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Highlands Ranch High School - Mr. Sedivy
Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Ancient Greece

World History:Classical Greece
Development of Greek City - States

After the dark ages, herding and farming sprang up again. Soon, borders of areas became fixed, each area became independent by 800 BC. There were forts on hilltops for protection, and a polis grew up around each one. The polis was the center of Greek community life. (The plural of Polis is Poleis.) People were Hellenes, or Greeks. Hellas was their word for Greece. There were two main city states: Sparta and Athens.


Area of 3200 square miles. In the 8th century BC, they conquered the "helots" (farm laborers). The helots worked for the polis, not for the landowners. Since the helots outnumbered the Spartans 10 to 1, the Spartans built a powerful army to guard against an uprising.

Every stage of Spartan life was planned. They wanted strong, fearless warriors. Men were trained to be warriors. Sickly babies were left outside to die. People had to bring newborn babies to the government for the government to decide if the baby lived or died. From ages seven to thirty men were required to be in the military. They were taught discipline, strengthened their bodies, learned bravery and endured pain (barefoot in winter, broken bones, etc.). Death in battle was the highest honor, they were taught to never give up.

Spartans were expected to marry by age 20, but the polis was more important than family. At a Spartan Marriage a woman's hair was cropped and she dressed like a boy. The ceremony was followed by a simulated rape. The couple did not live together; he continued to live in the boys' dorm, and ate in messes with other men.

Polis gave aristocrats land, and helots to farm it. Men retired at 60, but most continued helping the government or taught in military schools. Women managed farms and households. They had to be healthy to produce good warriors so they wrestled, boxed, and raced against men. Women had more freedoms than in other societies.

The Spartans became a society of brave warriors, but too one sided. They did not develop arts, trading, literature, etc. They all dressed the same and ate at communal masses. Spartans had one goal - to be militarily strong. They were very much into sports. Tried to stay isolated (didnŐt like the army to be away because they feared the helots would rebel.

Sparta remained agricultural and there was no commercial class. They never used money, only an iron currency for internal use.

Oligarchy, a council of old men and five magistrates. Two kings had special military powers. Between Athens and Sparta there existed paradoxical ideological beliefs rooted in differing historical social demographics, ergo an eventual bloodletting, but, also, an uneasy alliance.


A Doric Temple: The Parthenon. Athens, Acropolis.
Designed by IKTINOS, about 450 B.C.

The people of Athens thought a man's life was empty if he failed to use his mind and develop his talents. Athens started as a monarchy, then an oligarchy (archons), then became one of the first to develop a democracy, "rule by the people." They were also the first to develop laws that came from man instead of from the gods.

Draco wrote the first Greek laws in 621 BC. These laws were too harsh. Death penalty common for even small offenses, "Draconian." But, at least they were written down so the people knew what to expect, and justice was not as arbitrary.

In 594 BC aristocrats asked Solon to write a "constitution," a set of written laws. Athens was divided into four classes, based on wealth. It decreased the power of the nobles and increased the power of the merchants, because the people in the highest three classes could hold office. Solon encouraged farmers to grow new crops: olives for oil, and grapes for wine, therefore increasing trade. All citizens had to teach their sons a trade. Citizenship was given to artisans from other cities. Athens became prosperous.

Pisistratus gained control in 546 BC. He was a "good tyrant" because he did improved conditions. He broke up large estates and gave land to the poor, and there were a lot of internal improvements.

Cleisthenes came to power 510 BC. Athens was divided into ten areas called demes (deemz). Fifty men from each were selected to make decisions. All males over 20 could vote in the assembly. Leaders were chosen by lot (names drawn from a pot). People could point out anyone that they thought was a threat - If 6,000 votes were cast against someone, they were "ostrakon" (ostracized). Athens was now a democratic city-state.

Similarities of Greek City - States

Style of Greek Columns
The Three Main Styles of Greek Columns

Greek city-states were different but the same. They had different governments and ideals, but they spoke the same language, believed in the same gods, read Homer's epics, and competed in the same sports. They considered themselves superior to all others, who were "barbarians." They never had united (they all had too much pride) until the Persians threatened. The Persians had the biggest empire in the history of the world up to that point. The Greeks in Asia Minor rebelled against Persian King Darius (da RYE us). Darius put down the rebellion even though Athens sent 20 ships. Sparta had not helped because it wasn't their problem. Darius attacked Greece.

Persians landed at Marathon and their superior force of 50,000 to 10,000 was thrashed. Persia lost 6,000 while Athens lost 192. This was a huge victory. Sparta, which had been asked to help, arrived the day after. Marathon sent a runner, Phidippides, to go to Athens to tell of the victory. He ran the 24 miles, yelled, "We are victorious," and dropped dead. He had had to run 150 miles a few days before to ask Sparta to help.

Another Invasion
Xerxes (son of Darius) invaded in 480 BC. He attacked at Thermopylae and met with the Spartans. It was a big battle. The Greeks were badly outnumbered, but were winning.

Day 1: Sparta stopped three attacks and killed thousands.

Day 2: Xerxes promised rewards for victory and death for defeat. Sparta won the battles until a traitor, Ephialtes, showed the Persians a way around the mountain pass. The Persians encircled the Greeks and won the battle. The Persians went to Athens and burned it.

Athenians, who had a strong navy, had left for Salamis. They tricked the Persians into putting their navy into a narrow waterway. As the Persian ships crowded together, they were mauled by the Greeks. The Greek fleet of 360 ships beat Persia's 1,000 ships. In 479 BC the Persians left. Sparta retreated into itself. Without so much of a Persian threat, Greece could now flourish. Had Persia won, our civilization would be much different.

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Introduction to Classical Greece

Peoples of Ancient Greece:
The Minoans and Myceneans

The Development of Greek City States:
Sparta and Athens
- Similarities of Greek City States -

Athenian Empire - The Golden Age

Alexander the Great

Athenian Culture

Historical Periods of
World History Class Study

| Prehistory | Mesopotamia & Phoenicians |
| Ancient Egypt | Greece | Rome |
| Medieval History | Renaissance and Reformation |
| Exploration | National Monarchies |
| The Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment |
| Colonial America and American Revolution |
| The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era



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