bb: history 2 discussion



The Making of the West

t h i r d e d i t i o n

For Bedford/St. Martin’s

Executive Editor for History: Mary Dougherty Director of Development for History: Jane Knetzger Senior Developmental Editor: Heidi L. Hood Senior Production Editor: Karen S. Baart Senior Production Supervisor: Dennis Conroy Executive Marketing Manager: Jenna Bookin Barry Editorial Assistants: Lindsay DiGianvittorio and Katherine Flynn Production Associate: Lindsay DiGianvittorio Production Assistant: David Ayers Copyeditor: Janet Renard Text Design: Janis Owens, Books By Design, Inc. Page Layout: Boynton Hue Studio Photo Research: Gillian Speeth Indexer: Leoni Z. McVey & Associates, Inc. Cover Design: Donna Lee Dennison Cover Art: Joseph Vernet, Inner Port of Marseilles, France, 1754, from the series of Ports of France

commissioned by Louis XV. © Musée National de la Marine/P. Dantec. Cartography: Mapping Specialists Limited Composition: Aptara Printing and Binding: R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company

President: Joan E. Feinberg Editorial Director: Denise B. Wydra Director of Marketing: Karen Melton Soeltz Director of Editing, Design, and Production: Marcia Cohen Managing Editor: Elizabeth M. Schaaf

Library of Congress Control Number: 2007927405

Copyright © 2009 by Bedford/St. Martin’s

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, except as may be expressly permitted by the applicable copyright statutes or in writing by the Publisher.

Manufactured in the United States of America.

1 2 3 4 5 6 12 11 10 09 08

For information, write: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 75 Arlington Street, Boston, MA 02116 (617-399-4000)

ISBN-10: 0–312–45294–2 ISBN-13: 978–0–312–45294–0 (combined edition) ISBN-10: 0–312–45295–0 ISBN-13: 978–0–312–45295–7 (Vol. I) ISBN-10: 0–312–45296–9 ISBN-13: 978–0–312–45296–4 (Vol. II) ISBN-10: 0–312–46508–4 ISBN-13: 978–0–312–46508–7 (Vol. A) ISBN-10: 0–312–46509–2 ISBN-13: 978–0–312–46509–4 (Vol. B) ISBN-10: 0–312–46510–6 ISBN-13: 978–0–312–46510–0 (Vol. C) ISBN-10: 0–312–46663–3 ISBN-13: 978–0–312–46663–3 (high school edition)

Acknowledgments: Acknowledgments and copyrights are printed at the back of the book on pages C-1–C-3, which constitute an extension of the copyright page. It is a violation of the law to reproduce these selections by any means whatsoever without the written permission of the copyright holder.


BEDFORD / ST. MARTIN’S Boston ■ New York

The Making of the West

Lynn Hunt University of California, Los Angeles

Thomas R. Martin College of the Holy Cross

Barbara H. Rosenwein Loyola University Chicago

R. Po-chia Hsia Pennsylvania State University

Bonnie G. Smith Rutgers University

t h i r d e d i t i o n

This page intentionally left blank


WHEN A BOOK GOES INTO its third edition, authors feel affirmed but also encouraged to do even better. In- structors who have read and used our book con- firmed that the new synthesis we offered in the first and second editions enabled them to bring the most current conceptualizations of the West into their classroom. From the start, our goal has been to create a text that demonstrates that the history of the West is the story of an ongoing process, not a finished re- sult with only one fixed meaning. We wanted also to make clear that there is no one Western people or culture that has existed from the beginning until now. Instead, the history of the West includes many different peoples and cultures. To convey these ideas, we have written a sustained story of the West’s devel- opment in a broad, global context that reveals the cross-cultural interactions fundamental to the shap- ing of Western politics, societies, cultures, and economies. Indeed, the first chapter opens with a sec- tion on the origins and contested meaning of Western civilization. In this conversation, we emphasize our theme of cultural borrowing between the peoples of Europe and their neighbors that has characterized Western civilization from the beginning. Continu- ing this approach in subsequent chapters, we have insisted on an expanded vision of the West that in- cludes the United States and fully incorporates eastern Europe and Scandinavia. Through the depth and breadth embraced in our narrative, we have been able to offer sustained treatment of crucial topics such as Islam and provide a more thorough treatment of globalization than any competing text. Our aim has been to convey the relevance of Western history throughout the book as essential background to today’s events, from debate over European Union membership to conflict in the Middle East. Instructors have found this synthesis essential for helping students understand the West in today’s ever-globalizing world.

Equally valuable to instructors has been the way our book is organized with a chronological framework to help students understand how polit- ical, social, cultural, and economic histories have influenced each other over time. We know from our own teaching that introductory students need

a solid chronological framework, one with enough familiar benchmarks to make the material easy to grasp. Each chapter treats all the main events, people, and themes of a period in which the West significantly changed; thus, students learn about po- litical events and social and cultural developments as they unfolded. This chronological integration also accords with our belief that it is important, above all else, for students to see the interconnec- tions among varieties of historical experience — between politics and cultures, between public events and private experiences, between wars and diplomacy and everyday life. Our chronological synthesis provides a unique benefit to students: it makes these relationships clear while highlighting the major changes of each age. For teachers, our chronological approach ensures a balanced account and provides the opportunity to present themes within their greater context. But perhaps best of all, this approach provides a text that reveals history as a process that is constantly alive, subject to pressures, and able to surprise us.

Despite gratifying praise from the many re- viewers who helped shape this edition, we felt we could do even more to help students and instruc- tors. First, we have further highlighted thematic coverage to help students discern major develop- ments. The most extensive changes we made to this end appear in the Renaissance and Reforma- tion chapters; we rewrote and reorganized the three chapters of the second edition to create a more meaningful two. Chapter 13 includes new coverage of Renaissance art and architecture and the Ottomans’ influence on the West, while Chap- ter 14 offers new consideration of the European Reformation in the context of global exploration and the spread of print culture. We have worked to make key developments clearer in other chapters as well. We united and expanded the discussion of early Canaanites and Hebrews in Chapter 2, added extended coverage of the first and second crusades in Chapter 10, refocused a section on religious fer- vor and later crusades in Chapter 11, consolidated coverage of the scientific revolution in Chapter 15,


vi Preface

and combined and strengthened a section on in- dustrialization in Chapter 21.

A second way we have chosen to help students identify and absorb major developments is by adding and refining signposts to guide student reading. Most notably, we have added new chapter- opening focus questions. Posed at the end of the opening vignettes, these single questions encapsulate the essence of the era covered in the chapter and guide students toward the core message of the chapter. To further help students as they read, we have worked hard to ensure that chapter and sec- tion overviews outline the central points of each section in the clearest manner possible. In addi- tion, we have condensed some material to better illuminate key ideas.

A third way we have made this book more useful is by adding a special feature called Seeing History. We know that today’s students are at- tuned to visual sources of information, yet they do not always receive systematic instruction in how to “read” or think critically about such sources. Similarly, we know instructors often wish to use visual evidence as the basis of class discussion but do not have materials appropriate for introduc- tory students readily at hand. We have crafted our Seeing History features to address these needs. Each single-page Seeing History feature contains a pair of images — such as paintings, sculpture, photographs, and artifacts — accompanied by back- ground information and probing questions designed to guide students through the process of reading images as historical evidence and to help them explore different perspectives and significant historical developments.

Finally, as always, we have incorporated the latest scholarly findings throughout the book so that students and instructors alike have a text that they can confidently rely on. In the third edition, we have included new and updated discussions of topics such as the demography of the later Roman republic and its effect on social change, the social and political causes of the Great Famine of the early fourteenth century, the emergence of the plague in Europe, the development of new slave- trading routes in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the refugee crisis following World War II, and the enlargement of the European Union, among others.

Aided by a fresh and welcoming design, new pedagogical aids, and new multimedia offerings that give students and instructors interactive tools for study and teaching, we believe we have created a new edition even more suited to today’s Western civilization courses. In writing The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures, we have aimed to com-

municate the vitality and excitement as well as the fundamental importance of history. Students should be enthused about history; we hope we have conveyed some of our own enthusiasm and love for the study of history in these pages.

Pedagogy and Features

We know from our own teaching that students need all the help they can get in absorbing and making sense of information, thinking analytically, and understanding that history itself is debated and con- stantly revised.With these goals in mind,we retained the class-tested learning and teaching aids that worked well in the first and second editions, but we have also done more to help students distill the central story of each age and give them more opportunities to develop their own historical skills.

The third edition incorporates more aids to help students sort out what is most important to learn while they read. New chapter focus ques- tions guide them toward the central themes of the era and the most significant information they should take away from their reading. Boldface key terms have been updated to concentrate on likely test items and have been expanded to include people. To help students read and study, the key terms and people are defined in a new running glossary at the bottom of pages and collected in a comprehensive glossary at the end of the book.

The study tools introduced in the previous edition continue to help students check their un- derstanding of the chapters and the periods they cover. Review questions, strategically placed at the end of each major section, help students recall and assimilate core points in digestible increments. The Chapter Review section provides a clear study plan with a table of important events, a list of key terms and people, section review questions re- peated from within the chapter, and “Making Connections” questions that encourage students to analyze chapter material or make comparisons within or beyond the chapter. Vivid chapter- opening anecdotes with overviews and chapter out- lines, timelines, and conclusions further reinforce the central developments covered in the reading.

But like a clear narrative synthesis, strong pedagogical support is not enough on its own to encourage active learning. To reflect the richness of the themes in the text and offer further oppor- tunities for historical investigation, we include a rich assortment of single-source documents (two per chapter). Nothing can give students a more di- rect experience of the past than original voices,

Preface vii

and we have endeavored to let those voices speak, whether it is Frederick Barbarossa replying to the Romans when they offer him the emperor’s crown, Marie de Sévigné’s description of the French court, or an ordinary person’s account of the outbreak of the Russian Revolution.

Accompanying these primary-source features are our unique features that extend the narrative by revealing the process of interpretation, provid- ing a solid introduction to historical argument and critical thinking, and capturing the excite- ment of historical investigation:

• NEW Seeing History features guide students through the process of reading images as historical evidence. Each of the ten features provides a pair of images with background information and questions that encourage visual analysis. Examples include comparisons of pagan and Christian sarcophagi, Persian and Arabic coins, Romanesque and Gothic naves, pre- and post–French Revolution attire, and Italian propaganda posters from World War I.

• Contrasting Views features provide three or four often conflicting primary-source accounts of a cen- tral event, person, or development, such as Julius Caesar, the First Crusade, Joan of Arc, Martin Luther, the English Civil War, and late-nineteenth- century migration.

• New Sources, New Perspectives features show stu- dents how historians continue to develop fresh in- sights using new kinds of evidence about the past, from tree rings to Holocaust museums.

• Terms of History features explain the meanings of some of the most important and contested terms in the history of the West and show how those mean- ings have developed — and changed — over time. For example, the discussion of progress shows how the term took root in the eighteenth century and has been contested in the twentieth.

• Taking Measure features introduce students to the intriguing stories revealed by quantitative analysis. Each feature highlights a chart, table, graph, or map of historical statistics that illuminates an important political, social, or cultural development.

The book’s map program has been widely praised as the most comprehensive and inviting of any competing survey text. In each chapter, we offer three types of maps, each with a distinct role in conveying information to students. Four to five full-size maps show major developments, two to four “spot” maps — small maps positioned within the discussion right where students need them — aid students’ understanding of crucial issues, and “Mapping the West” summary maps at the end of

each chapter provide a snapshot of the West at the close of a transformative period and help students visualize the West’s changing contours over time. For this edition, we have carefully considered each map, simplified where possible to better highlight essential information, and clarified and updated borders and labels where needed.

We have striven to integrate art as fully as pos- sible into the narrative and to show its value for teaching and learning. Over 425 illustrations, care- fully chosen to reflect this edition’s broad topical coverage and geographic inclusion, reinforce the text and show the varieties of visual sources from which historians build their narratives and inter- pretations. All artifacts, illustrations, paintings, and photographs are contemporaneous with the chap- ter; there are no anachronistic illustrations. Fur- thermore, along with the new Seeing History fea- tures, our substantive captions for the maps and art help students learn how to read visuals, and we have frequently included specific questions or sug- gestions for comparisons that might be developed. Specially designed visual exercises in the Online Study Guide supplement this approach. A new page design for the third edition supports our goal of intertwining the art and the narrative, and makes the new study tools readily accessible.


As with previous editions, a well-integrated ancillary program supports The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures. Each print and new media resource has been carefully revised to provide a host of practical teaching and learning aids. (Visit the online catalog at for ordering information and special packaging options.)


Sources of THE MAKING OF THE WEST, Third Edition—Volumes I (to 1740) and II (since 1500) — by Katharine J. Lualdi, University of Southern Maine. This companion sourcebook provides written and visual sources to accompany each chapter of The Making of the West. Political, social, and cultural documents offer a variety of perspec- tives that complement the textbook and encourage students to make connections between narrative history and primary sources. Short chapter sum- maries and document headnotes contextualize the wide array of sources and perspectives repre- sented, while discussion questions guide students’

vii i Preface

reading and promote historical thinking skills. The third edition features five or more written documents per chapter and one-third more visual sources. Available free when packaged with the text and now available in the e-book (see below).

NEW Trade Books. Titles published by sister companies Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Henry Holt and Company; Hill and Wang; Picador; and St. Martin’s Press are available at a 50 percent discount when packaged with Bedford /St. Martin’s textbooks. For more information, visit

NEW The Bedford Glossary for European His- tory. This handy supplement for the survey course gives students historically contextualized definitions for hundreds of terms — from Abbasids to Zionism — that students will encounter in lec- tures, reading, and exams. Available free when packaged with the text.

Bedford Series in History and Culture. Over 100 titles in this highly praised series combine first-rate scholarship, historical narrative, and im- portant primary documents for undergraduate courses. Each book is brief, inexpensive, and focused on a specific topic or period. Package discounts are available.


NEW The Making of the West e-Book. This one-of-a-kind online resource integrates the text of The Making of the West with the written and visual sources of the companion sourcebook Sources of THE MAKING OF THE WEST and the self-testing and activities of the Online Study Guide into one easy- to-use e-book. With search functions stronger than in any competing text, this e-book is an ideal study and reference tool for students. Instructors can eas- ily add their own documents, images, and other class material to customize the text.

Online Study Guide at hunt. The popular Online Study Guide for The Making of the West is a free and uniquely personal- ized learning tool to help students master themes and information presented in the textbook and improve their historical skills. Assessment quizzes let students evaluate their comprehension and provide them with customized plans for further study through a variety of activities. Instructors can monitor students’ progress through the online Quiz Gradebook or receive e-mail updates.

NEW Audio Reviews for The Making of the West at Audio

Reviews are a new tool that fits easily into stu- dents’ lifestyles and provides a practical new way for them to study. These 25- to 30-minute sum- maries of each chapter in The Making of the West highlight the major themes of the text and help reinforce student learning.

A Student’s Online Guide to History Reference Sources at This Web site provides links to history-related data- bases, indexes, and journals, plus contact informa- tion for state, provincial, local, and professional history organizations.

The Bedford Research Room at bedfordstmartins .com/hunt. The Research Room, drawn from Mike Palmquist’s The Bedford Researcher, offers a wealth of resources — including interactive tuto- rials, research activities, student writing samples, and links to hundreds of other places online — to support students in courses across the disciplines. The site also offers instructors a library of helpful instructional tools.

The Bedford Bibliographer at bedfordstmartins .com/hunt. The Bedford Bibliographer, a simple but powerful Web-based tool, assists students with the process of collecting sources and generates bibliographies in four commonly used documen- tation styles.

Research and Documentation Online at This Web site provides clear advice on how to integrate primary and secondary sources into research papers, how to cite sources correctly, and how to format in MLA, APA, Chicago, or CBE style.

The St. Martin’s Tutorial on Avoiding Plagiarism at This online tuto- rial reviews the consequences of plagiarism and ex- plains what sources to acknowledge, how to keep good notes, how to organize research, and how to integrate sources appropriately. The tutorial in- cludes exercises to help students practice integrating sources and recognize acceptable summaries.


Instructor’s Resource Manual. This helpful manual by Malia Formes (Western Kentucky Uni- versity) and Dakota Hamilton (Humboldt State University) offers both first-time and experienced teachers a wealth of tools for structuring and cus- tomizing Western civilization history courses of

Preface ix

different sizes. For each chapter in the textbook, the Instructor’s Resource Manual includes an out- line of chapter themes; a chapter summary; lecture and discussion topics; film and literature sugges- tions; writing and class-presentation assignments; research topic suggestions; and in-class exercises for working with maps, illustrations, and sources. The new edition includes model answers for the review questions in the book as well as a chapter- by-chapter guide to all the supplements available with The Making of the West.

Transparencies. A set of over 200 full-color acetate transparencies for The Making of the West includes all full-sized maps and many images from the text.


Using the Bedford Series in History and Culture with The Making of the West at bedfordstmartins .com/usingseries. This online guide gives prac- tical suggestions for using the volumes in the Bedford Series in History and Culture in conjunc- tion with The Making of the West. This reference supplies connections between textbook themes and each series book and provides ideas for class- room discussions.

NEW HistoryClass. Bedford/St. Martin’s online learning space for history gives you the right tools and the rich content to create your course, your way. An interactive e-book and e-reader enable you to easily assign relevant textbook sections and primary documents. Access to the acclaimed con- tent library, Make History, provides unlimited access to thousands of maps, images, documents, and Web links. The tried-and-true content of the Online Study Guide offers a range of activities to help students access their progress, study more effectively, and improve their critical thinking skills. Customize provided content and mix in your own with ease — everything in HistoryClass is integrated to work together in the same space.

Instructor’s Resource CD-ROM. This disc pro- vides PowerPoint presentations built around chapter outlines, maps, figures, and selected im- ages from the textbook, plus jpeg versions of all maps, figures, and selected images.

Computerized Test Bank — by Malia Formes, Western Kentucky University; available on CD- ROM. This fully updated test bank offers over 80 exercises per chapter, including multiple-choice, identification, timelines, map labeling and analysis, source analysis, and full-length essay questions.

Instructors can customize quizzes, edit both ques- tions and answers, as well as export them to a vari- ety of formats, including WebCT and Blackboard. The disc includes answer keys and essay outlines.

Book Companion Site at hunt. The companion Web site gathers all the electronic resources for The Making of the West, in- cluding the Online Study Guide and related Quiz Gradebook, at a single Web address, providing convenient links to lecture, assignment, and research materials such as PowerPoint chapter outlines and the digital libraries at Make History.

NEW Make History at makehistory. Comprising the content of Bedford/St. Martin’s five acclaimed online li- braries — Map Central, the Bedford History Image Library, DocLinks, HistoryLinks, and PlaceLinks, Make History provides one-stop access to relevant digital content including maps, images, docu- ments, and Web links. Students and instructors alike can search this free, easy-to-use database by keyword, topic, date, or specific chapter of The Making of the West and download the content they find. Instructors can also create entire collections of content and store them online for later use or post their collections to the Web to share with students.

Content for Course Management Systems. A variety of student and instructor resources devel- oped for this textbook is ready for use in course management systems such as Blackboard, WebCT, and other platforms. This e-content includes nearly all of the offerings from the book’s Online Study Guide as well as the book’s test bank.

Videos and Multimedia. A wide assortment of videos and multimedia CD-ROMs on various top- ics in European history is available to qualified adopters.


In the vital process of revision, the authors have benefited from repeated critical readings by many tal- ented scholars and teachers. Our sincere thanks go to the following instructors, whose comments often challenged us to rethink or justify our interpretations and who always provided a check on accuracy down to the smallest detail.

Abel Alves, Ball State University

Gene Barnett, Calhoun Community College

Giovanna Benadusi, University of South Florida

x Preface

Marjorie K. Berman, Red Rocks Community College

Gregory Bruess, University of Northern Iowa

James M. Burns, Clemson University

Kevin W. Caldwell, Blue Ridge Community College

William R. Caraher, University of North Dakota

Joseph J. Casino, Villanova University, St. Joseph’s University

Sara Chapman, Oakland University

Michael S. Cole, Florida Gulf Coast University

Robert Cole, Utah State University

Theodore F. Cook, William Patterson University

Jo Ann Hoeppner Moran Cruz, Georgetown University

Luanne Dagley, Pellissippi State Technical Community College

Frederick H. Dotolo III, St. John Fisher College

Mari Firkatian, University of Hartford

David D. Flaten, Tompkins Cortland Community College

Ellen Pratt Fout, The Ohio State University

Rebecca Friedman, Florida International University

Helen Grady, Springside School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Padhraig S. Higgins, Pennsylvania State University

Ronald K. Huch, Eastern Kentucky University

Michael Innis-Jiménez, William Paterson University

Jason M. Kelly, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis

Nathaniel Knight, Seton Hall University

Elizabeth A. Lehfeldt, Cleveland State University

Charles Levine, Mesa Community College

Keith P. Luria, North Carolina State University

Kathryn Lynass, Arizona State University

Michael Mackey, Community College of Denver

John McManamon, Loyola University

Anthony Makowski, Delaware County Community College

John W. Mauer, Tri-County Technical College

Lynn Wood Mollenauer, University of North Carolina–Wilmington

Michelle Anne Novak, Houston Community College

Jason M. Osborne, Northern Kentucky University

James A. Ross-Nazzal, Houston Community College–Southeast College

Daniel Sarefield, The Ohio State University

Nancy E. Shockley, New Mexico State University

Dionysios Skentzis, College of DuPage

Daniel Stephen, University of Colorado at Boulder

Charles R. Sullivan, University of Dallas

Emily Sohmer Tai, Queensborough Community College of the City University of New York

David Tengwall, Anne Arundel Community College

Andrew Thomas, Purdue University

Paul A. Townend, University of North Carolina–Wilmington

David Ulbrich, Ball State University

Karen T. Wagner, Pikes Peak Community College

William Welch Jr., Troy University

David K. White, McHenry County College

James Theron Wilson, Ball State University

Many colleagues, friends, and family members have made contributions to this work. They know how grateful we are. We also wish to acknowledge and thank the publishing team at Bedford/St. Martin’s who did so much to bring this revised edition to completion: president Joan Feinberg, editorial director Denise Wydra, publisher for his- tory Mary Dougherty, director of development for history Jane Knetzger, senior editor Heidi Hood, senior editor Louise Townsend, senior editor Sara Wise, freelance editors Betty Slack and Dale Anderson, editorial assistant and production asso- ciate Lindsay DiGianvittorio, executive marketing manager Jenna Bookin Barry, senior production editor Karen Baart, managing editor Elizabeth Schaaf, art researcher Gillian Speeth, text designer Janis Owens, page makeup artist Cia Boynton, cover designer Donna Dennison, and copyeditor Janet Renard.

Our students’ questions and concerns have shaped much of this work, and we welcome all our readers’ suggestions, queries, and criticisms. Please contact us at our respective institutions or via [email protected]


Brief Contents

Prologue: The Beginnings of Human Society, to c. 4000 B.C.E. P-3

1 Early Western Civilization, 4000–1000 B.C.E. 3

2 The Near East and the Emergence of Greece, 1000–500 B.C.E. 33

3 The Greek Golden Age, c. 500–c. 400 B.C.E. 69

4 From the Classical to the Hellenistic World, 400–30 B.C.E. 103

5 The Rise of Rome, 753–44 B.C.E. 133

6 The Roman Empire, 44 B.C.E.–284 C.E. 163

7 The Transformation of the Roman Empire, 284–600 C.E. 195

8 Islam, Byzantium, and the West, 600–750 231

9 Emperors, Caliphs, and Local Lords, 750–1050 261

10 Merchants and Kings, Popes and Crusaders, 1050–1150 295

11 The Flowering of the Middle Ages, 1150–1215 327

12 The Medieval Search for Order, 1215–1340 359

13 Crisis and Renaissance, 1340–1492 387

14 Global Encounters and Religious Reforms, 1492–1560 419

15 Wars of Religion and the Clash of Worldviews, 1560–1648 451

16 State Building and the Search for Order, 1648–1690 483

17 The Atlantic System and Its Consequences, 1690–1740 519

18 The Promise of Enlightenment, 1740–1789 555

19 The Cataclysm of Revolution, 1789–1799 587

20 Napoleon and the Revolutionary Legacy, 1800–1830 619

21 Industrialization and Social Ferment, 1830–1850 653

22 Politics and Culture of the Nation- State, 1850–1870 689

23 Industry, Empire, and Everyday Life, 1870–1890 725

24 Modernity and the Road to War, 1890–1914 763

25 World War I and Its Aftermath, 1914–1929 799

26 The Great Depression and World War II, 1929–1945 839

27 The Cold War and the Remaking of Europe, 1945–1960s 879

28 Postindustrial Society and the End of the Cold War Order, 1960s–1989 915

29 A New Globalism, 1989 to the Present 951

Appendix: Useful Facts and Figures A-1

This page intentionally left blank

xii i


Preface v

Brief Contents xi

Maps and Figures xxix

Special Features xxxv

To the Student xxxix

Authors’ Note: The B.C.E./C.E. Dating System xlv

About the Authors xlvii

Prologue The Beginnings of Human Society,

to c. 4000 B.C.E.

The Paleolithic Age, 200,000–10,000 B.C.E. P-4 The Life of Hunter-Gatherers P-5 Technology, Trade, Religion, and Hierarchy P-6

The Neolithic Age, 10,000–4000 B.C.E. P-8 The Neolithic Revolution P-8 Neolithic Origins of Modern Life and War P-10 Daily Life in the Neolithic Village of

Çatalhöyük P-10 Gender Inequality in the Neolithic Age P-14

Conclusion P-15 • Chapter Review P-16

NEW SOURCES, NEW PERSPECTIVES: Daily Bread, Damaged Bones, and Cracked Teeth P-12


xiv Contents

Chapter 1 Early Western Civilization,

4000–1000 B.C.E.

Chapter 2 The Near East and the Emergence

of Greece, 1000–500 B.C.E.

The Controversial Concept of Western Civilization 4 Defining Western Civilization 4 Locating Early Western Civilization 6

Mesopotamia, Home of the First Civilization, 4000–1000 B.C.E. 7 Cities and Society, 4000–2350 B.C.E. 7 Metals, the Akkadian Empire, and the Ur III

Dynasty, c. 2350–c. 2000 B.C.E. 12 Assyrian, Babylonian, and Canaanite

Achievements, 2000–1000 B.C.E. 13

Egypt, the First Unified Country, 3050–1000 B.C.E. 16 From Egyptian Unification to the Old Kingdom,

3050–2190 B.C.E. 16 The Middle and New Kingdoms in Egypt,

2061–1081 B.C.E. 20

The Hittites, Minoans, and Mycenaeans, 2200–1000 B.C.E. 23 The Hittites, 1750–1200 B.C.E. 24 The Minoans, 2200–1400 B.C.E. 25 The Mycenaeans, 1800–1000 B.C.E. 27 The Period of Calamities, 1200–1000 B.C.E. 28

Conclusion 29 • Chapter Review 31

TERMS OF HISTORY: Civilization 6 DOCUMENT: Hammurabi’s Laws for Physicians 15 DOCUMENT: Declaring Innocence on Judgment Day in

Ancient Egypt 22

From Dark Age to Empire in the Near East, 1000–500 B.C.E. 34 The New Empire of Assyria, 900–600 B.C.E. 35 The Neo-Babylonian Empire, 600–539 B.C.E. 36 The Persian Empire, 557–500 B.C.E. 37 The Hebrews, Origins to 539 B.C.E. 39

Remaking Greek Civilization, 1000–750 B.C.E. 42 The Greek Dark Age, 1000–750 B.C.E. 42 The Values of the Olympic Games 45 Homer, Hesiod, and Divine Justice

in Greek Myth 46

The Creation of the Greek Polis, 750–500 B.C.E. 47 The Physical Environment of the Greek

City-State 47 Trade and “Colonization,” 800–580 B.C.E. 48 Citizenship and Freedom in the Greek

City-State 51

New Directions for the Polis, 750–500 B.C.E. 57 Oligarchy in Sparta, 700–500 B.C.E. 57 Tyranny in Corinth, 657–585 B.C.E. 60 Democracy in Athens, 632–500 B.C.E. 62 New Ways of Thought and Expression,

630–500 B.C.E. 64

Conclusion 65 • Chapter Review 67

document: Homer’s Vision of Justice in the Polis 46 seeing history: Shifting Sculptural Expression:

From Egypt to Greece 50 document: Cyrene Records Its Foundation as a Greek

Colony 52 taking measure: Greek Family Size and Agricultural

Labor in the Archaic Age 55 contrasting views: Persians Debate Democracy,

Oligarchy, and Monarchy 58

3 33

Contents xv

Chapter 3 The Greek Golden Age,

c. 500–c. 400 B.C.E.

Chapter 4 From the Classical to the Hellenistic

World, 400–30 B.C.E.

Wars between Persia and Greece, 499–479 B.C.E. 71 From the Ionian Revolt to the Battle of

Marathon, 499–490 B.C.E. 71 The Great Persian Invasion, 480–479 B.C.E. 72

Athenian Confidence in the Golden Age, 478–431 B.C.E. 74 The Establishment of the Athenian Empire 74 Radical Democracy and Pericles’ Leadership,

461–431 B.C.E. 75 The Urban Landscape 77

Tradition and Innovation in Athens’s Golden Age 81 Religious Tradition in a Period of Change 81 Women, Slaves, and Metics 82 Innovations in Education and Philosophy 86 The Development of Greek Tragedy 92 The Development of Greek Comedy 95

The End of the Golden Age, 431–403 B.C.E. 96 The Peloponnesian War, 431–404 B.C.E. 97 Athens Humbled: Tyranny and Civil War,

404–403 B.C.E. 99

Conclusion 99 • Chapter Review 101

contrasting views: The Nature of Women and Marriage 84

document: Athenian Regulations for a Rebellious Ally 88 document: Sophists Argue Both Sides of a Case 90 taking measure: Military Forces of Athens and Sparta

at the Beginning of the Peloponnesian War (431 B.C.E.) 98

Classical Greece after the Peloponnesian War, 400–350 B.C.E. 104 Restoring Daily Life in Athens 105 The Execution of Socrates, 399 B.C.E. 106 The Philosophy of Plato 107 Aristotle, Scientist and Philosopher 108 Greek Political Disunity 110

The Rise of Macedonia, 359–323 B.C.E. 110 The Roots of Macedonian Power 110 The Rule of Philip II, 359–336 B.C.E. 111 The Rule of Alexander the Great,

336–323 B.C.E. 112

The Hellenistic Kingdoms, 323–30 B.C.E. 115 Creating New Kingdoms 115 The Structure of Hellenistic Kingdoms 116 The Layers of Hellenistic Society 118 The End of the Hellenistic Kingdoms 120

Hellenistic Culture 120 The Arts under Royal Patronage 120 Philosophy for a New Age 122 Scientific Innovation 126 Cultural and Religious Transformations 127

Conclusion 129 • Chapter Review 131

document: Aristotle on the Nature of the Greek Polis 109 document: Epigrams by Women Poets 122 new sources, new perspectives: Papyrus Discoveries

and Menander’s Comedies 124

69 103

xvi Contents

Chapter 5 The Rise of Rome,

753–44 B.C.E.

Chapter 6 The Roman Empire,

44 B.C.E.–284 C.E.

Roman Social and Religious Traditions 134 Roman Moral Values 134 The Patron-Client System 136 The Roman Family 136 Education for Public Life 138 Public and Private Religion 138

From Monarchy to Republic 139 Roman Society under the Kings,

753–509 B.C.E. 140 The Early Roman Republic, 509–287 B.C.E. 142

Roman Imperialism and Its Consequences 145 Expansion in Italy, 500–220 B.C.E. 145 Wars with Carthage and in the East,

264–121 B.C.E. 146 Greek Influence on Roman Literature and

the Arts 149 Stresses on Republican Society 150

Upheaval in the Late Republic 152 The Gracchus Brothers and Factional Politics,

133–121 B.C.E. 152 Marius and the Origin of Client Armies,

107–100 B.C.E. 153 Sulla and Civil War, 91–78 B.C.E. 153 The Republic’s Downfall, 83–44 B.C.E. 155

Conclusion 159 • Chapter Review 161

document: The Rape and Suicide of Lucretia 144 taking measure: Census Records during the First and

Second Punic Wars 148 document: Polybius on Roman Military Discipline 154 contrasting views: What Was Julius Caesar Like? 156

Creating the Pax Romana 164 From Republic to Principate, 44–27 B.C.E. 165 Augustus’s “Restoration of the Republic,”

27 B.C.E.–14 C.E. 165 Augustan Rome 167 Imperial Education, Literature, and Art 172

Maintaining the Pax Romana 173 Making Monarchy Permanent,

14–180 C.E. 174 Life in the Roman Golden Age,

96–180 C.E. 176

The Emergence of Christianity 181 Jesus and His Teachings 181 Growth of a New Religion 182 Competing Beliefs 185

The Third-Century Crisis 188 Defending the Frontiers 188 The Severan Emperors and Catastrophe 190

Conclusion 191 • Chapter Review 193

document: Augustus, Res Gestae (My Accomplishments) 168

document: The Scene at a Roman Bath 170 contrasting views: Christians in the Empire: Conspirators

or Faithful Subjects? 186 taking measure: The Value of Roman Imperial

Coinage, 27 B.C.E.–300 C.E. 189

133 163

Contents xvii

Chapter 7 The Transformation of the

Roman Empire, 284–600 C.E.

Chapter 8 Islam, Byzantium, and

the West, 600–750

Reorganizing the Empire, 284–395 197 From Reform to Fragmentation 197 The High Cost of Rescuing the Empire 200 The Emperors and Official Religion 202

Christianizing the Empire, 312–c. 540 204 Changing Religious Beliefs 204 Establishing Christian Orthodoxy 209 The Emergence of Christian Monks 212

Non-Roman Kingdoms in the West, c. 370–550s 214 Non-Roman Migrations 215 Mixing Traditions 219

The Roman Empire in the East, c. 500–565 221 Imperial Society in the East 222 The Reign of Justinian, 527–565 223 Preserving Classical Traditions 225

Conclusion 227 • Chapter Review 229

document: Diocletian’s Edict on Maximum Prices and Wages 201

taking measure: Peasants’ Use of Farm Produce in the Roman Empire 202

document: The Edict of Milan on Religious Liberty 203 seeing history: Changing Religious Beliefs: Pagan and

Christian Sarcophagi 206 new sources, new perspectives: Was There a Decline

and Fall of the Roman Empire? 218

Islam: A New Religion and a New Empire 232 Nomads and City Dwellers 232 The Prophet Muhammad and the

Faith of Islam 233 Growth of Islam, c. 610–632 234 The Caliphs, Muhammad’s Successors,

632–750 236 Peace and Prosperity in Islamic Lands 237

Byzantium: A Christian Empire under Siege 238 Wars on the Frontiers, c. 570–750 239 From an Urban to a Rural Way of Life 240 New Military and Cultural Forms 242 Religion, Politics, and Iconoclasm 243

Western Europe: A Medley of Kingdoms 245 Frankish Kingdoms with Roman Roots 246 Economic Activity in a Peasant Society 248 The Powerful in Merovingian Society 250 Christianity and Classical Culture in the

British Isles 253 Unity in Spain, Division in Italy 255 Political Tensions and the Power of the Pope 256

Conclusion 257 • Chapter Review 259

terms of history: Medieval 233 document: The Fatihah of the Qur’an 234 seeing history: Who Conquered Whom? A Persian and an

Arabic Coin Compared 239 taking measure: Church Repair, 600–900 243 document: On Holy Images 245 new sources, new perspectives: Anthropology,

Archaeology, and Changing Notions of Ethnicity 249

195 231

xvii i Contents

Chapter 9 Emperors, Caliphs, and Local Lords, 750–1050

Chapter 10 Merchants and Kings, Popes and Crusaders, 1050–1150

The Emperor and Local Elites in the Byzantine Empire 262 Imperial Power 262 The Macedonian Renaissance, c. 870–c. 1025 264 The Dynatoi: A New Landowning Elite 266 In Byzantium’s Shadow: Bulgaria, Serbia,

Russia 266

The Caliphate and Its Fragmentation 268 The Abbasid Caliphate, 750–c. 950 268 Regional Diversity in Islamic Lands 269 Unity of Commerce and Language 270 The Islamic Renaissance, c. 790–c. 1050 271

The Creation and Division of a New European Empire 272 The Rise of the Carolingians 272 Charlemagne and His Kingdom, 768–814 273 The Carolingian Renaissance, c. 790–c. 900 275 Charlemagne’s Successors, 814–911 277 Land and Power 278 Viking, Muslim, and Magyar Invasions,

c. 790–955 279

After the Carolingians: The Emergence of Local Rule 282 Public Power and Private Relationships 282 Warriors and Warfare 285 Efforts to Contain Violence 286 Political Communities in Italy, England,

and France 287 Emperors and Kings in Central and Eastern

Europe 289

Conclusion 291 • Chapter Review 293

document: The Book of the Prefect 265 document: When She Approached 272 contrasting views: Charlemagne: Roman Emperor, Father

of Europe, or the Chief Bishop? 276 terms of history: Feudalism 283 taking measure: Sellers, Buyers, and Donors,

800–1000 284

The Commercial Revolution 296 Fairs, Towns, and Cities 296 Organizing Crafts and Commerce 299 Communes: Self-Government for the

Towns 301 The Commercial Revolution in the

Countryside 301

Church Reform 302 Beginnings of Reform 303 The Gregorian Reform and the Investiture

Conflict, 1073–1122 305 The Sweep of Reform 307 New Monastic Orders of Poverty 309

The Crusades 311 Calling the Crusade 311 The First Crusade 313 The Crusader States 316 The Disastrous Second Crusade 317 The Long-Term Impact of the Crusades 317

The Revival of Monarchies 319 Reconstructing the Empire at Byzantium 319 England under Norman Rule 319 Praising the King of France 321 Surviving as Emperor 322

Conclusion 323 • Chapter Review 325

document: A Byzantine View of Papal Primacy 305 contrasting views: The First Crusade 314 new sources, new perspectives: The Cairo Geniza 318 document: Penances for the Invaders (1070) 322 taking measure: Slaves in England in 1086 323

261 295

Contents xix

Chapter 11 The Flowering of the Middle

Ages, 1150–1215

Chapter 12 The Medieval Search for Order,


New Schools and Churches 328 The New Learning and the Rise of the

University 328 Architectural Style: From Romanesque to

Gothic 332

Governments as Institutions 336 England: Unity through Common Law 336 France: Consolidation and Conquest 340 Germany: The Revived Monarchy of Frederick

Barbarossa 341 Eastern Europe and Byzantium: Fragmenting

Realms 346

The Growth of a Vernacular High Culture 346 The Troubadours: Poets of Love and Play 347 The Literature of Epic and Romance 348

Religious Fervor and Crusade 349 New Religious Orders in the Cities 349 Disastrous Crusades to the Holy Land 351 Victorious Crusades in Europe and on Its

Frontiers 353

Conclusion 355 • Chapter Review 357

seeing history: Romanesque versus Gothic: The View Down the Nave 335

contrasting views: Magna Carta 342 document: Frederick I’s Reply to the Romans 344 document: The Children’s Crusade (1212) 355

The Church’s Mission 360 Innocent III and the Fourth Lateran

Council 360 The Inquisition 362 Lay Piety 362 Jews and Lepers as Outcasts 365

The Medieval Synthesis 367 Scholasticism: Harmonizing Faith and

Reason 367 New Syntheses in Writing and Music 369 Gothic Art 370

The Politics of Control 373 The Weakening of the Empire 373 Louis IX and a New Ideal of Kingship 375 The Birth of Representative Institutions 376 The Weakening of the Papacy 377 The Rise of the Signori 379 The Mongol Takeover 380 The Great Famine 380

Conclusion 382 • Chapter Review 384

taking measure: Sentences Imposed by an Inquisitor, 1308–1323 363

new sources, new perspectives: The Peasants of Montaillou 364

document: The Debate between Reason and the Lover 369 document: Ausculta Fili (Listen, Beloved Son) 379

327 359

xx Contents

Chapter 13 Crisis and Renaissance,


Chapter 14 Global Encounters and Religious

Reforms, 1492–1560

Crisis: Disease, War, and Schism 388 The Black Death, 1346–1353 388 The Hundred Years’ War, 1337–1453 391 The Ottoman Conquest of Constantinople,

1453 396 The Great Schism, 1378–1417 397

The Renaissance: New Forms of Thought and Expression 401 Renaissance Humanism 401 The Arts 403

Consolidating Power 408 New Political Formations in Eastern

Europe 409 Powerful States in Western Europe 410 Republics 411 The Tools of Power 413

Conclusion 414 • Chapter Review 416

taking measure: Population Losses and the Black Death 389

contrasting views: Joan of Arc: Who Was “the Maid”? 394

document: Wat Tyler’s Rebellion (1381) 398 terms of history: Renaissance 402 document: Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Oration on the

Dignity of Man 404

Widening Horizons 420 Portuguese Explorations 420 The Voyages of Columbus 421 A New Era in Slavery 423 Conquering the New World 425

The Protestant Reformation 426 The Invention of Printing 426 Popular Piety and Christian Humanism 427 Martin Luther and the Holy Roman Empire 429 Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin 432 The Anglican Church in England 433

Reshaping Society through Religion 434 Protestant Challenges to the Social Order 435 New Forms of Discipline 437 Catholic Renewal 438

A Struggle for Mastery 441 The High Renaissance Court 441 Dynastic Wars 442 Financing War 444 Divided Realms 445

Conclusion 447 • Chapter Review 449

document: Columbus Describes His First Voyage (1493) 423

seeing history: Expanding Geographic Knowledge: World Maps in an Age of Exploration 424

contrasting views: Martin Luther: Holy Man or Heretic? 431

document: Ordinances for Calvinist Churches (1547) 433

387 419

Contents xxi

Chapter 15 Wars of Religion and the Clash of

Worldviews, 1560–1648

Chapter 16 State Building and the Search

for Order, 1648–1690

Religious Conflicts Threaten State Power, 1560–1618 452 French Wars of Religion, 1562–1598 452 Challenges to Spain’s Authority 455 Elizabeth I’s Defense of English

Protestantism 458 The Clash of Faiths and Empires in

Eastern Europe 459

The Thirty Years’ War, 1618–1648 460 Origins and Course of the War 460 The Effects of Constant Fighting 462 The Peace of Westphalia, 1648 463

Economic Crisis and Realignment 465 From Growth to Recession 465 Consequences for Daily Life 467 The Economic Balance of Power 469

The Rise of Secular and Scientific Worldviews 471 The Arts in an Age of Crisis 471 The Natural Laws of Politics 472 The Scientific Revolution 474 Magic and Witchcraft 478

Conclusion 479 • Chapter Review 481

document: The Horrors of the Thirty Years’ War 462 taking measure: The Rise and Fall of Silver Imports to

Spain, 1550–1660 465 new sources, new perspectives: Tree Rings and the

Little Ice Age 466 seeing history: Religious Differences in Painting of the

Baroque Period: Rubens and Rembrandt 473 document: Sentence Pronounced against

Galileo (1633) 477

Louis XIV: Absolutism and Its Limits 484 The Fronde, 1648–1653 485 Court Culture as an Element of Absolutism 486 Enforcing Religious Orthodoxy 489 Extending State Authority at Home and

Abroad 489

Absolutism in Central and Eastern Europe 492 Brandenburg-Prussia: Militaristic

Absolutism 493 An Uneasy Balance: Austrian Habsburgs and

Ottoman Turks 494 Russia: Setting the Foundations of Bureaucratic

Absolutism 496 Poland-Lithuania Overwhelmed 497

Constitutionalism in England 497 England Turned Upside Down, 1642–1660 498 The Glorious Revolution of 1688 502 Social Contract Theory: Hobbes and Locke 504

Outposts of Constitutionalism 505 The Dutch Republic 505 Freedom and Slavery in the New World 508

The Search for Order in Elite and Popular Culture 509 Freedom and Constraint in the Arts and

Sciences 509 Women and Manners 512 Reforming Popular Culture 514

Conclusion 515 • Chapter Review 517

document: Marie de Sévigné, Letter Describing the French Court (1675) 487

taking measure: The Seventeenth-Century Army 493 contrasting views: The English Civil War 500 document: John Milton, Defense of Freedom of the

Press (1644) 511

451 483

xxii Contents

Chapter 17 The Atlantic System and Its Consequences, 1690–1740

Chapter 18 The Promise of Enlightenment,


The Atlantic System and the World Economy 520 Slavery and the Atlantic System 521 World Trade and Settlement 526 The Birth of Consumer Society 528

New Social and Cultural Patterns 529 Agricultural Revolution 529 Social Life in the Cities 531 New Tastes in the Arts 534 Religious Revivals 536

Consolidation of the European State System 536 French Ambitions Thwarted 536 British Rise and Dutch Decline 538 Russia’s Emergence as a European Power 540 The Power of Diplomacy and the Importance

of Population 544

The Birth of the Enlightenment 545 Popularization of Science and Challenges to

Religion 546 Travel Literature and the Challenge to Custom

and Tradition 549 Raising the Woman Question 549

Conclusion 550 • Chapter Review 552

new sources, new perspectives: Oral History and the Life of Slaves 524

document: The Social Effects of Growing Consumption 530 taking measure: Relationship of Crop Harvested to Seed

Used, 1400–1800 531 terms of history: Progress 547 document: Voltaire, Letters Concerning the English

Nation (1733) 548

The Enlightenment at Its Height 556 Men and Women of the Republic of Letters 556 Conflicts with Church and State 558 The Individual and Society 560 Spreading the Enlightenment 564 The Limits of Reason: Roots of Romanticism

and Religious Revival 566

Society and Culture in an Age of Enlightenment 567 The Nobility’s Reassertion of Privilege 567 The Middle Class and the Making of a

New Elite 568 Life on the Margins 571

State Power in an Era of Reform 573 War and Diplomacy 573 State-Sponsored Reform 576 Limits of Reform 577

Rebellions against State Power 578 Food Riots and Peasant Uprisings 578 Public Opinion and Political Opposition 580 Revolution in North America 581

Conclusion 583 • Chapter Review 585

document: Denis Diderot, “Encyclopedia” (1755) 559 contrasting views: Women and the Enlightenment 562 terms of history: Enlightenment 565 taking measure: World Population Growth,

1700–1800 571 document: Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence

(July 4, 1776) 582

519 555

Contents xxii i

Chapter 19 The Cataclysm of Revolution,


Chapter 20 Napoleon and the Revolutionary

Legacy, 1800–1830

The Revolutionary Wave, 1787–1789 588 Protesters in the Low Countries and

Poland 589 Origins of the French Revolution,

1787–1789 591

From Monarchy to Republic, 1789–1793 594 The Revolution of Rights and Reason 594 The End of Monarchy 598

Terror and Resistance 600 Robespierre and the Committee of Public

Safety 600 The Republic of Virtue, 1793–1794 602 Resisting the Revolution 604 The Fall of Robespierre and the End of the

Terror 605

Revolution on the March 607 Arms and Conquests 607 European Reactions to Revolutionary

Change 608 Poland Extinguished, 1793–1795 612 Revolution in the Colonies 613

Conclusion 615 • Chapter Review 617

terms of history: Revolution 590 document: The Rights of Minorities 597 contrasting views: Perspectives on the French

Revolution 610 document: Address on Abolishing the Slave Trade

(February 5, 1790) 613

The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte 620 A General Takes Over 620 From Republic to Empire 622 The New Paternalism: The Civil Code 625 Patronage of Science and Intellectual Life 627

“Europe Was at My Feet”: Napoleon’s Conquests 628 The Grand Army and Its Victories,

1800–1807 628 The Impact of French Victories 630 From Russian Winter to Final Defeat,

1812–1815 632

The “Restoration” of Europe 636 The Congress of Vienna, 1814–1815 636 The Emergence of Conservatism 638 The Revival of Religion 639

Challenges to the Conservative Order 640 Romanticism 640 Political Revolts in the 1820s 644 Revolution and Reform, 1830–1832 646

Conclusion 649 • Chapter Review 651

seeing history: The Clothing Revolution: The Social Meaning of Changes in Post-Revolutionary Fashion 624

document: An Ordinary Soldier on Campaign with Napoleon 633

contrasting views: Napoleon: For and Against 634 document: Wordsworth’s Poetry 642

587 619

xxiv Contents

Chapter 21 Industrialization and Social

Ferment, 1830–1850

Chapter 22 Politics and Culture of the Nation-State, 1850–1870

The Industrial Revolution 654 Roots of Industrialization 654 Engines of Change 656 Urbanization and Its Consequences 661 Agricultural Perils and Prosperity 663

Reforming the Social Order 664 Cultural Responses to the Social Question 664 The Varieties of Social Reform 667 Abuses and Reforms Overseas 670

Ideologies and Political Movements 671 The Spell of Nationalism 672 Liberalism in Economics and Politics 674 Socialism and the Early Labor Movement 675

The Revolutions of 1848 678 The Hungry Forties 678 Another French Revolution 679 Nationalist Revolution in Italy 680 Revolt and Reaction in Central Europe 681 Aftermath to 1848 684

Conclusion 685 • Chapter Review 687

taking measure: Railroad Lines, 1830–1850 656 new sources, new perspectives: Statistics and the

Standard of Living of the Working Class 660 document: Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto 677 document: Alexis de Tocqueville Describes the June Days

in Paris (1848) 681

The End of the Concert of Europe 690 Napoleon III and the Quest for French

Glory 691 The Crimean War, 1853–1856: Turning

Point in European Affairs 692 Reform in Russia 694

War and Nation Building 696 Cavour, Garibaldi, and the Process of Italian

Unification 696 Bismarck and the Realpolitik of German

Unification 699 Francis Joseph and the Creation of the

Austro-Hungarian Monarchy 702 Political Stability through Gradual Reform

in Great Britain 703 Nation Building in the United States and

Canada 705

Establishing Social Order 705 Bringing Order to the Cities 706 Expanding the Reach of Government 708 Schooling and Professionalizing Society 709 Spreading Western Order beyond the West 710 Confronting the Nation-State’s Order at

Home 713

The Culture of Social Order 715 The Arts Confront Social Reality 716 Religion and National Order 718 From the Natural Sciences to Social Science 720

Conclusion 721 • Chapter Review 723

document: Mrs. Seacole: The Other Florence Nightingale 694

terms of history: Nationalism 697 document: Bismarck Tricks the Public to Get His War 701 seeing history: Photographing the Nation: Domesticity

and War 704

653 689

Contents xxv

Chapter 23 Industry, Empire, and Everyday

Life, 1870–1890

Chapter 24 Modernity and the Road

to War, 1890–1914

The Advance of Industry in an Age of Empire 727 Industrial Innovation 727 Facing Economic Crisis 729 Revolution in Business Practices 731

The New Imperialism 733 Taming the Mediterranean 733 Scramble for Africa 733 Acquiring Territory in Asia 737 Japan’s Imperial Agenda 738 The Paradoxes of Imperialism 739

Imperial Society and Culture 740 The “Best Circles” and the Expanding

Middle Class 741 Professional Sports and Organized Leisure 742 Working People’s Strategies 743 Reform Efforts for Working-Class People 746 Artistic Responses to Empire and Industry 747

The Birth of Mass Politics 750 Workers, Politics, and Protest 750 Expanding Political Participation in

Western Europe 752 Power Politics in Central and Eastern Europe 754

Conclusion 759 • Chapter Review 761

document: Imperialism’s Popularity among the People 736 contrasting views: Experiences of Migration 744 document: Henrik Ibsen, From A Doll’s House 748 taking measure: The Decline of Illiteracy 755

Public Debate over Private Life 764 Population Pressure 765 Reforming Marriage 766 New Women, New Men, and the Politics of

Sexual Identity 767 Sciences of the Modern Self 768

Modernity and the Revolt in Ideas 771 The Opposition to Positivism 771 Revolutionizing Science 772 Modern Art 773 The Revolt in Music and Dance 775

Growing Tensions in Mass Politics 776 Labor’s Expanding Power 776 Rights for Women and the Battle for Suffrage 777 Liberalism Tested 778 Anti-Semitism, Nationalism, and Zionism in

Mass Politics 779

European Imperialism Challenged 783 The Trials of Empire 784 The Russian Empire Threatened 787 Growing Resistance to Colonial Domination 788

Roads to War 790 Competing Alliances and Clashing

Ambitions 790 The Race to Arms 792 1914: War Erupts 793

Conclusion 795 • Chapter Review 797

terms of history: Modern 766 new sources, new perspectives: Psychohistory and Its

Lessons 770 document: Leon Pinsker Calls for a Jewish State 783 document: A Historian Promotes Militant Nationalism 795

725 763

xxvi Contents

Chapter 25 World War I and Its Aftermath,


Chapter 26 The Great Depression

and World War II, 1929–1945

The Great War, 1914–1918 800 Blueprints for War 800 The Battlefronts 803 The Home Front 806

Protest, Revolution, and War’s End, 1917–1918 810 War Protest 810 Revolution in Russia 810 Ending the War, 1918 814

The Search for Peace in an Era of Revolution 815 Europe in Turmoil 815 The Paris Peace Conference, 1919–1920 816 Economic and Diplomatic Consequences of

the Peace 820

The Aftermath of War: Europe in the 1920s 821 Changes in the Political Landscape 822 Reconstructing the Economy 824 Restoring Society 825

Mass Culture and the Rise of Modern Dictators 827 Culture for the Masses 828 Cultural Debates over the Future 828 The Communist Utopia 831 Fascism on the March in Italy 833

Conclusion 835 • Chapter Review 837

seeing history: Demonizing the Enemy: Italian Propaganda Posters from World War I 808

document: Outbreak of the Russian Revolution 813 contrasting views: Arguing with the Victors 818 taking measure: The Growth of Radio, 1924–1929 829 document: Battlefield Tourism 830

The Great Depression 840 Economic Disaster Strikes 840 Social Effects of the Depression 842 The Great Depression beyond the West 843

Totalitarian Triumph 844 The Rise of Stalinism 844 Hitler’s Rise to Power 847 The Nazification of German Politics 848 Nazi Racism 849

Democracies on the Defensive 852 Confronting the Economic Crisis 852 Cultural Visions in Hard Times 854

The Road to Global War 856 A Surge in Global Imperialism 856 The Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939 859 Hitler’s Conquest of Central Europe,

1938–1939 860

World War II, 1939–1945 862 The German Onslaught 862 War Expands: The Pacific and Beyond 864 The War against Civilians 864 Societies at War 866 From Resistance to Allied Victory 868 An Uneasy Postwar Settlement 873

Conclusion 875 • Chapter Review 877

document: A Family Copes with Unemployment 842 terms of history: Totalitarianism 845 contrasting views: Stalin and Hitler: For and Against 850 document: The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere 858 new sources, new perspectives: Museums and

Memory 867

799 839

Contents xxvii

Chapter 27 The Cold War and the Remaking

of Europe, 1945–1960s

Chapter 28 Postindustrial Society and the End of

the Cold War Order, 1960s–1989

World Politics Transformed 880 Chaos in Europe 881 New Superpowers: The United States and

the Soviet Union 883 Origins of the Cold War 883 The Division of Germany 886

Political and Economic Recovery in Europe 888 Dealing with Nazism 888 Rebirth of the West 889 The Welfare State: Common Ground East

and West 893 Recovery in the East 894

Decolonization in a Cold War Climate 897 The End of Empire in Asia 897 The Struggle for Identity in the Middle East 899 New Nations in Africa 900 Newcomers Arrive in Europe 901

Daily Life and Culture in the Shadow of Nuclear War 902 Restoring “Western” Values 903 Consumerism and Shifting Gender Norms 905 The Culture of Cold War 908 The Atomic Brink 909

Conclusion 911 • Chapter Review 913

new sources, new perspectives: Government Archives and the Truth about the Cold War 885

taking measure: World Manufacturing Output, 1950–1970 892

document: The Schuman Plan on European Unity (1950) 893

document: Consumerism, Youth, and the Birth of the Generation Gap 905

The Revolution in Technology 916 The Information Age: Television and

Computers 916 The Space Age 918 The Nuclear Age 919 Revolutions in Biology and Reproductive

Technology 919

Postindustrial Society and Culture 921 Multinational Corporations 921 The New Worker 922 The Boom in Education and Research 924 Changing Family Life and the Generation

Gap 924 Art, Ideas, and Religion in a Technocratic

Society 925

Protesting Cold War Conditions 927 Cracks in the Cold War Order 927 The Growth of Citizen Activism 930 1968: Year of Crisis 933

The Testing of Superpower Domination and the End of the Cold War 936 A Changing Balance of World Power 936 The Western Bloc Meets Challenges with

Reform 939 Collapse of Communism in the Soviet Bloc 942

Conclusion 947 • Chapter Review 949

taking measure: Postindustrial Occupational Structure, 1984 923

seeing history: Critiquing the Soviet System: Dissident Art in the 1960s and 1970s 929

contrasting views: Feminist Debates 932 document: Margaret Thatcher’s Economic Vision 941 document: Criticizing Gorbachev 944

879 915

xxvii i Contents

Chapter 29 A New Globalism,

1989 to the Present

Collapse of the Soviet Union and Its Aftermath 953 The Breakup of Yugoslavia 953 The Soviet Union Comes Apart 956 Toward a Market Economy 958 International Politics and the New Russia 960

The Nation-State in a Global Age 961 Europe Looks beyond the Nation-State 961 Globalizing Cities and Fragmenting Nations 964 Global Organizations 965

Challenges from an Interconnected World 966 The Problems of Pollution 966 Population, Health, and Disease 968 North versus South? 969 Islam Meets the West 969 World Economies on the Rise 973

Global Culture and Society in the Twenty-first Century 974 Redefining the West: The Impact of Global

Migration 974 Global Networks and the Economy 975 A Global Culture? 977

Conclusion 981 • Chapter Review 984

document: Václav Havel, “Czechoslovakia Is Returning to Europe” 963

document: The European Green Party Becomes Transnational (2006) 967

taking measure: World Population Growth, 1950–2010 968

contrasting views: Muslim Immigrants and Turkey in the EU: The Dutch Debate Globalization 976

Appendix: Useful Facts and Figures A-1

Glossary of Key Terms and People G-1

Suggested References SR-1

Index I-1



Maps and Figures

Maps Prologue map 1 The Development of Agriculture P-9

Chapter 1 map 1.1 The Ancient Near East, 4000–3000 B.C.E. 8

spot map The Akkadian Empire, 2350–2200 B.C.E. 12

spot map The Kingdom of Assyria, 1900 B.C.E. 13

map 1.2 Ancient Egypt 17

map 1.3 Greece and the Aegean Sea, 1500 B.C.E. 23

mapping the west The Period of Calamities,

1200–1000 B.C.E. 30

Chapter 2 map 2.1 Expansion of the Neo-Assyrian Empire,

c. 900–650 B.C.E. 35

map 2.2 Expansion of the Persian Empire,

c. 550–490 B.C.E. 38

spot map Phoenicia and Canaan/Palestine 39

map 2.3 Dark Age Greece 43

map 2.4 Archaic Greece, 750–500 B.C.E. 48

map 2.5 Phoenician and Greek Expansion,

750–500 B.C.E. 49

spot map Sparta and Corinth, 750–500 B.C.E. 57

spot map Athens and Central Greece, 750–500 B.C.E. 62

spot map Ionia and the Aegean, 750–500 B.C.E. 65

mapping the west Mediterranean Civilizations,

c. 500 B.C.E. 66

Chapter 3 map 3.1 The Persian Wars, 499–479 B.C.E. 72

spot map The Delian and Peloponnesian Leagues 74

map 3.2 Fifth-Century B.C.E. Athens 78

spot map Theaters of Classical Greece 95

map 3.3 The Peloponnesian War, 431–404 B.C.E. 97

mapping the west Greece, Europe, and the

Mediterranean, 400 B.C.E. 100

Chapter 4 spot map Athens’s Long Walls as Rebuilt after the

Peloponnesian War 106

spot map Aristotle’s Lyceum, established 335 B.C.E. 108

map 4.1 Expansion of Macedonia under Philip II,

359–336 B.C.E. 112

map 4.2 Conquests of Alexander the Great,

336–323 B.C.E. 114

map 4.3 Hellenistic Kingdoms, 240 B.C.E. 116

mapping the west Roman Takeover of the Hellenistic

World, to 30 B.C.E. 130

Chapter 5 map 5.1 Ancient Italy, 500 B.C.E. 140

map 5.2 The City of Rome during the Republic 143

spot map Rome and Central Italy, Fifth

Century B.C.E. 145

spot map Roman Roads, 110 B.C.E. 145

map 5.3 Roman Expansion, 500–44 B.C.E. 147

spot map The Kingdom of Mithridates VI, 88 B.C.E. 154

mapping the west The Roman World at the End of

the Republic, 44 B.C.E. 160

Chapter 6 map 6.1 The Expansion of the Roman Empire,

30 B.C.E.–117 C.E. 176

map 6.2 Natural Feature and Languages

of the Roman World 178

spot map Palestine in the Time of Jesus, 30 C.E. 181

map 6.3 Christian Populations in the Late Third

Century C.E. 184

mapping the west The Roman Empire in

Crisis, 284 C.E. 192

xxx Maps and Figures

Chapter 7 map 7.1 Diocletian’s Reorganization of 293 199

spot map The Empire’s East/West Division, 395 199

map 7.2 The Spread of Christianity, 300–600 209

spot map Original Areas of Christian Splinter

Groups 211

map 7.3 Migrations and Invasions of the Fourth

and Fifth Centuries 216

map 7.4 Peoples and Kingdoms of the Roman

World, 526 220

spot map Constantinople during the Rule of

Justinian 225

mapping the west Western Europe and the Eastern

Roman Empire, 600 228

Chapter 8 map 8.1 Expansion of Islam to 750 236

map 8.2 Byzantine and Sasanid Empires, c. 600 241

map 8.3 Diagram of the City of Ephesus 242

map 8.4 The Merovingian Kingdoms in the

Seventh Century 247

spot map Tours, c. 600 248

spot map The British Isles 253

spot map Lombard Italy, Early Eighth Century 255

mapping the west Europe and the Mediterranean,

c. 750 258

Chapter 9 map 9.1 The Expansion of Byzantium, 860–1025 263

spot map The Balkans, c. 850–950 267

map 9.2 Islamic States, c. 1000 269

map 9.3 Expansion of the Carolingian Empire

under Charlemagne 275

map 9.4 Muslim, Viking, and Magyar Invasions

of the Ninth and Tenth Centuries 281

spot map England in the Age of King Alfred,

871–899 288

spot map The Kingdom of the Franks under Hugh

Capet, 987–996 289

spot map The Ottoman Empire, 936–1002 289

mapping the west Europe and the Mediterranean,

c. 1050 292

Chapter 10 map 10.1 Medieval Trade Routes in the Eleventh

and Twelfth Centuries 298

spot map The World of the Investiture Conflict,

c. 1070–1122 306

map 10.2 The First Crusade, 1096–1099 312

spot map Jewish Communities Attacked during

the First Crusade 313

spot map The Crusader States in 1109 316

spot map Norman Conquest of England, 1066 320

mapping the west Major Religions in the West,

c. 1150 324

Chapter 11 map 11.1 Europe in the Age of Henry II

and Frederick Barbarossa, 1150–1190 338

spot map The Consolidation of France under

Philip Augustus, 1180–1223 340

spot map Eastern Europe and Byzantium, c. 1200 346

map 11.2 Crusades and Anti-Heretic Campaigns,

1150–1204 352

map 11.3 The Reconquista, 1150–1212 354

spot map The Albigensian Crusade, 1209–1229 355

mapping the west Europe and Byzantium, c. 1215 356

Chapter 12 spot map Blood Libel Charges in

Europe, c. 1100–1300 366

spot map Italy at the End of the Thirteenth

Century 373

map 12.1 Europe in the Time of Frederick II,

r. 1212–1250 374

map 12.2 France under Louis IX, r. 1226–1270 376

map 12.3 The Mongol Invasions to 1259 381

mapping the west Europe, c. 1340 383

Chapter 13 map 13.1 The Hundred Years’ War, 1337–1453 393

map 13.2 Ottoman Expansion in the Fourteenth

and Fifteenth Centuries 397

spot map The Hussite Revolution, 1415–1436 400

spot map Hanseatic League 409

Maps and Figures xxxi

spot map Spain before Unification, Late Fifteenth

Century 410

spot map Expansion of Burgundy, 1384–1476 410

spot map Growth of the Swiss Confederation,

1291–1386 411

spot map Italy at the Peace of Lodi, 1454 412

mapping the west Europe, c. 1492 415

Chapter 14 map 14.1 Early Voyages of World Exploration 422

map 14.2 Spanish and Portuguese Colonies in

the Americas, 1492–1560 425

spot map Luther’s World in the Early

Sixteenth Century 430

spot map Calvin’s World in the Mid-Sixteenth

Century 432

map 14.3 The Peasants’ War of 1525 435

map 14.4 Habsburg-Valois-Ottoman Wars,

1494–1559 442

mapping the west Reformation Europe, c. 1560 447

Chapter 15 map 15.1 Protestant Churches in France, 1562 453

map 15.2 The Empire of Philip II, r. 1556–1598 456

spot map The Netherlands during the Revolt,

c. 1580 456

spot map Retreat of the Spanish Armada, 1588 459

spot map Russia, Poland-Lithuania, and Sweden

in the Late 1500s 460

map 15.3 The Thirty Years’ War and the Peace of

Westphalia, 1648 463

map 15.4 European Colonization of the Americas,

c. 1640 470

mapping the west The Religious Divisions of

Europe, c. 1648 480

Chapter 16 spot map The Fronde, 1648–1653 486

map 16.1 Louis XIV’s Acquisitions, 1668–1697 492

map 16.2 State Building in Central and Eastern

Europe, 1648–1699 494

spot map Poland-Lithuania in the Seventeenth

Century 497

spot map England during the Civil War 499

map 16.3 Dutch Commerce in the Seventeenth

Century 506

mapping the west Europe at the End of the

Seventeenth Century 516

Chapter 17 map 17.1 European Trade Patterns, c. 1740 522

map 17.2 Europe, c. 1715 537

map 17.3 Russia and Sweden after the Great

Northern War, 1721 543

spot map Austrian Conquest of Hungary,

1657–1730 544

mapping the west Europe in 1740 551

Chapter 18 map 18.1 War of the Austrian Succession,

1740–1748 574

map 18.2 The Seven Years’ War, 1756–1763 575

spot map The First Partition of Poland, 1772 576

spot map The Pugachev Rebellion, 1773 579

mapping the west Europe and the World, c. 1780 583

Chapter 19 spot map The Low Countries in 1787 589

map 19.1 Revolutionary Paris, 1789 594

spot map The Great Fear, 1789 595

map 19.2 Redrawing the Map of France, 1789–1791 596

spot map The Vendeé Rebellion, 1793 604

map 19.3 French Expansion, 1791–1799 608

map 19.4 The Second and Third Partitions of

Poland, 1793 and 1795 612

spot map St. Domingue on the Eve of the

Revolt, 1791 614

mapping the west Europe in 1799 616

Chapter 20 map 20.1 Napoleon’s Empire at Its Height, 1812 628

spot map France’s Retreat from America 629

spot map Consolidation of German and Italian

States, 1812 630

spot map The Spanish War for Independence,

1807–1813 632

xxxii Maps and Figures

map 20.2 Europe after the Congress of Vienna,

1815 637

map 20.3 Revolutionary Movements of the 1820s 644

spot map Nationalistic Movements in the Balkans,

1815–1830 645

map 20.4 Latin American Independence, 1804–1830 647

mapping the west Europe in 1830 650

Chapter 21 map 21.1 Industrialization in Europe, c. 1850 657

map 21.2 The Spread of Cholera, 1826–1855 662

spot map The Opium War, 1839–1842 671

map 21.3 Languages of Nineteenth-Century Europe 673

map 21.4 The Revolutions of 1848 679

spot map The Divisions of Italy, 1848 680

mapping the west Europe in 1850 686

Chapter 22 map 22.1 The Crimean War, 1853–1856 692

map 22.2 Unification of Italy, 1859–1870 698

map 22.3 Unification of Germany, 1862–1871 700

spot map The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, 1867 702

map 22.4 U.S. Expansion, 1850–1870 706

spot map Indian Resistance, 1857 711

map 22.5 The Paris Commune, 1871 714

mapping the west Europe and the Mediterranean,

1871 722

Chapter 23 spot map The Suez Canal and British Invasion

of Egypt, 1882 733

map 23.1 Africa, c. 1890 735

spot map British Colonialism in the Malay

Peninsula and Burma, 1826–1890 737

map 23.2 Expansion of Russia in Asia, 1865–1895 738

spot map The Union of Indochina, 1893 738

map 23.3 Expansion of Berlin to 1914 755

map 23.4 The Balkans, c. 1878 757

spot map Russia: The Pale of Settlement in the

Nineteenth Century 758

mapping the west The West and the World, c. 1890 760

Chapter 24 spot map Principal Ethnic Groups in

Austria-Hungary, c. 1900 781

map 24.1 Jewish Migrations in the Late Nineteenth

Century 782

map 24.2 Africa in 1914 784

spot map The Struggle for Ethiopia, 1896 785

map 24.3 Imperialism in Asia, 1894–1914 786

spot map Russian Revolution of 1905 787

map 24.4 The Balkans, 1908–1914 791

mapping the west Europe at the Outbreak of World

War I, August 1914 796

Chapter 25 map 25. 1 The Fronts of World War I, 1914–1918 802

spot map The Schlieffen Plan 803

map 25.2 The Western Front 804

map 25. 3 The Russian Civil War, 1917–1922 814

map 25. 4 Europe and the Middle East after the

Peace Settlements of 1919–1920 817

spot map The Little Entente 821

spot map National Minorities in Postwar Poland 822

spot map The Irish Free State and Ulster, 1921 824

mapping the west Europe and the World in 1929 836

Chapter 26 map 26.1 The Expansion of Japan, 1931–1941 857

spot map The Ethiopian War, 1935–1936 859

map 26.2 The Spanish Civil War, 1936–1939 860

map 26.3 The Growth of Nazi Germany,

1933–1939 862

spot map The Division of France, 1940 863

map 26.4 Concentration Camps and Extermination

Sites in Europe 865

map 26.5 World War II in Europe and Africa 869

map 26.6 World War II in the Pacific 872

mapping the west Europe at War’s End, 1945 876

Chapter 27 map 27.1 The Impact of World War II on Europe 883

spot map Yugoslavia after the Revolution 886

Maps and Figures xxxii i

map 27.2 Divided Germany and the Berlin Airlift,

1946–1949 887

map 27.3 European NATO Members and the Warsaw

Pact in the 1950s 888

spot map The Korean War, 1950–1953 898

spot map Indochina, 1954 898

map 27.4 The Partition of Palestine and the

Creation of Israel, 1947–1948 899

map 27.5 The Decolonization of Africa, 1951–1990 900

map 27.6 The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962 911

mapping the west The Cold War World, c. 1960 912

Chapter 28 map 28.1 The Airbus Production System 922

map 28.2 The Vietnam War, 1954–1975 930

spot map Prague Spring, 1968 935

spot map Israel after the Six-Day War, 1967 937

spot map Nationalist Movements of the 1970s 939

mapping the west The Collapse of Communism

in Europe, 1989–1990 948

Chapter 29 map 29.1 Eastern Europe in the 1990s 954

map 29.2 The Former Yugoslavia, c. 2000 955

map 29.3 Countries of the Former Soviet Union,

c. 2000 957

map 29.4 The European Union in 2007 962

map 29.5 The Middle East in the Twenty-first

Century 971

spot map Tigers of the Pacific Rim, c. 1995 973

mapping the west The World in the New

Millennium 983

Figures figure 1.1 Cuneiform Writing 11

figure 1.2 Egyptian Hieroglyphics 18

figure 3.1 Triremes, the Foremost Classical

Greek Warships 75

figure 3.2 Styles of Greek Capitals 78

figure 6.1 Cutaway Reconstruction of the Forum

of Augustus 167

figure 10.1 Floor Plan of a Cistercian Monastery 310

figure 11.1 Floor Plan of a Romanesque Church 333

figure 11.2 Elements of a Gothic Cathedral 334

figure 11.3 Genealogy of Henry II 337

figure 11.4 Troubadour Song: “I Never Died

for Love” 348

figure 17.1 African Slaves Imported into American

Territories, 1701–1810 521

figure 17.2 Annual Imports in the Atlantic Slave

Trade, 1450–1870 523

figure 23.1 European Emigration, 1870–1890 746

figure 24.1 The Growth in Armaments, 1890–1914 793

figure 25.1 The Rising Cost of Living During

World War I 809

figure 26.1 Weapons Production of the Major

Powers, 1939–1945 868

figure 27.1 Military Spending and the Cold War

Arms Race, 1950–1970 891

figure 27.2 Women in the Workforce, 1950–1960 907

figure 28.1 Fluctuating Oil Prices, 1955–1985 938

This page intentionally left blank


Documents Hammurabi’s Laws for Physicians 15

Declaring Innocence on Judgment Day in Ancient Egypt 22

Homer’s Vision of Justice in the Polis 46

Cyrene Records Its Foundation as a Greek Colony 52

Athenian Regulations for a Rebellious Ally 88

Sophists Argue Both Sides of a Case 90

Aristotle on the Nature of the Greek Polis 109

Epigrams by Women Poets 122

The Rape and Suicide of Lucretia 144

Polybius on Roman Military Discipline 154

Augustus, Res Gestae (My Accomplishments) 168

The Scene at a Roman Bath 170

Diocletian’s Edict on Maximum Prices and Wages 201

The Edict of Milan on Religious Liberty 203

The Fatihah of the Qur’an 234

On Holy Images 245

The Book of the Prefect 265

When She Approached 272

A Byzantine View of Papal Primacy 305

Penances for the Invaders (1070) 322

Frederick I’s Reply to the Romans 344

The Children’s Crusade (1212) 355

The Debate between Reason and the Lover 369

Ausculta Fili (Listen, Beloved Son) 379

Wat Tyler’s Rebellion (1381) 398

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man 404

Columbus Describes His First Voyage (1493) 423

Ordinances for Calvinist Churches (1547) 433

The Horrors of the Thirty Years’ War 462

Sentence Pronounced against Galileo (1633) 477

Marie de Sévigné, Letter Describing the French Court (1675) 487

John Milton, Defense of Freedom of the Press (1644) 511

The Social Effects of Growing Consumption 530

Voltaire, Letters Concerning the English Nation (1733) 548

Denis Diderot, “Encyclopedia” (1755) 559

Special Features

Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776) 582

The Rights of Minorities 597

Address on Abolishing the Slave Trade (February 5, 1790) 613

An Ordinary Soldier on Campaign with Napoleon 633

Wordsworth’s Poetry 642

Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto 677

Alexis de Tocqueville Describes the June Days in Paris (1848) 681

Mrs. Seacole: The Other Florence Nightingale 694

Bismarck Tricks the Public to Get His War 701

Imperialism’s Popularity among the People 736

Henrik Ibsen, From A Doll’s House 748

Leon Pinsker Calls for a Jewish State 783

A Historian Promotes Militant Nationalism 795

Outbreak of the Russian Revolution 813

Battlefield Tourism 830

A Family Copes with Unemployment 842

The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere 858

The Schuman Plan on European Unity, 1950 893

Consumerism, Youth, and the Birth of the Generation Gap 905

Margaret Thatcher’s Economic Vision 941

Criticizing Gorbachev 944

Václav Havel, “Czechoslovakia Is Returning to Europe” 963

The European Green Party Becomes Transnational (2006) 967

Contrasting Views Persians Debate Democracy, Oligarchy, and Monarchy 58

The Nature of Women and Marriage 84

What Was Julius Caesar Like? 156

Christians in the Empire: Conspirators or Faithful Subjects? 186

Charlemagne: Roman Emperor, Father of Europe, or the Chief Bishop? 276

The First Crusade 314

Magna Carta 342

Joan of Arc: Who Was “the Maid”? 394

Martin Luther: Holy Man or Heretic? 431

The English Civil War 500

Women and the Enlightenment 562

Perspectives on the French Revolution 610

Napoleon: For and Against 634

Experiences of Migration 744

Arguing with the Victors 818

Stalin and Hitler: For and Against 850

Feminist Debates 932

Muslim Immigrants and Turkey in the EU: The Dutch Debate Globalization 976

xxxvi Special Features

Special Features xxxvii

New Sources, New Perspectives Daily Bread, Damaged Bones, and Cracked Teeth P-12

Papyrus Discoveries and Menander’s Comedies 124

Was There a Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire? 218

Anthropology, Archaeology, and Changing Notions of Ethnicity 249

The Cairo Geniza 318

The Peasants of Montaillou 364

Tree Rings and the Little Ice Age 466

Oral History and the Life of Slaves 524

Statistics and the Standard of Living of the Working Class 660

Psychohistory and Its Lessons 770

Museums and Memory 867

Government Archives and the Truth about the Cold War 885

Terms of History Civilization 6

Medieval 233

Feudalism 283

Renaissance 402

Progress 547

Enlightenment 565

Revolution 590

Nationalism 697

Modern 766

Totalitarianism 845

Seeing History Shifting Sculptural Expression: From Egypt to Greece 50

Changing Religious Beliefs: Pagan and Christian Sarcophagi 206

Who Conquered Whom? A Persian and an Arabic Coin Compared 239

Romanesque versus Gothic: The View Down the Nave 335

Expanding Geographic Knowledge: World Maps in an Age of Exploration 424

Religious Differences in Painting of the Baroque Period: Rubens and

Rembrandt 473

The Clothing Revolution: The Social Meaning of Changes in

Post-Revolutionary Fashion 624

Photographing the Nation: Domesticity and War 704

Demonizing the Enemy: Italian Propaganda Posters from World War I 808

Critiquing the Soviet System: Dissident Art in the 1960s and 1970s 929

Taking Measure Greek Family Size and Agricultural Labor in the Archaic Age 55

Military Forces of Athens and Sparta at the Beginning of the

Peloponnesian War (431 B.C.E.) 98

Census Records during the First and Second Punic Wars 148

The Value of Roman Imperial Coinage, 27 B.C.E.–300 C.E. 189

Peasants’ Use of Farm Produce in the Roman Empire 202

Church Repair, 600–900 243

Sellers, Buyers, and Donors, 800–1000 284

Slaves in England in 1086 323

Sentences Imposed by an Inquisitor, 1308–1323 363

Population Losses and the Black Death 389

The Rise and Fall of Silver Imports to Spain, 1550–1660 465

The Seventeenth-Century Army 493

Relationship of Crop Harvested to Seed Used, 1400–1800 531

World Population Growth, 1700–1800 571

Railroad Lines, 1830–1850 656

The Decline of Illiteracy 755

The Growth of Radio, 1924–1929 829

World Manufacturing Output, 1950–1970 892

Postindustrial Occupational Structure, 1984 923

World Population Growth, 1950–2010 968

xxxvii i Special Features

This guide to your textbook introduces the unique features that will help you understand the fascinating story of Western Civilization.

