Lecture 3: Greece through the Peloponnesian War
Greece's "Dark Ages" (1150-800 BCE): new forms of economic and social organization, a new stress on “individualism”
Circa 1150 BCE, Sea People destroyed Mycenae= cities gone, population shrunk, migration inland to farming, settlement of small villages. Family farms, family ownership/control of property. High Mycenaean culture (e.g., literacy) lost. Remnants of Mycenaean religion and mythology take new aspect: gods now seen as fickle; religion emphasized individual human action.
In 200+ years after 1000 BCE, new cities rose, old cities repopulated as farmers grew surplus, artisans developed “new” skills, and merchants revived trade between cities/regions/peoples. Trade led to technology/cultural transfer (e.g., trade with the Phoenicians led to use of Phoenician alphabet, artistic styles, and ship-building technology.) New types of ships = expanded sea trade. (Note: piracy also important source of wealth for many Greek cities.)
In “new” Greek city states, families controlled own individual property/wealth (not royal/temple monopoly over economy). That produced aristocracy based upon wealth; families used wealth to win political influence.
Aristocrats claimed authority came from superior characters and qualities (arête). Aristocrats expected to demonstrate heroic qualities, like mythical heroes of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey.
Oral tradition [attributed to “Homer” circa 800 BCE] of myths of gods, and poetic verses about Trojan War and great heroes (later written down) shaped Greeks understood the world, proper behavior, heroism, honor, friendship, love, etc. Everyone knew stories; Iliad and the Odyssey recited at great annual festivals (even wars stopped during festivals). Myths = cultural glue, bound peoples of different Greek city-states.
Civic organization at end of “Dark Ages”: Greek city states developed distinct local traditions, customs, sense of local identity. Athens, Corinth, Sparta, Thebes (etc) shared common religious system and myths, but each had own temples and patron gods. Each city had own cultural values and aristocratic elite. But citizens all valued individual “excellence,” autonomy and action (liberty and independence), and organized city governments to recognize these values.
City-states had an institution called the polis = citizens (men) of land (khora). (Khora included a city (with a large temple) and the villages around it.) Polis met in city market or large central gathering place (the asty). All citizens participated in debates on governance (self-government based upon citizens' participation).
The Greek Archaic Period (800-480 BCE)
Expansion: Territory of Greeks (also called Hellenes) expanded rapidly after 800 BCE; city states pursued new trade and resources, began establishing colonies. Some (e.g., Corinth) had ship-building and trade, but little farmland, and needed colonies as food sources. Some (Thebes) were overcrowded and needed colonies as outlets for surplus population. Sparta had excellent farm land but was short of laborers, and expanded to take slaves. Greek colonies set up colonies across the Mediterranean, Aegean and Black Seas; self-governing, but with close ties to their mother-cities. Colonization increased rivalries and conflicts between the city states.
War between city states: Greeks considered themselves a common "people" [same pantheon of gods, same festivals, etc., but spoke different regional dialects (Ionian vs Dorian, etc) and had locally specific traditions (etc). Each city state remained independent—no central “Empire.” City states often engaged one another in war.
Until 600s, war meant individual combat. Being a warrior required owning expensive swords, armor, training that commoners could not afford. Wealthy aristocrats were the warriors. Role as warrior increased the aristocrats' political power and social dominance.
In the 600s BCE, Greeks started using a new kind of warfare, "Hoplite" = coordinated movements of large numbers of armed men with shields. (Probably adapted from Assyrians.) This ended aristocrats' dominance had over warfare.
Hopla = large leather shield. Rows of men with swords and spears in their right hands moved together, with hopla in left hands; each man's shield covered man to his left. Well-trained, disciplined rows would press spears forward into the enemy until the enemy was speared or trampled. Required discipline, group coordination, brute strength. Every city state trained large numbers men in these fighting skills. Farmers and artisans who could afford shields and spears became hoplites; aristocrats lost monopoly on warfare.
Role of aristocrats in Archaic Greek city states: Aristocrats still dominated political, economic, and cultural life. City government posts unpaid, so only wealthy could afford to serve. Aristocratic families controlled large landed estates, were major patrons of arts (employed sculptors, painters, story tellers, musicians, poets. Aristocratic men socialized in an all-male environment; teens introduced to social circles by older mentors/lovers. (Greeks considered homosexual sex normal, also engaged in heterosexual intercourse.)
