existing Greek subjects.
The first attack was by sea
a number of islands (including Naxos) were subjugated.
The Battle of Marathon
a crucial event in the war
The Athenians and their allies from Plataea had ca 10,000 men.
The Persian force was probably twice that size.
The Athenians defeated the Persians by thinning their line at the
centre and strengthening the ‗wings‘.
They pursued the defeated Persians to their ships, and captured 7
Apparently 6,400 Persians died; 192 Athenians.
This brought to an end Darius‘ campaign. Darius died
a revolt in Egypt
The campaign of 480/79 BC
The Persian army was led by Xerxes, the Great King, himself.
A very large invading force.
o Just how large remains controversial
o A fleet of 1,207 triremes?
o An army of 100,000? Very large force
o Big enough that many Greeks though it was hopeless
The Delphic oracle predicted a Persian victory.
o The Athenians were told to flee, and later to rely on a wooden
o The latter was interpreted as referring to their newly-built
o The Athenian resolved to resist
o An alliance emerged with the Spartans in command
o The Battle od Thermopylae
Small contingent of Spartans for two says
Betrayed by ocals
The bravery of the fallen became rallying cry
Athenians retreated to Salamis
Athens was evacuated and Attica occupied, as was most of central
Themistocles orchestrated a naval victory near Salamis.
Xerxes withdrew to Asia, leaving his general Mardonius in charge of
Persian command was based in Thessaly.
Mardonius attempted to deal with the Athenians through
Hostilities continue with a Greek counter-attack.
o Mardonius killed.
o Persians withdraw from central Greece
but eventually a treaty (449/8 BC) secures the independence of
Asiatic Greeks. Persia had learned to respect Greek military strength.
continued to take an interest in Greek affairs.
The Greeks gained an enhanced sense of their ‗Greekness‘
Athenians rejected Mardonius‘ terms in the name of ―Greek
community of blood and language and religion and ways of life.‖ The Peloponnesian War 11/21/2011 11:18:00 AM
The conflict between the Athenians and the Spartans goes back to the
Internal problems pre-occupied Sparta, while the Athenian empire (Delian
Active hostilities begin in the 460s and continued (with various interruptions)
until the Athenians were defeated in 404 BC
the Thirty Years Peace of 446 BC divides the conflict into two phases
the great Peloponnesian War was fought from 431-404 BC
Author of an incomplete history of the war between Athens and
Sparta, the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC)
Born ca 460 BC (perhaps earlier)
served as general in 424 BC (and so was at least 30 years old)
Died ca 400 BC
internal evidence, as well as an ancient biography.
A few details of his life….
He came from an aristocratic family
Strong family ties to Cimon, and those opposed to Pericles
But he followed Pericles with a convert‘s zeal.
He caught the plague (430-427 BC), but recovered.
His account of the plague is both highly detailed and puzzling.
In 424 BC he failed as a general to save Amphipolis from the
He was exiled for this, and returned 20 years later (died shortly
An everlasting possession rather than a prize composition which is
heard for the moment [i.e., heard and then forgotten]‖ (1.22)
―My work is not a piece of writing designed to meet the taste of an
immediate public, but was done to last for ever‖
The incomplete history falls into 5 parts:
o Introduction o The ten years war
o Uneasy peace
o The Sicilian Expedition
o The Decelean War (fragment)
Of these 2 and 4 seem the most polished.
5 ends in the winter of 411 BC, but it is clear that he intended to
narrate events to 404 BC
Character of Thucydides history
In addition to the narrative of events, Thucydides uses extended
The speeches in Thucydides constitute a fascinating series of texts.
In particular the epitaphios (funeral oration) delivered by Pericles
(winter of 430/31 BC) is an extraordinary statement of the Athenian
sense of their own greatness.
There are other versions of this speech, and Thucydides‘ speech is
Thucydides‘ speeches cont.
―The speeches offer further evidence that two hearts beat in
Thucydides‘ breast‖ (Hornblower)- tension between the subjective
and the objective
An unresolved contradiction:
o the subjective
o the objective
This remains a central challenge for those who write history.
A very bold and often difficult style (esp. in the speeches)
At times he verges on the experimental (e.g. the description of
status in Corcyra in book 3)
Dionysius of Halicarnassus sums up the four instruments of
Thucydides style: Poetic vocabulary
Great variety of figures
Harshness of sound combination
Swiftness of saying what he has to say
Thucydides has been seen as the model of history in its modern
o ―wars and the administration of public affairs‖ (Gibbon) are
the prinicipal subjects of history
many would disagree with this
Thucydides does not use the words ‗history‘ (historia) or ‗historian‘
(historikos) at all.
His accomplishment is more complicated than most modern
assessment will allow. Democracy at Athens 11/21/2011 11:18:00 AM
END OF INFORMATION ON MIDTERM
Forms of Government
A Bronze age reality (the wanax)
a myth by the classical period
A tyrannos is a term for an individual who seizes control of an
Not necessarily bad (the negative connotations come from Plato
Lit ―rile by the few‖
The most common form of government in the archaic eriod
For Aristotle= rule by the rich
Direct vs. representational or parliamentary democracy
For Aristotle=rule by the poor
Athenian Democracy: ideology
It means (kratos) of the people (demos)
o Decisions of the assembly: ‗ it seems good to the people…‖
Demokratia was hotly debated form of constitution
o Often criticized by oligarchs and philosophers
Athenian democrats believed that democracy was intimately
connected with liberty and equality (thuc 2.37)
What or who are the Demos
To democrats: the who