To the Student

Tools to help you focus on what is important

Read the chapter outlines to preview the topics and themes to come.

Consult the running glossary for definitions of the bolded Key Terms and People.

Preview chapter events and keep track of time with chapter timelines.

Use the review questions at the end of each major section to check your understanding of key concepts.

Read the focus questions at the start of each chapter to think about the main ideas you should look for as you read.


xl To the Student

Special features introduce the way historians work and help you learn to think critically about the past.

Numerous individual primary-source documents offer direct experiences of the past and the opportunity to consider sources historians use.

Contrasting Views provide three or four often conflict- ing eyewitness accounts of a cen- tral event, person, or development to foster critical thinking skills.

Seeing History pairs two visuals with background informa- tion and probing questions to encourage analysis of images as historical evidence.

New Sources, New Perspectives show how new evidence leads historians to fresh insights—and sometimes new interpretations.

Terms of History identify a term central to history writing and reveal how it is hotly debated.

Taking Measure data reveal how individual facts add up to broad trends and introduce quantitative analysis skills.

To the Student xli

Art and maps extend the chapter, and help you analyze images and put events in geographical context.

Full-size maps show major historical developments and carry informative captions.

Web references direct you to visual activities designed to help you analyze images.

Mapping the West summary maps provide a snapshot of the West at the close of each chapter.

“Spot” maps offer geographical de- tails right where you need them.

xli i To the Student

Tools to help you remember the chapter’s main points and do further research

For print and Web resources for papers or further study, consult the For Further Explo- ration boxes at the end of each chapter, which guide you to annotated lists of suggested ref- erences, additional primary-source materials, and related Web resources.

Test your knowledge of the important concepts and historical figures in the Key Terms and People lists, which include page references to the text discussion and running glossary definition. These definitions are also in the glossary at the end of the book.

Answer the Review Questions, which repeat the chapter’s end-of- section comprehension prompts.

Answer the analytical Making Connections questions, which will help you link ideas within or across chapters.

Read the chapter conclusions to review how the chap- ters’ most important themes and topics fit together and learn how they connect to the next chapter.

Visit the free online study guide, which provides quizzes and activities to help you master the chapter material.

Review the Important Events chronologies to make sure you under- stand the relationships between major events in the chapter and their sequence.

To the Student xli i i

In each chapter of this textbook you will find many primary sources to broaden your understanding of the development of the West. Primary sources refer to firsthand, contemporary accounts or direct evidence about a particular topic. For example, speeches, letters, diaries, song lyrics, and newspaper articles are all primary sources that historians use to construct accounts of the past. Nonwritten materials such as maps, paintings, artifacts, and even architecture and music can also be primary sources. Both types of historical documents in this textbook — written and visual — provide a glimpse into the lives of the men and women who influenced or were influenced by the course of Western history.

To guide your interpretation of any source, you should begin by asking several basic questions, listed below, as starting points for observing, analyzing, and interpreting the past. Your answers should prompt further questions of your own.

1. Who is the author? Who wrote or created the material? What was his or her author- ity? (Personal? institutional?) Did the author have specialized knowledge or experi- ence? If you are reading a written document, how would you describe the author’s tone of voice? (Formal, personal, angry?)

2. Who is the audience? Who were the intended readers, listeners, or viewers? How does the intended audience affect the ways that the author presents ideas?

3. What are the main ideas? What are the main points that the author is trying to con- vey? Can you detect any underlying assumptions of values or attitudes? How does the form or medium affect the meaning of this document?

4. In what context was the document created? From when and where does the docu- ment originate? What was the interval between the initial problem or event and this document, which responded to it? Through what form or medium was the document communicated? (For example, a newspaper, a government record, an illustration.) What contemporary events or conditions might have affected the creation of the doc- ument?

5. What’s missing? What’s missing or cannot be learned from this source, and what might this omission reveal? Are there other sources that might fill in the gaps?

Now consider these questions as you read “Columbus Describes His First Voyage (1493),” the document on the next page. Compare your answers to the sample obser- vations provided.

How to Read Primary Sources

xliv To the Student

1. Who is the author? The title and headnote that precede each document contain in- formation about the authorship and date of its creation. In this case, the Italian ex- plorer Christopher Columbus is the author. His letter describes events in which he was both an eyewitness and a participant.

2. Who is the audience? Columbus sent the letter to Raphael Sanchez, treasurer to Fer- dinand and Isabella — someone who Columbus knew would be keenly interested in the fate of his patrons’ investment. Because the letter was also a public document writ- ten to a crown official, Columbus would have expected a wider audience beyond Sanchez. How might his letter have differed had it been written to a friend?

3. What are the main ideas? In this segment, Columbus describes his encounter with the native people. He speaks of his desire to establish good relations by treating them fairly, and he offers his impressions of their intelligence and naiveté — characteristics he implies will prove useful to Europeans. He also expresses an interest in converting them to Christianity and making them loyal subjects of the crown.

4. In what context was the document created? Columbus wrote the letter in 1493, within six months of his first voyage. He would have been eager to announce the suc- cess of his endeavor.

5. What’s missing? Columbus’s letter provides just one view of the encounter. We do not have a corresponding account from the native Americans’ perspective nor from anyone else travelling with Columbus. With no corroboration evidence, how reliable is this description?

Note: You can use these same questions to analyze visual images. Start by determining who created the image — whether it’s a painting, photograph, sculpture, map, or arti- fact — and when it was made. Then consider the audience for whom the artist might have intended the work and how viewers might have reacted. Consult the text for in- formation about the time period, and look for visual cues such as color, artistic style, and use of space to determine the central idea of the work. As you read, consult the captions in this book to help you evaluate the images and to ask more questions of your own.


The B.C.E./C.E. Dating System “When were you born?”“What year is it?”We custom- arily answer questions like these with a number, such as “1987” or “2004.” Our replies are usually auto- matic, taking for granted the numerous assumptions Westerners make about how dates indicate chronol- ogy. But to what do numbers such as 1987 and 2004 actually refer? In this book the numbers used to specify dates follow a recent revision of the system most common in the Western secular world. This sys- tem reckons the dates of solar years by counting backward and forward from the traditional date of the birth of Jesus Christ, over two thousand years ago.

Using this method, numbers followed by the abbreviation B.C.E., standing for “before the com- mon era” (or, as some would say, “before the Christian era”), indicate the number of years counting backward from the assumed date of the birth of Jesus Christ. B.C.E. therefore indicates the same chronology marked by the traditional abbre- viation B.C. (“before Christ”). The larger the num- ber following B.C.E. (or B.C.), the earlier in history is the year to which it refers. The date 431 B.C.E., for example, refers to a year 431 years before the birth of Jesus and therefore comes earlier in time than the dates 430 B.C.E., 429 B.C.E., and so on. The same calculation applies to numbering other time intervals calculated on the decimal system: those of ten years (a decade), of one hundred years (a century), and of one thousand years (a millen- nium). For example, the decade of the 440s B.C.E. (449 B.C.E. to 440 B.C.E.) is earlier than the decade of the 430s B.C.E. (439 B.C.E. to 430 B.C.E.). “Fifth century B.C.E.” refers to the fifth period of 100 years reckoning backward from the birth of Jesus and covers the years 500 B.C.E. to 401 B.C.E. It is earlier in history than the fourth century B.C.E. (400 B.C.E. to 301 B.C.E.), which followed the fifth century B.C.E. Because this system has no year “zero,” the first century B.C.E. covers the years 100 B.C.E. to 1 B.C.E. Dating millennia works similarly: the second millennium B.C.E. refers to the years 2000 B.C.E. to 1001 B.C.E., the third millennium to the years 3000 B.C.E. to 2001 B.C.E., and so on.

To indicate years counted forward from the traditional date of Jesus’ birth, numbers are fol- lowed by the abbreviation C.E., standing for “of the common era” (or “of the Christian era”). C.E. therefore indicates the same chronology marked by the traditional abbreviation A.D., which stands for the Latin phrase anno Domini (“in the year of the Lord”). A.D. properly comes before the date be- ing marked. The date A.D. 1492, for example, translates as “in the year of the Lord 1492,” mean- ing 1492 years after the birth of Jesus. Under the B.C.E./C.E. system, this date would be written as 1492 C.E. For dating centuries, the term “first cen- tury C.E.” refers to the period from 1 C.E. to 100 C.E. (which is the same period as A.D. 1 to A.D. 100). For dates C.E., the smaller the number, the earlier the date in history. The fourth century C.E. (301 C.E. to 400 C.E.) comes before the fifth century C.E. (401 C.E. to 500 C.E.). The year 312 C.E. is a date in the early fourth century C.E., while 395 C.E. is a date late in the same century. When numbers are given without either B.C.E. or C.E., they are pre- sumed to be dates C.E. For example, the term eigh- teenth century with no abbreviation accompany- ing it refers to the years 1701 C.E. to 1800 C.E.

No standard system of numbering years, such as B.C.E./C.E., existed in antiquity. Different people in different places identified years with varying names and numbers. Consequently, it was difficult to match up the years in any particular local sys- tem with those in a different system. Each city of ancient Greece, for example, had its own method for keeping track of the years. The ancient Greek historian Thucydides, therefore, faced a problem in presenting a chronology for the famous Pelo- ponnesian War between Athens and Sparta, which began (by our reckoning) in 431 B.C.E. To try to ex- plain to as many of his readers as possible the date the war had begun, he described its first year by three different local systems: “the year when Chry- sis was in the forty-eighth year of her priesthood at Argos, and Aenesias was overseer at Sparta, and Pythodorus was magistrate at Athens.”

A Catholic monk named Dionysius, who lived in Rome in the sixth century C.E., invented the

Authors’ Note

xlvi Authors’ Note

The system of numbering years from the birth of Jesus is far from the only one in use today. The Jewish calendar of years, for example, counts for- ward from the date given to the creation of the world, which would be calculated as 3761 B.C.E. under the B.C.E./C.E. system. Under this system, years are designated A.M., an abbreviation of the Latin anno mundi, “in the year of the world.” The Islamic calendar counts forward from the date of the prophet Muhammad’s flight from Mecca, called the Hijra, in what is the year 622 C.E. The abbreviation A.H. (standing for the Latin phrase anno Hegirae, “in the year of the Hijra”) indicates dates calculated by this system. Anthropology commonly reckons distant dates as “before the present” (abbreviated B.P.).

History is often defined as the study of change over time; hence the importance of dates for the historian. But just as historians argue over which dates are most significant, they disagree over which dating system to follow. Their debate reveals per- haps the most enduring fact about history — its vitality.

system of reckoning dates forward from the birth of Jesus. Calling himself Exiguus (Latin for “the little” or “the small”) as a mark of humility, he placed Jesus’ birth 754 years after the foundation of ancient Rome. Others then and now believe his date for Jesus’s birth was in fact several years too late. Many scholars today calculate that Jesus was born in what would be 4 B.C.E. according to Dionysius’s system, although a date a year or so earlier also seems possible.

Counting backward from the supposed date of Jesus’ birth to indicate dates earlier than that event represented a natural complement to reck- oning forward for dates after it. The English histo- rian and theologian Bede in the early eighth century was the first to use both forward and backward reckoning from the birth of Jesus in a historical work, and this system gradually gained wider ac- ceptance because it provided a basis for standard- izing the many local calendars used in the Western Christian world. Nevertheless, B.C. and A.D. were not used regularly until the end of the eighteenth century. B.C.E. and C.E. became common in the late twentieth century.

La st H1 xlvii

xlvi i

LYNN HUNT, Eugen Weber Professor of Modern Euro- pean History at the University of California, Los Ange- les, received her B.A. from Carleton College and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. She is the author of Revolution and Urban Politics in Provincial France (1978); Politics, Culture, and Class in the French Revolution (1984); The Family Romance of the French Revolution (1992); and Inventing Human Rights (2007). She is also the coauthor of Telling the Truth about His- tory (1994); coauthor of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution (2001, with CD-ROM); editor of The New Cultural History (1989); editor and translator of The French Revolution and Human Rights (1996); and coeditor of Histories: French Constructions of the Past (1995), Beyond the Cultural Turn (1999), and Human Rights and Revolutions (2000). She has been awarded fellowships by the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities and is a fel- low of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She served as president of the American Historical As- sociation in 2002.

THOMAS R. MARTIN, Jeremiah O’Connor Professor in Classics at the College of the Holy Cross, earned his B.A. at Princeton University and his M.A. and Ph.D. at Harvard University. He is the author of Sovereignty and Coinage in Classical Greece (1985) and Ancient Greece (1996, 2000) and is one of the originators of Perseus: In- teractive Sources and Studies on Ancient Greece (1992, 1996, and, which, among other awards, was named the EDUCOM Best Software in So- cial Sciences (History) in 1992. He serves on the edito- rial board of STOA ( and as codirector of its DEMOS project (online resources on ancient Athen- ian democracy). A recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Amer- ican Council of Learned Societies, he is currently con- ducting research on the comparative historiography of ancient Greece and ancient China.

BARBARA H. ROSENWEIN, professor of history at Loyola University Chicago, earned her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. She is the author of Rhinoceros Bound: Cluny in the Tenth Century (1982); To Be the Neighbor of Saint Peter: The Social Meaning of Cluny’s Property, 909–1049 (1989); Negotiating Space: Power, Restraint, and Privileges of Immunity in Early Me- dieval Europe (1999); A Short History of the Middle Ages (2001); Emotional Communities in the Early Middle Ages (2006); and Reading the Middle Ages: Sources from Europe, Byzantium, and the Islamic World (2006). She is the editor of Anger’s Past: The Social Uses of an Emotion in the Middle Ages (1998) and coeditor of De- bating the Middle Ages: Issues and Readings (1998) and Monks and Nuns, Saints and Outcasts: Religion in Me- dieval Society (2000).A recipient of Guggenheim and Na- tional Endowment for the Humanities fellowships, she is currently working on a general history of emotions in the West.

R. PO-CHIA HSIA, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of History at Pennsylvania State University, received his B.A. from Swarthmore College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University. He is the author of Society and Religion in Münster, 1535–1618 (1984); The Myth of Ritual Mur- der: Jews and Magic in Reformation Germany (1988); So- cial Discipline in the Reformation: Central Europe 1550–1750 (1989); Trent 1475: Stories of a Ritual Murder Trial (1992); The World of the Catholic Renewal (1997); and Noble Patronage and Jesuit Missions: Maria Theresa von Fugger-Wellenburg (1690–1762) and Jesuit Mission- aries to China and Vietnam (2006). He has edited or coedited In and Out of the Ghetto: Jewish-Gentile Rela- tions in Late Medieval and Early Modern Germany (1995); The German People and the Reformation (1998); Calvin- ism and Religious Toleration in the Dutch Golden Age (2002); A Companion to the Reformation World (Black- well Companion Series, 2004); Cultural Translation in Early Modern Europe (2007); and Cambridge History of

About the Authors

xlvii i About the Authors

France (1985); Changing Lives: Women in European History Since 1700 (1989); The Gender of History: Men, Women, and Historical Practice (1998); Imperialism (2000); and Europe in the Contemporary World: 1900 to the Present (2007). She is also the coauthor and translator of What Is Property? (1994); editor of Global Feminisms since 1945 (2000) and Women’s History in Global Perspective (3 vols. 2004–2005); coeditor of History and the Texture of Modern Life: Selected Writings of Lucy Maynard Salmon, Gendering Disability (2004); and general editor of Oxford Encyclope- dia of Women in World History (4 vols. 2007). She has re- ceived fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Humanities Center, the Davis Center of Princeton Univer- sity, and the American Council of Learned Societies. Currently she is studying the globalization of European culture since the seventeenth century.

Christianity, Volume 6, Reform and Expansion, 1500–1660 (2007). An academician at the Academia Sinica, Taiwan, he has also been awarded fellowships by the Woodrow Wilson International Society of Scholars, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Davis Center of Princeton University, the Mellon Foundation, the American Coun- cil of Learned Societies, and the American Academy in Berlin. Currently he is working on the cultural con- tacts between Europe and Asia between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries.

BONNIE G. SMITH, Board of Governors Professor of History at Rutgers University,earned her Smith Col- lege and her the University of Rochester.She is the author of Ladies of the Leisure Class (1981); Confessions of a Concierge: Madame Lucie’s History of Twentieth-Century


The Making of the West

t h i r d e d i t i o n

In 1997, archaeologists working in the East African nation ofEthiopia discovered fossilized skulls that dated from at least 160,000years ago. These bones are the oldest remains ever found from the species Homo sapiens (“wise human being”)—people whose brains and

appearances were similar (though not identical) to ours. This new in-

formation excited scientists because it supported the “out of Africa”

theory about human origins, which claims that Homo sapiens first ap-

peared in Africa perhaps as early as 200,000 years ago and then spread

from that continent all over the world.

The innovations that early human beings made in technology, trade,

religion, and social organization formed the basis of our modern way of

life. They also led to the emergence of war. Just as with the discovery of

the skull, researchers keep uncovering new information that changes our

knowledge about the past and therefore our thinking about how the past

relates to the present. This process of discovery always involves question-

ing and debate. When we study history, therefore, we have to expect dis-

agreements, especially about how to understand past events, what those

events meant then, and what they mean today. Recent discoveries of hu-

man remains in Asia, for example, have reignited debate over the “out of

Africa” theory, bringing back the once-discarded idea that human beings

arose independently in different parts of the earth.

Scientists studying fossilized bones and those studying human mi-

tochondrial DNA (the type inherited from the mother) have shown

that it took millions of years for the earliest human species to emerge.

According to the “out of Africa” theory, human beings exactly like us

The Paleolithic Age, 200,000–10,000 B.C.E. P-4 • The Life of Hunter-Gatherers • Technology, Trade, Religion,

and Hierarchy

The Neolithic Age, 10,000–4000 B.C.E. P-8 • The Neolithic Revolution • Neolithic Origins of Modern Life and War • Daily Life in the Neolithic Village of

Çatalhöyük • Gender Inequality in the Neolithic Age


Prologue: The Beginnings of Human Society tO c. 4000 b.c.e.

Stone Age Handaxe Archaeologists regard stone cutting tools like this one, called a handaxe, as the first great invention. Stone Age peoples made handaxes for hundreds of thousands of years, probably using hammers made from bone or wood to chip off flakes from the stone to create knifelike edges for cutting and scraping. This sharp tool would have been especially useful for butchering animals, such as the hippopotamuses that African hunter-gatherers killed for meat. Shown here at its full size (about seven and three-quarter inches top to bottom), this handaxe was, like all others, shaped to fit the human palm; users probably wrapped the tool in a piece of hide to protect their hands from cuts. (© The Trustees of The British Museum.)

(Homo sapiens sapiens, meaning “wise, wise human being”) first developed in sub-Saharan Africa more than fifty thousand years ago. Starting about forty-five thousand years ago, those human beings began moving out of Africa, first into the Near East1 and then into Europe and Asia.

This migration took place in the period com- monly called the Stone Age, during which human beings made their most durable tools from stones, before they learned to work metals. Human soci- ety began in the Stone Age, which archaeologists divide into two parts to mark the greatest turning point in human history, the invention of agricul- ture and the domestication of animals and the enormous changes in human society that these in- novations brought. The first, older part, the Pale- olithic (“Old Stone”) Age, dates from about 200,000 B.C.E. to about 10,000 B.C.E. The second, newer part, the Neolithic (“New Stone”) Age, dates from about 10,000 B.C.E. to about 4000 B.C.E.

Archaeology — the study of physical evidence from the past — is our only source of information about the Stone Age; there are no documents to inform us about the lives of early human beings because people did not invent writing until about 4000–3000 B.C.E. Historians sometimes label the

time before the invention of writing prehistory, be- cause history traditionally means having written sources about the past. Historians also usually do not apply the word civilization to human society in the Stone Age because people then had not yet be- gun to live in cities or form political states (people living in a defined territory and organized under a central political authority), important character- istics that historians look for when defining civi- lization. (The first cities and political states emerged about the same time as writing, as we will see in Chapter 1.)

It was in the Neolithic Age that, instead of only hunting and gathering food in the wild, people learned how to produce their own food by raising crops and domesticating animals. These techno- logical innovations produced lasting changes in human society, especially in strengthening social hierarchy, supporting gender inequality, and en- couraging war for conquest. Historians continue to debate what was positive and what was negative in the consequences, intentional and uninten- tional, that this turning point produced for human society.

Focus Question: What were the most significant changes in humans’ lives during the Stone Age?

The Paleolithic Age, 200,000–10,000 B.C.E. Human society began during the Paleolithic Age and was organized to suit a mobile way of life be- cause human beings in this early period roamed around in small groups to hunt and gather food in the wild. The most notable feature of early Pa-

P–4 Prologue ■ The Beginnings of Human Society to c . 4000 b.c .e .

200,000 b.c.e. 50,000 b.c.e. 10,000 b.c.e. 0

1 The term Near East, like Middle East, has undergone several changes in meaning over time. Both terms reflect the geographi- cal point of view of Europeans. Today, the term Middle East, more commonly employed in politics and journalism than in history, usually refers to the area encompassing the Arabic-speaking coun- tries of the eastern Mediterranean region as well as Israel, Iran, Turkey, Cyprus, and much of North Africa. Ancient historians, by contrast, generally use the term ancient Near East to designate Ana- tolia (often called Asia Minor, today occupied by the Asian por- tion of Turkey), Cyprus, the lands around the eastern end of the Mediterranean, the Arabian peninsula, Mesopotamia (the lands north of the Persian Gulf, today Iraq and Iran), and Egypt. In this book we will observe the common usage of the term Near East to mean the lands of southwestern Asia and Egypt.

Paleolithic Age: The “Old Stone” Age, dating from about 200,000 to 10,000 B.C.E. Neolithic Age: The “New Stone” Age, dating from about 10,000 to 4000 B.C.E.

■ 50,000–45,000 Homo sapiens sapiens migrate from Africa into southwest Asia and Europe

■ 10,000–8000 Neolithic Revolution in the Fertile Crescent and the Sahara Desert

■ 200,000–160,000 Beginning of Paleolithic Age

■ 8000 Walled settlement at Jericho

■ 7000–5500 Farming community thrives at Çatalhöyük

political states: People living in a defined territory with bound- aries and organized under a system of government with pow- erful officials, leaders, and judges.

leolithic society was that the group probably made important decisions in common, with all adult men and women having a more or less equal say. Over time, however, Paleolithic peoples created a more complex social organization as they devel- oped trade to acquire goods from long distances, technology such as fire for heat and cooking, reli- gious beliefs to express their understanding of death, and a hierarchical ranking of people in so- ciety to denote differences in status.

The Life of Hunter-Gatherers The characteristics of human society in the Pale- olithic period originally reflected the conditions of life for hunter-gatherers, the term historians use for people who roamed all their lives, hunting wild animals and foraging. They never settled perma- nently in one place. Although they knew a great deal about how to survive in the natural environ- ment, they had not yet learned to produce their own food by growing crops and raising animals. Instead, they hunted wild game for meat; fished in lakes and rivers; collected shellfish along the shore; and gathered wild grains, fruits, and nuts.

Archaeology reveals that a change in weather patterns apparently motivated hunter-gatherers of the Homo sapiens sapiens type to begin wander- ing out of Africa around 50,000–45,000 B.C.E. Long periods without rain drove game animals into southwest Asia and then Europe to find water, and at least some of the mobile human populations who hunted them in African lands followed this moving food into new continents. There is no ev- idence to explain why some hunter-gatherers left Africa in the Paleolithic period while others stayed behind.

When these Homo sapiens sapiens hunter- gatherers reached Europe and Asia, they met there earlier types of human beings who had already mi- grated out of Africa, such as the heavy-browed, squat-bodied Neanderthal type (named after the Neander valley in Germany, where their fossil re- mains were first found; their body type is often used to represent “cave men” in popular art). Even- tually Homo sapiens sapiens replaced all earlier types of people around the globe, walking across then-existent land bridges to reach the Americas and Australia.

Archaeological excavations of hunter-gatherers’ campsites tell us about their lives on the move, showing that over time they invented new forms of tools, weapons, and jewelry and began burying their dead with special care. Anthropologists have also reconstructed the lives of ancient hunter- gatherers from comparative study of the few groups who lived on as hunter-gatherers into mod- ern times, such as the !Kung San of southern Africa’s Kalahari Desert, the Aborigines in Aus- tralia, and the Coahuiltecans in the American Southwest. These two categories of evidence sug- gest that Paleolithic hunter-gatherers banded to- gether in groups numbering around twenty or thirty to hunt and gather food that they shared with each other. Their average life expectancy was about twenty-five to thirty years. Since they had not learned to domesticate animals or to make wheels for carts, they walked everywhere. Because women of childbearing age had to carry and nurse their babies, it was difficult for them to roam long distances. They and the younger children therefore gathered plants, fruits, and nuts close to camp and caught small animals such as frogs and rabbits. The plant food that they gathered provided the major- ity of the group’s diet. Men did most of the hunt- ing of large animals, which frequently took them far from camp to kill prey at close range with rocks and spears; butchered hippopotamus bones found near the skulls in Ethiopia show that early humans hunted these dangerous animals. Women proba- bly participated in hunts when the group used nets to catch wild animals.

Each band of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers moved around searching for food, usually ranging over an area that averaged roughly sixty miles across in any one direction. They tended not to in- trude on other bands’ areas, but there were no set boundaries or central settlements to identify a band’s territory. To judge from the battles observed between surviving tribes of hunter-gatherers, when bands fought with each other, the conflict was more skirmish than total battle, and there was as much display as serious fighting; for ancient hunter- gatherers, there was nothing to take from another group that one’s own group did not already pos- sess, except other people. Hunter-gatherers’ con- stant walking, bending, and lifting kept them in fine physical shape for hunting and the occasional battle, but they counted on their knowledge as much as their strength. Most important, they planned ahead for cooperative hunts at favorite spots, such as river crossings or lakes with shallow banks, where experience taught they were likely to find herds of large animals fording the stream and drinking water.

The Paleolithic Age, 200,000–10,000 b.c .e . P–5to c . 4000 b.c .e .

hunter-gatherers: Human beings who roam to hunt and gather food in the wild and do not live in permanent, settled commu- nities.

Homo sapiens sapiens: The scientific name (in Latin) of the type of early human being identical to people today; it means “wise, wise human being.”

Paleolithic hunter-gatherers also used their knowledge to establish camps year after year in particularly good spots for gathering wild plants. They took shelter from the weather in caves or temporary dwellings made from branches and an- imal skins. On occasion, they built sturdier shel- ters, such as the dome-like hut found in Ukraine that was constructed from the bones of mam- moths. Nevertheless, they never built permanent homes; they had to roam to survive.

Hunter-gatherers probably lived originally in egalitarian societies, meaning that all adults en- joyed a general equality in making decisions for the group. This cooperation reflected the fact that men and women both worked hard to provide food for the group, even if they tended to divide this labor by gender, with men doing more hunt- ing and women more gathering. At some point, however, differences in social status began to emerge. Most likely, age was the first basis of so- cial status: older people of both genders won pres- tige and probably positions of leadership from the wisdom gained from long experience of life in an era when most people died of illness or accidents before they were thirty years old. Women past childbearing age, who were therefore free to help out in multiple ways, and strong and clever men who hunted dangerous animals also likely held higher status.

Technology, Trade, Religion, and Hierarchy Paleolithic people made changes in their lives that turned out to be important for the later develop- ment of civilization. In technology, learning how to create ever sharper edges and points in stone or bone or wood created better cutting tools and weapons for hunting, digging out roots, and mak-

ing clothes from animal skins, thereby increasing the chances for survival. The discovery of how to make fire was especially important because Pale- olithic people had to endure the cold of extended ice ages, when the northern European glaciers moved much farther south than usual. The cold- est part of the most recent ice age started about twenty thousand years ago and created a harsh cli- mate in much of Europe for nearly ten thousand years. Hunter-gatherers’ knowledge of how to con- trol fire led to the invention of cooking. This was a crucial innovation because it turned indigestible wild plants, such as grains, into edible and nutri- tious food.

Long-distance trade also began in the Stone Age. When hunter-gatherers encountered other bands, they exchanged things they had made, such as blades and jewelry, as well as natural objects such as flint or seashells. Trade could move valu- able objects great distances from their original re- gion: for example, ocean shells worn as jewelry made their way inland, far from the sea, through repeated swaps from one group to another.

Archaeological discoveries suggest that Pale- olithic hunter-gatherers developed religious be- liefs, a crucial factor in the evolution of human society; ancient peoples always saw religion as nec- essary for living a successful and just life. Colorful late Paleolithic cave paintings found in Spain and France hint at hunter-gatherers’ religious ideas as well as display their artistic ability. Using strong, dark lines and earthy colors, Paleolithic artists painted on the walls of caves that were set aside as special places, not used as day-to-day shelters. The paintings, which primarily depict large animals, suggest that these powerful beasts played a signif- icant role in the religion of Paleolithic hunter- gatherers. Still, there remains a great deal we cannot yet understand about their beliefs, such as the meaning of the dots, rectangles, and hands that they often drew beside their paintings of animals.

Stone Age burial sites provide evidence of re- ligious beliefs. The early skulls found in Ethiopia have missing jaws and marks in the bone, indica- tions that these early people cut away the flesh from dead persons’ heads as part of a careful bur-

P–6 Prologue ■ The Beginnings of Human Society to c . 4000 b.c .e .

A Paleolithic Shelter This is a reconstruction of a hut that Paleolithic people built around

fifteen thousand years ago from the bones of giant mammoths in what is now Ukraine, in east-central Europe. Animal hides would

have been used to cover the structure, like a tent on poles. It was big enough for a small group to huddle inside to

survive cold weather. (RIA Novosti.)

ial process (and not for cannibalism, as some have said). Another indication of belief is the care with which later Paleolithic bands buried their dead, decorating the corpses with red paint, flowers, and seashells. This elaborate procedure suggests that Stone Age people wondered about the mystery of death and perhaps had ideas about an afterlife.

Important evidence for early religious beliefs also comes from the discovery of specially shaped female figurines at late Paleolithic sites all over Europe. Modern archaeologists called these stat- uettes of women with extra-large breasts, ab- domens, buttocks, and thighs Venus figurines, after the Roman goddess of sexual love (see the Venus of Willendorf, shown here). The oversized features of these sculptures suggest that the people who made them had a special set of beliefs and rituals regarding fertility and birth.

Burials reveal more than religious beliefs; they also show that, by late Paleolithic times, hunter- gatherer society had begun to mark significant dif- ferences in status among people. Those who were buried with valuable items such as weapons, tools, animal figurines, ivory beads, and bracelets must have had special social standing. These object-rich burials reveal that late Paleolithic groups had begun organizing their society according to a hierarchy, a ranking system identifying certain people as more important and more dominant than others. This is the earliest evidence for social

differentiation, the marking of certain people as wealthier, more respected, or more powerful than others in their society.

Despite their varied knowledge and techno- logical skill, prehistoric hunter-gatherers lived pre- carious lives that were dominated by the relentless search for something to eat. Survival was a risky business. The groups that survived were those that

The Paleolithic Age, 200,000–10,000 b.c .e . P–7to c . 4000 b.c .e .

hierarchy: The system of ranking people in society according to their importance and dominance.

Prehistoric Venus Figurine This limestone statuette, four and a half inches high, was found at Willendorf, in Austria. Carved in the later Paleolithic period and originally colored red, it probably was meant to have symbolic power expressing the importance of women’s fertility. The emphasis on the woman’s breasts and pubic area have led scholars to call such statuettes Venus figurines, after the Roman goddess of love and sex; archaeologists have uncovered many of them all across Europe. Since no written records exist to explain the significance of such figurines’ hairstyle, obesity, and pronounced sexual characteristics, we can only speculate about the complex meanings that early peoples attributed to them. How would you explain this figurine’s appearance? (© SuperStock.)

Bison Painting in the Cave at Lascaux Stone Age people painted these bison on the rock walls of a large cave at Lascaux in central France about 15,000 B.C.E., to judge from radiocarbon dating of charcoal found on the floor. Using black, red, yellow, and white pigments, the artists made the deep cave into an art gallery by filling it with pictures of large mammals such as these European buffaloes, horses, deer, bears, and wooly rhinoceroses. Some scholars have suggested that the scenes symbolized the importance of hunting to the people who painted them, but this guess seems wrong because the bones from butchered animals found in the cave are 90 percent reindeer, while no reindeer pictures exist in the cave. (Caves of Lascaux, Dordogne, France/ The Bridgeman Art Library.)

■ For more help analyzing this image, see the visual activity for this prologue in the Online Study Guide at

learned to cooperate in finding food and shelter; to profit from innovations such as fire, tools, and trade; and to teach their children the knowledge, beliefs, and social traditions that had helped them endure in a harsh world.

Review: What were the most important activities, skills, and beliefs that helped Paleolithic hunter- gatherers survive?

The Neolithic Age, 10,000–4000 B.C.E. By around 10,000 to 8000 B.C.E., people in the Near East had opened the way to a different kind of so- ciety by learning to produce their food and build permanent settlements that housed larger popula- tions than the twenty- to thirty-member bands of hunter-gatherers. In this new society, dominance by men replaced the general equality in status and decision making between men and women that likely existed in earlier times. In addition, war be- came a prominent part of human life.

The invention of agriculture and permanent settlements in the Neolithic Age occurred over a long time, but, once established, they changed for- ever the way human beings lived; eventually, these changes would make civilization possible. Daily life as we know it today still depends on agricul- ture and the domestication of animals, develop- ments that began about 10,000–8000 B.C.E., at the beginning of the Neolithic period. These radical innovations in the way humans acquired food caused such fundamental changes in our way of life that they are called the Neolithic Revolution.

The Neolithic Revolution Revolutionary change took place in human history in the Neolithic Age when hunter-gatherers learned to sow and harvest crops and to raise an- imals for food. Exactly how they gained this knowledge remains mysterious. Recent archaeo- logical research, however, indicates that it took thousands of years for people to develop agricul- ture. The process began in the part of the Near East that we call the Fertile Crescent because, unlike most regions of the earth, its hillier regions hap-

pened to have the right combination of soil, wa- ter, temperature, and wild mammals for the inven- tion of farming and the domestication of animals. The Fertile Crescent stretches in an arc, or cres- cent, along the foothills and lowlands that run northward from modern Israel across southeast- ern Turkey and Syria and then turn in a southeast- erly direction down to the plain of the lower stretches of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in what is now southern Iraq (Map 1).

The slow process of trial and error through which former hunter-gatherers developed agricul- ture had complex origins. Recent archaeological excavations at Göbelki Tepe (“stomach-shaped little hill”), a site in southeastern Turkey, have revealed stone-lined rooms in the earth decorated with stone pillars eight feet tall or more that are carved to depict animals, from boars and bears to birds and snakes. Free-standing sculptures of an- imals seem to have been placed atop the rooms’ walls. Radiocarbon dating suggests these rooms were built around 9300 B.C.E., which would make them contemporary with the first attested agri- culture or perhaps even earlier. Some scholars speculate that hunter-gatherers built these mon- uments for religious purposes and that the large amount of time they spent together in one place to create such elaborate structures and art led them to develop agriculture as a new way to feed themselves.

Only further archaeological research can re- veal whether Stone Age religious activity had the unintentional consequence of generating agricul- ture. What seems certain is that climate change contributed significantly to the Neolithic Revolu- tion. About ten to twelve thousand years ago, the long-term weather pattern in the Fertile Crescent became milder and rainier than it had been dur- ing the ice age that had just ended. This change promoted the growth of abundant fields of wild cereal grains. Similarly, recent archaeological research reveals that increased rain in the Sahara Desert, in central Africa, created there lush grass- lands called savannahs that attracted hunter- gatherer nomads from the southern part of the continent; in a slow process of change, these people built settlements, domesticated cattle instead of only hunting wild animals, and created intricate pottery suited to their new way of life.

The hunter-gatherers living in the Fertile Crescent began to gather more and more of their food from the now easily available wild grains. This regular supply of food in turn promoted human fertility, which led to a growth in population, a process that might have already begun as a result

P–8 Prologue ■ The Beginnings of Human Society to c . 4000 b.c .e .

Neolithic Revolution: The invention of agriculture, the domes- tication of animals, and the consequent changes in human so- ciety that occurred about 10,000–8,000 B.C.E. in the Near East.

of the milder climate. The more children that were born, the greater the need to exploit the food sup- ply efficiently. Over centuries, people learned to plant part of the seeds from one crop of grain to produce another crop. Since Neolithic women did most of the gathering of plant food, they had the greatest knowledge of plant life and therefore probably played the major role in the invention of agriculture and the fashioning of tools needed to turn grains into food, such as grinding stones for making flour. At this early stage in the develop- ment of agriculture, women and children did most of the agricultural labor, using hand tools to grow and harvest crops, while men continued to hunt.

During the early Neolithic period, people also learned to breed and herd animals that they could

eat, a development that helped replace the meat previously acquired by hunting large mammals, many of which had by now been hunted to extinc- tion. Fortunately for the people in the Fertile Cres- cent, their region was home to surviving large mammals that could be domesticated. Unlike African animals such as the zebra or the hippopota- mus, the wild sheep, goats, and cattle of the Fertile Crescent could, over the span of generations, be turned into animals accustomed to live closely and interdependently with human beings. The sheep was the first animal to be domesticated as a source of meat, beginning about 8500 B.C.E. (The dog had been domesticated much earlier but was not usu- ally eaten.) By about 7000 B.C.E., domesticated an- imals had become common throughout the Near

The Neolithic Age, 10,000–4000 b.c .e . P–9to c . 4000 b.c .e .

0 250 500 kilometers

0 250 500 miles

c. 10,000–6500 B.C.E.

c. 6500–5000 B.C.E.

c. 5000–4000 B.C.E.

Fertile Crescent




Early agricultural sites

Black Sea


P ersian


C aspian


M e d i t e r r a n e a n S e a

N ile



anube R.

T igris R.

Euphrates R.



Presumed ancient coastline












MAP 1 The Development of Agriculture From around 10,000 to 8000 B.C.E., people learned to plant seeds to grow nourishing plants and to domesticate animals in the Fertile Crescent, the foothills of the semicircle of mountains that curved up and around from the eastern end of the Mediterranean down to Mesopotamia, where reliable rainfall and moderate temperatures prevailed. At about the same time, domestication of animals took place in the grasslands then flourishing in the Sahara region of Africa. The invention of irrigation in the Fertile Crescent allowed farmers to grow lush crops in the region’s arid plains, providing resources that eventually spurred the emergence of the first large cities by about 4000 B.C.E.

East. In this early period of domestication, some people lived as pastoralists, meaning they obtained their food mainly from the herds of animals that they kept, frequently moving around to find fresh grazing land. They also cultivated small temporary plots from time to time when they found a suit- able area. Other people, relying more and more on growing crops for their livelihood, kept small herds close to their settlements. Men, women, and chil- dren alike could therefore tend the animals. These earliest domesticated herds seem to have been used only as a source of meat, not for products such as milk or wool.

Neolithic Origins of Modern Life and War The Neolithic Revolution laid the foundation for civilization and our modern way of life. The re- markable new knowledge of how to produce food and the consequent division and specialization of labor emerged through innovative human re- sponses to the link between environmental change and population growth (see “New Sources, New Perspectives,” page P-12). Furthermore, the Ne- olithic Revolution reveals the importance of demography — the study of the size, growth, den- sity, distribution, and vital statistics of the human population — in understanding historical change.

Agriculture and population growth influenced each other during the Neolithic Age. First, to be able to raise crops on a permanent basis, people had to stop roaming and settle in one place with adequate land and water. Farming communities thus sprang up in the Fertile Crescent starting around 10,000 B.C.E., sharing the region with pas- toralists. Parents began to have more children be- cause agriculture required a great deal of labor and because the ready availability of food from the fields and herds could support a larger population. At the same time, living in close quarters with do- mesticated animals, which might well be penned right next to or even inside the house, exposed people in these settlements to new epidemic dis- eases transmitted from animals to humans. Hunter-gatherers had largely escaped this danger because they had no groups of animals around them every day, although they could sometimes become infected by eating diseased wild animals. Since many viruses that afflict people today origi- nated in domesticated animals before moving into

the human population — for example, the avian influenza (bird flu) virus — we are still living with this unintended consequence of the Neolithic Revolution.

Two central features of Neolithic farming vil- lages helped create conditions that eventually con- tributed to the creation of civilization: they were permanent, and they supported larger populations than were characteristic of hunter-gatherer soci- ety. Much bigger and more densely packed than the temporary settlements of the Paleolithic Age, early farming communities had sturdy houses built from mud bricks and used containers made of pottery (whose broken remains provide evi- dence for chronology and cultural development). The first homes were apparently circular huts, like those known from Jericho (in what is today Israel). Around two thousand people had settled in Jeri- cho by 8000 B.C.E., their huts sprawling over about twelve acres.

Jericho’s remains also reveal that war became a prominent part of life during the Neolithic Rev- olution. The most remarkable part of the village was the massive fortification wall surrounding the community. Ten feet thick, the wall was crowned with a stone tower thirty feet in diameter enclos- ing an internal flight of stairs; this massive struc- ture shows that the inhabitants of Jericho feared attacks by their neighbors (see Jericho’s wall and tower, on page P-11). The growing prosperity that the Neolithic Revolution had brought evidently also spurred war for conquest and acquisition.

Neolithic people from the Fertile Crescent opened the way for civilization to develop in other regions by gradually spreading their knowledge of agriculture abroad. Farmers looking for more land migrated westward from the Near East and brought the new technology of farming into areas where it was not previously known. Although re- cent scholarship argues that human beings in other areas, especially Asia, independently developed agriculture and the domestication of animals, mi- grants from the Near East were the ones who spread this knowledge across Europe by 4000 B.C.E.

Daily Life in the Neolithic Village of Çatalhöyük An archaeological site northwest of the Fertile Crescent, in present-day Turkey, provides vital ev- idence for the vast changes in human life brought on by this spread of knowledge during the Ne- olithic Age, especially how agriculture’s greater ef- ficiency in providing food led to the division and specialization of labor. At this site, on a plain near

P–10 Prologue ■ The Beginnings of Human Society to c . 4000 b.c .e .

demography: The study of the size, growth, density, distribu- tion, and vital statistics of the human population.

of meat and, by this time, hides and milk. They continued to hunt, too, as we can tell from the hunting scenes they drew on the walls of some of their buildings, recalling the cave paintings of much earlier times. Unlike hunter-gatherers, how- ever, these villagers no longer had to depend on the hit-or-miss luck of the hunt or risk being killed by wild animals to acquire meat and leather. At its height, the village’s population reached perhaps six thousand people.

The diversity of occupations practiced at Çatalhöyük reveals a significant change from ear- lier times, anticipating the division of labor char- acteristic of the later cities of the first fully developed civilizations. Since the community could produce enough food to support itself with- out everyone having to work in the fields or herd cattle, some people could develop crafts as full- time occupations. Just as others in the community produced food for them, craft specialists produced goods for those who produced the food. Craft spe- cialists continued to fashion tools, containers, and ornaments in the traditional way — from wood,

The Neolithic Age, 10,000–4000 b.c .e . P–11to c . 4000 b.c .e .

a river, a large mound rises from the countryside. Known to us only by its modern Turkish name, Çatalhöyük (meaning “Fork Mound”), the site re- veals what daily life was like in a Neolithic farm- ing community. By 7000 to 6500 B.C.E., the farmers of Çatalhöyük had erected a settlement of mud- brick houses sharing common walls. They con- structed their dwellings in the rectangular shape still used for most homes today, with one striking difference: they had no doors in their outer walls. Instead, they entered their homes by climbing down a ladder through a hole in the flat roof. Since this hole also served as a vent for smoke from the family fire, getting into a house at Çatalhöyük could be a grimy experience. But the absence of ex- terior doors also meant that the walls of the com- munity’s outermost houses served as the village’s fortification wall to defend it against attacks.

The people of Çatalhöyük fed themselves by growing wheat, barley, and vegetables such as field peas; they diverted water from the nearby river into their fields to increase their harvests. They also kept domesticated cattle to provide their main supply

Tower in the Stone Wall of Neolithic Jericho The circular mass in the center of this photograph is the base of a tower in the stone wall that the people of Jericho (today in Israel) built to protect their community around 8000–7000 B.C.E. This is one of the earliest defensive walls ever discovered: most of the people in this era still lived in unwalled collections of mud huts, but the inhabitants of Jericho had reached a more complex level of social organization that allowed them to collaborate on major building projects. The agricultural fields that lay outside the walls supplied the overwhelming majority of Jericho’s economy, while the wall surrounding their settlement provided security for the residents’ homes and storehouses and thus protected their improving standard of living. (Photo: Zev Radovan.)

P–12 Prologue ■ The Beginnings of Human Society to c . 4000 b.c .e .

The invention of agriculture helped people produce a morepredictable and plentiful supply of food, which in turn al-lowed the population to expand. This change came at a price. Recent scientific research in biological anthropology and osteological archaeology (the study of ancient bones and teeth) has uncovered dramatic evidence of the physical stress endured by some of the individuals working in early agriculture. Excava- tors at Tell Abu Hureyra in Syria have found bones and teeth from people living around 6000 B.C.E. that reveal the pain that the new technology could cause. The big toes of these ancient people especially show proof of extreme and prolonged dorsi- flexion —bending the front of the foot up toward the shin. Dor- siflexion made the ends of the toe bones become flatter and broader than normal through the constant pressure of being bent in the same position for long periods of time.

What activity could the people have been pursuing so doggedly that it deformed their bones? The only posture that creates such severe bending of the foot is kneeling for extended periods. Osteologists confirmed that kneeling was common in this population by finding several cases of arthritic changes in knee joints and lower spines in skeletons at the site.

But why were the people kneeling for so long? Other bone evidence offered the first clue to solving this mystery. The skele- tons showed strongly developed attachment points for the del- toid muscle on the humerus (the bone in the upper arm) and prominent growth in the lower arm bones. These characteristics mean that the people had especially strong deltoids for pushing their shoulders back and forth and powerful biceps for rotating

their forearms. Whatever they were doing made them use their shoulders and arms vigorously.

The skeletons’ teeth provided the next clue. Everyone except the very youngest individuals had deeply worn and often frac- tured teeth. This damage indicated that they regularly chewed

N E W S O U R C E S , N E W P E R S P E C T I V E S

Daily Bread, Damaged Bones, and Cracked Teeth

at Çatalhöyük specialized in weaving textiles, and the scraps of cloth discovered there are the oldest examples of this craft ever found. Like other early technological innovations, metallurgy and the production of cloth apparently also developed in- dependently in other places.

Trade — another central aspect of human ex- istence that became increasingly prominent in the Neolithic Age —also figured in the economy of this early farming community. The trading contacts the Neolithic villagers made with other settlements increased the level of economic interconnection among far-flung communities that had begun in the Paleolithic period. Trade allowed the people of

Bones from Tell Abu Hureyra, Syria These big toes from a middle-aged man reveal severe arthritic changes to the joint. Osteologists interpret this damage as evidence of extreme and prolonged dorsiflexion, or bending of the foot. (The Natural History Museum, London. )

bone, hide, and stone— but they now also worked with the material of the future: metal. So far, ar- chaeologists are certain only that metalworkers at Çatalhöyük knew how to fashion lead into pen- dants and to hammer naturally occurring lumps of copper into beads and tubes for jewelry. But traces of slag, the scum that floats on molten metal, have been found on the site, suggesting that the workers may have begun to develop the technique of smelting metal from ore. This tricky process — the basis of true metallurgy and an essential tech- nology of civilization — required temperatures of seven hundred degrees centigrade and took cen- turies for metalworkers to perfect. Other workers

food full of rock dust, which probably resulted from grain being ground in rock bowls.

The final clue came from art. Later paintings and sculptures from the region show people, usually women, kneeling down to grind grain into flour by pushing and rotating a stone roller back and forth on heavy grinding stones tilted away from them. This posture is exactly what would cause deformation of the big toes and arthritis in the knees and lower back. People grinding grain

this way would have to push off hard from their toes with every stroke down the stone, and vigorously use the muscles of their shoulders and forearms to apply pressure to the roller. In addi- tion, the flour would pick up tiny particles from the wearing down of the stones used to grind it; bread made from it would have a sandy consistency hard on teeth. That Neolithic people worked so constantly and so hard at processing the grain they grew, no matter the toll on their bones and their teeth, shows how vital this supply of food had become to them.

At this Syrian site, everyone’s bones — men’s, women’s, and even children’s —show the same signs of the kneeling and grind- ing activity. Evidently the production of flour for bread was so crucial that no gender division of this labor was possible or de- sirable, as it seems to have become in later times. Regardless of who used it, this new technology that provided essential food for the community took its toll in individual pain and hardship.

Questions to Consider 1. What other new technologies that have increased productiv-

ity and bettered human life have also involved new pains and stresses?

2. How do you decide what price —financial, physical, emo- tional — is worth paying for new technology? Who will make those decisions?

Further Reading Hillman, G. “Traditional Husbandry and Processing of Archaic

Cereals in Recent Times: The Operations, Products, and Equipment Which Might Feature in Sumerian Texts.” Bulletin on Sumerian Agriculture 1 (1984): 114–52.

Molleson, Theya. “Seed Preparation in the Mesolithic: The Oste- ological Evidence.” Antiquity 63 (1989): 358.

Moore, A. M. T. “The Excavation of Tell Abu Hureyra in Syria: A Preliminary Report.” Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 41 (1975): 50–71.

Sculpture from Giza, Egypt In this statuette, a woman grinds grain into flour. The sculptor shows her rubbing her severely flexed left foot with the toes of her right foot, probably trying to ease the throbbing resulting from hours of kneeling. (Courtesy of The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.)

The Neolithic Age, 10,000–4000 b.c .e . P–13to c . 4000 b.c .e .

ligion. Like the hunter-gatherers before them, they sculpted figurines depicting amply endowed women, who perhaps represented goddesses of birth, although some figurines recently found with skeletal designs suggest they were also related to ideas about death. The villagers had a deep inter- est in the mystery of death, demonstrated by the skulls displayed in the shrines and wall paintings of vultures devouring headless corpses. They buried their dead, some holding skulls decorated with painted plaster, under the floors of their houses. Perhaps they believed their dead ancestors had power and therefore wanted to keep them close by. A remarkable wall painting also suggests

Çatalhöyük to acquire goods from far away, such as shells from the Mediterranean Sea to wear as ornaments and a special flint from far to the east to shape into ceremonial daggers. The villagers acquired these prized materials by offering obsid- ian in exchange, a local volcanic glass whose glossy luster and capacity to hold a sharp edge made it valuable.

Religion was a central feature of life in the community, as seen from the shrines and burial sites uncovered by archaeologists. The villagers outfitted their shrines with paintings and sculp- tures of bulls’ heads and female breasts, perhaps as symbols of male and female elements in their re-

maintain peace and order in Paleolithic hunter- gatherer bands because their responsibilities were more complicated. Furthermore, households that were successful in farming, herding, crafts produc- tion, and trade generated surpluses in wealth that set them apart from those whose efforts proved less fortunate.

Gender Inequality in the Neolithic Age The social equality between men and women that had existed in hunter-gatherer bands dwindled away during the Neolithic Age. By about 4000 B.C.E., when the first political states had begun to

P–14 Prologue ■ The Beginnings of Human Society to c . 4000 b.c .e .

that the people of Çatalhöyük regarded the vol- cano looming over their settlement as an angry god whom they needed to please. As it turned out, Çatalhöyük never recovered from a volcanic erup- tion that overwhelmed the settlement about four- teen hundred years after its foundation.

The people of Çatalhöyük had a clear social hierarchy, another example of the lasting changes that occurred in the Neolithic Age. The villagers developed a hierarchical society because they needed leaders to plan and regulate irrigation, trade, the exchange of food and goods between farmers and crafts producers, and the defense of the community against enemies. These leaders held more authority than had been required to

Model of a House at Çatalhöyük Archaeologists built this model of a house to show how Neolithic villagers lived in Çatalhöyük (today in central Turkey) from around 6500 to 5500 B.C.E. The wall paintings and bull-head sculpture had religious meaning, perhaps linked to the graves that the residents dug under the floor for their dead. The main entrance to the house was through the ceiling, as the houses were built right next to each other without streets in between, only some space for dumping refuse; the roofs served as walkways. Why do you think the villagers chose this arrangement for their settlement? (Çatalhöyük Research Project.)

emerge in the Near East, patriarchy was the rule. (Political states also emerged at various other dis- tant places around the world, including India, China, and the Americas — whether through inde- pendent development or some process of mutual influence we cannot yet say.) The reasons for the appearance of patriarchy remain uncertain, but they perhaps involved gradual changes in agricul- ture and herding over many centuries. After about 4000 B.C.E., plows pulled by large animals were used to cultivate land that was difficult to sow. Men apparently operated this new technology of plow- ing, probably because it required much more phys- ical strength than digging with sticks and hoes, as women had done with hand tools in the earliest period of agriculture. Men also looked after the larger herds that had become more common in settled communities; people were now keeping cattle as sources of milk and raising sheep for wool. The herding of a community’s large groups of an- imals tended to take place at a distance from the home settlement because the animals continually needed new grazing land. As with hunting in hunter-gatherer populations, men, free from hav- ing to nurse children, took on this task, which re- quired ranging a long way from home.

Women probably became more tied to the central settlement because they had to bear and raise more children as agriculture became more in- tensive and therefore required more and more la- bor than had food gathering or the earliest forms of farming. Women also took responsibility for the new labor-intensive tasks needed to process the secondary products of larger herds. For example, they now turned milk into cheese and yogurt and made cloth by spinning and weaving wool. Men’s predominant role in agriculture and herding in the late Neolithic period, combined with women’s lessened mobility and increasingly home-based tasks, apparently led to women’s loss of equality with men in these early times of human society.

Review: What were the consequences of the Neolithic Revolution for people’s lives?

Conclusion Permanent homes, more reliable food supplies from agriculture and domesticated animals, spe- cialized occupations, hierarchical societies in which men hold the most power, and war have characterized Western history from the Neolithic period forward. For this reason, the broad outlines of the life of Neolithic villagers might seem unre- markable to us today. But the Neolithic way of life in built environments surrounded by cultivated fields and herds would have seemed astounding, we can guess, to Paleolithic hunter-gatherers such as the roaming African hippopotamus hunters who now rank as the earliest known Homo sapi- ens. The Neolithic Revolution was the most im- portant change in the early history of human beings; it literally overturned the ways in which people interacted with the natural environment and with one another. Now that farmers and herders could produce a surplus of food to sup- port other people, specialists in art, architecture, crafts, religion, and politics could emerge. Hand in hand with these developments came a new divi- sion of labor by gender that saw men begin to take over agriculture and herding while women took up new tasks at home, leading to a loss of gender equality. At the same time, war between newly prosperous communities became common. These changes altered the course of human history and spurred the development of civilization as we know it today.

For Further Exploration ■ For suggested references, including Web sites,

for topics in this chapter, see page SR-1 at the end of the book.

■ For Web sites and documents related to topics in this chapter, see Make History at

Conclusion P–15to c . 4000 b.c .e .

patriarchy: Dominance by men in society and politics.

P–16 Prologue ■ The Beginnings of Human Society

Key Terms and People Making Connections

Review Questions

1. Explain whether you think human life was more stressful in the Paleolithic period or the Neolithic period.

2. What do you think were the most important differences and similarities between Stone Age life and modern life? Why?

1. What were the most important activities, skills, and beliefs that helped Paleolithic hunter-gatherers survive?

2. What were the consequences of the Neolithic Revolution for people’s lives?

Chapter Review

Paleolithic Age (P-4)

Neolithic Age (P-4)

political states (P-4)

hunter-gatherers (P-5)

Homo sapiens sapiens (P-5)

hierarchy (P-7)

Neolithic Revolution (P-8)

demography (P-10)

patriarchy (P-15)

For Practice quizzes, a customized study plan, and other study tools, see the Online Study Guide at

Important Events

200,000–160,000 b.c.e. Beginning of the Paleolithic (“Old Stone”) Age

50,000–45,000 b.c.e. Homo sapiens sapiens migrate from Africa into southwest Asia and Europe

10,000–8000 b.c.e. The Neolithic (“New Stone”) Revolution in the Fertile Crescent and the Sahara Desert

8000 b.c.e. Walled settlement at Jericho (in modern Israel)

7000–5500 b.c.e. Farming community thrives at Çatalhöyük (in modern Turkey)

to c . 4000 b.c .e .

This page intentionally left blank

A ncient Egyptian kings believed that the gods judged them af-ter death to decide their fate in the afterlife. In Instructions forMerikare, for example, written sometime around 2100–2000 B.C.E., Merikare’s father, the king, warns his son to rule with justice be-

cause even a king would face a day of judgment to determine whether

his choices had been good or evil: “Make secure your place in the ceme-

tery by being upright, by doing justice, upon which people’s hearts

rely. . . . When a man is buried and mourned, his deeds are piled up

next to him as treasure.” Being judged pure of heart led to an eternal

reward; if the dead king reached the judges “without doing evil,” he

would be transformed so that he would “abide [in the afterlife] like a

god, roaming [free] like the lords of time.” A central part of the justice

demanded of an Egyptian king was to keep the country unified under

a strong central authority and combat disorder. It was the development

of centralized authority that brought the most striking changes to the

lives of people as civilization emerged following the Neolithic Age.

The gods provided the Egyptians with a model of central author-

ity. Eventually ordinary Egyptians came to believe that they, like the

kings, could win eternal rewards by living justly and worshipping the

gods with prayers and rituals. An illustrated guidebook containing in-

structions for mummies on how to travel safely in the underworld,

commonly called the Book of the Dead, explained that on the day of

judgment the jackal-headed god Anubis would weigh the dead person’s

heart on a scale against the goddess Maat (literally “What Is Right”)

and her feather of Truth, with the bird-headed god Thoth carefully

The Controversial Concept of Western Civilization 4 • Defining Western Civilization • Locating Early Western Civilization

Mesopotamia, Home of the First Civilization, 4000–1000 B.C.E. 7 • Cities and Society, 4000–2350 B.C.E. • Metals, the Akkadian Empire, and the

Ur III Dynasty, c. 2350–c. 2000 B.C.E. • Assyrian, Babylonian, and Canaanite

Achievements, 2000–1000 B.C.E.

Egypt, the First Unified Country, 3050–1000 B.C.E. 16 • From Egyptian Unification to the

Old Kingdom, 3050–2190 B.C.E. • The Middle and New Kingdoms

in Egypt, 2061–1081 B.C.E.

The Hittites, Minoans, and Mycenaeans, 2200–1000 B.C.E. 23 • The Hittites, 1750–1200 B.C.E. • The Minoans, 2200–1400 B.C.E. • The Mycenaeans, 1800–1000 B.C.E. • The Period of Calamities,

1200–1000 B.C.E.


Early Western Civilization 4000–1000 B.C.E.



Weighing of the Heart on Judgment Day This painting on papyrus (paper made from a river reed) from about 1275 B.C.E. illustrates a main concern of ancient Egyptian religious belief: the day of judgment when the gods decided a person’s fate after death. Here, a man named Any is having his heart (in the left balance) weighed against the feather of Truth of the goddess Maat. The feather stands for “What Is Right.” The jackal-headed god Anubis works the scales, while the bird-headed god Thoth records the result. The standing male figure on the left symbolizes Any’s destiny, and the seated figures above are the jury of gods. The painting formed part of Any’s copy of the Book of the Dead, a collection of instructions and magic spells to help the dead person in the afterlife, on the assumption that the verdict would be positive and bestow a blessed eternal life. (British Museum, London, UK / Bridgeman Art Library.)

writing down the result (see the illustration on page 2). Pictures in the Book of the Dead also show the Swallower of the Damned—a hybrid monster featuring a crocodile’s head, a lion’s body, and a hippopotamus’s hind end — who crouched be- hind Thoth ready to eat the heart of anyone who failed the test of purity. These stories, like many others in Egyptian mythology, taught that living a just life was the most important human goal be- cause it was the key to winning the gods’ help for a blessed existence after death.

The earliest Western civilizations arose in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Anatolia, Crete and other Aegean islands, and Greece. Each of these civiliza- tions believed in the need for a centralized author- ity, but the forms of that authority differed. In Egypt, a single, central authority united the coun- try; in other civilizations, smaller independent states competed with each other. Each civilization believed that religion and justice were basic build- ing blocks for organizing human society. All be- lieved that many gods existed; other religious beliefs and practices could differ, however. For ex- ample, the Greeks, unlike the Egyptians, believed that most people could expect only a gloomy, shadowlike existence following their deaths.

International trade and wars to win territory and glory were constants in all these civilizations. Trade and war brought the peoples of these civi- lizations into frequent contact with other popula- tions far away; they exchanged not only goods and technologies but also ideas. This sort of cultural diversity has always characterized Western civiliza- tion. The question arises, then, of what historians mean by the concept Western civilization. What de- fines it in particular, as compared to other civiliza- tions?

Focus Question: What changes did Western civiliza- tion bring to human life?

The Controversial Concept of Western Civilization

The meaning of the concept Western civilization begins with geography. The study of civilization in “the West” focuses on the peoples living on the continent of Europe and around the Mediter- ranean Sea on the continents of Africa and Asia. Chronologically, the story of Western civilization begins with the history of Sumer in Mesopotamia and of Egypt in Africa and extends to the present day. Defining Western civilization with greater depth is a difficult challenge because it involves three passionately debated topics: the concept of civilization in general, the vagueness of the idea of the West geographically, and — most controversial of all — the nature and the value of the West’s ideas and ways of life.

Defining Western Civilization To define Western civilization, we begin by defin- ing civilization in general (see “Terms of History,” page 6). Historians traditionally define it as a way of life in political states with a central authority based on cities and a more complex level of hu- man activity and interaction than in earlier times. A village became a city by growing in population to house tens of thousands of people in a dense settlement with large buildings and by becoming a political center. The first civilizations are also identified by having diverse economies generating surplus resources, strong social hierarchies, a sense of local identity, and some knowledge of writing. As these political states acquired larger surpluses,

4 Chapter 1 ■ Early Western Civil ization 4000–1000 b.c .e .

4000 B.C.E. 3500 B.C.E. 3000 B.C.E. 2500 B.C.E.

■ 4000–1000 Bronze Age

■ 3050 Egypt united

■ 4000–3000 Writing, first cities ■ 2687–2190 Old Kingdom

civilization: A way of life that includes political states based on cities with dense populations, large buildings constructed for communal activities, diverse economies, a sense of local iden- tity, and some knowledge of writing.

they built armies and fought ever more frequent and intense wars.

We generally use civilization and related terms such as civilized behavior as if everyone agreed that the development of civilization brought progress and afforded people greater opportunities for prosperity and more complex interactions with one another, but some commentators deny that civilization represents a better and more just way of life than the way the earliest human beings lived. They argue that people were healthier, more equal in power, and more peaceful before they cre- ated cities and political states. Such comparisons are hard to evaluate because there is so little evi- dence about early human life (see the Prologue). If there truly was less war then, it might be simply because so many fewer people existed and they were spread so much farther apart — but it also probably matters that they lacked the surpluses to support extensive warfare. In any case, human be- ings all over the world chose to develop civiliza- tion, and no peoples have ever decided to reject it in favor of a simpler life.

The assumption that civilizations are defined by geography and their particular ideas and prac- tices (their culture) began in ancient times. The Greeks invented the geographic notion of the West. Building on ideas they probably learned from their Near Eastern neighbors, they created the term Europe to indicate the West (where the sun sets), as distinct from the East (where the sun rises). The Greeks, like modern historians, were not sure exactly where to draw the boundaries of the West because its geographical meaning was then, and remains now, vague. The boundaries shift depending on what period is being described, and the word Western in Western civilization some- times refers to peoples and places beyond Europe, and sometimes not. For example, the region that is today Turkey was certainly part of Western civ- ilization at the time of the Roman Empire; yet in

the opening years of the twenty-first century, Eu- ropeans and Turks alike are debating what changes in Turkish life and politics it would take — and what the financial and cultural costs would be — for Turkey to be judged Western enough to join the European Union.

Because it is difficult to identify precisely what set of ideas and customs makes up the culture of a particular civilization, the most controversial questions about Western (or any) civilization are, What are its particular ideas and practices? and Are those ideas and practices different from and supe- rior to those of others? For example, Mesopotamian religion and Egyptian religion were both forms of polytheism. The Sumerians, who built the world’s first cities, believed that the deities were unpre- dictable and often harsh to humans, and that people had to ward off divine anger by serving the gods obediently, building them temples, worship- ping them, and bringing them gifts. The Egyptians also believed that they had to respect the gods to find happiness, but they thought that their gods lovingly provided them with life’s delights and that, if their king fulfilled his duties, Maat would bless them with justice. As we will see in Chapters 2 and 3, the Hebrews made monotheism (belief in one god) a distinctive feature in Western civilization.

The Greeks inherited from their neighbors in the Near East the idea that regional differences meant that one people’s culture was better than an- other’s. Merikare’s father, for instance, sternly warned him, “[Beware of the] miserable Asiatic [Near Easterner], wretched because of where he’s from, a place with no water, no wood. . . . He doesn’t live in one place, hunger propels his legs. . . . He doesn’t announce the day of battle, he’s like a thief darting around a crowd.”The Greeks also

The Controversial Concept of Western Civil ization 54000–1000 b.c .e .

2000 B.C.E. 1500 B.C.E. 1000 B.C.E.

■ 1400 Mycenaeans take Crete

■ 1274 Battle of Kadesh

■ 1200–1000 Period of calamities

■ 1792–1750 Hammurabi’s code

■ 2300–2200 Enheduanna’s poetry

■ 2200 Minoan palaces

■ 2061–1665 Middle Kingdom

■ 1569–1081 New Kingdom

■ 2350 First empire, Akkadia

■ 2112–2004 Ur III dynasty

■ 1750 Hittite kingdom

polytheism: The worship of multiple gods.

monotheism: The belief in only one god, as in Judaism, Chris- tianity, and Islam.

contributed to Western civilization new and unique ideas about the kind of central authority human beings should create to govern themselves and about the importance of reason for human thought.

In every known civilization people have in- sisted on establishing social hierarchies. The inven- tion of increasingly sophisticated metallurgical

technology, for example, led to the creation of ever better tools and weapons, but it also turned out to be another factor prompting more visible differ- ences in social status: people constructed status for themselves in part by acquiring metal objects. Some contemporary scientists claim that this de- velopment was inevitable because human beings are by nature “status-protecting organisms.”

It would be misleading, however, to define Western civilization by a simple list of character- istics: we have to find the nature and value of West- ern civilization by studying its history. As we shall see, Western civilization evolved to a large extent through cultural interaction provoked by interna- tional trade and war. Contact with unfamiliar ways and technologies spurred people to learn from one another and to adapt for themselves the inventions and beliefs of others. Western civilization therefore developed in a mixing of different cultures. In the long run, the story of Western civilization ex- panded to include not only cultural and political interaction among the West’s diverse peoples themselves but also between them and the peoples of the rest of the globe. It is clearly a mistake to understand the word Western to mean “fenced off in the West from the rest of the world.”

Locating Early Western Civilization The first step in defining Western civilization and studying its history is locating where it began. If we accept the traditional definition of civilization in general, then civilization in the West locates its deep- est foundations in two places: (1) Mesopotamia, where the people of Sumer had developed separate cities and political states by 4000–3000 B.C.E., and (2) Egypt, in northeastern Africa, whose civilization emerged beginning around 3050 B.C.E., when a strong ruler made the country into a unified polit- ical state stretching along the Nile River. Both these societies waged frequent wars to protect their civi- lization, to demonstrate their superiority over out- siders, and to seize resources through conquest.

The story of Western civilization next spreads beyond Mesopotamia and Egypt. By around 2000–1900 B.C.E., civilization had also appeared in Anatolia (today Turkey), the island of Crete and other islands in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, and Greece. All these peoples learned from the older civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt, shared the sense that nothing in life was more important than religion, and waged war for defense and conquest. Comparably complex societies also emerged in India, China, and the Americas in dif- ferent eras starting around 2500 B.C.E.; however, these societies pursued independent paths of de-

6 Chapter 1 ■ Early Western Civil ization 4000–1000 b.c .e .



Our word civilization comes from the ancient Roman wordcivilis, which meant “suitable for a private citizen” and “behav-ing like an ordinary, unpretentious person.” Today, the word civilization often expresses the judgment that being civilized means achieving a superior way of life. Consider, for example, these definitions from The Random House Webster’s College Dictionary (1997), p. 240:

civilization: 1. an advanced state of human society, in which a high level of culture, science, and government has been reached. 2. those people or nations that have reached such a state. 3. any type of culture, society, etc. of a specific place, time, or group: Greek civiliza- tion. 4. the act or process of civilizing or being civilized. 5. cultural and intellectual refinement. 6. cities or populated areas in general, as op- posed to unpopulated or wilderness areas. 7. modern comforts and con- veniences, as made possible by science and technology.

All these definitions imply that civilization means an “advanced” or “refined” way of life compared to a “savage” or “rude” way. Ancient peoples often drew this sort of comparison between themselves and those whom they saw as crude. Much later, this notion of superiority became prominent in European thought after voyagers to the Amer- icas reported on what they saw as the barbarous life of the peoples they called Indians. Because these Europeans saw Native American life as lacking discipline, government, and, above all, Christianity, it seemed to them to be “uncivilized.” Today, this sense of comparative superiority in the word civilization has become so accepted that it can even be used in nonhuman contexts, such as in the following startling comparison: “some communities of ants are more advanced in civi- lization than others.”1

Sometimes civilization is used without much definitional content at all, as in the Random House dictionary’s third definition. Can the word have any deep meaning if it can be used to mean “any type of culture, society, etc. of a specific place, time, or group”? This empty definition reveals that studying civilization still presents daunting challenges to students of history today. It should be their task to make civilization a word with intellectual content and a reality with mean- ing for improving human life, as those who first used the word thought that it was.

1 Sir John Lubbock, On the Origin and Metamorphoses of Insects, 2nd ed. (London, 1874), p. 13.

velopment. Their direct connections to the West began only much later.

If studying the history of Western civilization is the best way to seek its definition, we must then trace the commercial, military, and intellectual interactions of its diverse peoples and regions. We begin with the Mesopotamians, the Egyptians, the Minoans on Crete and the Aegean islands, and the Mycenaeans in Greece. The fragility of what we traditionally call civilization will become apparent when we come to the mysterious era of widespread violence that lasted from about 1200 to 1000 B.C.E. and nearly put an early end to civi- lization in the West.

Review: What are the challenges of defining Western civilization?

Mesopotamia, Home of the First Civilization, 4000–1000 B.C.E. The Neolithic Revolution (see the Prologue, pages P-8–P-10) created the economic basis of civiliza- tion by providing enough surplus agricultural re- sources to allow many people to work full-time at occupations other than farming and by encourag- ing permanent settlements that could grow into cities. These changes in the physical conditions of life generated changes in society. The first place where farming villages gradually became cities was Mesopotamia, where climate change had pro- moted agriculture and domestication of animals in the Fertile Crescent. Sumer, the name for south- ern Mesopotamia, developed the first cities. By 4000–3000 B.C.E., the Sumerians had built large ur- ban communities, each controlling its surround- ing territory as a separate political state. Studies have revealed the interlocking physical and social conditions of the first civilization: cities at the cen- ter of society, successful agriculture on arid plains made possible by complex irrigation, religion as the guide to life, a social hierarchy with kings at the top and slaves at the bottom, the invention of writing to keep track of economic transactions and record people’s stories and beliefs, and war to demonstrate cultural superiority and gain land and riches.

The riches for which people now fought had a new component: metal. Items made of metal had become central to wealth and power after craft workers invented the technology of metallurgy about 4000 B.C.E. Historians label the period from

about 4000 to 1000 B.C.E. the Bronze Age because at this time bronze, an alloy of copper and tin, was the most important metal for weapons and tools; iron was not yet in common use. Owning metal objects strengthened visible status divisions in so- ciety between men and women and rich and poor. Long-distance commerce increased to satisfy peo- ple’s desire for resources and goods not available in their homelands and stimulated the invention of the alphabet to supplement earlier forms of writing. Rulers created systems of law to regulate the complex economic and social activities of civ- ilization, instruct their subjects to be obedient to their rulers, and show the gods that they were ful- filling the divine command to maintain order by dispensing justice.

Cities and Society, 4000–2350 B.C.E. The first cities, and thus the first civilization, emerged in Sumer when its inhabitants figured out how to raise crops on the fertile but dry plains be- tween and around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (Map 1.1). This flat region was spacious enough for the growth of cities, but it was not ideal for agriculture: little rain fell, temperatures soared to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and devastating floods oc- curred unpredictably. First Sumerians and then other Mesopotamians turned this marginal envi- ronment into rich farmland by diverting water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to irrigate the plains. A system of irrigation canals that required constant maintenance helped limit flooding. The need to organize workers to maintain the canals promoted the growth of centralized authority in Mesopotamian city-states, which led to the emer- gence of kings as rulers. In this way, civilization created monarchy as a political system.

Food surpluses produced by Mesopotamian farmers spurred population growth, increased the number of crafts producers, and led to the emergence of cities. Each city controlled agricul- tural land outside its fortification walls and built large temples inside them. Historians call this arrangement — an urban center exercising polit- ical and economic control over the countryside around it — a city-state. Mesopotamia became a land of separate and independent city-states, each with its own central authority.

The Cities of Sumer. We do not know the origins of the Sumerians; they spoke a language whose background remains obscure. By around 3000

Mesopotamia, Home of the First Civil ization, 4000–1000 b.c .e . 74000–1000 b.c .e .

city-state: An urban center exercising political and economic control over the surrounding countryside.

B.C.E. the Sumerians had established twelve inde- pendent city-states — including Uruk, Eridu, and Ur — which remained fiercely separate communi- ties warring over land and natural resources. By around 2500 B.C.E., each of the Sumerian cities had expanded to twenty thousand residents or more.

These first city-states had similar layouts. Ir- rigated fields filled the outer perimeter of their ter- ritories, with villages housing agricultural workers closer to the urban center. A fortress wall sur- rounded the city itself. Outside the city’s gates, bustling centers of trade developed, either at a har- bor on the river or in a marketplace along the over- land routes leading to the city. Inside the city, the most prominent buildings were the ziggurats (see the ziggurat of Ur in Sumer at right), temples of a stair-step design that soared up to ten stories high.

Cities were crowded, though some space was left open for parks. Urban dwellers lived in mud- brick houses constructed around an open court. Most houses had only one or two rooms, but the wealthy constructed two-story dwellings that had a dozen or more rooms. Rich and poor alike could become ill from the water supply, which was often contaminated by sewage because no system of waste disposal existed. Pigs and dogs scavenged in the streets and areas where garbage was dumped before it could be cleared away.

Agriculture and trade made Sumerian city- states prosperous. They bartered grain, vegetable oil, woolens, and leather with one another and with foreign regions, from which they acquired natural resources not found in Sumer, such as metals, timber, and precious stones. Sumerian traders traveled as far east as India, sailing for weeks to reach that distant land, where the In- dus civilization’s large cities emerged about five

8 Chapter 1 ■ Early Western Civil ization 4000–1000 b.c .e .

0 250 500 kilometers

0 250 500 miles

Fertile Crescent

Battle N




B l a c k S e a

R ed


P ers ian

Gul f

C a

s p i a

n S

e a

M e d i t e r r a n e a n S e a

T igris

R .

Euphrates R. N

il e

R .

Presumed ancient coastline





















Kadesh c. 1274 B.C.E.


Deir el-Bahri




Ur Uruk




Giza Memphis

Tell el-Amarna

Thebes �

� �

MAP 1.1 The Ancient Near East, 4000–3000 B.C.E. The diverse region we call the ancient Near East encompassed many different landscapes, climates, peoples, and languages. Kings ruled its independent city-states, the centers of the world’s first civilizations, beginning around 4000–3000 B.C.E. Trade by land and sea for natural resources, especially metals, and wars of conquest kept the peoples of the region in constant contact and conflict with one another. ■ How did geography facilitate—or hinder—the development of civilization in the Near East?

ziggurats (ZIH guh rats): Mesopotamian temples of massive size built on a stair-step design.

hundred years after Sumer’s. Technological inno- vation further strengthened the early Meso- potamian economy, especially beginning around 3000 B.C.E., when Sumerians invented the wheel in a form sturdy enough to be used on carts for transport.

Religious officials predominated in the early Sumerian economy because they controlled large farms and gangs of laborers, whose work for the gods supported the ziggurats and their related ac- tivities. Priests and priestesses supervised a large amount of property and economic activity. By around 2600 B.C.E., however, kings dominated the economy because their leadership in Mesopotamia’s

frequent wars won them control of their territories’ resources; some private households also amassed significant wealth by working large fields.