Tyranny and aristocratic politics: Aristocratic circles in cities competed for political dominance—sometimes elite factions sought aid from commoners, recruited hoplites, seized control of city government by force. Those who seized power called "tyrants." Tyrants had to keep the hoplites on his side by granting rights and legal protections= difficult balancing act. In many city-states, political “cycle”= hoplites help tyrant, agree to tyranny for decade or two, then demand return of power to citizens (the demos).
Political culture different in each Greek city state. Most IMP difference was between political systems and traditions in Athens and Sparta.
Athens and the evolution of "democracy"
Aristocratic rule in Archaic Athens: wealthy aristocratic landowners controlled key city posts as elected magistrates and controlled the appointed state council (the Areopagus). Each year a different aristocrat served as archeon (administrator of the city-state). The Areopagus chose the archeon. Archeon became members of Areopagus for life. So aristocrats controlled law and government.
As Athens grew, so did ## of poor and debt slaves; big gap between rich and poor, little middle ground. That added to social tensions.
Mid-600s BCE social tensions sparked fifty years of political chaos, internal fighting. This ended in 594 BCE, under archeon Solon.
Solon’s reforms as a step towards democracy: Solon abolished debt slavery and reorganized courts so ordinary citizens could serve on juries. Citizens could appeal rulings of Areopagus to citizen-courts. He opened government posts to non-aristocratic property owners (posts still based on wealth). All free-born men could participate in the assembly of citizens (the ekklesia), which directed government decision making.
Solon’s economic policies helped pull Athens out of crisis. Promoted growing of new crops (olives and grapes) that made Athens an economic power house (oils and wine). Promoted key artisan trades like ship building, helped Athens develop the greatest fleet in Greece.
Tyranny and the evolution of democracy: In 546 BCE, aristocrat named Peisistratos used mercenary army to seize power in Athens. To win support from the demos against rivals, he implemented democratizing reforms that gave commoners more rights.
In 510 BCE, citizens in Athens overthrew Peisistratos' sons; in 508 BCE the demos of Athens elected its own leader—a first! New director of city government, Cleisthenese, issued more reforms giving more power to citizens (demos). System of citizens shaping law/government by voting/direct participation was known as "democracy."
Democracy could be harsh—new law introduced in 508 BCE allowed any citizen to “nominate” any other citizen to be "ostracized"—exiled from Athens for ten years. (Meant to prevent rise of new tyrants, but became a weapon that men used against their personal enemies.)
Sparta and militarized "constitutional" monarchy
Spartan dual monarchy: Sparta, in a part of the Peloponnesus (the southern peninsula) with very rich farm land, had a dual monarchy (two kings who shared power). Followed an unwritten constitution called the Great Rhetra, attributed to mythic figure Lycurgus. Citizens= full time soldiers, could have no other livelihood (could not be merchants, artisans, farmers). All citizens sat in government assembly (apella). Apella elected ruling council to advise the king and make laws. The ruling council chose an inner council (the ephor), which actually ran government.
Militarized society: Sparta's entire society revolved around its army. No aristocrats—all full citizens = soldiers, and all soldiers were equals (Spartai).
Infants “sorted” by city officials; unhealthy killed. At age 7, all children sent to "agope," schools for training warriors. Boys and girls trained together until age 12. At age 12, girls went to a "finishing school" to learn the arts; boys had five more years of combat training. (Fiercest boys in special death squads that terrorized slaves.) At age 18, boys nominated for a "syssition" (their "mess tent, their military unit) by older soldiers (mentor/lover). Those not chosen lost their citizenship rights. Those chosen spent the rest of their life in syssition.
Spartan social life: At 21, soldiers allowed to marry (most waited until early 30s), but still lived in syssition (visited wives infrequently). (By 400s BCE, selective breeding and low birth rates = major population crisis.) Men spent all their time in military units, often away at war; women had greater public role than anywhere else in Greece (but not formally citizens).
Slaves and Non-Citizens: In 600s BCE, Sparta invaded Messenia and enslaved its entire population. Spartans called slaves "helots." (No other Greek city state enslaved fellow Greeks.) Used terror to keep helots under control (10 helots to every 1 Spartan). Besides slaves, Sparta's economy depended upon free non-citizens (men not picked as soldiers), call peroikoi. No matter how much wealth they had, they could never have political or legal rights.
System made Sparta powerful military force. Other Greeks (and Romans) considered Spartans models of discipline and physical perfection.
