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Ancient Greece


        Ancient Greece occupied the southern area of the Balkan Peninsula and a group of islands in the east Mediterranean. It was a montaineous territory, making communication by land, and agriculture difficult. The lands were near the sea, so fishing and trade were very important. The inhabitants of the city lived on trade and industry. Hand-made products were made in small workshops, where craftsmen made pottery, weapons, fabrics, and so on. Merchants owned ships and navigated the Mediterranean Sea. They sold Athenian products  and bought food , wood and copper.

Thousands of peasants lived in the countryside in very poor conditions. They cultivated vines, wheat and olive trees.

The ancient Greeks lived in independent cities. Each city had its own government, laws and army, and this is why they were called city states or polis. But all of them belonged to the same civilisation, since they shared a common language, religion and culture. Between the 8th and 6th centuries BC, the Greek population increased greatly and the cities were unable to feed all their inhabitants. A part of the population emigrated. Small groups went across the Mediterranean and founded colonies in the places they considered adequate.


The British Museum



Athens was the principal Greek polis in the 5th century BC.  Athens adquired great military prestige during the Persian Wars between the Greeks and the Persians.

Athens also controlled Greek trade. The city had an important fleet to transport Athenians producys across the Mediterranean Sea. The most appreciated articles was pottery, which was beautiful and of great quality.

The Athenian hegemony finished at the end of the 5th centurey BC, when Sparta defeated Athens in the Peloponnesian War.


Learn more about Athens.


Athens was the place where theatre emerged and Euripides, Sophocles and Aesschylus wrote their works.

Philosophy experienced a great development, and other disciplines emerged, such as history. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were important philosophers.

The Athenians attached great importance to education. From the age of seven children learned to read and write and were trained in arithmetic and music. From the age of fourteen they went to the gym, the academy and the lyceum, since they considered sport as important as intellectual subjects. Girls did not attend school.

City life and culture.


In the 6th century BC, some Greek polis pioneered a new type of government, known as democracy. Athens was the best example. There were three main institutions in Athens:

THE ASSEMBLY OR EKKLESIA. The Athenian citizens gathered four times a month and passed laws, decided on war and peace, and elected governors. They voted by a show of hands.

THE MAGISTRATED. They were civil servants in charge of implementing the decisions made by the Assambly.

THE COURT OF JUSTICE. They were formed by 6,000 citizens elected every year.

But not everyone was a citizen. Athens had about 350,000 inhabitants, but only 40,000 were citizens. Foreigners, slaves and women were excluded from political life.

The people rule


  • An unequal society.

CITIZENS. Athenians citizens could participate in politics and had full rights. Only men whose fathers and mothers were Athenians could be citizens.

FOREIGNERS  were called metics, and were free. Most of them were engaged in trade and craftsmanship. They paid taxes and formed part of the army.

SLAVES were noy free, but the property of a family. They were usually prisoners of war or slaves' children.

Women could be free or slaves, but in any case, they always had to be guarded by a man, either father or husband.

Women of Athens.

Lives of the slaves.



 The Helenistic age lasted from338 BC to about the 1st century BC. In view of the lack of unity in the polis, an external power ended up by dominating the entire Greek world. King Philip II of Macedonia conquered the whole of Greece, and his son Alexander extended the empire to the east. The city states became part of  a great empire, governed by one king. After the death of Alexander, his generals divided the empire into several kingdoms, with Egypt, Mesopotamia and Macedonia being the most important ones.

Learn more about the Helenistic period.



Geographic features





Art and entertainment



Roles of Men, Women and Children

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