Kings in Sumer. Kings and their royal families were the highest-ranking people in the Sumerian social hierarchy. A king formed a council of older men as his advisers and praised the gods as his rulers and the guarantors of his power. This claim to divinely justified power gave priests and priest- esses political influence. Although a Sumerian queen was respected as the wife of the king and the mother of the royal children, the king held supreme power in the patriarchal city-states of

Mesopotamia, Home of the First Civil ization, 4000–1000 b.c .e . 94000–1000 b.c .e .

The “Standard of Ur” of Sumer This wooden box, about twenty inches long and eight inches high, was found in a large grave in the Royal Cemetery at Ur dating to about 2600–2400 B.C.E. Its pictures, inlaid in white shell, red limestone, and blue lapis lazuli on all sides of the box, have made this mysterious object famous because they provide some of our earliest visual evidence for Sumerian life. This side shows animals being led to a banquet scene, where a musician playing a lyre entertains men in their characteristic woolen fleeces or fringed skirts. The

large figure at the left is probably the king, here celebrating his role as the gods’ representative to his subjects. The other side shows a Sumerian army. (© The Trustees of the British Museum.)

■ For more help analyzing this image, see the visual activity for this chapter in the Online Study Guide at

The Ziggurat of Ur in Sumer King Ur-Nammu and his son Shulgi built this massive temple as an architectural marvel for their city of Ur (in what is today southern Iraq) in the early twenty-first century B.C.E. Its three massive terraces, one above another and connected by stairways, were constructed with a mud-brick core covered by a skin of baked brick, glued together with tar. The ziggurat’s walls were more than seven feet thick to sustain its enormous weight. Its original height is uncertain, but the first terrace alone

soared some forty-five feet above the ground. The enormous bulk of the Great Pyramid in Egypt, however, dwarfed it (see page 19). (Hirmer Fotoarchiv.)

Mesopotamia. Still, women had more legal rights under Sumerian law than they would in later Mesopotamian societies; only Egypt would give women greater legal standing than Sumer did.

The king’s supreme responsibility was to en- sure justice, which meant pleasing the gods, devel- oping law, keeping order among the people, and fighting wars against other city-states both for de- fense and for conquest. In return, the king ex- tracted surpluses from the working population as taxes to support his family, court, palace, army, and officials. If the surpluses came in regularly, the king mostly left the people alone to live their daily lives, although from time to time he relieved the poor of their debts as part of his divine mission to fight injustice.

To demonstrate their status atop the social hi- erarchy, Sumerian kings and their families lived in luxurious palaces that rivaled the scale of the great temples. The palace served as the city-state’s ad- ministrative center and the storehouse for the ruler’s enormous wealth. Members of the royal family dedicated a significant portion of the com- munity’s economic surplus to displaying their su- perior status. Archaeological excavation of the immense royal cemetery in Ur, for example, has revealed the dazzling extent of the rulers’ riches — spectacular possessions crafted in gold, silver, and precious stones. These graves also yielded grislier evidence of the exalted status of the king and queen: the bodies of the servants sacrificed to serve their royal masters after death. The spectacle of wealth and power that characterized Sumerian kingship reveals the enormous gap between the upper and lower ranks of Sumerian society.

Slaves in Sumer. Just as it created monarchy, civ- ilization also created slavery. Scholars dispute pre- cisely how and why people began enslaving other people, but a greatly increased rigidity in social hi- erarchy was slavery’s foundation. Slaves were those confined to the bottom. No single description of Mesopotamian slavery covers all its diverse forms or its social and legal consequences. Both the gods (through their temple officials) and private indi- viduals could own slaves. People lost their freedom by being captured in war, by being born to slaves, by voluntarily selling themselves or their children to escape starvation, or by being sold by their cred- itors to satisfy debts. Foreigners enslaved as captives in war or in raids were considered infe- rior to citizens who fell into slavery to pay off debts. Children whose parents dedicated them as servants to the gods counted as slaves, but they could rise to prominent positions in the temple administrations.

In general, slaves depended almost totally on other people. They usually worked without pay and lacked nearly all rights. Although slaves fre- quently married each other and had families and sometimes formed relationships with free persons, masters could sell their slaves at will. Slave owners could buy, sell, demand sex from, beat, or even kill their slaves with impunity. Sumerians, like later Mesopotamians, apparently accepted slavery as a fact of nature, and there is no evidence of any sen- timent for abolishing it.

Slaves worked as household servants, craft producers, and farm laborers, but historians dis- pute their economic significance compared with that of free workers. Most labor for the city-state seems to have been performed by free persons who paid their taxes through work rather than with money (which consisted of measured amounts of food or precious metal; coins were not invented until around 700 B.C.E. in Anatolia). Under certain conditions slaves could gain their freedom: mas- ters’ wills could liberate them, or they could purchase their freedom with earnings they could sometimes accumulate.

The Invention of Writing. Writing was also a cre- ation of civilization. Beginning around 3500 B.C.E., the Sumerians invented writing to do accounting because economic transactions had increased in complexity as their populations expanded. Before writing, people drew small pictures on clay tablets to represent objects. At first, these pictographs symbolized concrete objects only, such as a cow. Over several centuries of development, nonpicto- rial symbols and marks were added to the pic- tographs to stand for the sounds of spoken language. The final version of Sumerian writing was not an alphabet, in which a symbol represents the sound of a single letter, but a mixed system of phonetic symbols and pictographs that repre- sented the sounds of entire syllables or entire words.

Archaeologists call the Sumerians’ fully devel- oped script cuneiform (from cuneus, Latin for “wedge”) because the writers used wedge-shaped marks pressed into clay tablets to record spoken language (Figure 1.1). Other Mesopotamian peo- ples subsequently adopted cuneiform to write their own languages. For a long time, only a few profes- sionally trained men and women, known as scribes, mastered the new technology of writing. Schools sprang up to teach aspiring scribes, who

10 Chapter 1 ■ Early Western Civil ization 4000–1000 b.c .e .

cuneiform (kyoo NEE uh form): The earliest form of writing, in- vented in Mesopotamia and done with wedge-shaped charac- ters.

could then find jobs as accountants. Kings, priests, and wealthy landowners employed scribes to record who had paid their taxes and who still owed.

Writing soon created a new way to hand down stories and beliefs previously preserved only in memory and speech. The scribal schools extended their curriculum to cover nature lore, mathematics, and for- eign languages. Written literature provided a powerful new tool for passing on a cul- ture’s traditions to later generations. En- heduanna, an Akkadian woman of the twenty-third century B.C.E., composed the world’s oldest written poetry whose author is known. She was a priestess, prophetess, and princess, the daughter of King Sar- gon of the city of Akkad. Her poetry, written in Sumerian, praised the awe- some power of the life-giving goddess of love, Inanna (also known as Ishtar): “the great gods scattered from you like fluttering bats, unable to face your in- timidating gaze . . . knowing and wise queen of all the lands, who makes all creatures and people multiply.” Later princesses, who wrote love songs, lull- abies, songs of mourning, and prayers, continued the Mesopotamian tradi- tion of royal women as authors and composers.

Mesopotamian Myths and Religion. Writing developed into a crucial tech- nology of perpetuating civilization be- cause it provided a new way to record the traditions that helped hold com- munities together, especially myths (stories about the gods and the origins of civilization that peo- ple believed to be true) and religion (people’s be- liefs and communal practices in worshipping the gods). Mesopotamians believed that the gods had created the universe as a hierarchy demanding obedience from inferiors to superiors. They also believed that the gods controlled all areas affect- ing human existence, from war to fertility to the weather. The more critical a divinity’s power over people’s well-being, the more important the god. Each city-state honored a particular major deity as its special protector.

Mesopotamians viewed the gods as absolute masters to whom they owed total devotion, just as ordinary people owed complete obedience to their rulers. They believed that their deities looked like human beings and had human emotions, espe- cially anger and an arbitrary will. Myths empha-

sized the gods’ awesome but unpredictable power and the limits of human control over what the gods might do to them. Mesopotamian divinities such as Enlil, god of the sky, and Ishtar (also called Inanna), goddess of love and war, would punish human beings who offended them by causing dis- asters like floods and famine.

The long poem Epic of Gilgamesh addresses the questions of the nature of civilization in a world ruled by divine central authority and the price that civilization demands from human be- ings. It tells the adventures of the hero Gilgamesh, who as king of the city of Uruk forces the city’s young men to construct a temple and a fortifica- tion wall, and compels its young women to sleep with him. When the distressed inhabitants implore Anu, lord of the gods, to grant them a rival to Gilgamesh, Anu calls on Aruru, the mother of the gods, to create a wild man, Enkidu, “hairy all

Mesopotamia, Home of the First Civil ization, 4000–1000 b.c .e . 114000–1000 b.c .e .

SAG Head

NINDA bread

GU eat

AB cow

APIN plough

SUHUR carp




c. 700 B.C.E. (Neo-


c. 2100 B.C.E.c. 2500 B.C.E.c. 3000 B.C.E.c. 3100 B.C.E. Sumerian reading + meaning

FIGURE 1.1 Cuneiform Writing The earliest known form of writing developed in different locations in Mesopotamia in the 3000s B.C.E. when people began linking meaning and sound to signs such as these. The scribes who mastered the system used sticks or reeds to press dense rows of small wedge-shaped marks into damp clay tablets or chisels to engrave them on stone. Cuneiform was used for at least fifteen Near Eastern languages and continued to be written for three thousand years. Written about 1900 B.C.E., this cuneiform text records a merchant’s complaint that a shipment of copper contained less metal than he had expected. His letter, impressed on a clay tablet several inches long, was enclosed in an outer clay shell, which was then marked with the sender’s private seal. This envelope (photo at left) protected the inner text from tampering or breakage. (© The Trustees of the British Museum.)

over . . . dressed as cattle are.” A week of sex with a prostitute tames this brute, preparing him for civ- ilization: “Enkidu was weaker; he ran slower than before. But he had gained judgment, was wiser.” After wrestling to a draw, Enkidu and Gilgamesh become friends and set out to conquer Humbaba (or Huwawa), the ugly, giant monster of the Pine Forest. Gilgamesh later insults the goddess Ishtar, who sends the Bull of Heaven to challenge him and Enkidu. The two comrades prevail, but when Enkidu makes matters worse by hurling the dead bull’s haunch at Ishtar, the gods condemn him to death. In despair over human failure and frailty, Gilgamesh tries to find the secret of immortality, only to have his quest foiled by a thieving snake. He subsequently realizes that immortality for hu- man beings comes only from the fame generated by their achievements, above all building a great city such as Uruk, which encompasses “three square miles and its open ground.” Only memory and gods live forever, he finds.

A late version of the Epic of Gilgamesh includes a description of a huge flood that covers the earth, recalling the devastating in- undations that often struck Mesopotamia. When the gods send the flood, they warn one man, Utnapishtim, of the im- pending disaster, telling him to build a boat. He loads his vessel with his relatives, artisans, posses- sions, domesticated and wild animals, and “every- thing there was.” After a week of torrential rains, he and his passengers disembark to repopulate and rebuild the earth. This story shows that ancient Mesopotamians realized their civilization might be flawed — after all, it angered the gods enough to want to destroy it. Their flood story foreshadows the biblical account of the flood and Noah’s ark. The themes of Mesopotamian mythology, which lived on in poetry and song, also powerfully influenced the mythology of distant peoples, most notably the Greeks.

Religion lay at the heart of Mesopotamian civ- ilization because people believed that the divinely created hierarchy of the universe determined the conditions of their lives. As a result, the priest or priestess of a city’s chief deity enjoyed high status. The most important duty of Mesopotamian priests was to discover the will of the gods by div- ination. To perform this function, they studied natural signs by tracking the patterns of the stars, interpreting dreams, and cutting open animals to examine their organs for deformities signaling trouble ahead. These inspections helped the people

decide when and how to please their fickle gods, whether by giving them gifts or by celebrating fes- tivals in their honor. During the New Year holiday, for example, the reenactment of the mythical mar- riage of the goddess Inanna and the god Dumuzi was believed to ensure successful reproduction by the city’s humans, animals, and plants for the com- ing year.

Metals, the Akkadian Empire, and the Ur III Dynasty, c. 2350–c. 2000 B.C.E. The growth of agriculture and trade promoted ever stronger city-states in Mesopotamia. Their prosperity led them into competition and conflict, as rulers led armies on brutal campaigns to con- quer their neighbors and win glory and wealth. Al- though agricultural production remained the greatest source of wealth, the desire to acquire riches in metals pushed the kings of the Akkadi-

ans, a Mesopotamian people from the city-state of Akkad, to wage war to create the world’s first empire (a political state in which one or more formerly independ- ent territories or peoples are ruled by a single sovereign power).

Early metallurgy presents a clear example of a recurrent theme in history since the Ne- olithic Revolution: technological change leading to changes in so-

cial customs and standards. In the case of metal, craftsmen invented ways to smelt ore and to make metal alloys at high temperatures. Pure copper, which had been available for some time, easily lost its shape and edge; bronze, by contrast, a copper- tin alloy hard enough to hold a razor edge, enabled smiths to produce durable and deadly swords, dag- gers, and spearheads. This new technology of met- allurgy led kings and the social elite of the Akkadian empire to seek new and more expensive luxury goods in metal, improved tools for agricul- ture and construction, and, above all, bronze weapons of war.

The desire to accumulate wealth and to pos- sess status symbols stimulated demand for metals and for the skilled workers who could create lav- ishly adorned weapons and exquisitely crafted jew- elry. Rich men, especially, paid metalworkers to make them bronze swords and daggers decorated with expensive inlays, as on costly guns today. Such

12 Chapter 1 ■ Early Western Civil ization 4000–1000 b.c .e .

empire: A political state in which one or more formerly inde- pendent territories or peoples are ruled by a single sovereign power.

0 250 kilometers125

0 250 miles125


P ersian

G ulf

T igris

R .

Euphrates R.

Red Sea

Caspian Sea

M ed

it er

ra ne

an Se


Presumed ancient










The Akkadian Empire, 2350–2200 b.c.e.

weapons increased visible social differences be- tween men and women because they marked the status of the masculine roles of hunter and warrior.

Mesopotamian monarchs’ craving for metals spawned the development of empires. Ambition pushed rulers to acquire metals by conquest rather than by trade, and they started wars to capture ter- ritory containing ore mines. The first empire be- gan around 2350 B.C.E., when Sargon, king of Akkad, launched invasions far to the north and south of his homeland in mid-Mesopotamia. In violent campaigns he overtook Sumer and the re- gions all the way westward to the Mediterranean Sea. Since Akkadians expressed their ideas about their own history in poetry and believed that the gods determined their fate, it was fitting that a poet of around 2000 B.C.E. credited Sargon’s success to the favor of the god Enlil: “to Sargon the king of Akkad, from below to above, Enlil had given him lordship and kingship.”

Sargon’s grandson Naram-Sin continued the family tradition of conquering distant places. By around 2250 B.C.E., he had severely damaged Ebla, a large city whose site has only recently been dis- covered in modern Syria, more than five hundred miles from his home base in Mesopotamia. Ar- chaeologists have unearthed many cuneiform tablets at Ebla, some of them in more than one language. These discoveries suggest that Ebla thrived as an early center for learning as well as a trading station.

The process of building an empire by force had the unintended consequence of spreading Mesopotamian literature and art throughout the Near East. The Akkadians, like many other peoples of the Near East, spoke a Semitic language unre- lated to Sumerian, but in conquering Sumer they took over most of the characteristics of that re- gion’s religion, literature, and culture. The other peoples whom the Akkadians overran were then exposed to Sumerian beliefs and traditions, which they in turn adapted to suit their own purposes. In this way, war promoted cultural interaction.

Violence ended the Akkadian Empire. The tra- ditional explanation for the empire’s fall has been that the Gutians, a neighboring hill people, over- threw the Akkadian dynasty around 2200 B.C.E. by swooping down from, in the words of a poet, “their land that rejects outside control, with the intelligence of human beings but with the form and stumbling words of a dog.” Research has revealed, however, that civil war is a more likely explanation for the Akkadian Empire’s demise. A newly resurgent Sumerian dynasty called Ur III (2112–2004 B.C.E.) then seized power in Sumer and presided over a flourishing of Sumerian literature.

The Ur III rulers created a centralized economy, published the earliest preserved law code, and jus- tified their rule by proclaiming their king to be divine. The best-preserved ziggurat was built in their era. Royal hymns, a new literary form, glori- fied the king; one example reads: “Your com- mands, like the word of a god, cannot be reversed; your words, like rain pouring down from heaven, are without number.”

The development of civilization based on the centralized authority of kings did not bring stability to Mesopotamia. The Ur III kings could not protect their dynasty from monarchy’s fatal weakness — its tendency to inspire powerful and ambitious internal rivals to conspire to overthrow the ruling dynasty and take power themselves. When civil war weakened the regime, Amorite marauders from nearby saw their opportunity to conduct damaging raids. The Ur III dynasty col- lapsed after only a century of rule.

Assyrian, Babylonian, and Canaanite Achievements, 2000–1000 B.C.E. Assyrian innovations in commerce, Babylonian achievements in law, and the Canaanite invention of the alphabet are important landmarks in the history of Western civilization. New kingdoms emerged in Assyria and Babylonia in the second millennium B.C.E. following the fall of the Akka- dian Empire and the Sumerian Ur III dynasty. Their accomplishments are especially remarkable because they occurred while Mesopotamia was ex- periencing prolonged economic troubles caused by climate change and agricultural pollution. By around 2000 B.C.E. the region’s intensive irrigation had the unintended consequence of increasing the salt level of the soil so much that crop yields de- clined. When an extended period of decreased rainfall, especially in southern Mesopotamia, made the situation worse, the resulting economic stress gen- erated political instability that lasted for centuries. In Canaan (ancient Palestine) on the east- ern Mediterranean coast, a lively maritime trade with many diverse regions and the export of timber from inland fostered the growth of inde- pendent city-states.

The Assyrians and Long-Distance Commerce. The Assyrians inhabited northern Mesopotamia, just east of Anatolia. They took advantage of their geography to build an independent kingdom that

Mesopotamia, Home of the First Civil ization, 4000–1000 b.c .e . 134000–1000 b.c .e .

0 200 kilometers100

0 100 200 miles

Tigris R.

Euphrates R.

M ed

it er

ra n

ea n

Se a






/ P




Babylon �

The Kingdom of Assyria, 1900 b.c.e.

allowed long-distance trade conducted by private entrepreneurs. The city-states of Anatolia were rich sources of wood, copper, silver, and gold for many Mesopotamian states. By acting as interme- diaries in this trade between Anatolia and Mesopotamia, the Assyrians became the leading merchants of the Near East. They produced woolen textiles for export to Anatolia in exchange for its raw materials, which they in turn sold to the rest of Mesopotamia.

Centralized state monopolies in which the king’s officials managed international trade and re- distributed goods according to their notions of who needed what had previously dominated the economies of Mesopotamian city-states. This kind of redistributive economy never disappeared in Mesopotamia, but by 1900 B.C.E. the Assyrian kings were allowing individuals to transact large com- mercial deals on their own initiative. This system allowed private entrepreneurs to maximize profits as a reward for taking risks in business. Private As- syrian investors provided funds to traders to pur- chase an export cargo of cloth. The traders then formed donkey caravans to travel hundreds of miles to Anatolia, where, if they survived the dan- gerous journey, they could make huge profits to be split with their investors. Royal regulators settled complaints of trader fraud and losses in transit.

Hammurabi of Babylon and Written Law. Mesopotamians established well-publicized laws, an important part of Western civilization. The growth of private commerce and property owner- ship in Mesopotamia created a pressing need to guarantee fairness and reliability in contracts and other business agreements. Mesopotamians be- lieved that the king had a sacred duty to make di- vine justice known to his subjects by rendering judgments in all sorts of cases, from commercial disputes to crime. Once written down, the record of the king’s decisions amounted to what histo- rians today call a law code. King Hammurabi (r. c. 1792–c. 1750 B.C.E.) of Babylon, a great city on the Euphrates River in what is today Iraq, be- came the most famous lawgiver in Mesopotamia (see Document, “Hammurabi’s Laws for Physi- cians,” page 15). In making his laws, he drew on earlier Mesopotamian legal traditions, such as the laws of the earlier Sumerian Ur III dynasty.

In his code, Hammurabi proclaimed that his goals as ruler were to support “the principles of

truth and equity” and to protect the less powerful members of society from exploitation. He gave a new emphasis to relieving the burdens of the poor as a necessary part of royal justice. The code legally divided society into three categories: free persons, commoners, and slaves. We do not know what made the first two categories different, but they re- flect a social hierarchy in which some people were assigned a higher value than others. An attacker who caused a pregnant woman of the free class to miscarry, for example, paid twice the fine levied for the same offense against a commoner. In the case of physical injury between social equals, the code specified “an eye for an eye” (an expression still used today). But a member of the free class who killed a commoner was not executed, only fined.

Most of Hammurabi’s laws concerned the king’s interests as a property owner who leased many tracts of land to tenants in return for rent or services. The laws imposed severe penalties for offenses against property, including mutilation or a gruesome death for crimes ranging from theft to wrongful sales and careless construction. Women had only limited legal rights in this patriarchal so- ciety, but they could make business contracts and appear in court. A wife could divorce her husband for cruelty; a husband could divorce his wife for any reason. The law protected the wife’s interests, however, by requiring a husband to restore his wife’s property to her in the case of divorce.

Hammurabi’s laws publicized an ideal of jus- tice, but they did not necessarily reflect everyday reality. Indeed, Babylonian documents show that legal penalties were often less severe than the code specified. The people themselves assembled in courts to determine most cases by their own judg- ments. Why, then, did Hammurabi have his laws written down? He announces his reasons at the be- ginning and end of his code: to show Shamash, the Babylonian sun god and god of justice, that he had fulfilled the moral responsibility imposed on him as a divinely installed monarch — to ensure justice and the moral and material welfare of his people: “So that the powerful may not oppress the power- less, to provide justice for the orphan and the widow . . . let the victim of injustice see the law which applies to him, let his heart be put at ease.” The king’s responsibility for his society’s welfare corresponded to the strictly hierarchical and reli- gious vision of society accepted by all Mesopotamian peoples.

City Life and Learning. Hammurabi’s laws offer glimpses into the daily life of Bronze Age Mesopotamian city dwellers. For example, crimes of burglary and assault apparently plagued urban

14 Chapter 1 ■ Early Western Civil ization 4000–1000 b.c .e .

redistributive economy: A system in which state officials con- trol the production and distribution of goods.

Hammurabi (ha muh RAH bee): King of Babylonia in the eigh- teenth century B.C.E., famous for his law code.

residents. Marriages were arranged by the bride’s father and the groom and sealed with a legal con- tract. The detailed laws on surgery make clear that doctors practiced in the cities. Because people believed that angry gods or evil spirits caused se- rious diseases, Mesopotamian medicine included magic as well as treatment with potions and diet. A doctor might prescribe an incantation as part of his therapy. Magicians or exorcists offered medical treatment that depended primarily on spells and on interpreting signs, such as the patient’s dreams or hallucinations.

Archaeological evidence supplements the in- formation on urban life found in Hammurabi’s code. City dwellers evidently enjoyed alcoholic drinks in a friendly setting because cities had many taverns and wine shops, often run by women pro- prietors. Contaminated drinking water caused many illnesses because sewage disposal was rudi- mentary. Relief from the odors and crowding of the streets could be found in the city’s open spaces. The oldest known map in the world, an inscribed clay tablet showing the outlines of the Babylonian city of Nippur about 1500 B.C.E., indicates a sub- stantial area set aside as a city park.

Bringing people together in cities evidently helped promote intellectual developments; Mesopotamian achievements in mathematics and astronomy had a profound effect that endures to this day. Creating maps, for example, required so- phisticated techniques of measurement and knowledge of spatial relationships. Mathemati-

cians devised algebra to solve complex problems, and they could derive the roots of numbers. They invented place-value notation, which makes a nu- meral’s position in a number indicate ones, tens, hundreds, and so on. The system of reckoning based on sixty, still used in the division of hours and minutes and degrees of a circle, also comes from Mesopotamia. Mesopotamian expertise in recording the paths of the stars and planets prob- ably arose from the desire to make predictions about the future, in accordance with the astrolog- ical belief that the movement of celestial bodies di- rectly affects human life. The charts and tables compiled by Mesopotamian stargazers laid the foundation for later advances in astronomy.

Canaanites, Commerce, and the Alphabet. The Canaanites expanded their population by absorb- ing merchants from many lands. Some scholars be- lieve that the political structure of the Canaanite communities provided an antecedent for the city- states of Greece. The interaction in their cities of traders and travelers from many different cultures encouraged innovation in the recording of busi- ness transactions. This multilingual business envi- ronment produced an overwhelmingly important writing technology about 1600 B.C.E.: the alphabet. In this new system of writing, a simplified picture — a letter — stood for only one sound in the language, a dramatic change from complicated scripts such as cuneiform. The alphabet developed in the Canaanite cities later became the basis for

Mesopotamia, Home of the First Civil ization, 4000–1000 b.c .e . 154000–1000 b.c .e .

Hammurabi’s Laws for Physicians


In Hammurabi’s collection of 282 laws, the following decisions set the fees for successful operations and the punishment for physi- cians’ errors. The prescription of mutilation of a surgeon as the punishment for mutila- tion of a patient from the highest social class (law number 218) squares with the legal principle of equivalent punishment (“an eye for an eye”) that pervades Hammurabi’s collection.

215. If a physician performed a major op- eration on a freeman with a bronze scalpel and has saved the freeman’s life, or he opened up the eye-socket of a freeman with

a bronze scalpel and has saved the freeman’s eye, he shall receive ten shekels1 of silver.

216. If it was a commoner, he shall re- ceive five shekels of silver.

217. If it was a freeman’s slave, the owner of the slave shall give two shekels of silver to the physician.

218. If a physician performed a ma- jor operation on a freeman with a bronze scalpel and has caused the freeman’s death, or he opened up the eye-socket of a freeman and has destroyed the freeman’s eye, they shall cut off his hand.

219. If a physician performed a ma- jor operation on a commoner’s slave with

a bronze scalpel and has caused his death, he shall make good slave for slave.

220. If he opened up [the slave’s] eye- socket with a bronze scalpel and has de- stroyed his eye, he shall pay half his value in silver.

Source: Adapted from James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd ed. with supplement (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969), 175.

1A shekel is a measurement of weight (about three-tenths of an ounce), not a coin. A hired la- borer earned about one shekel per week. The av- erage price of a slave was about twenty shekels.

the Greek and Roman alphabets and, hence, of modern Western alphabets. The Canaanite alpha- bet therefore ranks as one of the most important legacies contributing to the foundation of Western civilization.

Review: How did life change for people in Mesopotamia when they began to live in cities?

Egypt, the First Unified Country, 3050–1000 B.C.E. The other earliest Western civilization arose in Egypt, in northeastern Africa. The Egyptians built a wealthy, profoundly religious, and strongly cen- tralized civilization ruled by kings. Unlike the Mesopotamian city-states, Egypt became a unified country, the world’s first large-scale state, whose prosperity and stability depended on the king’s success in maintaining strong central authority over the entire country and defeating enemies. Egypt was located close enough to Mesopotamia to learn from its peoples but was geographically protected enough to develop its own distinct cul- ture, which Egyptians believed was superior to any other. Like the Mesopotamians, the Egyptians be- lieved that a just society was hierarchical and that justice should be dispensed top-down by the rulers to the rest of the people. The Egyptian rulers’ be- lief in the immortality of their souls and the pos- sibility of a happy afterlife motivated them to construct the most imposing tombs in history, the pyramids. Egyptian architecture, art, and religious ideas influenced later Mediterranean peoples, es- pecially the Greeks.

From Egyptian Unification to the Old Kingdom, 3050–2190 B.C.E. When climate change dried up the grasslands of the Sahara region of Africa about 5000–4000 B.C.E., people slowly migrated from there to the north- east corner of the continent, settling along the Nile River. They had formed a large political state by about 3050 B.C.E., when King Narmer (also called Menes)1 united the previously separate territories

of Upper (southern) Egypt and Lower (northern) Egypt. (Upper and Lower refer to the direction of the Nile River, which begins south of Egypt and flows northward to the Mediterranean.) The Egyptian ruler therefore referred to himself as King of the Two Lands. By around 2687 B.C.E., the monarchs had forged a strong, centralized state, called the Old Kingdom by historians, which lasted until around 2190 B.C.E. (Map 1.2). Unlike their Mesopotamian counterparts, who ruled inde- pendent states in a divided land, Egyptian kings built only a few large cities in their united coun- try. The first capital of the united country, Mem- phis (south of modern Cairo), grew into a metropolis packed with mammoth structures.

Narmer’s unification created a state based on the narrow strip of fertile land on either side of the Nile, a ribbon of green fields zigzagging along the river’s course for seven hundred miles south- ward from the Mediterranean Sea. The great desert flanking the fields on both sides protected Egypt from invasion, except through the northern Nile delta and from Nubia in the south. Under normal weather conditions, the Nile overflowed its chan- nel for several weeks each year, when melting snow from the mountains of central Africa swelled its waters. This annual flood enriched the soil with nutrients from the river’s silt and diluted harmful mineral salts. Unlike the random and catastrophic floods of the Mesopotamian rivers, the flooding of the Nile was predictable and beneficial. Trouble came only if dry weather in the mountains kept the flood from occurring. The surpluses that Egypt’s multitude of farmers usually produced made the country prosperous. Date palms, vege- tables, grass for pasturing animals, and grain grew in abundance. From their ample supplies of grain, the Egyptians made bread and beer, a staple bev- erage. Other sources of Egyptian wealth were the metal ores found in its deserts, the seaborne com- merce conducted in its ports, and the goods ex- changed with its African neighbors.

Egypt’s diverse population included people whose skin color ranged from light to dark. Many ancient Egyptians would be regarded as black by modern racial classification, a distinction ancient people did not observe. The modern controversy over whether Egyptians were people of color is therefore anachronistic; if asked, ancient Egyptians

16 Chapter 1 ■ Early Western Civil ization 4000–1000 b.c .e .

1 Representing ancient Egyptian names and dates presents serious problems. Since the Egyptians did not include vowel sounds in their writing, we are not sure how to spell their names. The spelling of names here is taken from The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt, edited by Donald B. Redford (2001), with alternate names given in cases where they might be more familiar. Dates are ap- proximate and similarly controversial; the scattered evidence for

Egyptian chronology embroils scholars in “a world of uncertainty and acrimonious debate” (Redford, The Oxford Encyclopedia, vol. 1, p. xi; for an explanation of the problems, see the article titled “Chronology and Periodization,” vol. 1, pp. 264–68). The dates appearing in this book are compiled with as much consistency as possible from articles in The Oxford Encyclopedia and in the “Egyptian King List” given at the back of each of its volumes.

would presumably have answered that they iden- tified themselves by geography, language, religion, and traditions. Like many ancient groups, the Egyptians called themselves simply The People. Later peoples, especially the Greeks, admired Egyptian civilization for its great antiquity and religion.

Although early Egyptians absorbed knowl- edge from both the Mesopotamians and their southern African neighbors, the Nubians, they developed their own scripts rather than using cuneiform. To write formal and official texts they used an ornate pictographic script known as hieroglyphs (Figure 1.2, page 18). They also de- veloped other scripts for everyday purposes.

Nubian society perhaps deeply influenced early Egypt. A Nubian social elite lived in dwellings much grander than the small huts housing most of the population. Egyptians interacted with Nubians while trading for raw materials such as gold, ivory, and animal skins, and some scholars argue that Nubia’s hierarchical political and social organization influenced the development of Egypt’s politically centralized Old Kingdom. Even- tually, however, Egypt’s greater power led it to dominate its southern neighbor.

Religion and the Old Kingdom’s Central Authority. Although the Egyptians created a new path for civ- ilization by creating a unified country under a cen- tral authority, keeping the country unified and stable turned out to be difficult. When the kings were strong, as during the Old Kingdom, the coun- try was peaceful and rich, with flourishing inter- national trade, especially along the eastern Mediterranean coast. However, when regional gov- ernors became rebellious and the king was weak, political instability resulted.

The king’s power and success depended on his fulfilling his religious obligations. Like the Mesopotamians, Egyptians centered their lives on religion. They worshipped a great variety of gods, who were often shown in paintings and sculptures as creatures with both human and animal features, such as the head of a jackal or a bird atop a hu- man body. This style of representing deities did not mean that people worshipped animals, but rather that they believed the gods each had a par- ticular animal through which they revealed them- selves to human beings. At the most basic level, Egyptian gods were associated with powerful nat- ural objects, emotions, qualities, and technolo- gies — examples are Re, the sun god; Isis, the

goddess of love and fertility; and Thoth, the god of wisdom and the inventor of writing.

Egyptians regarded their king as a divinity in human form, identified with the hawk-headed god Horus. In the Egyptian view, the king’s rule was divine because he helped generate maat, the su- pernatural force that brought order and harmony to human beings if they maintained a stable hier- archy. The goddess Maat embodied this force, which was the source of justice in a world that would, the Egyptians believed, fall into violent dis- order if the king did not rule properly. To rule ac- cording to maat, the king made law, kept the forces

Egypt, the First Unif ied Country, 3050–1000 b.c .e . 174000–1000 b.c .e .

Old Kingdom (c. 2687–2190 B.C.E.) Middle Kingdom (c. 2061–1665 B.C.E.) New Kingdom (c. 1569–1081 B.C.E.)

Major pyramid sites

Other ancient sites

0 100 200 kilometers

0 100 200 miles




R e d

S e a

N il

e R


M e d i t e r r a n e a n S e a
















Hyksos invas ion

(c . 1

66 4

B .C

.E .)



Deir el-Bahri




Tell el-Amarna

MAP 1.2 Ancient Egypt Arid deserts closely embraced the Nile River, which provided Egyptians with water to irrigate their fields and a highway for traveling north to the Mediterranean Sea and south to Nubia. The only easy land route into and out of Egypt lay through the northern Sinai peninsula into the coastal area of the eastern Mediterranean; Egyptian kings always fought to control this region to secure the safety of their land.

hieroglyphs: The ancient Egyptian pictographic script for writ- ing official texts.

Maat (MAH aht): The Egyptian goddess (“What Is Right”) em- bodying truth, justice, and cosmic order.

or make love to his wife. Most important, he had to ensure the country’s fertility and prosperity. Thus, the king was supposed to guarantee a proper flooding of the Nile by performing his duties justly and in accordance with traditional order. A failure of the flood gravely weakened the king’s authority and encouraged rebellions.

18 Chapter 1 ■ Early Western Civil ization 4000–1000 b.c .e .

FIGURE 1.2 Egyptian Hieroglyphs Ancient Egyptians used pictures such as these to develop their own system of writing around 3000 B.C.E. Egyptian hieroglyphs employ around seven hundred pictures in three categories: ideograms (signs indicating things or ideas), phonograms (signs indicating sounds), and determinatives (signs clarifying the meaning of the other signs). Because Egyptians employed this formal script mainly for religious inscriptions on buildings and sacred objects, Greeks referred to it as ta hieroglyphica (“the sacred carved letters”), from which comes the modern word hieroglyphic, used for this system of writing. Eventually, Egyptians also developed the handwritten cursive script called demotic (Greek for “of the people”), a much simpler and quicker form of writing. The hieroglyphic writing system continued until about 400 C.E., when it was replaced by the Coptic alphabet. Compare hieroglyphic writing with cuneiform (see page 11). (Victor R. Boswell, Jr. © National Geographic Image Collection.)

of nature in balance for the benefit of his people, and waged war on Egypt’s enemies. To buttress his legitimacy as ruler, official art represented him ful- filling his ritual and military duties. The king’s re- quired piety (proper religious belief and behavior) demanded strict regulation of his daily activities: he had a specific time to take a bath, go for a walk,

Hieroglyph Meaning


flowering reed

forearm and hand

quail chick



horned viper




reed shelter

twisted flax

placenta (?)

animal’s belly

door bolt

folded cloth



basket with handle

jar stand


glottal stop

consonantal I










slightly guttural

H as in “loch”

slightly softer than h








Sound value

The Pyramids at Giza in Egypt The kings of the Egyptian Old Kingdom constructed massive stone pyramids for their tombs, the centerpieces of large complexes of temples and courtyards stretching down to the banks of the Nile or along a canal leading to the river. The inner burial chambers lay at the end of long, narrow tunnels snaking through the pyramids’ interiors. The biggest pyramid shown here is the so-called Great Pyramid of King Khufu (aka Cheops), erected at Giza (in the desert outside what is today Cairo) in the twenty-sixth century B.C.E. and soaring almost 480 feet high, several times taller than the famous Parthenon temple in fifth-century B.C.E. Athens (see page 79). (© John Lawrence/ Super Stock.)

Pyramids and the Afterlife. Successful Old King- dom rulers used expensive building programs to demonstrate their piety and exhibit their status atop the social hierarchy. In the desert outside Memphis, the Old Kingdom rulers erected the most stunning manifestations of their status and their religion: their huge tombs. These tombs — the pyramids (see photograph below) — formed the centerpieces of elaborate groups of buildings for royal funerals and religious ceremonies. Although the pyramids were not the first monuments built from enormous worked stones (that honor goes to temples on the Mediterranean island of Malta), they rank as the grandest.

Old Kingdom rulers spent vast resources on these huge complexes to proclaim their divine sta- tus and protect their mummified bodies for exis- tence in the afterlife. King Khufu (r. 2609–2584 B.C.E.; also known as Cheops) commissioned the hugest monument of all — the Great Pyramid at Giza. At about 480 feet high, it stands taller than a forty-story skyscraper. Covering more than thir- teen acres and 760 feet long on each side, it re- quired more than two million blocks of limestone, some of which weighed fifteen tons apiece. Its ex- terior blocks were quarried along the Nile and then floated to the site on barges. Free workers (not slaves) dragged them up ramps into position us- ing rollers and sleds.

The Old Kingdom rulers’ lavish preparations for death reflected their strong belief in an after-

life. A hieroglyphic text addressed to the god Atum expresses the hope that the ruler will have a secure afterlife: “O Atum, put your arms around King Ne- ferkare Pepy II [r. c. 2300–2206 B.C.E.], around this construction work, around this pyramid. . . . May you guard lest anything happen to him evilly throughout the course of eternity.” The royal fam- ily equipped their tombs with elaborate delights for their existence in the world of the dead. Gilded furniture, sparkling jewelry, exquisite objects of all kinds — the dead kings had all this and more placed beside their coffins, in which rested their mummies. Archaeologists have even uncovered two full-sized cedar ships buried next to the Great Pyramid, meant to carry King Khufu on his jour- ney into eternity.

Hierarchy and Order in Egyptian Society. Old Kingdom rulers organized Egyptian society in a tightly structured hierarchy to preserve their au- thority and therefore support what they regarded as the proper order. Egyptians believed that their ordered society was superior to any other, and they despised foreigners, such as the Near Easterners criticized by Merikare’s father.

The king and queen topped the hierarchy. Brothers and sisters in the royal family could marry each other, perhaps because such matches were believed necessary to preserve the purity of the royal line and to imitate the marriages of the gods. The priests, royal administrators, provincial

Egypt, the First Unif ied Country, 3050–1000 b.c .e . 194000–1000 b.c .e .

governors, and commanders of the army ranked next in the hierarchy. Then came the free common people, most of whom worked in agriculture. Free workers had heavy obligations to the state. For ex- ample, in a system called corvée labor, the kings commanded commoners to work on the pyramids during slack times for agriculture. The state fed, housed, and clothed them while they performed this seasonal work, but their labor was a way of paying taxes. Rates of taxation reached 20 percent on the produce of free farmers. Slaves captured in foreign wars served the royal family and the priests in the Old Kingdom, but privately owned slaves working in free persons’ homes or on their farms did not become numerous until after the Old Kingdom. The king hired mercenaries, many from Nubia, to form the majority of the army.

Egypt preserved more of the gender equality of earlier times than did its neighbors. Women generally enjoyed the same legal rights as free men. They could own land and slaves, inherit property, pursue lawsuits, transact business, and initiate di- vorces. Old Kingdom portrait statues show the equal status of wife and husband: each figure is the same size and sits on the same kind of chair. Men dominated public life, while women devoted themselves mainly to private life, managing their households and property. When their husbands went to war or were killed in battle, however, women often took on men’s work. Women could therefore serve as priestesses, farm managers, or healers.

The formalism of Egypt’s art illustrates how much the civilization valued order and predictabil- ity. Almost all Egyptian sculpture and painting comes from tombs or temples, testimony to its people’s deep desire to maintain proper relations with the gods. Old Kingdom artists excelled in stonework, from carved ornamental jars to mas- sive portrait statues of the kings. These statues rep- resent the subject either standing stiffly with the left leg advanced or sitting on a chair or throne, stable and poised. The concern for decorum (suit- able behavior) also appears in the Old Kingdom literature the Egyptians called instructions, known today as wisdom literature. These texts gave in- structions for appropriate behavior by officials. In the Instruction of Ptahhotep, for example, the royal minister Ptahhotep instructs his son, who will suc- ceed him in office, not to be arrogant or overcon- fident just because he is well educated and to seek advice from ignorant people as well as the wise.

The Middle and New Kingdoms in Egypt, 2061–1081 B.C.E. The Old Kingdom began to disintegrate in the late third millennium B.C.E. The causes remain myste- rious. One suggestion is that climate changes caused the annual Nile flood to shrink and the en- suing agricultural failure discredited the regime — people believed the kings had betrayed Maat. Economic hard times probably fueled rivalry for royal rule between ambitious families, and civil war between a northern and a southern dynasty then ripped apart the Kingdom of the Two Lands. This destruction of the Old Kingdom’s unity al- lowed regional governors to increase their power. Some governors, who had supported the kings while times were good, seized independence for their regions. It was the troubles of this period that made Merikare’s father’s advice so pressing: famine and civil unrest during the so-called First Interme- diate Period (2190–2061 B.C.E.) thwarted all at- tempts to reestablish political unity.

The Middle Kingdom. The kings of what histo- rians label the Middle Kingdom (2061–1665 B.C.E.) gradually restored the strong central authority their Old Kingdom predecessors had lost. They waged war to extend the boundaries of Egypt far- ther south, while to the north they expanded diplomatic and trade contacts in the eastern Mediterranean region and with the island of Crete.

Middle Kingdom literature reveals that the re- claimed national unity contributed to a deeply felt pride in the homeland. The Egyptian narrator of The Story of Sinuhe, for example, reports that he lived luxuriously during a forced stay in Syria but still longed to return: “Whichever deity you are who ordered my exile, have mercy and bring me home! Please allow me to see the land where my heart dwells! Nothing is more important than that my body be buried in the country where I was born!” For this lost soul, love for Egypt outranks even personal riches.

From Hyksos Rule to the New Kingdom. The Middle Kingdom lost its unity during the Second Intermediate Period (1664–1570 B.C.E.), when the kings proved too weak to suppress foreigners who had migrated into Egypt and gradually set up in- dependent communities. By 1664 B.C.E., diverse bands of a Semitic people originally from the east- ern Mediterranean coast took advantage of the troubled times to become Egypt’s rulers. The Egyptians called these foreigners Hyksos (literally, “rulers of the foreign countries”). Recent archae-

20 Chapter 1 ■ Early Western Civil ization 4000–1000 b.c .e .

wisdom literature: Texts giving instructions for proper behav- ior by officials.

ological discoveries have emphasized the role of Hyksos settlers in transplanting elements of for- eign culture to Egypt: their capital, Avaris, boasted wall paintings done in the Minoan style current on the island of Crete. Some historians think the Hyksos also introduced such innovations as bronze-making technology, new musical instru- ments, humpbacked cattle, and olive trees; they certainly promoted frequent contact with other Near Eastern states. They also strengthened Egypt’s capacity to make war by expanding the use of char- iots and more powerful bows.

After a long struggle with the Hyksos, the lead- ers of Thebes, in southern Egypt, reunited the kingdom; the resultant series of royal dynasties is called the New Kingdom (1569–1081 B.C.E.). The kings of this period, known as pharaohs, rebuilt central authority by restricting the power of re- gional governors and promoted a renewed sense of national identity. To prevent invasions, the pharaohs built on the Hyksos innovations in mil- itary technology to create a standing army, still em- ploying many mercenaries, and a military elite to lead it. Recognizing that knowledge of the rest of the world was necessary for safety, they engaged in regular diplomacy with neighboring monarchs to increase their cosmopolitan contacts. In fact, the pharaohs regularly exchanged letters on matters of state with their “brother kings,” as they called them, in Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and the eastern Mediterranean region.

Warrior Pharaohs. The New Kingdom pharaohs sent their reorganized military into foreign wars to gain territory and show their superiority to for- eigners. They waged many campaigns abroad and presented themselves in official propaganda and art as the incarnations of warrior gods. They in- vaded lands to the south to win access to gold and other precious materials, and they fought up and down the eastern Mediterranean coast to control that land route into Egypt. Their imperialism has today earned them the epithet warrior pharaohs.

Massive riches supported the power of the warrior pharaohs. Egyptian traders exchanged lo- cal fine goods, such as ivory, for foreign luxury goods, such as wine and olive oil transported in painted pottery from Greece. Egyptian royalty dis- played their wealth most conspicuously in the enormous sums spent to build stone temples. Queen Hatshepsut (r. 1502–1482 B.C.E.), for ex- ample, built her massive mortuary temple at Deir el-Bahri, near Thebes, including a temple dedi- cated to the god Amun (or Amen), to buttress her claim to divine birth and the right to rule. After

her husband (who was also her half brother) died, Hatshepsut proclaimed herself “female king” as co-ruler with her young stepson. In this way, she shrewdly sidestepped Egyptian political ideology, which made no provision for a queen to reign in her own right. She often had herself represented in official art as a king, with a royal beard and male clothing.

Religious Tradition and Upheaval. Egyptians be- lieved that their many gods oversaw all aspects of life and death. Glorious temples honored the tra- ditional gods, and by the time of the New King- dom their cults (that is, worship traditions and rituals) enriched the religious life of the entire population. The principal festivals of the gods in- volved lavish public celebrations. A calendar based on the moon governed the dates of religious cer- emonies. (The Egyptians also developed a calen- dar for administrative and fiscal purposes that had 365 days, divided into 12 months of 30 days each, with the extra 5 days added before the start of the next year. (Our modern calendar derives from it.)

The early New Kingdom pharaohs from Thebes promoted their state god Amun-Re un- til he overshadowed the other gods. This The- ban cult incorporated and subordinated the

Egypt, the First Unif ied Country, 3050–1000 b.c .e . 214000–1000 b.c .e .

Hatshepsut as Pharaoh Offering Maat This granite statue, eight and a half feet tall, portrayed Hatshepsut, ruler of Egypt in the early fifteenth century B.C.E., as pharaoh wearing a beard and male clothing. She is performing her royal duty of offering maat (the divine principle of order and justice) to the gods. Egyptian religion taught that the gods “lived on maat” and that the land’s rulers were responsible for providing it. Hatshepsut had this statue, and many others, placed in a huge temple she built outside Thebes, in Upper Egypt. Compare her posture to that of the statue of a woman grinding grain on page P-13. Why do you think Hapshetsut is shown as calm and relaxed, despite having her toes severely flexed? (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1929 (29.3.1)

Photograph by Schecter Lee.

Photograph © 1986 The Metropolitan

Museum of Art.)

other gods without denying either their existence or the continued importance of their priests. The pharaoh Akhenaten (r. 1372–1355 B.C.E.) went a step further, however: he proclaimed that official religion would concentrate on worshipping Aten, who represented the sun. Akhenaten made the king and the queen the only people with direct ac- cess to the cult of Aten; ordinary people had no part in it. Some scholars identify Akhenaten’s re- ligion as a form of monotheism, but its underly- ing purpose was to strengthen his rule.

To showcase the royal family and the concen- tration of power that he sought, Akhenaten built a new capital for his god at Tell el-Amarna (see Map 1.2). He tried to force his revised religion on the priests of the old cults, but they resisted. His- torians have blamed Akhenaten’s religious zeal for leading him to neglect the practical affairs of rul- ing the kingdom, weakening its defense, but recent research on international correspondence found at Tell el-Amarna has shown that the pharaoh used

diplomacy in an attempt to pit foreign enemies against each other to prevent them from becom- ing strong enough to threaten Egypt. His policy failed, however, when the Hittites defeated the Mitanni, Egypt’s allies in eastern Syria. Akhenaten’s religious reform also died with him. During the reign of his successor, Tutankhamun (r. 1355–1346 B.C.E.) — famous today through the discovery in 1922 of his rich, unlooted tomb — the cult of Amun-Re reclaimed its leading role. The crisis cre- ated by Akhenaten’s attempted reform emphasizes the overwhelming importance of religious conser- vatism in Egyptian life and the control of religion by the ruling power.

Life and Belief in the New Kingdom. Despite the period’s wars, ordinary Egyptians’ daily lives still revolved around their labor and the annual flood of the Nile. During the months when the river stayed between its banks, they worked their fields, rising early in the morning to avoid the searing

22 Chapter 1 ■ Early Western Civil ization 4000–1000 b.c .e .

Declaring Innocence on Judgment Day in Ancient Egypt


The Egyptian collection of spells known to- day as the Book of the Dead instructed the dead person how to make a declaration of innocence to the gods judging the person’s fate on the day of judgment. The declara- tion listed evils that the person denied hav- ing committed; presumably the divine judges could tell whether the deceased was speaking truthfully. This selection of denials, each directed to a specific deity, reveals what Egyptians regarded as just and proper be- havior.

Wide-of-Stride who comes from On: I have not done evil.

Flame-grasper who comes from Kheraha: I have not robbed.

Long-nosed who comes from Khmun: I have not coveted.

Shadow-eater who comes from the cave: I have not stolen.

Savage-faced who comes from Rostau: I have not killed people.

Lion-Twins who come from heaven: I have not trimmed the measure.

Flint-eyed who comes from Kehm: I have not cheated.

Fiery-one who comes backward: I have not stolen a god’s property.

Bone-smasher who comes from Hnes: I have not told lies.

Flame-thrower who comes from Memphis: I have not seized food.

Cave-dweller who comes from the west: I have not sulked.

White-toothed who comes from Lakeland: I have not trespassed.

Blood-eater who comes from slaughterplace: I have not slain sacred cattle.

Entrail-eater who comes from the tribunal: I have not extorted.

Lord of Maat who comes from Maaty: I have not extorted.

Wanderer who comes from Bubastis: I have not spied.

Pale-one who comes from On: I have not prattled.

Villain who comes from Anjdty: I have contended only for my goods.

Fiend who comes from slaughterhouse: I have not committed adultery.

Examiner who comes from Min’s temple: I have not defiled myself.

Chief of the nobles who comes from Imu: I have not caused fear.

Wrecker who comes from Huy: I have not trespassed.

Disturber who comes from the sanctuary: I have not been violent.

Child who comes from On: I have not been deaf to Maat.

Foreteller who comes from Wensi: I have not quarreled.

Bastet who comes from the shrine: I have not winked.

Backward-face who comes from the pit: I have not copulated with a boy.

Flame-footed who comes from the dusk: I have not been false.

Dark-one who comes from darkness: I have not reviled.

Source: Translation from Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), vol. 2, 126–27.

heat. When the flooding halted agricultural work, the king required them to labor on his building projects. They lived in workers’ quarters erected next to the building sites. Although slaves became more common as household workers in the New Kingdom, free workers, performing labor instead of paying taxes in money, did most of the work on this period’s mammoth royal construction proj- ects. Written texts reveal that workers lightened their burden by singing songs and telling adven- ture stories. They labored extensively: the major- ity of temples remaining in Egypt today come from the New Kingdom.

Ordinary people worshipped many different deities, especially gods they hoped would protect them in their daily lives. They venerated Bes, for instance, a dwarf with the features of a lion, as a protector of the household. They carved his image on amulets, beds, headrests, and the handles of mirrors. By the time of the New Kingdom, ordi- nary people believed that they, too, could have a blessed afterlife and therefore put great effort into preparing for it. Those who could afford the cost arranged to have their tombs outfitted with all the goods needed for the journey to their new exis- tence. Most important, they had their corpses mummified so that they could have a body in the afterlife. Making a mummy required removing the brain and inter- nal organs, drying the body with min- eral salts to the consistency of old leather, and wrapping it in linen soaked with ointments. Every mummy had to travel to the afterlife with a copy of the Book of the Dead, whose collection of magical instructions warded off dan- gers and coached the dead person through his or her trial before the gods. The text listed many denials of sins that the dead person had to be able to recite, including “I have not committed crimes against people; I have not mistreated cattle; I have not robbed the poor; I have not caused pain; I have not caused tears” (see Document,“Declaring Inno- cence on Judgment Day in Ancient Egypt,” page 22).

Magic played a large role in the lives of Egyptians. They sought spells and charms, both written and oral, from professional magicians to promote their eternal salvation, ward off de- mons, smooth the rocky course of love, exact revenge on enemies, and find re- lief from disease and injury. Egyptian doctors knew many medicinal herbs

(knowledge that was passed on to later civiliza- tions), and they could perform demanding surger- ies, including opening the skull. Still, no doctor could cure severe infections; as in the past, sick people continued to rely on the help of supernat- ural forces through prayers and spells.

Review: How did religion guide peoples’ lives in an- cient Egypt?

The Hittites, Minoans, and Mycenaeans, 2200–1000 B.C.E. The first civilizations in the central Mediterranean region emerged in Anatolia, dominated by the warlike Hittite kingdom (see Map 1.1); on the large island of Crete and nearby islands, home to Minoan civilization; and on the Greek mainland, where Mycenaean civilization grew rich from raid- ing and trade (Map 1.3). As early as 6000 B.C.E., people from Anatolia began migrating westward and

The Hittites, Minoans, and Mycenaeans, 2200–1000 b.c .e . 234000–1000 b.c .e .

0 50 100 kilometers

0 50 100 miles

Mycenaean civilization

Minoan civilization




Mediterranean Sea

Aegean Sea

Ionian Sea

htnir oCfof













MAP 1.3 Greece and the Aegean Sea, 1500 B.C.E. A closely packed jumble of mountains, islands, and seas defined the geography of Greece. The distances between settlements were mostly short, but rough terrain and seasonally stormy sailing made travel a chore. The distance from the mainland to the largest island in this region, Crete, where Minoan civilization arose, was sufficiently long to keep Cretans isolated from the turmoil of most of later Greek history.

southward to inhabit islands in the Mediterranean Sea. By around 2200 B.C.E., the rich civilization of the Minoans had emerged on the island of Crete and other islands in the Aegean Sea. The Anatolian peoples who stayed on the mainland also developed civilizations, of which the most aggressive and am- bitious was the kingdom of the Hittites, who came into conflict with New Kingdom Egypt.

The peoples of all these civilizations enjoyed advanced technologies, elaborate architecture, strik- ing art, a marked taste for luxury, and extensive trade contacts with Egypt and the Near East. The Hittites, like the Egyptians, created a unified state under a single central authority. The Minoans and the Mycenaeans, like the Mesopotamians, estab- lished separate states. All inhabited a dangerous world in which regional disruptions from around 1200 to 1000 B.C.E. ultimately overwhelmed their prosperous cultures. Nevertheless, their accom- plishments paved the way for the later civilization of Greece, which would greatly influence the course of Western history.

The Hittites, 1750–1200 B.C.E. By around 1750 B.C.E. the Hittites had made them- selves the most powerful people of central Anato- lia. They had migrated from the Caucasus area, between the Black and Caspian seas, and overcome

indigenous peoples to set up their centralized kingdom. It flourished because they inhabited a fertile upland plateau in the peninsula’s center, ex- celled in war and diplomacy, and controlled trade in their region and southward. The Hittites’ mili- tary campaigns knifing southward threatened Egypt’s possessions on the eastern Mediterranean coast.

Since the Hittites spoke an Indo-European lan- guage, they belonged to the linguistic family that eventually populated most of Europe. The original Indo-European speakers, who were pastoralists and raiders, had migrated as separate groups into Ana- tolia and Europe, including Greece, from some- where in western Asia. Recent archaeological discoveries there of graves of women buried with weapons suggest that women in these groups orig- inally occupied positions of leadership in war and peace alongside men; the prominence of Hittite queens in documents, royal letters, and foreign treaties perhaps sprang from that tradition.

As in other early civilizations, rule in the Hit- tite kingdom depended on religion. Hittite religion combined worship of the gods of Indo-European religion with worship of deities inherited from the original Anatolian population. The king served as high priest of the storm god, and Hittite belief demanded that he maintain a strict purity in his life as a demonstration of his justice and guardian-

ship of social order. His drinking water, for example, always had to be strained. So strong was this insistence on purity that the king’s water carrier was executed if so much as one hair was found in the water. Like Egyptian kings, Hittite rulers felt responsible for maintaining the gods’ goodwill toward their subjects. King Mursili II (r. 1321–1295 B.C.E.), for ex- ample, issued a set of prayers begging the gods to end a plague: “What is this, o gods, that you have done? Our land is dying. . . . We have lost our wits, and we can do nothing right. O gods, whatever sin you behold, either let a prophet come forth to iden- tify it . . . or let us see it in a dream!”

The kings conducted many religious ceremonies in

24 Chapter 1 ■ Early Western Civil ization 4000–1000 b.c .e .

Hittite Royal Couple Worshipping the Weather God This relief sculpture from Alaca Höyük, in north central Anatolia, shows a Hittite king and queen worshipping the weather god, as he was called, who is represented here by his sacred animal, the bull, standing on an altar. In Hittite mythology, the weather god was thought to ride over the mountains in a chariot pulled by bulls. He was a divine hero who overcame evil by slaying a great dragon. At first the monster defeated him, but the goddess Inaras tricked the dragon into getting drunk so that the weather god could kill him. What characteristics of bulls and dragons made them relevant for expressing religious ideas? (Hirmer Fotoarchiv.)

their capital, Hattusas, which grew into one of the most impressive cities of its era. Ringed by mas- sive defensive walls and stone towers, it featured huge palaces aligned along straight, gravel-paved streets. Sculptures of animals, warriors, and, espe- cially, the royal rulers decorated public spaces. Hit- tite kings maintained their rule by forging personal alliances — cemented by marriages and oaths of loyalty — with the noble families of the kingdom.

These rulers aggressively employed their troops to expand their power. In the periods dur- ing which ties between the kings and the nobles remained strong and the kingdom therefore pre- served its unity, they launched extremely ambi- tious military campaigns. In 1595 B.C.E., for example, the royal army raided as far as Babylon, destroying that kingdom. Scholars no longer ac- cept the once popular idea that the Hittites owed their success in war to a special knowledge of mak- ing weapons from iron, although their craftsmen did smelt iron, from which they made ceremonial implements. (Weapons made from iron did not become common in the Mediterranean world un- til well after 1200 B.C.E. — at the end of the Hittite kingdom.) Their army excelled in the use of char- iots, and perhaps this skill gave them an edge.

The economic strength of the Hittite kingdom flowed from control over long-distance trade routes for essential raw materials, especially met- als. The Hittites worked mightily to dominate the lucrative trade moving between the coast and in- land northern Syria. The Egyptian New Kingdom pharaohs fiercely resisted Hittite expansion and power in this region. The Anatolian kingdom proved too strong, however, and in the bloody battle of Kadesh, around 1274 B.C.E., the Hittites checked the Egyptians in Syria, leading to a stale- mate. Fear of Assyria eventually led the Hittite king to negotiate with his Egyptian rival, and the two war-weary kingdoms became allies sixteen years after the battle of Kadesh by agreeing to a treaty that is a landmark in the history of international diplomacy. Remarkably, both Egyptian and Hittite copies of the treaty survive. In it, the two mon- archs pledged to be “at peace and brothers forever.” The alliance lasted, and thirteen years later the Hit- tite king gave his daughter to his Egyptian “brother” as his wife.

The Minoans, 2200–1400 B.C.E. Study of early Greek civilization traditionally be- gins with the people today known as Minoans, who inhabited the island of Crete and islands in the Aegean Sea by the late third millennium. The

word Minoan was applied after the archaeologist Arthur Evans (1851–1941) searched the island for traces of King Minos, renowned in Greek myth as a fierce ruler who built the first great navy. Schol- ars today are not sure whether to count the Mi- noans as the earliest Greeks because they are uncertain whether the Minoan language, whose decipherment remains controversial, was related to Greek.

Minoans apparently had no written literature, only official records. They wrote these records in a script today called Linear A. If further research confirms a recent suggestion that Minoan was a member of the Indo-European family of languages (the ancestor of many languages, including Greek, Latin, and, much later, English), then Minoans can be seen as the earliest Greeks. Regardless of what the nature of the Minoans’ language turns out to be, their interactions with the mainland deeply in- fluenced Greek civilization.

By around 2200 B.C.E., Minoans on Crete and nearby islands had created what scholars call a palace society, in recognition of its sprawling, multichambered buildings that apparently housed both the rulers and their families and servants and the political, economic, and religious administra- tion of the state. Minoan rulers combined the functions of ruler and priest, dominating both pol- itics and religion. The palaces seem to have been largely independent, with no single one imposing unity. The general population clustered around the palaces in houses adjacent to one another; some of these settlements reached the size and density of small cities. On Crete, Knossos, which Evans thought had been Minos’s headquarters, is the most famous such palace complex. Other, smaller settlements dotted outlying areas of the island, es- pecially on the coast. The Minoans’ excellent ports supported extensive international trade, above all with the Egyptians and the Hittites.

The most surprising feature of Minoan com- munities is that they did not build elaborate de- fensive walls. Palaces, towns, and even isolated country houses apparently saw no need to fortify themselves. The remains of the newer palaces — such as the one at Knossos, with its hundreds of rooms in five stories, indoor plumbing, and color- ful scenes painted on the walls — have led some his- torians to the controversial conclusion that Minoans avoided war among themselves, despite their having no single central authority over their

The Hittites, Minoans, and Mycenaeans, 2200–1000 b.c .e . 254000–1000 b.c .e .

palace society: Minoan and Mycenaean social and political or- ganization centered on multichambered buildings housing the rulers and the administration of the state.

independent settlements. Others object to this ro- mantic vision of peaceful Minoans, arguing that the most powerful Minoans on Crete dominated some neighboring islands. Recent discoveries of tombs on Crete have revealed weapons caches, and a find of bones cut by knives has even raised the possibility of human sacrifice. The prominence of women in palace frescoes and the numerous fig- urines of buxom goddesses found on Minoan sites have also prompted speculation that Minoan so- ciety was female-dominated, but no texts have come to light to verify this. Minoan art certainly depicts women prominently and nobly, but the same is true of contemporary civilizations that men controlled. More archaeological research is needed to resolve the controversies concerning the nature of Minoan civilization.

The development of Mediterranean polycul- ture — the cultivation of olives, grapes, and grains in a single, interrelated agricultural sys- tem — profoundly increased the prosperity of Minoan society. This innovation made the most efficient use of a farmer’s labor by combining crops that required intense work at different sea-

sons. This system, which still dominates Mediter- ranean agriculture, had two major consequences. First, the combination of crops provided a healthy diet (the Mediterranean diet, as it is called in to- day’s medical community), which in turn stimu- lated population growth. Second, agriculture became both more diversified and more special- ized, increasing production of the valuable prod- ucts olive oil and wine.

Agricultural surpluses spurred the growth of specialized crafts, just as they had in Mesopotamia and Egypt. To store and transport surplus food, Minoan artisans manufactured huge storage jars (the size of a modern refrigerator), in the process creating another specialized industry. Crafts work- ers, producing their sophisticated wares using time-consuming techniques, no longer had time to grow their own food or make the goods, such as clothes and lamps, they needed for everyday life. Instead, they exchanged the products they made for food and other goods. In this way, Minoan so- ciety experienced increasing economic interde- pendence.

The vast storage areas in Minoan palaces sug- gest that the rulers, like some Mesopotamian kings before them, controlled this interdepend- ence through a redistributive economic system.

26 Chapter 1 ■ Early Western Civil ization 4000–1000 b.c .e .

Wall Painting from Knossos, Crete Minoan artists painted with vivid colors on plaster to enliven the walls of buildings. This painting from the palace at Knossos depicted an acrobatic performance in which a youth leaped in an aerial somersault over the back of a charging bull. Some scholars speculate this dangerous activity was a religious ritual instead of just a circus act; do you think this could be possible? Unfortunately, time and earthquakes have severely damaged most Minoan wall paintings, and the versions we see today are largely reconstructions painted around surviving fragments of the originals. (©National Archaeological Museum, Athens, Greece / The Bridgeman Art Library.)

Mediterranean polyculture: The cultivation of olives, grapes, and grains in a single, interrelated agricultural system.

The Knossos palace, for example, held hundreds of gigantic jars capable of storing 240,000 gallons of olive oil and wine. Bowls, cups, and dippers crammed storerooms nearby. Palace officials would have decided how much each farmer or crafts producer had to contribute to the palace store- house and how much of those contributions would then be redistributed to each person in the community for basic subsistence or as an extra re- ward. In this way, people gave the products of their labor to the local authority, which redistributed them as it saw fit.

The Mycenaeans, 1800–1000 B.C.E. Ancestors of the Greeks had moved into the main- land region of Greece by perhaps 8000 B.C.E.; the first civilization definitely identified as Greek be- cause of its Indo-European language arose in the early second millennium B.C.E., about the same time as the Hittite kingdom. These first Greeks are called Mycenaeans, a name derived from the hill- top site of Mycenae, famous for its rich graves, multichambered palace, and massive fortification walls. Located in the Peloponnese (the large penin- sula forming southern Greece; see Map 1.3), Myce- nae dominated its local area, but neither it nor any other settlement ever ruled all of Bronze Age Greece. Instead, the independent communities of Mycenaean civilization vied with one another in a fierce competition for natural resources and territory.

The nineteenth-century German millionaire Heinrich Schliemann was the first to discover treasure-filled graves at Mycenae. The burial ob- jects revealed a warrior culture organized in inde- pendent settlements and ruled by aggressive kings. Constructed as stone-lined shafts, the graves con- tained entombed dead, who had taken hordes of valuables with them: golden jewelry, including heavy necklaces festooned with pendants, gold and silver vessels, bronze weapons decorated with scenes of wild animals inlaid in precious metals, and delicately painted pottery.

In his excitement at finding treasure, Schlie- mann proudly announced that he had found the grave of Agamemnon, the legendary king who commanded the Greek army against Troy, a city in northwestern Anatolia, in the Trojan War. Homer, Greece’s first and most famous poet, immortalized this war in his epic poem The Iliad. Archaeologists now know the shaft graves date to around 1700–1600 B.C.E., long before the Trojan War could have taken place. Schliemann, who paid for his own excavation at Troy to prove to skeptics that the city had really existed, infuriated scholars with

his self-promotion. But his passion to confirm that Greek myth preserved a kernel of historical truth spurred him on to the work at Mycenae, which provided the most spectacular evidence for main- land Greece’s earliest civilization.

Mycenaean Interaction with Minoan Crete. Since the hilly terrain of Greece had little fertile land but many useful ports, settlements tended to spring up near the coast. Mycenaean rulers enriched them- selves by dominating local farmers, conducting naval raids, and participating in seaborne trade. Palace records inscribed on clay tablets reveal that the Mycenaeans operated under a redistributive economy. On the tablets scribes made detailed lists of goods received and goods paid out, recording everything from chariots to livestock, landholdings, personnel, and perfumes, even broken equipment taken out of service. Like the Minoans, Mycenaeans apparently did not use writing to record the oral literature that scholars believe they created.

A special kind of burial chambers, called tholos tombs — spectacular underground domed cham- bers built in beehive shapes with closely fitted stones — shows that some Mycenaeans had become very rich by about 1500 B.C.E. The architectural de- tails of the tholos tombs and the style of the burial goods placed in them testify to the far-flung expe- ditions for trade and war that Mycenaean rulers conducted throughout the eastern Mediterranean. Above all, however, they show a close connection with Minoan civilization because they display many motifs clearly inspired by Minoan designs.

Underwater archaeology has revealed the in- fluence of international commerce during this pe- riod in promoting cultural interaction. Divers have discovered, for example, that a late-fourteenth- century B.C.E. shipwreck off Uluburun in Turkey carried such a mixed cargo and such varied per- sonal possessions — from Canaan, Cyprus, Greece, Egypt, Babylon, and elsewhere in the Near East — that it is impossible to attach a single nationality to this tramp freighter.

The sea brought the Mycenaean and Minoan civilizations into close contact, but they remained different in significant ways. The Mycenaeans spoke Greek and made burnt offerings to the gods; the Minoans did neither. The Minoans ex- tended their religious worship outside their cen- ters, establishing sacred places in caves, on mountaintops, and in country villas, while the mainlanders concentrated the worship of their gods inside their walled communities. When the Mycenaeans started building palaces in the four- teenth century B.C.E., unlike the Minoans they de- signed them around megarons — rooms with

The Hittites, Minoans, and Mycenaeans, 2200–1000 b.c .e . 274000–1000 b.c .e .

prominent ceremonial hearths and thrones for the rulers. Some Mycenaean palaces had more than one megaron, which could soar two stories high with columns to support a roof above the second-floor balconies.

Documents found in the palace at Knossos re- veal that by around 1400 B.C.E. the Mycenaeans had acquired dominance over Crete, possibly in a war over commerce in the Mediterranean. The documents were tablets written in Linear B, a pictographic script based on Minoan Linear A. The twentieth-century architect Michael Ventris proved that Linear B was used to write not Mi- noan, but a different language: Greek. Because the Linear B tablets date from before the final destruc- tion of Knossos in about 1370 B.C.E., they show that the palace administration had been keeping its records in a foreign language for some time and therefore that Mycenaeans were controlling Crete well before the end of Minoan civilization. By the middle of the fourteenth century B.C.E., then, the Mycenaeans had displaced the Minoans as the Aegean region’s preeminent civilization.

War in Mycenaean Society. By the time Myce- naeans took over Crete, war at home and abroad was the principal concern of well-off Mycenaean men, a tradition that they passed on to later Greek civilization. Contents of Bronze Age tombs in Greece reveal that no wealthy man went to his grave without his war equipment. Armor and weapons were so central to a Mycenaean man’s identity that he could not do without them, even in death. Warriors rode into battle in expensive hardware — lightweight, two-wheeled chariots pulled by horses. These revolutionary vehicles, perhaps introduced by Indo-Europeans migrating

from Central Asia, first appeared in various Mediterranean and Near Eastern societies not long after 2000 B.C.E.; the first picture of such a chariot in the Aegean region occurs on a Mycenaean grave marker from about 1500 B.C.E. Wealthy people ev- idently desired this new form of transportation not only for war but also as proof of their social status.

The Mycenaeans seem to have spent more on war than on religion. In any case, they did not construct any giant religious buildings like Mesopotamia’s ziggurats or Egypt’s pyramids. Their most important deities were male gods con- cerned with war. The names of gods found in the Linear B tablets reveal that Mycenaeans passed down many divinities to the Greeks of later times.

The Period of Calamities, 1200–1000 B.C.E. A state of political equilibrium, in which kings cor- responded with one another and traders traveled all over the area, characterized the Mediterranean and Near Eastern world around 1300 B.C.E. Within a century, however, calamity had struck almost every major political state in the region, including Egypt, some kingdoms of Mesopotamia, and the Hittite and Mycenaean kingdoms. Neither the civ- ilizations united under a single central authority nor the ones with separate and independent states survived. This period of international violence from about 1200 to 1000 B.C.E. remains one of the most fascinating and disturbing puzzles in the his- tory of Western civilization.

The best clue to what happened comes from Egyptian and Hittite records. They document many foreign invasions in this period, especially from the sea. According to an inscription, in about 1190 B.C.E. a warrior pharaoh defeated a powerful coalition of seaborne invaders from the north, who had fought their way to the edge of Egypt. These

28 Chapter 1 ■ Early Western Civil ization 4000–1000 b.c .e .

Linear B: The Mycenaeans’ pictographic script for writing Greek.

Decorated Dagger from Mycenae The hilltop fortress and palace at Mycenae was the capital of Bronze Age Greece’s most famous kingdom. The picture of a lion hunt inlaid in gold and silver on this sixteenth-century B.C.E. dagger expressed how wealthy Mycenaean men saw their roles in society: as courageous hunters and warriors overcoming the hostile forces of nature. The nine-inch blade was found in a circle of graves inside Mycenae’s walls, where the highest-ranking people were buried with their treasures as evidence of their status. (Nimatallah / Art Resource, NY.)

Sea Peoples, as historians call them, comprised many different groups. Some had been mercenary soldiers in the armies of rulers whom they de- serted; some were raiders by profession. Many may have been Greeks. The famous story of the Trojan War probably recalls this period of calamities be- cause it portrays a seaborne Greek army attacking Troy and the surrounding region in Anatolia.

Apparently no single, unified group of Sea Peoples launched a tidal wave of violence. Rather, many different bands devastated the region. A chain reaction of attacks and flights in a recurring and expanding cycle put even more bands on the move. The turmoil reached far inland. The Baby- lonian kingdom collapsed, the Assyrians were con- fined to their homeland, and much of western Asia and Syria was devastated.

The reasons for these widespread calamities remain mysterious, but their consequences for the eastern Mediterranean region are clear. The once mighty Hittite kingdom fell around 1200 B.C.E., when raiders cut off its trade routes for raw ma- terials. Invaders razed its capital city, Hattusas, which never revived. Egypt’s New Kingdom re- pelled the Sea Peoples with a tremendous military effort, but the raiders destroyed the Egyptian long- distance trade network. Power struggles between the pharaohs and the leading priests undermined political stability. By the end of the New Kingdom, around 1081 B.C.E., Egypt had shrunk to its origi- nal territorial core along the Nile’s banks. The calamities ruined Egypt’s credit. For example, when an eleventh-century B.C.E. Theban temple of- ficial traveled to Phoenicia to buy cedar for a cer- emonial boat, the city’s ruler demanded cash in advance. Although the Egyptian monarchy hung on, power struggles between pharaohs and priests, made worse by frequent attacks from abroad, pre- vented the reestablishment of centralized author- ity. No Egyptian dynasty ever again became an aggressive international power.

In Greece, the troubles were homegrown. The Mycenaeans reached the zenith of their power around 1400–1250 B.C.E. The enormous domed tomb at Mycenae, called the Treasury of Atreus, testifies to the riches of this period. The tomb’s elaborately decorated facade and soaring roof re- veal the self-confidence of the Mycenaean warrior princes. The last phase of the extensive palace at Pylos on the west coast of the Peloponnese also dates from this time. It boasted glorious wall paint- ings, storerooms bursting with food, and a royal

bathroom with a built-in tub and intricate plumb- ing. But these prosperous Mycenaeans did not es- cape the widespread calamities that began around 1200 B.C.E. Linear B tablets record the disposition of troops to the coast to guard the palace at Pylos at this time. The palace inhabitants of eastern Greece constructed defensive walls so massive that the later Greeks thought giants had built them. These fortifications would have protected coastal palaces against seafaring attackers, who could have been either outsiders or Greeks. The wall around the inland palace at Gla in central Greece, how- ever, which foreign raiders could not easily reach, confirms that, above all, Mycenaean communities had to defend themselves against other Mycenaean communities.

In Greece itself, then, the Sea Peoples appar- ently did relatively little damage. Rather, internal turmoil and major earthquakes destroyed Myce- naean civilization. Archaeology offers no evidence for the ancient tradition that Dorian Greeks in- vading from the north caused the destruction. Near-constant civil war by jealous local rulers overburdened the elaborate administrative balanc- ing act necessary for the palaces’ redistributive economies and hindered recovery from earth- quake damage. The violence killed many Myce- naeans, and the disappearance of the palace-based redistributive economy put many others on the road to starvation. The calamity uprooted many of the remaining Greeks from their homes and forced them to wander abroad in search of new places to settle. Like people from the earliest times, they had to move to build a better life.

Review: How did war determine the fates of the early civilizations of Anatolia, Crete, and Greece?

Conclusion The best way to define Western civilization is to study its history, which begins in Mesopotamia and Egypt; these cultures in turn influenced the later civilization of Greece. Cities first arose in Mesopotamia around 4000 to 3000 B.C.E. Hierar- chy had characterized society to some degree from the very beginning, but it, along with patriarchy, grew more pronounced once civilization and po- litical states with centralized authority became widespread.

Trade and war were constants, both aiming in different ways at profit and glory. Indirectly, they often generated cultural interaction by putting

Conclusion 294000–1000 b.c .e .

Sea Peoples: The diverse groups of raiders who devastated the eastern Mediterranean region in the period of calamities around 1200–1000 B.C.E.

civilizations into close contact to learn from one another. Technological innovation was also a prominent characteristic of this long period. The invention of metallurgy, monumental architec- ture, mathematics, and alphabetic writing greatly affected people’s lives. Religion was at the center of society, with the gods seen as demanding just and righteous conduct from everyone.

The Mediterranean Sea was a two-edged sword for the early civilizations that grew up around and near it: as a highway for transporting goods and ideas, it was a boon; as an artery for conveying attackers, it was a bane. Ironically, the raids of the Sea Peoples that smashed the prosper- ity of the eastern Mediterranean region around 1200–1000 B.C.E. also set in motion the forces that led to the next step in our story, the resurgence of Greece. Strife among Mycenaean rulers turned the regional unrest of those centuries into a local ca- tastrophe; fighting each other for dominance, they so weakened their monarchies that they could not recover after natural disasters. To an outside ob- server, Greek society by around 1000 B.C.E. might

have seemed destined for irreversible economic and social decline, even oblivion. Chapter 2 shows how wrong this prediction would have been. After a difficult period of economic and population de- cline, Greeks invented a new form of social and political organization and breathed renewed life into their culture, inspired by their neighbors in the Near East and Egypt.

For Further Exploration ■ For suggested references, including Web sites,

for topics in this chapter, see page SR-1 at the end of the book.

■ For additional primary-source material from this period, see Chapter 1 in Sources of THE MAKING OF THE WEST, Third Edition.

