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Greek Society’s Early History and Development Essay


  1. Minoan Society
    1. Emerged during the third millennium B.C.E.
    2. Named after King Minos, the prominent royal figure
    3. Remembered for numerous architectural achievements
    4. Knossos – complex structure containing administrative and residential buildings
    5. Were proficient in economic and commercial matters
    6. Developed a Linear A writing system
      1. Currently not deciphered
      2. Symbols represent syllables instead of words
      3. Clearly used for recording financial information (e.g. economic and financial records)
    7. Numerous archeological evidence suggests significant economic influence by 1600 B.C.E.
    8. Declined approximately by 1450 B.C.E.
      1. Series of devastating natural cataclysms
      2. Invaders attracted by the enormous wealth
  2. Mycenaean Society
    1. Formed from migratory peoples of Indo-European origin
    2. Shaped by influences of Minoan society
      1. Adopted Linear A
      2. Benefitted from trade
    3. Impressive architectural achievements starting from 1450 B.C.E. drawn numerous settlers
    4. Superseded Minoans in power and influence by 1100 B.C.E.
    5. Severely impacted by military conflict with Troy
    6. Eventually declined with the loss of stability
  3. Spartan Society
    1. Flourished on the fertile soils of Peloponnesus
    2. Established the helot’s system
      1. More rights than slaves (could form families)
      2. No complete freedom (could not leave)
    3. Deliberately restricted the possibility of economic or social inequality
      1. Discouraged excessively luxurious garments
      2. Minimized the accumulation of wealth
      3. Preferred iron to gold in the role of currency
    4. Prioritized discipline and military skills as social determinants
    5. Incorporated intensive training from an early age
    6. Eventually corroded when powerful elite accumulated wealth and abandoned restrictive and disciplined lifestyle
  1. Athenian Society
    1. Early stages of development characterized by significant economic gaps, often leading to poverty and slavery
    2. Tensions resolved by Solon with the cancellation of slavery and debts
    3. Modified political system by introducing representatives of a common class
    4. The emphasis on democratic principles lowered the tension without wealth redistribution

Greece and the Larger World

  1. Colonization
    1. Dwindling resources and raising demands pressed the Greeks to establish colonies
    2. The Mediterranean region became dense with colonies by sixth-century B.C.E.
    3. Colonies yielded agricultural surplus as well as numerous important metals
    4. Latter colonies reached as far as modern France and the Black Sea
    5. In hindsight, colonization is credited for numerous improvements
      1. Enrichment of cultural traditions
      2. Enhancement of sciences and arts
      3. Establishment of trade routes
      4. Social modifications
  1. Conflicts with Persia
    1. The Persian emperors Cyrus and Darius attempted to control the region on Anatolia
    2. The revolt of Ionian cities backed by the Athenian fleet triggered a conflict known as Persian Wars
    3. The initial retaliation effort by Darius was successfully routed by the significantly smaller Athenian army during the battle of Marathon
    4. The conflict gradually escalated with the increasing number of troops brought by Xerxes but remained relatively fragmentary
    5. Military alliances, such as the Delian League, became a burden and a cause of internal tensions once the conflicts subsided, resulting in Peloponnesian War
    6. The war had a devastating effect on the reputation of the involved parties
  2. Macedonia
    1. Initially, an agrarian society, the kingdom of Macedon thrived on the cooperation with Greece
    2. Gained significant military power with the consolidating effort of king Philip
    3. Greece was unable to form an adequate response because of the exhausting Peloponnesian War
    4. With little opposition, overtook Greece by 338 B.C.E.
    5. Alexander the Great, Philip’s successor, used the inherited resources to conquer numerous states but failed to back the territories with administrative support
  3. Hellenistic Empires
    1. After the death of Alexander, the territories were fragmented
    2. Antigonid Empire benefited from the situation with the increase in trade and laborer influx
    3. Ptolemaic Empire retained the most administrative independence and used it to become the wealthiest region in the era
    4. Seleucid Empire showed numerous signs of Greek impact but incorporated Persian and Asian influences

