The Ancient Spartan Education

The apogee of one’s training was to comprehend the laws and to be a vital member of the Apella. By Antonios LoizidesHistorian According to the legend, the Spartan law was written by the great lawmaker (Greek : νομοθέτης, nomothetis) Lycurgus. Plutarch mentions that Lycurgus (literally “wolf-worker”) wrote the laws in order to make the city[…]

The Impact of the Eruption of Thera on Ancient Minoan Decline

The cataclysmic eruption of Thera split the island of Santorini into three smaller ones. By Jenna Frawley Introduction During the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 1750-1450 BCE), the island of Crete emerged as a long-distance trading center. Modern scholarship characterizes this center as the Minoan civilization, which organized local production and trade in large regional structures[…]

Galatia: Gauls in Ancient Anatolia (Modern Turkey)

The Galatian Celts retained their culture at first, continuing to observe their ancient religious festivals and rituals. Introduction Galatia was a region in north-central Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) settled by the Celtic Gauls c. 278-277 BCE. The name comes from the Greek for “Gaul” which was repeated by Latin writers as Galli. The Celts were offered[…]

Exploring Ancient Mosaics

We can see how the world once was and glimpse now lost landscapes, flora and fauna. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Mosaics, where designs and images are created using small pieces (tesserae) of stone or other materials, have been used to decorate floors, walls, ceilings, and precious objects since before written records began. Like pottery, mosaics have[…]

Culture and Society in Classical Athens

Athenian prominence in the story of Classical Greece is no accident. Introduction As mentioned in the previous chapter, the prosperity and cultural achievements of Athens in the mid-fifth century B.C. have led to this period being called a Golden Age in the city-state’s history. The state of the surviving ancient evidence, which consistently comes more[…]

Religion in Ancient Greece

The religious practices of the Greeks extended beyond mainland Greece. Introduction Ancient Greek religion encompasses the collection of beliefs, rituals, and mythology originating in ancient Greece in the form of both popular public religion and cult practices. These groups varied enough for it to be possible to speak of Greek religions or “cults” in the[…]

Galen: Greek Physician, Author, and Philosopher in Ancient Rome

Much of our knowledge of early medicine comes from Galen’s writings. Introduction Galen (129-216 CE) was a Greek physician, author, and philosopher, working in Rome, who influenced both medical theory and practice until the middle of the 17th century CE. Owning a large, personal library, he wrote hundreds of medical treatises including anatomical, physiological, pharmaceutical,[…]

Ancient Greece’s Archaic Age

The Archaic Age saw the gradual culmination of developments in social and political organization in ancient Greece. Introduction During the Archaic Age the Greeks fully developed the most widespread and influential of their new political forms, the city-state (polis). The term archaic, meaning “old-fashioned” and designating Greek history from approximately 750 to 500 B.C., stems[…]

The Hellenistic Age

A mixed, cosmopolitan form of social and cultural life combining Hellenic (Greek) traditions with indigenous traditions emerged in the eastern Mediterranean region after Alexander’s conquests. Introduction The term Hellenistic (“Greek-like”) was invented in the nineteenth century A.D. to designate the period of Greek and Near Eastern history from the death of Alexander the Great in[…]

Ancient Ruins: Parts of the Past as Well as the Present

A mysterious object carved on a Roman gem reminds us that the smallest things hold clues to life in classical times. Introduction Recently, a whole trove of small ancient gems and amulets was discovered in a house in Pompeii. Treasured possessions for the Greeks and the Romans, ancient gems were often carved with images from myth or[…]

The Life of Alcibiades: Liar, Coward, and Traitor of Ancient Athens

During the course of the Peloponnesian War, Alcibiades changed his allegiance on several occasions. Introduction Alcibiades Cleiniou Scambonides, meaning Alcibiades, son of Cleinias, from the deme of Skambonidai; c. 450–404 B.C.E.), was a prominent Athenian statesman, orator, and general. He was the last famous member of his mother’s aristocratic family, the Alcmaeonidae, which fell from[…]

The Peloponnesian War and Its Aftermath at Athens

The losses that Athens suffered in the Peloponnesian War show the sad consequences of the repeated unwillingness to negotiate peace. Introduction Athens and Sparta had cooperated in the fight against Xerxes’ great invasion of Greece in 480–479 B.C., but by the middle of the fifth century B.C. relations between the two most powerful states of[…]

Ancient Greek Scroll’s Hidden Contents Revealed through Infrared Imaging

The scroll was discovered and painstakingly unrolled in 1795. More than 200 years ago, scholars glued the remains of an ancient papyrus scroll onto cardboard to preserve it. But the scroll, a history of Plato’s Academy, also had writing on the back. Now scholars have deployed imaging technology to read what’s been concealed. This scroll[…]

The Plague at Athens, 430-427 BCE

The epidemic killed upwards of 1/3 of the population; a population which numbered 250,000-300,000 in the 5th century BCE. Introduction In the 2nd year of the Peloponnesian War, 430 BCE, an outbreak of plague erupted in Athens. The illness would persist throughout scattered parts of Greece and the eastern Mediterranean until finally dying out in[…]