■ For Web sites and documents related to topics in this chapter, see Make History at

30 Chapter 1 ■ Early Western Civil ization 4000–1000 b.c .e .

The Period of Calamities, 1200–1000 B.C.E. Bands of wandering warriors and raiders set the eastern Mediterranean aflame at the end of the Bronze Age. This violence displaced many people and ended the power of the kingdoms of the Egyptians, the Hittites, and the Mycenaeans. Even some of the Near Eastern states well inland from the eastern Mediterranean coast felt the effects of this period of unrest, whose causes remain mysterious.

0 200 400 kilometers

0 200 400 miles

Hittite homeland

Egyptian homeland

Babylonian kingdom

Mycenaean Greece

Movements of Sea Peoples




B l a c k S e a

R ed


Persian Gulf

M e d i t e r r a n e a n S e a

Danube R.

T igris R.

Euphrates R.

Caspian Sea

Ha lys


Nile R.

Presumed ancient coastline









Crete Cyprus











S .


Tell el-Amarna









Babylon Akkad?

Ur �


Chapter Review 314000–1000 b.c .e .

Key Terms and People Making Connections

Review Questions

1. Compare and contrast the environmental factors affecting the emergence of the world’s first civilizations in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

2. What were the advantages and disadvantages of living in a unified country under a single central authority com- pared to living in a region with separate city-states?

1. What are the challenges of defining Western civilization?

2. How did life change for people in Mesopotamia when they began to live in cities?

3. How did religion guide peoples’ lives in ancient Egypt?

4. How did war determine the fates of the early civilizations of Anatolia, Crete, and Greece?

Chapter Review

civilization (4)

polytheism (5)

monotheism (5)

city-state (7)

ziggurats (8)

cuneiform (10)

empire (12)

redistributive economy (14)

Hammurabi (14)

hieroglyphs (17)

Maat (17)

wisdom literature (20)

palace society (25)

Mediterranean polyculture (26)

Linear B (28)

Sea Peoples (29) For practice quizzes, a customized study plan, and other study tools, see the Online Study Guide at

Important Events

4000–1000 B.C.E. Bronze Age in southwestern Asia, Egypt, and Europe

4000–3000 B.C.E. Mesopotamians invent writing and establish first cities

3050 B.C.E. Narmer (Menes) unites Upper and Lower Egypt into one kingdom

2687–2190 B.C.E. Old Kingdom in Egypt

2350 B.C.E. Sargon establishes the world’s first empire in Akkadia

2300–2200 B.C.E. Enheduanna, princess of Akkad, composes poetry

2200 B.C.E. Minoans build their first palaces

2112–2004 B.C.E. Ur III dynasty rules in Sumer

2061–1665 B.C.E. Middle Kingdom in Egypt

1792–1750 B.C.E. Hammurabi rules Babylon and issues his law code

1750 B.C.E. Hittites establish their kingdom in Anatolia

1569–1081 B.C.E. New Kingdom in Egypt

1400 B.C.E. The Mycenaeans build their first palaces in Greece and take over Minoan Crete

1274 B.C.E. Battle of Kadesh in Syria between the Egyptians and the Hittites

1200–1000 B.C.E. Period of calamities ends many kingdoms

The Greek poet Homer told violent stories recalling the period ofcalamities (1200–1000 B.C.E.) that had nearly destroyed Greekcivilization. In his epic poem The Iliad, composed in the eighth century B.C.E., he narrated bloody tales of the Trojan War that were

rich with legends born from mingled Greek and Near Eastern tradi-

tions, such as the story of the Greek hero Bellerophon. Driven from his

home by a false charge of sexual assault, Bellerophon had to serve as

“enforcer” for a king in Lycia (a region south of Troy), combating the

king’s most dangerous enemies. He had to fight —and kill — fierce

tribesmen, Amazons, and even the king’s own warriors, but his most

famous contest pitted him against a monster. As Homer tells it,

Bellerophon was ordered “to defeat the Chimera, an inhuman freak

created by the gods, horrible with its lion’s head, goat’s body, and

dragon’s tail, breathing fire all the time.” Riding on the winged horse

Pegasus, Bellerophon triumphed by swooping down on the beast in an

aerial attack. For his amazing heroics, the king gave Bellerophon his

daughter in marriage and half his kingdom.

Homer’s story provides evidence for the intercultural contact be-

tween the Near East and Greece that supported the revival of Greece

after its civilization nearly disappeared. Both the Chimera and the

horse-headed, hawk-bodied, lion-footed beast painted on the vase

from Corinth shown in the chapter-opening illustration were creatures

from Near Eastern myth taken over by Greeks. Greece’s geography —

countless ports on its long coastline and many islands— promoted con-

tacts by sea through trade, travel, and war with its richer and stronger

Near Eastern neighbors. In the centuries from 1000 to 500 B.C.E., these

From Dark Age to Empire in the Near East, 1000–500 B.C.E. 34 • The New Empire of Assyria,

900–600 B.C.E. • The Neo-Babylonian Empire,

600–539 B.C.E. • The Persian Empire, 557–500 B.C.E. • The Hebrews, Origins to 539 B.C.E.

Remaking Greek Civilization, 1000–750 B.C.E. 42 • The Greek Dark Age, 1000–750 B.C.E. • The Values of the Olympic Games • Homer, Hesiod, and Divine Justice

in Greek Myth

The Creation of the Greek Polis, 750–500 B.C.E. 47 • The Physical Environment

of the Greek City-State • Trade and “Colonization,”

800–580 B.C.E. • Citizenship and Freedom

in the Greek City-State

New Directions for the Polis, 750–500 B.C.E. 57 • Oligarchy in Sparta, 700–500 B.C.E. • Tyranny in Corinth, 657–585 B.C.E. • Democracy in Athens, 632–500 B.C.E. • New Ways of Thought and

Expression, 630–500 B.C.E.


The Near East and the Emergence of Greece 1000–500 B.C.E.



Black-Figure Vase from Corinth This vase was made in Corinth about 600 B.C.E., painted in the so-called black-figure style in which artists carved details into the dark-baked clay. In the late sixth century B.C.E., this style gave way to red-figure, in which artists painted details in black on a reddish background instead of engraving them; the result was finer detail (compare this vase painting with that on page 45). The animals and mythical creatures on the vase shown here follow Near Eastern models, which inspired Archaic Age Greek artists to put people and animals into their designs again after their absence during the Dark Age. Why do you think the artist depicted the animal at the lower right with two bodies but only one head? (© The Trustees of the British Museum.)

contacts, combined with the Greeks’ value of com- petitive individual excellence, their sense of a com- munal identity, and their belief that people in general — and not just rulers — were responsible for instituting justice, helped Greeks reestablish the prosperity that they had lost and reinvent their civilization with a radically new concept of central authority: government without kings.

Despite the turmoil and economic distress that had destroyed so many Bronze Age commu- nities by around 1000 B.C.E., people’s desire for trade and cross-cultural contact endured and in- creased as conditions improved over the following centuries. The Near East, retaining monarchy as its traditional form of social and political organiza- tion, recovered more quickly than Greece. Near Eastern kings in this period extracted surpluses from subject populations to fund their palaces and their armies. They also continually sought new conquests to win glory, exploit the labor of con- quered peoples, seize raw materials, and conduct long-distance trade.

By contrast, the wars and subsequent eco- nomic collapse of 1200–1000 B.C.E. had destroyed the political and social organization of Minoan and Mycenaean Greece, which developed in radi- cally different forms thereafter. During Greece’s slow recovery from poverty and depopulation from about 1000 to 750 B.C.E., Greeks sailed the Mediterranean Sea to maintain trade and cross- cultural contact with the older civilizations of the Near East. Their mythology, as in Homer, and their art, as on the Corinthian vase, reveal that they imported ideas as well as goods during this diffi- cult era.

By the eighth century B.C.E., Greeks had begun to create their own kind of city-state, the polis, as a new form of political and social organization. The polis was a radical innovation because it made citizenship — not subjection to kings — the basis for society and politics, and included the poor as citizens. It gave legal — though not political —

rights to women, but no rights to slaves. With the exception of occasional tyrannies, Greek city-states rejected central authority vested in a single ruler, instead governing themselves by having male citi- zens share political power. The extent of the power sharing varied, with small groups of upper-class men dominating in some places. In other places, however, the polis shared power among all free men, even the poor, eventually creating the world’s first democracy. The Greeks’ invention of demo- cratic politics, limited though it might have been by modern standards, stands as a landmark in the history of Western civilization.

Religion and philosophy also changed pro- foundly in this period. Leaders and thinkers in the Near East and Greece gradually created new ways of belief and thought that slowly filtered down to the mass of people and greatly influenced the de- velopment of Western civilization. In religion, the Persians developed beliefs that saw human life as a struggle between good and evil, and the Hebrews embraced monotheism. In philosophy, the Greeks began to use reason and logic to replace mytho- logical explanations of nature.

Focus Question: How did the social and political organization that Greece developed differ from those of the Near East?

From Dark Age to Empire in the Near East, 1000–500 B.C.E. The widespread violence in 1200–1000 B.C.E. had weakened or obliterated many communities and populations in the eastern Mediterranean. Histo- rians have traditionally used the term Dark Age to refer to the era that followed, both because eco- nomic conditions were so gloomy for so many

34 Chapter 2 ■ The Near Ea st and the Emergence of Greece 1000–500 b.c .e .

1000 b.c.e. 900 b.c.e. 800 b.c.e.

■ 1000–750 Greek Dark Age

■ 900–600 Neo-Assyrian Empire

■ 800 Greek alphabet

■ 776 First Olympic Games

■ 750 Greek polis begins to develop

700 b.c.e. 600 b.c.e. 500 b.c.e.

people and because our knowledge of what hap- pened is so limited. Though common, this term is controversial because recent archaeological research shows that, despite difficult conditions, people in this era were still actively pursuing trade and in- tercultural contacts. The Dark Age in the Near East lasted less than a century, while in Greece it lasted over two hundred years.

By 900 B.C.E., a powerful and centralized As- syrian kingdom had once again emerged in Mesopotamia. From this base, the Assyrians carved out a new empire even larger than the preceding one. The riches and power of this Neo-Assyrian Empire inspired first the Babylonians and then the Persians to build their own empires when Assyr- ian power collapsed. The traditional striving for empire remained constant in the Near East. The relatively powerless Hebrews, however, established a new path for civilization during this period by changing their religion. They developed monothe- ism and produced the Hebrew Bible, known to Christians as the Old Testament.

The New Empire of Assyria, 900–600 B.C.E. When the Hittite kingdom fell around 1000 B.C.E., the Assyrians gained power by seizing supplies of metal and controlling trade routes in the eastern Mediterranean (Map 2.1). By 900 B.C.E., Assyrian armies punched westward all the way to the coast. In the eighth century B.C.E., the Neo-Assyrian kings conquered Babylon, in southern Mesopotamia, and they added Egypt to their empire in the seventh century.

Neo-Assyrian Militarism and Imperial Brutality. A warrior culture pervaded Neo-Assyrian society. A military innovation made Assyrian armies un- stoppable: foot soldiers, not cavalry, were the Assyrians’ main strike force. These infantrymen excelled in using military technology such as siege

towers and battering rams, while swift chariots carried archers. Campaigns against foreign lands brought in revenues supplementing the domestic economy, which centered on agriculture, animal husbandry, and long-distance trade. Neo-Assyrian kings kept order by brutal treatment of conquered peoples. Those allowed to stay in their homelands had to pay annual tributes to the Assyrians: these tributes included raw materials and luxury goods such as incense, wine, dyed linens, glasswork, and ivory. Worse was the fate of the large number of

From Dark Age to Empire in the Near Ea st, 1000–500 B . C . E . 351000–500 b.c .e .

■ 508–500 Cleisthenes’ reforms

■ 700 Spartans conquer Messenia ■ 594 Solon’s reforms

■ 657 Cypselus becomes tyrant ■ 546–510 Peisistratus’s rule

■ 700–500 Ionian philosophers invent rationalism

■ 597, 586 Hebrew exile

■ 630 Birth of Sappho ■ 539 Cyrus captures Babylon; Hebrews return to Canaan

0 250 500 kilometers

0 250 500 miles

Neo-Assyrian Empire, 9th century B.C.E.

Neo-Assyrian Empire, 8th century B.C.E.

Neo-Assyrian Empire, 7th century B.C.E.




B l a c k S e a

R ed


Persian G


C a

sp ia

n S


Mediterranean Sea

T igris R.

Euphrates R.

N il

e R


Dead Sea

Lake Van Lake









/ PA



Presumed ancient

coastline Babylon



MAP 2.1 Expansion of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, c. 900–650 B.C.E. Like their Akkadian, Assyrian, and Babylonian predecessors, the Neo-Assyrian kings dominated a vast region of the Near East to secure a supply of metals, access to trade routes on land and sea, and imperial glory. In so doing, they built the largest empire the world had yet seen. Also like their predecessors, they treated disobedient subjects harshly and intolerantly to try to prevent their diverse territories from rebelling.

defeated people whom the kings routinely de- ported to Assyria for work on huge building proj- ects — temples and palaces — in main cities. One unexpected consequence of this harsh policy was the undermining of the kings’ native language: so many Aramaeans, for example, were deported from Canaan to Assyria that Aramaic had largely replaced Assyrian as the land’s everyday language by the eighth century B.C.E.

Neo-Assyrian Life and Religion. When not mak- ing war, Neo-Assyrian men displayed their status and masculinity by hunting wild animals; the more dangerous the quarry, the better. The king hunted lions to demonstrate his vigor and power and thus his capacity to rule. Royal lion hunts provided a favorite subject for sculptors, who carved long re- lief sculptures that narrated a connected story. Al- though the Neo-Assyrian imperial administration preserved countless documents in its archives, lit- eracy apparently mattered far less to the kingdom’s men than did war, hunting, and practical technol- ogy. One king, for example, boasted that he in- vented new irrigation equipment and a novel method of metal casting. Only one Assyrian ruler ever proclaimed his scholarly accomplishments: “I have read complicated texts, whose versions in Sumerian are obscure and in Akkadian hard to

understand. I do research on the cuneiform texts on stone from before the Flood.” Women of

the social elite probably had a chance to become literate, but they were

excluded from the male dominions of war and hunting.

Public religion, which included deities adopted from Babylonia, reflected the pro- minence of war in Assyrian culture: even the cult of Ishtar, the goddess of love and fertil- ity, glorified war-

fare. The Neo-Assyrians’ passion for monumental architecture led them to build huge temples for the gods. The temples’ staffs of priests and slaves grew so numerous that the revenues from temple lands were insufficient to support them; the kings had to supply extra funds from the spoils of conquest.

The Neo-Assyrian kings’ harshness made even their own people, especially the social elite, dis- like their rule. Rebellions were common through- out the history of the kingdom; a seventh-century B.C.E. revolt fatally weakened it. The Medes, an Iranian people, and the Chaldeans, a Semitic people who had driven the Assyrians from Babylonia, combined forces to invade the tottering kingdom. Recent research has disproved the long-standing assumption that the attackers destroyed the Assyr- ian capital at Nineveh in 612 B.C.E., but their inva- sion nevertheless ended the Neo-Assyrian kings’ dreams of empire.

The Neo-Babylonian Empire, 600–539 B.C.E. As leaders of the allies who overthrew the Neo- Assyrian Empire, the Chaldeans seized the lion’s share of territory. Sprung from seminomadic herders along the Persian Gulf, by 600 B.C.E. they had established the Neo-Babylonian Empire, the most powerful in Babylonian history, if the shortest- lived: it fell to the Near East’s next great empire, that of the Persians, in 539 B.C.E. The Chaldeans spent lavishly to turn Babylon into an architectural showplace, rebuilding the great temple of its chief god, Marduk, and constructing an elaborate city gate dedicated to the goddess Ishtar. Blue-glazed bricks and lions molded in yellow, red, and white decorated the gate’s walls, which soared thirty-six feet high.

The Chaldeans adopted traditional Babylon- ian culture and preserved much Mesopotamian lit- erature, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh. They also created many new works of prose and poetry, which the educated minority would often read aloud publicly for the enjoyment of the illiterate. Particularly popular were fables, proverbs, essays, and prophecies teaching morality and proper

36 Chapter 2 ■ The Near Ea st and the Emergence of Greece 1000–500 b.c .e .

Neo-Assyrian Guardian Creature This human-headed, winged lion creature stood guard over a gate at the palace of a ninth-century B.C.E. Neo-Assyrian king. Carved from alabaster, the guardian stood ten feet tall, with a cap to signify its divine power. The sculptor gave it five legs so it would look natural when viewed either from the side or the front. The king reported in an inscription that he hosted 69,574 people at a party celebrating his new capital: “I feasted, wined, bathed, and honored them for ten days before sending them home in peace and joy.” (Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr. 1932 ( Photograph © 1981 The Metropolitan Museum of Art .)

behavior. This so-called wisdom literature, a Near Eastern tradition going back at least to the Egyptian Old Kingdom, would greatly influence the later religious writings of the Hebrews.

The Chaldeans passed on their knowledge to others outside their region. Their advances in as- tronomy became so influential that the Greeks used the word Chaldean to mean “astronomer.” The Chaldeans’ primary motivation for observing the stars was the belief that the gods communi- cated their will to humans through natural phe- nomena, such as celestial movements and eclipses, abnormal births, patterns of smoke curling up- ward from a fire, and the trails of ants. The inter- pretation of these phenomena as messages from the gods exemplified the mixture of science and religion characteristic of ancient Near Eastern thought and proved influential on the Greeks.

The Persian Empire, 557–500 B.C.E. Cyrus (r. 557–530 B.C.E.) founded the Persian Em- pire in what is today Iran through his skills as a general and a diplomat who respected others’ re- ligious beliefs. He continued the region’s tradition

of kings waging war to gain territory when he con- quered Babylon in 539 B.C.E.; Cyrus capitalized on religious strife there by presenting himself as the restorer of traditional Babylonian religion, thereby winning local support. An ancient inscription has him proclaim: “Marduk, the great lord, caused Babylon’s generous residents to adore me.”

Cyrus’s successors expanded Persian rule on the same principles of military strength and cul- tural tolerance. At its height, the Persian Empire extended from Anatolia (today Turkey), the east- ern Mediterranean coast, and Egypt on the west to present-day Pakistan on the east (Map 2.2). Since Persian kings believed that they had a divine right to rule everyone in the world, they never stopped trying to expand their empire.

Persian Royal Magnificence and Decentralized Rule. The Persian monarchy’s revenues pro- duced wealth beyond imagination, and everything about the king emphasized his grandeur. His robes of purple outshone everyone else’s; only he could step on the red carpets spread for him to walk on; his servants held their hands before their mouths in his presence so that he would not have to breathe the same air as they; he appeared larger than any other person in the sculpture adorning

From Dark Age to Empire in the Near Ea st, 1000–500 B . C . E . 371000–500 b.c .e .

Cyrus: Founder of the Persian Empire.

The Great King of Persia Like their Assyrian predecessors, the Persian kings decorated their palaces with large relief sculptures emphasizing royal dignity and success. This one from Persepolis shows officials and petitioners giving the king proper respect when entering his presence. To symbolize their elevated status, the king and his son, who stands behind the throne, are shown larger than everyone else. Do you think the way the sculptors portrayed the figures from the side is more or less artistic than the technique used by the Egyptian painters in the day of judgment painting on page 2? Why? (Courtesy of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.)

■ For more help analyzing this image, see the visual activity for this chapter in the Online Study Guide at

his immense palace at Persepolis. To display his concern for his loyal subjects as well as the gargan- tuan scale of his resources, the king provided meals for fifteen thousand nobles, courtiers, and follow- ers every day —although he himself ate hidden from his guests’ view. Those who committed seri- ous offenses against his laws or his dignity the king punished brutally, mutilating their bodies and executing their families. Contemporary Greeks, in awe of the Persian monarch’s power and his lavish lifestyle, called him the Great King.

So long as his subjects — numbering in the millions and of many different ethnicities — remained peaceful, the king left them alone to live and worship as they pleased. The empire’s smoothly functioning administrative structure sprang from Assyrian precedents: satraps (regional

governors) ruled enormous territories with little interference from the kings. In this decentralized system, the governors’ duties included keeping or- der, enrolling troops when needed, and sending revenues to the royal treasury.

Darius I (r. 522–486 B.C.E.) extended Persian power eastward to the Indus valley and westward to Thrace. Organizing this vast territory into provinces, he assigned each region taxes payable in the medium best suited to its local economy — precious metals, grain, horses, slaves. He also re- quired each region to send soldiers to the royal army. A network of roads and a courier system for royal mail provided communication among the far-flung provincial centers. The Greek historian Herodotus reported that neither snow, rain, heat, nor darkness slowed the couriers from completing

38 Chapter 2 ■ The Near Ea st and the Emergence of Greece 1000–500 b.c .e .

Persian homeland, c. 550 B.C.E.

Persian Empire under Darius I, 490 B.C.E. 0 200 400 kilometers

0 200 400 miles



EW Black Sea

Aral Sea

Mediterranean Sea

Arabian Sea R

ed Sea

Persian Gulf

C aspian


T igris R.

In du

s R .

Aegean Sea

Ni le


Euphrates R .

L. UrmiaL. Van

Danube R .




















MAP 2.2 Expansion of the Persian Empire, c. 550–490 B.C.E. Cyrus (r. c. 557–530 B.C.E.) initiated the Persian Empire, which his successors expanded to be even larger than the Neo-Assyrian Empire that it replaced. The Persian kings pressed hard outward from their inland center to gain coastal possessions for access to seaborne trade and naval bases. By late in the reign of Darius (r. 522–486 B.C.E.), the Persian Empire had expanded eastward as far as the western edge of India, while to the west it reached Thrace, the eastern edge of Europe. Unlike their imperial predecessors, the Persian kings won their subjects’ loyalty with tolerance and religious freedom, although they treated rebels harshly.

their routes as swiftly as possible, a feat trans- formed centuries later into the U.S. Postal Service motto.

Persian Religion. Ruling as absolute autocrats, the Persian kings believed themselves superior to everyone. They claimed not to be gods but rather to be the agents of Ahura Mazda, the supreme god of Persia. As Darius said in his autobiography, carved into a mountainside in three languages, “Ahura Mazda gave me kingship. . . . By the will of Ahura Mazda the provinces respected my laws.”

Persian religion made Ahura Mazda the cen- ter of its devotion and took its doctrines from the teachings of the legendary prophet Zarathustra, who may have lived as long ago as 1200–1000 B.C.E. (The religion is called Zoroastrianism today from Zoroaster, the Greek name for this holy man.) Zarathustra proclaimed Ahura Mazda to be “the father of Truth” and “creator of Good Thought,” who demanded purity from his worshippers and promised help to those who lived with truthful- ness and justice. The most important doctrine of Zoroastrianism was moral dualism. This belief saw the world as the arena for an ongoing battle between the two opposing divine forces of good and evil. Ahura Mazda as the embodiment of good and light constantly struggled against the evil darkness represented by the Satan-like figure Ah- riman. Human beings had to choose between the way of the truth and the way of the lie, between purity and impurity. Only those judged righteous after death made it across “the bridge of separa- tion” to heaven and avoided falling from its nar- row span into hell. Persian religion’s emphasis on ethical behavior and on a supreme god had a last- ing influence on others, especially the Hebrews.

The Hebrews, Origins to 539 B.C.E. The Hebrews’ development of a monotheistic religion makes them a principal building block in the foundations of Western civilization, even though they never rivaled the political and military power of the great empires in the Near East. Their religion, known as Judaism, developed over a long time. It reflected influences from the Hebrews’ polytheistic neighbors in Canaan (ancient Pales- tine), but its initiation was the most important religious innovation in Western history.

Hebrew Origins and the Bible. The enduring legacy of the Hebrews to Western civilization

comes from the significance of the book that be- came their sacred scripture, the Hebrew Bible. This book deeply affected the formation of not only Judaism but also Christianity and, later, Islam. Unfortunately, no source provides definitive infor- mation on the historical background of the He- brews or their religion. The Bible tells stories to explain God’s moral plan for the universe, not to give a full account of Hebrew origins, and archae- ology has not yielded a clear picture.

According to the Bible’s account, the patriarch Abraham and his followers migrated from the Mesopotamian city of Ur to Canaan, perhaps around 1900 B.C.E. Once there, the Hebrews con- tinued to live as semi-nomads, tending flocks of animals on the region’s scanty grasslands and liv- ing in temporary tent settlements. They occasion- ally planted barley or wheat for a season or two and then moved on to new pastures. Traditionally believed to have been divided into twelve tribes, they never settled down or formed a political state in this period. Organized political and military power in the region remained in the hands of the Canaanites.

Abraham’s son Isaac moved his pastoral peo- ple to various locations to try to avoid disputes with local Canaanites over grazing rights. Isaac’s son Jacob, the story continues, moved to Egypt late in life when his son Joseph brought Jacob and other relatives there to escape famine in Canaan. Joseph had previously used his intelligence and charisma to rise to an important position in the Egyptian administration. The biblical story of the movement of a band of Hebrews to Egypt repre- sents a crucial event in their early history, possibly reflecting a time when drought forced some Hebrews to migrate grad- ually from southwest Asia into the Nile delta of Egypt. They probably drifted in during the seventeenth or sixteenth cen- tury B.C.E. as part of the move- ment of peoples into Egypt at the time of Hyksos rule. By the thirteenth century B.C.E., the pharaohs had conscripted the Hebrew men into slave-labor gangs for farming and for construction work on large building projects.

According to the Book of Exodus, the Hebrew deity, Yahweh, instructed Moses to lead the Hebrews out of bondage in Egypt against the will of the king, perhaps around the mid-thirteenth century B.C.E. Yahweh sent ten plagues to compel the pharaoh to free the Hebrews, but the king still

From Dark Age to Empire in the Near Ea st, 1000–500 B . C . E . 391000–500 b.c .e .

moral dualism: The belief that the world is the arena for an on- going battle for control between divine forces of good and evil.

0 600 kilometers300

0 600 miles300


Canaan/ Palestine

Tigris R.

Euphrates R.

Dead Sea

Red Sea

Mediterranean Sea

N ile




Mount Sinai (presumed location)



Megiddo �

Phoenicia and Canaan/Palestine

dus from Egypt, the biblical account of the He- brew covenant and laws deals with a distant, un- documented time. Like their neighbors in Canaan, the early Hebrews originally worshipped a variety of gods, including spirits believed to reside in nat- ural objects such as trees and stones. Yahweh may have originally been the deity of the tribe of Mid- ian, to which Moses’s father-in-law belonged. The form of the covenant with Yahweh conformed to the ancient Near Eastern tradition of treaties be- tween a superior and subordinates, but its content differed from that of other ancient Near Eastern religions because it made Yahweh the exclusive de- ity of his people. In the time of Moses, some He- brews, despite their leaders’ urging, continued to worship other local gods, such as Baal of Canaan.

The Hebrew Bible sets forth the religious and moral code the Hebrews had to follow. The Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, called the Pentateuch by Christians) recorded numerous laws for righteous living. Most famous are the Ten Commandments, which required Hebrews to wor- ship Yahweh; honor their parents; refrain from work on the seventh day of the week (the Sabbath); and abstain from murder, adultery, theft, lying, and covetousness. Many of the Hebrews’ laws shared the traditional form and content of earlier Mesopotamian laws, such as those of Hammurabi: if someone did a certain thing to another person, then a specified punishment was imposed on the perpetrator. For example, both Hammurabi’s laws and Hebrew law covered the case of an ox that had gored a person; the owner was penalized only if he had been warned about his beast’s tendency to gore and had done nothing to restrain it. Also like Ham- murabi’s laws, Hebrew law expressed an interest in the welfare of the poor as well as the rich. In ad- dition, it secured protection for the lower classes and people without power, such as strangers, wid- ows, and orphans.

Hebrew law and thus Hebrew justice differed significantly from Mesopotamian precedent, how- ever, in applying the same rules and punishments to everyone, without regard to social rank. Hebrew law also eliminated vicarious punishment — a Mesopotamian tradition ordering, for example, that a rapist’s wife be raped or that the son of a builder be killed if his father’s negligent work caused the death of someone else’s son. Hebrew women and children had certain legal protections, although their rights were less extensive than men’s. For example, wives had less freedom to di- vorce their husbands than husbands had to divorce

40 Chapter 2 ■ The Near Ea st and the Emergence of Greece 1000–500 b.c .e .

tried to recapture them during their flight. Yahweh therefore miraculously parted the sea to allow them to escape eastward; the water swirled back together and drowned the pharaoh’s army as it tried to follow.

Covenant, Monotheism, and Hebrew Law. The biblical narrative then relates the crucial event in the history of the Hebrews: the formalizing of a covenant between them and their deity, who re- vealed himself to Moses on Mount Sinai in the desert northeast of Egypt. The covenant consisted of an agreement between the Hebrews and Yahweh that, in return for their promise to worship him exclusively as their only god and to live by his laws, Yahweh would make them his chosen people and lead them into a promised land of safety and pros- perity. This binding agreement demanded human obedience to divine law and promised punishment for unrighteousness. Yahweh described himself to Moses as “compassionate and gracious, patient, ever constant and true . . . forgiving wickedness, re- bellion, and sin, and not sweeping the guilty clean away; but one who punishes sons and grandsons to the third and fourth generation for their fathers’ iniquity” (Exodus 34:6–7).

Because the earliest parts of the Hebrew Bible were probably composed about 950 B.C.E., more than three hundred years after the Hebrews’ exo-

Torah: The first five books of the Hebrew Bible, also referred to as the Pentateuch. It contains early Jewish law.

Goddess Figurines from Judah Many small statues of this type, called Astarte figurines after a goddess of Canaan, have been found in private houses in Judah dating from about 800 to 600 B.C.E. Hebrews evidently kept them as magical tokens to promote fertility and prosperity. The prophets fiercely condemned the worship of such figures as part of the development of Hebrew monotheism and the abandoning of polytheism. Compare the shape of these figurines to the body shape of the Venus figurine on page P-7. What do you think these shapes represented? (Photo © Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Collection of the Israel Antiquities Authority.)

their wives, much as in the laws of Hammurabi. Crimes against property did not carry the death penalty, as they frequently did in other Near East- ern societies. Hebrew laws also protected slaves against flagrant mistreatment by their masters. Slaves who lost an eye or even a tooth from a beat- ing were to be freed. Like free people, slaves en- joyed the right to rest on the Sabbath, the holy day of the seven-day Hebrew week.

The Hebrews who fled from Egypt with Moses made their way back to Canaan, joining their relatives who had remained there and somehow carving out separate territories for themselves. The twelve Hebrew tribes remained politically distinct under the direction of separate leaders, called judges, until the eleventh century, when their first monarchy emerged. Their monotheism gradually developed over the succeeding centuries.

The Consolidation of Hebrew Monotheism. The Hebrews achieved their first national organization with the creation of a monarchy in the late eleventh century B.C.E. Saul became their first king, and his successors David (r. 1010–970 B.C.E.) and Solomon (r. c. 961–922 B.C.E.) brought the Hebrew kingdom to the height of its prosperity. The king- dom’s wealth, based on international commerce conducted through its cities, was displayed above all in the great temple richly decorated with gold leaf that Solomon built in Jerusalem to be the house of Yahweh. This temple was the Hebrews’ premier religious monument.

The Hebrews’ unity and prosperity were short lived. After Solomon’s death, the monarchy split into two kingdoms: Israel in the north and Judah in the south. The Assyrians destroyed Israel in 722 B.C.E. and deported its population to Assyria. In 597 B.C.E., the Babylonians conquered Judah and captured its capital, Jerusalem. In 586 B.C.E., they destroyed the temple to Yahweh and banished the Hebrew leaders, along with much of the popula- tion, to Babylon. The Hebrews always remembered the sorrow of this exile.

When the Persian king Cyrus overthrew the Babylonians in 539 B.C.E., he permitted the Hebrews to return to their part of Canaan, which was called Yehud, from the name of the southern Hebrew kingdom Judah. From this geographical term came the word Jew, a designation for the He- brews after their Babylonian exile. Cyrus allowed them to rebuild their main temple in Jerusalem and to practice their religion. After returning from exile, the Jews were forever a people subject to the political domination of various Near Eastern pow- ers, save for a period of independence during the second and first centuries B.C.E.

Jewish prophets, both men and women, preached that their defeats were divine punish- ment for neglecting the Sinai covenant and mis- treating their poor. Some prophets also predicted the coming end of the present world following a great crisis, a judgment by Yahweh, and salvation leading to a new and better world. This apocalyp- ticism (“uncovering,” or revelation, of the future), reminiscent of Babylonian prophetic wisdom literature, would greatly influence Christianity later. Yahweh would save the Hebrew nation, the prophets thundered, only if Jews strictly observed divine law.

Jewish leaders therefore developed complex religious laws to maintain ritual and ethical purity in all aspects of life. Marrying non-Jews was for- bidden, as was working on the Sabbath. Fathers had legal power over the household, subject to in- tervention by the male elders of the community; women gained honor as mothers. Only men could initiate divorce proceedings. Ethics applied not only to obvious crimes but also to financial deal-

From Dark Age to Empire in the Near Ea st, 1000–500 B . C . E . 411000–500 b.c .e .

Solomon’s Walls at Megiddo Rulers in the Near East often fought to control the city of Megiddo because it controlled an important pass along a main north-south route near the eastern Mediterranean coast. The Hebrew king Solomon built strong fortification walls for it in the tenth century B.C.E., as recalled in the Hebrew Bible (1 Kings 9:15). A tunnel reaching hundreds of feet through rock to a spring hidden in a cave supplied water during a siege. Despite these defenses, the city later fell to the Egyptians and the Assyrians. (Erich Lessing/ Art Resource, NY.)

ings; cheating in business transactions was con- demned. Jews had to pay taxes and offerings to support and honor the sanctuary of Yahweh, and they had to forgive debts every seventh year.

The Jews’ hardships had taught them that their religious traditions and laws gave them the strength to survive even when separated from their homeland. Gradually, they created the first undi- luted monotheism by accepting their leaders’ preaching that Yahweh was the only god and that they had to adhere to his divine will by obeying his laws. Jews retained their identity by following this religion, regardless of their personal fate or their geographical location. A remarkable outcome of these religious developments was that Jews who did not return to their homeland, instead choos- ing to remain in Babylon or Persia or Egypt, could maintain their Jewish identity by following Jewish law while living among foreigners. In this way, the Diaspora (“dispersion of population”) came to characterize the history of the Jewish people.

Hebrew monotheism made the preservation and understanding of a sacred text, the Bible, the center of religious life. The chief priests compiled an authoritative scripture by adding to the Torah the books of the prophets, such as Isaiah, and other writings, including Psalms and wisdom literature. Making scripture the focus of religion proved the most crucial development for the history not only of Judaism but also of Christianity and Islam, be- cause these later religions made their own sacred texts, the Christian Bible and the Qur’an, respec- tively, the centers of their belief and practice.

Although the ancient Hebrews never formed a militarily powerful nation, their monotheistic religion created a new path for Western civiliza- tion. Through the continuing vitality of Judaism and its impact on the doctrines of Christianity and Islam, the early Jews passed on ideas — chiefly monotheism and the notion of a covenant be- stowing a divinely ordained destiny on a people if they obey divine will — whose effects have en- dured to this day. These religious concepts consti- tute one of the most significant legacies to Western civilization from the Near East in the pe- riod 1000–500 B.C.E.

Review: In what ways was religion important in the Near East from c. 1000 B.C.E. to c. 500 B.C.E.?

Remaking Greek Civilization, 1000–750 B.C.E. During the period of calamities of 1200–1000 B.C.E., the Greeks lost the distinguishing marks of civilization: they no longer had unified states, prosperous large settlements, or writing. Thus, during their Dark Age (c. 1000–750 B.C.E.), they had to remake their civilization. Trade, cultural in- teraction, and technological innovation led to re- covery: contact with the Near East promoted intellectual, artistic, and economic revival, while the introduction of metallurgy for making iron made farming more efficient. As conditions im- proved, a social elite distinguished by wealth and the competitive pursuit of individual excellence proclaimed in Homeric poetry replaced the hier- archy of Mycenaean times. In the eighth century B.C.E., the creation of the Olympic Games and the emphasis on justice in the poetry of Hesiod pro- moted the communal values that fueled the re- making of Greek civilization and laid the foundation for a radically new form of political or- ganization in which central authority was based on citizenship rather than subjection to kings.

The Greek Dark Age, 1000–750 B.C.E. The fall of Mycenaean civilization brought to Greece the depressed economic conditions that so many people in other regions experienced during the worst years of their Dark Ages. One of the most startling indications of the severity of life in the Dark Age in Greece is that Greeks apparently lost their knowledge of writing when Mycenaean civi- lization fell. The Linear B script they had used to write Greek was difficult to master and probably known only by a few scribes, who used writing ex- clusively to track the flow of goods in and out of the palaces. When the Mycenaean states collapsed, the Greeks no longer needed scribes or writing. Oral transmission kept Greek cultural traditions alive.

Archaeology reveals that the Greeks, although spread across roughly the same geographical area as in Mycenaean times, cultivated much less land and had many fewer settlements in the early Dark Age (Map 2.3). No longer did powerful rulers shel- tered in stone fortresses control redistributive economies providing a stable standard of living for their subjects. The number of ships carrying Greek adventurers, raiders, and traders dwindled. Large political states ceased to exist; people scratched out an existence as herders, shepherds, and subsistence

42 Chapter 2 ■ The Near Ea st and the Emergence of Greece 1000–500 b.c .e .

Diaspora (dee ASS por a): The dispersal of the Jewish popula- tion from their homeland.

farmers bunched in tiny settlements — as few as twenty people in many cases. The decimated pop- ulation produced less food than before, causing its numbers to drop further. These two processes re- inforced each other in a vicious circle, multiplying the negative effects of both.

The Greek agricultural economy remained complex despite the withering away of many tra- ditional forms of agriculture. Since more Greeks than ever before made their living by herding an- imals, people became more mobile: they needed to move their herds to new pastures once the animals had overgrazed their current location. Lucky herders might find a new spot where they could grow a crop of grain if they stayed long enough. In this transient lifestyle, people built only simple huts and kept few possessions. Unlike their Bronze Age ancestors, Greeks in the Dark Age had no monumental architecture, and they even lost an old tradition in their everyday art: they stopped painting people and animals in their principal art form, ceramics.

Trade, Innovation, and Recovery in Greece. A geography that fostered seaborne trade allowed the Greeks to continue trading with the civilizations of the eastern Mediterranean even during the Dark Age. Trade promoted cultural interaction, and the Greeks learned to write again about 800 B.C.E. They adopted the alphabet from the Phoenicians, sea- faring traders from Canaan. Greeks changed and added letters to achieve independent representa- tion of vowel sounds so that they could express their language and record their literature, begin- ning with Homer’s and Hesiod’s poetry in the eighth century B.C.E. Near Eastern art inspired Greeks to resume depicting animals and people in their paintings (as on the Corinthian vase on page 32). Seaborne commerce encouraged elite Greeks to produce surpluses to trade for luxuries such as gold jewelry and gems from Egypt and Syria.

Most important, trade brought the new tech- nology of iron metallurgy. The violence of the pe- riod of calamities had interrupted the traditional trading routes for tin, and without tin, metalwork- ers could not forge bronze weapons and tools. To make up for this loss, smiths in the eastern Mediterranean devised technology to smelt iron ore. Greeks then learned this skill through their eastern trade contacts and mined their own ore, which was common in Greece. Iron eventually re- placed bronze in many uses, above all for agricul- tural tools, swords, and spear points. Bronze was still used for shields and armor, however, because it was easier to shape into thinner, curved pieces.

The iron tools’ lower cost allowed more indi- viduals to acquire them. Because iron is harder than bronze, implements kept their sharp edges longer. Better and more plentiful farming implements of iron helped increase food production, which

Remaking Greek Civil ization, 1000–750 b.c .e . 431000–500 b.c .e .

0 50 100 kilometers

0 50 100 miles




M e d i t e r r a n e a n S e a

Aegean Sea

Ionian Sea

















� �

� �

MAP 2.3 Dark Age Greece Recent archaeological research indicates that Greece was not as impoverished or as depopulated after the fall of the Mycenaean kingdoms as once assumed. The many small ports along Greece’s jagged coastline and the short distances between its islands allowed seafaring trade and communication to continue. By island-hopping, boats could make it safely across the Aegean Sea and beyond, keeping the routes open to the Near East. Still, during the Dark Age, Greeks lived in significantly fewer and smaller population centers than in the Bronze Age. It took centuries for the region as a whole to revive.

T H E G R E E K D A R K A G E , 1 0 0 0 – 7 5 0 B . C . E .

1000 B.C.E. Almost all important Mycenaean sites except Athens destroyed by now

1000–900 B.C.E. Greatest depopulation and economic loss

900–800 B.C.E. Early revival of population and agriculture; beginning use of iron tools and weapons

800 B.C.E. Greek trading contacts initiated with Al Mina in Syria

776 B.C.E. First Olympic Games held

775 B.C.E. Euboeans found trading post on island in the Bay of Naples

750 B.C.E. Homeric poetry recorded in writing after Greeks learn to write again; Hesiod composes his poetry

supported a larger population. In this way, im- ported technology improved the people’s chances for survival and thus helped Greece recover from the Dark Age’s depopulation.

The Greek Social Elite and the Homeric Ideal. With the Mycenaean rulers gone, leadership be- came more of an open competition in Dark Age Greece. Individuals who proved themselves excel- lent in action, words, charisma, and religious knowledge became the social elite. Competition defined Greek life, and excellence — aretê in Greek — was a competitive value. Men displayed aretê as warriors and persuasive public speakers; the highest aretê for women was savvy manage- ment of a well-organized household of children, slaves, and the family’s storerooms. Members of the elite accumulated wealth by controlling agri- cultural land, which people of lower status worked for them as tenants or slaves.

The poems of Homer, Greece’s first and most famous author, reflect the elite’s ideals, especially the quest for aretê. The Greeks believed that Homer was a blind poet from Ionia (today Turkey’s western coast) who composed the epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey. Most modern scholars be- lieve that Homer was the last in a long line of po- ets who, influenced by Near Eastern mythology, had been singing these stories for centuries, orally transmitting cultural values from one generation to the next. The Iliad tells the story of the Greek army in the Trojan War. Camped before the walls of Troy for ten years, the heroes of the army com- pete for glory and riches by raiding the country- side, dueling Troy’s best fighters, and quarreling with one another over status and booty. The great- est Greek warrior is Achilles, who proves his aretê by choosing to die in battle rather than accept the gods’ offer to return home safely but without glory. The Odyssey recounts the hero Odysseus’s ten-year adventure sailing home after the fall of Troy and the struggle of his wife, Penelope, to protect their household from the schemes of rivals intent on seizing her family’s status and wealth. Penelope proves her aretê by outwitting envious neighbors to preserve her family’s prosperity for her hus- band’s return.

Homer reveals that the white-hot emotions inflamed by an individual quest for excellence could provoke a disturbing level of inhumanity. As he prepares to duel Hector, the prince of Troy, Achilles brutally rejects the Trojan’s proposal that the winner return the loser’s corpse to his family and friends: “Do wolves and lambs agree to coop- erate? No, they hate each other to the roots of their being.” The victor, Achilles, mutilates Hector’s body. When Hecuba, the queen of Troy, sees this outrage, she bitterly shouts, “I wish I could sink my teeth into his liver in his guts to eat it raw.” The endings of Homer’s poems suggest that the gods could help people achieve reconciliation after vio- lent conflict, but the depth of human suffering makes it clear that excellence comes at a high price.

As in Homer, the real world of the Greek Dark Age had a small but wealthy social elite. On the is- land of Euboea, for example, archaeologists have discovered the tenth-century B.C.E. grave of a couple who took such enormous riches with them to the next world that the woman’s body was covered in gold ornaments. They had done well in the com- petition for status and wealth; most people of the time were, by comparison, paupers, who had to

44 Chapter 2 ■ The Near Ea st and the Emergence of Greece 1000–500 b.c .e .

aretê (ah reh TAY): The Greek value of competitive individual excellence.

A Rich Woman’s Model Granary from the Dark Age This clay model of storage containers for grain was found in a woman’s tomb in Athens from about 850 B.C.E. It apparently symbolizes the surpluses that the woman and her family were able to accumulate and indicates that she was wealthy by the standards of her time. The geometric designs painted on the pottery are characteristic of Greek art in this period, when human and animal figures were left out. By the Archaic Age, this had changed under Near Eastern influence. Contrast the lively animals painted some two hundred years later on the Corinthian vase illustrated at the opening of this chapter (page 32). (American School of Classical Studies at Athens: Agora Excavations.)

Homer: Greece’s first and most famous author, who composed The Iliad and The Odyssey.

scratch out a hard living. The poor could only dream of the heroic deeds and rich goods they heard about in Homer’s poems.

The Values of the Olympic Games Greece had recovered sufficiently by the eighth century B.C.E. to begin creating new forms of so- cial and political organization. The most vivid ev- idence is the founding of the Olympic Games, traditionally dated to 776 B.C.E. This international religious festival showcased the competitive value of aretê.

Every four years, the games took place in a huge sanctuary dedicated to Zeus, the king of the gods, at Olympia, in the northwestern Pelopon- nese. Male athletes from elite families vied in sports, imitating the aretê needed for war: run- ning, wrestling, jumping, and throwing. Horse and chariot racing were added to the program later, but the main event remained a two-hundred-yard sprint, the stadion (hence our word stadium). The athletes competed as individuals, not on national teams as in the modern Olympic Games. Winners

received a garland made from wild olive leaves to symbolize the prestige of victory.

The Olympics illustrate Greek notions of gen- der propriety: crowds of men flocked to the games, but women were barred on pain of death. Women had their own separate Olympic festival on a different date in honor of Hera, queen of the gods, in which only unmarried women could compete. They had separate games because most Greeks believed it was not proper for men and women to observe nonslave strangers of the opposite gender wearing no or little clothing. Eventually, profes- sional athletes dominated the Olympics, earning their living from appearance fees and prizes at games held throughout the Greek world. The most famous winner was Milo, from Croton in Italy. Six- time Olympic wrestling champion, he stunned au- diences with demonstrations of strength such as holding his breath until his veins expanded to snap a cord tied around his head.

Although the Olympics existed to glorify in- dividual excellence, their organization reveals an important trend under way in Greek society: the games were open to any socially elite Greek male

Remaking Greek Civil ization, 1000–750 b.c .e . 451000–500 b.c .e .

Athletic Competition Greek vase painters loved to depict male athletes in action or training, perhaps in part because athletes were customers who would buy pottery with such scenes. As in this depiction of an Athenian foot race from around 530 B.C.E., the athletes were usually shown nude, which is how they competed, revealing their superb physical condition and strong musculature. Being in excellent shape was a man’s ideal for several reasons: it was regarded as beautiful, it enabled him to strive for individual glory in athletic competitions, and it allowed him to fulfill his community responsibility by fighting as a well-conditioned soldier in the city-state’s citizen militia. Why do you think the figure at the far left does not have a full beard? (See the caption on page 64 for a hint.) (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1914 (14.130.12) Photograph © 1998 The Metropolitan Museum of Art.)

good enough to compete and to any male specta- tor who could journey there. These rules repre- sented beginning steps toward a concept of collective Greek identity. Remarkably for a land so often torn by war, once every four years an inter- national truce of several weeks was declared so that competitors and fans from all Greek communities could safely travel to and from Olympia. By the mid-eighth century B.C.E., the Olympic Games channeled the competition for excellence —an in- dividual, not a communal, value— into a new con- text of social cooperation and communal interest, essential preconditions for the creation of Greece’s new political form, the city-state of citizens.

Homer, Hesiod, and Divine Justice in Greek Myth Greeks’ belief in divine justice inspired them to de- velop the communal and cooperative values that remade their civilization. This idea came not from scripture —Greeks had none — but from poetry that told myths about the gods and goddesses and their relationships to humans.

Homer’s poems reveal that the gods had a plan for human existence; Zeus’s will, for example, mo- tivated the Trojan War’s tragic events. Homer did not reveal, however, whether the divine plan was

just. Bellerophon, the wronged hero whose brave efforts won him a princess bride and a kingdom, ended up losing everything. He became, in Homer’s words, “hated by the gods and wander- ing the land alone, eating his heart out, a refugee fleeing from the haunts of men.” The story gives no explanation for this tragedy and no reason to believe that justice underlay the divine plan (see Document, “Homer’s Vision of Justice in the Polis,” above).

Hesiod’s poetry, by contrast, reveals how reli- gious myths about justice contributed to the feel- ing of community that motivated the creation of Greece’s new social and political organization. Hesiod’s vivid stories, which originated in Near Eastern creation myths, show that existence, even for deities, entailed struggle, sorrow, and violence. The stories also reveal, however, that the divine or- der of the universe included a concern for justice that persisted in Hesiod’s own time.

Hesiod’s epic poem Theogony (Genealogy of the Gods) recounted the birth of the race of gods from the intercourse of primeval Chaos and Earth, the mother of Sky and numerous other offspring. Hesiod explained that when Sky began to imprison his siblings, Earth persuaded her fiercest son, Kro- nos, to overthrow him violently because “Sky first contrived to do shameful things.” When Kronos

46 Chapter 2 ■ The Near Ea st and the Emergence of Greece 1000–500 b.c .e .

Homer’s Vision of Justice in the Polis


Homer’s epics mainly tell tales of individual excellence from the heroic past of the Trojan War era, but he also hints at the develop- ment of communal values in the polis, which Greeks were creating at about the same time that he composed his works, around 750 B.C.E. We see this in one of the most striking passages in his Iliad, which describes the pic- tures of a polis at war and a polis at peace that Hephaestus, the fire god, sculpted on a new shield for Achilles. Homer portrays the figures in the scenes as moving and talking, as if in a magical filmstrip. The picture of the polis at peace concerns finding a just res- olution to a man’s death. Homer doesn’t tell us whether the death was accidental or crim- inal, or where the gold came from that would be the victorious arbitrator’s reward for the

best judgment, the one that would restore harmony to the community through justice.

In the [polis at peace], weddings and cele- brations were in full swing. Blazing torches lit the way for youthful brides being brought out from their homes and through the polis center. People sang the wedding song in loud, clear voices. The young men twirled in a lively dance to the music of flutes and lyres. The women lingered smil- ingly on their doorsteps, taking it all in with deep pleasure. Their husbands had gone off as a group to the polis’s gathering place [agora], where a dispute was being con- ducted between two men over another’s death and the payment of compensation. One of the two was proclaiming for all to

hear that he would pay full compensation, while the other insisted that he would not accept any of it; both of them were declar- ing that arbitrators should settle the case. Each man had numerous supporters there yelling for him to prevail, and the heralds were trying hard to keep the crowd from rioting. The elders [i.e., the arbitrators] sat in a circle on sacred stone seats. The clear- voiced heralds handed them scepters, which each stepped forward with when it was his turn to say what he thought was a just resolution. A heap of gold lay in front of them as a reward for whichever elder pronounced the best decision.

Source: Homer, The Iliad, Book 18, lines 490–508. Translation by Thomas R. Martin.

later began to swallow his own children to avoid sharing power with them, his wife, Rhea (who was also his sister), had their son Zeus forcefully de- pose his father.

In his poem on conditions in his own world, Works and Days, Hesiod identified Zeus as the source of justice in human affairs and justice as a divine quality punishing evildoers: “For Zeus or- dained that fishes and wild beasts and birds should eat each other, for they have no justice; but to hu- man beings he has given justice, which is far the best.” People, however, were responsible for insti- tuting justice, and in Hesiod’s time this meant the male social elite. They controlled their family members and household servants. Hesiod insisted that a leader should demonstrate aretê by employ- ing persuasion instead of force: “When his people in their assembly get on the wrong track, he gen- tly sets matters right, persuading them with soft words.”

Hesiod complained that many elite leaders in his time fell short of this ideal, creating strife be- tween themselves and the peasants— free propri- etors of small farms owning a slave or two, oxen to work their fields, and a limited amount of goods acquired by trading the surplus of their crops. Hes- iod warned that justice’s divine origin should de- ter “bribe-devouring chiefs,” who use “crooked judgements” to settle disputes among their follow- ers and neighbors. The outrage that commoners felt at not receiving equal treatment served as a stimulus for the gradual movement toward a new form of social and political organization in Greece.

Review: What factors proved most important in the Greek recovery from the troubles of the Dark Age?

The Creation of the Greek Polis, 750–500 B.C.E. The Greek Dark Age gave way to what historians call the Archaic Age (c. 750–500 B.C.E.). This new era saw the creation of the polis, the Greek city- state, an independent community of citizens in- habiting a city and the countryside around it. Greece’s geography, dominated by mountains and islands, promoted the creation of hundreds of sep- arate, independent city-states in its heartland in and around the Aegean Sea. From these original locations, Greeks dispersed widely around the

Mediterranean to settle hundreds more trading communities that often grew into new city-states. Individuals’ drive for profit from trade, especially in raw materials, and free farmland probably started this process of founding new settlements.

Greeks made the idea of divine justice insti- tuted by citizens the defining characteristic of their city-states. Thus, the Greek polis, as a community of citizens, differed from the Mesopotamian city- states, whose inhabitants were subjects of the king. Greek citizens usually governed themselves, though the political system itself varied. Surpris- ingly for the ancient world, poor citizens in Greek city-states enjoyed a rough legal and political equality with the rich. Not so surprisingly, women failed to attain equality with men, and slaves re- mained completely excluded from the benefits of the city-state’s new emphasis on communal inter- ests. This new direction in social and political or- ganization was unprecedented in giving even a limited say to the poor, but it was never able to eliminate tension between the interests of the elite and those of ordinary people.

The Physical Environment of the Greek City-State The ancient Greeks never constituted a nation in the modern political sense because their many city-states lacked a unifying organization. Greeks identified with one another culturally, however, because they spoke the same language and wor- shipped the same deities. Their homeland lay in and around the Aegean Sea, a section of the Mediter- ranean between modern Greece and Turkey dotted with large and small islands (Map 2.4).

The mountainous geography of Greece tended to isolate its communities and contributed to the city-states’ feisty separateness. A single island could be home to multiple city-states; Lesbos, for example, had five. Because few city-states had enough farmland to support a large population, settlements numbering only several hundred to several thousand were the rule even after the pop- ulation increase at the end of the Dark Age.

Only the sea offered practical long-distance travel in Greece. Greek rivers were little more than creeks, while land transport was slow and expensive because rudimentary dirt paths and dry riverbeds provided the only roads. The most plentiful re- source was timber from the mountains for building houses and ships. Deposits of metal ore were scat- tered throughout Greek territory, as were clays suit- able for pottery and sculpture. Various quarries of fine stone such as marble provided material for spe- cial buildings and works of art. The uneven distri-

The Creation of the Greek Polis, 750–500 b.c .e . 471000–500 b.c .e .

polis: The Greek city-state, an independent community of citi- zens.

bution of these resources meant that some areas were considerably wealthier than others.

None of the mountains wrinkling the Greek landscape rose higher than ten thousand feet, but their steep slopes restricted agriculture. Only 20 to 30 percent of the total land area could be farmed. The scarcity of level terrain in most areas ruled out large-scale herds of cattle and horses; pigs, sheep, and goats were the common livestock. The domes- tic chicken had been introduced from the Near East by the seventh century B.C.E. The Mediter- ranean climate (intermittent heavy rain during a few months and hot, dry summers) limited a farmer’s options, as did the fragility of the envi- ronment: grazing livestock, for example, could be so hard on plant life that winter downpours would wash away the limited topsoil. Because the amount of annual precipitation varied greatly, farming was a precarious business of boom and bust. Farmers grew more barley, the cereal staple of the Greek diet, than wheat, which people preferred but which was more expensive to cultivate. Wine grapes and olives were the other most important crops.

Trade and “Colonization,” 800–580 B.C.E. The polis emerged when Greeks were once again in frequent contact with Egypt and the Near East. The desire for trade and land that encouraged the Greeks to move around the Mediterranean brought them many op- portunities for cross-cultural contacts. Greece’s jagged coastline made sea travel practical: almost every commu- nity lay within forty miles of the Mediterranean Sea. But sailing meant dangers from pirates and, especially, storms; in fact, prevailing winds and fierce gales almost ruled out sea travel during winter. Sailors tried to hug the coast, hopping from island to island and putting in to shore at night, but sometimes the drive for profit required long, nonstop voyages over open wa- ters. As Hesiod commented, merchants took to the sea “because an income means life to poor mortals, but it is a terrible fate to die among the waves.”

The search for metals and other scarce resources drove traders far from home. The Odyssey describes the basic strategy of this commodity trading, when the goddess Athena appears dis- guised as a metal trader: “I am here . . . with my ship and crew on our

way across the wine-dark sea to foreign lands in search of copper; I am carrying iron now.” By 800 B.C.E., the Mediterranean swarmed with entrepre- neurs of many nationalities. The Phoenicians es- tablished footholds as far west as Spain’s Atlantic coast to gain access to inland mines there. Their North African settlement at Carthage (modern Tu- nis) would become one of the Mediterranean’s most powerful cities in later times, dominating commerce west of Italy.

Greeks energetically joined this seaborne con- test for profit as the scale of trade soared near the end of the Dark Age: archaeologists have found only two tenth-century B.C.E. Greek pots that were carried abroad, but eighth-century pottery has turned up at more than eighty foreign sites. By 750 B.C.E. (or earlier — the evidence is hard to date), Greeks had begun to settle far from their home- land, sometimes living in others’ settlements, es- pecially those of the Phoenicians in the western Mediterranean, and sometimes establishing trad- ing posts of their own, as on an island in the Bay of Naples. Everywhere they traded with the local

48 Chapter 2 ■ The Near Ea st and the Emergence of Greece 1000–500 b.c .e .

0 50 100 kilometers

0 50 100 miles Important city-states





� Mediterranean Sea

Aegean Sea

Ionian Sea

Sea of Crete

Black Sea

Sea of Marmara


htnir oCfo

fluG Chios








Mt. Olympus

Mt. Parnassus







Macedonia Thrace











Olympia Samos







Argos Mycenae

Thebes Eretria






MAP 2.4 Archaic Greece, 750–500 B.C.E. The Greek heartland lay in and around the Aegean Sea, in what is today the nation of Greece and the western edge of the nation of Turkey (ancient Anatolia). The “mainland,” where Athens, Corinth, and Sparta are located, is the southernmost tip of the mountainous Balkan peninsula. The many islands of the Aegean area were home mainly to small city-states, with the exception of the large islands just off the western Anatolian coast, which were home to populous ones.

populations, such as the Etruscans in central Italy, who imported large amounts of Greek goods, as the vases found in their tombs reveal. Greeks stay- ing abroad for the long term would also cultivate vacant land, gradually building permanent com- munities. A shortage of arable territory in Greece drove some poor citizens abroad to find farmland of their own. Because apparently only males left home on trading and land-hunting expeditions, they had to find wives wherever they settled, either through peaceful negotiation or by kidnapping.

By about 580 B.C.E., Greeks had settled widely in Spain, present-day southern France, southern Italy and Sicily, North Africa, and along the Black Sea coast (Map. 2.5). The settlements in southern Italy and Sicily, such as Naples and Syracuse, even- tually became so large and powerful that this re- gion was called Magna Graecia (literally, “Great Greece”), and its communities became rivals of Carthage for commercial dominance in the western Mediterranean.

Fewer Greeks settled in the eastern Mediter- ranean, perhaps because the monarchies there restricted foreign immigration. Still, a trading sta-

tion had sprung up in Syria by 800 B.C.E., and in the seventh century B.C.E. the Egyptians permitted Greek merchants to settle in a coastal town. These close contacts with eastern Mediterranean civiliza- tions paid cultural as well as economic dividends. In addition to inspiring Greeks to reintroduce fig- ures into their painting, Near Eastern art gave them models for statues: they began sculpting im- ages that stood stiffly and stared straight ahead, imitating Egyptian statuary. (See “Seeing History,” page 50.) When the improving economy of the later Archaic Age allowed Greeks again to afford monumental architecture in stone, their rectangu- lar temples on platforms with columns reflected Egyptian architectural designs. Historians have traditionally called the settlement process of this era Greek colonization, but recent research ques- tions this term’s accuracy because the word colo- nization implies the process by which modern European governments officially installed colonies abroad. The evidence for these Greek settlements suggests rather that private entrepreneurship ini- tiated most of them; official state involvement was minimal, at least in the beginning. Most com-

The Creation of the Greek Polis, 750–500 b.c .e . 491000–500 b.c .e .

0 250 500 kilometers

0 250 500 miles

Greek city-states, c. 750 B.C.E.

Phoenicia, c. 750 B.C.E.

Coast and settlements under Greek influence

Coast and settlements under Phoenician influence




Greek shipping routes

Phoenician shipping routes

Strait of Gibraltar

Black Sea


R ed


M e d i t e r r a n e a n S e a

N ile


Tigris R.

Euphrates R.

Danube R.




Carthage Syracuse


Al Mina Sparta

Corinth Athens



� � � �

� � �

� �

� �

� �

� �

� �

� � �


� �

� �

�� �

� �

� �

� �


� �

MAP 2.5 Phoenician and Greek Expansion, 750–500 B.C.E. The Phoenicians were early explorers and settlers of the western Mediterranean; by 800 B.C.E. they had already founded the city of Carthage, which would become the main commercial power in the region. During the Archaic Age, groups of adventurous Greeks followed the Phoenicians’ lead and settled all around the Mediterranean, hoping to improve their economic prospects by trade and farming. Sometimes they moved into previously established Phoenician settlements; sometimes they founded their own. Some Greek city-states established formal ties with new settlements or sent out their own expeditions to try to establish loyal colonies. ■ Where did Phoenicians predominantly settle, and where did Greeks?

50 Chapter 2 ■ The Near Ea st and the Emergence of Greece 1000–500 b.c .e .

A s Greek civilization revived duringthe Archaic Age (750–500 B.C.E.),artists drew inspiration from the older civilizations of Egypt and the Near East, with sculpture in particular emerging as an important mode of cultural expres- sion. Greek sculptors carved freestanding kouros (“young male”) statues whose poses recalled the Egyptian style that remained unchanged for two thousand years: an erect posture, a striding leg, and a calm facial ex- pression staring straight ahead. And yet important differences, both religious and stylistic, exist between Egyptian statuary and the Greek sculpture influenced by it.

Kaemheset (shown on the left) held a high government position during the Old Kingdom as Egypt’s chief architect and supervisor of sculptors. Croesus (on the right) was a warrior from Athens who died in battle, as the inscription on the base of his statue proclaimed: “Stand and mourn at this monument of Croesus, now dead; raging Ares [the Greek war god] destroyed him as he battled in the front ranks.” Both statues were painted in bright colors (traces of red survive on Croesus’s statue); Kaemheset’s lively decoration remains be- cause it stood inside his closed tomb, while Croesus’s stood outside. Croesus’s statue differs from Kaemheset’s in that it portrays him nude, even though warriors went into battle wearing armor. What do you think could have been the reasons for placing statues inside or outside tombs and for portraying their subjects clothed or nude?

Look more closely at the details of the figures — musculature, hair, hands, facial expression, stride. What stylistic similari- ties do you see? Art historians have argued that, despite the similarities, the kouros statues of Greece’s Archaic period already show signs of the increasing naturalism and idealization of the human body that would characterize the later Greek classi-

cal style (see page 87). What evidence do you see of that in the differences between the two sculptures? How do you account for the relatively static nature of Egyptian

statuary, whose basic form changed very little over thousands of years? What his- torical factors might account for the dy- namism of the Greek tradition?

Shifting Sculptural Expression: From Egypt to Greece


Marble Statue of Croesus, Archaic Age Greece, c. 530–520 B.C.E. (The Art Archive/ Archaeological Museum, Athens/ Dagli Orti.)

Limestone Statue of Kaemheset, Old Kingdom Egypt, c. 2400 B.C.E. (Borromeo/ Art Resource, NY.)

monly, a Greek city-state in the homeland would establish ties with a settlement originally set up by its citizens privately and then claim it as its colony only after the community had grown into an eco- nomic success. Few instances are clearly recorded in which a Greek city-state officially sent out a group to establish a formally organized colony abroad. (See Document, “Cyrene Records Its Foundation as a Greek Colony,” page 52.)

Citizenship and Freedom in the Greek City-State The creation of the polis filled the political vac- uum left by Mycenaean civilization’s fall. The Greek city-state was unique because it was based on the concept of citizenship for all its free inhab- itants, rejected monarchy as its central authority, and made justice the responsibility of the citizens. Moreover, except in tyrannies (in which one man seized control of the city-state), at least some de- gree of shared governance was common; this power sharing reached its purest form in demo- cratic Greek city-states. Some historians argue that knowledge of the older cities on Cyprus and in Phoenicia influenced the Greeks in creating their new political systems; since monarchs dominated their subjects in those eastern states, however, this theory cannot explain the origin of citizenship in all Greek city-states and the sharing of power in many. The most famous ancient analyst of Greek politics and society, the philosopher Aristotle (384–322 B.C.E.), insisted that the forces of nature had created the city-state: “Humans are beings who by nature live in a city-state.” Anyone who existed outside such a community, Aristotle remarked, must be either a simple fool or superhuman. The polis’s innovation in making shared power the ba- sis of government did not immediately change the course of history — monarchy later became once again the most common form of government in ancient Western civilization — but it was impor- tant as proof that power sharing was not just a workable system of political organization but also a desirable one.

Religion in the Greek City-State. The Greek po- lis was not only a political entity. Like all earlier ancient communities, Greek city-states were offi- cially religious communities: as well as worship- ping many deities, each city-state honored a particular god or goddess as its special protector, such as Athena at Athens. Different communities could choose the same deity: Sparta, Athens’s chief rival in later times, also chose Athena as its de-

fender. Greeks envisioned the twelve most impor- tant gods banqueting atop Mount Olympus, the highest peak in mainland Greece. Zeus headed this pantheon; the others were Hera, his wife; Aphrodite, goddess of love; Apollo, sun god; Ares, war god; Artemis, moon goddess; Athena, goddess of wisdom and war; Demeter, earth goddess; Dionysus, god of pleasure, wine, and disorder; Hephaestus, fire god; Hermes, messenger god; and Poseidon, sea god. Like Homer’s warriors, the Olympian gods were competitive, both with each other and with human beings, and they resented any slights to their honor. “I am well aware that the gods are competitively jealous and disruptive towards humans,” remarked the sixth-century Athenian statesman Solon. The Greeks believed that their gods occasionally experienced tempo- rary pain or sadness in their dealings with one an- other but were immune to permanent suffering because they were immortal.

Greek religion’s core belief was that humans, both as individuals and as communities, must honor the gods to thank them for blessings re- ceived and to receive more blessings in return. Fur- thermore, the Greeks believed that the gods sent both good and bad into the world. The relationship between gods and humans

The Creation of the Greek Polis, 750–500 b.c .e . 511000–500 b.c .e .

A Greek Woman at an Altar This red-figure vase painting (contrast the black-figure vase on page 32) from the center of a large drinking cup shows a woman in rich clothing pouring a libation to the gods onto a flaming altar. In her other arm, she carries a religious object that we cannot securely identify. This scene illustrates the most important and frequent role of women in Greek public life: participating in religious ceremonies, both at home and in community festivals. Greek women (and men) commonly wore sandals; why do you think they are usually depicted without shoes in vase paintings? (The Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio. Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of

Edward Drummond Libbey [1972.55].)

generated sorrow as well as joy, punishment in the here and now, and only a limited hope for favored treatment in this life and in the underworld after death. Greeks did not expect to reach paradise at some future time when evil forces would be van- quished forever.

The idea of reciprocity between gods and hu- mans underlay the Greek understanding of the na- ture of the gods. Deities did not love humans. Rather, they protected people who paid them honor and did not offend them. Gods could pun- ish offenders by sending calamities such as famine, earthquake, epidemic disease, or defeat in war.

City-states honored gods by sacrificing ani- mals such as cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs; deco- rating their sanctuaries with works of art; and celebrating festivals with songs, dances, prayers, and processions. A seventh-century B.C.E. bronze statuette, which a man named Mantiklos gave to a sanctuary of Apollo to honor the god, makes clear why individuals gave such gifts. On its legs the donor inscribed his understanding of the trans- action: “Mantiklos gave this from his share to the Far Darter of the Silver Bow [Apollo]; now you, Apollo, do something for me in return.”

People’s greatest religious difficulty lay in an- ticipating what might offend a deity. Mythology hinted at the gods’ expectations of proper human behavior. For example, the Greeks told stories of the gods demanding hospitality for strangers, proper burial for family members, and punish- ment for human arrogance and murderous violence. Oracles, dreams, divination, and the prophecies of seers provided clues about what hu- mans might have done to anger the gods. The most important oracle was at Delphi, in central Greece, where a priestess in a trance provided Apollo’s an- swers to questions. Offenses could be acts such as performing a sacrifice improperly, violating the sanctity of a temple area, or breaking an oath or sworn agreement. People believed that the deities were attentive to some wrongdoings, such as violating oaths, but generally uninterested in com- mon crimes, which humans had to police them- selves. Homicide was such a serious offense, however, that the gods were thought to punish it by casting a miasma (ritual contamination) on the murderer and on all those around him or her. Un- less the members of the affected group purified themselves by punishing the murderer, they could

52 Chapter 2 ■ The Near Ea st and the Emergence of Greece 1000–500 b.c .e .

Cyrene Records Its Foundation as a Greek Colony


The Greeks living in Cyrene in North Africa (in modern Libya) set up this inscription recording the foundation of their polis by colonists dispatched about 630 B.C.E. from Thera (a polis on an island north of Crete). The text we have, which is damaged and therefore uncertain in places (marked by brackets), comes from the fourth century B.C.E., but it was based on earlier docu- ments. Cyrene was one of the few colonies originally established by a polis instead of by entrepreneurs.

The Oath of the Colonists

The assembly of Thera decided: Since the god Apollo of Delphi spon-

taneously instructed Battus and the Ther-

ans to settle Cyrene, the Therans decided to send Battus to North Africa as leader and king and for the Therans to sail as his companions. They are to sail on equal and fair terms according to their households and one adult son [from each household] is to be selected, and grown young men [are to be selected], and of the other Therans only those who are free can sail. And if the colonists establish a colony, a man from the households who subse- quently sails to North Africa shall share in citizenship and public office and shall be given a portion from land that has no owner. But if they do not establish a colony and the Therans are unable to provide aid, but the colonists suffer hardship for five years, they are allowed to leave the land without fear and return to Thera and their

property and to be citizens. If any man is not willing to sail when the polis sends him, he will be subject to the death penalty and his property shall be confiscated. Any man who harbors or hides such a man, whether a father his son, or a brother his brother, will be subject to the same penalty as the man who is not willing to sail. Those who stayed at home and those who sailed to found the colony swore oaths on these terms, and they invoked curses against those who break the oaths and fail to keep them, whether they were those who settled in North Africa or those who remained at home.

Source: R. Meiggs and D. Lewis, eds., A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions to the End of the Fifth Century B.C. (1969), no. 5. Translation by Thomas R. Martin.

all expect to suffer divine punishment, such as bad harvests or disease.

A community and individuals alike paid hom- age and respect to each deity through a cult, a set of official, publicly funded religious activities for a deity overseen by priests and priestesses. To carry out their duties, people prayed, sang hymns of praise, offered sacrifices, and presented gifts at the deity’s sanctuary. In these holy places a person could honor and thank the deities for blessings and beg them for relief when misfortune struck the community or the petitioner. Individuals could also offer sacrifices at home with the household gathered around; sometimes the family’s slaves were allowed to participate.

Priests and priestesses chosen from the citizen body conducted the sacrifices of public cults; they did not use their positions to influence political or social matters. Their special knowledge consisted in knowing how to perform traditional religious rites. They were not guardians of correct religious thinking because Greek polytheism had no scrip- ture or uniform set of beliefs and practices. It required its adherents only to support the com- munity’s local rituals and to avoid religious pollution.

Citizenship for Rich and Poor. Greeks devised the concept of citizenship to organize their city-states; it meant free people agreeing to form a political community that was supposed to be a partnership of privileges and duties in common affairs under the rule of law. Citizenship was a distinctive polit- ical concept because, even in Greek city-states or- ganized as tyrannies or oligarchies (rule by a small group), it bestowed a basic level of political and legal equality. Most important, it carried the ex- pectation (although not always the fulfillment) of equal treatment under the law for male citizens re- gardless of their social status or wealth. Women had the protection of the law, but they were barred from participation in politics on the grounds that female judgment was inferior to male. Regulations governing sexual behavior and control of property were stricter for women than for men.

In the most dramatic version of political equality, all free, adult male citizens in a Greek city- state shared in governance by attending and vot- ing in a political assembly, where the laws and policies of the community were ratified. The de- gree of power sharing varied. In oligarchic city- states where the social elite had a stranglehold on

politics, small groups or even a single family could dominate the process of legislating. Other city- states eventually introduced direct democracy, which gave all free men the right to propose laws and policies in the assembly and to serve on juries. Even in democratic city-states, however, citizens did not enjoy perfect political equality. The right to hold office, for example, could be restricted to citizens possessing a certain amount of property. Equality prevailed most strongly in the justice sys- tem, in which all male citizens were treated the same, regardless of wealth or status.

Because monarchy and legal inequality had characterized the history of the ancient Near East and Greece in earlier times, making equality the principle for the reorganization of Greek society and politics in the Archaic Age was a radical inno- vation. The polis — with its emphasis on equal protection of the laws for rich and poor alike — remained the preeminent form of political and so- cial organization in Greece until the beginning of Roman control six centuries later.

The Greek city-states’ free poor enjoyed the privileges and duties of citizenship alongside the rich throughout this long period. How the poor gained those privileges remains a mystery. The pop- ulation increase in the late Dark Age and the Ar- chaic Age was greatest among the poor. These families raised more children to help farm more land, which had been vacant after the depopula- tion brought on by the worst of the Dark Age. (See “Taking Measure,” page 55.) There was no prece- dent in Western civilization for extending even limited political and legal equality to this growing number of poorer people, but the Greek city-states did so.

Until recently, historians cited a hoplite revo- lution as the reason for expanded political rights, but recent research has undermined this interpre- tation. A hoplite was an infantryman who wore metal body armor and attacked with a thrusting spear; the hoplites constituted the main strike force of the militia that defended each city-state; there were no permanent Greek armies at this pe- riod. Hoplites marched into combat arrayed in a rectangular formation called a phalanx. Staying in line and working together were the secrets to suc- cessful phalanx tactics. Greeks had fought in pha- lanxes for a long time, but until the eighth century B.C.E. only the elite could afford hoplite equip- ment. In the eighth century B.C.E., however, a grow- ing number of men had become prosperous

The Creation of the Greek Polis, 750–500 b.c .e . 531000–500 b.c .e .

cult: In ancient Greece, a set of official, publicly funded reli- gious activities for a deity overseen by priests and priestesses.

hoplite: A heavily armed Greek infantryman. Hoplites consti- tuted the main strike force of a city-state’s militia.

enough to buy metal weapons, especially because the use of iron had made such weapons more read- ily available.

It seems probable that these new hoplites, be- cause they bought their own equipment and trained hard to learn phalanx tactics to defend their community, felt they should also enjoy po- litical rights. According to the hoplite revolution theory, these new hoplites forced the social elite to share political power by threatening to refuse to fight, which would cripple military defense. This interpretation correctly assumes that new hoplites had the power to demand and receive a voice in politics but ignores that hoplites were not poor. How then did poor men, too, win political rights? The hoplite revolution theory cannot account for the extension of rights to poor men. Furthermore, archaeology shows that not many men were wealthy enough to afford hoplite armor until the middle of the seventh century B.C.E., well after the earliest city-states had emerged.

The most likely explanation for the extension of political rights to the poor is that the impor-

tance of so-called light troops has been seriously underestimated in the study of Greek warfare and that poor men earned respect by fighting to de- fend the community, just as hoplites did. Fighting as lightly armed skirmishers, poor men could dis- rupt an enemy’s heavy infantry by slinging bar- rages of rocks or shooting arrows. It is also possible that tyrants — sole rulers who seized power for their families in some city-states (see “Tyranny in Corinth,” page 60)— boosted the status of poor men. Tyrants may have granted greater political rights to poor men as a means of gathering pop- ular support. No matter how the poor became cit- izens who possessed a rough equality of political freedom and legal rights with the rich, this un- precedented decision and its effect on politics con- stituted Greek society’s most daring innovation in the Archaic Age.

The Expansion of Greek Slavery. The growth of freedom and equality in Greece produced a corre- sponding expansion of slavery, as free citizens pro- tected their status by drawing harsh lines between themselves and slaves. Many slaves were war cap- tives; pirates or raiders seized others in the rough regions to the north and east of Greek territory. The fierce bands in these areas also captured and sold one another to slave dealers. Rich families prized Greek-speaking and educated slaves be- cause they could use them to tutor their children, since no schools existed in this period.

City-states as well as individuals owned slaves. Public slaves enjoyed limited independence, living on their own and performing specialized tasks. In Athens, for example, special slaves were trained to detect counterfeit coinage. Temple slaves belonged to the deity of the sanctuary, for whom they worked as servants.

Slaves made up about one-third of the total population in some city-states by the fifth century B.C.E. They became cheap enough that even middle- class people could afford one or two. Still, small landowners and their families continued to do much work themselves, sometimes hiring free laborers. Not even wealthy Greek landowners ac- quired large numbers of agricultural slaves because maintaining gangs of hundreds of enslaved work- ers year-round would have been uneconomical. Most crops required short periods of intense labor punctuated by long stretches of inactivity, and owners did not want to feed slaves who had no work.