Greek Economy and Society

  1. Mediterranean Basin
    1. Greece’s geography made it perfect for certain cultures (e.g. grapes and olives), thus promoting the development of trade
      1. Aside from significant profits, trading catalyzed the development of involved societies and provided communication means
      2. Some communities relied on trade more than on their agricultural capacity
      3. The growth of the surrounding cities made colonization a more attractive option
    2. The development of trade stimulated the emergence of various financial and economic schemes, such as rental, banking, and insurance.
    3. Manufacture and employment rose to satisfy the needs of the growing market
    4. Communication contributed to the uniformity of culture and religion and was strengthened by the panhellenic festivals
      1. Reinforced the sense of connection
      2. Promoted the development of literature, music, and culture
    5. Olympic Games, one of the best-recognized panhellenic festivals, featured numerous physical contests and cemented the establishment of collective identity
  1. Family and Society
    1. Greek society was largely patriarchal, with significant power in the husband’s hands
    2. Fathers could decide the fate of their children
      1. Killing a child was illegal
      2. Abandoning a newborn in the mountains was a common practice
    3. Exemption – Sparta, where women had relatively more rights
    4. Slaves played a significant part in the Greek labor market
      1. Former free Greeks enslaved for financial debts
      2. Prisoners captured in numerous wars
      3. Slaves supplied from slave markets of multiple colonies
    5. Depending on their skills, could reach a high position in the social hierarchy
      1. In extreme cases, could retain the freedom

Cultural Life

  1. Rational Thought
    1. Greek scholars preferred the scientific approach to belief in myths
    2. Numerous results illustrate the triumph of knowledge
    3. Accurate prediction of astronomical events
    4. Early concepts of atomic particles
    5. Evidence-based medicinal practices
    6. A systematic approach to mathematics
    7. Greek achievements served as an inspiration for European and Muslim scholars
  2. Philosophy
    1. Greece is considered a birthplace of philosophy
    2. Socrates inquired into the principles behind social interactions and human nature
      1. Developed an approach based on reflection
      2. Emphasized the importance of contemplating the purpose of existence
    3. Plato was Socrates’ most famous disciple
      1. Initially advocated the views of Socrates, later developed a unique view
      2. Sought integrity and intellectual control
      3. Applied his findings to conceptualizing the ultimate state in Republic
    4. Aristotle abandoned the theory of Forms and Ideas in favor of senses and reason
      1. Contributed to and pioneered several areas of physics, biology, astronomy, ethics, literature, politics, and psychology
  3. Religion
    1. Believed in the complex system of deities governed by numerous laws
    2. Most gods represented a certain quality of existence (e.g. wisdom, justice, and chance)
    3. Complexity and diversity of religion prompted the creation of numerous cults
    4. Some of the cults stimulated the development of arts, such as the theatrical festivals
    5. The phenomenon of poleis decentralized the administrative significance of authority and emphasized the necessity to adapt to living in a socially diverse environment
    6. Hellenistic movements prioritized individual development
      1. Epicureans sought pleasure as the ultimate good
      2. Skeptics rejected certainty in social and moral issues
      3. Stoics advocated concentration on duty for reaching personal tranquility
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IvyPanda. (2020, September 27). Greek Society's Early History and Development. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/greek-societys-early-history-and-development/

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"Greek Society's Early History and Development." IvyPanda, 27 Sept. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/greek-societys-early-history-and-development/.

1. IvyPanda. "Greek Society's Early History and Development." September 27, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/greek-societys-early-history-and-development/.


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IvyPanda. "Greek Society's Early History and Development." September 27, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/greek-societys-early-history-and-development/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Greek Society's Early History and Development." September 27, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/greek-societys-early-history-and-development/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Greek Society's Early History and Development'. 27 September.

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