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An Introduction to Ancient Greece


More of this Feature

• Part 2: Athens
• 
Part 3: Religion
• 
Part 4: Math, Science, and History

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Part 1: The City-State and Sparta

Ancient Greece wasn't one large empire but a collection of smaller city-states. The term the Greeks used was polis, which meant (more or less) "city-state." A polis was bigger than a city but smaller than a state. They were scattered throughout the Mediterranean area. Some were sea-ports; others were more inland. Some of the more famous city-states were Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Delphi, and Thebes.

The people living in these city-states were all Greek, coming from a common heritage. But the people of each city-state did different things and had different beliefs.

Sparta, for instance, was a place of great determination. The Spartans believed in a strong army. All Spartan boys were trained to be soldiers. When the Persians invaded Greece, the other city-states looked especially to Sparta and its army to keep them safe.

The creation of the Spartan military state is credited to Lycurgus, a legendary man who gave Sparta is laws. He said that land should be divided equally among all people. He also said that all people should eat meals together in large halls, so the rich couldn't enjoy food while the poor starved. Most famous, perhaps, is the Senate, a part of government that made laws and kept tyrants in check.

Next page > Athens > Page 1, 2, 3, 4

Graphics courtesy of ArtToday


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