Slaves did all kinds of jobs. Household slaves, often women, cleaned, cooked, fetched water from public fountains, helped the wife with the weav- ing, watched the children, accompanied the hus-

54 Chapter 2 ■ The Near Ea st and the Emergence of Greece 1000–500 b.c .e .

A Hoplite’s Breastplate This bronze armor protected the chest of a sixth-century B.C.E. hoplite. It had to be fitted to his individual body; the design is meant to match the musculature of his chest and symbolize his manliness. The Greek soldier would have worn a cloth or leather shirt underneath to prevent the worst chafing, but such a heavy and hot device could never be comfortable, and soldiers often removed them despite the danger. A slave would have carried the soldier’s armor for him, and the soldier would have donned his protective gear just before facing the enemy. (Olympia Museum © Archaeological Receipts Fund.)

band as he did the marketing, and performed other domestic chores. Neither female nor male slaves could refuse if their masters demanded sexual fa- vors. Owners often labored alongside their slaves in small manufacturing businesses and on farms, although rich landowners might appoint a slave supervisor to oversee work in the fields. Slaves toil- ing in the narrow, landslide-prone tunnels of Greece’s silver and gold mines had the worst lot: many died doing this dangerous, dark, backbreak- ing work.

Since slaves existed as property, not people, owners could legally beat or even kill them. But probably few owners hurt or executed slaves be- cause it made no economic sense — the master would be crippling or destroying his own prop- erty. Under the best conditions, household work- ers with humane masters lived lives free of violent punishment; they may have even been allowed to

join their owners’ families on excursions and at- tend religious rituals. However, without the right to a family of their own, without property, and without legal or political rights, slaves remained alienated from regular society. In the words of an ancient commentator, slaves lived lives of “work, punishment, and food.” Sometimes owners liber- ated their slaves, and some promised freedom at a future date to encourage their slaves to work hard. Those slaves who gained their freedom did not be- come citizens in Greek city-states but instead mixed into the population of metics — noncitizens officially allowed to live in the community. Freed slaves were still expected to help out their former masters when called on.

Greek slaves rarely revolted on a large scale, except in Sparta, because they were usually of too many different origins and nationalities and too scattered to organize. No Greeks called for the abo-

The Creation of the Greek Polis, 750–500 b.c .e . 551000–500 b.c .e .


Greek Family Size and Agricultural Labor in the Archaic Age Modern demographers have calculated the changing relationship in the Archaic Age between a farm family’s productive capacity to work the land and the number of people in the family over time. The graph shows how valuable healthy teenage children were to the family’s prosperity. When the family had two adolescent laborers available, it could farm over 50 percent more land, increasing its productivity significantly and thus making life more prosperous. (Adapted from Thomas W. Gallant, Risk and Survival in Ancient Greece: Reconstructing the Rural Domestic Economy (1991), Fig. 4.10.)

W or

k da







24 Third child leaves home

21 Second child leaves home

18 One

child leaves home

15 Two

adolescent laborers


12 One

adolescent laborer

9 Third child born

6 Second child born,

two parents die

3 One child born

0 Married couple

living with one set

of parents

Labor available assuming adult male working 175 days a year

Labor required to work 4 hectares*

Labor available assuming adult male working 200 days a year

Labor required to work 6 hectares*

*One hectare = 11,960 square yards (10,000 square meters); for comparison, one acre = 4,840 square yards.

lition of slavery. The expansion of slavery in the Archaic Age reduced more and more unfree per- sons to a state of absolute dependence; as Aris- totle later put it, slaves were “living tools.”

Greek Women’s Lives. Although only men had the right to participate in city-state politics and to vote, women counted as citizens legally, socially, and religiously. Citizenship gave women an impor- tant source of security and status because it guar- anteed them access to the justice system and a respected role in official religious activity. Citizen women had legal protection against being kid- napped for sale into slavery and recourse to the courts in disputes over property, although they usually had to have a man speak for them. The tra- ditional paternalism of Greek society, with men acting as “fathers” to regulate the lives of women and safeguard their interests (as defined by men) demanded that all women have male guardians. Before a woman’s marriage, her father served as her legal guardian; after marriage, her husband as- sumed the same role.

The expansion of slavery made households bigger and added new responsibilities for women. While their husbands farmed, participated in pol- itics, and met with their male friends, well-off wives managed the household: raising the chil- dren, supervising the preservation and preparation of food, keeping the family’s financial accounts, weaving fabric for clothing, directing the work of the slaves, and tending them when they were ill.

Poor women worked outside the home, hoeing and reaping in the fields and selling produce and small goods such as ribbons and trinkets in the market that occupied the center of every settle- ment. Women’s labor ensured the family’s eco- nomic self-sufficiency and allowed male citizens the time to participate in public life.

Women’s religious functions gave them free- dom of movement and prestige. Women left the home to attend funerals, state festivals, and public rituals. They had access, for example, to the initi- ation rights of the popular cult of Demeter at Eleu- sis, near Athens. Women had control over cults reserved exclusively for them and also performed important duties in other official cults; in fifth- century B.C.E. Athens, for example, women officiated as priestesses for more than forty different deities, with benefits including salaries paid by the state.

Marriage. Marriages were arranged, and every- one was expected to marry. A woman’s guardian — her father or, if he was dead, her uncle or her brother — would often engage her to another man’s son while she was still a child, perhaps as young as five. The engagement was a public event conducted in the presence of witnesses. The guardian on this occasion repeated the phrase that expressed the primary aim of the marriage: “I give you this woman for the plowing [procreation] of legitimate children.” The wedding took place when the girl was in her early teens and the groom ten to fifteen years older. Hesiod advised a man to

56 Chapter 2 ■ The Near Ea st and the Emergence of Greece 1000–500 b.c .e .

A Bride’s Preparation This special piece of pottery was designed to fit over a woman’s thigh to protect it while she sat down to spin wool. As a woman’s tool, it appropriately carried a picture from a woman’s life: a bride being helped to prepare for her wedding by her family, friends, and servants. The inscriptions indicate that this fifth-century B.C.E. piece shows the mythological bride Alcestis, famous for sacrificing herself to save her husband and then being rescued from Death by the hero Heracles. (Deutsches Archaeologisches Institut-Athens. DAI Neg. No. INM5126. Photo: E.M. Czako.)

marry a virgin in the fifth year after her first men- struation, when he himself was “not much younger than thirty and not much older.” A legal wedding consisted of the bride moving to her husband’s dwelling; the procession to his house served as the ceremony. The woman brought to the marriage a dowry of property (perhaps land yielding an in- come, if she was wealthy) and personal possessions that formed part of the new household’s assets and could be inherited by her children. Her husband was legally obliged to preserve the dowry and to return it in case of a divorce. A husband could ex- pel his wife from his home; a wife could legally leave her husband to return to the guardianship of her male relatives, but her husband could force her to stay.

Except in certain cases in Sparta, monogamy was the rule in ancient Greece, as was a nuclear family (husband, wife, and children living together without other relatives in the same house). Citizen men, married or not, were free to have sexual re- lations with slaves, foreign concubines, female prostitutes, or willing pre-adult citizen males. Cit- izen women, single or married, had no such free- dom. Sex between a wife and anyone other than her husband carried harsh penalties for both par- ties, except in Sparta.

Greek citizen men placed Greek citizen women under their guardianship both to regulate mar- riage and procreation and to maintain family property. According to Greek mythology, women were a necessary evil: men needed them to have a family but could expect troubles as the price. Zeus supposedly created the first woman, Pandora, as a punishment for men in his vendetta against Prometheus for giving fire to humans. To see what was in a container that had come as a gift from the gods, Pandora lifted its lid and accidentally freed the evils that had been penned inside into the pre- viously trouble-free world. When she finally slammed the lid back down, only hope still re- mained in the container. Hesiod described women as “big trouble” but thought any man who refused to marry to escape the “troublesome deeds of women” would come to “destructive old age” alone, with no heirs. In other words, a man needed a wife so that he could father children who would later care for him and preserve his property after his death. This paternalistic attitude allowed men to control human reproduction and consequently the distribution of property.

Review: How did the physical, social, and intellectual conditions of life in the Archaic Age promote the emer- gence of the Greek city-state?

New Directions for the Polis, 750–500 B.C.E. Greek city-states developed three forms of social and political organization based on citizenship: oligarchy, tyranny, and democracy. Sparta pro- vided Greece’s most famous example of an oli- garchy, in which a small number of men dominated policymaking in an assembly of male citizens. For a time Corinth had the best-known tyranny, in which one man seized control of the city-state, ruling it for the advantage of his family and loyal supporters, while acknowledging the cit- izenship of all (thereby distinguishing a tyrant from a king, who ruled over subjects). Athens de- veloped Greece’s best-known democracy by allow- ing all male citizens to participate in governing. Although assemblies of men had influenced some ancient Near Eastern kings (see “Contrasting Views,” page 58), Greek democracies gave their male citizens an unprecedented degree of equality and political power.

The Archaic Age polis is justly famous as the incubator for democratic politics; it also provided the environment in which Greeks created new forms of artistic expression and new ways of thought. In this period they formulated innovative ways of employing reason to understand the physical world, their relations to it, and their relationships with one another. This intellectual innovation laid the foundation for the gradual emergence of scientific thought and logic in Western civilization.

Oligarchy in Sparta, 700–500 B.C.E. Unique among the Greek city-states, Sparta orga- nized its society with laws directed at a single pur- pose: military readiness. This oligarchic city-state developed the mightiest infantry force in Greece during the Archaic Age. Its citizens were renowned for their militaristic self-discipline. Sparta’s urban center nestled in an easily defended valley on the Peloponnesian peninsula twenty-five miles from the Mediterranean coast. This sep- aration from the sea kept the Spartans from becoming adept sailors; their strength lay on land.

The Spartan oligarchy in- cluded three components of rule. First came the two hereditary,

New Directions for the Polis, 750–500 b.c .e . 571000–500 b.c .e .

Sanctuary� 0 25 50 kilometers

0 25 50 miles

Gulf of Corinth

Io n

ia n

S ea










Sparta and Corinth, 750–500 B.C.E.

58 Chapter 2 ■ The Near Ea st and the Emergence of Greece 1000–500 b.c .e .

According to the Greek historian Herodotus, after a group of seven eminent Persians overthrew a false king in 522 B.C.E., they debated what would be the best type of government to establish in Persia. Otanes argued for democracy (or, as he calls it, “putting things in the middle”), Megabyzus for oligarchy, and Darius for monarchy. Four of the seven voted in favor of monarchy, and Darius became the new, legitimate king. Herodotus also says that some Greeks re- fused to believe that the debate ever took place, perhaps because there was no evidence that any system other than monarchy had ever been possible in Persia. In any case, these speeches present the earliest recorded contrasting views on systems of government, with special attention to the characteristics of monarchy.

Otanes recommended to the Persians to put things in the middle by saying this: “It doesn’t seem right to me that one of us should be the monarch. There is nothing sweet or good about it. You know to what lengths violent arrogance [hubris] carried our former king Camybses, and you experienced that violent arro- gance under the recent false king. How could monarchy be a suit- able thing, when it allows the ruler to do whatever he wishes without any official accountability? Even the best of men would change his usual ideas if he had such a position of rule. Violent arrogance comes to him from the good things that he possesses, and jealousy has been part of human nature from the start. In having these two characteristics he has total bad character. Sated with his violent arrogance and jealousy, he does many outrageous things. A ruler with tyrannical power ought to be free of envy, for he possesses every good thing. But the opposite is true of his relations with the citizens. He is jealous if the best ones stay alive, delighted if the worst ones do; he’s the best at listening to accu- sations. He is most difficult of men to deal with: if you only praise him in moderation, he gets angry because he is not being ener- getically flattered, but if someone flatters him energetically, he gets angry because the person is a flatterer. And now I am going to say the worst things of all: he overturns traditional customs, he rapes women, and he kills people without a trial. When the people are the ruler, the government has the best name: equal- ity before the law. It does nothing of the things that a monarch does. It fills offices by lottery, its rule is subject to official ac- countability, and it has the community make all decisions. My judgment is that we should get rid of the monarchy and increase the power of the masses. For in the many is everything.”

Otanes offered this judgment, but Megabyzus said they should entrust the government to an oligarchy, saying this: “What Otanes said about not having tyranny, I agree with, but as for giving power to the masses, he has missed the best judgment.

There is nothing less intelligent or more violently arrogant than a useless crowd. It is certainly intolerable for men to flee the vi- olent arrogance of the tyrant, only to fall victim to the violent arrogance of the people, who have no restraints upon them. If a tyrant does something, he does it from knowledge, but there is no knowledge in the people. How could someone have knowl- edge when he hasn’t been taught anything fine and doesn’t know it innately? He rushes into things without thought, like a river in its winter flood. Let those who intend evil to the Persians push for democracy, but let us choose a group of the best men and endow them with power. For we will be part of this group, and it is likely that the best plans will come from the best men.”

Megabyzus offered this judgment, and Darius was the third to reveal his judgment, saying: “Megabyzus seems to me to speak correctly in what he says about the masses, but not correctly about oligarchy. For if we consider for argument’s sake that all three systems are the best they can be — the best democracy, the best oligarchy, the best monarchy — then monarchy is far supe- rior. For clearly nothing is better than the one best man. Relying on judgment that is the best he would direct the masses fault- lessly, and he would be especially good at making plans against hostile men without them being divulged. In an oligarchy, where many men want to use their excellence for common interests, in- tense private hatreds tend to arise. For each one wants to be the head man and to win with his judgments, and they create great hatreds among themselves. From this come violent factions, and from factions comes murder, and from murder the system turns to monarchy. And in this one sees by how much monarchy is the best. Again, when the people rule, it is impossible that there not be evildoing. Moreover, when there is evildoing for the common interests, hatred doesn’t arise among the evildoers; instead, strong friendships arise. For the evildoers act together to corrupt the common interests. This sort of thing happens until one man be- comes the head of the people and stops these evildoers. With these actions he amazes the people, and being the object of amazement he clearly becomes a monarch. So, in this way, too, it is clear that monarchy is the strongest. To say it all together in one word: from where did our [i.e., Persian] freedom come, and who gave it to us? From the people, or an oligarchy, or a monarch? It is my judgment that, having obtained our freedom through one man, we should maintain our freedom in the same way, and we should also not do away with our sound traditional customs; for this is not better.”

Source: Herodotus, The Histories, Book 3, chapters 80–82. Translation by Thomas R. Martin.


Persians Debate Democracy, Oligarchy, and Monarchy

prestigious military leaders called kings, who served as the state’s religious heads and the gener- als of its army. Despite their title, they were not monarchs but just one part of the ruling oligarchy. The second part was a council of twenty-eight men over sixty years old (the elders), and the third part consisted of five annually elected officials called ephors (overseers), who made policy and enforced the laws.

In principle, legislation had to be approved by an assembly of all Sparta’s free adult males, who were called the Alike to stress their common sta- tus and purpose. The assembly had only limited power to amend the proposals put before it, how- ever, and the council would withdraw a proposal when the assembly’s reaction proved negative. “If the people speak crookedly,” according to Spartan tradition, “the elders and the leaders of the people shall be withdrawers.” The council would then re- submit the proposal after marshaling support for its passage.

Spartan society demanded strict compliance with all laws. When the ephors took office, for ex- ample, they issued an official proclamation to Sparta’s males: “Shave your mustache and obey the laws.” The laws’ importance was emphasized by the official story that the god Apollo had given them to Sparta. Unlike other Greeks, the Spartans never wrote down their laws. Instead, they preserved their system with a unique, highly structured way of life. All Spartan citizens were expected to put service to their city-state before personal concerns because their state’s survival was continually threatened by its own economic foundation: the great mass of Greek slaves, called helots, who did almost all the work for citizens.

The Helots. A helot was a slave owned by the Spartan city-state; such slaves came from neigh- boring parts of Greece that the Spartans con- quered. Most helots lived in Messenia, to the west, which Sparta had conquered by around 700 B.C.E. The helots outnumbered Sparta’s free citizens. Harshly treated by their Spartan masters, helots constantly looked for chances to revolt.

Helots had a semblance of family life because they were expected to produce children to main- tain their population, and they could own some personal possessions and practice their religion. They labored as farmers and household slaves so that Spartan citizens would not have to do such nonmilitary work. Spartan men wore their hair

very long to show they were warriors rather than laborers, for whom long hair was inconvenient.

Helots lived under the constant threat of offi- cially sanctioned violence. Every year the ephors formally declared war between Sparta and the helots, allowing any Spartan to kill a helot with- out legal penalty or fear of offending the gods by unsanctioned murder. By beating the helots fre- quently, forcing them to get drunk in public as an object lesson to young Spartans, and humiliating them by making them wear dog-skin caps, the Spartans emphasized their slaves’ “otherness.” In this way Spartans created a moral barrier to jus- tify their harsh abuse of fellow Greeks. Contrast- ing the freedom of Spartan citizens from ordinary work with the lot of the helots, a later Athenian observed, “Sparta is the home of the freest of the Greeks, and of the most enslaved.”

Spartan Communal Life. With helots to work the fields, male citizens could devote themselves to full-time preparation for war, training to protect their state from hostile neighbors and its own slaves. Boys lived at home only until their seventh year, when they were sent to live in barracks with other males until they were thirty. They spent most of their time exercising, hunting, practicing with weapons, and learning Spartan values by listening to tales of bravery and heroism at communal meals, where adult males ate most of the time in- stead of at home. Discipline was strict, and the boys were purposely underfed so that they would learn stealth by stealing food. If they were caught, punishment and disgrace followed immediately. One famous Spartan tale shows how seriously boys were supposed to fear such failure: having success- fully stolen a fox, which he was hiding under his clothing, a Spartan youth died because he let the panicked animal rip out his insides rather than be detected in the theft. A Spartan male who could not survive the tough training was publicly dis- graced and denied the status of being an Alike.

Spending so much time in shared quarters schooled Sparta’s young men in their society’s val- ues. This communal existence took the place of a Spartan boy’s family and school when he was growing up and remained his main social environ- ment even after he reached adulthood. There he learned to call all older men Father to emphasize that his primary loyalty was to the group instead of his biological family. The environment trained him for the one honorable occupation for Spartan men: obedient soldier. A seventh-century B.C.E. poet expressed the Spartan male ideal: “Know that it is good for the city-state and the whole people

New Directions for the Polis, 750–500 b.c .e . 591000–500 b.c .e .

helot: A slave owned by the Spartan city-state; such slaves came from parts of Greece conquered by the Spartans.

when a man takes his place in the front row of war- riors and stands his ground without flinching.”

An adolescent boy’s life often involved what in today’s terminology would be called a homosex- ual relationship, although the ancient concepts of heterosexuality and homosexuality did not match modern notions. An older male would choose a teenager as a special favorite, in many cases engag- ing him in sexual relations. Their bond of affec- tion was meant to make each ready to die for the other, at whose side he would march into battle. Numerous city-states included this form of homo- sexuality among their customs, although some forbade it. The physical relationship could be controversial; the Athenian author Xenophon (c. 430–355 B.C.E.) wrote a work on the Spartan way of life denying that sex with boys existed there because he thought it demeaning to the Spartans’ reputation for virtue. However, the evidence shows such relationships did exist in Sparta and else-

where. (The first modern histories of Greece sup- pressed discussion of this topic because their writ- ers saw it as a form of child abuse.)

In such relationships the elder partner (the “lover”) was supposed to help educate the young

man (the “beloved”) in politics and commu- nity values, and not just exploit him for physical pleasure. The relationship would not be lasting or exclusive: beloveds would grow up to get married, as lovers were, and would eventually become the older member of a new pair. Sex between adult males was considered disgraceful, as was sex between females of all ages (at least according to men).

Spartan women were known throughout the Greek world for their personal freedom.

Since their husbands were so rarely at home, women directed the households, which in-

cluded servants, daughters, and sons until they left for their communal training. Consequently, Spartan women exercised more power in the household than did women elsewhere in Greece. They could own property, including land. Wives were expected to stay physically fit so that they could bear healthy children to keep up the popu- lation. They were also expected to drum Spartan values into their children. One mother became leg- endary for handing her son his shield on the eve of battle and admonishing him, “Come back with it or [lying dead] on it.”

Demography determined Sparta’s long-term fate. The population of Sparta was never large; adult males — who made up the army — numbered between eight and ten thousand in the Archaic period. Over time, the problem of producing enough children to keep the Spartan army from shrinking became desperate, probably because losses in war far outnumbered births. Men became legally required to marry, with bachelors punished by fines and public ridicule. If everyone agreed, a woman could legitimately have children by a man other than her husband.

Because the Spartans’ survival depended on the exploitation of enslaved Greeks, they believed changes in their way of life must be avoided be- cause any change might make them vulnerable to internal revolts. Some Greeks criticized the Spar- tan way of life as repressive and monotonous, but the Spartans’ discipline and respect for their laws gained them widespread admiration.

Tyranny in Corinth, 657–585 B.C.E. In some city-states, competition among the social elite for political leadership became so bitter that

60 Chapter 2 ■ The Near Ea st and the Emergence of Greece 1000–500 b.c .e .

Hunt Painting in a Spartan Cup This black-figure drinking cup with a picture of a hunt on its interior was made in Sparta about 560 B.C.E. Hunting large, dangerous wild game was an important way for Spartan men to show their courage and acquire meat for their communal meals. The painter has chosen a “porthole” style, as if we were looking through a circular window. The alignment of the figures’ legs, torsos, and heads reflect the influence of Egyptian art. By the classical period, the Spartans’ overwhelming military focus ended their creation of art. (Reunion Des Musées Nationaux / Art Resource, NY.)

a single family would suppress all its rivals and es- tablish itself in rule for a time. The family’s leader thus became a tyrant, a dictator who gained polit- ical dominance by force and was backed by his rel- atives and other supporters. Tyrants usually rallied support by promising privileges to poor citizens in city-states where they lacked full citizenship or felt disfranchised in political life. Successful tyrants kept their elite rivals at bay by cultivating the good- will of the masses with economic policies favoring their interests, such as public employment schemes. Since few tyrants successfully passed their popu- larity on to their heirs, tyrannies tended to be short-lived.

Tyrants usually preserved their city-states’ ex- isting laws and political institutions. If a city-state had an assembly, for example, the tyrant would al- low it to continue to meet, expecting it to follow his direction. Although today the word tyrant in- dicates a brutal or unwanted leader, tyrants in Ar- chaic Greece did not always fit that description.

Ordinary Greeks evaluated tyrants according to their behavior, opposing the ruthless and violent ones but welcoming the fair and helpful ones.

The most famous early tyranny arose at Corinth in 657 B.C.E., when the family of Cypselus rebelled against the city’s harsh oligarchic leader- ship. This takeover attracted wide attention in the Greek world because Corinth was such an impor- tant city-state. Its location on the isthmus control- ling land access to the Peloponnese and a huge amount of seaborne trade made it the most pros- perous city-state of the Archaic Age (see Map 2.4). Cypselus rallied popular support for his political coup. “He became one of the most admired of Corinth’s citizens because he was courageous, pru- dent, and helpful to the people, unlike the oli- garchs in power, who were insolent and violent,” according to a later historian. Cypselus’s son suc- ceeded him at his death in 625 B.C.E. and aggres- sively continued Corinth’s economic expansion by founding colonies to increase trade. He also

New Directions for the Polis, 750–500 b.c .e . 611000–500 b.c .e .

The Archaic Temple of Apollo at Corinth This temple was built in the sixth century B.C.E. near the base of Corinth’s acropolis, the massive rock formation soaring in the background. One of the earliest stone temples from Greece, it was constructed in Doric style, with its fluted columns resting directly on the foundation and topped by flattened disks. Earthquakes over the centuries have toppled most of the temple’s columns and all its walls. (The walls in the foreground are from later buildings.) (The Art Archive/ Dagli Orti.)

pursued commercial contacts with Egypt. Unlike his father, the son lost popular support by ruling harshly. He held on to power until his death in 585 B.C.E., but the hostility he had provoked soon led to the overthrow of his heir. The social elite, to pre- vent tyranny, installed an oligarchic government based on a board of officials and a council.

Democracy in Athens, 632–500 B.C.E. Only democracy, which the Greeks invented, insti- tuted genuine political power sharing in the polis. Athens, located at the southeastern corner of cen- tral Greece, became the most famous of the dem- ocratic city-states because its government gave political rights to the greatest number of people, financed magnificent temples and public build- ings, and, in the fifth century B.C.E., became mil- itarily strong enough to force numerous other city-states to follow Athenian leadership in a mar- itime empire. Athenian democracy did not reach its full development until the mid-fifth century B.C.E., but its first steps in the Archaic Age allowed all male citizens to participate meaningfully in making laws and administering justice. Democ- racy has remained so important in Western civi- lization that understanding why and how Athenian democracy worked remains a vital historical quest.

Athens’s early development of a populous middle class was a crucial factor in opening this

new path for Western civiliza- tion. The Athenian population apparently expanded at a phe- nomenal rate when economic conditions improved rapidly from about 800 to 700 B.C.E. The ready availability of good farmland in Athenian territory and opportunities for seaborne trade along the long coastline allowed many families to achieve modest prosperity. These hardworking entrepre- neurs evidently felt that their self-won economic success en-

titled them to a say in government. The democratic cohesiveness forged by the Athenian masses was evident as early as 632 B.C.E., when the people ral- lied “from the fields in a body,” according to Herodotus, to foil the attempt by an elite Athen- ian to install a tyranny.

By the seventh century B.C.E., all freeborn adult male citizens of Athens had the right to vote

on public matters in the assembly, whose meetings regularly attracted several thousand participants. They also elected high officials called archons, who ran the judicial system by rendering verdicts in dis- putes and criminal accusations. Members of the elite dominated these offices; because archons re- ceived no pay, poor men could not afford to serve.

An extended economic crisis beginning in the late seventh century B.C.E. almost suffocated Athens’s infant democracy. The first attempt to solve the problem was the emergency appointment around 621 B.C.E. of a man named Draco to revise the laws. Like the Mesopotamian kings before them, Athens’s leaders believed that reforming and clarifying the laws would bring social harmony through justice. Unfortunately, Draco’s changes, which made death the penalty for even minor crimes, proved too harsh to work; later Greeks said Draco (whose harshness inspired the word dracon- ian) had written his laws in blood, not ink. By 600 B.C.E., economic conditions had become so dire that poor farmers had to borrow constantly from richer neighbors and deeply mortgage their land. As the crisis grew worse, impoverished citizens were sold into slavery to pay off debts. Civil war seemed next.

Solon’s Democratic Reforms. Desperate, Atheni- ans appointed another emergency official in 594 B.C.E., a war hero named Solon. To head off vio- lence, Solon gave both rich and poor something of what they wanted, a compromise called the “shak- ing off of obligations.” He canceled private debts, which helped the poor but displeased the rich; he decided not to redistribute land, which placated the wealthy while disappointing the poor. He banned selling citizens into slavery to settle debts and liberated citizens who had become slaves in this way. His elimination of debt slavery was a sig- nificant recognition of what today would be called citizen rights, and Solon celebrated his success in poetry: “To Athens, their home established by the gods, I brought back many who had been sold into slavery, some justly, some not.”

Solon balanced political power between rich and poor by reordering Athens’s traditional rank- ing of citizens into four groups. Most important, he made the top-ranking division depend solely on wealth, not birth. This change eliminated formal aristocracy at Athens. The groupings did not affect a man’s treatment at law, only his eligibility for government office. The higher a man’s ranking, the

62 Chapter 2 ■ The Near Ea st and the Emergence of Greece 1000–500 b.c .e .

Solon: Athenian political reformer whose changes promoted early democracy.



0 250 500 kilometers

0 250 500 miles










Athens and Central Greece, 750–500 B.C.E.

higher the post to which he could be elected; men at the poorest level, called laborers, were not eligi- ble for any office. Solon did, however, confirm the laborers’ right to vote in the legislative assembly. His classification scheme was another step toward democracy because it allowed for upward social mobility: a man who increased his wealth could move up the scale of eligibility for office.

Since the process of making decisions by per- suasion can be glacially slow in large groups, the creation of a smaller council to prepare the agenda for the assembly was a crucial development in making Athenian democracy efficient. It may have been Solon (some evidence suggests the council came later) who created the council of four hun- dred men that decided what the assembly needed to discuss. The practice of choosing council mem- bers annually by lottery — the most democratic method possible—from the adult male citizen body prevented the social elite from capturing too many seats.

Even more than his changes to the govern- ment, Solon’s two changes in the judicial system promoted democratic principles of equality. First, he mandated that any male citizen could bring charges on behalf of any crime victim. Second, he gave people the right to appeal an archon’s judg- ment to the assembly. With these two measures, Solon empowered ordinary citizens in the admin- istration of justice. Characteristically, he balanced these democratic reforms by granting broader powers to the “Council which meets on the Hill of the god of war Ares,” the Areopagus Council. This select body, limited to ex-archons, wielded great power because its members judged the most im- portant cases —accusations against archons them- selves.

Solon’s reforms broke the traditional pattern of government limited to the elite; they extended power broadly through the citizen body and cre- ated a system of law that applied more equally than before to all the community’s free men. A critic once challenged Solon, “Do you actually be- lieve your fellow citizens’ injustice and greed can be kept in check this way? Written laws are more like spiders’ webs than anything else: they tie up the weak and the small fry who get stuck in them, but the rich and the powerful tear them to shreds.” Solon replied that communal values assure the rule of law: “People abide by their agreements when neither side has anything to gain by break- ing them. I am writing laws for the Athenians in such a way that they will clearly see it is to every- one’s advantage to obey the laws rather than to break them.”

Some elite Athenians wanted oligarchy and therefore vehemently disagreed with Solon. Their jealousy of one another kept them from uniting, but the unrest they caused opened the door to tyranny at Athens. Peisistratus, helped by his upper-class friends and the poor whose interests he championed, made himself tyrant in 546 B.C.E. Like the Corinthian tyrants, he promoted the eco- nomic, cultural, and architectural development of Athens and curried the masses’ favor. He helped poorer men, for example, by hiring them to build roads, a huge temple to Zeus, and fountains to in- crease the supply of drinking water. He boosted Athens’s economy and its image by minting new coins stamped with Athena’s owl and organizing a great annual festival honoring the god Dionysus that attracted people from near and far to see its musical and dramatic performances.

Peisistratus’s family could not maintain pub- lic goodwill after his death. Hippias, his eldest son, ruled harshly and was denounced as unjust by a rival elite family. These rivals convinced the Spar- tans, the self-proclaimed champions of Greek freedom, to “liberate” Athens from tyranny by ex- pelling Hippias and his family in 510 B.C.E.

Cleisthenes, “Father of Athenian Democracy.” Peisistratus’s support for the interests of ordinary people evidently had the unintended consequence of making them think that they deserved political equality. In this way, tyranny at Athens opened the way to the most important step in developing Athenian democracy, the reforms of Cleisthenes. A member of the social elite, in 508 B.C.E. Cleis- thenes found himself losing against rivals for elec- tion to office. He seized the opportunity to capitalize on popular feeling by offering greater democracy to the masses as his political program. Ordinary people so strongly favored his plan, espe- cially his promise of equality before the law, that they spontaneously rallied to repel a Spartan army that Cleisthenes’ bitterest rival had convinced Sparta’s leaders to send to block the reforms.

By about 500 B.C.E. Cleisthenes had ensured direct participation in government by as many adult male citizens as possible. First he created constituent units for the city-state’s new political organization by grouping country villages and ur- ban neighborhoods into units called demes. The demes chose council members annually by lottery in proportion to the size of their populations. To

New Directions for the Polis, 750–500 b.c .e . 631000–500 b.c .e .

demes (DEEMZ): The villages and city neighborhoods that formed the constituent political units of Athenian democracy in the late Archaic Age.

allow for greater participation, Solon’s council of four hundred was expanded to five hundred mem- bers. Finally, Cleisthenes required candidates for public office to be spread widely throughout the demes.

Cleisthenes helped his reforms succeed by grounding them in preexisting social conditions favorable to democracy. The creation of demes, for example, suggests that democratic notions stemmed from traditions of small-community life, in which each man was entitled to his say in run- ning local affairs and had to persuade—not force —others to agree. For his reforms, Athenians remembered Cleisthenes as the father of their democracy. It took another fifty years of political struggle, however, before Athenian democracy reached its full development.

New Ways of Thought and Expression, 630–500 B.C.E. The idea that persuasion, rather than force or sta- tus, should drive political decisions matched the spirit of intellectual change rippling through Greece in the late Archaic Age. In city-states all

over the Greek world, artists, poets, and philoso- phers pursued new ways of thought and new forms of expression. Through their contacts with the Near East, the Greeks encountered traditions to learn from and, in some cases, to alter for their own purposes.

Archaic Age Art and Literature. Early in the Ar- chaic period Greek artists took inspiration from the Near East, but by the sixth century B.C.E., they had introduced innovations of their own. In ceramics, painters experimented with different clays and colors to depict vivid scenes from mythology and daily life. They became expert at rendering three-dimensional figures in an increas- ingly realistic style. Sculptors gave their statues bal- anced poses and calm, smiling faces.

Greek poets built on the Near Eastern tradi- tion of poetry expressing personal emotions by creating a new form called lyric poetry. This po- etry sprang from popular song and was performed to the accompaniment of the lyre (a kind of harp that gives its name to the poetry). Greek lyric po- ems were short, rhythmic, and diverse in subject. Lyric poets wrote songs both for choruses and for individual performers. Choral poems honored deities on public occasions, celebrated famous events in a city-state’s history, praised victors in athletic contests, and enlivened weddings.

Solo lyric poems generated controversy be- cause they valued individual expression and opin- ion over conventional views. Solon wrote poems justifying his reforms. Other poets criticized tra- ditional values, such as strength in war. Sappho, a lyric poet from Lesbos born about 630 B.C.E. and famous for her poems on love, wrote,“Some would say the most beautiful thing on our dark earth is an army of cavalry, others of infantry, others of ships, but I say it’s whatever a person loves.” In this poem Sappho was expressing her longing for a woman she loved, who was now far away. Archilochus of Paros, who probably lived in the early seventh century B.C.E., became famous for poems mocking militarism, lamenting friends lost at sea, and regretting love affairs gone wrong. He became infamous for his lines about throwing away his shield in battle so that he could run away to save his life: “Oh, the hell with it; I can get an- other one just as good.” When he taunted a fam- ily in verse after the father had ended Archilochus’s affair with one of his daughters, the power of his ridicule reportedly caused the father and his two daughters to commit suicide.

64 Chapter 2 ■ The Near Ea st and the Emergence of Greece 1000–500 b.c .e .

Vase Painting of a Music Lesson This sixth-century B.C.E. red-figure vase shows a young man (seated on the left, without a beard) holding a lyre and watching an older, bearded man play the same instrument, while an adolescent boy and an older man listen. They all wear wreaths to show they are in a festive mood. The youth is evidently a pupil learning to play. Instruction in performing music and singing lyric poetry was considered an essential part of an upper-class Greek male’s education. The teacher’s lyre has a sounding board made from a turtle shell, as was customary for this instrument. (Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glypothek.)

Sappho (SAF oh): The most famous woman lyric poet of ancient Greece, a native of Lesbos.

Greek Philosophy and Science. The study of philosophy (“love of wisdom”) began in the sev- enth and sixth centuries B.C.E. when Greek thinkers created prose writing to express their innovative ideas, in particular their radically new explana- tions of the human world and its relation to the gods. Most of these philosophers lived in Ionia, on Anatolia’s west- ern coast, where they came in contact with Near Eastern knowl- edge in astronomy, mathematics, and myth. Because there were no formal schools in the Archaic Age, philosophers communicated their ideas by teaching privately and giving public lectures. Some also composed poetry to explain their theories. People who stud- ied with these philosophers or heard their presentations helped spread the new ideas.

Working from Babylonian discoveries about the regular movements of the stars and plan- ets, Ionian philosophers such as Thales (c. 625–545 B.C.E.) and Anaximander (c. 610–540 B.C.E.), both of Miletus, reached the revolutionary conclusion that unchanging laws of nature (rather than gods’ whims) governed the universe. Pythagoras, who emigrated from the island of Samos to the Greek city-state Croton in southern Italy about 530 B.C.E., taught that numerical relationships explained the world; he initiated the Greek study of mathemat- ics and the numerical aspects of musical harmony.

Ionian philosophers insisted that natural phe- nomena were neither random nor arbitrary. They applied the word cosmos — meaning “an orderly arrangement that is beautiful”— to the universe. The cosmos encompassed not only the motions of heavenly bodies but also the weather, the growth of plants and animals, and human health. Because the universe was ordered, it was knowable; because it was knowable, thought and research could ex- plain it. Philosophers therefore looked for the first or universal cause of all things, a quest that scien- tists still pursue. These first philosophers believed they needed to give reasons for their conclusions and to persuade others by arguments based on ev- idence; that is, they believed in logic. This new way of thought, called rationalism, became the foun- dation for the study of science and philosophy. This rule-based view of the causes of events and

physical phenomena contrasted sharply with the traditional mythological view. Naturally, many people had difficulty accepting such a startling change in their understanding of the world, and the older tradition of explaining events as the work of deities lived on alongside the new approach.

These Greek philosophers deeply influenced later times by being the first to separate scien- tific thinking from myth and re- ligion. Their idea that people must give reasons to justify their beliefs, rather than simply make assertions that others must accept without evidence, was their most important achievement. This in- sistence on rationalism, coupled with the belief that the world could be understood as some- thing other than the plaything of the gods, gave people hope that they could improve their lives through their own efforts. As Xenophanes of Colophon (c.

570–c. 478 B.C.E.) concluded, “The gods have not revealed all things from the beginning to mortals, but, by seeking, human beings find out, in time, what is better.” This saying expressed the value Ar- chaic Age philosophers gave to intellectual free- dom, corresponding to the value that citizens gave to political freedom in the city-state.

Review: What were the main differences among the various forms of government in the Greek city-states?

Conclusion Over different spans of time and with different re- sults, both the Near East and Greece recovered from their Dark Ages, brought on by the calami- ties of the period 1200–1000 B.C.E. After its Dark Age, the Near East quickly revived its traditional pattern of social and political organization: empire with a strong central authority (monarchy). The Neo-Assyrians, the Neo-Babylonians, and the Per- sians succeeded one another as imperial powers. The moral dualism of Persian religion, Zoroastri- anism, influenced later religions. The Hebrews’ de- velopment of monotheism based on scripture changed the course of religious history in Western civilization.

Greece’s recovery from its Dark Age produced a new form of political and social organization: the

Conclusion 651000–500 b.c .e .

rationalism: The philosophic idea that people must justify their claims by logic and reason, not myth.

0 50 100 kilometers

0 50 100 miles

Aegean Sea







IONIA Athens



Ionia and the Aegean, 750–500 B.C.E.

polis, a city-state based on citizenship and shared governance. The rapidly growing population of the Archaic Age developed the sense of communal identity, personal freedom, and divine justice in- stituted by citizens that underlay the city-state. The degree of power sharing and the form of the po- litical system varied in the Greek city-states. Some, like Sparta, were oligarchies; in others, like Corinth, rule was by tyranny. Over time, Athens developed the most thoroughgoing democracy, in which political power extended to the greatest number of male citizens.

Just as revolutionary as the invention of democracy were the new methods of artistic expression and new ways of thought that Greeks developed. Building on Near Eastern traditions, Greek poets created lyric poetry to express per- sonal emotion. Greek philosophers argued that laws of nature controlled the universe and that hu- mans could discover these laws through reason and research, thereby establishing rationalism as the conceptual basis for science and philosophy.

The political and intellectual innovations of the Greek Archaic Age, which so profoundly af- fected later Western civilization, were almost lost to history. By about 500 B.C.E., Persia’s awesome empire threatened the Greek world and its new values.

For Further Exploration ■ For suggested references, including Web sites,

for topics in this chapter, see page SR-1 at the end of the book.

■ For additional primary-source material from this period, see Chapter 2 in Sources of THE MAKING OF THE WEST, Third Edition.

■ For Web sites and documents related to topics in this chapter, see Make History at

66 Chapter 2 ■ The Near Ea st and the Emergence of Greece 1000–500 b.c .e .

Mediterranean Civilizations, c. 500 B.C.E. At the end of the sixth century B.C.E., the Persian Empire was far and away the most powerful civilization touching the Mediterranean. Its riches and its unity gave it resources that no Phoenician or Greek city could match. The Phoenicians dominated economically in the western Mediterranean, while the Greek city-states in Sicily and southern Italy rivaled the power of those in the heartland. In Italy, the Etruscans were the most powerful civilization; the Romans were still a small community struggling to replace monarchy with a republic.

0 250 500 kilometers

0 250 500 miles




Greek settlements

Phoenician settlements

Strait of Gibraltar

Black Sea


R ed


M e d i t e r r a n e a n S e a

N ile


Tigris R.

Euphrates R.

Danube R.

D nieper R.

Loir e R.

Ebro R.























Corsica Rome

Cádiz Carthage

Hippo Syracuse



Al Mina



Corinth Athens





Miletus Sardis


Marseille (Massila)





� �

� �

� �


Chapter Review 671000–500 b.c .e .

Key Terms and People Making Connections

Review Questions

1. What characteristics made the Greek city-state a different form of political and social organization from that in Near Eastern city-states?

2. How were the ideas of the Ionian philosophers different from mythic traditions?

1. In what ways was religion important in the Near East from c. 1000 B.C.E. to c. 500 B.C.E.?

2. What factors proved most important in the Greek recov- ery from the troubles of the Dark Age?

3. How did the physical, social, and intellectual conditions of life in the Archaic Age promote the emergence of the Greek city-state?

4. What were the main differences among the various forms of government in the Greek city-states?

Chapter Review

Cyrus (37)

moral dualism (39)

Torah (40)

Diaspora (42)

aretê (44)

Homer (44)

polis (47)

cult (53)

hoplite (53)

helot (59)

Solon (62)

demes (63)

Sappho (64)

rationalism (65) For practice quizzes, a customized study plan, and other study tools, see the Online Study Guide at

Important Events

1000–750 B.C.E. Greece experiences its Dark Age

900 B.C.E. Neo-Assyrian Empire emerges

800 B.C.E. Greeks learn to write with an alphabet

776 B.C.E. Olympic Games founded in Greece

750 B.C.E. Greeks begin to create the polis

700 B.C.E. Spartans conquer Messenia and enslave its inhabitants as helots

700–500 B.C.E. Ionian philosophers invent rationalism

657 B.C.E. Cypselus becomes tyrant in Corinth

630 B.C.E. The lyric poet Sappho is born

597 and 586 B.C.E. Hebrews are exiled to Babylon

594 B.C.E. Solon’s reforms promote early democracy in Athens

546–510 B.C.E. Peisistratus’s family rules Athens as tyrants

539 B.C.E. Persian king Cyrus captures Babylon and permits the Hebrews to return to Canaan

508–500 B.C.E. Cleisthenes’ reforms secure democracy in Athens

A failure in international negotiations fueled the greatest foreigndanger ever to threaten Greece. In 507 B.C.E., Athens feared anattack from Sparta, its more powerful rival. The Athenian assembly therefore sent ambassadors to the Persian king, Darius I

(r. 522–486 B.C.E.), to plead for a defensive alliance. The Athenian diplo-

mats arranged for a meeting with the king’s governor in Ionia (the west-

ern coast of modern Turkey), who controlled the Greeks living in that

region. After the Athenians made their plea, the governor asked, “But

who in the world are these people and where do they live that they are

begging for an alliance with the Persians?” The mutual misunderstand-

ings that resulted from this confused exchange helped start a prolonged

conflict between mainland Greece and Persia in the early fifth century


This incident reveals external and internal reasons why war dom-

inated Greece’s history throughout that century, first with Greeks fight-

ing Persians and then with Greeks fighting Greeks. The Persian king

was eager to make more Greek city-states his subjects (those in Ionia

had been his subjects for forty years) because their trade and growing

wealth made them desirable prizes and because the Persians’ traditions

encouraged their kings to expand their empire. Unity seemed the

Greeks’ best defense, but the mainland city-states were so intensely

competitive and suspicious of each other that they had never yet been

able to come together to combat the Persians, not even to try to liber-

ate the Greek city-states in Ionia from Persian control. Athens and

Wars between Persia and Greece, 499–479 B.C.E. 71 • From the Ionian Revolt to the Battle of

Marathon, 499–490 B.C.E. • The Great Persian Invasion,

480–479 B.C.E.

Athenian Confidence in the Golden Age, 478–431 B.C.E. 74 • The Establishment of the

Athenian Empire • Radical Democracy and Pericles’

Leadership, 461–431 B.C.E. • The Urban Landscape

Tradition and Innovation in Athens’s Golden Age 81 • Religious Tradition in a Period

of Change • Women, Slaves, and Metics • Innovations in Education and

Philosophy • The Development of Greek Tragedy • The Development of Greek Comedy

The End of the Golden Age, 431–403 B.C.E. 96 • The Peloponnesian War, 431–404 B.C.E. • Athens Humbled: Tyranny and

Civil War, 404–403 B.C.E.


The Greek Golden Age C. 500–C. 400 B.C.E.



Greek against Persian in Hand-to-Hand Combat (detail) This red-figure painting appears on the interior of the kind of cup that the Greeks used to drink wine. Painted about 480 B.C.E. (during the Persian Wars), it shows a Greek hoplite (armored infantry man) striking a Persian warrior in hand-to-hand combat with swords. The Greek has lost his principal weapon, a spear, and the Persian can no longer shoot his, the bow and arrow. The Greek artist has designed the painting to express multiple messages: the Persian’s colorful outfit with sleeves and pants stresses the “otherness” of the enemy in Greek eyes, and their serene expressions at such a desperate moment dignify the horror of killing in war. Greek warriors often had heroic symbols painted on their shields, such as the winged horse Pegasus, an allusion to the brave exploits of Bellerophon. (© The Trustees of the National Museums of Scotland.)

Sparta so mistrusted each other that the Atheni- ans appealed to foreigners for help against fellow Greeks.

Conflicting interests and mutual misunder- standings between Persia and Greece ignited a great conflict at the start of the fifth century B.C.E.: the so-called Persian Wars (499–479 B.C.E.), in which Persia invaded Greece. The Persian inva- sions threatened the independence of the Greek mainland and Aegean islands. So dire was the threat that thirty-one Greek states (out of hun- dreds) temporarily laid aside their traditional competition to form an alliance to defeat the Per- sians; in victory, however, they lost their unity and fell to fighting one another. In the midst of nearly constant warfare spanning the century, Greeks (es- pecially in Athens) created what later ages judged to be their most famous innovations in architec- ture, art, and theater. These cultural achievements have led historians to call this period from around 500 to around 400 B.C.E. the Golden Age. This Golden Age is the first part of the period called the Classical Age of Greece, which lasted from around 500 B.C.E. to the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C.E.

Athens provides almost all of the surviving evidence for the Golden Age because most of the cultural achievements took place there and be- cause the surviving literary and archaeological sources preserve few details about this period in other important city-states, such as Corinth and Syracuse. Many famous plays, histories, inscrip- tions, buildings, and sculptures survive from fifth- century B.C.E. Athens. For these reasons, studying the Greek Golden Age primarily means studying the Athenian Golden Age.

The confidence the Greeks gained from re- pelling the Persian invasions, combined with their traditional competitiveness, produced brilliant in- novations in art, architecture, literature, educa- tion, and philosophy in the Golden Age. The new

ideas in education and philosophy became hotly controversial at the time but have had a lasting in- fluence on Western civilization. Such ideas angered many people because the changes seemed to attack ancient traditions, especially religion; they feared the gods would punish them for abandoning an- cestral ways.

Political change also characterized the Athen- ian Golden Age. First, Athenian citizens made their city-state government more democratic than ever. Second, Athens also grew internationally powerful by using its navy to establish rule over other Greeks in a system dubbed “empire” by modern scholars. This naval power also promoted seaborne trade, and revenues from rule and trade brought Athens enormous prosperity. This newfound wealth sup- ported cultural and political innovation because Athens’s citizens voted to use the funds to finance new public buildings, art, and competitive theater festivals, and to pay for poorer men to serve as officials and jurors in an expanded democratic government.

The Golden Age ended when Sparta defeated Athens in the Peloponnesian War (431–404 B.C.E.) and the Athenians then fought a brief but bloody civil war (404–403 B.C.E.). The fifth century B.C.E., so famous for its cultural innovation, therefore both began and ended with fierce wars, with Greeks standing together in the first one and tearing each other apart in the concluding one. Victory in the Persian Wars spurred the growth of Athens’s naval power and seaborne trade; the added income from military victories and international commerce fi- nanced political and cultural development; losing the Peloponnesian War bankrupted and divided Athens, turning its Golden Age to lead.

Focus Question: Did war bring more benefit or more harm — politically, socially and intellectually — to Golden Age Athens?

70 Chapter 3 ■ The Greek Golden Age C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

500 B.C.E. 475 B.C.E. 450 B.C.E.

■ 500–323 Classical Age

■ 499–479 Persian Wars

■ 480 Battle of Salamis

■ 461 Ephialtes’ court reform begins

■ 454 Athenian fleet defeated in Egypt

■ 490 Battle of Marathon

■ 480–479 Xerxes’ invasion of Greece

■ Early 450s Pericles intro- duces pay for public office

■ 451 Athenian citizenship law

■ 450 Sophists begin teaching in Athens

Wars between Persia and Greece, 499–479 B.C.E. The Persian Wars had their roots in Athens’s re- quest for help from Persia in 507 B.C.E. The Athen- ian ambassadors agreed to the standard Persian requirement for an alliance: presenting tokens of earth and water to acknowledge submission to the Persian king. The Athenian assembly erupted in outrage at their diplomats’ capitulation but failed to inform King Darius that it rejected his terms; he continued to believe that Athens had intended to submit to him. This misunderstanding planted the seed for two Persian attacks on Greece, one small and one huge. Since the Persian Empire far outstripped the Greek city-states in soldiers and money, the conflict pitted the equivalent of a huge bear against a pack of undersized dogs.

From the Ionian Revolt to the Battle of Marathon, 499–490 B.C.E. When the Ionian Revolt led to the Persian Wars, the lesser conflict sparked a greater one — a com- mon occurrence in the history of war. In 499 B.C.E., the Greek city-states in Ionia revolted against their Persian-installed tyrants, who were ruling harshly and unjustly, and the king’s demand that the Ioni- ans send still more soldiers for his army. The Spar- tans refused to help the Ionian rebels, but the Athenians sent troops because they regarded the Ionians as close kin. A Persian counterattack sent the Athenians fleeing home and crushed the revolt by 494 B.C.E. (Map 3.1, page 72). Darius exploded in anger when he learned that the Athenians had attacked in Ionia; after all, he thought they were faithful allies. So bitter was this perceived betrayal that, according to the historian Herodotus, Darius ordered a slave to repeat three times at every meal, “Lord, remember the Athenians.”

In 490 B.C.E., Darius sent a small fleet to pun- ish Athens and install a puppet tyrant. He expected Athens to surrender without a fight. The Atheni- ans refused to back down, however, confronting the invaders near the village of Marathon. The Athenian soldiers were stunned by the Persians’ strange garb— they wore colorful pants instead of the short tunics and bare legs that Greeks regarded as proper dress (see the picture at the opening of this chapter)— but the Greek commanders in a tactical innovation spurred the hoplites (armored infantry) to charge the enemy at a dead run in- stead of their usual slow advance. Running cut the time that the Athenians were exposed to the en- emy’s archers. The Greek soldiers, each wearing seventy pounds of metal armor, clanked across the Marathon plain through a hail of Persian arrows. In the hand-to-hand combat, the Greek hoplites used their heavier weapons to overwhelm the Persian infantry.

The Athenian infantry then hurried the twenty- six miles from Marathon to Athens to guard the city against the Persian navy. (Today’s marathon races commemorate the legend of a runner speed- ing ahead to announce the victory, and then drop- ping dead.) When the Persians sailed home, the Athenians rejoiced in disbelief; thereafter, a fam- ily’s greatest honor was to count a “Marathon fighter” among its ancestors.

Their unexpected success at Marathon evi- dently strengthened the Athenians’ sense of com- munity. When a fabulously rich strike was made in Athens’s publicly owned silver mines in 483 B.C.E., a far-sighted leader named Themistocles con- vinced the assembly to spend the money on dou- bling the size of the navy to defend against possible foreign attack instead of distributing the money to the citizens to spend on themselves.

Wars between Persia and Greece, 499–479 b.c .e . 71C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

425 B.C.E. 400 B.C.E.

■ 404–403 Thirty Tyrants rule

■ 411 Aristophanes, Lysistrata

■ 415–413 Athenian defeat in Sicily

■ 420s Herodotus, Histories

■ 431–404 Peloponnesian War

■ 441 b.c.e. Sophocles, Antigone

■ 446–445 Athens/Sparta peace treaty

■ 403 Restoration of democracy

Themistocles (thuh MIST uh kleez): Athens’s leader during the great Persian invasion of Greece.

The Great Persian Invasion, 480–479 B.C.E. Themistocles’ foresight proved valuable when Dar- ius’s son Xerxes I (r. 486–465 B.C.E.) assembled an immense force to invade Greece to avenge his father’s defeat and add the mainland city-states to the many lands paying him tribute. The Persians spared no expense, even digging a great canal through a peninsula in northern Greece to give

their fleet safe passage. So huge was Xerxes’ army, the Greeks claimed, that it took seven days and seven nights for the entire force to cross the Helle- spont, the strip of sea between Anatolia and Greece, when the invasion began in 480 B.C.E. Xerxes thought the Greek city-states would imme- diately surrender; some did, but thirty-one made a decision new in Greek history: to unite as allies to defend their city-states’ political freedom.

72 Chapter 3 ■ The Greek Golden Age C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

Canal dug by Persians

0 50 100 kilometers

0 50 100 miles

Greek states allied against Persia

Persian Empire

States capitulating to Persia or remaining neutral

Areas of Ionian revolt, 499–494 B.C.E.

Route of Ionian Greek city-states’ rebel army in 498 B.C.E.

Route of expedition sent by Darius in 490 B.C.E.

Route of Xerxes’ army in 480 B.C.E.

Route of Xerxes’ navy in 480 B.C.E.





M e d i t e r r a n e a n S e a

A e g e a n S e a





Cythera Rhodes






C Y C L A D E S I S .



Boeotia Lydia

Ion ia






Sardis 498 B.C.E.

Thermopylae 480 B.C.E.

Plataea 479 B.C.E.

Salamis 480 B.C.E. Mt. Mycale479 B.C.E.

Miletus 494 B.C.E.

Marathon 490 B.C.E.

Athens Olympia







MAP 3.1 The Persian Wars, 499–479 B.C.E. Following the example of the founder of the Persian kingdom, King Cyrus (d. 530 B.C.E.), King Cambyses (r. 530–522 B.C.E.) and King Darius I (r. 522–486 B.C.E.) expanded their empire eastward and westward. Darius invaded Thrace more than fifteen years before the conflict against the Greeks that we call the Persian Wars. The Persians’ unexpected defeat in Greece put an end to their attempt to extend their power into Europe.

Their coalition became known as the Hel- lenic League, but it hardly represented the entire Greek world. The allies desperately wanted the major Greek city-states in Italy and Sicily to join the league because these western states were rich naval powers, but they refused. Syracuse, for ex- ample, the most powerful Greek state at the time, controlled a regional empire built on agriculture in Sicily’s plains and seaborne commerce through its harbors astride the Mediterranean’s western trading routes. The tyrant ruling Syracuse re- jected the league’s appeal for help because he was fighting his own war against Carthage, a Phoeni- cian city in North Africa, over control of the trade routes.

The Hellenic League chose Sparta to lead be- cause of its reputation for military valor; the Athe- nians swallowed their competitive pride and agreed to follow. The Spartans demonstrated their courage in 480 B.C.E. when three hundred of their infantry blocked Xerxes’ army for several days at the narrow pass called Thermopylae (“Gate of Hot Springs”) in central Greece. When told the Persian archers were so numerous that their arrows dark- ened the sun, one Spartan reportedly remarked, “That’s good news; we’ll get to fight in the shade.” They did — to the death. Their tomb’s memorial proclaimed,“Go tell the Spartans that we lie buried here obedient to their orders.”

When the Persians marched south, the Athe- nians, knowing they could not defend the city, evacuated their residents to the Peloponnese rather than surrender; the Persians then burned Athens. The panicked allies decided to retreat to the Peloponnese, but in the summer of 480 B.C.E. Themistocles and his Athenian political rival Aristides cooperated to win a tough argument with the other city-states’ generals, convincing them to stay and fight a naval battle. Themisto- cles then tricked the Persian king into sending his ships into battle against the Greek fleet in the channel between the island of Salamis and the west coast of Athens: the narrowness of the chan- nel prevented Xerxes from sending all his fleet (twice or more the size of the Greeks’) into bat- tle at the same time. The heavier Greek warships then prevailed by ramming the flimsier Persian craft in the tight space. The battle of Salamis turned the tide of the war, and Xerxes retreated to Persia. The following summer (479 B.C.E.), the Spartans led the Greek infantry to dual victories over the remaining Persian land forces on the Greek mainland and, now on the offensive against the enemy, on the Anatolian coast. Superior gen- eralship and the Greek competitive spirit of aretê

Wars between Persia and Greece, 499–479 b.c .e . 73C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

A Persian Royal Guard This six-foot-high panel of polychrome glazed brick formed part of the decoration of a courtyard in the palace at Susa built by the Persian king Darius I (r. 522–486 B.C.E.). Susa was the most important administrative center of the Persian Empire, and the king and his court spent part of each year there. The warrior shown here perhaps represents one of the royal guards known as “immortals.” An inscription reports that the craftsmen who made these panels came from Babylon, where there was a long tradition of this sort of architectural decoration. (The Granger Collection, NY.)

(excellence) underlay these successes. When the victorious allies met to award a prize to the war’s best Greek commander, Themistocles won the competition — every general voted for himself first and Themistocles second!

The Greeks won their battles against the Per- sians because their generals, especially Themisto- cles, had better strategic foresight, their soldiers had stronger body armor, their warships were more ef- fective in close combat, and their tactics minimized the Persian ad- vantage in numbers of troops and ships. Above all, the Greeks won the war because enough of them took the innovative step of unit- ing to fight together for their in- dependence. Because the Greek forces included not only the social elites but also thousands of poorer men who rowed the warships, the victory over the Persians showed that rich and poor Greeks alike treasured the ideal of political freedom for their city-states that had emerged during the Archaic Age.

Review: How did the Greeks overcome the challenges presented by the Persian invasions?

Athenian Confidence in the Golden Age, 478–431 B.C.E. The struggle against the Persians was one of the rare occasions when at least some Greek city-states cooperated. Victory fractured this alliance, how- ever, because the allies resented the harshness of Spartan command and the Athenians had gained the confidence to compete with the Spartans for leadership of Greece. No longer were Athenians satisfied to be followers of Sparta; now they dreamed of a much grander role for themselves. From this desire arose the so-called Athenian Em- pire. The growth of Athenian power over other Greeks inspired yet more confidence, which cre- ated a broader democracy willing to spend vast amounts on pay for officials and jurors, public buildings, art, and religious festivals in which citizens competed for public recognition in music and drama.

The Establishment of the Athenian Empire After the Persian Wars, Sparta and Athens built up separate alliances to strengthen their own posi- tions because each believed that their security de- pended on winning a competition for power. Sparta led strong infantry forces from the Pelo- ponnese region, and its ally Corinth had a sizable

navy. Called the Peloponnesian League, the Spartan alliance had an assembly to decide policy, but Sparta dominated.

Athens, with Aristides as lead negotiator, allied with city-states in northern Greece, on the is- lands of the Aegean Sea, and along the Ionian coast — the places most in need of protection from Persian retaliation. This al- liance, whose treasury was origi- nally located on the Aegean island of Delos, was built on naval power and today is called the Delian League.

The Delian League started out as a democratic alliance for collective security, but Athens came to control it through the allies’ willingness to allow the Athenians to command and to set the financing arrangements for the league’s fleet. At its height, the league included some three hundred city-states. Each paid dues (called tribute) according to its size. Larger city- states paid by sending triremes — warships pro- pelled by 170 rowers on three levels and equipped with a battering ram at the bow (see Figure 3.1 on page 75)— complete with trained crews and their pay; smaller states could share the cost of one ship or contribute cash instead.

Over time, more and more Delian League members voluntarily paid cash because it was easier. Athens then used their tribute to construct triremes and pay men to row them; oarsmen who brought a slave to row alongside them earned double pay. Drawn primarily from the poorest citizens, rowers gained both income and politi- cal influence in Athenian democracy because the navy became the city-state’s main force. These benefits made poor citizens eager to expand

74 Chapter 3 ■ The Greek Golden Age C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

Delian (DEE lee un) League: The naval alliance led by Athens in the Golden Age that became the basis for the Athenian Empire.

triremes (TRY reems): Greek wooden warships rowed by 170 oarsmen sitting on three levels and equipped with a battering ram at the bow.

0 100 kilometers

0 50 100 miles

Delian League and allies

Sparta and allies

Mediterranean Sea

Aegean Sea







Delos AthensCorinth


Thebes ��

The Delian and Peloponnesian Leagues

Athens’s power over other Greeks. The increase in Athenian naval power thus promoted the de- velopment of a wider democracy at home, but it undermined the democracy of the Delian League.

Since most Delian League allies had not kept up their own navies, the Athenian assembly could use the league fleet to compel disobedient allies to pay tribute. As the Athenian historian Thucydides commented, rebellious allies “lost their independ- ence, and the Athenians became no longer as pop- ular as they used to be.” Athens’s heavy-handed dominance of the Delian League, backed up by the threat of force, has led modern historians to label it the Athenian Empire.

Unpopularity among most allies was the price Athens paid for making itself the major naval power in the eastern Mediterranean: by about 460 B.C.E. the Delian League’s fleet had expelled re- maining Persian garrisons from northern Greece and driven the enemy fleet from the Aegean Sea. This sweep eliminated the Persian threat for the next fifty years and proved the effectiveness of Athenian leadership.

Military success made Athens prosperous by bringing in spoils and tribute, making seaborne trade safe, and benefiting rich and poor alike — the poor men who rowed the Delian League’s navy earned good pay, while elite commanders en- hanced their chances for election to high office by spending their spoils on public festivals and build- ings. The Athenian assembly debated how Athens should treat its league allies, but the majority con- sistently rejected complaints on the grounds that the league was fulfilling its original duty by pro- tecting everyone from Persian attack. In this way, democracy for its own citizens, pay, and imperial- ism were directly linked in Golden Age Athens.

Radical Democracy and Pericles’ Leadership, 461–431 B.C.E. As the Delian League grew, the Athenian fleet’s oarsmen realized that they provided the corner- stone for Athens’s new power and prosperity. In the late 460s B.C.E., they decided that the time had come to increase their political power by making the court system of Athens just as democratic as the legislative assembly, in which all free adult male citizens could already participate. They wanted laws and political institutions that would finally make Cleisthenes’ promise of equality before the law a reality for everyone, so that they would no longer be liable to unfair verdicts at the hands of the elite in criminal cases and civil suits. Members

of the elite led this push for judicial reform, hop- ing to win popular support for election to high of- fice by speaking out for the interests of the masses. A member of one of Athens’s most distinguished families, Pericles (c. 495–429 B.C.E.), became Golden Age Athens’s dominant politician by spear- heading reforms to democratize its judicial system and provide pay for many public offices.

Athenian Confidence in the Golden Age, 478–431 b.c .e . 75C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

Pericles (PEHR uh kleez): Athens’s political leader during the Golden Age.

FIGURE 3.1 Triremes, the Foremost Classical Greek Warships Innovations in military technology and training fueled a naval arms race in the fifth century B.C.E. when Greek shipbuilders devised larger and faster ramming ships powered by 170 rowers seated in three rows, one above each other. (See the illustration of the rowers, from behind, at the top of this page.) Called triremes, these ships were expensive to build and required extensive crew training. Only wealthy and populous city-states such as Athens could afford to build and man large fleets of triremes. This relief sculpture found on the Athenian acropolis and dating from about 400 B.C.E. gives a glimpse of what a trireme looked like from the side when being rowed into battle. (Sails were used to power the ship only when not in combat.) (The Art Archive/ Acropolis Museum Athens/ Dagli Orti.)

Creating Radical Democracy. The changes to Athenian democracy in the 460s and 450s B.C.E. have led historians to label the system radical (lit- erally, “from the roots”) because it gave direct po- litical power in the assembly and participation in the court system to all adult male citizens. The gov- ernment consisted of the assembly open to all these men, the Council of Five Hundred chosen annually by lottery, the Council of the Areopagus of ex-archons serving for life, an executive board of ten annually elected “generals,” nine archons (now chosen by lottery every year), hundreds of other annual minor officials (most chosen by lot- tery), and the court system.

Athens’s radical democracy balanced two competing principles: participation by as many or- dinary male citizens as possible in direct (not rep- resentative) democracy and selective leadership by elite citizens. To achieve the first, Athenian voters established (1) random selection by lottery for most public offices, term limits, shared power, and pay for most officials and members of the Coun- cil of Five Hundred (which prepared the assem- bly’s agenda and supervised public matters); (2) open investigation and punishment of corruption; (3) equal protection under the law for citizens re- gardless of wealth; and (4) pay and random selec- tion for jurors. To achieve the second principle, the highest-level officials were elected, rather than chosen by lottery. The top officials (the board of ten generals, who oversaw military and financial affairs) ran for election every year, could be reelected an unlimited number of times, and received no pay so that they would not seek election just for financial re- wards. A successful general could stay in office indefinitely; Pericles, for example, won re- election fifteen years in a row in one stretch of his political career.

The changes in the judicial system did the most to create rad- ical democracy. Previously, ar- chons and the ex-archons of the Council of the Areopagus, who tended to be members of the elite, had decided most legal cases. As with Cleisthenes, reform took place when an elite man proposed it to support ordinary men’s political

rights and simultaneously win their votes against his rivals: in 461 B.C.E. Ephialtes won popular sup- port by getting the assembly to establish a new sys- tem that took away jurisdiction from the archons and gave it to courts manned by citizen jurors. To make it more democratic and prevent bribery, ju- rors were selected by lottery from male citizens over thirty years old. They received a daily stipend to serve on juries numbering from several hun- dred to several thousand members. No judges or lawyers existed, and jurors voted by secret ballot after hearing speeches from the persons involved. As in the assembly, a majority vote decided mat- ters; no appeals of verdicts were allowed.

Ostracism and Majority Rule. Athenian radical democracy included notions of privacy and legal protection for individuals, but majority rule could override those notions on matters of public policy. A striking example was ostracism (from ostrakon, a piece of broken pottery used as a ballot). Once a year, all male citizens could cast a ballot on which they scratched the name of one man they thought should be exiled for ten years. If at least six thou- sand ballots were cast, the man whose name appeared on the greatest number was expelled from Athens. He suffered no other penalty; his family and property remained undisturbed.

Usually a man was ostracized because he had become so popular that a majority feared he would overthrow the democracy to rule as a tyrant.

76 Chapter 3 ■ The Greek Golden Age C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

radical democracy: The Athenian system of democracy estab- lished in the 460s and 450s B.C.E. that extended direct political power and participation in the court system to all adult male citizens.

ostracism (AHS truh sizm): An annual procedure in Athenian radical democracy by which a man could be voted out of the city-state for ten years; its purpose was to prevent tyranny.

Potsherd Ballots for Ostracism These two shards (ostraka) were broken from the same pot (as the breakage line shows) and inscribed for use as ballots in an ostracism at Athens. The lower fragment carries the name of Themistocles, the leader who engineered the Greek fleet’s success against the Persian navy off the island of Salamis in 480 B.C.E.; the upper one bears

the name of Cimon, the Delian League’s most famous general. Political

competition led to Themistocles’ ostracism sometime in the late 470s B.C.E. and Cimon’s in

461 B.C.E. Therefore, if these two ballots were intended for the same ostracism, it must have been that of Themistocles, or an earlier one when he was still in Athens.

Sometimes a leader was ostracized when his polit- ical competitors ganged up to vote against him; this was the fate of Themistocles, who in a great irony ended up living in Persia as a favorite of King Xerxes, who valued his former enemy’s intelli- gence. There was no guarantee of voters’ motives in an ostracism, as a story about Aristides illus- trates. He was nicknamed “the Just” because he had proved himself so fair-minded in setting the orig- inal level of dues for Delian League members. On the day of an ostracism, an illiterate citizen handed him a pottery fragment and asked him to scratch a name on it:

“Certainly,” said Aristides.“Which name shall I write?” “Aristides,” replied the man.“All right,” said Aristides as he inscribed his own name,“but why do you want to os- tracize Aristides? What has he done to you?”“Oh, noth- ing. I don’t even know him,” sputtered the man.“I just can’t stand hearing everybody refer to him as ‘the Just.’ ”

True or not, this tale demonstrates that most Athe- nians believed the right way to support democracy was to trust a majority vote regardless of its pos- sible injustice to a particular individual.

Not all citizens approved of radical democ- racy. Some socially elite citizens bitterly criticized what they saw as its disregard for social merit in giving political power to the poor. Opponents of democracy blamed it for promoting the interests of those whom they called the “wicked” (i.e., the poor) over the interests of “useful” citizens (i.e., themselves, the rich). These critics became partic- ularly vocal when Athens’s democracy suffered pe- riods of crisis, as at certain points in the great war with Sparta that was to erupt at the end of the Golden Age. They insisted that oligarchy — the rule of the few — was morally superior to radical democracy because they believed that the poor lacked the education and moral values needed for leadership and would use their majority rule to strip the rich of their wealth by passing laws to make them pay for expensive public programs.

Pericles’ Leadership. Pericles became the most influential leader of his era by using his political vision and spellbinding skill in public speaking to convince the assembly to pass reforms strengthen- ing the equality that poor citizens prized. He be- gan his career by supporting Ephialtes’ reform of the court system. Then, in the early 450s B.C.E., he boosted mass participation in democracy by intro- ducing pay for service in the public offices filled by lottery. This reform used public funds to pay men for serving in numerous government posts, on the Council of Five Hundred, and on juries. Previously, because these offices had been unpaid,

only wealthy men could afford to fill them. Now, poor citizens could serve. In 451 B.C.E., Pericles sponsored a law restricting citizenship to those whose mother and father were both Athenian by birth. Previously, wealthy men had often married foreign women from elite families. This change both increased the status of Athenian women, rich or poor, as potential mothers of citizens and made Athenian citizenship more valuable by reducing the number of people eligible for its legal and fi- nancial benefits. In a complementary measure to enforce exclusiveness, officials reviewed everyone’s citizenship and, some sources report, struck thou- sands from the rolls.

Pericles also promoted aggressive naval cam- paigns (and thus provided poor Athenians an in- come as rowers) when war with Sparta broke out in the 450s over Athenian actions against Pelopon- nesian League states. He also supported sending the fleet against Persian garrisons in Cyprus, Egypt, and the eastern Mediterranean to expand the Delian League’s power and win war spoils. The voters in the assembly were so eager to compete for international power against both Greeks and Persians that they authorized up to three major ex- peditions at the same time. This exuberant mili- tarism slowed in the late 450s B.C.E. after a horrendous defeat at the hands of Persian forces in Egypt in 454 B.C.E. killed tens of thousands of oarsmen; the Athenians had sent a large naval force to aid an Egyptian rebellion against Persian rule, hoping to weaken Persian power in the eastern Mediterranean. In the winter of 446–445 B.C.E., Pericles engineered a peace treaty with Sparta with the goal of stabilizing the balance of power in Greece for thirty years and thus preserving Athen- ian control of the Delian League.

The Urban Landscape Golden Age Athens prospered from Delian League dues, war plunder, and taxes on booming interna- tional seaborne trade. Its harbor in Piraeus pro- moted cross-Mediterranean commerce, its navy made its empire’s numerous ports safe for mer- chants and travelers from far-flung locations, and its courts resolved legal disputes. Its artisans pro- duced goods traded far and wide; the Etruscans in central Italy, for example, imported countless painted vases for wine drinking at Greek-style din- ner parties. The economic activity and interna- tional traffic of the mid-fifth century B.C.E. boosted Athens to its greatest prosperity ever.

Athenians spent their new riches not just on broadening participation in democratic govern-

Athenian Confidence in the Golden Age, 478–431 b.c .e . 77C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

ment but also on their city’s public buildings, art, and religious festivals. In private life, rich urban dwellers splurged on luxury goods influenced by Persian designs, but most houses retained their traditional modest size and plainness. Farmhouses could cluster in villages or stand isolated, while homes and apartments in the city wedged tightly against one another along narrow, winding streets. Recent archaeological study of the city of Olyn- thus in northeastern Greece shows that urban one-

family homes were built on varying patterns, but one favorite plan grouped bedrooms, store- rooms, and dining rooms around open-air court- yards. Poor city residents rented small apartments. Wall paintings or decorative artworks were rare, furnishings sparse. Toilets consisted of pots and a pit outside the front door; the city paid collectors to dump the dung outside its fortification walls.

Generals who wanted to display their excel- lence (aretê) and also win the people’s favor spent their war spoils on running tracks, shade trees, and public buildings. A popular building project was a stoa, a narrow structure open along one side that offered shelter from the weather. The super-rich commander Cimon, for example, paid for the Painted Stoa to be built on the edge of Athens’s agora, the central market square. There, crowds of shoppers could admire the stoa’s bright paintings depicting his family’s military exploits, especially his father’s leadership in the battle of Marathon. This sort of contribution was voluntary, but the laws required wealthy citizens to pay for festivals and equipping warships. This financial obligation on the rich was essential because Athens, like most Greek city-states, had no regular property or in- come taxes.

The Parthenon. On Athens’s acropolis (the rocky hill at the city’s center, Map 3.2, left), Pericles had the two most famous buildings of Golden Age Athens erected during the 440s and 430s B.C.E.: a mammoth gateway and an enormous marble temple of Athena called the Parthenon. Compar- ing a day’s wage then and now, we can estimate that these buildings together cost more than the equivalent of a billion dollars, a phenomenal sum for a Greek city-state; Pericles’ political rivals

78 Chapter 3 ■ The Greek Golden Age C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

agora (AH gore uh): The central market square of a Greek city- state, a popular gathering place for conversation.

Parthenon (PAR thuh non): The massive temple to Athena as a warrior goddess built atop the Athenian acropolis in the Golden Age of Greece.

0 2 kilometers

0 2 miles Agora


Ph al

er on

W al


S. L ong

Wa llN.

Lon g W


sebeh T

o T



MAP 3.2 Fifth-Century B.C.E. Athens The urban center of Athens, with the agora and acropolis at its heart, measured about one square mile, surrounded by a stone wall with a circuit of some four miles. Gates guarded by towers and various smaller entries allowed traffic in and out of the city; much of the Athenian population lived in the many demes (villages) of the surrounding countryside. Most of the city’s water supply came from wells and springs inside the walls, but, unusually for a Greek city, Athens also had water piped in from outside. The Long Walls provided a protected corridor connecting the city to its harbor at Piraeus, where the Athenian navy was anchored and grain was imported to feed the people.


FIGURE 3.2 Styles of Greek Capitals The Greeks decorated the capitals, or tops, of columns in these three styles to fit the different architectural “canons” (their word for precise mathematical systems of proportions) that they devised for designing buildings. These styles were much imitated in later times, as on many U.S. state capitols and the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.

Greeks probably derived from the stone temples of Egypt. The Parthenon’s soaring columns fenced in a porch surrounding the interior chamber on all sides. They were carved in the simple style called Doric, in contrast to the more elaborate Ionic and Corinthian styles often imitated in columns on modern buildings (Figure 3.2, facing page).

The Parthenon’s massive size and innovative style proclaimed the self-confidence of Golden Age Athens and its competitive drive to build a monu- ment more spectacular than any other in Greece. Constructed from twenty thousand tons of Attic marble, the temple stretched some 230 feet long and 100 feet wide, with eight columns across the ends instead of the six normally found in Doric style and seventeen instead of thirteen along the sides. The temple’s sophisticated architecture demonstrated the Athenian ambition to use human

Athenian Confidence in the Golden Age, 478–431 b.c .e . 79C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

slammed him for spending too much public money on the project and diverting Delian League funds to domestic uses.

The Parthenon (literally, “the virgin goddess’s house”) has become the foremost symbol of Athens’s Golden Age. The Parthenon honored Athena, the city’s patron deity, as the divine cham- pion of Athenian military power and proclaimed that she had a real presence in the city. Inside the temple, a gold-and-ivory statue nearly forty feet high depicted the goddess in armor, holding in her outstretched hand a six-foot statue of Nike, the goddess of victory.

Like all Greek temples, the Parthenon was meant as a house for its divinity, not as a gather- ing place for worshippers. Its design followed stan- dard temple architecture: a rectangular box on a raised platform studded with columns, a plan the

The Acropolis of Athens Most Greek city-states, including Athens, sprang up around a prominent rocky hill, called an acropolis (“height of the city”; compare the picture of Corinth on page 61). The summit of the acropolis usually housed sanctuaries for the city’s protective deities and could serve as a fortress for the population during an enemy attack. Athens’s acropolis boasted several elaborately decorated marble temples honoring the goddess Athena; the largest one was the Parthenon, seen here from its west (back) side. Recent research suggest that the ruins of a temple burned by the Persians when they captured Athens in 480 B.C.E. remained in place right next to the Parthenon; the Athenians left its charred remains to remind themselves of the sacrifices they had made in defending their freedom. (The walls in the lower foreground are from a theater built in Roman times.) (akg-images.)

skill to improve nature: because perfectly rectilin- ear architecture appears curved to the human eye, subtle curves and inclines were built into the Parthenon to produce an illusion of completely straight lines and emphasize its massiveness.

The Parthenon’s many sculptures communi- cated confident messages: the gods ensure triumph over the forces of chaos, and Athenians enjoy the gods’ goodwill more than any other city-state’s citizens do. The sculptures in each pediment (a triangular space atop the columns at either end of the temple) portrayed Athena as the city-state’s benefactor. The metopes (panels sculpted in relief above the outer columns around all four sides) portrayed victories over hostile centaurs and other enemies of civilization. Most strikingly of all, a frieze (a continuous band of figures carved in re- lief) ran around the top of the walls inside the

porch and was painted in bright colors to make it more visible. The Parthenon’s frieze was special be- cause usually only Ionic-style buildings had one. Although it had no inscription to state its subject, the frieze most likely portrayed Athenian men, women, and children on parade in the presence of the gods, the procession shown in motion like the pictures in a graphic novel or cartoon today.

