voting scene
Politically Greece was never unified like the Roman empire. What bound the Greeks together was culture, architecture, sculpture, drama and music. Rugged mountain ranges and numerous bodies of water divided the civilization into individual city-states that existed in valleys and on islands and peninsulas. Roads and waterways made the sharing of culture possible, but the natural barriers made each city-state autonomous politically and agriculturally. [Source: "The Creators" by Daniel Boorstin,μ]

Ancient Greece was divided in polises , or city-states, which were neither cities or states. They were self sufficient communities with their own army, customs and laws. Each polis contained one town, which was also the center of the government. The first true city states have been traced to Dorian settlements (850-750 B.C.) on Crete, where constitutions were drawn up that granted certain rights to the Dorian conquerors but denied them to everybody else. Between 750 and 500 B.C. chiefdoms and villages coalesced into city-states on the Greek mainland, Aegean islands and Asia.

Many city-states were centered around citadels built on mounds or hills (an acropolis) hills for protection. Within the settlement were houses, an agora , or marketplace, and temples for worshiping. Their authority often spread no further that the surrounding plains or valley. The historian Daniel Boorstin wrote, they were "just large enough and just small enough, neither wholly urban nor wholly rural, for it needed both countryside and city...The polis strictly speaking consisted not of the territory but of the citizens....there were several hundred such Greek polis so varied that general history of them is not possible."

The polis had a “religion-like importance.” Different city-states had different forms of government. Many began as oligarchies ruled by land-owning aristocrats. Most had councils made up of male citizens that made laws. Some suggest that temples with large central room may have been used for political as well as religious assemblies. As the demos , or people, gained more say, democracies arose, most famously in Athens.

Ancient Greek Democracy

Ancient Greek southern regions
The ancient Greeks are credited with founding democracy (a word derived from Greek words for people, demos , and kratos , rule) and literally means “rule by the people.” In the early days most city-states, however, were ruled by local tyrants or oligarchies that formed citizen councils. The philosopher Democritus had nothing really to do with democracy. He is known for his theory on atoms.

Pericles wrote: "Our constitution is called a democracy because power is in the hands of the people, not a minority. When it is a question of settling private disputes, everybody is equal before the law; when it is a question of putting one person before another in positions of public responsibility, what counts is not membership of a particular class, but the actual ability which the man possesses. No one, so long as he has it in him to be of service to the state, is kept in political obscurity because of poverty...This is a peculiarity of ours: we do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics is a man who minds his own business; we say that he has not business here at all.

Plato once wrote democracy is a "delightful form of government, anarchic and motley." Some scholars have argued that democracy took root because citizens were more interested in success than domination. They were interested in impressing an audience or cutting a stylish figure than real power. There were few political institutions and the powers of persuasion held sway. Men had prove themselves in front of other men rather than hiding behind a birthrate or a title.

History of Democracy in Ancient Greece

Solon bas-relief in the
U.S. House of Representatives chamber
Power was traditionally held by aristocracies, well-connected family, wealthy landlords, despots, military leaders and monarchs. A limited form of democracy first emerged in Babylon, which was ruled by an autocracy but had a popular assembly that made decisions on local affairs while presided over by a royal governor. Forms of democracy also existed in the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon.

In Greece, the city-states were ruled first by local kings or chiefs and then by ruling families while local assemblies were created. At first the assemblies were only advisory bodies. Over time their power grew and they were able to put pressure on the city-state leader and ultimately even select them. Although the assemblies acted somewhat like democratic bodies their members were not democratically elected: they were mostly members of landowning families.

The earliest proto-democracy arose in a climate of war, social chaos and upheaval and was characterized by the people rising up to overthrow a cruel leader. The first so-called firm evidence of this kind of demokratia was documented in Athens in 507 B.C. after a cruel tyrant was assassinated by two gay lovers.

But evidence has been found that suggests that democracy was introduced decades earlier in the Italian colony of Metapontion, where the tyrant was killed by a young man named Antileon because the tyrant lusted after his male lover. Both men were caught and killed after they were slowed up in their escape by a flock of sheep tied together. After the death of the tyrant statues were erected to honor the lovers and shepherds were forbidden from tying their sheep together while driving them through the streets.

Democracy in Athens

In Athens the assembly had grown powerful enough by around 500 B.C. that it was making laws and electing magistrates. By the Golden Age period the powers of the ruler were limited and day to day affairs were run by a council made of 10 generals. There were no political parties.

