Hippolyte and the Amazons of Ancient Greece

In mythology, the Amazons were daughters of Ares, the god of war. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction In Greek mythology, the Amazons were a race of warlike women noted for their riding skills, courage, and pride, who lived at the outer limits of the known world, sometimes specifically mentioned as the city of Themiskyra on the[…]

The Plague in Ancient Athens

The city-state of Sparta, and much of the eastern Mediterranean, was also struck by the disease. Introduction The Plague of Athens was a devastating epidemic that ravaged the city-state of Athens in ancient Greece in 430 B.C.E., during the second year of the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.E.), when an Athenian victory still seemed within reach.[…]

The Oligarchic Coup in Athens, 411 BCE

The movement toward oligarchy was led by a number of prominent and wealthy Athenians. Introduction The Athenian coup of 411 BC was the result of a revolution that took place during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. The coup overthrew the democratic government of ancient Athens and replaced it with a short-lived oligarchy known[…]

Demos and Kratos: People and Power in Ancient Athens

Athenian democracy was indeed a direct democracy, but not for everybody. By Georgios Mavropalias A sequence of events allowed the birth of democracy in ancient Athens; the reforms of Solon which weakened the aristocracy and redefined citizenship, their reinstatement by Cleisthenes after the oligarchy reemerged, and the shrinkage of the power of Areopagus by Ephialtes,[…]

A (Very) Brief History of Government since the Graeco-Roman World

One of the reasons humans prefer an organized government is that we’ve had them for thousands of years. Introduction For much of human history, people seem to prefer to live in organized groups. These groups took different forms in different times and places, but generally there seems always to have been a process by which[…]

Women’s Voice and Religious Utterances in Ancient Greece

Examining religious utterances such as curses, supplication, and prayer, as reflected in some passages from ancient Greek epic and tragedy. Introduction This paper tackles the issue of women and religion through a particular looking glass: religious utterances such as curses, supplication, and prayer, as reflected in some passages from ancient Greek epic and tragedy—pivotal literary[…]

The Priestess Pythia at the Ancient Delphic Oracle

The role of priestess at Delphi was enormously influential. She was consulted on everything from warfare to love to public policy. Introduction In a time and place that offered few career opportunities for women, the job of the priestess of Apollo at Delphi stands out. Her position was at the centre of one of the[…]

The Economy of Ancient Greece

Direct taxation was not well-developed in ancient Greece. Introduction The economy of ancient Greece was defined largely by the region’s dependence on imported goods. As a result of the poor quality of Greece’s soil, agricultural trade was of particular importance. The impact of limited crop production was somewhat offset by Greece’s paramount location, as its[…]

Tyranny as the Inevitable Outcome of Democracy in Ancient Athens

Power belonged to anyone who could harness the collective will of the citizens directly by appealing to their emotions. Introduction Plato, one of the earliest thinkers and writers about democracy, predicted that letting people govern themselves would eventually lead the masses to support the rule of tyrants. When I tell my college-level philosophy students that[…]

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[…]

Ten Hidden Ancient Treasures in Caria, Turkey

Caria was ruled by satraps who were subject to Cyrus the Great. Introduction Located at the crossroads of many ancient civilizations, Turkey is a haven for archaeology lovers. Over the centuries, a succession of empires and kingdoms – Hittite, Lydian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and, finally, Ottoman – ruled over Anatolia. The country’s unique cultural[…]