The Parthenon frieze made a bold statement about how Athenians perceived their relationship to the gods — no other Greeks had ever adorned a temple with representations of themselves. Its sculpture staked a claim of unique intimacy be- tween the city-state and the gods, reflecting the Athenians’ confidence after helping turn back the Persians, achieving leadership of a powerful naval alliance, and amassing great wealth. Their success, the Athenians believed, proved that the gods were on their side, and their fabulous buildings signaled their gratitude.

Sculpture’s New Message. Like the unique Parthenon frieze, the innovations that Golden Age artists made in representing the human body shat- tered tradition. By the time of the Persian Wars, Greek sculptors had begun replacing the stiffly bal- anced style of Archaic Age statues with statues in motion in new poses. This style of movement in stone expressed an energetic balancing of compet- ing forces, echoing a theme evident in radical democracy’s principles.

Sculptors also began carving anatomically re- alistic but perfect-looking bodies, suggesting that humans could be confident in their potential for beauty and perfection. Female statues, for exam- ple, now displayed the shape of the curves under- neath their clothing, while male ones showed bodybuilders’ muscles. The faces showed a self- confident reserve rather than the rigid smiles of archaic statues.

As with relief sculptures on temples, Golden Age freestanding statues were erected to be seen by the public, whether they were paid for with pri- vate or government funds. Privately commissioned statues of gods were placed in sanctuaries as sym- bols of devotion. Wealthy families commissioned statues of their deceased members, especially if they had died young in war, to be placed above their graves as memorials of their excellence and signs of the family’s social status.

Review: What factors produced political change in fifth-century B.C.E. Athens?

80 Chapter 3 ■ The Greek Golden Age C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

Scene from the Parthenon Frieze The Parthenon, the Athenian temple honoring Athena as a warrior goddess and patron of the Delian League, dominated the summit of the city’s acropolis. A frieze (band of sculpture in relief ), of which this is a small section, ran around the top of the temple’s outside wall. Here, riders line up in the Pan-Athenaic festival’s procession to the Parthenon; the artist layered the horses’ legs to show depth. The original blazed with bright colors and details fashioned from metal, such as the horses’ bridles. The elaborate folds of the riders’ garments display the rich style characteristic of clothed figures in Classical Age sculpture. How would you compare the style of this relief to that of the Persian relief on page 73? (The Art Archive/ Acropolis Museum Athens/ Dagli Orti.)

Tradition and Innovation in Athens’s Golden Age Golden Age Athens’s prosperity and international contacts created unprecedented innovations in ar- chitecture, art, drama, education, and philosophy, but central aspects of its social and religious cus- toms remained traditional, as did such customs throughout Greece. This contrast between cultural change and social continuity generated tension be- tween the desire to innovate and the pressure to preserve traditional ways, especially with regard to the conduct of women and to the practice of reli- gion. In keeping with tradition, Athenian women, along with other Greek women, were expected to limit their public role to participation in religious ceremonies; in private life they were to manage their households and, if they were poor, work to help support their families. The startling new ideas of competitive philosophers and teachers called Sophists and the Athenian philosopher Socrates’ views on personal morality and responsibility caused many people to fear that the gods would be angered. The most famous response to the clash between innovation and tradition was the devel- opment of publicly funded drama festivals, whose contests for tragic and comic plays examined prob- lems in city-state life, especially the social and per- sonal hardships caused by war.

Religious Tradition in a Period of Change Greeks maintained religious tradition publicly by participating in the city-state’s sacrifices and fes- tivals, and privately by seeking a personal rela- tionship with the gods in the rituals of hero cults and mystery cults. Each cult had its own rituals, including sacrifices ranging from the slaughter of large animals to bloodless offering of fruits, veg- etables, and small cakes. The speechwriter Lysias (c. 445–380 B.C.E.), a Syracusan residing in Athens, explained the reason for publicly funded sacrifices:

Our ancestors handed down to us the most powerful and prosperous community in Greece by performing the prescribed sacrifices. It is therefore proper for us to offer the same sacrifices as they, if only for the sake of the success which has resulted from those rites.

The public sacrifice of a large animal provided an occasion for the community to reaffirm its ties to the divine world and for the worshippers to ben- efit by feasting on the roasted meat of the sacri- ficed beast. For poor people, the free food provided

at religious festivals might be the only meat they ever tasted.

Golden Age Athens used its riches to pay for more religious festivals than any other city-state; nearly half the days of the year included one. The biggest festivals featured parades as well as contests with valuable prizes in music, dancing, poetry, and athletics. Laborers’ contracts specified how many days off they received to attend such ceremonies. Some festivals were for women only, such as the three-day festival for married women in honor of Demeter, goddess of agriculture and fertility.

Privately, people took a keen interest in actions meant to improve their personal relations with the divine. Families marked significant events such as birth, marriage, and death with prayers, rituals, and sacrifices. They honored their ancestors with offerings made at their tombs, consulted seers about the meanings of dreams and omens, and paid magicians for spells to improve their love lives or curses to harm their enemies. Particularly im- portant were hero cults and mystery cults. Hero cults included rituals performed at the tomb of an extraordinarily famous man or woman. Heroes’ remains were thought to retain special power to reveal the future by inspiring oracles, healing sick- ness, and providing protection in battle. The strongman Herakles (or Hercules, as the Romans spelled his name) had cults all over the Greek world because his superhuman reputation gave him in- ternational appeal. Mystery cults involved a set of prayers, hymns, ritual purification, sacrifices, and other forms of worship that initiated members into secret knowledge about the divine and human worlds. Initiates believed that they gained divine protection from the cult’s god or gods.

The Athenian mystery cult of Demeter and her daughter Persephone attracted worshippers from all parts of the world because it offered hope for protection on earth and in the afterlife. The cult’s central rite was the Mysteries: a series of initiation ceremonies into secret knowledge. So important were these Mysteries that the Greek states observed an international truce — as with the Olympic Games—to allow travel even from distant corners of the world to attend them. The Mysteries were open to any free, Greek-speaking individuals— women and men, adults and children — if they were free of ritual pollution (for example, if they had not been convicted of murder, committed sacrilege, or had recent contact with a corpse or blood from a

Tradit ion and Innovation in Athens’s Golden Age 81C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

mystery cults: Religious worship that provided initiation into secret knowledge and divine protection, including hope for a better afterlife.

birth). Some slaves who worked in the sanctuary were also eligible. The main stage of initiation took almost two weeks, culminating in the revelation of Demeter’s central secret after a day of fasting. So seriously did Greeks take the initiation that no one ever revealed the secret during the cult’s thousand- year history. Being initiated promised a better fate on earth and after death. As a sixth-century B.C.E. poem says, “Richly blessed is the mortal who has seen these rites; but whoever is not an initiate and has no share in them, that one never has an equal portion after death, down in the gloomy darkness.”

Mystery cults reveal that ancient Greeks thought their gods required action from their wor- shippers to receive blessings. Preserving religious tradition mattered deeply to most people because they saw it as a safeguard against the precarious- ness of life.

Women, Slaves, and Metics Women, slaves, and metics (foreigners granted permanent residence status in return for paying taxes and serving in the military) made up the ma- jority of Athens’s population, but they lacked po- litical rights. Women who were citizens enjoyed legal privileges and social status denied slaves and foreigners, and they earned respect through their roles in the family and in religion. Upper-class women managed their households, visited female friends, and participated in religious cults at home and in public. Poor women worked as small-scale merchants, crafts producers, and agricultural laborers. Slaves and metics also contributed much to Athens’s prosperity, but they always remained outsiders in the city-state.

Property, Inheritance, and Marriage. Bearing children in marriage earned women status because it was literally the source of family — the heart of Greek society. To defend this fundamental social institution, men were expected to respect and sup- port their wives. Childbirth was dangerous under the medical conditions of the time. In Medea, a play of 431 B.C.E. by Euripides, the heroine shouts in anger at her husband, who has selfishly betrayed her: “People say that we women lead a safe life at home, while men have to go to war. What fools they are! I would much rather fight in battle three times than give birth to a child even once.”

Athenian wives were expected to be partners with their husbands in owning and managing the

household’s property to help the family thrive. (See “Contrasting Views,” page 84.) Rich women acquired property, including land — the most valued possession in Greek society because it could be farmed or rented out for income — through inheritance and dowry (the family prop- erty a daughter received at marriage). The hus- band was legally required to preserve the dowry and use it to support his wife and their children. A man often had to put up valuable land of his own as collateral to guarantee the safety of his wife’s dowry.

Like fathers, mothers were expected to hand down property to their children to keep it in the family. This expectation shows up most clearly in Athenian law about heiresses (daughters whose fa- thers died without any sons, which happened in about one in every five families): the closest male relative of the heiress’s father — her official guardian after her father’s death — was required to marry her. The goal was to produce a son to in- herit the father’s property. This rule applied re- gardless of whether the heiress was already married (unless she had sons) or whether the male relative already had a wife; the heiress and the male relative were both supposed to divorce their pres- ent spouses and marry each other. In real life, how- ever, people often used legal technicalities to get around this requirement so that they could remain with their chosen partners.

Requiring property to be passed down in this way met two traditional goals of male-dominated Greek society: continuing the father’s bloodline and preventing property from piling up in the hands of unmarried women (and therefore out of the control of men). At Sparta, the renowned scholar Aristotle (384–322 B.C.E.) reported, the in- heritance laws were different (and, in his opinion, deficient); he claimed that women came to own 40 percent of Spartan territory.

Women’s Daily Lives. Tradition restricted women’s freedom of movement in public; men claimed that this restriction protected women by limiting op- portunities for seducers and rapists. Men wanted to ensure that their children were truly theirs, that family property went only to genuine heirs, and that the city had only legitimate citizens. Well-off women in the city were expected to avoid contact with male strangers and mainly to spend their time at home or with women friends in their houses. Recent research has exploded the idea that Greek homes had a set “women’s quarter” to which women were confined; rather, women were granted privacy in certain rooms. If the house in-

82 Chapter 3 ■ The Greek Golden Age C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

metic: A foreigner granted permanent residence status in Athens in return for paying taxes and serving in the military.

cluded an interior courtyard, women could walk there in the open air and talk with other members of the household, male and female. In the safety of her home, a well-to-do woman would spin wool for clothing, converse with visiting friends, direct her children, supervise the slaves, and present her opinions on various matters, including politics, to the men of the house as they came and went. Poor women had little time for such activities because they — like their husbands, sons, and brothers — had to leave the house, usually a crowded rental apartment, to set up small stalls to sell bread, vegetables, simple clothing, or trinkets they had made.

An elite woman careful of her reputa- tion left home only for appropriate reasons, such as religious festivals, funerals, childbirths at the houses of relatives and friends, and trips to workshops to buy shoes or other domestic articles. Often her husband escorted her, but sometimes she took only a slave, setting her own itinerary.

Women who bore legitimate children merited increased respect and freedom, as an Athenian man explained in his speech (written by Lysias) defend- ing himself for having killed his wife’s adulterer:

After my marriage, I initially refrained from bothering my wife very much, but neither did I allow her too much independence. I kept an eye on her. . . . But after she had a baby, I started to trust her more and put her in charge of all my things, believing we now had the closest of re- lationships.

Bearing male children brought a woman special honor because sons meant security. Sons could ap- pear in court to support their parents in lawsuits and protect them in the streets of Athens, which for most of its history had no regular police force. By law, sons were required to support elderly par- ents. So intense was the pressure to produce sons that stories circulated of women who smuggled in male babies born to slaves and passed them off as their own.

Most upper-class women probably viewed their limited contact with men outside the house- hold as a badge of superior social status. For ex- ample, a pale complexion, from staying inside so much, was much admired as a sign of an enviable life of leisure and wealth. Many women used pow- dered white lead as makeup, unaware of the health risk, to give themselves a fashionable lack of color in their skin.

Extraordinary Women. A few women in Athens escaped traditional restrictions by working as what

Greeks called a hetaira (literally, “companion”). Companions, usually foreigners, were unmarried, physically attractive, witty in speech, and skilled in music and poetry. Men hired them to entertain at a symposium (a drinking party to which wives were not invited) with their playful conversation. Their much-admired skill at clever teasing and ver- bal insults allowed companions a freedom of speech denied to “proper” women; they neverthe- less lacked the social respectability and status that wives and mothers possessed.

Sometimes companions also sold sex for a high price, and they could control their own sex- uality by choosing their clients. Athenian men (but not women) could buy sex as they pleased with- out legal hindrance. “Certainly you don’t think men father children out of sexual desire?” wrote the upper-class author Xenophon.“The streets and

Tradit ion and Innovation in Athens’s Golden Age 83C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

Vase Painting of a Woman Buying Shoes (detail) Greek vases frequently displayed scenes from daily life instead of mythological stories. Here, a woman is being fitted for a pair of custom-made shoes by a craftsman and his apprentice. Her husband has accompanied her, as was often the case for shopping, and he appears to be participating in the discussion of the purchase. This vase was painted in so-called black-figure technique, in which the figures are dark and have their details incised on a background of red clay. (Henry Lillie Pierce Fund. Photograph © 2007 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.)

■ For more help analyzing this image, see the visual activity for this chapter in the Online Study Guide at

hetaira (heh TYE ruh): A witty and attractive woman who charged fees to entertain at a symposium.

84 Chapter 3 ■ The Greek Golden Age C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

Greeks believed that women had different natures from men and that both genders were capable of excellence, but in their own ways (Documents 1 and 2). Marriage was supposed to bring these na- tures together in a partnership of complementary strengths and obligations to each other (Document 3). Marriage contracts (Docu- ment 4), similar to modern prenuptial agreements, became com- mon to define the partnership’s terms.

1. Pericles Addresses the Athenians in the First Year of the Peloponnesian War (431–430 B.C.E.)

According to Thucydides, Pericles concluded his Funeral Oration, a solemn public occasion commemorating the valor of soldiers killed in battle and the virtues expected of citizens, with these terse re- marks to the women in the audience. His comments reveal two an- cient Greek assumptions: that women had a different nature from men and that women best served social harmony by not becoming subjects of gossip. He kept these comments to a bare minimum in his long speech.

If it is also appropriate now for me to say something about what constitutes excellence for women, I will signal all my thinking with this short piece of advice to those of you present who are now widows of the war dead: your reputation will be great if you don’t fall short of your innate nature and men talk about you the least whether in praise of your excellence or blaming your faults.

Source: Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, Book 2.45. Translation by Thomas R. Martin.

2. Melanippe Explains Why Men’s Criticism of Women Is Baseless (late fifth century B.C.E.)

The Athenian playwright Euripides often portrays female charac- ters denouncing men for misunderstanding and criticizing women. The heroine of his tragedy Melanippe the Captive is a mother who overcomes hardship and treachery to save her family. Preserved only on damaged papyrus scraps, Melanippe’s speech unfortunately breaks off before finishing.

Men’s blame and criticism of women are empty, like the twang- ing sound a bow string makes without an arrow. Women are su- perior to men, and I’ll demonstrate it. They make contracts with no need of witnesses [to swear they are honest]. They manage their households and keep safe the valuable possessions, shipped from abroad, that they have inside their homes; without a woman, no household is elegant or happy. And then in the mat- ter of people’s relationship with the gods — this I judge to be most important of all — there we have the greatest role. For women prophesy the will of Apollo in his oracles [at Delphi], and at the hallowed oracle of Dodona by the sacred oak tree a woman reveals the will of Zeus to all Greeks who seek it. And then there are the sacred rites of initiation performed for the Fates and the Goddesses Without Names: these can’t be done with holiness by men, but women make them flourish in every way. In this way women’s role in religion is right and proper.

Therefore, should anyone put down women? Won’t those men stop their empty fault-finding, the ones who strongly be- lieve that all women should be blamed if a single one is found to be bad? I will make a distinction with the following argument: nothing is worse than a bad woman, but nothing is more sur- passingly superior than a worthy one.

Source: Euripides, Melanippe the Captive, fragment 660 Mette. Translation by Thomas R. Martin.

3. Socrates Discusses Gender Roles in Marriage (late fifth century B.C.E.)

Socrates, who was dedicated to discovering the nature of human virtue, often discussed family life because it revealed the qualities of women as well as men. When his upper-class friend Ischomachus married a young wife, as was common, the philosopher quizzed him about their marriage; the new husband explained that it was a part- nership based on the complementary natures of male and female.

Ischomachus: I said to her: . . . I for my sake and your parents for your sake [arranged our marriage] by considering who would be the best partner for forming a household and having children. I chose you, and your parents chose me as the best they could find.


The Nature of Women and Marriage

the brothels are swarming with ways to take care of that.” Men (but, again, not women) could also have sex freely with female or male slaves, who could not refuse their masters.

Less successful companions lived precarious lives of exploitation and even violence at the hands of their male customers, but the most skilled of them attracted admirers from the highest levels of society and earned enough to live in luxury on

their own. The most famous companion in Athens was Aspasia from Miletus, who became Pericles’ lover and bore him a son. She dazzled men with her brilliant talk and wide knowledge; Pericles fell so deeply in love with her that he wanted to make her an “honest woman” by marrying her, despite his own law of 451 B.C.E. restricting citizenship, which meant their children could not be citizens without a special law passed by the assembly.

Great riches could also free a woman from tra- dition, allowing her to speak to men openly and bluntly. The most outspoken Athenian woman of wealth was Elpinike, Cimon’s sister. When con- troversy erupted over a speech by Pericles sup- porting Athens’s attack on a rebellious Delian League ally, Elpinike publicly rebuked him by sar- castically remarking in front of a group of women who were praising him, “This really is wonderful,

Pericles. . . . You have caused the loss of many good citizens, not in battle against Phoenicians or Persians . . . but in suppressing an allied city of fellow Greeks.”

Other sources, especially comic drama and fourth-century B.C.E. oratory, imply that not-so- rich women, too, had strong opinions about poli- tics. They customarily expressed their views to their husbands and male relatives at home in private.

Tradit ion and Innovation in Athens’s Golden Age 85C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

If God should give us children, we will then plan how to raise them in the best possible way. For our partnership provides us this good: the best mutual support and the best maintenance in our old age. We have this sharing now in our household, because I’ve contributed all that I own to the common resources of the household, and so have you. We’re not going to count up who brought more property, because the one who turns out to be the better partner in a marriage has made the greater contribution.

Ischomachus’s wife (no name is given): But how will I be able to partner you? What ability do I have? Everything rests on you. My mother told me my job was to behave with thoughtful moderation.

Ischomachus: Well, my father told me the same thing. Thoughtful moderation for a man as for a woman means behav- ing in such a way that their possessions will be in the best pos- sible condition and will increase as much as possible by good and just means. . . . So, you must do what the gods made you nat- urally capable of and what our law requires. . . . With great fore- thought the gods have yoked together male and female so that they can form the most beneficial partnership. This yoking to- gether keeps living creatures from disappearing by producing children, and it provides offspring to look after parents in their old age, at least for people. [He then explains that human sur- vival requires outdoor work — to raise crops and livestock — and indoor work — to preserve food, raise infants, and manufacture clothing.] . . . And since the work both outside and inside re- quired effort and care, God, it seems to me, from the start fash- ioned women’s nature for indoor work and men’s for outdoor. Therefore he made men’s bodies and spirits more able to en- dure cold and heat and travel and marches, giving them the out- side jobs, while assigning indoor tasks to women, it seems, because their bodies are less hardy. . . .

But since both men and women have to manage things, [God] gave them equal shares in memory and attentiveness; you can’t tell which gender has more of these qualities. And God gave both an equal ability to practice self-control, with the power to benefit the most from this quality going to whoever is better at it — whether man or woman. Precisely because they have different natures, they have greater need of each other and their yoking together is the most beneficial, with the one being capable where the other one is lacking. And as God has made them partners for their children, the law makes them partners for the household.

Source: Xenophon, Oeconomicus 7.10–30. Translation by Thomas R. Martin.

4. Greek Marriage Contract from Egypt (311–310 B.C.E.)

Greeks living abroad customarily drew up written contracts to de- fine the duties of each partner in a marriage because they wanted their traditional expectations to remain legally binding regardless of the local laws. The earliest surviving such contract comes from Elephantine, the site of a Greek military garrison far up the Nile.

Marriage contract of Heraclides and Demetria. Heraclides [of Temnos] takes as his lawful wife Demetria of Cos from her fa- ther Leptines of Cos and her mother Philotis. He is a free per- son; she is a free person. She brings a dowry of clothing and jewelry worth 1,000 drachmas. Heraclides must provide Deme- tria with everything appropriate for a freeborn wife. We will live together in whatever location Leptines and Heraclides together decide is best.

If Demetria is apprehended doing anything bad that shames her husband, she will forfeit all her dowry; Heraclides will have to prove any allegations against her in the presence of three men, whom they both must approve. It will be illegal for Heraclides to bring home another wife to Demetria’s harm or to father chil- dren by another woman or to do anything bad to Demetria for any reason. If he is apprehended doing any of these things and Demetria proves it in the presence of three men whom they both approve, Heraclides must return her dowry in full and pay her 1,000 drachmas additional. Demetria and those who help her in getting this payment will have legal standing to act against Her- aclides and all his property on land and sea. . . . Each shall have the right to keep a personal copy of this contract. [A list of wit- nesses follows.]

Source: Elephantine Papyri, ed. O. Rubensohn (Berlin, 1907), no. 1. Translation by Thomas R. Martin.

Questions to Consider 1. What evidence and arguments for differing natures for men

and women do these documents offer? 2. Do you think Athenian women would have found these argu-

ments convincing? Why or why not?

Slaves and Metics. Traditional social and legal restrictions in Golden Age Athens made outsiders of slaves and metics, despite all the work they did in and for the city-state. Individuals and the city- state alike owned slaves, who could be purchased from traders or bred in the household. Unwanted newborns abandoned by their parents (an ac- cepted practice called infant exposure) were often picked up by others and raised as slaves. Athens’s commercial growth in this period increased the demand for slaves, who in Pericles’ time made up around 100,000 of the city-state’s total of perhaps 250,000 inhabitants (the numbers are extremely uncertain extrapolations from ancient reports of the army’s numbers and probable household sizes). Slaves worked in homes, on farms, and in crafts shops; rowed alongside their owners in the navy; and, if they were really unlucky, toiled in Athens’s dangerous silver mines. Unlike those at Sparta, Athens’s slaves almost never rebelled, prob- ably because they originated from too many dif- ferent places to be able to unite. Many mining slaves did run away to the Spartan base established in Athenian territory during the Peloponnesian War; the Spartans probably resold them.

Golden Age Athens’s wealth and cultural vi- tality attracted many metics, who flocked to the city from all around the Mediterranean, hoping to make money as importers, crafts producers, enter- tainers, and laborers. By the start of the Pelopon-

nesian War in 431 B.C.E., metics constituted per- haps 50,000 to 75,000 of the estimated 150,000 free men, women, and children in the city-state. Met- ics paid for the privilege of living and working in Athens through a special foreigners’ tax and mili- tary service. Athenians valued metics’ contribu- tions to the city’s prosperity, but their insistence on exclusive citizenship meant they were unwill- ing to share its legal and financial benefits with im- migrants.

Innovations in Education and Philosophy Building on the intellectual foundation of ration- alism laid in the Archaic Age, innovative ideas in education, philosophy, historical writing, and medicine developed in the Greek Golden Age. These innovations delighted some fifth-century Greeks, but they deeply upset others, who feared that these drastic changes from older ways of life and thought would undermine the traditions that held society together, especially religion, thereby provoking punishment from the angry gods. These controversial changes opened the way to the de- velopment of scientific study as an enduring char- acteristic of Western civilization.

Education and philosophy provided the hottest battles between tradition and innovation. Earlier, education had stressed the preservation of

86 Chapter 3 ■ The Greek Golden Age C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

Vase Painting of a Symposium Upper-class Greek men often spent their evenings at a symposium, a drinking party that always included much conversation and usually featured music and entertainers; wives were not included. The discussions could range widely, from literature to politics to philosophy. The man on the right is about to fling the dregs of his wine, playing a messy game called kottabos. The nudity of the female musician indicates she is a hired prostitute. (Reproduced by permission of the Syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Master and Fellows of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.)

old ways; parents controlled what children learned at home and from hired tutors (there were no pub- lic schools). Controversy erupted when Sophists appeared in the mid-fifth century B.C.E. and of- fered, for pay, classes to teenage and young-adult males that taught nontraditional philosophic and religious doctrines and novel techniques for pub- lic speaking. Some philosophers’ ideas about the nature of the cosmos challenged traditional reli- gious views. The philosopher Socrates, who did not work as a Sophist, expounded such strict views on personal morality and responsibility that he provoked an equally fierce controversy. In histor- ical writing and medicine, innovators created models of interpretation and scientific method that stimulated argument over how to understand human experience and the body.

Disagreement over whether these changes in intellectual life were dangerous for Athenian soci- ety contributed to the political tension that had arisen at Athens by the 430s B.C.E. concerning Athens’s harsh treatment of its own allies and its economic sanctions against those allied with Sparta. This interaction occurred because the po- litical, intellectual, and religious dimensions of life in ancient Athens were closely intertwined. Athe- nians would connect philosophic ideas about the nature of justice with their decisions about the city-state’s domestic and foreign policy, while also being concerned about the attitude of the gods to- ward the community. (See Document, “Athenian Regulations for a Rebellious Ally,” page 88.)

Education. The only formal education available came from private teachers, to whom well-to-do families sent their sons to learn to read, write, play a musical instrument or sing, and develop athletic skills suitable for war. Physical training was con- sidered a vital part of men’s education because it both made their bodies beautiful and prepared them for service in the militia (to which they could be summoned anytime between ages eighteen and sixty). Therefore, men exercised nude every day in gymnasia, which were public open-air facilities paid for by wealthy families. Men frequently dis- cussed politics and exchanged news at these gym- nasia. The daughters of wealthy families usually received instruction at home from educated slaves, who were expensive because they were rare. The young girls learned reading, writing, and arith- metic so that they would be ready to help their fu- ture husbands by managing the household.

Poor girls and boys received no formal educa- tion; they learned a trade and perhaps a little read- ing, writing, and calculating by assisting their parents in their daily work or by serving as appren-

tices to skilled crafts workers. Scholars disagree about how many people could read well, but most likely they were a minority. Weak reading skills were less of a problem then than they are today because Greeks could always find someone to read aloud any written text; in fact, oral communica- tion was at the center of Greek life, whether in political speeches or in songs, plays, and stories from literature and history.

Tradit ion and Innovation in Athens’s Golden Age 87C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

The Masculine Ideal This sculpture of a male warrior/athlete, found in a shipwreck off the coast of Riace in southern Italy, was cast in bronze in the mid-fifth century B.C.E. Greeks preferred bronze over marble for top-rank statues, but few have survived because they were usually melted down and their metal reused (e.g., to make guns in later ages). The figure’s relaxed pose displays the asymmetry—the head looking to one side, the arms in different positions, the torso tilted—that made Greek statues from the Classical Age appear less stiff than Archaic Age ones. The cap on his head was what warriors wore to cushion their helmet. The body displays the ideal build that Greek men strove to achieve through daily workouts. For male statues, nudity indicated a heroic ideal. (Eric Lessing/ Art Resource, NY.)

After their early education, young men from prosperous families would learn how to participate in public life, and especially Athenian democracy, not by taking formal lessons but by observing their fathers, uncles, and other older men as they de- bated in the Council of Five Hundred and the as- sembly, served in public office, and spoke in court. Often an older man would choose an adolescent boy as his special favorite to educate. The teenager would learn about public life by spending time with the older man. During the day the boy would listen to his mentor talking politics in the agora, help him perform his duties in public office, and work out with him in a gymnasium. They would spend their evenings at a symposium, whose agenda could range from serious political and philosophical discussion to riotous partying.

This older mentor–younger favorite relation- ship could lead to sexual relations between the youth and the older male, who would usually be married. Sex between mentors and favorites was considered acceptable in elite circles in many city- states, including Athens, Sparta, and Thebes; other places banned this behavior because they believed, as the Athenian author Xenophon suggests, that it sprang from a man’s shameful inability to control his lustful desires.

Sophists and Philosophers as a Threat to Tradition. By the time of radical democracy in Athens, young men eager to develop the essential political skill of

public speaking could obtain higher education in a new way: pay an expensive professional teacher to train them. These teachers, called Sophists (“men of wisdom”), sparked controversy because they strongly challenged traditional beliefs by teaching new skills of persuasion in speaking and new ways of thinking based on rational arguments. The term sophist later acquired a negative conno- tation (preserved in the English word sophistry) because clever Sophists could use complex reason- ing to make deceptive arguments.

Starting about 450 B.C.E. Athens’s booming economy and lively intellectual activity attracted Sophists from around the Greek world. They were individual entrepreneurs competing with one an- other to attract pupils who could pay the hefty prices they charged for their innovative courses. As in every part of Greek intellectual life, the compe- tition for prominence was intense. Sophists com- peted by offering specialized training in rhetoric — the skill of speaking persuasively. Every ambitious man craved rhetorical training because it prom- ised power in Athens’s assembly, councils, and courts. The Sophists alarmed many tradition- minded Athenians, who feared their teachings would undermine established social and political traditions. Speakers trained by silver-tongued

88 Chapter 3 ■ The Greek Golden Age C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

Athenian Regulations for a Rebellious Ally


The city-state of Chalcis on the island of Eu- boea rebelled from the Athenian-dominated Delian League in 446 B.C.E. After defeating the rebels, the Athenians forced the Chalcid- ians to swear compliance with new regula- tions, which were inscribed on stone in both cities. The text reveals that the terms were not the same for the two sides.

The Athenian Council and the jurors shall swear an oath in this form: “I will not ex- pel Chalcidians from Chalcis nor will I re- duce the city to ruins nor deprive any individual of his citizen rights nor punish him with exile nor imprison him nor kill

him nor take property from anyone who has not had a trial without approval from the People [i.e., the assembly] of the Athe- nians, nor will I have a vote taken against the community or any single individual without their being called to trial, and when an embassy arrives, I will introduce them to the Council and People within ten days when I am in charge of the proce- dure, so far as I am able. These things I will guarantee the Chalcidians if they obey the People of the Athenians.”

The Chalcidians shall swear an oath in this form: “I will not rebel from the People of the Athenians either by cunning

or by any way at all either by word or by deed, and I will not obey anyone who rebels, and if anyone does rebel, I will de- nounce him to the Athenians, and I will pay the tribute to the Athenians which I persuade the Athenians [to levy on me], and as an ally I will be the best and most just that I am able, and I will give support to and defend the People of the Atheni- ans, if anyone wrongs the People of the Athenians, and I will obey the People of the Athenians.”

Source: Inscriptiones Graecae, 3rd ed. (1981), no. 40. Translation by Thomas R. Martin.

Sophists (SAH fists): Competitive intellectuals and teachers in ancient Greece who offered expensive courses in persuasive public speaking and new ways of philosophic and religious thinking beginning around 450 B.C.E.

Sophists, they believed, might be able to mislead the assembly by persuading it to accept bad deci- sions promoting their private interests.

Prominent older leaders, Pericles among them, often joined the Sophists for discussions of their new ideas. The most notorious Sophist was Protagoras, a contemporary of Pericles from Ab- dera, in northern Greece. Protagoras moved to Athens around 450 B.C.E., when he was around forty, and spent most of his career there. His views on the nature of truth and morality outraged many Athenians: he argued that rationally there could be no absolute standard of truth because every issue had two irreconcilable sides. For example, if one person feeling a breeze thinks it warm whereas an- other person thinks it cool, neither judgment can be absolutely correct because the wind simply is warm to one and cool to the other. Protagoras summed up this subjectivism— the belief that there is no absolute reality behind and independ- ent of appearances — in his work Truth: “The hu- man being is the measure of all things, of the things that are that they are, and of the things that are not that they are not.” According to Protagoras, the individual, male or female, is the sole judge of his or her own impressions.

The subjectivism of Protagoras and other Sophists contained two main ideas: (1) human in- stitutions and values are only matters of conven- tion, custom, or law (nomos) and not creations of nature (physis), and (2) since truth is subjective, speakers should be able to argue either side of a question with equal persuasiveness and rational- ity. The first view implied that traditional human institutions were arbitrary and transient rather than natural and permanent, whereas the second seemed to many people to make questions of right and wrong irrelevant. (See Document, “Sophists Arguing Both Sides of a Case,” page 90.)

The Sophists’ critics therefore charged them with teaching moral relativism and threatening the shared public values of the democratic city-state. Aristophanes, author of comic plays, satirized Sophists for harming Athens by instructing stu- dents in persuasive techniques “to make the weaker argument the stronger.” Protagoras, for one, ener- getically responded that his doctrines were not hostile to democracy, arguing that every person had a natural capability for excellence and that hu- man society depended on the rule of law based on a sense of justice. Members of a community, he explained, must be persuaded to obey the laws, not because they were based on absolute truth, which did not exist, but because rationally it was advanta- geous for everyone to be law-abiding. A thief, for example, who might claim that stealing was a part

of nature, would have to be persuaded by reason that a man-made law forbidding theft was to his advantage because it protected his own property and the community in which he, like all humans, had to live in order to survive.

Even more disturbing than the Sophists’ ideas about truth were their ideas about religion. Pro- tagoras angered people with his agnosticism (the belief that supernatural phenomena are unknow- able): “Whether the gods exist I cannot discover, nor what their form is like, for there are many im- pediments to knowledge, [such as] the obscurity of the subject and the brevity of human life.” His implication that even religious belief must be based on knowledge acquired through evidence was in keeping with the development of Greek ra- tionalism and scientific thought, but it upset those who thought he was saying that conventional re- ligion had no meaning. They worried that his words would provoke divine anger against the commu- nity that gave him a home.

Other fifth-century B.C.E. philosophers and thinkers, though not working as Sophists, also pro- posed new scientific theories about the nature of the cosmos and the origin of religion that offended believers in traditional religion. A philosopher friend of Pericles, for example, argued that the sun was a lump of flaming rock, not a god. Another philosopher invented an atomic theory of matter to explain how change was constant in the uni- verse. Everything, he argued, consisted of tiny, in- visible particles in eternal motion. Their random collisions caused them to combine and recombine in an infinite variety of forms, with no divine pur- pose guiding their collisions and combinations. These ideas seemed to invalidate traditional reli- gion, which explained events as governed by the gods’ will. Even worse was the idea advanced by the wealthy aristocrat Critias, who wrote a play in which religion was denounced as a clever but false system invented by powerful men to fool ordinary people into obeying moral standards through fear of divine punishment.

The Sophists’ techniques of persuasion and ways of thought based on rational arguments helped their students advance their political opin- ions forcefully and defend themselves in court. But because only wealthy men could afford their classes, the Sophists threatened Athenian democ- racy by giving yet another advantage to the rich in the assembly’s debates or speeches in court. In ad- dition, moral relativism and the physical explana- tion of the universe struck many Athenians as dangerous: they feared that such teachings, by offending the gods, would destroy the divine good- will they believed Athens enjoyed. These ideas so

Tradit ion and Innovation in Athens’s Golden Age 89C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

infuriated some Athenians that in the 430s B.C.E., they sponsored a law allowing citizens to bring charges of impiety against “those who fail to re- spect divine things or teach theories about the cosmos.” Not even Pericles could prevent his philosopher friend from being convicted on this charge and expelled from Athens.

Socrates on Ethics. Socrates (469–399 B.C.E.), the most famous philosopher of the Golden Age, became well known in his home state of Athens during this troubled time of the 430s, when peo- ple were anxious not just about the Sophists but also about the growing threat of war with Sparta. Socrates devoted his life to questioning people about their beliefs, but he insisted he was not a Sophist because he offered no courses and took no pay. Above all, he fought against the view that jus- tice should be equated with power over others. By insisting that true justice was better than injustice under any and all circumstances, he gave a new di- rection to Greek philosophy: an emphasis on ethics (the study of ideal human values and moral du- ties). Although other thinkers before him (espe- cially poets and authors of plays) had dealt with similar issues, Socrates was the first philosopher to make ethics his central concern.

Socrates lived an eccentric life that attracted constant attention. Sporting a stomach, in his words, “a bit too big to be convenient,” he wore the same cheap cloak summer and winter and scorned shoes no matter how cold the weather. His physi-

cal stamina — including both his tirelessness as a soldier in Athens’s infantry and his ability to out- drink anyone at a symposium— was legendary. Unlike the high-priced Sophists, he lived in poverty and disdained material possessions, though some- how managing to support a wife and several chil- dren; he probably inherited some money and accepted gifts from wealthy admirers.

Socrates spent his time in conversations all over Athens: participating in a symposium, strolling in the agora, or watching young men exercise in a gymnasium. In this behavior he resembled his fel- low Athenians, who placed great value on the im- portance and pleasure of speaking with one another at length. He wrote nothing; our knowl- edge of his ideas comes from others’ writings, especially those of his famous follower Plato (c. 428–348 B.C.E.). Plato portrays Socrates as a re- lentless questioner of his fellow citizens, foreign friends, and leading Sophists. Socrates’ questions had the goal of making his conversational partners examine the basic assumptions of their way of life. Giving few answers, Socrates never directly in- structed anyone; instead, he led them to draw con- clusions in response to his probing questions and refutations of their cherished assumptions. Today this procedure is called the Socratic method.

90 Chapter 3 ■ The Greek Golden Age C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

Sophists Argue Both Sides of a Case


The Sophist Protagoras taught his students to argue both sides of any case, but he insisted he did not teach this skill for immoral pur- poses. Some teachers following in his footsteps were less ethical. This excerpt comes from an anonymous handbook of the late fifth century B.C.E. entitled Double Arguments, which pro- vided examples of how Sophists could make arguments in the fashion of Protagoras.

Greek philosophers put forward double arguments concerning the good and the bad. Some say that the good is one thing and the bad another, but others say that they are the same, and that a thing might

be good for some persons but bad for oth- ers, or at one time good and at another time bad for the same person. I myself agree with those who hold the latter opin- ion, which I shall examine using as an ex- ample human life and its concern for food, drink, and sexual pleasures: these things are bad for a man if he is sick but good if he is healthy and needs them. And, fur- ther, overindulgence in these things is bad for the one who overindulges but good for those who make a profit by selling these things. And again, sickness is bad for the sick but good for the doctors. And death is bad for those who die but good for the

undertakers and makers of grave monu- ments. . . . Shipwrecks are bad for the ship owners but good for the ship builders. When tools are blunted and worn away it is bad for others but good for the black- smith. And if a pot gets smashed, this is bad for everyone else but good for the potter. When shoes wear out and fall apart it is bad for others but good for the shoemaker. . . . In the stadion race for runners, victory is good for the winner but bad for the losers.

Source: Dissoi Logoi 1.1–6. Translation adapted from Rosamund Kent Sprague, ed., The Older Sophists (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1972), 279–80.

Socratic method: The Athenian philosopher Socrates’ method of teaching through conversation, in which he asked probing questions to make his listeners examine their most cherished assumptions.

Socrates frequently upset and even outraged people because his method made them feel ignorant and baffled. Socrates’ questions forced them to ad- mit that they did not in fact know what they had assumed they knew very well. Even more painful to them was Socrates’ fiercely argued view that the way they lived their lives— pursuing success in pol- itics or business or art — was merely an excuse for avoiding the hard work of understanding and de- veloping genuine aretê. Socrates insisted that he was ignorant of the best definition of excellence and the good but that his wisdom consisted of knowing that he did not know. He vowed he was trying to improve, not undermine, people’s ethi- cal beliefs, even though, as a friend put it, a con- versation with Socrates made a man feel numb— as if a jellyfish had stung him.

Socrates especially wanted to use reasoning to discover universal, objective standards that justi- fied individual ethics. He attacked the Sophists for their relativistic claim that conventional standards of right and wrong were merely “the fetters that bind nature.” This view, he protested, equated hu- man happiness with power and “getting more.”

Socrates insisted that the only way to achieve true happiness was to behave in accordance with a universal, transcendent standard of just behav- ior that people could grasp rationally. Essentially, he argued that just behavior and excellence were identical to knowledge and that true knowledge of justice would inevitably lead people to choose good over evil. They would therefore have truly happy lives, regardless of how rich or poor they were. Since Socrates believed that ethical knowl- edge was all a person needed for the good life, he argued that no one knowingly behaved unjustly and that behaving justly was always in the individ- ual’s interest. It was simply ignorant to believe that the best life was the life of unlimited power to pur- sue whatever one desired. The most desirable hu- man life was concerned with virtue and guided by reason, not by dreams of personal gain.

Though very different from the Sophists’ doc- trines, Socrates’ ideas proved just as disturbing be- cause they rejected the Athenians’ traditional way of life. His ridicule of commonly accepted ideas about the importance of wealth and public success infuriated many people. Unhappiest of all were the fathers whose sons, after listening to Socrates’ questions reduce someone to utter bewilderment, came home to try the same technique on their par- ents, employing rational arguments to criticize as old-fashioned and worthless the values their fam- ily held dear. Men who experienced this reversal of the traditional educational hierarchy — the father was supposed to educate the son — felt that Socrates

was undermining the stability of society by making young men question Athenian traditions. Socrates evidently did not teach women, but Plato portrays him as ready to learn from exceptional women, such as Pericles’ companion Aspasia.

The worry that Socrates’ ideas presented a danger to conventional society inspired Aristoph- anes to write his comedy The Clouds (423 B.C.E.). This play portrays Socrates as a cynical Sophist who, for a fee, offers instruction in Protagoras’s technique of making the weaker argument the stronger. When the curriculum of Socrates’ school

Tradit ion and Innovation in Athens’s Golden Age 91C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

Statuette of the Philosopher Socrates The controversial Socrates, the most famous philosopher of Athens in the fifth century B.C.E., joked that he had a homely face and a bulging stomach. This small statue is an artist’s impression of what Socrates looked like; we cannot be sure of the truth. Socrates was renowned for his irony, and he may have pur- posely exaggerated his physical unattractiveness to show his disdain for ordinary standards of beauty and his own emphasis on the quality of one’s soul as the true measure of one’s worth. Compare his body to that of the athletes shown in the vase painting on page 45 or of the statue of the warrior/athlete on page 87. (© The Trustees of the British Museum.)

(“The Thinkery”) transforms a youth into a pub- lic speaker who argues that a son has the right to beat his parents, his father burns the place down. None of these plot details seems to have been real; what was genuine was the fear that Socrates’ rad- ical views on individual morality endangered the city-state’s traditional practices. This anxiety only grew worse as the Peloponnesian War dragged on with ever more casualties, and many citizens began to feel that their best hope for victory lay in strengthening tradition, not weakening it.

Historical Writing. Just as the Sophists and Socrates antagonized many people with their new ideas, the inventors of historical writing drew at- tention because they took a critical attitude in their descriptions of the past. Herodotus of Halicarnas- sus (c. 485–425 B.C.E.) and Thucydides of Athens (c. 455–399 B.C.E.) became Greece’s most famous historians and established Western civilization’s tradition of history writing. The fifth-century B.C.E.’s unprecedented events — a coalition Greek victory over the world’s greatest power and then the longest war ever between Greeks — apparently inspired them to create history as a subject based on strenuous research. They explained that they wrote histories because they wanted people to re- member the past and to understand why wars had taken place. In the 420s B.C.E., Herodotus finished a long, groundbreaking work called Histories (meaning “inquiries” in Greek) to explain the Per- sian Wars as a clash between the cultures of the East and West; by Roman times he had been dubbed the Father of History. A typically compet- itive Greek intellectual, Herodotus made the jus- tifiable claim that he surpassed all previous recording of the past by taking an in-depth and investigative approach to evidence, being inter- ested in the culture of non-Greeks as well as Greeks, and expressing explicit and implicit judg- ments about people’s actions. Because Herodotus recognized the necessity (and the delight) of study- ing other cultures for historical research, he pushed his inquiries deep into the past, looking for long- standing cultural differences that helped explain the Persian-Greek conflict. Unlike poets and play- wrights, he did not make the gods the driving force in history, instead putting the focus on human psy- chology and interaction.

Thucydides redirected historical inquiry — and overtly competed with Herodotus —by writ- ing contemporary history and inventing the kind of analysis of power that today informs political science. His History of the Peloponnesian War, pub- lished after the end of the war, made power poli-

tics, not divine intervention, history’s primary force. Deeply affected by the war’s brutality, he used his experiences as a politician and failed mil- itary commander (he was exiled for losing a key outpost) to make his narrative vivid and frank in describing human moral failings. His insistence that historians should spare no effort in seeking out the most reliable sources and evaluating their testimony with objectivity set a high standard for later writers. Like Herodotus, he challenged tra- dition by revealing that Greek history was not just a story of glorious achievements but also had its share of shameful actions (such as the Athen- ian punishment of Melos in the Peloponnesian War — see page 98).

Hippocrates and the Birth of Scientific Medicine. Hippocrates of Cos, a fifth-century B.C.E. contem- porary of Thucydides, challenged tradition by grounding medical diagnosis and treatment in clinical observation; his fame continues today in the oath bearing his name that doctors swear at the beginning of their professional careers. Previ- ously, medicine had depended on magic and rit- ual; illness was believed to be caused by evil spirits, and various cults in Greek religion offered healing to patients through divine intervention. Compet- ing to refute these earlier doctors’ theories, Hip- pocrates insisted that only physical factors caused disease. He may have been the author of the view, dominant in later medicine, that four humors (flu- ids) made up the human body: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. Health depended on keeping the proper balance among them; being healthy was to be in “good humor.” This system for understanding the body corresponded to the divi- sion of the inanimate world into four parts: the elements earth, air, fire, and water.

Hippocrates taught that the physician’s most important duty was to base his knowledge on care- ful observation of patients and their response to different treatments. Clinical experience, not ab- stract theory or religious belief, was the proper principle for establishing effective cures. By put- ting his innovative ideas and practices to the test in competition with those of traditional medicine, Hippocrates established the truth of his principle, which later became a cornerstone of scientific medicine.

The Development of Greek Tragedy Greek ideas about the problematic relationship be- tween gods and humans inspired Golden Age Athens’s most prominent cultural innovation:

92 Chapter 3 ■ The Greek Golden Age C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

tragic drama. Plays called tragedies were presented over three days at the major annual festival of the god Dionysus in a contest for playwrights, in keep- ing with the competitive spirit characteristic of Greek cultural life. Tragedies presented shocking stories involving fierce conflict and characters rep- resenting powerful forces, usually from myth but occasionally from history, that could be related to controversial issues in contemporary Athens. Therefore, these plays stimulated their large audi- ences to ponder the danger that ignorance, arro- gance, and violence presented to the city-state’s democratic society. Following the tradition of Homer and Hesiod, Golden Age playwrights ex- plored topics ranging from the roots of good and evil to the nature of individual freedom and re- sponsibility in the family and the political com- munity. As with other ancient texts, most tragedies have not survived: only thirty-three still exist from the hundreds that were produced at Athens.

The competition took place every year, with an archon choosing three authors from a pool of applicants. Each of these finalists presented four plays during the festival: three tragedies in a row (a trilogy), followed by a semicomic play featuring satyrs (mythical half-man, half-animal beings) to end the day on a lighter note. Tragedies were writ- ten in verses of solemn language; they were often based on stories about the violent possibilities when gods and humans interacted. The plots of- ten ended with a resolution to the trouble — but only after prolonged suffering.

Athenian tragedies in performance bore little resemblance to modern plays. As in many other cities in Greece, they took place during the day- time in an outdoor theater. At Athens, the theater was sacred to the god Dionysus and built into the southern slope of Athens’s acropolis. This theater held about fourteen thousand spectators overlook- ing an open, circular area in front of a slightly raised stage. A tragedy had eighteen cast members, all of whom were men: three actors to play the speaking roles (both male and female characters) and fifteen chorus members. Although the chorus leader sometimes engaged in dialogue with the ac- tors, the chorus primarily performed songs and dances in the circular area in front of the stage, called the orchestra.

A successful tragedy offered a vivid spectacle. The chorus wore elaborate costumes and per- formed intricate dance routines. The actors, who wore masks, used broad gestures and booming voices to reach the upper tier of seats. A powerful voice was crucial to a tragic actor because words represented the heart of the plays, in which dia- logue and long speeches predominated over phys- ical action. Special effects were part of the spectacle. For example, a crane allowed actors playing the roles of gods to fly suddenly onto the stage. The actors playing lead roles, called the protagonists (literally, “first competitors”), competed against one another for the designation of best actor. So important was a first-rate protagonist to a play’s success that actors were assigned by lottery to the

Tradit ion and Innovation in Athens’s Golden Age 93C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

Divine Healing This relief sculpture shows the god Asclepius healing Archinus (his name is inscribed below). Patients sought Asclepius’s help by going to sleep and dreaming in his sanctuary, as shown at right; the god in the form of a snake is licking the patient’s shoulder to heal it. At left, the god’s power is symbolized by showing him as a heroic- sized figure, who is directly treating the injured shoulder. The Athenians brought Asclepius’s cult from abroad to their city in 420 B.C.E. during the Peloponnesian War to try to alleviate epidemic disease and war injuries. The famous doctor and medical theorist Hippocrates challenged tradition by rejecting this kind of divine healing. (The Art Archive/ National Archaeological Museum, Athens/ Dagli Orti.)

competing playwrights to give all three an equal chance to have a winning cast. Great protagonists became enormously popular, although they were not usually members of the social elite.

Playwrights were from the elite because only men of some wealth could afford the amount of time and learning this work demanded: as author, director, producer, musical composer, choreogra- pher, and sometimes even actor. As citizens, play- wrights also fulfilled the normal military and political obligations of Athenian men. The best- known Athenian tragedians — Aeschylus (525–456 B.C.E.), Sophocles (c. 496–406 B.C.E.), and Euripi- des (c. 485–406 B.C.E.)— all served in the army, and Sophocles was elected to Athens’s highest public office. Authors of plays competed from a love of honor, not money: the prizes, determined by a board of judges, awarded high prestige but little cash. The competition was regarded as so impor- tant that any judge who took a bribe to award a prize was put to death.

Athenian tragedy was a public art form sub- sidized by tax revenues and mandatory contribu-

tions by the rich. Tragedy’s plots explored the dif- ficulties of telling right from wrong when humans came into conflict with one another in the city- state and the gods became involved. Even though most tragedies were based on stories that referred to a legendary time before city-states existed, such as the period of the Trojan War, the moral issues the plays illuminated always pertained to the soci- ety and obligations of citizens in a city-state. For example, Aeschylus in his trilogy Oresteia (458 B.C.E.) uses the story of how the gods stop the mur- derous violence in the family of Orestes, son of Agamemnon, the Greek leader against Troy, to ex- plain the divine origins of democratic Athens’s court system. The plays suggest that human beings learn only by suffering but that the gods provide justice in the long run. Sophocles’ Antigone (441 B.C.E.) presents the story of the cursed family of Oedipus of Thebes as a drama of harsh conflict be- tween a courageous woman, Antigone, and the city- state’s stern male leader, her uncle Creon. After her brother dies in a failed rebellion, Antigone insists on her family’s moral obligation to bury its dead in

94 Chapter 3 ■ The Greek Golden Age C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

Theater of Dionysus at Athens Tragedies, satyr plays, and comedies were produced at Athens during the daytime in this outdoor theater honoring the god Dionysus. Temporary wooden installations provided seating, the stage, and the scenery during the Classical Age; the seats and the stone stage building foundations that are visible here come from later eras. The theater seated about fourteen thousand or more people, and subsidies kept ticket prices reasonable. Since Athens’s drama festivals featured multiple plays each day, spectators spent long hours in the theater to see them all. (John Elk III/ Bruce Coleman, Inc.)

obedience to divine command, while Creon takes harsh action to preserve order and protect commu- nity values by prohibiting the burial of his nephew the traitor. In a horrifying story of raging anger and suicide that features one of the most famous hero- ines of Western literature, Sophocles exposes the right and wrong on each side of the conflict. His play offers no easy resolution of the competing in- terests of divinely sanctioned moral tradition and the state’s political rules.

Ancient sources tell us that the audiences re- acted strongly to the messages of the tragedies pre- sented in the drama competition of the Dionysian festival. For one thing, they could see that the cen- tral characters of the plays were figures who fell into disaster even though they held positions of power and prestige. The characters’ reversals of fortune came about not because they were ab- solute villains but because, as humans, they were susceptible to a lethal mixture of error, ignorance, and hubris (violent arrogance that, according to the Greeks, drove the competitive spirit to excess). The Athenian Empire was at its height when au- diences at Athens attended the tragedies of these and other popular playwrights. Thoughtful spectators could re- flect on the possibility that Athens’s current power and pres- tige, managed as they were by hu- mans, might fall prey to the same kind of mistakes and conflicts that brought down the heroes and heroines of tragedy. Thus, tragedies not only entertained through their spectacle but also educated through their stories and words. In particular, they re- minded male citizens, who gov-

erned the city-state in its assembly, council, and courts, that success created complex moral prob- lems that self-righteous arrogance never solved.

The Development of Greek Comedy Golden Age Athens developed comedy as its second distinctive form of public theater. Like tragedies, comedies were written in verse, performed in Dionysus festivals, and subsidized with public funds and contributions from the rich. Unlike tragedies, comedies commented directly on pub- lic policy and criticized current politicians and in- tellectuals. They did this with plots and casts presenting outrageous fantasies of contemporary life. For example, comic choruses, which had twenty-four dancing singers, could be colorfully dressed as talking birds or dancing clouds, or an ac- tor could fly on a giant dung beetle to visit the gods.

Comic playwrights vied to win the award for the festival’s best comedy by creating beautiful po- etry, raising laughs with constant jokes and puns, and skewering pretentious citizens and political

leaders. Much of the humor con- cerned sex and bodily functions, delivered in a stream of imagina- tive profanity. Well-known men of the day were targets for insults as cowards or effeminate weaklings.

Tradit ion and Innovation in Athens’s Golden Age 95C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

Statuettes of Comic Actors Although these little statues are dressed in the kinds of masks and costumes that came into vogue later than the style of comedy that Aristophanes and his contemporaries wrote in the fifth century B.C.E. (for which no such pieces exist), they give a vivid sense of the exaggerated buffoonery that characterized the acting in Greek comedy. In Aristophanes’ day, the grotesque unreality of comic costumes would have been even more striking because the male actors wore large leather phalluses (penises) attached below their waists that could be props for all sorts of ribald jokes. The use of masks in certain kinds of theater performances continued into Roman times. (Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz/ Art Resource, NY.)

hubris (HYOO bris): The Greek term for violent arrogance.

0 100 kilometers

0 50 100 miles

Theater site�

Mediterranean Sea

Aegean Sea













Miletos ��

� �


� � �

��� � ��

Theaters of Classical Greece

Women characters portrayed as figures of fun and ridicule seem to have been fictional, to protect the dignity of actual female citizens.

Athenian comedies often made fun of politi- cal leaders. As the leading politician of radical democracy, Pericles came in for fierce criticism in comedy. Comic playwrights mocked his policies, his love life, even the shape of his skull (“Old Turnip Head” was a favorite insult). Aristophanes (c. 455–385 B.C.E.), Athens’s most famous comic playwright, so fiercely ridiculed Cleon, the city’s most prominent leader early in the Peloponnesian War, that Cleon sued him. A citizen jury ruled in Aristophanes’ favor, upholding the Athenian tra- dition of free speech.

In several of Aristophanes’ comedies, the main characters are powerful women who compel the men of Athens to change their policy to preserve family life and the city-state. These plays even crit- icize the assembly’s policy during wartime. Most famous is Lysistrata (411 B.C.E.), named after the female lead character of the play. In this fantasy, the women of Athens and Sparta unite to force their husbands to end the Peloponnesian War. To make the men agree to a peace treaty, they first seize the acropolis, where Athens’s financial re- serves are kept, to prevent the men from squan- dering them further on the war. They then use sarcasm and pitchers of cold water to beat back an attack on their position by the old men who have remained in Athens while the younger men are out on campaign. Above all, the women steel themselves to refuse to sleep with their husbands when they re- turn from battle. The effects of their sex strike on the men, portrayed in a series of explicit episodes, finally compel the warriors to make peace.

Lysistrata presents women acting bravely and aggressively against men who seem bent on de- stroying traditional family life— they are staying away from home for long stretches while on mili- tary campaign and are ruining the city-state by prolonging a pointless war. Lysistrata insists that women have the intelligence and judgment to make political decisions: “I am a woman, and, yes, I have brains. And I’m not badly off for judgment. Nor has my education been bad, coming as it has from my listening often to the conversations of my father and the elders among the men.” Her old- fashioned training and good sense allow her to see what needs to be done to protect the community. Like the heroines of tragedy, Lysistrata is a conser- vative, even a reactionary; she wants to put things back the way they were before the war ruined fam- ily life. To do that, however, she has to act like an impatient revolutionary. That irony sums up the

challenge that fifth-century B.C.E. Athens faced in trying to resolve the tension between the dynamic innovation of its Golden Age and the importance of tradition in Greek life.

The remarkable freedom of speech of Athen- ian comedy allowed frank, even brutal, commen- tary on current issues and personalities. It cannot be an accident that this energetic, critical drama emerged in Athens at the same time as radical democracy, in the mid-fifth century B.C.E. The feel- ing that all citizens should have a stake in deter- mining their government’s policies evidently fueled a passion for using biting humor to keep the community’s leaders from becoming arrogant and aloof.

Review: How did new ways of thinking in the Golden Age change traditional ways of life?

The End of the Golden Age, 431–403 B.C.E. A war between Athens and Sparta that lasted a gen- eration (431–404 B.C.E.) ended the Golden Age; it is called the Peloponnesian War today because it pitted Sparta’s Peloponnese-based alliance against Athens and the Delian League. The war started, ac- cording to Thucydides, because the growth of Athenian power alarmed the Spartans, who feared that their interests and allies would fall to the Athe- nians’ restless drive. Pericles, the most powerful politician in Athens at the time, persuaded its as- sembly to take a hard line when the Spartans de- manded that Athens ease restrictions on city-states allied with Sparta. Corinth and Megara, crucial Spartan allies, complained bitterly to Sparta about Athens; finally, Corinth told Sparta to attack Athens, or else Corinth and its navy would change sides to the Athenian alliance. Sparta’s leaders therefore gave Athens an ultimatum— stop mis- treating our allies. Pericles convinced the Athen- ian assembly to reject the ultimatum on the grounds that Sparta had refused to settle the dis- pute through the third-party arbitration process called for by the 446–445 B.C.E. treaty. Pericles’ critics claimed he was insisting on war against Sparta to revive his fading popularity; his support- ers replied that he was defending Athenian honor and protecting foreign trade, a linchpin of the economy. By 431 B.C.E. these disputes had shat- tered the peace treaty between Athens and Sparta negotiated by Pericles in 446–445 B.C.E.

96 Chapter 3 ■ The Greek Golden Age C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

The Peloponnesian War, 431–404 B.C.E. Lasting longer than any previous war in Greek his- tory, the Peloponnesian War (Map 3.3) took place above all because Spartan leaders believed they had to fight now to keep the Athenians from using their superior long-distance offensive power—the Delian League’s naval forces — to destroy Sparta’s control of the Peloponnesian League. (See “Taking Mea- sure.”) Sparta made the first strike of the war, but the conflict dragged on so long because the Athen- ian assembly failed to negotiate peace with Sparta when it had the chance and because the Spartans were willing to deal with Persia for money to build a fleet and thereby win the war.

Dramatic evidence for the angry feelings that fueled the war comes from Thucydides’ version of Pericles’ stern oration to the Athenian assembly about not yielding to Spartan pressure:

If we do go to war, harbor no thought that you went to war over a trivial affair. For you this trifling matter is the assurance and the proof of your determination. If you yield to their demands, they will immediately confront you with some larger demand, since they will think that you only gave way on the first point out of fear. But if you stand firm, you will show them that they have to deal with you as equals. . . . When our equals, without agreeing to arbitration of the matter under dispute, make claims on us as neighbors and state those claims as commands, it would be no better than slavery to give in to them, no matter how large or how small the claim may be.

When Sparta invaded Athenian territory, Per- icles advised a two-pronged strategy to win what he saw would be a long war: (1) use the navy to raid the lands of Sparta and its allies, and (2) avoid large infantry battles with the superior land forces of the Spartans, even when the enemy hoplites plundered the Athenian countryside outside the city. Athens’s citizens could retreat to safety behind

The End of the Golden Age, 431–403 b.c .e . 97C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

0 50 100 kilometers

0 50 100 miles




Delian League and allies

Sparta and allies

Neutral states

Athenian route to Sicily, 415 B.C.E.

Spartan campaigns


M e d i t e r r a n e a n S e a

Aegean Sea










Sicily IL



Syracuse 413 B.C.E.

Mantinea 418 B.C.E.

Melos 416 B.C.E.

Delium 424 B.C.E.

Amphipolis 422 B.C.E.

Aegospotami 405 B.C.E.

Cyzicus 410 B.C.E.

Arginusae Islands 406 B.C.E.














Corinth Megara


Pylos Sparta





� �

MAP 3.3 The Peloponnesian War, 431–404 B.C.E. For the first ten years, the Peloponnesian War’s battles took place largely in mainland Greece. Sparta, whose armies usually avoided distant campaigns, shocked Athens when its general Brasidas led successful attacks against Athenian forces in northeast Greece. Athens stunned the entire Greek world in the war’s next phase by launching a huge naval expedition against Spartan allies in far-off Sicily. The last ten years of the war saw the action move to the east, on and along the western coast of Anatolia and its islands, on the boundary of the Persian Empire, which helped the Spartans build a navy there to defeat the famous Athenian fleet. ■ Look at the route of Athens’s expedition to Sicily; why do you think the Athenians took this longer voyage, rather than a more direct route?

the city’s impregnable fortification walls, massive barriers of stone that encircled the city and the harbor, with the Long Walls protecting the land corridor between the urban center and the port. He insisted that Athenians should sacrifice their vast and valuable country property to save their population. In the end, he predicted, Athens, with its superior resources, would win a war of attri- tion, especially because the Spartans, lacking a base in Athenian territory, could not support long in- vasions.

Pericles’ strategy and leadership might have made Athens the winner in the long run, but chance intervened to deprive Athens of his guid- ance: an epidemic struck Athens in 430 B.C.E. and killed Pericles the next year. This plague ravaged Athens’s population for four years, killing thou- sands as it spread like wildfire among the people packed in behind the walls to avoid Spartan at- tacks. Despite their losses and the fears of many that the gods had sent the epidemic to punish them, the Athenians fought on; over time, how- ever, they abandoned the disciplined strategy that Pericles’ prudent plan had required. The generals elected after his death, especially Cleon, pursued a much more aggressive strategy. At first this suc- ceeded, especially when a contingent of Spartan hoplites surrendered after being blockaded by Cleon’s forces at Pylos in 425 B.C.E. Their capitu- lation shocked the Greek world and led Sparta to ask for a truce, but the Athenian assembly wanted more. When the daring Spartan general Brasidas captured Athens’s possessions in northern Greece in 424 and 423 B.C.E., however, he turned the tide of war in the other direction by crippling the Athenian supply of timber and precious metals from this crucial region. When Brasidas and Cleon were both killed in 422 B.C.E., Sparta and Athens made peace in 421 B.C.E. out of mutual exhaustion.

Athens’s most innovative and confident new general, Alcibiades, soon persuaded the assembly to reject the peace and to attack Spartan allies in 418 B.C.E. In 416–415 B.C.E., the Athenians and their allies overpowered the tiny and strategically meaningless Aegean island of Melos because it re- fused to abandon its allegiance to Sparta. Thucy- dides dramatically represents Athenian messengers telling the Melians they had to be conquered to show that Athens permitted no defiance to its dominance. Following their victory the Athenians executed the Melian men, sold the women and children into slavery, and colonized the island.

The turning point in the war came soon there- after when, in 415 B.C.E., Alcibiades persuaded the Athenian assembly to launch the greatest and most expensive campaign in Greek history. The expedi- tion of 415 B.C.E. was directed against Sparta’s al- lies in Sicily, far to the west; Alcibiades had dazzled his fellow citizens with the dream of conquering that rich island and especially its greatest city, Syra- cuse. Alcibiades’ political rivals had him deposed from his command, however, and lesser generals blundered into catastrophic defeat in Sicily in 413 B.C.E. (see Map 3.3). The victorious Syracusans de- stroyed the allied invasion fleet and packed the sur- vivors like human sardines into quarries under the

98 Chapter 3 ■ The Greek Golden Age C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .


Military Forces of Athens and Sparta at the Beginning of the Peloponnesian War (431 B.C.E.) This chart compares the military forces of the Athenian side and the Spartan side when the Peloponnesian War broke out in 431 B.C.E. The numbers come from ancient sources, above all the Athenian general and historian Thucydides, who fought in the war. The bar graph starkly reveals the different characteristics of the competing forces: Athens relied on its navy of triremes and its archers (the fifth-century B.C.E. equivalent of artillery and snipers), while Sparta was preeminent in the forces needed for pitched land battles—hoplites (heavily armed infantry) and cavalry (shock troops used to disrupt opposing phalanxes). These differences dic- tated the differing strategies and tactics of the two sides: Athens in guerrilla fashion launching surprise raids from the sea, and Sparta trying to force decisive confrontations on the battlefield. (From Pamela Bradley, Ancient Greece: Using Evidence (Melbourne: Edward Arnold,

1990), 229.)

Athens Sparta




Cavalry Archers Triremes







blazing sun, with no toilets and only half a pint of drinking water and a handful of grain a day.

On the advice of Alcibiades, who had deserted to their side in anger at having lost his command, the Spartans in 413 B.C.E. seized a permanent base of operations in the Athenian countryside for year- round raids, now that Athens was too weak to drive them out. Constant Spartan attacks devastated Athenian agriculture, and twenty thousand slave workers crippled production in Athens’s silver mines by deserting to the enemy. The democratic assembly became so upset over these losses that in 411 B.C.E. it voted itself out of existence in favor of an emergency government run by the wealthier citizens. When an oligarchic group illegally took charge, however, the citizens restored the radical democracy and kept fighting for another seven years. They even recalled Alcibiades, seeking bet- ter generalship, but the end came when Persia gave the Spartans money to build a navy; the Persian king thought it was in his interest to see Athens defeated. Aggressive Spartan naval action forced Athens to surrender in 404 B.C.E. After twenty- seven years of near-continuous war, the Athenians were at their enemy’s mercy.

Athens Humbled: Tyranny and Civil War, 404–403 B.C.E. Following Athens’s surrender, the Spartans in- stalled a regime of antidemocratic Athenians known as the Thirty Tyrants who were willing to collaborate with the victors. The collaborators were members of the social elite, and some, includ- ing their notoriously violent leader Critias, infa- mous for his criticism of religion, had been well-known pupils of Sophists. Brutally suppress- ing democratic opposition, these oligarchs em- barked on an eight-month period of murder and plunder in 404–403 B.C.E. The speechwriter Lysias, for example, reported that Spartan henchmen murdered his brother in order to steal the family’s valuables, even ripping the gold rings from the ears of his brother’s wife. Outraged at the violence and greed of the Thirty Tyrants, citizens who wanted to restore democracy banded together outside the city to fight to regain control of Athens. Fortu- nately for them, a feud between Sparta’s two most important leaders paralyzed the Spartans, and they failed to send help to the Athenian collaborators. The democratic rebels defeated the forces of the Thirty Tyrants in a series of bloody street battles in Athens.

Democracy was thereby restored, but the city- state still seethed with anger and unrest. To settle

the internal strife that threatened to tear Athens apart, the newly restored democratic assembly voted the first known amnesty in Western history, a truce agreement forbidding any official charges or recriminations stemming from the crimes of 404–403 B.C.E. Agreeing not to pursue grievances in court was the price of peace. As would soon be- come clear, however, some Athenians harbored grudges that no amnesty could dispel. In addition, Athens’s financial and military strength had been shattered. At the end of the Golden Age, Atheni- ans worried about how to remake their lives and restore the luster that their city-state’s innovative accomplishments had produced.

Review: What factors determined the course of the Peloponnesian War?

Conclusion When at the beginning of the fifth century B.C.E. some Greek city-states temporarily united to resist the Persian Empire, they surprised themselves by defeating the Persian invaders, who threatened their political independence. When the Persians retreated, however, so too did Greek unity. Follow- ing the Greek victory, Athens competed with Sparta for power; the Athenian Golden Age that followed the Persian Wars was based on empire and trade, and the city’s riches funded the widen- ing of democracy and brilliant cultural accom- plishments.

As the money poured in, Athens built glori- ous and expensive temples, instituted pay for serv- ice in many government offices to strengthen democracy, and assembled the Mediterranean’s most powerful navy. The poor men who rowed the ships demanded greater democracy; such demands led to political and legal reforms that guaranteed fair treatment for all. Pericles became the most famous politician of the Golden Age by leading the drive for radical democracy.

Religious practice and women’s lives reflected the strong grip of tradition on everyday life, but dramatic innovations in education and philosophy created social tension. The Sophists’ relativistic views disturbed tradition-minded people, as did Socrates’ definition of virtue, which questioned or- dinary people’s love of wealth and success. Art and architecture broke out of old forms, promoting an impression of balanced motion rather than stabil- ity, while medicine gained a more scientific basis. Tragedy and comedy developed at Athens as pub-

Conclusion 99C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

lic art forms commenting on contemporary social and political issues.

Wars framed the Golden Age. The Persian Wars sent the Athenians soaring to imperial power and prosperity, but their high-handed treatment of allies and enemies combined with Spartan fears about Athenian power to bring on the disastrous Peloponnesian War. Nearly three decades of battle brought the stars of the Greek Golden Age crash- ing to earth: by 400 B.C.E. the Athenians found themselves in the same situation as in 500 B.C.E., fearful of Spartan power and worried whether the world’s first democracy could survive. As it turned out, the next great threat to Greek stability and in- dependence would once again come from a neigh- boring monarchy, this time not from Persia (to the east) but from Macedonia (to the north).

For Further Exploration ■ For suggested references, including Web sites,

for topics in this chapter, see page SR-1 at the end of the book.

■ For additional primary-source material from this period, see Chapter 3 in Sources of THE MAKING OF THE WEST, Third Edition.

■ For Web sites and documents related to topics in this chapter, see Make History at

100 Chapter 3 ■ The Greek Golden Age C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

Greece, Europe, and the Mediterranean, 400 B.C.E. No single power controlled the Mediterranean region at the end of the fifth century B.C.E. In the west, the Phoenician city of Carthage and the Greek cities on Sicily and in southern Italy were rivals for the riches to be won by trade. In the east, the Spartans, emboldened by their recent victory over Athens in the Peloponnesian War, tried to become an international power outside the mainland for the first time in their history by sending campaigns into Anatolia. This aggressive action aroused stiff opposition from the Persians because it was a threat to their westernmost imperial provinces. There was to be no peace and quiet in the Mediterranean even after the twenty-seven years of the Peloponnesian War.

0 250 500 kilometers

0 250 500 miles




Black Sea


C aspian


M e d i t e r r a n e a n S e a

Ba lti

c S ea

North Sea


anube R.

T igris R.

Euphrates R.



































Crete Cyprus

Balearic Is.

Knossos Sparta

Corinth Athens




Byzantium Sinope


Al Mina



Naucratis Babylon


� �

0 50 100 kilometers

0 50 100 miles M e d i t e r r a n e a n S e a

Aegean Sea

Ionian Sea




I o n

i a







Acarnania Aetolia Boeotia

Achaea Elis







Sparta Pylos

Corinth Miletus



Mt. Olympus

� �

Classical Greece, c. 400 B.C.E.


Key Terms and People Making Connections

Review Questions

1. What were the most significant differences between Archaic Age Greece and Golden Age Greece?

2. For what sorts of things did Greeks of the Golden Age spend public funds? Why did they believe these things were worth the expense?

1. How did the Greeks overcome the challenges presented by the Persian invasions?

2. What factors produced political change in fifth-century B.C.E. Athens?

3. How did new ways of thinking in the Golden Age change traditional ways of life?

4. What factors determined the course of the Peloponnesian War?

Chapter Review

Themistocles (71)

Delian League (74)

triremes (74)

Pericles (75)

radical democracy (76)

ostracism (76)

agora (78)

Parthenon (78)

mystery cults (81)

metic (82)

hetaira (83)

Sophists (88)

Socratic method (90)

hubris (95)

For practice quizzes, a customized study plan, and other study tools, see the Online Study Guide at

Important Events

500–323 b.c.e. Classical Age of Greece

499–479 b.c.e. Wars between Persia and Greece

490 b.c.e. Battle of Marathon

480–479 b.c.e. Xerxes’ invasion of Greece

480 b.c.e. Battle of Salamis

461 b.c.e. Ephialtes reforms the Athenian court system

Early 450s b.c.e. Pericles introduces pay for officeholders in Athenian democracy

454 b.c.e. Catastrophic defeat of Athenian fleet by Persians in Egypt

451 b.c.e. Pericles restricts Athenian citizenship to children whose parents are both citizens

450 b.c.e. Protagoras and other Sophists begin to teach in Athens

446–445 b.c.e. (winter) Peace treaty between Athens and Sparta; intended to last thirty years

441 b.c.e. Sophocles presents the tragedy Antigone

431–404 b.c.e. Peloponnesian War

420s b.c.e. Herodotus finishes Histories

415–413 b.c.e. Enormous Athenian military expedi- tion against Sicily

411 b.c.e. Aristophanes presents the comedy Lysistrata

404–403 b.c.e. Rule of the Thirty Tyrants at Athens

403 b.c.e. Restoration of democracy in Athens

Chapter Review 101C . 500– C . 400 B . C . E .

A bout 255 B.C.E., an Egyptian camel trader far from home paida scribe to write his Greek employer, Zeno, back in Egypt, toprotest how Zeno’s assistant, Krotos, was cheating him: You know that when you left me in Syria with Krotos I followed all your instructions concerning the camels and behaved blamelessly towards you. But Krotos has ignored your orders to pay me my salary; I’ve received noth- ing despite asking him for my money over and over. He just tells me to go away. I waited a long time for you to come, but when I no longer had life’s necessities and couldn’t get help anywhere, I had to run away . . . to keep from starving to death. . . . I am desperate summer and winter. . . . They have treated me like dirt because I am not a Greek. I therefore beg you, please, command them to pay me so that I won’t go hungry just because I don’t know how to speak Greek.

The trader’s plea shows that not speaking Greek hurt him. His need-

ing help from a foreigner holding power in his homeland reflects the

changes in the eastern Mediterranean world during the Hellenistic Age

(323–30 B.C.E.). The movement of Greeks into the Near East and their

contacts with local peoples increased the cultural interaction of the

Greek and the Near Eastern worlds to the highest level ever, forging

a multicultural synthesis that set a new course for Western civilization

in politics, art, philosophy, science, and religion. War fueled these

changes. The first stage came after the Peloponnesian War, when thou-

sands of Greeks became mercenary soldiers serving Near Eastern rulers.

Alexander the Great (356–323 B.C.E.) then changed the course of his-

tory by conquering the Persian Empire, leading an army of Greeks and

Macedonians to the border of India, taking Near Easterners into his

army and imperial administration, and planting colonies of Greeks as

far east as Afghanistan. His amazing expedition shocked the world be-

cause his exploits seemed superhuman, and it gave new creative energy

Classical Greece after the Peloponnesian War, 400–350 B.C.E. 104 • Restoring Daily Life in Athens • The Execution of Socrates, 399 B.C.E. • The Philosophy of Plato • Aristotle, Scientist and Philosopher • Greek Political Disunity

The Rise of Macedonia, 359–323 B.C.E. 110 • The Roots of Macedonian Power • The Rule of Philip II, 359–336 B.C.E. • The Rule of Alexander the Great,

336–323 B.C.E.

The Hellenistic Kingdoms, 323–30 B.C.E. 115 • Creating New Kingdoms • The Structure of Hellenistic Kingdoms • The Layers of Hellenistic Society • The End of the Hellenistic Kingdoms

Hellenistic Culture 120 • The Arts under Royal Patronage • Philosophy for a New Age • Scientific Innovation • Cultural and Religious Transformations


From the Classical to the Hellenistic World 400–30 B.C.E.



The Rosetta Stone This inscription found near Rosetta, in the Nile River delta, unlocked the lost secrets of how to read Egyptian hieroglyphs. The bands of text repeat the same message (priests praising King Ptolemy V in 196 B.C.E.) in hieroglyphs, demotic (a cursive form of Egyptian invented around 600 B.C.E.), and Greek. Bilingual texts were necessary to reach the mixed population of Hellenistic Egypt. Scholars deciphered the hieroglyphs by comparing them to the Greek version. They started with the hieroglyphs surrounded by an oval, which they guessed were royal names. (Art Resource, NY.)

to Western civilization by acting like a cultural whirlwind that swirled together Greek and Near Eastern traditions as never before.

Politics changed in the Greek world after Alexander’s death when his successors revived monarchy by carving out territories to rule as their personal kingdoms. These new kingdoms, which became the dominant powers of the Hellenistic Age, restricted the freedom of Greece’s city-states; the city-states retained local rule but lost their independence to compete with each other in for- eign policy. The Hellenistic kings now controlled international affairs. They imported Greeks to fill royal offices, man their armies, and run businesses. This demographic change created tension with the kings’ non-Greek subjects. Immigrant Greeks, such as Zeno in Egypt, formed a social elite that lorded it over the kingdoms’ local populations. Egyptians, Syrians, or Mesopotamians who wanted to rise in society had to win the support of these Greeks and learn their language. Otherwise, they were likely to find themselves as powerless as the hungry camel merchant.