Athens during it Golden Age was the home of the world's first democracy and the only polis with a government resembling a true democracy. Although the Athenian government had courts with juries and a political system where rich and poor free men were allowed to vote; women, foreigners, slaves and ex-slaves were not allowed to vote.

Athenian democracy was wild and chaotic and easily hijacked by demagogues. The Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt described it as a “permanent terrorism exercised by the combination of sycophant, the or orators and the constant threat of public prosecution, especially for peculation and incompetence.” Some historians say that the role of democracy has been exaggerated, and that Athens’ power resulted more from it military victories and money earned from trade than by a government supported by citizens.

Features of Athenian Democracy

Democracy in Athens was manifested through the Ekklesia, or Assembly, a democratic voting body that ran the city's affairs. The 6,000 or so voting citizens met at a platform near the Acroplis and gave speeches and voted on important matters, usually by a show of hands and sometimes with slotted marble slabs with numbered ballots. Often embers were decided by choosing lots.

Assembly sessions were conducted like town meetings. Members gave speeches. Often the ones with the most power were ones who made the most persuasive arguments and possessed the most oratory skill and had the best speechwriters. Rhetoric was so important that it became one of the foundations of the Greek education.

The Athenian city-state was divided into ten arbitrary tribes. Fifty representatives from each to tribe were chosen to form a boule (Senate) with 500 members. The 50 members of the executive committee of the boule served 35- to 36-day terms on a rotating basis. Terms of office were generally only one year.

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Ballots and tokens

Rhetoric and Politics in Ancient Greece

Governments was not run by paper-wielding bureaucrats as is the case today but rather by active people who use their voice rather than pens to make decisions. Citizens held debates on laws in the assembly. Persuasion became an important avenue to power and rhetoric became an art.

Rhetoric, which essentially means the power of persuasion, was an important skill to the Greeks. Socrates said in 374 B.C. that persuasion was what separated mankind from the animals and brutes. The great Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt wrote that oratory skill “became like the press today, the instrument of very little good and three-quarters of everything bad.” It “colored and enfeebled both poetry and history; even the philosophers were partly, in real life, really rhetoricians.”

Demagogue come from the Greek word demagogos , which means spokesman of the people and more pejoratively, a leader of a mob. Modern usage implies rhetorical gifts and the ability to arouse an audience, usually with the promise of radical measures. It is the base impulses of the public that a demagogue usually appeals---and hence the tendency to identify and denounce enemies of the people. The most famous Greek demagogue was Alcibiades, a sweet-talking Athenian known for selling his fellow Athenians on the ill-conceived idea of attacking Sicily, a move which spelled the end to Golden Age classical Greece. [Source: Washington Post]

voting jetons

Ancient Greek Citizens

Beginning in the 7th century B.C., ordinary people were freed from the bonds of slavery, debt and serfdom to wealthy aristocrats. "I took away the mortgage stones stuck in earth's breast," wrote Solon. “And she, who was a slave before, is now free."

Most Greek citizens were landowners although the criteria for citizenship varied from city-state to city-state. In Sparta citizens had to be at least thirty and unanimously approved by the existing citizenry. Some states were democracies where citizens voted for city-state magistrates and passed laws. Other were oligarchies or constitutional governments.

Citizens had the right to vote, express their opinions, and participate in policy decisions in the assembly on matters like taxation and war. In wartime citizens were expected to serve as soldiers. In peacetime they were obliged to show up and serve as members of the assembly and as judges. Any citizen who was over 30 could run for office. Women and slaves were not allowed to be citizens. Citizenship was inherited by offspring of two Athenian citizens. Private citizens not part of the ruling class were called idiots .

True representative government was something that never occurred to the ancient Greeks. Serfdom was also passed down from generation to generation. Their labor freed the land owners to make war among themselves and establish philosophy and the arts.

voting jetons

Good and Bad Side of Greek Democracy

Mary Beard wrote in the New Statesman, “In 440BC, a few months after his Antigone won first prize at the Athenian drama festival, Sophocles served as one of the commanding officers of an Athenian task force that sailed off to put down a rebellion on the island of Samos. The inhabitants had decided to break away from Athens's empire - the network of Athenian satellite states spread all over the eastern Mediterranean - and they had to be brought back into the fold. The irony was that a few decades earlier, Athens had led Greece to victory against a vast Persian invasion; now, the Athenians had imposed their own tight control over their former allies (which may have left some wondering whether conquest by the Persians might have been the better option). [Source: Mary Beard, New Statesman, October 14, 2010]