The Dark Ages of Ancient Greece

The details of Greek history in the Dark Age remain difficult to discover. Introduction The local wars, economic disruptions, and movements of peoples in the period 1200–1000 B.C. destroyed Mycenaean civilization in Greece and weakened or obliterated cities, kingdoms, and civilizations across the Near East. This extended period of violence brought grinding poverty to many[…]

Helen of Troy, Counter-Ambush Expert

Helen knows both how to spot an ambush in the making and how to tell a great ambush story. Introduction In addition to her superlative beauty, Helen in the Iliad and Odyssey has exceptional talents. She recognizes Telemachos before anyone else in Sparta does (Odyssey 4.138–146). She can also recognize a goddess in disguise (Iliad[…]

Exploring the Architecture of Greek World Heritage Sites

Greece, the ‘cradle of western civilization’, is home to a large number of spectacular sites from the ancient world, several of which have been placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Introduction These sites of great historical importance, interest, beauty, and impact do not all reflect the civilization we call Classical Greece – they range[…]

The Parthenon Sculptures at the British Museum

The temple known as the Parthenon was built on the Acropolis of Athens between 447 and 438 B.CE. By the British Museum Athens and Democracy By around 500 B.C.E. ‘rule by the people,’ or democracy, had emerged in the city of Athens. Following the defeat of a Persian invasion in 480-479 B.C.E., mainland Greece and[…]

The Heroic Cult of Agamemnon in Ancient Greece

Agamemnon received heroic worship from the establishment of the sanctuary at Amyklai along with his consort Kassandra, known locally as Alexandra. The Atrid Agamemnon received cult in two Peloponnesian towns, Mycenae and Amyklai, both of which claimed to have his grave. The conflicting reports about the location of his grave correspond to early variations in the literary[…]

Plato’s Euthyphro: Piety, Pretension, and a Playwright’s Skill

In reading Plato as Plato-the-Philosopher, one misses the nuances of Plato-the-Artist. Introduction The Dialogues of the Greek philosopher Plato (l. 428/427-348-347 BCE) have exerted such an extraordinary influence over western thought and culture for the past 2,000 years that readers in the modern day frequently approach his works as philosophical icons. The Republic is routinely taught in college classes as the blueprint for[…]

Euripides’ ‘Bacchae’ in Its Historical Context

The Peloponnesian war had been dragging on for 25 years, and the military situation was getting progressively worse for the Athenians. Euripides in Macedonia The Bacchae,[1] as we know it, was first produced in Athens under the direction of Euripides’ son, also called Euripides, in perhaps 405 BC,[2] a year or two after his father’s[…]

Sparta and the Collapse of Ancient Greece

Neither the course nor the conclusion of the Peloponnesian War was foreseeable at its outset. Of the two most powerful states in classical Greece, Athens was a forward-looking democracy with a far-flung naval empire, Sparta a land-locked mixed government heading a league of nearby states.  In 431 BC, the long-simmering rivalry between them erupted into open[…]

The Graces in Ancient Greek Mythology

They were considered the youthful bestowers of beauty in all its forms. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Graces (alsoCharites, sing. Charis) were goddesses from Greek mythology who personified charm, grace, and beauty.  Hesiod  describes  three Graces, and this is their most common grouping in literature and art, but their number varies depending on the source. Associated with  Aphrodite and spring flowers especially, they were[…]

How to Worship Artemis and Get Something in Return in Ancient Greece

What the epigraphic and archaeological evidence have shown. For centuries, worshippers of Artemis flocked to the ancient city of Ephesos in present-day Turkey for an annual nativity rite. Young men known as Kouretes hiked to the summit of Mount Solmissos, beating their spears on their shields, diverting the attention of the Greek goddess Hera from[…]

Finding the Hidden Hellenism in Melbourne’s Architecture

Take a tour through Melbourne with a Greek lens and discover the rich Hellenic influences that shape the city. Introduction Melbourne is the city with the largest Greek population outside of Europe. Since the earliest instances of Greek migration in the mid-19th century, the Greek community has been a great contributor to the richness of[…]

The Library of Celsus in Ancient Ephesus

This was a great center of learning and early Christian scholarship during the Roman period. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Library of Celsus in ancient Ephesus, located in western Turkey, was a repository of over 12,000 scrolls and one of the most impressive buildings in the Roman Empire. Constructed in the 2nd century CE, it[…]

Foreign Influences and Imported Luxuries in Ancient Thrace

A substantial amount of the artifacts in the Thracian archaeological record comes from diverse cultural and stylistic traditions. By Teodora A. Nikolova Introduction Defining Thracian art is a difficult task due to the fact that what we call today Thrace was never a single unified state but, rather, a collection of many independent communities (or[…]

Winged Victory: The Nike of Samothrace

The statue of the goddess of victory was excavated in 1863 CE on the Greek island of Samothrace. Introduction One of the most celebrated works of Hellenistic art is without doubt the Nike of Samothrace, on display at the Louvre since 1884 CE. The white Parian marble statue represents the personification of winged victory. In a sense, the impact of[…]

The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta

The Lacedaemonians abandoned the grand strategy they had articulated early on. Introduction In ancient Lacedaemon, as in all enduring political communities, there was a symbiotic relationship between the form of government chosen, the way of life that this form of government fostered, and the grand strategy that the community gradually articulated for the defense of[…]