Ancient History

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Their scope is further limited by a focus on political, military and diplomatic history, ignoring economic and social history. In the 8th century BC, Greece began to emerge from the Dark Ages which followed the fall of the Mycenaean civilization. Literacy had been lost and Mycenaean script forgotten, but the Greeks adopted the Phoenician alphabet , modifying it to create the Greek alphabet.

Objects with Phoenician writing on them may have been available in Greece from the 9th century BC, but the earliest evidence of Greek writing comes from graffiti on Greek pottery from the mid-8th century. The Lelantine War c. It was fought between the important poleis city-states of Chalcis and Eretria over the fertile Lelantine plain of Euboea.

Both cities seem to have suffered a decline as result of the long war, though Chalcis was the nominal victor. A mercantile class arose in the first half of the 7th century BC, shown by the introduction of coinage in about BC. The aristocratic regimes which generally governed the poleis were threatened by the new-found wealth of merchants, who in turn desired political power.

From BC onwards, the aristocracies had to fight not to be overthrown and replaced by populist tyrants. A growing population and a shortage of land also seem to have created internal strife between the poor and the rich in many city-states. In Sparta , the Messenian Wars resulted in the conquest of Messenia and enserfment of the Messenians, beginning in the latter half of the 8th century BC, an act without precedent in ancient Greece.

This practice allowed a social revolution to occur. Even the elite were obliged to live and train as soldiers; this commonality between rich and poor citizens served to defuse the social conflict. These reforms, attributed to Lycurgus of Sparta , were probably complete by BC. Athens suffered a land and agrarian crisis in the late 7th century BC, again resulting in civil strife. The Archon chief magistrate Draco made severe reforms to the law code in BC hence " draconian " , but these failed to quell the conflict.

Eventually the moderate reforms of Solon BC , improving the lot of the poor but firmly entrenching the aristocracy in power, gave Athens some stability. Each of them had brought the surrounding rural areas and smaller towns under their control, and Athens and Corinth had become major maritime and mercantile powers as well. Rapidly increasing population in the 8th and 7th centuries BC had resulted in emigration of many Greeks to form colonies in Magna Graecia Southern Italy and Sicily , Asia Minor and further afield.

The emigration effectively ceased in the 6th century BC by which time the Greek world had, culturally and linguistically, become much larger than the area of present-day Greece. Greek colonies were not politically controlled by their founding cities, although they often retained religious and commercial links with them. The emigration process also determined a long series of conflicts between the Greek cities of Sicily, especially Syracuse , and the Carthaginians. This way Rome became the new dominant power against the fading strength of the Sicilian Greek cities and the Carthaginian supremacy in the region.

One year later the First Punic War erupted. In this period, there was huge economic development in Greece, and also in its overseas colonies which experienced a growth in commerce and manufacturing. There was a great improvement in the living standards of the population. Some studies estimate that the average size of the Greek household, in the period from BC to BC, increased five times, which indicates [ citation needed ] a large increase in the average income of the population. In the second half of the 6th century BC, Athens fell under the tyranny of Peisistratos and then of his sons Hippias and Hipparchos.

However, in BC, at the instigation of the Athenian aristocrat Cleisthenes , the Spartan king Cleomenes I helped the Athenians overthrow the tyranny.


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Afterwards, Sparta and Athens promptly turned on each other, at which point Cleomenes I installed Isagoras as a pro-Spartan archon. Eager to prevent Athens from becoming a Spartan puppet, Cleisthenes responded by proposing to his fellow citizens that Athens undergo a revolution: that all citizens share in political power, regardless of status: that Athens become a " democracy ".


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  • So enthusiastically did the Athenians take to this idea that, having overthrown Isagoras and implemented Cleisthenes's reforms, they were easily able to repel a Spartan-led three-pronged invasion aimed at restoring Isagoras. In BC, the Ionian city states under Persian rule rebelled against the Persian-supported tyrants that ruled them. Ten years later, a second invasion was launched by Darius' son Xerxes. The Persians were defeated by a primarily Athenian naval force at the Battle of Salamis , and in defeated on land at the Battle of Plataea.

    While Athenian activity against the Persian empire was ending, however, conflict between Sparta and Athens was increasing. Sparta was suspicious of the increasing Athenian power funded by the Delian League, and tensions rose when Sparta offered aid to reluctant members of the League to rebel against Athenian domination. These tensions were exacerbated in , when Athens sent a force to aid Sparta in overcoming a helot revolt, but their aid was rejected by the Spartans. The peace did not last, however.

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    In an alliance between Athens and Argos was defeated by Sparta at Mantinea. Greece thus entered the 4th century BC under a Spartan hegemony, but it was clear from the start that this was weak. Another war of stalemates, it ended with the status quo restored, after the threat of Persian intervention on behalf of the Spartans. The Spartan hegemony lasted another 16 years, until, when attempting to impose their will on the Thebans, the Spartans were defeated at Leuctra in BC.

    The Theban general Epaminondas then led Theban troops into the Peloponnese, whereupon other city-states defected from the Spartan cause. The Thebans were thus able to march into Messenia and free the population. Deprived of land and its serfs, Sparta declined to a second-rank power. The Theban hegemony thus established was short-lived; at the Battle of Mantinea in BC, Thebes lost its key leader, Epaminondas, and much of its manpower, even though they were victorious in battle.

    In fact such were the losses to all the great city-states at Mantinea that none could establish dominance in the aftermath. In twenty years, Philip had unified his kingdom, expanded it north and west at the expense of Illyrian tribes , and then conquered Thessaly and Thrace.

    His success stemmed from his innovative reforms to the Macedonian army. Phillip intervened repeatedly in the affairs of the southern city-states, culminating in his invasion of BC. Decisively defeating an allied army of Thebes and Athens at the Battle of Chaeronea BC , he became de facto hegemon of all of Greece, except Sparta.