For modern historians with a rose-tinted view of ancient Athenian democracy, the military command of Sophocles counts as a feather in the Athenian cap. The guiding principle of this system was that every citizen should play a full part in political, military and civic life; there were to be no bystanders. By the middle of the 5th century BC, most jobs - from those on the city council to executive officers and juries - were assigned by lot to give everyone an equal chance of running the city. Admittedly, Sophocles's command was one of the very few military offices still assigned by election (not even the Athenians were wide-eyed enough to draw their generals out of a hat), but having a dramatist who was also a general fits nicely with the spirit of their politics. Their slogans were all about equality: citizens were equal in power and equal before the law and had an equal chance of getting their voice heard.

Ostracism against Boutalion, 490 BC
None of this is bad, as democratic aspirations go. In fact, most modern political systems could learn something from Athens. But there is a darker side to this democracy. Part of that darkness is well known. Athens may have been a city in which every citizen was equal, but those equal citizens were a tiny minority of the population: perhaps 30,000 men out of 250,000 inhabitants altogether. The vast majority - slaves, women and immigrants - were totally excluded from the political process. Ancient Athenian politics was more an exclusive gentleman's club than a democracy in our terms. Even the autocratic Romans welcomed immigrants more warmly than democratic Athens.

But the case of Sophocles raises other issues. The campaign to regain control of Samos was a brutal piece of imperial control: the local leaders in Samos had wanted to get out of Athens's orbit and the Athenians had wanted to keep them in. Not unlike some sections of the modern United States, Athens might deny an overtly imperialist agenda but it pursued regime change and the imposition of democracy wherever it suited Athenian interests.

Tyrants and Ostracism in Ancient Greece

The first Greek "tyrants" were not tyrants as we think of them today. They were rulers who ousted local oligarchies with the support of the people. On one level they raised expectations of accountability but on other they were often corrupted by power and evolved in despots, who themselves were overthrown with the support of the people.

Ostracism against Kallixenos
Politicians who fell out of favor could be ostracized---exiled for 10 years---by a vote of the assembled citizens, who cast their ballots by scratching the name of the ostracized person on a shard of pottery, or ostrakon (source of the word ostracize) used as ballots. The measure was set up not to punishment in any harsh or cruel way; the idea was simply to remove them from the political arena and public life. Many prominent Athenian politicians were ostracized.

Ostracism was introduced by Cleisthenes in 508 B.C. after exiling the tyrant Hippias, reportedly with the aim of preventing the emergence of a dictator who might seize powerful unlawfully by whipping up public discontent. It was used from 487 to 417 B.C., which some historians have pointed out was when Athens was at its peak, According to the procedure, citizens of ancient Athens were instructed to gather once a year and asked if they knew of anyone aiming to be a tyrant. If a simple majority voted yes the members were dispersed and told to come back in two months time and used an ostrakon to scratch the name of the citizen whom they deemed most likely to become a tyrant. The person who received the most votes in excess of a set number was expelled from the city-state for 10 years. This simple act is regarded by some historians as the foundation of democracy in ancient Athens.

Pottery shards that were used for secret votes have been found by archaeologists. Among the names that have been found on ostrakons are Pericles, Aristides and Thucydides. Pericles was nearly ostracized over opposition to his plan to build the Parthenon. A pile of 190 shards with the name Themosticles written on them by 12 individuals found in a well and is believed to be one of the first examples of vote rigging.

There were abuses of the system, notibly when strong politicians wanted to oust rivals. Pericles used the system to get rid of his main challenger, Thucydides. Ostracism itself was dropped when the powerful politicians Alcibiades and Nikias ganged to on Hyperbolos, a rival to both of them, and had him exiled.

Solon and Draco and Other Major Figures in Ancient Greek Democracy

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Solon (638-559 B.C.) is credited with codifying Greek laws and laying the foundation for Athenian democracy. A poet and a statesman, he became the ruler of Athens and replaced a dictatorial form government controlled by the aristocracy with a limited democracy made of wealthy citizens. He passed laws to prevent debtors from being enslaved, helped establish a sort of constitution and made it possible for all citizens to become members of the assembly.

Draco produced a code of laws for Athens in which some relatively minor crimes were punished with death. His form of absolutism gave birth to the term "Draconian." Draco was popular however. In 590 B.C., so many well wishers showed up to see him in an Athens stadium he was smothered under a mountain of cloaks and hats thrown in by fans.