The Ionian city states
Several important Greek city states were in Ionia, the western coast of Anatolia (Turkey). Most important of these = Miletus, a great military and trade power and main link between the Greek world and the Near East. (Miletus introduced the Greeks to Lydian culture, helped spread Greek culture to the “east.” Miletus, not Athens, was the main center of Greek poetry and philosophy in the Archaic period. In Miletus, thinkers began separating philosophy from theology, stressed human rationality and logic, ability to explain the natural causes of what happens in the "kosmos." Example: Pythagoras argued that mathematics could explain all of nature.
Miletus was also at the center of a conflict that changed the course of Greek history—Greece's war with the Persian Empire.
The Persian Wars
Round 1: 490 BCE. Around 500 BCE, Miletus became puppet-state of Persia. Athens pushed tem to rebel vs Persia, aided Miletus vs Persian outposts in Anatolia. 494 BCE, Persian King Darius crushed Miletus; 490, launched punitive invasion against Greek mainland. Persians landed in Attica (at Marathon). Sparta (etc) refused to help Athens. Athens surprised larger Persian force, used hoplite tactics to defeat Persians, who retreated. Athens then built up navy (200+ warships).
Round 2: 480 BCE. The Persians returned under King Xerxes, who led invasion of Greece himself. Major Greek city-states cooperated vs Persians (Hellenic League, led by Sparta).
Key battles: The Persians attacked small Spartan-led force at Thermopylae. Spartans held off the Persians for three days while Athenian-led fleet destroyed much of the Persian fleet. Persian army then marched on to Athens. Athenian leader Themistocles had convinced population to abandon Athens; Persians looted and burned empty city. BUT…Persians depended on their fleet for supplies = vulnerable. At Salamis, Athenian navy sank the Persian fleet; Xerxes retreated.
The Golden Age of Athens, 480 BCE-400 BCE
The war and democratization: Athens now dominant force in Greece, based on navy. Key to navy = lower-class men (thetes) who rowed its oars. Thetes expected greater rights in Athenian polis, and were support politically by an aristocrat, Pericles. Pericles proposed thetes have full citizens' rights; this won favor of demos—Pericles elected Athen's administrator (strategos) in 462. Pericles introduced reforms that gave all citizens the right to vote on laws, hold office, participate in government; introduced policies to reduce poverty and gap between rich and poor. Result = lower-class political support; Pericles elected strategos for 30 years in a row. All citizens (free, Athenian-born, property- owning men) expected to participate in politics, be well-informed, attend the assembly, and vote. Democratic duties as important as military service.
Life for free people in Athens under Pericles: New public building projects (enlarge temples and theaters, strengthen city wall, etc) provided work --thriving economy. Farming = growing vegetables, grapes (for wine), olives (for oil),raising goats (for milk and meat), sheep (for wool and meat), and pigs (for meat). [Imported wheat from the Black Sea.] When possible, families owned land near Athens (worked by slaves), but lived in the city. Small-scale artisan-style manufacturing employed a large portion of the urban population (city building projects = work for brick-makers, masons, carpenters, potters, sculptors, etc.)
Athens' fleet controlled shipping routes throughout the Aegean Sea; also regular commerce with colonial trading posts as far west as Spain, as far east as the Black Sea, and as far south as Egypt. Most trade not done by Athenians; done by the metics –non-citizens (legally, foreigners) who lived and did business in Athens. Metics had to pay taxes and serve in army, but had no political or property rights. Pericles' Athens = about 150,000 citizens; 35,000 metics; 80,000 slaves [if we count family members].
Slavery: Most hard physical labor (some skilled labor) done by slaves. Most free families owned 1-6 slaves. Law let masters beat slaves and allowed inhumane treatment, but also allowed slaves to hire themselves out for wages during "free" time. Slaves could buy freedom and become metics.
Greek philosophy in the Golden Age: Citizens valued education = rational political decisions; high priority on rhetoric = ability to speak, make convincing arguments at public meetings. New profession—teacher (Sophists)= philosophers who said man is rational, must approach all topics from perspective of "systematic doubt." Some Sophists doubted anything that could not be proven (so what about the gods?); others argued there is no absolute truth (relativism).
Socrates, a soldier-turned philosopher, argued there are absolute truths; goal of systematic analysis = to establish truths to live by (reject all falsehoods). "Socratic Method" of analysis (question and answer, based on logic, to text if ideas and principles are rational). [Most of Socrates’ ideas know through dialogues written by his student Plato; among key foundational texts shaping of western civilization.]
