Worlds ofAncient Greece and Rome Lecture 1
September 14, 2012
1. Hellenes: An Introduction
• TheAncient Greeks are called Hellenes, Graikoi,Archaeans or Danaas.
• Hellas is a term that refers to ancient Greece, including the Greek islands and
• Ancient Greece is the birthplace of Western Culture circa 2500 years ago and is
used to denote both the geographical place where Greeks lived and how they lived
• Classical or ancient Greek was a highly inflected language, and the writing, as
Herodotus states, was adapted from the alphabet of the Phoenicians. There
were western and eastern alphabet consisting of 24 letters was employed in
• Greek writing was originally Semitic, in the sense that is was written from
right to left. Old monuments further reveal the existence of a type of writing
known as “boustrophedon” (bous-oxen and strepho-I am turning), which can
be translated as “turning like oxen while ploughing”.
• It was a form of writing that consisted of having one line written from right to
left and the next line from left to right. The writing was found on stones,
wood, skin, metal, and ceramics, as Greeks wrote on all of these materials.
• They started writing on papyrus in Ionia during the seventh century, and this is
considered the probable beginning of literary prose. The usual writing form
left to right started after about 500 B.C.
• According to epigraphy, there were several versions or dialects of theAncient
Greek language, which differed fromAncient Greek in certain aspects such as that
of grammar, intonation, pronunciation, or vocabulary.
• There were Ionic,Aeolic,Arcado-Cyprian and Doric dialects and they were each
restricted to particular geographical areas ofAncient Greece. • The language ofAthens was calledAttic and was related to the Ionic dialect. This
dialect became the standard literary language of ancient Greece.
• In 1953, the English cryptographer John Chadwick and Michael Ventris
deciphered some inscriptions written in the Linear B syllables.
• They had documents written in Mycenaean Greek, 300 selected tablets from
Knossos, Pylos and Mycenae and were able to prove that the ancient Greek
language and its dialects were spoken and written in these places.
• Greek culture is understood in different ways, reflecting a variety of human
experiences in complex historical situations.
• The word culture is derived from Latin noun cultura and the adjective cultus that
mean care, cultivation, cult, fostering, and worship; this is appropriate as Greek
culture indeed implies worshiping and cultivating human intellectual capacities.
• The Greeks took care of their mind, body and soul, cultivating septem artes
liberals, which included reading, writing, arts and grammar, arithmetic,
philosophy and physical education.
WhereAncient Greeks lived
• Ancient Greeks lived in the mainland of Greece, which is geographically located
in south-eastern Europe in the Balkan Peninsula.
• Mainland Greece borders todayAlbania, former Yugoslavia, Turkey and Bulgaria.
• The panoramic view is breathtaking, composed of hilly landscapes with cypress
and olive trees, the beautiful Mediterranean, various subdivisions of the islands of
theAegean Sea, and a mosaic of flowers and fish of the Ionian Sea.
• The Greeks were a nation governed by religion, beliefs, rituals, and customs.
• They loved to participate actively in their community, talk about everyday life,
watch festivals and gather in the city-state (polis).
• Early Greek history is reflective of this, providing an account of the interaction of
its citizens, their internal conflicts and exercise of power, from the Minoan and
Mycenaean cultures of the BronzeAge to the formation of city-states that
emerged in first millennium B.C.E. Findings
• The richness of the ancient Greek civilization is manifested by archaeologists and
their excavations, surveys, and magnificent findings.
• According to archaeological evidence, Greek culture began ca. 2100 B.C.E,
following the arrival of Indo-Europeans to Greece.
• Long before they arrived, the people on the island of Crete were already renown
for their exquisite skills relating to art and technology.
• Greek historiography is a part of the history of literature.
• It can be connected to biographies of prominent historical people, with the
purpose of showing, as one example, an author’s origins, publications, and the
significant moments of his life.
• The word historiography is of Greek origin; historia means “history” and
graphein means, “to write.”
• Historiography, which can be defined as the study of the writing of history and
how historians have attempted to understand it, was explore and studied by
• During the sixteenth century it particularly became an interesting body of
research, exemplified by the book written by Carolus Sigonius from Modena
(Italy) who wrote in Latin De re publica Atheniensium.
• The ancient Greeks referred to the oldest historians as logographoi. They were
the writers of the first texts written in prose (log