Cleisthenes was a radical reformer who renounced tyranny and proclaimed democracy as a new form of government. To reduce the power of the oligarchies he organized the Athenian city-states into ten arbitrary tribes and called 50 representatives from each to tribe to form a boule (Senate) with 500 members.


Pericles (493-429 B.C.) ruled over what has been described as the world's first democracy. Although he never claimed the highest title, archon , and described himself simply as one of the ten generals elected each year by the citizenry he was firmly in control during his 27 year rule over Athens and owed his position to his will, charisma and oratory skills. He was the model for the tyrant Creon who condemns Antigone to death and for Oedipus the King.

20120222-Pericles Grecia_20_dracme.JPG
Pericles on modern Greek coin
Pericles instituted for public service, which expanded the realm of democracy, and looked after the welfare of the Athenian poor. But he also made Athens broke by diverted much of the money from the Delian League to finance the construction of Parthenon and other monumental structures.

Pericles was a nobleman with “the bluest blood” and came from one of the wealthiest Athens families. Despite this he was popular with ordinary Athenians and had the rhetorical skills to talk them in doing almost anything. He reportedly had big ears. Images of him show his big ears under a helmet. Pericles was Athens most brilliant statesmen and orator and he seemed know it. He said, "The admiration of the present and succeeding ages will be ours."


20120222-Femosthenes 079.jpg
Demosthenes (383-322 B.C.) is considered the greatest orator of the Golden Age of Greece although he actually arose after the Golden Age was over. Born into a wealthy family but orphaned at the age of seven, he had a misshapen shoulder and was cheated out of his family wealth by his guardians.

At a young age, Demosthenes began a concerted effort to improve his oratory skills. He used to fill his mouth with pebbles to improve his delivery and give speeches over pounding surf to train his voice to rise above the din of crowds. He entered public office in Athens at 25 and was involved in the negotiations that kept Alexander the Great’s father from conquering Athens. In his famous speech, On the Crown he spoke eloquently about the relationship between government and the people.

Some of Demosthenes decisions were unpopular. After an attempt to oust the Macedonians after Alexander the Great’s death failed he was chased into a Poseidon temple. According to legend, when he was caught, he asked if he could write one last letter and then bit into his pen, which was fulled with poison, and died. Before he passed on he said, “If I had foreseen the evils, anxieties, envious persecutions, slanders and feuding of political life, I would rather have taken the short cut to death.”

Hyperides and the Archimedes Palimpsest

Hyperides was one of the great foundational figures of Greek democracy and the golden age of Athenian democracy. He lived from 390 or 389 B.C. until 322 B.C. and was an orator who made speeches at public meetings of the citizen assembly. A contemporary of Aristotle and Demosthenes, he wrote speeches for himself and for others and spoke at important political trials. In 322 B.C. Hyperides was executed by the Macedonians for participating in a failed rebellion. [Source: Felicia R. Lee, New York Times, November 27, 2006]

New insights about Hyderides and the period in which he lived have been gleaned Archimedes Palimpsest, a prayer book created by Byzantine monks in the 13th century and from pages of several older texts that were washed and scraped, to remove their writing. Felicia R. Lee wrote in the New York Times, “The Archimedes Palimpsest is best known for containing some of the oldest copies of work by the great Greek mathematician who gives the manuscript its name. But there is more to the palimpsest than Archimedes’ work, including 10 pages of Hyperides, offering tantalizing and fresh insights into the critical battle of Salamis in 480 B.C., in which the Greeks defeated the Persians, and the battle of Chaeronea in 338 B.C., which spelled the beginning of the end of Greek democracy.” The Archimedes Palimpsest was sold at auction at Christie’s for $2.2 million in 1998.

The new Hyperides revelations include two previously unknown speeches, effectively increasing this renowned orator’s body of work by 20 percent, said Judson Herrman, a 36-year-old professor of classics at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa. He is one of a handful of classicists who have written doctoral dissertations on Hyperides. “This helps to fill in critical moments in ancient classical Greece,” said William Noel, the curator of manuscripts and rare books at the Walters Art Museum here and the director of the Archimedes Palimpsest project.

“It’s a spotlight shining on an important moment in history,” said Mr. Herrman, currently a fellow at the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park, N.C. Until the new leaves were found in the palimpsest, most scholars believed only fragments of Hyperides survived beyond the Classical period. The mystery of Archimedes’ treatise on combinatorics, the Stomachion, was solved in 2003 by deciphering the palimpsest. Now W. Robert Connor, the president of the Teagle Foundation, which provides education and financial resources for education, called the discovery of new Hyperides text a “tour de force of the first order.”