Greek cultural life in Golden Age: Huge popularity of theater, e.g., tragedies by Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides, comedies by Aristophanes. Theater drew from mythology, history, but also daily life. Huge outdoor festivals, audiences voted for best plays. Strong demand for new plays (Aeschylus alone wrote at least 90 plays). Still performed today, e.g., Aeschylus' "Oresteia" trilogy; Sophocles' Electra, Antigone, and Oedipus the King; Euripides' Medea and The Bacchae, and The Trojan Women; Aristophanes' The Clouds, The Wasps and The Frogs). Also strong public for literature--poetry, prose, philosophy, history. (“Fathers of history” = Herodotus and Thucydides, still read today.) Theater and literature not only “entertainment,” but also focused on major moral and ethical issues, how to live correctly, how to balance private life with public duties as a citizen.
Transformation of Greek visual arts, from copies of Egyptian art styles to new naturalism: portrayed people in natural (often fluid) poses, emphasis on beauty, motion, harmony, and balance. Greek sense of the beauty and aesthetics major influence on aesthetics of western civilization.
[Popular Greek visual arts also included graphic depictions of sex, sexual organs—part of everyday Greek religious rituals that stressed fertility].
Women’s Status in the Golden Age: Athenian society extremely patriarchal. “Ideal woman” expected to be beautiful, long-suffering, fertile and silent. Fathers arranged daughters’ marriages (to older men) at puberty. Wives = husband's property. Women secluded, only contact with men in family. Expected to care for domestic tasks (weaving, etc.) and raise children. “Ideal woman” gave birth every 24-36 months. Public world = Male. Women (except prostitutes) banned from all important public spaces---theater, sports, Assembly. In Athens, men did the shopping; scandalous for respectable women to be out in public.
Emotional relations between husband and wife not based on ideal of "romantic love," marital sex not considered pleasure/romance (sex with slaves, prostitutes, or same sex filled that role).
Women in Sparta: status of women different in Sparta than in Athens. In Sparta, girls attended school, encouraged to participate in athletics; fathers waited daughters were at least 18 before arranging marriages for them; women free to be on city streets, could own property. BUT, Sparta still patriarchal culture, women could not be citizens.
The Peloponnesian War (431-404 BCE)
Athens alienates it allies: Athenians abused leadership role in Delian League (anti-Persian alliance, supposedly of “equals”), treated their allies as subordinates. By 450 BCE, Athens had turned the Delian League into its own empire. Resistance from Sparta. Circa 440 BCE, Pericles signed peace treaty with the Persians; Athens then focused on Sparta as main rival (leader of the southern Peloponnesian League). This undermined rationale for the Delian League = many member states wanted out (members paid large contributions to Athens). Athens clamped down on member states by force; that violated principle of League—was supposed to defend Greek freedom. Sparta, Corinth, other cities rejected this. 431 BCE, Sparta and Athens went to war.
The long war: Sparta dominated land war; Athens dominated naval war. Spartans and their allies began the war with 35,000 hoplites and cavalry; Athens had only 14,000 soldiers. Spartans devastated countryside around Athens, put Athens under siege. Athens’ fleet and a fortress-walled corridor linking the city to its port meant Athens could feed itself, carry on war.
By 429 BCE, Athens overcrowded, suffering from poor sanitation and hunger--plague ravaged city population. Tens of thousands died, including Pericles.
War dragged on. 415 BCE Athens launched big naval attack on Spartan colony in Syracuse (Sicily). Spartans set trap, sunk much of Athenian fleet. That worsened political instability in Athens (411-409 BCE, demos turned power over oligarchy of wealthy aristocrats; internal dissent festered, scapegoats blamed, etc.)
The Defeat of Athens: After their victory at Syracuse, Sparta reached agreement with Persia; Persian fleet cut off Athenian shipping. 404 BCE, Spartans under Lysander destroyed remaining Athenian fleet. Result = Athens could feed or defend itself.
Victorious, Lysander set up new government in Athens, the "Thirty Tyrants," who massacred all political opponents. Sparta rulers then recalled Lysander, ordered Athens' democracy restored.
Consequences of the war: Post-war Athens politically unstable; elites seek scapegoats for failures. (Socrates publicly condemned for abusing the gods and "corrupting" the youth in 399 BCE; rather than agree to exile, he committed suicide.)
Athens humbled, Sparta now top power in Greek defensive alliance. But alliance unstable = decades of warfare between Greek city states.