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    He compelled the majority of the city-states to join the League of Corinth, allying them to him, and preventing them from warring with each other. Philip then entered into war against the Achaemenid Empire but was assassinated by Pausanias of Orestis early on in the conflict. Alexander the Great , son and successor of Philip, continued the war. When Alexander died in BC, Greek power and influence was at its zenith.

    However, there had been a fundamental shift away from the fierce independence and classical culture of the poleis —and instead towards the developing Hellenistic culture.

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    Although the establishment of Roman rule did not break the continuity of Hellenistic society and culture, which remained essentially unchanged until the advent of Christianity , it did mark the end of Greek political independence. After the death of Alexander, his empire was, after quite some conflict, divided among his generals, resulting in the Ptolemaic Kingdom Egypt and adjoining North Africa , the Seleucid Empire the Levant , Mesopotamia and Persia and the Antigonid dynasty Macedonia.

    In the intervening period, the poleis of Greece were able to wrest back some of their freedom, although still nominally subject to the Macedonian Kingdom. During the Hellenistic period, the importance of "Greece proper" that is, the territory of modern Greece within the Greek-speaking world declined sharply. The great centers of Hellenistic culture were Alexandria and Antioch , capitals of the Ptolemaic Kingdom and the Seleucid Empire , respectively.

    The conquests of Alexander had numerous consequences for the Greek city-states. It greatly widened the horizons of the Greeks and led to a steady emigration, particularly of the young and ambitious, to the new Greek empires in the east. The Antigonid Kingdom became involved in a war with the Roman Republic in the late 3rd century. Although the First Macedonian War was inconclusive, the Romans, in typical fashion, continued to make war on Macedon until it was completely absorbed into the Roman Republic by BC.

    ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS : Ancient Persia and Arabian Peninsula

    In the east the unwieldy Seleucid Empire gradually disintegrated, although a rump survived until 64 BC, whilst the Ptolemaic Kingdom continued in Egypt until 30 BC, when it too was conquered by the Romans. The Aetolian league grew wary of Roman involvement in Greece, and sided with the Seleucids in the Roman—Seleucid War ; when the Romans were victorious, the league was effectively absorbed into the Republic. Although the Achaean league outlasted both the Aetolian league and Macedon, it was also soon defeated and absorbed by the Romans in BC, bringing an end to the independence of all of Greece.

    Macedonia became a Roman province while southern Greece came under the surveillance of Macedonia's prefect ; however, some Greek poleis managed to maintain a partial independence and avoid taxation. The Aegean islands were added to this territory in BC. Athens and other Greek cities revolted in 88 BC, and the peninsula was crushed by the Roman general Sulla. The Roman civil wars devastated the land even further, until Augustus organized the peninsula as the province of Achaea in 27 BC.

    Greece was a key eastern province of the Roman Empire, as the Roman culture had long been in fact Greco-Roman. The Greek language served as a lingua franca in the East and in Italy , and many Greek intellectuals such as Galen would perform most of their work in Rome. The territory of Greece is mountainous, and as a result, ancient Greece consisted of many smaller regions each with its own dialect, cultural peculiarities, and identity.

    Regionalism and regional conflicts were a prominent feature of ancient Greece.

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    Cities tended to be located in valleys between mountains, or on coastal plains, and dominated a certain area around them. In the south lay the Peloponnese , itself consisting of the regions of Laconia southeast , Messenia southwest , Elis west , Achaia north , Korinthia northeast , Argolis east , and Arcadia center. These names survive to the present day as regional units of modern Greece , though with somewhat different boundaries.

    Mainland Greece to the north, nowadays known as Central Greece , consisted of Aetolia and Acarnania in the west, Locris , Doris , and Phocis in the center, while in the east lay Boeotia , Attica , and Megaris. Northeast lay Thessaly , while Epirus lay to the northwest. Epirus stretched from the Ambracian Gulf in the south to the Ceraunian mountains and the Aoos river in the north, and consisted of Chaonia north , Molossia center , and Thesprotia south. In the northeast corner was Macedonia, [50] originally consisting Lower Macedonia and its regions, such as Elimeia , Pieria , and Orestis.

    Around the time of Alexander I of Macedon , the Argead kings of Macedon started to expand into Upper Macedonia , lands inhabited by independent Macedonian tribes like the Lyncestae and the Elmiotae and to the West, beyond the Axius river , into Eordaia , Bottiaea , Mygdonia , and Almopia , regions settled by Thracian tribes. Chalcidice was settled early on by southern Greek colonists and was considered part of the Greek world, while from the late 2nd millennium BC substantial Greek settlement also occurred on the eastern shores of the Aegean , in Anatolia. During the Archaic period, the population of Greece grew beyond the capacity of its limited arable land according to one estimate, the population of ancient Greece increased by a factor larger than ten during the period from BC to BC, increasing from a population of , to a total estimated population of 10 to 13 million.

    From about BC the Greeks began years of expansion, settling colonies in all directions. Eventually Greek colonization reached as far northeast as present day Ukraine and Russia Taganrog. Greek colonies were also founded in Egypt and Libya. These colonies played an important role in the spread of Greek influence throughout Europe and also aided in the establishment of long-distance trading networks between the Greek city-states, boosting the economy of ancient Greece. Ancient Greece consisted of several hundred relatively independent city-states poleis.

    This was a situation unlike that in most other contemporary societies, which were either tribal or kingdoms ruling over relatively large territories. Undoubtedly the geography of Greece —divided and sub-divided by hills, mountains, and rivers—contributed to the fragmentary nature of ancient Greece. On the one hand, the ancient Greeks had no doubt that they were "one people"; they had the same religion, same basic culture, and same language.

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