Over time, the Near East’s local cultures inter- acted with the Greek overlords’ culture to spawn a multicultural synthesis. Locals married Greeks, shared their artistic and religious traditions with the newcomers, passed along their agricultural and scientific knowledge, and learned Greek to win ad- ministrative jobs. Although Hellenistic royal soci- ety always remained hierarchical, with Greeks at the top, and never eliminated tension between rulers and ruled, its kings and queens did finance innovations in art, philosophy, religion, and sci- ence that combined Near Eastern and Greek tra- ditions. The Hellenistic kingdoms fell in the second and first centuries B.C.E. when the Romans overthrew them one by one.

All this happened during an era of constant warfare. Cultural interaction, a characteristic of Western civilization from the beginning, reached a new level of intensity as an unintended conse-

quence of Alexander’s military campaigns. The new contacts between diverse peoples and the emergence of new ideas strongly influenced Roman civilization and therefore later Western civiliza- tion. In particular, Hellenistic artistic, scientific, philosophical, and religious innovations persisted even after the glory of Greece’s Golden Age had faded, especially since Hellenistic religion pro- vided the background for Christianity.

Focus Question: What were the major political and cultural changes in the Hellenistic Age?

Classical Greece after the Peloponnesian War, 400–350 B.C.E. The Greek city-states gradually regained their eco- nomic and political stability after the Pelopon- nesian War (431–404 B.C.E.), but daily life remained hard, especially for working people. The war’s aftermath dramatically affected Greek phi- losophy. At Athens, citizens who blamed Socrates for inspiring the worst of the Thirty Tyrants brought him to trial; the jury condemned him to death. His execution helped persuade the philoso- phers Plato and Aristotle to detest democracy and develop new ways of thinking about right versus wrong and how human beings should live.

Although the city-states recovered after the war, their continuing competition for power in the fourth century B.C.E. undermined their independ- ence. After failing to control defeated Athens, the Spartans tried to expand their power into central Greece and Anatolia by collaborating with the Per- sians. This policy stirred up violent resistance from Thebes and from Athens, which had rebuilt its naval empire. By the 350s B.C.E., the strife among the Greek city-states so weakened all of them that

104 Chapter 4 ■ From the Cl a ssic al to the Hellenistic World 400–30 b.c .e .

400 B.C.E. 350 B.C.E. 300 B.C.E. 250 B.C.E.

■ 399 Trial of Socrates

■ 386 Sparta/Persia peace; Plato’s Academy opens

■ 362 Battle of Mantinea

■ 338 Battle of Chaeronea

■ 335 Aristotle’s Lyceum

■ 334–323 Alexander conquers Persia

■ 307 Epicurus founds “the Garden”

■ 306–304 Alexander’s successors declare themselves kings

■ 300–260 Theocritus’s poetry

■ c. 300 Euclid teaches geometry

they were unable to prevent the Macedonian king- dom (Alexander the Great’s homeland) from gain- ing control of Greece.

Restoring Daily Life in Athens Athens provides the most evidence for Greek life after the Peloponnesian War. The devastation of Athens’s rural economy by Spartan raids and the overcrowding in the wartime city produced fric- tion between refugees from the countryside and city dwellers. Life became difficult for middle-class women whose husbands and brothers had died during the conflict. Traditionally, they had woven cloth at home for their families and supervised the household slaves, but the men had earned the fam- ily’s income by farming or working at a trade. Now, with no man to provide for them and their chil- dren, many war widows had to work outside the home. The only jobs open to them — such as wet- nursing, weaving, or laboring in vineyards — were low-paying.

Resourceful Athenians found ways to profit from women’s skills. The family of one of Socrates’ friends, for example, became poverty-stricken when several widowed sisters, nieces, and female cousins moved in. The friend complained to Socrates that he was too poor to support his new family of four- teen plus their slaves. Socrates replied that the women knew how to make men’s and women’s cloaks, shirts, capes, and smocks, “the work con- sidered the best and most fitting for women.” He suggested they begin to sell the clothes outside the home. This plan succeeded financially, but the women complained that Socrates’ friend was the household’s only member who ate without work- ing. Socrates advised the man to reply that the women should think of him as sheep did a guard dog — he earned his share of the food by keeping the wolves away.

Athens’s postwar economy recovered because small-business owners and households engaged in

trade and produced manufactured goods. Greek businesses, usually family-run, were small; the largest known was a shield-making company with 120 slave workers. Some changes occurred in oc- cupations formerly defined by gender. For example, men began working alongside women in cloth production when the first commercial weaving shops outside the home sprang up. Some women made careers in the arts, especially painting and music, which men had traditionally dominated.

The rebuilding by 393 B.C.E. of Athens’s de- stroyed Long Walls, which connected the city to the port, boosted the economy. Exports of grain, wine, pottery, and silver from Athens’s mines re- sumed. The refortified harbor also allowed Athens

Cl a ssic al Greece after the Peloponnesian War, 400 – 350 B . C . E . 105400–30 b.c .e .

200 B.C.E 150 B.C.E. 100 B.C.E. 50 B.C.E.

■ 167 Maccabee revolt

■ 195 Laodice funds dowries

Vase Painting of Women Fetching Water (detail) This vase painting depicts women filling water jugs at a public fountain to take back to their homes. Both freeborn and slave women fetched water for their households, as few Greek homes had running water. Cities built attractive fountain houses such as this one, which dispensed fresh water from springs or piped it in through small aqueducts (compare the large Roman aqueduct on page 146). Women often gathered at fountains for conversation with people from outside their household. (William Francis Warden Fund. Photograph © 2007 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (61.195).)

■ 30 Death of Cleopatra

to begin to rebuild its navy, which increased employment opportunities for poor men.

Even in an improving economy, daily life remained difficult for working people. Most workers earned barely enough to feed and clothe their families. They ate two meals a day, a light one at mid- morning and a heavier evening meal. Bread baked from barley provided their main food; only rich people could afford wheat bread. A family bought bread

from small bakery stands, often run by women, or made it at home, with the wife directing the slaves in grinding the grain, shaping the dough, and bak- ing it in a clay oven heated by charcoal. People topped their bread with greens, beans, onions, gar- lic, olives, fruit, and cheese. The few households rich enough to afford meat boiled or grilled it over a fire. Everyone of all ages drank wine, diluted with water, with every meal.

The Execution of Socrates, 399 B.C.E.

Socrates, Athens’s most famous philosopher in the Golden Age, fell victim to the bitterness many Athenians felt about the rule of the Thirty Tyrants following the Peloponnesian War. Since the amnesty proclaimed by the restored democratic assembly prohibited prosecutions for crimes committed under the tyrants’ reign of terror, angry citizens had to bring other charges against those they hated. Some prominent Athenians hated Socrates because his follower Critias had been one of the Thirty Tyrants’ most violent leaders.

These prominent citizens charged Socrates with impiety, a serious crime, claiming that he had angered the gods with his ideas and therefore threatened the city with divine punishment. In 399 B.C.E., they argued their case to a jury of 501 male citizens. They presented religious and moral argu- ments: Socrates, they claimed, rejected the city- state’s gods, introduced new divinities, and lured young men away from Athenian moral traditions. Speaking in his own defense, Socrates refused to

beg for sympathy, as was custom- ary in trials; instead, he repeated his dedication to goading his fellow citizens into examining their pre- conceptions about how to live justly. He vowed to remain their stinging gadfly no matter what.

When the jurors narrowly voted to convict the philosopher, Athenian law required them to de- cide between the penalty proposed by the prosecutors and that pro- posed by the defendant. The pros- ecutors proposed death. Everyone expected Socrates to offer exile as an alternative and the jury to accept it. The philosopher, however, said that he deserved a reward rather than punishment, until his friends made him propose a fine as his penalty. The jury chose death, re- quiring him to drink a poison con- cocted from powdered hemlock. Socrates accepted his sentence calmly because, as he put it, “no evil can befall a good man either in life or in death.” Ancient sources report that many Athenians soon came to regret Socrates’ punish- ment as a tragic mistake and a se- vere blow to their reputation.

106 Chapter 4 ■ From the Cl a ssic al to the Hellenistic World 400–30 b.c .e .

0 2 kilometers

0 2 miles

E rid

an us R


Ilis su

s R .

K ep

hi su

s R . Academy


Ph al

er on

W al

l S. L

ong Wa

ll N. L

ong Wa

ll Athens



Athens’s Long Walls as Rebuilt after the Peloponnesian War

The Long Walls of Athens In the fifth century B.C.E., Athens—which was several miles from Piraeus, its port— connected its city center to the port by extending its fortification walls in a corridor called the Long Walls. This section near the port shows the walls’ close-fitting exterior. The Spartans forced the Athenians to demolish the Long Walls after the Peloponnesian War. When the Athenians regained their freedom in 403 B.C.E., they spent ten years repairing the Long Walls so that they could rebuild their naval empire. (Photo: Craig and Marie Mauzy, [email protected])

The Philosophy of Plato Socrates’ death made his follower and Greece’s most famous philosopher, Plato (429–348 B.C.E.), hate democracy. From a well-to-do family and re- lated to the infamous Critias, whom he mentions favorably, Plato started out as a political consult- ant promoting the rule of philosopher-tyrants as the best form of government. He traveled to Sicily to advise Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse, but when he failed to turn Dionysius into an ideal ruler, he gave up hope that political action could stop vio- lence and greed. Instead, he turned to talking and writing about philosophy as the guide to life and established a philosophical school, the Academy, in Athens around 386 B.C.E. The Academy was an informal association of people who studied phi- losophy, mathematics, and theoretical astronomy under the leader’s guidance. It attracted intellec- tuals to Athens for the next nine hundred years, and Plato’s ideas about the nature of reality, ethics, and politics have remained central to phi- losophy and political science to this day.

Plato’s Ethical Thought. Plato’s intellectual in- terests covered astronomy, mathematics, political philosophy, metaphysics (ideas about the ultimate nature of reality beyond the reach of the human senses), and ethics. His radical views on reality un- derlay his ethics. He presented his ideas in dia- logues, which usually featured Socrates conversing with a variety of people. Plato wrote to provoke readers into thoughtful reflection, not to prescribe a set of beliefs. Nevertheless, he always maintained one essential idea based on his view of reality: ul- timate moral qualities are universal, unchanging, and absolute, not relative. He thus rejected the rel- ativism that the Sophists had taught.

Plato’s dialogues explain his theory that jus- tice, goodness, beauty, and equality exist on their own in a higher realm beyond the daily world. He used the word Forms (or Ideas) to describe the ab- stract, invariable, and ultimate realities of such ethical qualities. According to Plato, the Forms are the only genuine reality; all things that humans perceive with their senses on earth are only dim and imperfect copies of these metaphysical reali- ties. Forms are not defined by human experience of them — any earthly examples can always display the opposite quality. For example, returning a bor-

rowed item might seem like justice. But what if the borrowed item is a weapon and the lender wants it back to commit murder? Returning the bor- rowed item would then support injustice. There- fore, every ethical quality is relative in the world that humans experience, but not in reality. Human experiences are like shadows of ultimate realities cast on the wall of a cave. The difficult notion of Forms made metaphysics an important issue in philosophy.

Plato’s ideas about the soul also profoundly in- fluenced later thought. He believed that humans possess immortal souls distinct from their bodies; this idea established the concept of dualism, a sep- aration between soul (or mind) and body. Plato further explained that the human soul possesses preexisting knowledge put there by a god. The

Cl a ssic al Greece after the Peloponnesian War, 400 – 350 B . C . E . 107400–30 b.c .e .

dualism: The philosophical idea that the human soul (or mind) and body are separate.

Plato: A follower of Socrates who became Greece’s most famous philosopher.

metaphysics: Philosophical ideas about the ultimate nature of reality beyond the reach of human senses.

Mosaic Depicting Plato’s Academy This Roman-era mosaic shows philosophers talking at Plato’s school in Athens, the Academy. Founded about 386 B.C.E., the Academy became one of Greece’s longest-lasting institutions, attracting scholars and students for more than nine hundred years. The columns and the tree in the mosaic express the harmonious blend of the natural and built environment of the Academy, which was meant to promote discussion. What message do the philosophers’ bare chests convey? (Erich Lessing/ Art Resource, NY.)

world has order because a rational deity created it. The god wanted to reproduce the Forms’ perfect order in the material world, but the world turned out imperfect because matter is imperfect. Hu- mans’ present, impure existence is only a tempo- rary stage in cosmic existence because, while the body does not last, the soul is immortal.

Building on earlier Greek rationalism, Plato argued that people must seek perfect order and pu- rity in their souls by using rational thought to con- trol irrational and therefore harmful desires. People who yield to irrational desires fail to con- sider the future of their body and soul. The desire to drink too much alcohol, for ex- ample, is irrational because the binge drinker fails to consider the hangover that will follow.

Plato’s Republic. Plato pre- sented his most famous ideas on politics in his dialogue The Re- public. This work, whose Greek title means “System of Govern- ment,” discusses the nature of jus- tice and the reasons people should shun injustice. Democ- racy cannot create justice because people on their own cannot rise above narrow self-interest to knowledge of any universal truth. Justice can come only under the rule of an enlightened oligarchy or monarchy. Therefore, a just society requires a strict hierarchy.

Plato’s Republic envisions an ideal society with a hierarchy of three classes distinguished by their ability to grasp the truth of Forms. The highest class is the rulers, or “guardians,” who must be educated in mathematics, astronomy, and metaphysics. Next come the “auxiliaries,” who defend the community. “Producers” make up the bottom class; they grow food and make objects for everyone.

Women can be guardians because they possess the same virtues and abilities as men, except for a disparity in physical strength between the average woman and the average man. To minimize dis- traction, guardians are to have neither private property nor nuclear families. Male and female guardians are to live in houses shared in common, eat in the same dining halls, and exercise in the same gymnasia. They are to have sex with various partners so that the best women can mate with the best men to produce the best children. The chil- dren are to be raised together by special caretak- ers. Guardians who achieve the highest level of knowledge can rule as philosopher-kings. Plato did

not think humans could actually create the ideal society described in The Republic, but he did be- lieve that imagining it was an important way to help people learn to live justly. For Plato, philoso- phy was an essential guide to human life.

Aristotle, Scientist and Philosopher Aristotle (384–322 B.C.E.) was another Greek thinker who believed in the importance of philos- ophy as a guide to life. At the age of seventeen, he joined Plato’s Academy. From 342 to 335 B.C.E. he

earned a living by tutoring the teenage Alexander the Great in Macedonia. Returning to Athens in 355 B.C.E., Aristotle founded his own school, the Lyceum, and taught his own life-guiding phi- losophy, based on logic, scientific knowledge, and practical experi- ence. Like Plato, he thought Athenian democracy was a bad system because it did not restrict decision making to the most ed- ucated and moderate citizens. His vast writings made him one of the world’s most influential thinkers.

Aristotle’s reputation rests on his scientific investigation of the natural world, de- velopment of rigorous systems of logical argu- ment, and practical ethics. He regarded science and philosophy as the disciplined search for knowledge in every aspect of everyday life. That search brought the good life and genuine happiness. Aris- totle lectured with dazzling intelligence on biology, medicine, anatomy, psychology, meteorology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, music, meta- physics, rhetoric, literary criticism, political sci- ence, and ethics. He also invented a system of logic for precise argumentation. By creating ways to identify valid arguments, Aristotle established grounds for distinguishing a logically sound case from a merely persuasive one.

Aristotle required explanations to be based on strict rationality and common sense rather than metaphysics. He rejected Plato’s theory of Forms because, he said, the separate existence Plato pos- tulated for Forms was not subject to demonstra- ble proof. Aristotle believed that the best way to understand anything was to observe it in its natu- ral setting. He coupled detailed investigation with

108 Chapter 4 ■ From the Cl a ssic al to the Hellenistic World 400–30 b.c .e .

Aristotle: Greek philosopher famous for his scientific investiga- tions, development of logical argument, and practical ethics.

0 200 meters100

0 400 yards200



Temple of Olympian Zeus

W all of Them



Theater of Dionysus

514 ft.

Aristotle’s Lyceum, established 335 b.c.e.

perceptive reasoning in biology, botany, and zool- ogy. He was the first investigator to try to collect and classify all available information on animal species, recording facts and advancing knowledge about more than five hundred different kinds of animals, including insects. His recognition that whales and dolphins are mammals, for example, was overlooked by later writers on animals and not rediscovered for another two thousand years.

Some of Aristotle’s views justified inequalities characteristic of his time. He regarded slavery as natural, arguing that some people were slaves by nature because their souls lacked the rational part that should rule in a human. He also concluded, on the basis of faulty biological observations, that nature made women inferior to men. He wrongly believed, for example, that in procreation the male’s semen actively gave the fetus its design, whereas the female passively provided its matter. Erroneous biological information led Aristotle to evaluate females as incomplete males, a conclusion with disastrous results for later thought. At the

same time, he believed that human communities could be successful and happy only if women and men both contributed. (See Document, “Aristotle on the Nature of the Greek Polis,” page 109.)

In ethics, Aristotle emphasized the need to de- velop practical habits of just behavior to achieve happiness. People should achieve self-control by training their minds to win out over instincts and passions. Self-control meant finding “the mean,” or balance, between denying and indulging phys- ical pleasures. Aristotle claimed that the mind must rule in finding the balance leading to true happiness because the intellect is the finest human quality and the mind is the true self — indeed, the godlike part of a person.

Aristotle influenced ethics by insisting that standards of right and wrong have merit only if they are grounded in character and aligned with the good in human nature; they cannot work if they consist of abstract reasons for just behav- ior. That is, an ethical system must be relevant to real human situations. He argued that the life of

Cl a ssic al Greece after the Peloponnesian War, 400 – 350 B . C . E . 109400–30 b.c .e .

Aristotle on the Nature of the Greek Polis


Aristotle’s book Politics discussed the origins of political states and the different ways to organize them. Here, Aristotle argues that the city-state (polis) was a creation of nature.

Since we see that every city-state is a type of partnership and that every partnership is established for the sake of some good, for everything that everyone does is mo- tivated by what seems to them to be a good, it is clear that, with all partnerships aiming at some good, the most authorita- tive partnership, which includes all other partnerships, does this the most of all and aims at the most authoritative of all goods. This is what is called the city-state, that is, the political partnership. . . .

If one looks at things as they grow from the beginning, one will make the best ob- servations, on this topic and all others. Ne- cessity first brings together those who cannot exist without each other, that is, on

the one hand, the female and the male for the purpose of reproduction, and this is not a matter of choice, but just as with the other animals and with plants, it is a matter of na- ture to desire to leave behind another of the same kind; on the other hand, [necessity brings together] the ruler and the one who is naturally ruled for the sake of security, for the one who is able to foresee things with his mind is by nature a ruler and by nature a master, while the one who is able to do things with his body is the one who is ruled and is by nature a slave. For this reason the same thing benefits master and slave. . . .

From these two partnerships comes first the household, and Hesiod spoke cor- rectly, saying, “First of all, [get yourself] a house and a wife and an ox for plowing,”1

because the ox is a household slave for a poor man. Therefore, the partnership that

is established first by nature for everyday purposes is the household. . . .

The partnership that first arises from multiple households for the sake of more than everyday needs is the village. The vil- lage seems by nature to be a colony from the household. . . .

The final partnership of multiple vil- lages is the city-state, which possesses the limit of self-sufficiency, so to speak. It comes into being for the sake of living, but it exists for the sake of living well. Every city-state therefore exists by nature, if it is true that the first partnerships do. . . . It is clear that the city-state belongs to the things existing by nature, and that humans are beings who by nature live in a city- state, and that the one who has no city- state by nature and not by chance is either a fool or a superhuman. . . .

Source: Aristotle, Politics, Book 1.1–2, 1252a1– 1253a19. Translation by Thomas R. Martin.1 A quotation from Works and Days, line 405.

the mind and experience of the real world are inseparable in defining a worthwhile and happy existence.

Greek Political Disunity In the same period that Plato and Aristotle were developing their philosophies as guides to life, the Greek city-states were in a constant state of war. Sparta, Thebes, and Athens competed to dominate Greece. None succeeded. Their endless fighting sapped their spirit and their finances, leaving Greek independence vulnerable to external threat.

The Spartans provoked the competition by trying to conquer other city-states in central Greece and in Anatolia in the 390s B.C.E. Thebes, Athens, Corinth, and Argos then formed an anti- Spartan coalition. The Spartans checkmated the al- liance by negotiating with the Persian king. Betraying their traditional claim to defend Greek freedom, the Spartans acknowledged the Persian ruler’s right to control the Greek city-states of Ana- tolia — in return for permission to wage war in Greece without Persian interference. This agree- ment of 386 B.C.E., called the King’s Peace, sold out the Greeks of Anatolia, returning them to subor- dination to Persia, just as before the Persian Wars.

The Athenians rebuilt their military to com- pete with Sparta. The Long Walls restored Athens’s invulnerability to invasion, and a new kind of light infantry — the peltast, armed with a small leather shield, javelins, and sword —fighting alongside hop- lites gave Athenian ground forces greater tactical mobility and flexibility. Most important, Athens rebuilt its navy so that by 377 B.C.E. it had again become the leader of a naval alliance of Greek city- states. This time the league members insisted that their rights be specified in writing to prevent Athenian domination.

The Thebans became Greece’s main power in the 370s B.C.E. through brilliant generalship. They crushed the Spartan invasion of Theban territory in 371 B.C.E. and then invaded the Spartan home- land in the Peloponnese. They greatly weakened Sparta by freeing many helots. The Thebans’ suc- cess alarmed the Athenians, whose city was only forty miles from Thebes, so they allied with their hated enemies, the Spartans. Their armies con- fronted the Thebans in the battle of Mantinea in the Peloponnese in 362 B.C.E. Thebes won the battle but lost the war when its best general was killed and no capable replacement could be found.

The battle of Mantinea left the Greek city- states in disunity and weakness. As a commenta- tor said, “Everyone had supposed that this battle’s

winners would become Greece’s rulers and its los- ers their subjects; but there was only more confu- sion and disturbance in Greece after Mantinea than before.” This judgment was confirmed when the Athenian naval alliance fell apart in a war be- tween Athens and its allies over the negotiations some allies were conducting with Persia and Macedonia.

By the 350s B.C.E., no Greek city-state had the power to rule anything except its own territory. Their competition for supremacy over one another finally died out in a stalemate of exhaustion. By failing to cooperate, the Greeks opened the way for the rise of a new power — the kingdom of Macedonia — that would end their independence in international politics. The Macedonian kings did not literally enslave the Greeks, as the Spartans did the helots, or usually even change their local governments, but they took away the city-states’ freedom to manage their international affairs.

Review: How did daily life, philosophy, and the political situation change in Greece during the period 400–350 B.C.E.?

The Rise of Macedonia, 359–323 B.C.E. The kingdom of Macedonia’s rise to superpower status counts as one of the greatest surprises in an- cient military and political history. In little more than a generation, the Macedonian kingdom, lo- cated just north of central Greece, took advantage of the Greek city-states’ disunity to rocket from being a minor state to ruling the Greek and Near Eastern worlds. Two aggressive and charismatic Macedonian kings produced this transformation: Philip II (r. 359–336 B.C.E.) and his son Alexander the Great (r. 336–323 B.C.E.). Their conquests ended the Greek Classical Age and set in motion the Hellenistic Age’s cultural changes.

The Roots of Macedonian Power The Macedonians’ power sprang from the charac- teristics of their monarchy and their people’s eth- nic pride. Macedonian kings had to listen to their

110 Chapter 4 ■ From the Cl a ssic al to the Hellenistic World 400–30 b.c .e .

Alexander the Great: The fourth-century B.C.E. Macedonian king whose conquest of the Persian Empire led to the greatly in- creased cultural interactions of Greece and the Near East in the Hellenistic Age.

The Rule of Philip II, 359–336 B.C.E. King Philip II forged Macedonia into an international power against heavy odds. Before his reign, frequent strife between royals and the elite plus attacks from hostile neighbors had kept the kingdom weak. Princes married young, soon after the age of twenty, and possibly more than one wife, to try to produce male heirs to provide strong rule protecting the kingdom.

A military disaster in 359 B.C.E. brought Philip to the throne at a desperate

moment. The Illyrians had slaughtered the previous king and four thousand troops. Philip

restored the Macedonian army’s confidence by teaching his troops an unstoppable new tactic with their thrusting spears, which reached a length of sixteen feet and took two hands to wield: arrang- ing them in the traditional phalanx formation, he created deep blocks of soldiers whose front lines bristled with outstretched spears like a lethal por- cupine. Then he trained them to move around in battle in different directions without losing their formation. By moving as a unit, a mobile phalanx armed with such long spears could splinter the en- emy’s infantry. Deploying cavalry as a strike force to soften up the enemy while also protecting the infantry’s flanks, Philip used his reorganized army to rout the Illyrians in the field, while at home he eliminated his local rivals for kingship.

Philip next moved southward into Greece, em- ploying diplomacy, bribery, and military action to bulldoze the city-states into following him. A Greek contemporary labeled Philip “insatiable and extravagant; he did everything in a hurry . . . he never spared the time to reckon up his income and expenses.” By the late 340s B.C.E., Philip had cajoled or coerced most of northern and central Greece into alliance with him. Seeking glory for

people, who had freedom of speech. The king gov- erned by maintaining the elite’s support because they ranked as his social equals and controlled many followers. Men spent their time training for war, hunting, and drinking heavily. The king had to excel in these activities to show that he deserved to lead the state. Queens and royal mothers re- ceived respect because they came from powerful families or the ruling houses of neighboring re- gions. In the king’s absence these royal women wielded power at court.

Macedonian kings thought of themselves as ethnically Greek; they spoke Greek as well as they did their native Macedonian. Macedonians as a whole, however, looked down on the Greeks as too soft to survive life in their northern land. The Greeks reciprocated this contempt. The famed Athenian orator Demosthenes (384–322 B.C.E.) scorned Philip II as “not only not a Greek nor re- lated to the Greeks, but not even a barbarian from a land worth mentioning; no, he’s a pestilence from Macedonia, a region where you can’t even buy a slave worth his salt.”

The Rise of Macedonia, 359– 323 B . C . E . 111400–30 b.c .e .

Gold-Plated Wine Bowl (detail) This large metal bowl from Macedonia dates to the 330s B.C.E. Wealthy men attending a drinking party (symposium) diluted wine with water in such containers so that they could down greater quantities. The excited states of the satyr and the female worshipper of Dionysus, the god of wine and pleasure, expressed the ecstasy the partygoers craved. Erect penises were depicted frequently in Greek art, probably to represent hopes for fertility and sexual enjoyment, and were not regarded as obscene. (Thessalonike Archaeological Museum/ © Archaeological Receipts Fund.)

Greece and fearing the instability his reinvigorated army would create in his kingdom if the soldiers had nothing to do, he decided to lead a united Macedonian and Greek army to conquer the Persian Empire.

Philip justified attacking Persia as revenge for its invasion of Greece 150 years earlier. Some Greeks remained unconvinced. At Athens, Demos- thenes bitterly criticized Greeks for not resisting Philip. They stood by, he thundered, “as if Philip were a hailstorm, praying that he would not come their way, but not trying to do anything to head him off.” Moved by his words, Athens and Thebes rallied a coalition of southern Greek city-states to combat Philip, but in 338 B.C.E. the Macedonian king and his Greek allies trounced the coalition’s forces at the battle of Chaeronea in Boeotia (Map 4.1). The defeated city-states retained their internal freedom, but Philip compelled them to join his alliance. The battle of Chaeronea marked a turning point in Greek history: never again

would the city-states of Greece be independent ac- tors in foreign policy. City-states remained Greece’s central social and economic units, but they were always looking over their shoulders, worrying about the powerful kings who wanted to control them.

The Rule of Alexander the Great, 336–323 B.C.E. If Philip had not been murdered by a Macedon- ian acquaintance in 336 B.C.E., we might be calling him Philip the Great. Instead, his assassination brought his son Alexander III to power. Rumors swirled that the son and his mother, Olympias, had instigated Philip’s murder to procure the throne for the twenty-year-old Alexander, but the best guess is that the murderer acted out of personal anger at the king. Alexander secured his rule by killing his internal rivals and defeating Macedo- nia’s enemies to the west and north in several lightning-fast strikes. Finally, Alexander compelled the southern Greeks, who had defected from the alliance at the news of Philip’s death, to rejoin. To demonstrate the price of disloyalty, in 335 B.C.E. Alexander destroyed Thebes for having rebelled.

Conquering the Persian Empire. In 334 B.C.E., Alexander launched the most astonishing military campaign in ancient history by leading a Mace- donian and Greek army against the Persian Em- pire to fulfill Philip’s dream of avenging Greece. Alexander’s conquest of all the lands from Turkey to Egypt to Uzbekistan while still in his twenties led later peoples to call him Alexander the Great. In his own time, he became a legend by leading cavalry charges to disrupt the enemy’s infantry and by motivating his men to victory after victory in hostile, unknown regions far from Macedonia.

Alexander inspired his troops by exhibiting reckless disregard for his own safety in battle. He often led the charge against the enemy’s front line, riding his warhorse Bucephalus (“Oxhead”). Everyone saw him speeding ahead in his plumed helmet, polished armor, and vividly colored cloak. He was so intent on conquest that he rejected ad- vice to delay the war until he had fathered an heir. He gave away nearly all of his land to strengthen ties with his army officers. “What,” one adviser asked, “do you have left for yourself?” “My hopes,” Alexander replied. Alexander’s hopes centered on making himself a warrior as famous as Achilles in Homer’s Iliad; he always kept a copy of The Iliad under his pillow — and a dagger.

Alexander displayed his heroic ambitions as his army advanced. In Anatolia, he visited

112 Chapter 4 ■ From the Cl a ssic al to the Hellenistic World 400–30 b.c .e .

0 50 100 kilometers

0 50 100 miles N



Kingdom of Macedonia by 359 B.C.E.

Areas dominated by Macedonia by 336 B.C.E.

Battle� Mediterranean Sea

Aegean Sea

Ionian Sea













Chaeronea 338 B.C.E.






Athens Leuctra







Elis Tegea



� �

MAP 4.1 Expansion of Macedonia under Philip II, 359–336 B.C.E. King Philip II expanded Macedonian power southward: mountainous terrain and warlike people blocked the way northward. The Macedonian royal house saw itself as ethnically Greek, and Philip made himself the leader of Greece by defeating a Greek coalition led by Athens at the battle of Chaeronea in 338 B.C.E. Sparta, far from Macedonia in the southern Peloponnese, did not join the coalition. Philip ignored it; Sparta’s shrink- ing number of citizens made it too weak to matter.

Gordion, where an oracle had promised the lord- ship of Asia to whoever could untie a massive knot of rope tying the yoke of an ancient chariot. Alexander, so the story goes, cut the Gordian knot with his sword. When Alexander later captured the Persian king’s wives and daughters, he treated the women with respect. His honorable behavior to- ward the Persian royal women enhanced his claim to be the legitimate king of all Asia.

Building on Near Eastern traditions of siege technology and Philip’s innovations, Alexander developed better military technology. When Tyre, a heavily fortified city on an island off the eastern Mediterranean, refused to surrender to him in 332 B.C.E., he built a massive stone pier as a platform for artillery towers, armored battering rams, and catapults flinging boulders to breach Tyre’s walls. The successful use of this siege technology against Tyre showed that walls alone could no longer pro- tect city-states. The knowledge that Alexander’s army could overcome their fortifications made en- emies much readier to negotiate a deal.

In his conquest of Egypt and the Persian heartland, Alexander revealed his strategy for rul- ing a vast empire: keeping an area’s traditional ad- ministrative system in place while sprinkling cities of Greeks and Macedonians in conquered terri- tory. In Egypt, he established his first new city, naming it Alexandria after himself. In Persia, he proclaimed himself the king of Asia and left the existing governing units intact, retaining selected Persian administrators. For local populations, Alexander’s becoming their king changed their lives not a bit. They continued to send the same taxes to a remote master.

To India and Back. Alexander led his army past the Persian heartland farther east into territory hardly known to the Greeks (Map 4.2). He aimed to outdo the heroes of legend by marching to the end of the world. Shrinking his army to reduce the need for supplies, he marched northeast into what is today Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. On the Jaxartes River, he founded a city called Alexandria the Furthest to show that he had penetrated deeper into this region than even Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire. Unable to subdue the local guerrilla forces, Alexander settled for an alliance sealed by his marriage to the Bactrian princess Roxane.

Alexander then headed east into India. Sev- enty days of marching through monsoon rains ex- tinguished his soldiers’ fire for conquest. In the spring of 326 B.C.E., they mutinied on the banks of the Hyphasis River and forced Alexander to turn back. The return journey through southeastern

Iran’s deserts cost many casualties from hunger and thirst; the survivors finally reached safety in the Persian heartland in 324 B.C.E. Alexander im- mediately began planning an invasion of the Ara- bian peninsula and, after that, of North Africa.

Alexander ruled more harshly after his return and began treating the Greeks as subjects instead of allies. He ordered the city-states to restore citi- zenship to the many exiles created by war, whose status as stateless persons was causing unrest. Even more striking was Alexander’s announcement that he wished to receive the honors due a god. Most Greek city-states complied by sending religious delegations to him. A Spartan expressed the only prudent position on Alexander’s deification: “If Alexander wishes to be a god, then we’ll agree that he be called a god.”

Personal motives best explain Alexander’s an- nouncement. He had come to believe he was truly the son of Zeus; after all, Greek myths said Zeus had mated with many human females who pro-

The Rise of Macedonia, 359– 323 B . C . E . 113400–30 b.c .e .

Alexander the Great This marble portrait of Alexander (a copy of a bronze original) has him wearing a lion’s head as a helmet to recall the hero Hercules (Hercules), whose myth said he killed the fiercest beast in Greece and wore its head as proof. Alexander gazes into the distance; he commanded that his portraits show him with this visionary expression. Why do you think he wanted the world to see him with these attributes? (The Art Archive/ National Archaeological Museum, Athens/ Dagli Orti [A].)

duced children. Since Alexander’s superhuman accomplishments demonstrated that he had achieved godlike power, he must be a god himself. Alexander’s divinity was, in ancient terms, a natu- ral consequence of his power.

Alexander’s premature death from a fever and heavy drinking in 323 B.C.E. aborted his plan to conquer Arabia and North Africa. His death fol- lowed months of depression provoked by the death of his best friend, Hephaistion. Some modern his- torians conclude that Alexander and Hephaistion were lovers, but no surviving ancient source re- ports this. Unfortunately for the stability of Alexander’s immense conquests, by the time of his death he had not fathered an heir who could take over his rule. Roxane gave birth to their son only after Alexander’s death. The story goes that, when at Alexander’s deathbed his commanders asked him to whom he left his kingdom, he replied, “To the most powerful.”

Alexander’s Impact. Scholars disagree on almost everything about Alexander, from whether his claim to divinity was meant to justify his increas- ingly authoritarian attitude toward the Greek city-

states, to what he meant to achieve through con- quest, to the nature of his character. Was he a bloodthirsty monster obsessed with war, or a ro- mantic visionary intent on creating a multiethnic world open to all cultures? The ancient sources suggest that Alexander had interlinked goals re- flecting his restless and ruthless nature: both to conquer and administer the known world and to explore and colonize new territory beyond.

The ancient world agreed that Alexander was a marvel. An Athenian orator expressed the bewil- derment many people felt over the events of Alexander’s lifetime: “What strange and unex- pected event has not occurred in our time? The life we have lived is no ordinary human one, but we were born to be an object of wonder to posterity.” Alexander’s fame increased after his death. Stories of reality-defying exploits attributed to him be- came popular folktales throughout the ancient world, even in distant regions such as southern Africa, where Alexander never set foot.

Alexander’s conquests had consequences in many areas. His explorations benefited scientific fields from geography to botany because he took along knowledgeable writers to collect and catalog

114 Chapter 4 ■ From the Cl a ssic al to the Hellenistic World 400–30 b.c .e .

Mutiny of 326 B.C.E.

0 250 500 kilometers

0 250 500 miles

Alexander’s campaigns, 334–324 B.C.E. (with dates)

Macedonia in 336 B.C.E.

Alexander’s empire in 323 B.C.E.

Regions dependent on Alexander





Black Sea

R ed


Persian Gulf

C aspian


Mediterranean Sea

N ile R.

Tigris R.

Euphrates R.

In du

s R


Danube R .

L. Van

L. Urmia

Ara xes


Hy ph

as is R

.H yd

as pe

s R .

Oxus R.

Jax art

es R.













































Crete Cyprus



Gordion Granicus River 334 B.C.E.

Thebes 335 B.C.E. Issus

333 B.C.E.

Tyre 332 B.C.E.

Gaugamela 331 B.C.E. Taxila

326 B.C.E.

Gaza Pelusium



Alexandria the Furthest





Babylon (Alexander’s death 323 B.C.E.)



Ecbatana Artacoana

Alexandria Arachoton



� � �

MAP 4.2 Conquests of Alexander the Great, 336–323 B.C.E. From the time Alexander led his army against Persia in 334 B.C.E. until his death in 323 B.C.E., he was continually fighting military campaigns. His charismatic and fearless generalship, combined with effective intelligence gathering about his targets, generated an unbroken string of victories and made him a legend. His founding of garrison cities and preservation of local governments kept his conquests largely stable during his lifetime.

new knowledge. He had vast quantities of scien- tific observations dispatched to his old tutor Aristotle. Alexander’s new cities promoted trade between Greece and the Near East. Most of all, his career brought these cultures into closer contact than ever before. This contact represented his career’s most enduring impact.

Review: What were the accomplishments of Alexander the Great and what was their effect, both for the ancient world and for later Western civilization?

The Hellenistic Kingdoms, 323–30 B.C.E. Alexander’s empire fragmented after his death, and new kingdoms arose. The period that extends from Alexander’s death in 323 B.C.E. to the death of Cleopatra VII, the last Macedonian queen of Egypt, in 30 B.C.E. is known as the Hellenistic Age, a name given it by modern scholars. The word Hel- lenistic (“Greek-like”) conveys the most signifi- cant characteristic of this period: the emergence in the eastern Mediterranean world of a mixture of Greek and Near Eastern traditions that generated innovations in politics, literature, art, philosophy, and religion. War stirred up this cultural mixing, and tension persisted between conquerors and subjects. The process promoted regional diversity: Greek ideas and practices had their greatest impact on the urban populations of Egypt and southwest- ern Asia, while the many people who farmed in the countryside had much less contact with Greek ways of life.

New kingdoms formed the Hellenistic pe- riod’s dominant political structures. They reintro- duced monarchy into Greek culture, kings having been almost nonexistent in Greece since the fall of Mycenaean civilization nearly a thousand years earlier. Commanders from Alexander’s army cre- ated the kingdoms after his death by seizing por- tions of his empire and proclaiming themselves kings in these new states. This process of state for- mation took more than fifty years of war. The self- proclaimed kings— called Alexander’s successors — had to transform their families into dynasties and accumulate enough power to compel the Greek city-states to give control of foreign policy to these new overlords. This process of transfor-

mation reinforced the hierarchical nature of Hel- lenistic society. Eventually, wars with the Romans brought all the Hellenistic kingdoms to an end.

Creating New Kingdoms Alexander’s untimely death left his succession an open question. His only legitimate son, Alexander IV, was born a few months later. Alexander’s mother, Olympias, tried to protect her grandson,

The Hellenistic Kingdoms, 323– 30 B . C . E . 115400–30 b.c .e .

Hellenistic: An adjective meaning “Greek-like” that is today used as a chronological term for the period 323–30 B.C.E.

Greek-style Buddha The style of this statue of the founder of Buddhism, who expounded his doctrines in India, shows the mingling of eastern and western art. The Buddha’s appearance, gaze, and posture stem from Indian artistic traditions, while the flowing folds of his garment recall Greek traditions. Compare the garment that Socrates is wearing on page 91. This combination of styles is called Gandhara, after the region in north- western India where it began. (Borromeo/ Art Resource, NY.)

but Alexander’s former commanders executed Olympias in 316 B.C.E. and later murdered the boy and his mother, Roxane; having eradicated the royal family, the successors divided Alexander’s con- quests among themselves. Antigonus (c. 382–301 B.C.E.) took over Anatolia, the Near East, Macedo- nia, and Greece; Seleucus (c. 358–281 B.C.E.) seized Babylonia and the East as far as India; and Ptolemy (c. 367–282 B.C.E.) grabbed Egypt. These succes- sors had to create their own form of monarchy based on military power and personal prestige be- cause they did not inherit their positions legiti- mately: they were self-proclaimed rulers with no connection to Alexander’s royal line. Several years after the elimination of Alexander’s line, however, they announced that they were now kings.

In the beginning, the new kings’ biggest ene- mies were one another. They fought constantly in the decades after Alexander’s death, trying to an- nex more territory to their individual kingdoms. By the middle of the third century B.C.E., the three Hellenistic kingdoms had established their home territories (Map 4.3). The Antigonids had been re- duced to a kingdom in Macedonia, but they also compelled the mainland Greek city-states to fol- low royal foreign policy. The Seleucids ruled in Syria and Mesopotamia, but they had to cede their

easternmost territory to the Indian king Chandra- gupta (r. 323–299 B.C.E.). They also lost most of Persia to the Parthians, a northern Iranian people. The Ptolemies ruled the rich land of Egypt.

These territorial arrangements were never completely stable because the Hellenistic mon- archs never stopped competing. Conflicts repeat- edly arose over border areas. The Ptolemies and the Seleucids, for example, fought to control the eastern Mediterranean coast, just as the Egyptians and Hittites had done centuries earlier. The wars between the major kingdoms left openings for smaller, regional kingdoms to establish themselves. The most famous of these was the kingdom of the Attalids in western Anatolia, with the wealthy city of Pergamum as its capital. In Bactria in Central Asia, the Greeks — originally colonists settled by Alexander — broke off from the Seleucid kingdom in the mid-third century B.C.E. to found their own regional kingdom, which flourished for a time from the trade in luxury goods between India and China and the Mediterranean world.

The Structure of Hellenistic Kingdoms The Hellenistic kingdoms imposed foreign rule by Macedonian kings and queens on indigenous pop-

116 Chapter 4 ■ From the Cl a ssic al to the Hellenistic World 400–30 b.c .e .

0 250 500 kilometers

0 250 500 miles




Independent Greek states

Antigonid kingdom

Ptolemaic kingdom

Attalid kingdom

Hellenized non-Greek kingdoms

Seleucid kingdom

Parthian Empire

Bactrian kingdom Arabian


Black Sea Caspian Sea

M e d i t e r r a n e a n S e a

Ni le


Danube R.

T igris

R .Euphrates R


In du

s R


Hyp ha

sis R.

Oxus R.

Jaxartes R.

Aral Sea

Persian Gulf

R ed Sea



IACyprus Crete
































Sparta Athens



Syracuse Hierapolis


Tyre Babylon

Sardis Pergamum

Pella Byzantium


� �

� �

� �

MAP 4.3 Hellenistic Kingdoms, 240 B.C.E. Monarchy became the dominant political system in the areas of Alexander’s conquests. By about eighty years after his death, the three major kingdoms established by his successors had settled their boundaries, after the Seleucids gave up their easternmost territories to an Indian king and the Attalids carved out their kingdom in western Anatolia.

ulations. The kings incorporated local traditions into their rule to build legitimacy. The Seleucids combined Macedonian with Near Eastern tradi- tions, while the Ptolemies mixed Macedonian with Egyptian ones. The Ptolemaic royal family, for ex- ample, observed the Egyptian royal tradition of brother-sister marriage. Royal power was the ulti- mate source of control over the kingdoms’ sub- jects, in keeping with the Near Eastern monarchical tradition that Hellenistic kings adopted. This tra- dition persisted above all in defining justice. Seleucus justified his rule on what he claimed as a universal truth of monarchy: “It is not the customs of the Persians and other people that I impose upon you, but the law which is common to every- one, that what is decreed by the king is always just.” Hellenistic kings had to do more to survive than simply assert a right to rule, however. The survival of their dynasties depended on their ability to cre- ate strong armies, effective administrations, and close ties to urban elites. A letter from a Greek city summed up the situation while praising the Seleu- cid king Antiochus I (c. 324–261 B.C.E.): “His rule depends above all on his own excellence [aretê], and on the goodwill of his friends, and on his forces.”

Royal Military Forces and Administration. Hel- lenistic royal armies and navies provided internal and external security. Professional soldiers manned these forces. To develop their military might, the Seleucid and Ptolemaic kings encour- aged immigration by Greeks and Macedonians, who received land grants in return for military service. When this source of manpower gave out, the kings had to employ more local men as troops. Military competition put tremendous financial pressure on the kings to pay growing numbers of mercenaries and to purchase expensive new military technology. To compete effectively, a Hellenistic king had to provide giant artillery, such as catapults capable of flinging a 170-pound pro- jectile up to two hundred yards. His navy cost a fortune because warships were now huge, requir- ing crews of several hundred men. War elephants, whose bellowing charges frightened opposing infantry, became popular after Alexander’s encoun- ters with them in India, and they were extremely costly to maintain.

Hellenistic kings needed effective administra- tions to collect revenues. Initially, they recruited mostly Greek and Macedonian immigrants to fill high-level posts. Following Alexander’s example, however, the Seleucids and the Ptolemies also em- ployed non-Greeks for middle- and lower-level positions, where officials had to be able to deal

with the subject populations and speak their lan- guages. Local men who wanted a government job bettered their chances if they could read and write Greek in addition to their native language. Bilin- gualism qualified them to fill positions communi- cating the orders of the highest-ranking officials, all Greeks and Macedonians, to local farmers, builders, and crafts producers. Non-Greeks who had successful government careers were rarely admitted to royal society because Greeks and Macedonians saw themselves as too superior to mix with locals. Greeks and non-Greeks therefore tended to live in separate communities.

Hellenistic royal administrations recalled those of the earlier Assyrian, Babylonian, and Per- sian empires. Administrators’ principal responsi- bilities were to maintain order and to direct the kingdoms’ tax systems. Officials mediated disputes whenever possible, but they could call on soldiers to serve as police. The Ptolemaic administration used methods of central planning and control in- herited from earlier Egyptian history. Its officials continued to administer royal monopolies, such as that on vegetable oil, to maximize the king’s rev- enue. They decided how much land farmers could sow in oil-bearing plants, supervised production and distribution of the oil, and set prices for every stage of the oil business. The king, through his of- ficials, also often entered into partnerships with private investors to produce more revenue.

Cities and Urban Elites. Cities were the Hellenis- tic kingdoms’ economic and social hubs. Many Greeks and Macedonians lived in new cities founded by Alexander and the Hellenistic kings in Egypt and the Near East, and they also immigrated to existing cities there. Hellenistic kings promoted this urban immigration by adorning their new cities with the features of classical Greek city-states, such as gymnasia and theaters. Although these cities of- ten retained the city-state’s political institutions, such as councils and assemblies for citizen men, the need to follow royal policy limited their freedom; they made no independent decisions on interna- tional affairs. In addition, the cities taxed their pop- ulations to send money demanded by the king.

Monarchy’s reemergence in the Greek world also created a new relationship between rulers and the social elites, because the crucial element in the Hellenistic kingdom’s political and social struc- ture was the system of mutual rewards by which the kings and their leading urban subjects be- came partners in government and public finance. Wealthy people in the cities had the crucial re- sponsibility of collecting taxes from the surround- ing countryside as well as from their city and

The Hellenistic Kingdoms, 323– 30 B . C . E . 117400–30 b.c .e .

sending the money on to the royal treasury; the royal military and the administration were too small to perform these duties themselves. The kings honored and flattered the cities’ Greek and Macedonians elites because they needed their co- operation to ensure a steady flow of tax revenues. When writing to a city’s council, the king would express himself in the form of polite requests, but the recipients knew he was giving commands.

This system thus continued the Greek tradi- tion of requiring the wealthy elite to contribute to the common good. Cooperative cities received gifts from the king to pay for expensive public works like theaters and temples or for reconstruction af- ter natural disasters such as earthquakes. Wealthy men and women in turn helped keep the general population peaceful by subsidizing teachers and doctors, financing public works, and providing do- nations and loans to ensure a reliable supply of grain to feed the city’s residents.

This system also required the kings to estab- lish relationships with well-to-do non-Greeks liv- ing in the old cities of Anatolia and the Near East to keep their vast kingdoms peaceful and profitable. In addition, non-Greeks and non-Macedonians from eastern regions began moving westward to the new Hellenistic Greek cities in increasing num- bers. Jews in particular moved from their ancestral homeland to Anatolia, Greece, and Egypt. The Jew- ish community eventually became an influential minority in Egyptian Alexandria, the most impor- tant Hellenistic city. In Egypt, as the Rosetta stone shows, the king also had to build good relation- ships with the priests who controlled the temples of the traditional Egyptian gods because the tem- ples owned large tracts of rich land worked by tenant farmers.

The Layers of Hellenistic Society Hellenistic monarchy reinforced social hierarchy. At the top were the royal family and the king’s friends. The Greek and Macedonian elites of the major cities ranked next. Then came indigenous urban elites, leaders of large minority urban pop- ulations, and local lords in rural regions. Mer- chants, artisans, and laborers made up the free population’s bottom layer. Slaves remained where they had always been, without any social status.

The kingdoms’ growth increased the demand for slave labor throughout the eastern Mediter- ranean; the island of Delos established a market where up to ten thousand slaves a day were bought and sold. The fortunate ones were purchased as servants for the royal court or elite households and lived physically comfortable lives, so long as they

pleased their owners; the luckless ones toiled, and often died, in the mines. Enslaved children could be taken far from home to work: for example, a sales contract from 259 B.C.E. records that Zeno, to whom the camel trader wrote, bought a girl about seven years old named Gemstone to work in an Egyptian textile factory. Originally from an east- ern Mediterranean town, she had previously la- bored as the slave of a Greek mercenary soldier employed by a Jewish cavalry commander in the Transjordan region.

The Poor. The majority of the population con- tinued to live in country villages. Poor people per- formed almost all the agricultural labor required to support the Hellenistic kingdoms’ economies.

118 Chapter 4 ■ From the Cl a ssic al to the Hellenistic World 400–30 b.c .e .

Emotion in Hellenistic Sculpture Hellenistic sculptors introduced a new style into Greek art by depicting people’s emotions. This statue of an elderly woman, for example, shows an expression of pain, disheveled clothing, and a body stooped from age and from carrying a basket of chickens and vegetables. The statue probably portrays a poor woman trying to survive by hawking food in the street. This new style strove to produce an emotional response in its viewers. The statue is probably a later copy of a Hellenistic original. (The Metropolitan

Museum of Art, Rogers

Fund, 1909 (09.39).

Photograph © 1997

The Metropolitan

Museum of Art.)

Many worked on the royal family’s huge estates, but free peasants still worked their own small plots in addition to laboring for wealthy landowners. Rural people rose with the sun and began work- ing before the heat became unbearable, raising the same kinds of crops and animals as their ancestors had with the same simple hand tools. Perhaps as many as 80 percent of all adult men and women had to work the land to produce enough food to sustain the population. Poverty often meant hunger, even in fertile lands such as Egypt. In cities, poor women and men could work as small mer- chants, peddlers, and artisans, producing and sell- ing goods such as tools, pottery, clothing, and furniture. Men could sign on as deckhands on the merchant ships that sailed the Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean.

Many country people in the Seleucid and Ptolemaic kingdoms existed in a state of depend- ency between free and slave. The peoples, as they were called, were tenants who farmed the estates belonging to the king. Although they could not be sold like slaves, they were not allowed to move away or abandon their tenancies. They owed a large quota of produce to the king, and this com- pulsory rent gave these tenant farmers little chance to escape poverty.

Women’s Lives. Hellenistic women’s social and political status depended on their rank in the king- dom’s hierarchy. Hellenistic queens commanded enormous riches and honors. The kingdoms but- tressed their legitimacy from the female as well as the male side. Hellenistic queens exercised power as the representatives of distinguished families, the mothers of a line of royal descendants, and patrons of artists, thinkers, and even cities. Later Ptolemaic queens essentially co-ruled with their husbands. Queens ruled on their own when no male heir ex- isted. For example, Arsinoe II (c. 316–270 B.C.E.), the daughter of Ptolemy I, first married the Mace- donian successor Lysimachus, who gave her four towns as her personal domain. After his death she married her brother Ptolemy II of Egypt and exerted at least as much influence on policy as he did. The virtues publicly praised in a queen reflected traditional Greek values for women. A city decree from about 165 B.C.E. honored Queen Apollonis of Pergamum by praising her piety to- ward the gods, reverence toward her parents, dis- tinguished conduct toward her husband, and harmonious relations with her “beautiful children born in wedlock.”

Some queens paid special attention to the con- dition of women. About 195 B.C.E., for example, the Seleucid queen Laodice gave a ten-year endow-

ment to a city to provide dowries for needy girls. That Laodice funded dowries shows that she recognized the importance to women of controlling property, the surest guarantee of respect in their households.

Most women remained under the con- trol of men. “Who can judge better than a father what is to his daughter’s interest?” remained the dominant creed of fa- thers; once a woman married, the words husband and wife re- placed father and daughter. Most of the time, elite women continued to be separated from men outside of their families, while poor women still worked in public. Greeks continued to abandon infants they did not want to raise— girls more often than boys — but other populations, such as the Egyptians and the Jews, did not practice abandonment, or infant exposure. Expo- sure differed from infanticide in that the parents expected someone to find the child and rear it, usually as a slave. A third-century B.C.E. comic poet overstated the case by saying, “A son, one always raises even if one is poor; a daughter, one exposes, even if one is rich.” Daughters of wealthy parents were not usually abandoned, but scholars have es- timated that up to 10 percent of other infant girls were.

In some ways, women achieved greater con- trol over their lives in the Hellenistic period than before. A woman of exceptional wealth could en- ter public life by making donations or loans to her city and in return be rewarded with an official post

The Hellenistic Kingdoms, 323– 30 B . C . E . 119400–30 b.c .e .

Egyptian-Style Statue of Queen Arsinoe II Arsinoe II (c. 316–270 B.C.E.), daughter of Alexander’s general Ptolemy, was one of the most remarkable women of the Hellenistic period. After surviving twenty-five years of dynastic intrigue and family murders, she married her brother Ptolemy II. Hailed as Philadelphoi (“Brother- Loving”), the couple set a precedent for brother-sister marriages in the Ptolemaic dynasty that ruled Egypt until the death of Cleopatra VII in 30 B.C.E. Arsinoe was the first Ptolemaic ruler whose image was placed in Egyptian temples as a “temple- sharing goddess.” This eight-foot-tall red granite statue portrays Arsinoe in the traditional sculptural style of the pharaohs. Why would a Hellenistic queen wish to be depicted in traditional Egyptian royal style? (© Vatican Museums.)

in local government. In Egypt, women acquired greater say in married life because marriage con- tracts (see Chapter 3, “Contrasting Views,” page 85) evolved from an agreement between the bride’s parents and the groom to one in which the bride made her own arrangements with the groom.

The Wealthy. Rich people showed increasing concern for the welfare of the less fortunate dur- ing the Hellenistic period. They were following the lead of the royal families, who emphasized philan- thropy to build a reputation for generosity that would buttress their legitimacy. Sometimes wealthy citizens funded a foundation to distribute free grain to eliminate food shortages, and they also funded schools for children in various Hellenistic cities. In some places, girls as well as boys could attend school. Many cities also began sponsoring doctors to improve medical care: patients still had to pay, but at least they could count on finding a doctor.

The donors funding these services were repaid by the respect and honor they earned from their fellow citizens. Philanthropy even touched inter- national relations. When an earthquake devastated Rhodes, many cities joined kings and queens in sending donations to help the residents recover. In return, they showered honors on their benefactors by appointing them to prestigious municipal of- fices and erecting inscriptions expressing the city’s gratitude. In this system, the masses’ welfare de- pended more and more on the voluntary generos- ity of the rich; without democracy, the poor had no political power to demand support.

The End of the Hellenistic Kingdoms All the Hellenistic kingdoms eventually fell to the Romans. Rome repeatedly intervened in the squab- bles of the Greek city-states to try to maintain peace on its eastern frontier, causing wars that established Roman dominance over the Antigonid kingdom by the middle of the second century B.C.E.

The Seleucid kingdom fell to the Romans in 64 B.C.E. The Ptolemaic kingdom in Egypt survived a bit longer. By the 50s B.C.E., its royal family had split into warring factions; the resulting disunity and weakness forced the rivals for the throne to seek Roman support. The end came when the fa- mous queen Cleopatra, the last Macedonian to rule Egypt, chose the losing side in the civil war between Mark Antony and the future emperor Au- gustus in the late first century B.C.E. An invading Roman army ended Ptolemaic rule in 30 B.C.E. Rome thus became the heir to all the Hellenistic kingdoms (see Mapping the West, page 130).

Review: What were the political and social structures of the new Hellenistic kingdoms?

Hellenistic Culture Hellenistic culture reflected three principal influ- ences: the overwhelming impact of royal wealth, increased emphasis on private life and emotion, and greater interaction of diverse peoples. The kings drove developments in literature, art, sci- ence, and philosophy by deciding which scholars and artists to put on the royal payroll. Their obli- gation to the kings meant that authors and artists did not have freedom to criticize public policy; their works therefore concentrated on everyday life and individual emotion.

Cultural interaction between Greek and Near Eastern traditions occurred most prominently in language and religion. These developments deeply influenced the Romans as they took over the Hel- lenistic world; the Roman poet Horace (65–8 B.C.E.) described the effect of Hellenistic culture on his own by saying that “captive Greece captured its fierce victor.”

The Arts under Royal Patronage Hellenistic kings became the patrons of scholar- ship and the arts on a vast scale, competing with one another to lure the best scholars and artists to their capitals with lavish salaries. They funded in- tellectuals and artists because they wanted to boost their reputations by having these famous people produce books, poems, sculptures, and other pres- tigious creations at their courts.

The Ptolemies turned Alexandria into the Mediterranean’s leading arts and sciences center, establishing the world’s first scholarly research in- stitute and a massive library. The librarians were instructed to collect all the books in the world. The library grew to hold half a million scrolls, an enor- mous number for the time. Linked to it was the building in which the hired research scholars dined together and produced encyclopedias of knowl- edge such as The Wonders of the World and On the Rivers of Europe. We still use the name of the re- search institute’s building, the Museum (“place of the Muses,” the Greek goddesses of learning and the arts), to designate institutions preserving knowledge. The Alexandrian scholars produced prodigiously. Their champion was the scholar Didymus (c. 80–10 B.C.E.), nicknamed “Brass Bowels” for writing nearly four thousand books

120 Chapter 4 ■ From the Cl a ssic al to the Hellenistic World 400–30 b.c .e .

comic poet, noted for his skill in depicting human personality (see “New Sources, New Perspectives,” page 124). Hellenistic tragedy could take a multi- cultural approach: Ezechiel, a Jew living in Alexan- dria, wrote Exodus, a tragedy in Greek about Moses leading the Hebrews out of captivity in Egypt.

Emotion in Sculpture and Painting. Hellenistic sculptors and painters also featured emotions in their works. Classical artists had given their sub- jects’ faces an idealized serenity, but now sculptures depicted personal feelings. A sculpture from Perga- mum (below), for example, commemorating the Attalid victory over invading Gauls (one of the

Hellenistic Culture 121400–30 b.c .e .

epigrams: Short poems written by women in the Hel- lenistic Age; many were about other women and the writer’s personal feelings.

Dying Barbarians Hellenistic artists excelled in portraying emotional scenes, such as this murder-suicide of a Celtic warrior who is slaying himself after killing his wife, to prevent their capture by the enemy. (Celtic women followed their men to the battlefield.) The original was in bronze, forming part

of a large sculptural group that Attalus I (r. 241–197 B.C.E.) erected at Pergamum to commemorate his victory over these barbarian raiders. Why did Attalus celebrate his victory by erecting a monument portraying the defeated enemy as brave and noble? (Erich Lessing/ Art Resource, NY.)

■ For more help analyzing this image, see the visual activity for this

chapter in the Online Study Guide at

commenting on literature. Sadly, not a single one has survived because the library was later de- stroyed by fire in wartime.

Literature at Court. The writers and artists whom Hellenistic kings paid had to please their patrons with their works. The poet Theocritus (c. 300–260 B.C.E.) spelled out the deal underlying royal patronage in a poem flattering King Ptolemy II: “The spokesmen of the Muses [that is, poets] celebrate Ptolemy in return for his benefactions.” Poets such as Theocritus avoided political topics and stressed the social gap between the intellectual elite — to which the kings belonged —and the un- educated masses. They filled their new poetry with erudite references to make it difficult to understand and therefore exclusive. Only people with a deep lit- erary education could appreciate the mythological allusions that studded these authors’ elaborate poems.

Theocritus was the first Greek poet to express the divide between town and countryside, a poetic stance corresponding to a growing Hellenistic reality. His Idylls emphasized the discontinuity between urban life and the country bumpkins’ bu- colic existence, reflecting the Ptolemaic social di- vision between the food consumers in the town and the food producers in the countryside. The- ocritus presented a city dweller’s idealized dream that country life was peaceful and stress-free, a fic- tion that deeply influenced later literature.

No Hellenistic women poets seem to have en- joyed royal patronage; rather, they created their art independently. They excelled in writing epigrams, a style of short poem originally used for funeral epitaphs. Elegantly worded poems by women from diverse regions of the Hellenistic world still sur- vive (see Document, “Epigrams by Women Poets,” page 122). Many epigrams were about women, from courtesans to respectable matrons, and the writer’s personal feelings. No other Hellenistic lit- erature better conveys the depth of human emo- tion than the epigrams of women poets.

Hellenistic comedies also emphasized stories about emotions and stayed away from politics. Comic playwrights presented plays concerning the troubles of fictional lovers. These comedies of manners, as they are called, became enormously popular because, like modern situation comedies, they offered humorous views of daily life. Papyrus discoveries have restored comedies of Menander (c. 342–289 B.C.E.), the most famous Hellenistic

Celtic peoples from what is now France), showed a defeated Celtic warrior stabbing himself after having killed his wife to prevent her enslavement by the victors.

The artists created their works mainly on commission from royalty and from the urban elites who wanted to show they had the same artistic taste as their royal superiors. The increasing diver- sity of subjects that emerged in Hellenistic art pre- sumably represented a trend approved by kings, queens, and the elites. Sculpture best reveals this new preference for depicting people never before appearing in art: pitiable enemies, drunkards, bat- tered athletes, wrinkled old people. The female nude became common. A statue of Aphrodite by Praxiteles, which portrayed the goddess com- pletely nude for the first time, became renowned as a religious object and tourist attraction in the city of Cnidos, which had commissioned it. The king of Bithynia offered to pay off the citizens’ en-

tire public debt if he could have the work of art. They refused.

Philosophy for a New Age New philosophies arose in the Hellenistic period, all asking the same question: What is the best way to live? They recommended different paths to the same answer: individuals must attain personal tranquil- lity to achieve freedom from the turbulence of out- side forces, especially chance. It is easy to see why these philosophies had appeal: outside forces—the Hellenistic kings— had robbed the Greek city-states of their independence in foreign policy, and their citizens’ fates ultimately rested in the hands of un- predictable monarchs. More than ever, human life seemed out of individuals’ control. It therefore was appealing to look to philosophy for personal, pri- vate solutions to the unsettling new conditions of Hellenistic life.

122 Chapter 4 ■ From the Cl a ssic al to the Hellenistic World 400–30 b.c .e .

Epigrams by Women Poets


Anyte, Nossis, and Erinna were three of the most famous women poets of the Hellenistic period. They composed short poems about death, love, and sex, often centered on women. They also invented the tradition of writing poems about speaking animals. None of them was hired by a Hellenistic king to be a resident poet at court, so they had to create their poetic masterpieces on their own.

Anyte on Mourning a Young Woman

The virgin Antibia I mourn for; many young men came to her father’s house

seeking to marry her, drawn by the fame of her beauty and

wisdom. But everyone’s hopes deadly Fate tossed away.

Anyte on a Dolphin Speaking after Death

No longer taking joy in surging seas will I stretch out my neck as I leap from

the depths,

no longer around the lovely bows of the ship

will I jump, delighting in the figurehead, my likeness.

No, the purple surge of the sea cast me onto the land;

here I lie on this narrow strip of beach.

Nossis on the Joy of Sex

Nothing is sweeter than sexual passion; every other blessing is second;

I spit out from my mouth even honey. This is what Nossis says: anyone that

Aphrodite has not kissed doesn’t know what kind of flowers her

roses are.

Nossis on a Woman’s Present to Aphrodite

The picture of herself Callo dedicated in the temple of blond Aphrodite,

having her portrait made to look exactly like herself.

How gracefully it stands; see how great is the grace that blooms on it.

Best wishes to her! For she has no blame in her life.

Erinno on the Death of the Bride Baukis

I am the grave marker of the bride Baukis. As you pass by

this most wept-for pillar, say this to Hades in the underworld:

“You are jealous of Baukis, Hades!” The lovely letters that you see

announce the brutal fate Chance brought to Baukis,

how with the pine-torches from the wed- ding that they were using to worship Hymenaeus [the god of marriage]

the groom’s father set afire her funeral pyre.

And you, Hymenaeus, the tuneful song of the wedding

converted to the sad cries of lamentation.

Source: Palatine Anthology 7.490, 7.215, 5.170, 9.605, 7.712. Translations by Thomas R. Martin.

Praxiteles’ Statue of Aphrodite The fourth-century B.C.E. Athenian sculptor Praxiteles excelled at carving stone to resemble flesh and producing perfect surfaces, which he had a painter enliven

with color. His masterpiece was the Aphrodite made for the city-state of Cnidos in southwestern Anatolia; the original is lost, but many Hellenistic-era copies like

this one were made. Praxiteles was the first to show the goddess of love nude, and rumor said his lover was the model. Given that there was a long tradition of nude male statues, why do you think it took until the Hellenistic period for

Greek sculptors to produce female nudes? (Nimatallah/ Art Resource, NY.)

Hellenistic philosophers concentrated on ma- terialism, the doctrine that only things made of matter truly exist. Materialism denied Plato’s metaphysical concept of the soul and indeed of all nonmaterial phenomena, following up Aristotle’s doctrine that only things identified through logic or observation exist. Hellenistic philosophy was divided into three areas: (1) logic, the process for discovering truth; (2) physics, the fundamental truth about the nature of existence; and (3) ethics, how humans should achieve happiness and well- being through logic and physics. Materialism greatly influenced Roman thinkers and the many important Western philosophers who later read those thinkers’ works.

Hellenistic Culture 123400–30 b.c .e .

Epicureanism. One of the two most significant new Hellenistic philosophies was Epicureanism, named for its founder, Epicurus (341–271 B.C.E.), who settled his followers around 307 B.C.E. in an Athenian house surrounded by greenery — hence, his school came to be known as the Garden. Epi- curus broke tradition by admitting women and slaves to study philosophy in his group.

Epicurus’s key idea was that people should be free of worry about death. Because all matter con- sists of tiny, invisible, and irreducible pieces called atoms (“indivisible things”) in random move- ment, death is nothing more than the painless sep- arating of the body’s atoms. Moreover, all human knowledge must be empirical, that is, derived from experience and perception. Phenomena that most people perceive as the work of the gods, such as thunder, do not result from divine intervention in the world. The gods live far away in perfect tran- quillity, ignoring human affairs. People therefore have nothing to fear from the gods, in life or in death.

Epicurus believed people should pursue plea- sure, but by true pleasure he meant an “absence of disturbance.” Thus, people should live free from the turmoil, passions, and desires of ordinary ex- istence. A sober life spent with friends and sepa- rated from the cares of the common world provided Epicurean pleasure. Epicureanism there- fore represented a serious challenge to the Greek tradition of political participation by citizens.

Stoicism. The other important new Hellenistic philosophy, Stoicism, prohibited an isolationist life. Its name derives from the Painted Stoa in Athens, where Stoic philosophers discussed their doctrines. Stoics believed that fate controls people’s lives but that individuals should still make the

materialism: A philosophical doctrine of the Hellenistic Age that denied metaphysics and claimed instead that only things con- sisting of matter truly exist.

Epicureanism (eh puh KYUR ee uh nizm): The philosophy founded by Epicurus of Athens to help people achieve a life of true pleasure, by which he meant “absence of disturbance.”

Stoicism: The Hellenistic philosophy whose followers believed in fate but also in pursuing virtue by cultivating good sense, justice, courage, and temperance.

124 Chapter 4 ■ From the Cl a ssic al to the Hellenistic World 400–30 b.c .e .

F ourth-century B.C.E. Greek playwrights invented a kind ofcomedy, called New Comedy, that is today’s most popularentertainment — the sitcom. They wrote comedies that con- centrated on the conflicts between personality types in everyday situations. The rocky course of love and marriage drove most plots. Avoiding political satire, comedians created type characters such as bubble-headed lovers, cranky fathers, rascally servants, and boastful soldiers, as revealed by their titles: The Country Boob, Pot- Belly, The Stolen Girl, The Bad-Tempered Man, and so on. Con- fusions of identity leading to hilarious misunderstandings were frequent, as were jokes about marriage, such as:

First Man: “He’s married, you know.”

Second Man: “What’s that you say? Actually married? How can that be? I just left him alive and walking around!”

These comic plays inspired many imitations, especially Roman comedies, which inspired William Shakespeare (1564–1616) in England and Molière (1622–1673) in France; their comedies, in turn, led to today’s sitcoms.

The most famous author of this kind of comedy was Menan- der (343–291 B.C.E.) of Athens. Despite antiquity’s “two thumbs up,” none of Menander’s comedies survived into modern times. Works of Greek and Roman literature had to be copied over and over by hand for centuries if they were to survive. For unknown reasons, people at some point stopped recopying New Comedy. So scholars knew Menander had been a star but had never read any of his plays — until archaeologists began finding ancient pa- per in Egypt.

The Egyptians made paper from the papyrus plant, and their super-arid climate preserved the paper that people used to wrap mummies or simply threw away after writing on it. The French emperor Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt in 1798–1801 inspired a European craze for collecting papyrus. By unwrapping mummies and excavating ancient trash dumps, scholars have discovered thousands of texts of all kinds.

Incredibly, some of Menander’s comedies turned up in these discoveries, beginning with The Bad-Tempered Man. Further de- tective work has yielded more, and today we can also read most of The Girl from Samos and parts of other plays. In this way, Menander’s characters, stories, and jokes have come back from the dead.

Recovering plays from papyrus is difficult. The handwriting is often difficult to decipher, there are no gaps between words, punc- tuation is minimal, changes in speakers are indicated by colons or dashes rather than by names, and there are no stage directions. Sometimes the papyrus has been chewed by mice and insects, burned, or torn. One part of a play can turn up in the wrapping of one mummy and another part in a different one. However, the collaboration of archaeologists, historians, and literary scholars has brought back to life the ancestors of what remains our most crowd- pleasing form of comedy.

Questions to Consider 1. What makes situation comedy so appealing? 2. Why would Greeks living in the fourth century B.C.E. prefer sit-

uation comedy to political satire or darker forms of humor?

Further Reading Bagnall, Roger. Reading Papyri, Writing Ancient History. 1995. Menander: Plays and Fragments. Translated with an introduction

by Norma Miller. 1987. Parkinson, Richard, and Stephen Quirke. Papyrus. 1995.

N E W S O U R C E S , N E W P E R S P E C T I V E S

Papyrus Discoveries and Menander’s Comedies

Pompeian Wall Painting of Menander A wealthy Roman had this painting of Menander put on a wall in his house at Pompeii. The owner appears to have loved Greek plays—he had the room’s other walls decorated with images of the tragedian Euripides and possibly the Muses of Tragedy and Comedy. The faded lettering on the scroll identified the playwright: “Menander: he was the first to write New Comedy.” The ivy wreath on his head symbolizes the poet’s victory in the contests of comedies presented at the festivals of the god Dionysus, the patron of drama. (Scala/ Art Resource, NY.)

pursuit of virtue their goal. Stoic virtue meant put- ting oneself in harmony with the divine, rational force of universal nature by cultivating good sense, justice, courage, and temperance. These doctrines applied to women as well as men. In fact, some Stoics advocated equal citizenship for women, unisex clothing, and abolition of marriage and families.

The Stoic belief in fate raised the question of whether humans have free will. Stoic philosophers concluded that purposeful hu- man actions do have significance even if fate rules. Nature, itself good, does not prevent evil from occurring, because virtue would otherwise have no meaning. What matters in life is striving for good. A person should therefore take action against evil by, for example, participating in poli- tics. To be a Stoic also meant to shun desire and anger while calmly enduring pain and sorrow, an attitude that yields the modern meaning of the word stoic. Through endurance and self-control, adherents of Stoic philosophy attained tranquillity. They did not fear death because they believed that people live the same life over and over again. This repetition occurred because the world is periodi- cally destroyed by fire and then re-formed.

Competing Philosophies. Several other Hellenistic philosophies competed with Epicureanism and Stoicism. Some of these philosophies built on the work of earlier giants such as Pythagoras and Plato. Others struck out in new directions. Skep- tics, for example, aimed at the same state of per- sonal calm as did Epicureans, but from a completely different premise. They believed that secure knowledge about anything was impossible because the human senses yield contradictory in- formation about the world. All people can do, they insisted, is depend on appearances while suspend- ing judgment about their reality. These ideas had been influenced by the Indian ascetics (who prac- ticed self-denial as part of their spiritual discipline) encountered on Alexander the Great’s expedition.

For their part, Cynics rejected every conven- tion of ordinary life, especially wealth and mate- rial comfort. The name Cynic, which meant “like a dog,” came from the notion that dogs had no shame. Cynics believed that humans should aim for complete self-sufficiency and that whatever was natural was good and could be done without shame before anyone; therefore, even public defe- cation and fornication were fine. Women and men alike should be free to follow their sexual inclina- tions. Above all, Cynics disdained life’s comforts. The most famous early Cynic, Diogenes (d. 323

B.C.E.), wore borrowed clothing and slept in a stor- age jar. Almost as notorious was Hipparchia, a fe- male Cynic of the late fourth century B.C.E. who once bested a philosophical opponent named Theodorus the Atheist with the following remarks: “That which would not be considered wrong if done by Theodorus would also not be considered wrong if done by Hipparchia. Now if Theodorus strikes himself, he does no wrong. Therefore, if Hipparchia strikes Theodorus, she does no wrong.”

Philosophy in the Hellentistic Age reached a wider audience than ever before. Although the working poor were too busy to attend philosophers’ lectures, well-off members of society studied phi- losophy in growing numbers. Kings competed to attract famous philosophers to their courts, and Greek settlers took their interest in philosophy with them to even the most remote Hellenistic cities. Archaeologists excavating a city located thousands of miles from Greece in Afghanistan uncovered a Greek philosophical text as well as in-

Hellenistic Culture 125400–30 b.c .e .

Gemstone Showing Diogenes in His Jar This engraved gem from the Roman period shows the famous philosopher Diogenes (c. 412–c. 324 B.C.E.) living in a storage jar and talking with a man holding a scroll. Diogenes was born at Sinope on the Black Sea but was exiled in a dispute over monetary fraud; he then lived at Athens and Corinth, becoming infamous as the founder of Cynic (“doglike”) philosophy. To defy social convention, he lived as shame- lessly as a dog, hence the name given to his philosophical views and the dog usually shown beside him in art. What kind of person do you think would have wanted this gemstone as a piece of jewelry? (Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen.)

scriptions of moral advice imputed to Apollo’s or- acle at Delphi. Sadly, this site, called Ai-Khanoum, was devastated in the twentieth century during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

Scientific Innovation Scientific investigation was separated from philos- ophy in the Hellenistic period. Science so benefited from this divorce that historians have called this

era ancient science’s golden age. Scientific innova- tion flourished because Alexander’s expedition had encouraged curiosity and increased knowl- edge about the world’s extent and diversity, royal patronage supported scientists financially, and the concentration of scientists in Alexandria pro- moted the exchange of ideas.

Advances in Geometry and Mathematics. The greatest advances in scientific knowledge came in geometry and mathematics. Euclid, who taught at Alexandria around 300 B.C.E., made revolutionary discoveries in analyzing two- and three-dimen- sional space. The utility of Euclidean geometry still endures. Archimedes of Syracuse (287–212 B.C.E.) calculated the approximate value of pi and devised a way to manipulate very large numbers. He also invented hydrostatics (the science of the equilibrium of fluid systems) and mechanical de- vices such as a screw for lifting water to a higher elevation or cranes to disable enemy warships. Archimedes’ shout of delight when he solved a problem while soaking in his bathtub has been immortalized in the modern expression “Eureka!” meaning “I have found it!”

Advances in Hellenistic mathematics ener- gized other fields that required complex compu- tation. Early in the third century B.C.E. Aristarchus was the first to propose the correct model of the solar system: the earth revolving around the sun. Later astronomers rejected Aristarchus’s heliocen- tric model in favor of the traditional geocentric one (with the earth at the center) because conclu- sions drawn from his calculations of the earth’s or- bit failed to correspond to the observed positions of celestial objects. Aristarchus had assumed a cir- cular orbit instead of an elliptical one, an assump- tion not corrected until much later. Eratosthenes (c. 275–194 B.C.E.) pioneered mathematical geog- raphy. He calculated the circumference of the earth with astonishing accuracy by simultaneously mea- suring the length of the shadows of widely sepa- rated but identically tall structures. Together, these researchers gave Western scientific thought an im- portant start toward its fundamental procedure of reconciling theory with observed data through measurement and experimentation.

Discoveries in Science and Medicine. Hellenis- tic science and medicine made gains through royal support, especially in Alexandria, although rigor- ous experimentation was impossible because no technology existed to measure very small amounts of time or matter. The science of the age was as quantitative as it could be given these limitations.