A combination of high-tech imagery and old-fashioned deciphering, sometimes letter by letter, was used to resurrect the older text, revealing a slice of Athenian history in the days after its devastating defeat by Philip II, king of Macedonia and the father of Alexander the Great, Mr. Connor said. “The number of times you get a new text is very small,” Mr. Connor, a former professor of classics at Princeton said. “It’s like hearing an old violin played at a superb level.”

In one recently discovered speech, Hyperides talks about the number of boats (220)---a number not previously clear--- belonging to the Greek side in the Salamis battle, Mr. Judson said. In another speech, after the Battle of Chaeronea, he argues that the tragic defeat was the result of chance, not bad policy. In a political case Hyperides supports the Demosthenes policy that led to the Athenian defeat.

“For we chose the noblest policy and we believed it necessary to free the Greeks by taking on the risks ourselves, just like before,” Hyperides argues in a passage translated by Mr. Herrman and transcribed by Natalie Tchernetska of Riga, Latvia, a project scholar and specialist in Greek palimpsests, whom Mr. Herrman credits with first identifying the material. “One must assign the start and the suggestion of every risk to those who make the motion, but the outcome of these things is to be assigned to chance,” Hyperides argues in the speech. “Diondas proposes the opposite happen: not that Demosthenes be praised for his policy but that I give a defense because of chance.”

Professor Herrman said the material also gives new information about inheritance laws in Athens and suggests a different timing for the Demosthenes case. Historians had always believed that the trial of Demosthenes took place before the battle of Chaeronea, which Athens lost to the Macedonians, but the newly discovered speech shows that it was after the battle, Mr. Herrman said. “We had no idea of what the content of the trial was,” he said. “Now we have an Athenian view of their own defeat.”

3,500-Year-Old Tablet and Early Greek Bureaucratic Practices

In the summer of 2011, a tablet with some of the oldest known examples of writing in mainland Europe, was found in the middle of an olive grove in southwest Greece, near the modern village of Iklaina. John Noble Wilford wrote in the New York Times, “The tablet seems to be a “page” from a bookkeeper’s note pad. Not meant to be saved as a permanent record, it was not baked in a kiln , but ended up in a refuse dump, where a fire hardened the clay for posterity... Had it not been for some inadvertence, the tablet would almost certainly have disintegrated in the rain in a year or two and scattered with the wind as so much illiterate dust.” [Source: John Noble Wilford, New York Times, April 4, 2011]

Greek political system

The discoverers and other specialists in Greek history said the tablet should cast light on the political structure and bureaucratic practices near the beginning of the renowned Mycenaean period, 1600 to 1100 B.C. At its height, the culture supported the splendor of palaces at Mycenae and Pylos and inspired the heroic legend of the Trojan War, immortalized in Homer’s Iliad.

On one side, the tablet has one readable word, a verb meaning to prepare to manufacture. Along the broken edges are other characters, but not enough for scholars to make out the word or words. On the reverse side, the tablet gives a list of men’s names alongside numbers. Cynthia Shelmerdine at the University of Texas, Austin, was the first to read the writing and assess its importance.

“The fact that we have a tablet like this means that this government had scribes, and scribes are a product of bureaucracy,” Dr. Cosmopoulos said. “And this suggests some degree of political complexity and a growing need to keep track of commodities, property and taxes, all earlier than we once thought.”

Donald C. Haggis, an archaeologist and classics professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the tablet discovery was “really exciting and important because we don’t know much of the dynamics of these palace sites and the early phases of state formation in Greece.” Dr. Haggis, who was familiar with the research but not a member of the team, said that nearly all that had been known of the dynamics of these government centers came from excavations in the final stages of the Mycenaean period. Now the tablet, he said, “tells us this place had an administrative function at an early stage” and the architecture of the palace “reflects authority” and “looks like a place for ritual, communal dining and production of crafts.”

Solonian Constitution_

Ancient Greek International Relations

The Greeks traded all over the Mediterranean with metal coinage (introduced by the Lydians in Asia Minor before 700 B.C.); colonies were founded around the Mediterranean and Black Sea shores (Cumae in Italy 760 B.C., Massalia in France 600 B.C.) Metropleis (mother cities) founded colonies abroad to provide food and resources for their rising populations. In this way Greek culture was spread to a fairly wide area. ↕

Greece was resource poor and overpopulated. They needed to colonize the Mediterranean to get resources. Beginning in the 8th century B.C., the Greeks set up colonies in Sicily and southern Italy that endured for 500 years, and, many historians argue, provided the spark that ignited Greek golden age. The most intensive colonization took place in Italy although outposts were set up as far west as France and Spain and as far east as the Black Sea, where the established cities as Socrates noted like "frogs around a pond." On the European mainland, Greek warriors encountered the Gauls who the Greeks said "knew how to die, barbarians though they were.” [Source: Rick Gore, National Geographic, November 1994]

During this period in history the Mediterranean Sea was frontier as challenging to the Greeks as the Atlantic was to 15th century European explorers like Columbus. Why did the Greeks head west? "They were driven in part by curiosity. Real curiosity,” a British historian told National Geographic. "They wanted to know what lay on the other side of the sea." They also expanded abroad to get rich and ease tensions at home where rival city-states fought with one another over land and resources. Some Greeks became quite wealthy trading things like Etruscan metals and Black Sea grain.

Greek Colonies in Italy

Greek Colonies in Italy

The Greeks city states set up a number of colonies in Italy, known then as Magan Graecia (Great Greece), on the site of established town. The first known Greek settlement was established on Pithekoussai, an island off of present-day Naples, in 770 B.C. A few years later colonies were established in Sicily and southern Italy. Many of the early settlers were poor farmers looking for a better life the same way immigrants from Europe came to America in the 19th century to seek their fortune.

The two greatest Greek colonies in Italy were probably Syracuse and Sybaris. "Magna Graecia and Sicily became the Texas of the Greek world," one historian wrote. "Everything was bigger, bolder. It was a grand experiment." Sicily was known as "Sicily the rich" and "the pride of the blossoming earth." In 443 B.C., Pericles---the great leader of Athens--- founded the colony of Thurii on the instep of Italy's boot following advise from the oracle of Delphi. For political reasons he asked other city states to join him and called it a Panhellenic colony.

Two important concepts in the development of mankind---democracy and the construction of cities in a grid pattern---are believed to have evolved in the Greek colonies in Italy. Archimedes and Pythagoras came from Italy and many of the great Greek philosophers that preceded Socrates, were also from the west. The Sicilian city state of Syracuse crushed an invasion from Athens in 413 B.C.

Greek colonies in the north Black Sea

Paestum---south of Salerno in southern Italy---is one of the most impressive set of Greek ruins in the world. The "Temple of Poseidon" looks like a smaller version of the Parthenon (built around the same time) in Athens on steroids. Built about 100 years before is the equally impressive "Basilica." It lacks a roof but it has massive columns that bulge at the bottom. It is long and looks more "elastic." Other ruins include the Temple of Cerese (a 2500-year-old temple later turned into a church), the Roman forum, the gymnasium, the Roman amphitheater, the 2,600-year-old basilica, a museum with paintings and pottery taken from Paestum tombs. Make sure to check out the famous Tomb of the Diver. There is a private beach about a mile and a half from the Paestum.

On Sicily the Greeks established numerous colonies and left behind monumental temples and theaters which draw large numbers of tourists today. Eastern Sicily is said to have been the inspiration for the myth of Persephone and the seasons. Morgantina (near Armerina) is a Greek city on Sicily that was colonized in the 6th century B.C. and sacked by the Romans in the 3rd century B.C. has produced some of the most spectacular archaeological and looted discoveries made in recant years. Before the Roman invaded, the Greeks buried their wealth. Other Ancient Sites include the Greek ruins of Gela, Agrigento and Selinunte.

Syracuse (in the southeastern corner of Sicily) was almost as powerful as Athens during the golden age of Greece. During Hellenistic times, Syracuse along with Athens and Alexandria were the greatest centers of Greek culture. The city is closely associated with Archimedes. Syracuse’s harbor was one of the best in the Mediterranean. An attack by the Sicilian city state against Athens led to the fall of the ancient Greece's most famous city. Although Syracuse invasion was unsuccessful it crushed Athens' sea defenses, allowing the Spartan's to sack Athens a few years later.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons, The Louvre, The British Museum

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Yomiuri Shimbun, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications. Most of the information about Greco-Roman science, geography, medicine, time, sculpture and drama was taken from "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. Most of the information about Greek everyday life was taken from a book entitled "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum [||].

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated January 2012

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