126 Chapter 4 ■ From the Cl a ssic al to the Hellenistic World 400–30 b.c .e .

Tower of the Winds This forty-foot octagonal tower, built in Athens about 150 B.C.E., used scientific knowledge developed in Hellenistic Alexandria to tell time and predict the weather. Eight sundials (now missing) carved on the walls displayed the time of day all year, a huge interior water clock showed hours, days, and phases of the moon, and a vane on the top showed wind direction. The carved figures represented the winds, which the Greeks saw as gods. Each figure’s clothing predicted the typical weather from that direction, with the cold northern winds wearing boots and heavy cloaks, while the mild southern ones have bare feet and gauzy clothes. (The Art Archive/ Dagli Orti.)

Ctesibius invented pneumatics by creating ma- chines operated by air pressure. He also built a working water pump, an organ powered by water, and the first accurate water clock. Hero continued this development of mechanical ingenuity by building a rotating sphere powered by steam. As in most of Hellenistic science, these inventions did not lead to viable applications in daily life. The sci- entists and their royal patrons were more inter- ested in new theoretical discoveries than in practical results, and the technology did not exist to produce the pipes, fittings, and screws needed to build metal machines.

Hellenistic science produced noteworthy mil- itary technology, such as more powerful catapults and huge siege towers on wheels. The most fa- mous large-scale application of technology for nonmilitary purposes was the construction of the Pharos, a lighthouse three hundred feet tall, for the harbor at Alexandria. Using polished metal mirrors to reflect the light from a large bonfire, the Pharos shone many miles out over the sea. Awestruck sailors called it one of the wonders of the world.

Medicine also benefited from the Hellenistic quest for new knowledge as medical researchers delved into the mysteries of anatomy. Increased contact between Greeks and people of the Near East made Mesopotamian and Egyptian medical knowledge better known in the West and pro- moted research on human health and illness. Hellenistic medical researchers discovered the value of measuring the pulse in diagnosing illness and studied anatomy by dissecting human corpses and, it was rumored, condemned criminals still alive; they had access to these subjects because the king authorized the research. Some of the terms then invented are still used, such as diastolic and systolic for blood pressure. Other Hellenistic ad- vances in anatomy included the discovery of the nerves and nervous system.

Cultural and Religious Transformations Wealthy non-Greeks increasingly adopted a Greek lifestyle to conform to the Hellenistic world’s so- cial hierarchy. Greek became the common lan- guage for international commerce and cultural exchange. The widespread use of the simplified form of the Greek language called Koine

(“shared” or “common”) reflected the emergence of an international culture based on Greek mod- els; this was the reason that the Egyptian camel trader stranded in Syria (recall the story at the be- ginning of this chapter) had to communicate in Greek with a high-level official in Egypt. The most striking evidence of this cultural development comes from Afghanistan. There, King Ashoka (r. c. 268–232 B.C.E.), who ruled most of the Indian subcontinent, used Greek as one of the languages in his public inscriptions. These texts announced his plan to teach his subjects Buddhist self-con- trol, such as abstinence from eating meat. Local languages did not disappear in the Hellenistic kingdoms, however. In one region of Anatolia, for example, people spoke twenty-two different lan- guages. This sort of diversity was common in the Hellenistic world.

Changes in Greek and Egyptian Religion. Diver- sity in religion also grew. Traditional Greek cults remained popular, but new cults, especially those deifying kings, reflected changing political and so- cial conditions. Preexisting cults that previously had only local significance gained adherents all over the Hellenistic world. In many cases, Greek cults and local cults from the eastern Mediter- ranean influenced each other. Their beliefs meshed well because these cults shared many assumptions about how to remedy the troubles of human life. In other instances, local cults and Greek cults ex- isted side by side and even overlapped. Some Egyptian villagers, for example, continued wor- shipping their traditional crocodile god and mum- mifying their dead according to the old ways but also paid homage to Greek deities. Since they were polytheists (believers in multiple gods), people could worship in both old and new cults.

New cults incorporated a prominent theme of Hellenistic thought: concern for the relationship between the individual and what seemed the arbi- trary power of divinities such as Tychê (whose name means “chance” or “luck”). Since advances in astronomy had revealed the mathematical pre- cision of the universe’s celestial sphere, religion now had to address the disconnection between that heavenly uniformity and the shapeless chaos of earthly life. One increasingly popular approach to bridging that gap was to rely on astrology for advice deduced from the movement of the stars and planets, thought of as divinities. Another very common choice was to worship Tychê in the hope of securing good luck in life.

The most revolutionary approach in seeking protection from Tychê’s unpredictable tricks was

Hellenistic Culture 127400–30 b.c .e .

Koine (koy NAY): The “common” or “shared” form of the Greek language that became the international language in the Hel- lenistic period.

to pray for salvation from deified kings, who ex- pressed their divine power in what are now called ruler cults. Various populations established these cults in recognition of great benefactions. The Athenians, for example, deified the Macedonian Antigonus and his son Demetrius as savior gods in 307 B.C.E., when they liberated the city and be- stowed magnificent gifts on it. Like most ruler cults, this one expressed the populations’ sponta- neous gratitude and a desire to flatter the rulers in the hope of obtaining additional favors, and the rulers’ wish to have their power made clear. Many cities in the Ptolemaic and Seleucid kingdoms in- stituted ruler cults for their kings and queens. An inscription put up by Egyptian priests in 238 B.C.E. concretely described the qualities appropriate for a divine king and queen:

King Ptolemy III and Queen Berenice, his sister and wife, the Benefactor Gods, . . . have provided good govern-

ment . . . and [after a drought] sacrificed a large amount of their revenues for the salvation of the population, and by importing grain . . . they saved the inhabitants of Egypt.

As these words make clear, the Hellenistic mon- archs’ tremendous power and wealth gave them the status of gods to the ordinary people who depended on their generosity and protection. The idea that a human being could be a god, present on earth to be a savior who delivered people from evils, was now firmly established and would prove influential later in Roman imperial religion and Christianity.

Healing divinities offered another form of protection to anxious individuals. Scientific Greek medicine had rejected the notion of supernatural causes and cures for disease ever since Hippocrates in the fifth century B.C.E. Nevertheless, the cult of the god Asclepius, who offered cures for illness and injury at his many shrines, grew popular during the Hellenistic period. Suppliants seeking Ascle- pius’s help would sleep in special locations at his shrines to await dreams in which he prescribed

128 Chapter 4 ■ From the Cl a ssic al to the Hellenistic World 400–30 b.c .e .

ruler cults: Cults that involved worship of a Hellenistic ruler as a savior god.

Underground Labyrinth for Healing This underground stone labyrinth formed part of the enormous healing sanctuary of the god Asclepius at Epidaurus in Greece. Patients flocked to the site from all over the Mediterranean world. They descended into the labyrinth, which was covered and dark, as part of their treatment, which centered

on reaching a trance state to receive dreams that would provide instructions on their healing and, sometimes, miraculous surgery. (The Art Archive/ Dagli Orti.)

healing treatments. These prescriptions empha- sized diet and exercise, but numerous inscriptions commissioned by grateful patients also testified to miraculous cures and surgery performed while the sufferer slept. The following example is typical:

Ambrosia of Athens was blind in one eye. . . . She . . . ridiculed some of the cures [described in inscriptions in the sanctuary] as being incredible and impossible. . . . But when she went to sleep, she saw a vision; she thought the god was standing next to her. . . . He split open the dis- eased eye and poured in a medicine.When day came she left cured.

People’s faith in divine healing gave them hope that they could overcome the constant danger of illness, which appeared to strike at random; there was no knowledge of germs as causing infections.

Mystery cults proffered secret knowledge as a key to worldly and physical salvation. The cults of the Greek god Dionysus and, in particular, the Egyptian goddess Isis attracted many followers in this period. Isis was beloved because her powers protected her worshippers in all aspects of their lives. King Ptolemy I boosted her popularity by es- tablishing a headquarters for her cult in Alexan- dria. The cult of Isis, who became the most popular female divinity in the Mediterranean, involved ex- tensive ceremonies, rituals, and festivals incorpo- rating features of Egyptian religion mixed with Greek elements. Disciples of Isis hoped to achieve personal purification, as well as the aid of the god- dess in overcoming the demonic power of Tychê. That an Egyptian deity like Isis could achieve such popularity among Greeks (and, later, Romans) is the best evidence of the cultural cross-fertilization of the Hellenistic world.

Hellenistic Judaism. Cultural interaction between Greeks and Jews produced important changes in Judaism during the Hellenistic period. King Ptolemy II made the Hebrew Bible accessible to a wide audience by having his Alexandrian scholars produce a Greek translation — the Septuagint. Many Jews, especially those in the large Jewish communities that had grown up in Hellenistic cities outside their homeland, began to speak Greek and adopt Greek culture. These Greek-style Jews mixed Jewish and Greek customs, while re- taining Judaism’s rituals and rules and not wor- shipping Greek gods.

Internal dissension among Jews erupted in second-century B.C.E. Palestine over how much Greek tradition was acceptable for traditional Jews. The Seleucid king Antiochus IV (r. 175–163 B.C.E.) intervened to support Greek-style Jews in Jerusalem, who had taken over the high priesthood

that ruled the Jewish community. In 167 B.C.E., An- tiochus converted the great Jewish temple in Jerusalem into a Greek temple and outlawed the practice of Jewish religious rites, such as observ- ing the Sabbath and circumcision. This action pro- voked a revolt led by Judah the Maccabee, which won Jewish independence from Seleucid control after twenty-five years of war. The most famous episode in this revolt was the retaking of the Jerusalem temple and its rededication to the wor- ship of the Jewish god, Yahweh, commemorated by the Hanukkah holiday. That Greek culture at- tracted some Jews in the first place provides a strik- ing example of the transformations that affected many — though far from all — people of the Hel- lenistic world. By the time of the Roman Empire, one of those transformations would be Christian- ity, whose theology had roots in the cultural inter- action of Hellenistic Jews and Greeks and their ideas on apocalypticism (religious ideas revealing the future) and divine human beings.

Review: How did the political changes of the Hellenis- tic period affect art, science, and religion?

Conclusion The aftermath of the Peloponnesian War led ordi- nary people as well as philosophers like Plato and Aristotle to question the basis of morality. The dis- unity of Greek international politics allowed Mace- donia’s aggressive leaders Philip II (r. 359–336 B.C.E.) and Alexander the Great (r. 336–323 B.C.E.) to make themselves the masters of the com- peting city-states. Inspired by Greek heroic ideals, Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire and set in motion the Hellenistic period’s momen- tous political, social, and cultural changes.

When Alexander’s commanders transformed themselves into Hellenistic kings after his death, they reintroduced monarchy into the Greek world, adding to the conquered lands’ existing govern- ments an administrative layer of Greeks and Mace- donians. Local elites cooperated with the new Hellenistic monarchs in governing and financing their hierarchical society, which was divided along ethnic lines, with the Greek and Macedonian elite ranking above local elites. To enhance their own reputations, Hellenistic kings and queens funded writers, artists, scholars, philosophers, and scien- tists, thereby energizing intellectual life. The tradi- tional city-states continued to exist in Hellenistic

Conclusion 129400–30 b.c .e .

Roman Takeover of the Hellenistic World, to 30 B.C.E. By the death of Cleopatra VII of Egypt in 30 B.C.E., the Romans had taken over the Hellenistic kingdoms of the eastern Mediterranean. This territory became the eastern half of the Roman Empire. Compare the political divisions on this map with those on the map at the end of Chapter 3 to see the differences from the Classical Age.

0 250 500 kilometers

0 250 500 miles




Extent of Roman-controlled territory:

200 B.C.E.

146 B.C.E.

133 B.C.E.

31 B.C.E.

Black Sea


M e d i t e r r a n e a n S e a

N ile R.

Danube R.

T igris

R .

Euphrates R.

Red Sea


IACyprus Crete


































Antioch Sparta







Greece, but their freedom extended only to local governance; the Hellenistic kings controlled for- eign policy.

Increased interaction between diverse peoples promoted greater cultural interchange in the Hel- lenistic world. Artists and writers expressed emo- tion in their works in new ways, philosophers discussed how to achieve true happiness, and sci- entists explored the mysteries of nature and the human body. Political and cultural change in- creased people’s anxiety about the role of chance and luck in life. In response, they looked for new religious experiences to satisfy their yearning for protection and health. In the midst of so much novelty, the ancient world’s fundamental elements remained unchanged —the labor, the poverty, and the necessarily limited horizons of the mass of or- dinary people working in its fields, vineyards, and pastures. What changed most of all was the Romans’ culture once they took over the Hellenis- tic kingdoms’ territory and came into close con-

tact with their diverse peoples’ traditions. Rome’s rise to power took centuries, however, because Rome originated as a tiny, insignificant place that no one except Romans ever expected to amount to anything on the world stage.

For Further Exploration ■ For suggested references, including Web sites,

for topics in this chapter, see page SR-1 at the end of the book.

■ For additional primary-source material from this period, see Chapter 4 in Sources of THE MAKING OF THE WEST, Third Edition.

■ For Web sites and documents related to topics in this chapter, see Make History at

130 Chapter 4 ■ From the Cl a ssic al to the Hellenistic World 400–30 b.c .e .

Key Terms and People Making Connections

Review Questions

1. What made ancient people see Alexander as “great”? Would he be regarded as “great” in today’s world?

2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of governmen- tal support of the arts and sciences? Compare such support in the Hellenistic kingdoms to that in the United States today (e.g., through the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Science Foundation).

1. How did daily life, philosophy, and the political situation change in Greece during the period 400–350 B.C.E.?

2. What were the accomplishments of Alexander the Great and what was their effect, both for the ancient world and for later Western civilization?

3. What were the political and social structures of the new Hellenistic kingdoms?

4. How did the political changes of the Hellenistic period affect art, science, and religion?

Chapter Review

Plato (107)

metaphysics (107)

dualism (107)

Aristotle (108)

Alexander the Great (110)

Hellenistic (115)

epigrams (121)

materialism (123)

Epicureanism (123)

Stoicism (123)

Koine (127)

ruler cults (128)

For practice quizzes, a customized study plan, and other study tools, see the Online Study Guide at

Important Events

399 b.c.e. Execution of Socrates

386 b.c.e. In King’s Peace, Sparta cedes control of Anatolian Greek city-states to Persia; Plato founds the Academy

362 b.c.e. Battle of Mantinea leaves power vacuum in Greece

338 b.c.e. Battle of Chaeronea allows Macedonian Philip II to become the leading power in Greece

335 b.c.e. Aristotle founds the Lyceum

334–323 b.c.e. Alexander the Great leads Greeks and Macedonians to conquer the Persian Empire

307 b.c.e. Epicurus founds his philosophical group in Athens

306–304 b.c.e. The successors of Alexander declare them- selves kings

300–260 b.c.e. Theocritus writes poetry at the Ptolemaic court

c. 300 b.c.e. Euclid teaches geometry at Alexandria

195 b.c.e. Seleucid queen Laodice endows dowries for girls

167 b.c.e. Maccabee revolt after Antiochus IV turns temple in Jerusalem into a Greek sanctuary

30 b.c.e. Death of Cleopatra VII and takeover of the Ptolemaic Empire by Rome

Chapter Review 131400–30 b.c .e .

T he Romans treasured legends about their state’s transformationfrom a tiny village to a world power. They especially loved sto-ries about their first king, Romulus, famous as a hot-tempered but shrewd leader. According to the tale later called “The Rape of the

Sabine Women,” Romulus’s Rome needed more women to bear chil-

dren to increase its population and build a strong army. The king there-

fore begged Rome’s neighbors for permission for Romans to marry

their women. Everyone turned him down, scorning Rome’s poverty and

weakness. Enraged, Romulus hatched a plan to use force where diplo-

macy had failed. Inviting the neighboring Sabines to a religious festi-

val, he had his men kidnap the unmarried women. The Roman

kidnappers promptly married the Sabine women, promising to cher-

ish them as beloved wives and new citizens. When the Sabine men at-

tacked Rome to rescue their kin, the women rushed into the midst of

the bloody battle, begging their brothers, fathers, and new husbands

either to stop slaughtering one another or to kill them to end the war.

The men immediately made peace and agreed to merge their popula-

tions under Roman rule.

This legend emphasizes that Rome, unlike the city-states of Greece,

expanded by absorbing outsiders into its citizen body, sometimes vio-

lently, sometimes peacefully. Rome’s growth became the ancient world’s

greatest expansion of population and territory, as a people originally

housed in a few huts gradually created a state that fought countless

wars and relocated an unprecedented number of citizens to gain con-

trol of most of Europe, North Africa, Egypt, and the eastern Mediter-

ranean lands. The social, cultural, political, legal, and economic

traditions that Romans developed in ruling this vast area created closer

Roman Social and Religious Traditions 134 • Roman Moral Values • The Patron-Client System • The Roman Family • Education for Public Life • Public and Private Religion

From Monarchy to Republic 139 • Roman Society under the Kings,

753–509 B.C.E. • The Early Roman Republic,

509–287 B.C.E.

Roman Imperialism and Its Consequences 145 • Expansion in Italy, 500–220 B.C.E. • Wars with Carthage and in the East,

264–121 B.C.E. • Greek Influence on Roman Literature

and the Arts • Stresses on Republican Society

Upheaval in the Late Republic 152 • The Gracchus Brothers and Factional

Politics, 133–121 B.C.E. • Marius and the Origin of Client

Armies, 107–100 B.C.E. • Sulla and Civil War, 91–78 B.C.E. • The Republic’s Downfall, 83–44 B.C.E.


The Rise of Rome 753–44 B.C.E.



The Wolf Suckling Romulus and Remus This bronze statue depicts the myth that a she-wolf suckled the twin brothers Romulus and Remus, the offspring of the war god Mars and the future founders of Rome. Romans treasured this story because it implied that Mars loved their city so dearly that he dispatched a wild animal to nurture its founders after a cruel tyrant had forced their mother to abandon the infants. The myth also taught Romans that their state had been born in violence: Romulus killed Remus in an argument over who would lead their new settlement. The wolf is an Etruscan sculpture from the fifth century B.C.E.; the babies were added in the Renaissance. (Scala/ Art Resource, NY.)

interconnections between its diverse peoples than ever before or since. Unlike the Greeks and Mace- donians, the Romans maintained the unity of their state for centuries. Its political longevity allowed many Roman values and traditions to become es- sential components of Western civilization.

Roman values and traditions originated with ancient Italy’s many peoples, but Greek literature, art, and philosophy influenced Rome’s culture most of all. This cross-cultural contact that so deeply influenced Rome was a kind of competi- tion in innovation between equals, not “inferior” Romans imitating “superior” Greek culture. Like other ancient peoples, Romans often learned from their neighbors, but they adapted foreign tradi- tions to their own purposes and forged their own cultural identity.

The kidnapping legend belongs to Rome’s ear- liest history, when kings ruled (753–509 B.C.E.). Rome’s most important history comes afterward, divided into two major periods of about five hun- dred years each — the republic and the empire. Un- der the republic (founded 509 B.C.E.), the people elected their officials and laws were passed by as- semblies (although an oligarchy of the social elite controlled politics); under the empire, monarchs once again ruled. Rome’s greatest expansion came during the republic. Romans’ belief in a divine des- tiny fueled this tremendous growth; they believed that the gods wanted them to rule the world by mil- itary might and law and improve it through social and moral values. Their faith in a divine destiny is illustrated by the legend of the Sabine women, in which the earliest Romans used a religious festival as a ruse. Their conviction that values should drive politics showed in their determination to persuade the Sabine women that loyalty and love would wipe out the crime of kidnapping.

Roman values emphasized family loyalty, self- less political and military service to the commu- nity, individual honor and public status, the importance of the law, and shared decision mak-

ing. Unfortunately, these values conflicted with one another in the long run. By the first century B.C.E., power-hungry leaders such as Sulla and Julius Caesar had plunged Rome into civil war. By putting their personal ambition before the good of the state, they destroyed the republic.

Focus Question: How did traditional Roman values affect both the rise and the downfall of the Roman re- public?

Roman Social and Religious Traditions Roman social and religious traditions shaped the history of the Roman republic. Rome’s citizens be- lieved that eternal moral values connected them to one another and required them to honor the gods in return for divine support. Hierarchy affected all of life: people at all social levels were obligated to patrons or clients; in families, fathers dominated; in religion, sacrifices, rituals, and prayers were due the gods who protected the family and the state.

Roman Moral Values Roman values defined relationships with other people and with the gods. Romans guided their lives by the mos maiorum (“the way of the el- ders”), or values handed down from their ancestors. The Romans preserved these values because, for them, old equaled “tested by time” whereas new implied “dangerous.” Roman morality emphasized virtue, faithfulness, and respect; moral conduct earned public respect.

Virtus was a primarily masculine quality com- prising courage (especially in war), strength, and

134 Chapter 5 ■ The Rise of Rome 753–44 b.c .e .

700 B.C.E. 600 B.C.E. 500 B.C.E. 400 B.C.E.

■ 753 Rome’s founding as a monarchy

■ 509 Roman republic established

■ 509–287 Struggle of the orders

■ 451–449 Twelve Tables created

■ 396 Defeat of Veii

■ 387 Gauls sack Rome

mos maiorum: Literally, “the way of the elders”; the set of Roman values handed down from the ancestors.

loyalty. It also included wisdom and moral purity, qualities that the social elite were expected to dis- play in their public and private lives. In this broader sense, virtus applied to women as well as to men. In the second century B.C.E., the Roman poet Lucilius defined it this way:

Virtus is to know the human relevance of each thing, To know what is humanly right and useful and

honorable, And what things are good and what are bad, useless,

shameful, and dishonorable. . . . Virtus is to pay what in reality is owed to honorable

status, To be an enemy and a foe to bad people and bad values, But a defender of good people and good values. . . . And, in addition, virtus is putting the country’s interests

first, Then our parents’, with our own interests third and last.

Fides (FEE dehs, “faithfulness”) meant keep- ing one’s obligations no matter the cost. Failing to meet an obligation offended the community and the gods. Faithful women remained virgins before marriage and monogamous afterward. Men demon- strated faithfulness by keeping their word, paying their debts, and treating everyone with justice — which did not mean treating everyone equally, but rather treating each person appropriately, accord- ing to whether he or she was a social superior, an equal, or an inferior.

Religion was part of faithfulness. Showing de- votion to the gods and to one’s family was its supreme form. Romans respected the superior au- thority of the gods and of the elders and ancestors of their families. Performing religious rituals prop- erly was crucial: Romans believed they had to wor- ship the gods faithfully to maintain the divine favor that protected their community.

Roman values required that each person maintain self-control and limit displays of emo- tion. So strict was this value that not even wives and husbands could kiss in public without seem- ing emotionally out of control. It also meant that

a person should never give up no matter how hard the situation. Persevering and doing one’s duty were instilled from a young age.

The reward for living these values was respect from others. Women earned respect by bearing le- gitimate children and educating them morally; their reward was a good reputation among their families and friends. Respected men relied on their

Roman Social and Religious Tradit ions 135753–44 b.c .e .

300 B.C.E. 200 B.C.E. 100 B.C.E. 0

■ 91–87 Social War

■ 49–45 Civil War; Caesar wins

■ 44 Caesar appointed dictator, assassinated

■ 60 First Triumvirate

■ 264–241 First Punic War

■ 218–201 Second Punic War

■ 149–146 Third Punic War

■ 168–149 Cato, The Origins

■ 146 Carthage and Corinth destroyed

■ 220 Rome controls Italy south of the Po River

■ 45–44 Cicero writes on humanitas

■ 133 Tiberius Gracchus elected tribune, assassinated

An Aristocrat Holding Death Masks of His Ancestors This marble statue shows an elderly

aristocrat holding death masks of his ancestors. It illustrates the Romans’ commitment to the mos maiorum, the way of the elders. A historian explained, “The masks are

portraits, carefully made to resemble the dead person in shape and form. Romans display them at public sacrifices, and when a

prominent family member dies, they carry them in the funeral procession, having them worn by those who most resemble the dead ancestor in stature and build.” This statue may come from the first century C.E., but if so, it imitated one from the republic. Compare its realistic style with that of the relief of an ex-slave family on page 136. (Scala/ Art Resource, NY.)

reputations to help them win election to govern- ment posts. A man of the highest reputation com- manded so much respect that others would obey him regardless of whether he held an office with formal power over them. A man with this much prestige was said to possess authority.

The concept of authority based on respect re- flected the Roman belief that some people were in- herently superior to others and that society had to be hierarchical to be just. Thus, they determined sta- tus both by family history and by wealth. Romans believed that aristocrats, or people born into the best families, automatically deserved high respect. In return, aristocrats were supposed to live strictly by the highest values and serve the community.

In Roman legends about the early days, a per- son could be poor and still remain a proud aris- tocrat. Over time, however, money became overwhelmingly important to the Roman elite, for spending on showy luxuries, large-scale entertain- ing, and lavish gifts to the community. In this way, wealth became necessary to maintain high social status. By the later centuries of the Roman repub- lic, ambitious men often trampled on other values to acquire riches and high status.

136 Chapter 5 ■ The Rise of Rome 753–44 b.c .e .

The Patron-Client System The patron-client system underlay status in Roman society. It was an interlocking network of personal relationships that obligated people to one another. A patron was a man of superior status who could provide benefits, as they were called, to lower-status people who paid him special atten- tion. These were his clients, who in return owed him duties. In this hierarchical system, a patron was often himself the client of a higher-status man.

Benefits and duties centered on financial and political help. A patron would help a client get started in a political career by supporting his can- didacy and would provide gifts or loans. A patron’s most important obligation was to support a client and his family if they got into legal trouble.

Clients had to aid their patrons’ campaigns for public office by swinging votes their way. They also had to lend money when patrons incurred large ex- penses to provide public works and to fund their daughters’ dowries. A patron expected his clients to gather at his house at dawn to accompany him to the forum, the city’s public center, because it was a mark of great status to have numerous clients thronging around. A Roman leader needed a large house to hold this throng and to entertain his so- cial equals; a crowded house signified social success.

Patrons’ and clients’ mutual obligations en- dured for generations. Ex-slaves, who became the clients for life of the masters who freed them, of- ten passed this relationship on to their children. Romans with contacts abroad could acquire clients among foreigners; Roman generals some- times had entire foreign communities obligated to them. The patron-client system enshrined the Ro- man view that social stability and well-being were achieved by faithfully maintaining established ties.

The Roman Family The family was Roman society’s bedrock because it taught values and determined the ownership of property. Men and women shared the duty of teach- ing their children values, though by law the father possessed the patria potestas (“father’s power”) over his children, no matter how old, and his slaves. This power made him the sole owner of all his de- pendents’ property. As long as he was alive, no son

patron-client system: The interlocking network of mutual obligations between Roman patrons (social superiors) and clients (social inferiors).

patria potestas (PAH tree uh po TEHS tahs): Literally, “father’s power”; the legal power a Roman father possessed over the children and slaves in his family, including owning all their property and having the right to punish them, even with death.

Sculpted Tomb of a Family of Ex-Slaves The inscription on this tomb monument from, probably, the first century B.C.E. reveals that the couple started life as slaves but became free and thus Roman citizens. Their son (his head has been knocked off ) is shown in the background holding a pet pigeon. This family had done well enough financially to afford a sculpted tomb, and the tablets the man is holding and the woman’s hairstyle are meant to show that their family was literate and stylish. Compare the man’s realistically lined face with the woman’s softer, more idealized one. (German Archeological Institute/ Madeline Grimoldi.)

or daughter could officially own anything, accumu- late money, or possess any independent legal stand- ing. Unofficially, however, adult children did acquire personal property and money, and favored slaves could build up savings. Fathers also held legal power of life and death over these members of their house- holds, but they rarely exercised this power except, like the Greeks, through exposure of newborns, an accepted practice to limit family size and dispose of physically imperfect infants.

Patria potestas did not allow a husband to con- trol his wife because “free” marriages — in which the wife formally remained under her father’s power as long as the father lived — became com- mon. But in the ancient world, few fathers lived long enough to oversee the lives of their married daughters or sons; four out of five parents died be- fore their children reached age thirty. A woman without a living father was relatively independent. Legally she needed a male guardian to conduct her business, but guardianship was largely an empty formality by the first century B.C.E. Upper-class women could even demonstrate publicly to ex- press their opinions. In 195 B.C.E., for example, a group of women blocked Rome’s streets for days, until the men rescinded a wartime law meant to re- duce tensions between rich and poor by limiting the amount of gold jewelry and fine clothing women could wear and where they could ride in carriages. A later legal expert commented on women’s freedom of action: “The common belief,

that because of their instability of judgment women are often deceived and that it is only fair to have them controlled by the authority of guardians, seems more false than true. For women of full age manage their affairs themselves.”

A Roman woman had to grow up fast to as- sume her duties as teacher of values to her chil- dren and manager of her household’s resources. Tullia (c. 79–45 B.C.E.), daughter of Rome’s most famous orator, Cicero (106–43 B.C.E.), was en- gaged at twelve, married at sixteen, and widowed by twenty-two. Like every other wealthy married Roman woman, she managed the household slaves, monitored the nurturing of the young chil- dren by wet nurses, kept account books to track the property she personally owned, and accompa- nied her husband to dinner parties — something a Greek wife never did.

A mother’s responsibility for shaping her chil- dren’s values constituted the foundation of female virtue. Women like Cornelia, a famous aristocrat of the second century B.C.E., won enormous re- spect for loyalty to family. When her husband died, Cornelia refused an offer of marriage from King Ptolemy of Egypt so that she could continue to oversee the family estate and educate her surviv- ing daughter and two sons. (Her other nine chil- dren had died.) The boys, Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, grew up to be among the most influen- tial political leaders in the late republic. The num- ber of children Cornelia bore exemplified the

Roman Social and Religious Tradit ions 137753–44 b.c .e .

Sculpture of a Woman Running a Store This sculpture portrays a woman selling food from a small shop while customers make purchases or chat. Since Roman women could own property, it is possible that the woman is the store owner. The man standing behind her could be her husband or a servant. Much like malls of today, markets in Roman towns were packed with small stores. (Art Resource, NY.)

fertility and stamina required of a Roman wife to ensure the survival of her husband’s family line. Cornelia also became renowned for her stylish let- ters, which were still being read a century later.

Roman women had no official political role, but wealthy women like Cornelia could influence politics indirectly through their male relatives. Marcus Porcius Cato (234–149 B.C.E.), a renowned politician and author, described this clout: “All mankind rule their wives, we [Roman men] rule all mankind, and our wives rule us.”

Women could acquire property through in- heritance and entrepreneurship; archaeological discoveries reveal that by the end of the republic some women owned large businesses. Because both women and men could control property, prenuptial agreements determining the property rights of husband and wife were common. Divorce was legally simple, with fathers usually keeping the children. Most poor women, like poor men, had to toil for a living as field laborers or hawkers sell- ing trinkets in cities. Women and men both worked in manufacturing, which mostly happened in the home. The men worked the raw materials, cutting, fitting, and polishing wood, leather, and metal, while the women sold the finished goods. The poorest women earned money through prostitu- tion, which was legal but considered disgraceful.

Education for Public Life Roman education aimed to make men and women effective speakers and exponents of traditional val- ues. Most children received their education at home; there were no public schools, and only the rich could afford private teachers. Wealthy parents bought literate slaves to educate their children; by the late republic, they often chose Greek slaves so that their children could learn to speak Greek and read Greek literature. Lessons emphasized memo- rization, and teachers used corporal punishment to keep pupils attentive. In upper-class families, both daughters and sons learned to read. The girls were also taught literature and perhaps some mu- sic, and how to make educated conversation at dinner parties. The principal aim of women’s ed- ucation was to prepare them to instill traditional social and moral values in their children.

Sons received physical training and learned to fight with weapons, but rhetorical training domi- nated an upper-class Roman boy’s education be- cause a successful political career depended on the ability to speak persuasively. A boy would learn winning techniques by listening to speeches in public meetings and arguments in court cases. As

the orator Cicero said, young men must learn to “excel in public speaking. It is the tool for control- ling men at Rome.”

Public and Private Religion Romans followed Greek models in religion. Their chief deity, Jupiter, corresponded to the Greek god Zeus and was seen as a powerful, stern father. Juno (Greek Hera), queen of the gods, and Minerva (Greek Athena), goddess of wisdom, joined Jupiter to form the state religion’s central triad. These three deities shared Rome’s most revered temple.

Protecting Rome’s safety and prosperity was the gods’ major function. They were supposed to help Rome defeat enemies in war, but divine sup- port for agriculture was also indispensable. Offi- cial prayers requested the gods’ aid in ensuring good crops, healing disease, and promoting repro- duction for animals and people. In times of crisis, Romans sought foreign gods for help, such as when the government imported the cult of the healing god Asclepius from Greece in 293 B.C.E., hoping he would save Rome from a plague.

The republic supported many other cults, in- cluding that of Vesta, goddess of the hearth and therefore protector of the family. Her shrine housed Rome’s official eternal flame, which guar- anteed the state’s permanent existence. The Vestal Virgins, six unmarried women sworn to chastity and Rome’s only female priests, tended Vesta’s shrine. Their chastity was considered crucial to preserving Rome. They earned high status and freedom from their fathers’ control by performing their most important duty: keeping the flame from going out. If the flame went out, the Romans as- sumed that one of the Vestal Virgins had had sex and buried her alive.

Religion was important in Roman family life. Each household maintained small shrines housing statuettes of the spirits of the household and those of the ancestors, who were believed to protect the family’s health and morality. Upper-class families kept death masks of ancestors hanging in the main room and wore them at funerals to commemorate the family’s heritage and the current generation’s responsibility to live up to the ancestors’ values.

Because Romans believed that divine spirits participated in crucial events such as birth, mar- riage, and death, they performed many rituals seek- ing protection. Rituals also accompanied everyday activities, such as breast-feeding babies or fertiliz- ing crops. Many public religious gatherings pro- moted the community’s health and stability. For example, during the February 15 Lupercalia festi-

138 Chapter 5 ■ The Rise of Rome 753–44 b.c .e .

val (whose name recalled the wolf, luper in Latin, who legend said had reared Romulus and his twin, Remus), naked young men streaked around the Palatine hill, lashing any woman they met with strips of goatskin. Women who had not yet borne children would run out to be struck, believing this would help them to become fertile.

Like the Greeks, Romans did not regard the gods as the guardians of human morality. Cicero’s description of Jupiter’s titles explained public re- ligion’s closer ties to security and prosperity than to personal behavior: “We call Jupiter the Best and Greatest not because he makes us just or sober or wise but, rather, healthy, unharmed, rich, and pros- perous.” Roman officials preceded important ac- tions with the ritual called “taking the auspices,” which sought Jupiter’s approval by observing natural signs such as the direction of the flights of birds, their eating habits, or the appearance of thunder and lightning. Action proceeded only if the auspices were favorable.

Romans linked values and religion by regard- ing values as divine forces. Pietas, for example, which meant devotion and duty to family, friends, the state, and the gods, had a temple at Rome with a statue personifying pietas as a female divinity. This personification of abstract moral qualities provided a focus for cult rituals.

The duty of Roman religious officials was to ensure peace with the gods. Socially prominent men served as priests, conducting sacrifices, festi- vals, and prayers. They were not professionals de- voting their lives to religious activity; they were

citizens performing public service. The chief priest, the pontifex maximus (“greatest bridge-builder”), served as the head of state religion and the ultimate authority on religious matters affecting govern- ment. The political powers of this priesthood mo- tivated Rome’s most ambitious men to seek it.

Disrespect for religious tradition brought punishment. Admirals, for example, took the aus- pices by feeding sacred chickens on their warships: if the birds ate energetically, Jupiter favored the Ro- mans and an attack could begin. In 249 B.C.E., the commander Publius Claudius Pulcher grew frus- trated when his chickens, probably seasick, refused to eat. Determined to attack, he finally hurled the birds overboard in a rage, sputtering, “Well then, let them drink!”When he promptly suffered a huge defeat, he was fined heavily.

Review: What common themes underlay Roman val- ues? How did Romans’ behavior reflect those values?

From Monarchy to Republic Romans’ values and their belief in a divine destiny fueled their astounding growth from a tiny settle- ment into the Mediterranean’s greatest power. This process took centuries, as the Romans developed their government and expanded their territory through war. From the eighth to the sixth century B.C.E., they were ruled by kings, but the later kings’

From Monarchy to Republic 139753–44 b.c .e .

Household Shrine from Pompeii This shrine stood inside the entrance to a house at Pompeii owned by successful businessmen, who spent heavily to decorate their home with 188 colorful wall paintings. This type of shrine housed statuettes of the deities protecting the household, shown here also in a painting, flanking a figure representing the spirit of the family’s father. What do you think it signifies that the deities are dancing? The snake below, which is about to drink from a bowl probably holding milk, also symbolizes a protective force. The scene sums up the role Romans expected their gods to play: preventing harm and bad luck. (Scala/ Art Resource, NY.)

violence provoked members of the social elite to overthrow the monarchy and create a new politi- cal system — the republic — which lasted from the fifth through the first century B.C.E. The repub- lic — from the Latin res publica (meaning “the people’s matter” or “the public business”) — dis- tributed power by electing officials and making laws in open meetings of male citizens. This model of republican government, rather than Athens’s di- rect democracy, influenced the founders of the United States in organizing the new nation as a federal republic. Rome gained land and popula- tion by winning aggressive wars and by absorbing other peoples. Its economic and cultural growth depended on contact with many other peoples around the Mediterranean.

Roman Society under the Kings, 753–509 B.C.E. Legend taught that Rome’s original government had seven kings, ruling from 753 to 509 B.C.E. The kings created Rome’s most famous and enduring government body: the Senate, a group of distin- guished men chosen as the king’s personal coun- cil. This council played the same role — advising government leaders — for a thousand years, as Rome changed from a monarchy to a republic and back to a monarchy (the empire). It was always a Roman tradition that one should never make de- cisions by oneself but only after consulting advis- ers and friends.

The kings began Rome’s expansion by taking in outsiders whom they conquered, as reflected in the story of Romulus’s assimilating the Sabines. This inclusionary policy of making others into cit- izens, which contrasted sharply with the exclusion- ary laws of the Greeks, proved crucial for Rome’s growth and promoted ethnic diversity. Even more remarkably, Romans, unlike Greeks, granted citi- zenship to freed slaves. These freedmen and freed- women owed special obligations to their former owners, and they could not hold elective office or serve in the army. In all other ways, however, ex- slaves enjoyed citizens’ rights, such as legal mar- riage. Their children possessed citizenship without any limits. By the late republic, many Roman cit- izens descended from freed slaves.

Expansion and Cross-Cultural Contact. By approx- imately 550 B.C.E., Rome had grown to between

thirty and forty thousand people and, through war and diplomacy, had won control of three hundred square miles of surrounding territory. Rome’s ge- ography propelled its further expansion. It pos- sessed fertile farmland and controlled a river crossing on a major north–south route. Most im- portant, Rome was ideally situated for interna- tional trade: the peninsula it was on stuck so far out into the Mediterranean that east–west seaborne traffic naturally encountered it (Map 5.1), and the city had a good port nearby.

War and trade promoted Romans’ contact with other peoples and profoundly influenced their cul- tural development. Their closest neighbors were

140 Chapter 5 ■ The Rise of Rome 753–44 b.c .e .

res publica (REHS POOB lih kuh): Literally, “the people’s mat- ter” or “the public business”; the Romans’ name for their republic and the source of our word republic.

MAP 5.1 Ancient Italy, 500 B.C.E. When the Romans ousted the monarchy to found a republic in 509 B.C.E., they inhabited a relatively small territory in central Italy. Many different peoples lived in Italy at this time, with the most prosperous occupying fertile agricultural land and sheltered harbors on the peninsula’s west side. The early republic’s most urbanized neighbors were the Etruscans to the north and the Greeks in the city-states to the south, including on the island of Sicily. Immediately adjacent to Rome were the people of Latium, called Latins. ■ How did geography aid Roman expansion?

0 100 200 kilometers

0 100 200 miles


People of Latium


Early Romans

Gauls (Celts)

Carthaginians (Phoenicians)




Po R.

T iber R


Tyrrhenian Sea

Bay of Naples

M e d i t e r r a n e a n S e a

Adriatic Sea

Rubicon R.














Rome Veii Praeneste









poor villagers like the earliest Romans and spoke the same Indo-European language, Latin. To the south in Italy and Sicily, however, lived Greeks, and contact with them had the greatest effect on Ro- man cultural development. Greek culture reached its most famous flowering in the fifth century B.C.E., at the time when the Roman republic was taking shape and centuries before Rome had its own lit- erature, theater, or monumental architecture. Ro- mans developed a love-hate relationship with Greece, admiring its literature and art but despis- ing its lack of military unity. They adopted many elements from Greek culture — from deities for their national cults to models for their poetry, prose, and architectural styles.

The Etruscans. The Etruscans, a people to the north, also influenced Roman culture. Magnifi- cently colored wall paintings in tombs, portraying funeral banquets and games, reveal the splendor of Etruscan society. In addition to producing their own art, jewelry, and sculpture, the Etruscans also imported luxurious objects from Greece and the Near East. Most of the intact Greek vases known today were found in Etruscan tombs.

The relationship between the Etruscan and Roman cultures remains a controversial topic. Scholars had concluded that the Etruscans com- pletely reshaped Roman culture during a period of

supposed political domination in the sixth century B.C.E. New research, however, shows the Romans’ independence in developing their own cultural traditions: they borrowed from the Etruscans, as from the Greeks, whatever appealed to them and adapted these borrowings to their own circum- stances.

Romans adopted ceremonial features of Etrus- can culture, such as the design of magistrates’ robes, musical instruments, and religious rituals. The Romans also learned from the Etruscans the practice of divining the will of the gods by exam- ining organs of slaughtered animals. The custom of wives joining husbands at dinner parties may also have come from the Etruscans.

Other features of Roman culture formerly seen as deriving from Etruscan influence were probably part of the ancient Mediterranean’s shared cultural environment. The organization of the Roman army, a citizen militia of heavily armed infantry troops fighting in formation, reflected the practice of many other peoples. The alphabet, which the Romans first learned from the Etrus- cans, was actually Greek; the Greeks had gotten it through their contact with the earlier alphabets of eastern Mediterranean peoples. Foreign trade and urban planning are other features of Etruscan life that Romans are said to have assimilated, but it is too simplistic to assume these cultural develop-

From Monarchy to Republic 141753–44 b.c .e .

Banquet Scene in an Etruscan Tomb Painted around 480–470 B.C.E., this scene decorated a wall in an Etruscan tomb at Tarquinia. Wealthy Etruscans filled their tombs with paintings, which probably represented the funeral feasts held to celebrate the life of the dead person and simultaneously the social pleasures experienced in this life and expected in the next. Here the banqueters recline on their elbows, one of the many ways in which the Greeks influenced the Etruscans. The Greeks themselves had probably adopted their dining customs from Near Eastern precedents. Why do you think the men’s robes are more colorful than those worn by the men in the mosaic depicting Plato’s Academy on page 107? (Scala/ Art Resource, NY.)

ments resulted from a superior culture instructing a less developed one. Rather, at this time in Mediterranean history, similar cultural develop- ments were under way in many places.

The Early Roman Republic, 509–287 B.C.E. The Roman social elite’s hatred of monarchy mo- tivated the creation of the republic. Aristocrats be- lieved that power would inevitably corrupt a sole ruler. This belief was enshrined in the most famous legend about the fall of the monarchy, the rape of Lucretia by the king’s son and her subsequent sui- cide (see Document, “The Rape and Suicide of Lucretia,” page 144). Declaring themselves Rome’s liberators from tyranny, in 509 B.C.E. Lucretia’s rel- atives and friends from the social elite drove out the king and founded the republic. Thereafter, the Romans prided themselves on having created a po- litical system freer than that of many of their neighbors.

The Struggle of the Orders. The Romans strug- gled for nearly 250 years to shape a stable govern- ment for the republic. Roman social hierarchy split the population into two orders — the patricians (a small group of the most aristocratic families) and the plebeians (the rest of the citizens). Bitter power struggles pitted the orders against one another; historians call this turmoil the struggle of the or- ders. The conflict finally ended in 287 B.C.E. when plebeians won the right to make laws in their own assembly.

Social and economic disputes created the struggle. Patricians constituted a tiny percentage of the population — numbering only about 130 families in all — but their inherited status entitled them to control public religion. Soon after the re- public’s founding, they used this power to monop- olize political office. In this early period, many patricians were much wealthier than most ple- beians. Some plebeians, however, were also rich, and they resented the patricians’ dominance, espe- cially their ban on intermarriage with plebeians. Patricians enflamed tensions by wearing special red shoes to set themselves apart; later they changed to black shoes adorned with a small metal crescent.

The struggle began when rich plebeians clam- ored for the right to marry patricians as social equals, while poor plebeians demanded farmland

and relief from crushing debts. To pressure the pa- tricians, the plebeians periodically refused military service. This tactic worked because Rome’s army depended on plebeian manpower; the patricians were too few to defend Rome by themselves. The patricians therefore agreed to written laws guaran- teeing greater equality and social mobility. The earliest Roman law code, the Twelve Tables, was enacted between 451 and 449 B.C.E. in response to this tactic. The Tables formalized early Rome’s le- gal customs in simply worded laws such as “If plaintiff calls defendant to court, he shall go,” or “If a wind causes a neighbor’s tree to be bent and lean over your farm, action may be taken to have that tree removed.” These laws prevented the pa- trician public officials who judged most legal cases from rendering arbitrary decisions. The Twelve Ta- bles became so important a symbol of the com- mitment to justice for all citizens that children were required to memorize them. The Roman be- lief in fair laws as the best protection against so- cial unrest helped keep the republic united until the late second century B.C.E.

The Consuls, the Ladder of Offices, and the Senate. Elected officials ran Roman republican government, whose elections took place in and near the forum in the center of the city (Map 5.2). All officials operated as committees, numbering from two to more than a dozen members, in ac- cordance with the Roman value that rule should be shared. The highest officials, two elected each year, were called consuls. Their most important duty was commanding the army. Winning a con- sulship was the greatest political honor a Roman man could achieve and bestowed high status on his descendants forever.

To be elected consul, a man had to win elec- tions all the way up a ladder of offices. First, how- ever, came ten years of military service from about age twenty to thirty. The ladder’s first step was get- ting elected quaestor, a financial administrator. Continuing to climb the ladder, a man sought elec- tion as an aedile (supervisors of Rome’s streets, sewers, aqueducts, temples, and markets). Few men reached the next step, election as praetor. Praetors performed judicial and military duties. The most successful praetors competed for the consulship. Ex-consuls competed to become one of the censors, elected every five years to conduct censuses of the citizen body and to appoint new

142 Chapter 5 ■ The Rise of Rome 753–44 b.c .e .

orders: The two groups of people in the Roman republic— patricians (aristocratic families) and plebeians (plih BEE uhns) (all other citizens).

Twelve Tables: The first written Roman law code, enacted between 451 and 449 B.C.E.

ladder of offices: The series of Roman elective government offices from quaestor to aedile to praetor to consul.

senators. To be eligible for selection to the Senate, a man had to have been at least a quaestor.

The patricians tried to monopolize the high- est offices, but after violent struggle from about 500 to 450 B.C.E., the plebeians forced the patri- cians to create ten annually elected plebeian offi- cials, called tribunes, who could stop actions that would harm plebeians and their property. The tri- bunate did not count as a regular ladder office. Tribunes derived their special power from the ple- beians’ sworn oath to protect them and their power to block officials’ actions, prevent laws from being passed, suspend elections, and — most controver- sially — contradict the Senate’s advice. The trib- unes’ extraordinary power to veto government action often made them catalysts for political strife. By 367 B.C.E., the plebeians had forced pas- sage of a law requiring that at least one consul every year be a plebeian.

In keeping with Roman values, men were sup- posed to compete for public office to win respect and glory, not money. Only well-off men could run for election because officials earned no salaries. In fact, they were expected to spend their own money lavishly to win popular support by paying for ex- pensive public shows featuring gladiators and wild animals, such as lions imported from Africa. Fi- nancing such exhibitions could put a candidate deeply in debt. Once elected, a magistrate had to spend his money building and maintaining roads, aqueducts, and temples.

Early republican officials’ only reward was the respect they earned for public service. As Romans conquered more and more overseas territory, how- ever, their desire for money to finance electoral campaigns overcame their adherence to traditional Roman values of faithfulness and honesty. By the second century B.C.E., military officers enriched themselves not only legally by seizing booty from foreign enemies but also illegally by extorting bribes as administrators of newly conquered ter- ritories. Over time, acquiring money became more important than public service.

The Senate retained the role it had played un- der the monarchy: shaping government policy by giving advice to its highest officials. Strictly speak- ing, the Senate did not make law, but the senators’ high social standing gave their opinions the moral force of law. If a consul rejected or ignored the Sen- ate’s advice, a political crisis resulted. The Senate thus guided the republic in every area: decisions on war, domestic and foreign policy, state finance, official religion, and all types of legislation. To make their status visible, the senators wore black high-top shoes and robes with a broad purple stripe.

The Assemblies. Male citizens meeting in three different assemblies decided legislation, govern- ment policy, election outcomes, and judgment in certain trials. The Centuriate Assembly, which elected praetors and consuls, was dominated by patricians and richer plebeians. The Plebeian Assembly, which excluded patricians, elected the tribunes. In 287 B.C.E., its resolutions, called plebiscites, became legally binding on all Romans. The Tribal Assembly mixed patricians with ple- beians and became the republic’s most important

From Monarchy to Republic 143753–44 b.c .e .

MAP 5.2 The City of Rome during the Republic Roman tradition said that a king built Rome’s first defensive wall in the sixth century B.C.E., but archaeology shows that the first wall encircling the city’s center and seven hills on the east bank of the Tiber River belongs to the fourth century B.C.E.; this wall covered a circuit of about seven miles. By the second century B.C.E., the wall had been extended to soar fifty-two feet high and had been fitted with catapults to protect the large gates. Like the open agora surrounded by buildings at the heart of a Greek city, the forum remained Rome’s political and social heart. ■ Would modern cities be better off with a large public space at their center?

plebiscites (PLEH buh sites): Resolutions passed by the Plebeian Assembly; such resolutions gained the force of law in 287 B.C.E.

0 .25 .50 kilometer

0 .25 .50 mileN




To M ilvian B

ridge Republican Wall

Republican Wall

Colline Gate

Circus Flaminius

Senate House Forum

Temple of Vesta


Temple of Jupiter

Temple of Hercules

Via Aurelia

Via Appia

Via Sacra


Circus Maximus















V ia F

lam inia

V ia O

stensis Vi a

O st

en si



assembly for making policy, passing laws, and, un- til separate courts were created, holding trials.

Assemblies met outdoors and were only for voting, not debates; discussions of a sort took place before assembly meetings when orators gave speeches about the issues. Everyone, including women and noncitizens, could listen to these pre- vote speeches. The crowd expressed its agreement or disagreement with the speeches by applauding or hissing. This process mixed a small measure of democracy with the republic’s oligarchic govern- ment. A significant restriction on democracy in the assemblies, however, was that voting took place by group, not by individuals. Each assembly was di- vided into groups of different sizes determined by status and wealth; each group had one vote.

The Judicial System. The republic’s judicial sys- tem developed overlapping institutions. Early on, the praetors decided many legal cases; especially serious trials could be transferred to the assem- blies. A separate jury system arose in the second century B.C.E., and senators repeatedly clashed with other upper-class Romans over whether these juries should consist exclusively of senators.

As in Greece, Rome had no state-paid prose- cutors or defenders. Accusers and accused had to speak for themselves in court or have friends speak for them. Priests dominated in legal knowledge until the third century B.C.E., when senators with legal expertise began to offer legal advice. Called jurists, they operated as private citizens, not as of- ficials. Developed over centuries and gradually in-

144 Chapter 5 ■ The Rise of Rome 753–44 b.c .e .

The Rape and Suicide of Lucretia


This story explaining why the Roman elite expelled the monarchy in 509 B.C.E., thus opening the way to the republic, centered on female virtue and courage, as did other sto- ries about significant political changes in early Roman history. The values ascribed to Lucretia obviously reflect men’s wishes for women’s behavior, but it would be a mis- take to assume that women could not hold the same views. The historian Livy, the source of this document, wrote in the late first century B.C.E., at another crucial point in Roman history — the violent transition from republic to empire — when Romans were deeply concerned with the values of the past as a guide to the present.

The king of Rome’s son, Sextus Tar- quinius, came to Lucretia’s home. She greeted him warmly and asked him to stay. Crazy with desire, he waited until he was sure the household was sleeping. Drawing his sword, he snuck into Lucretia’s bed- room and placed the blade against her left breast, whispering, “Quiet, Lucretia; I am Sextus Tarquinius, and I am holding a sword. If you cry out, I’ll kill you!” Rudely awakened, the desperate woman realized that no one could help her and that she was close to death. Sextus Tarquinius said he loved her, begging and threatening her

in turn, trying everything to wear her down. When she wouldn’t give in, even in the face of threats of murder, he added an- other intimidation. “After I’ve murdered you, I am going to put the naked corpse of a slave next to your body, and every- body will say that you were killed during a disgraceful adultery.” This final threat defeated her, and after raping her he left, having stolen her honor.

Lucretia, overwhelmed by sadness and shame, sent messengers to her hus- band, Tarquinius Conlatinus, who was away, and her father at Rome, telling them, “Come immediately, with a good friend, because something horrible has hap- pened.” Her father arrived with a friend, and her husband came with Lucius Junius Brutus. . . . They found Lucretia in her room, overcome with grief. When she saw them, she started weeping.“How are you?” her husband asked.“Very bad,” she replied. “How can anything be fine for a woman who has lost her honor? Traces of another man are in our bed, my husband. My body is defiled, though my heart is still pure; my death will be the proof. But give me your right hand and promise that you will not let the guilty escape. It was Sextus Tarquinius who returned our hospitality with hostility last night. With his sword in

his hand, he came to have his fun, to my despair, but it will also be his sorrow — if you are real men.” They pledged that they would catch him, and they tried to ease her sadness, saying that the soul did wrong, not the body, and where there were no bad intentions there could be no blame. “It is your responsibility to ensure that he gets what he deserves,” she said; “I am blameless, but I will not free my- self from punishment. No dishonorable woman shall hold up Lucretia as an ex- ample.” Then she grabbed a dagger hidden underneath her robe and stabbed herself in the heart. She fell dead, as her husband and father cried out.

Brutus, leaving them to their tears, pulled the blade from Lucretia’s wound and held it up drenched in blood, shout- ing, “By this blood, which was completely pure before the crime of the king’s son, I swear before you, O gods, to drive out the king himself, his criminal wife, and all their children, by sword, fire, and every- thing in my power, and never to allow a king to rule Rome ever again, whether from that family or any other.”

Source: Livy, From the Foundation of the City 1.57–59. Translation by Thomas R. Martin.

corporating laws from other peoples, Roman law, especially on civil matters, became the basis for Eu- ropean legal codes still in use today.

The republic’s complex system of political and judicial institutions evolved in response to con- flicts over power. Laws could emerge from differ- ent assemblies, and legal cases could be decided by various institutions. Rome had no single highest court, such as the U.S. Supreme Court, to give fi- nal verdicts. The republic’s stability therefore de- pended on maintaining the mos maiorum. Because they defined this tradition, the most so- cially prominent and richest Romans dominated politics and the courts.

Review: How and why did the Roman republic de- velop its complicated political and judicial systems?

Roman Imperialism and Its Consequences Expansion through war made conquest and mili- tary service central to Romans’ lives; it also caused a huge number of citizens to migrate and settle in new communities that the government established as anchors in newly conquered areas. From the fifth to the third century B.C.E., the Romans fought war after war in Italy until Rome became the most powerful state on the peninsula. In the third and second centuries B.C.E., Romans warred far from home in every direction, above all against Carthage to the south. Their success in these campaigns made Rome the premier power in the Mediter- ranean by the first century B.C.E.

Fear of attacks and the desire for wealth pro- pelled Roman imperialism. The senators’ worries about national security made them advise preemp- tive attacks against potential enemies, while every- one longed to capture plunder and new farmland. Poorer soldiers hoped to pull their families out of poverty; the elite, who commanded the armies, wanted to strengthen their campaigns for office by acquiring glory and greater wealth.

The wars in Italy and abroad transformed Ro- man life. The contact with others that conquest brought stimulated the first Roman written works of history and poetry; astonishingly, Rome had no literature until around 240 B.C.E. War’s harshness also influenced Roman art, especially portraiture. On the social side, endless military service away from home created stresses on small farmers and undermined the stability of Roman society; so, too,

did the relocation of so many citizens and the im- portation of countless war captives to work as slaves on rich people’s estates. Rome’s great con- quests thus turned out to be a two-edged sword: they brought expansion and wealth, but their un- expected social and political consequences dis- rupted traditional values and the community’s stability.

Expansion in Italy, 500–220 B.C.E. After defeating their Latin neighbors in the 490s B.C.E., the Romans spent the next hundred years warring with the nearby Etrus- can town of Veii. Their 396 B.C.E. victory doubled Roman territory. By the fourth century B.C.E., the Roman infantry le- gion of five thousand men had surpassed the Greek and Mace- donian phalanx as an effective fighting force because its sol- diers were trained to throw javelins from behind their long shields and then rush in to fin- ish off the enemy with swords. A devastating sack of Rome in 387 B.C.E. by marauding Gauls (Celts) from beyond the Alps proved only a temporary setback, though it made Romans forever fearful of foreign invasion. By around 220 B.C.E., Rome controlled all of Italy south of the Po River.

The Romans combined brutality with diplo- macy to control conquered people and territory. Sometimes they enslaved the defeated or forced them to surrender large parcels of land. Other times they struck generous peace terms with for- mer enemies but required them to render military aid against other foes, for which they received a share of the booty, chiefly slaves and land. In this way, the Romans co-opted opponents by making them partners in the spoils of conquest.

To buttress homeland se- curity, the Romans planted nu- merous colonies of relocated citizens and constructed roads up and down the peninsula to allow troops to march faster. By connecting Italy’s diverse peoples, these roads promoted a unified culture dominated by Rome. Latin became the com-

Roman Imperialism and Its Consequences 145753–44 b.c .e .

0 100 kilometers50

0 100 miles50

Etruscan territory Roman territory

T iber R


Adriatic Sea

Tyrrhenian Sea

Po R.









Rome and Central Italy, Fifth Century B.C.E.

0 100 200 kilometers

0 100 200 miles

Po R.

Tyrrhenian Sea

Adriatic Sea

Tiber R.






Genoa Bologna

� �

� �

Roman Roads, 110 B.C.E.

mon language, although local tongues lived on, es- pecially Greek in the south.

The wealth captured in the first two centuries of expansion attracted hordes of people to the cap- ital because it financed new aqueducts to provide fresh, running water — a treasure in the ancient world — and a massive building program that em- ployed the poor. By 300 B.C.E., about 150,000 peo- ple lived within Rome’s walls (see Map 5.2). Outside the city, around 750,000 free Roman citi- zens inhabited various parts of Italy on land taken from local peoples. Much conquered territory was declared public land, open to any Roman for graz- ing cattle.

Rich plebeians and patricians cooperated to exploit the expanding Roman territories; the old distinction between the orders had become largely a technicality. This merged elite derived its wealth mainly from agricultural land and plunder ac- quired during military service. Since Rome levied no regular income or inheritance taxes, families could pass down their wealth from generation to generation.

Wars with Carthage and in the East, 264–121 B.C.E.

Rome’s leaders, remembering the Gauls’ attack on the city in 387 B.C.E., feared foreign invasions and also saw imperialism as the route to riches. The re- public therefore fought its three most famous wars against the wealthy city of Carthage in North Africa. In the third century B.C.E., Carthage, also governed as a republic, controlled a powerful em- pire emphasizing seaborne trade. Geography meant that an expansionist Rome would sooner or later come into conflict with Carthage. To Romans, Carthage seemed both a dangerous rival and a fine prize because it had grown so prosperous from agriculture and international commerce. Horror at the Carthaginians’ tradition of incinerating infants to placate their gods in times of trouble also fed Roman hostility.

First Wars Abroad. Rome’s three wars with Carthage are called the Punic Wars, and the first one (264–241 B.C.E.) erupted over Sicily, where

146 Chapter 5 ■ The Rise of Rome 753–44 b.c .e .

Aqueduct at Nîmes in France The Romans excelled at building complex delivery systems of tunnels, channels, bridges, and fountains to transport fresh water from far away. Compare the Greek city fountain shown in the vase painting on page 105. One of the best-preserved sections of a major aqueduct is the so-called Pont- du-Gard near Nîmes (ancient Nemausus) in France, erected in the late first century B.C.E. to serve the flourishing town there. Built of stones fitted together without clamps or mortar, the span soars 160 feet high and 875 feet long, carrying water along its topmost level from thirty-five miles away in a channel constructed to fall only one foot in height for every three thousand feet in length so that the flow would remain steady but gentle. What sort of social and political organization would be necessary to construct such a system? (Hubertus Kanus/ Photo Researchers, Inc.)

■ For more help analyzing this image, see the visual activity for this chapter in the Online Study Guide at

Carthage wanted to preserve its trading settle- ments and Rome wanted to prevent Carthaginian troops from being close to their territory. This long conflict revealed why the Romans won wars: the large Italian population provided deep man- power reserves, and the Roman government was prepared to sacrifice as many troops, spend as much money, and fight as long as it took to pre- vail. Previously unskilled at naval warfare, the Ro- mans expended vast sums to build warships to combat Carthage’s experienced navy; they lost more than five hundred ships and 250,000 men while learning how to win at sea. (See “Taking Measure,” page 148.)

The Romans’ victory in the First Punic War made them masters of Sicily, where they set up their first province (a foreign territory ruled and taxed by Roman officials). This innovation proved so profitable that they soon seized the islands of Sardinia and Corsica from the Carthaginians to

create another province. These first successful for- eign conquests whetted the Romans’ appetite for more (Map 5.3). Fearing a renewal of Carthage’s power, the Romans cemented alliances with local peoples in Spain, where the Carthaginians were ex- panding from their southern trading posts.

A Roman ultimatum forbidding further ex- pansion convinced the Carthaginians that another war was inevitable, so they decided to strike back. In the Second Punic War (218–201 B.C.E.), the dar- ing Carthaginian general Hannibal astonished the Romans by marching troops and war elephants over the Alps into Italy. Slaughtering more than thirty thousand at Cannae in 216 B.C.E. in the bloodiest Roman loss ever, Hannibal tried to con- vince Rome’s Italian allies to desert, but most re- fused to rebel. Hannibal’s alliance in 215 B.C.E. with the king of Macedonia forced the Romans to fight on a second front in Greece. Still, they refused to crack despite Hannibal’s ravaging of Italy from 218

Roman Imperialism and Its Consequences 147753–44 b.c .e .

MAP 5.3 Roman Expansion, 500–44 B.C.E. During its first two centuries, the Roman republic used war and diplomacy to extend its power north and south in the Italian peninsula. In the third and second centuries B.C.E., conflict with Carthage in the south and west and the Hellenistic kingdoms in the east extended Roman power outside Italy and led to the creation of provinces from Spain to Greece. The first century B.C.E. saw the conquest of Syria by Pompey and of Gaul by Julius Caesar (d. 44 B.C.E.).

0 250 500 kilometers

0 250 500 miles




c. 500 B.C.E. (victory over Latium)

264 B.C.E. (start of First Punic War)

241 B.C.E. (end of First Punic War)

201 B.C.E. (end of Second Punic War)

146 B.C.E. (end of Third Punic War)

133 B.C.E. (territory in Asia Minor given to Rome)

44 B.C.E. (death of Julius Caesar)


Roman territory:

Black Sea

North Sea


M e d i t e r r a n e a n S e a

N il

e R


Danube R.

T igris R

.Euphrates R.

Po R.

T iber

R .

Rhine R


R hô

n e

R .

Ba ltic

Se a

Cyprus Crete


















Zama 202 B.C.E.

Cannae 216 B.C.E.

Pharsalus 48 B.C.E.


Carrhae Rhodes

Rome Arpinum


Messana Corinth




Pergamum �

� �

� �

to 203 B.C.E. Then the Romans turned the tables: invading the Carthaginians’ homeland, the Roman army prevailed at the battle of Zama in 202 B.C.E. The Senate imposed a punishing settlement on the enemy in 201 B.C.E., forcing Carthage to scuttle its navy, pay huge war indemnities, and hand over its lucrative holdings in Spain, which Rome made into provinces prosperous from their mines.

Dominance in the Mediterranean. The Third Punic War (149–146 B.C.E.) began when the Carthaginians, who had revived financially, retali- ated against the aggression of the king of Numidia, a Roman ally. After winning the war, the Romans heeded the crusty senator Cato’s repeated opinion, “Carthage must be destroyed!” They razed the city and converted its territory into a province. This disaster did not obliterate Carthaginian culture,

however, and under the Roman Empire this part of North Africa flourished economically and intel- lectually, creating a synthesis of Roman and Carthaginian traditions.

The Punic War victories extended Roman power beyond Spain and North Africa to Macedo- nia, Greece, and western Asia Minor. Hannibal’s alliance with the king of Macedonia had brought Roman troops east of Italy for the first time. After thrashing the Macedonian king for revenge and to prevent any threat of his invading Italy, the Roman commander proclaimed the “freedom of the Greeks” in 196 B.C.E. to show respect for Greece’s glorious past. The Greek cities and federal leagues understood the proclamation to mean that they could behave as they liked. They misunderstood. The Romans expected them to behave as clients and follow their new patrons’ advice, while the

148 Chapter 5 ■ The Rise of Rome 753–44 b.c .e .


Census Records during the First and Second Punic Wars Livy (59 B.C.E.–17 C.E.) and Jerome (c. 347–420 C.E.) provide these numbers from Rome’s cen- suses, which counted only adult male citizens (the men eligible for Rome’s regular army), con- ducted during and between the first two wars against Carthage. The drop in the total for 246 B.C.E., compared with the total for 264 B.C.E., reflects losses in the First Punic War. The low total for 208 B.C.E. reflects both losses in battle and defections of citizenship-holding communities. Since the census did not include the Italian allies fighting on Rome’s side, the census numbers understate the wars’ total casualties; scholars estimate that they took the lives of nearly a third of Italy’s adult male population, which would have meant perhaps a quarter of a million soldiers killed. (Tenney Frank, An Economic Survey of Ancient Rome, vol. I (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1959), p. 56.)

A d

u lt

M al

e C

it iz

en s

The First Punic War, 264–241 B.C.E.

The Second Punic War, 218–201 B.C.E.

0 264 B.C.E.

292,234 297,797


260,000 270,713



251 B.C.E. 246 B.C.E. 240 B.C.E. 233 B.C.E. 208 B.C.E. 204 B.C.E.







Greeks thought, as “friends” of Rome, that they were truly free.

The Romans repeatedly intervened to make the kingdom of Macedonia and the Greeks observe their obligations as clients; the Senate in 146 B.C.E. ordered Corinth destroyed for asserting its inde- pendence and converted Macedonia and Greece into a province. In 133 B.C.E., the Attalid king in- creased Roman power with a stupendous gift: in his will he bequeathed his Asia Minor kingdom to Rome. In 121 B.C.E., the Romans made the lower part of Gaul across the Alps (modern France) into a province. By the late first century B.C.E., then, Rome governed and profited from two-thirds of the Mediterranean region; only the easternmost Mediterranean lay outside its control (see Map 5.3).

Greek Influence on Roman Literature and the Arts Roman imperialism generated extensive cross- cultural contact with Greece. Although Romans looked down on Greeks for their military weak- ness, Roman authors and artists looked to Greek models. About 200 B.C.E., the first Roman histo- rian used Greek to write his narrative of Rome’s foundation and the wars with Carthage. The ear- liest Latin poetry was a translation of Homer’s Odyssey by a Greek ex-slave, composed sometime after the First Punic War.

Roman literature combined the foreign and the familiar. Many famous early Latin authors were not native Romans, but came from different re- gions of Italy, Sicily, and even North Africa. All found inspiration in Greek literature. Roman comedies, for example, took their plots and stock characters from Hellenistic comedy, which fea- tured jokes about family life and stereotyped per- sonalities, such as the braggart warrior and the obsessed lover. (See Actors in a Comedy, page 150.)

Some Romans distrusted the effect of Greek culture on their own. In the mid-second century B.C.E., Cato, although he studied Greek himself, thundered against the influence of the “effete” Greeks on the “sturdy” Romans. His history of Rome, The Origins, and his instructions on run- ning a large farm, On Agriculture, established Latin prose. Cato predicted that if the Romans ever adopted Greek values, they would lose their power. In truth, despite its debt to Greek literature, early Latin literature reflected traditional Roman values. For example, the path-breaking Latin epic Annals, a poetic version of Roman history by the poet En- nius, shows the influence of Greek epic, but it praises ancestral Roman traditions, as in this fa-

mous line: “On the ways and the men of old rests the Roman commonwealth.”

Later Roman writers also took inspiration from Greek literature in both content and style. The first-century B.C.E. poet Lucretius wrote On the Nature of Things to persuade people not to fear death, a terror that only inflamed “the running sores of life.” His ideas reflected Greek philosophy’s “atomic theory,” which said that matter was com- posed of tiny, invisible particles. Dying, the poem taught, simply meant the dissolution of the union of atoms, which had come together temporarily to make up a person’s body. There could be no eter- nal punishment or pain after death, indeed no existence at all, because a person’s soul, itself made up of atoms, perished along with the body.

Roman Imperialism and Its Consequences 149753–44 b.c .e .

C O M P A R I S O N O F A N C I E N T G R E E K A N D R O M A N D E V E L O P M E N T S ,

C . 7 5 0 B . C . E . – 1 4 6 B . C . E .

Greece Rome

750 B.C.E. Polis begins to develop

750–700 B.C.E. First Greek poetry (Homer and Hesiod)

753 B.C.E. Traditional date for the founding of Rome

509 B.C.E. Overthrow of monarchy and establishment of the republic

508–500 B.C.E. Cleisthenes’ reforms to strengthen Athenian democracy

500–450 B.C.E. Struggle to establish office of tribune to pro- tect the people

461 B.C.E. Ephialtes’ reforms to democratize Athens’s courts

451–449 B.C.E. Rome’s first law code established (Twelve Tables)

420S B.C.E. The first Greek history (Herodotus)

200 B.C.E. First Roman history in Greek

240–210 B.C.E. First poetry in Latin (translation of Homer’s Odyssey)

168–149 B.C.E. First Roman history in Latin (Cato)

146 B.C.E. Rome makes Greece a province

Hellenistic Greek authors inspired Catullus in the first century B.C.E. to write witty poems ridicul- ing prominent politicians for their sexual behavior (see Document 2 in “Contrasting Views,” page 156) and lamenting his own disastrous love life. His most famous love poems revealed his obsession with a married woman named Lesbia, whom he begged to think only of immediate pleasures:

Let us live, my Lesbia, and love; the gossip of stern old men is not worth a cent. Suns can set and rise again; we, when once our brief light has set, must sleep one never- ending night. Give me a thousand kisses, then a hun- dred, then a thousand more.

The orator Cicero wrote speeches, letters, and treatises on political science, philosophy, ethics, and theology; he adapted Greek philosophy to Ro- man life and infused his writings with an appreci- ation of each person’s uniqueness. His doctrine of humanitas (“humaneness, the quality of human-

ity”) expressed an ideal for human life based on generous and honest treatment of others and a commitment to morality based on natural law (the inherent rights of all people, independent of the differing laws and customs of different societies). The spirit of humanitas that Cicero passed on to later Western civilization was one of the ancient world’s most attractive ideals.

Greece also influenced Rome’s art and archi- tecture, from the style of sculpture and painting to the design of public buildings. Romans adapted Greek models to their own purposes, as portrait sculpture reveals. Hellenistic sculptors had pio- neered a realistic style showing the ravages of age and infirmity on the human body. They portrayed only stereotypes, however, such as the “old man” or the “drunken woman,” not specific people. In- dividual portrait sculpture presented actual indi- viduals in the best possible light, much like an airbrushed photograph today.

Roman artists applied Greek realism to male portraiture, as contemporary Etruscan sculptors also did. They sculpted men without hiding their unflattering features: long noses, receding chins, deep wrinkles, bald heads, careworn looks. Por- traits of women, by contrast, were more idealized, probably representing the traditional vision of the bliss of family life (see the image of the sculpted family tomb on page 136). Because the men de- picted in the portraits (or their families) paid for the busts, they must have wanted their faces sculpted realistically — showing the toll of age and effort — to emphasize how hard they had worked to serve the republic.

Stresses on Republican Society The wars of the third and second centuries B.C.E. proved disastrous for small farmers, confronting the republic with grave social and economic diffi- culties. The long deployments of troops abroad disrupted Rome’s agricultural system, the econ- omy’s foundation. Before this time, Roman war- fare had followed a pattern of short campaigns timed not to interfere with farmers’ work. Now, however, a farmer absent during a protracted war had two unhappy choices: rely on a hired hand or slave to manage his crops and animals, or have his wife work in the fields in addition to her usual do- mestic tasks.

The story of the consul Regulus, who won a great victory in Africa in 256 B.C.E., revealed the problems prolonged absence caused. When the man who managed Regulus’s farm died while the consul was away fighting, a worker stole all the farm’s tools and livestock. Regulus begged the Senate to send a

150 Chapter 5 ■ The Rise of Rome 753–44 b.c .e .

Actors in a Comedy This sculpture from the first century C.E. shows actors portraying characters in one of the several kinds of comedy popular during the Roman republic. In this variety, which derived from Hellenistic comedy, the actors wore exaggerated masks designating stock personality types and acted broad, slapstick comedy. The plots ranged from burlesques of famous myths to stereotypes of family problems. Here, on the right, a son returns home after a night of binge drinking, leaning on his slave and accompanied by a hired female musician. On the left, his enraged father is being restrained by a friend from beating his drunken son with a cane. (Scala/ Art Resource, NY.)

Cicero (SIH suh roh): Rome’s most famous orator and author of the doctrine of humanitas.

humanitas: The Roman orator Cicero’s ideal of “humaneness,” meaning generous and honest treatment of others based on natural law.

replacement so that he could return to save his wife and children from starving. The senators sent help to preserve Regulus’s family and property because they wanted to keep him in the field.

The Poor. Ordinary soldiers could expect no such special aid, and economic troubles hit their families particularly hard when, in the second cen- tury B.C.E., for reasons that remain unclear, there was not enough farmland to support the popula- tion. Scholars have usually concluded that the rich had deprived the poor of land, but recent research suggests that the problem stemmed from an aston- ishing increase in the number of young people. Not all regions of Italy suffered as severely as oth- ers, and some impoverished farmers and their families managed to survive by working as agri- cultural laborers for others. Still, the number of poor people with no way to make a living created a social crisis by the late second century B.C.E. Many homeless people relocated to Rome, where the men begged for work as day laborers and women sought piecework making cloth but of- ten had to become prostitutes to survive.

This flood of desperate peo- ple increased the poverty-level population of Rome, and the landless poor became an explo- sive swing element in Roman politics. They backed any politi- cian who promised to address their need for food, and the gov- ernment had to feed them to avert riots. Like Athens in the fifth century B.C.E., Rome by the late second century B.C.E. needed to import grain to feed its swollen urban population. The poor’s de- mand for low-priced (and even- tually free) food distributed at state expense became one of the most divisive issues in late repub- lican politics.

The Rich. While the landless poor struggled, imperialism brought Rome’s elite rich politi- cal and financial rewards. The need for commanders to lead military campaigns abroad cre- ated opportunities for successful generals to enrich their families. The elite enhanced their reputa-

tions by using their gains to finance public works that benefited the general population. Building new temples, for example, was thought to increase everyone’s security because the Romans believed it pleased their gods to have many shrines. In 146 B.C.E., a victorious general paid for Rome’s first marble temple, finally bringing this Greek style to the capital city.

The economic distress of small farmers bene- fited rich landowners because they could buy bankrupt farms to create large estates. They fur- ther increased their holdings by illegally occupy- ing public land carved out of the territory seized from defeated enemies. The rich worked their huge farms, called latifundia, with free laborers as well as slaves, a ready supply of which were available from the huge numbers taken captive in the same wars that displaced so many farmers. Thus, the vic- tories won by free but poor Roman citizens cre-

Roman Imperialism and Its Consequences 151753–44 b.c .e .

Bedroom in a Rich Roman House The bedroom from about 40 B.C.E. was in the house of a rich Roman family near Naples; it was buried—and preserved—by the eruption of the volcano Vesuvius in 79 C.E. The bright paintings showed a dazzling variety of outdoor scenes and architecture. The mosaic stone floor helped create a sensation of coolness in the summer. (Image copyright © The Metropolitan Museum of Art/ Art Resource, NY.)

ated a slave workforce with which they could not compete. The growing size of the slave crews work- ing on latifundia was a mixed blessing for their wealthy owners. Although they did not have to pay these laborers, the presence of so many slave work- ers in one place led to periodic revolts that re- quired military intervention.

The elite profited from Rome’s expansion in that they filled the governing offices in the new provinces and could get enormously rich by rul- ing corruptly. Since provincial officials ruled by martial law, no one in the provinces could curb a greedy governor’s appetite for graft, extortion, and plunder. Some governors ruled honestly, but oth- ers used their power to squeeze the provincials. Of- ten such offenders faced no punishment because their colleagues in the Senate excused one an- other’s crimes.

The new opportunities for rich living strained the traditional values of moderation and frugality. Previously, a man like Manius Curius (d. 270 B.C.E.) became legendary for his life’s simplicity: despite glorious military victories, he boiled turnips for his meals in a humble hut. Now, in the second century B.C.E., the elite acquired showy lux- uries, such as large country villas for entertaining friends and clients. Money had become more valu- able to them than the ancestral values of the re- public.

Review: What advantages and disadvantages did Rome’s victories over foreign peoples create for both rich and poor Romans?

Upheaval in the Late Republic In the late second and first centuries B.C.E., mem- bers of the Roman elite set the republic on the road to civil war. Senators introduced violence to poli- tics by murdering the tribunes Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus when the brothers pushed for reforms to help the poor by giving them land. When a would- be member of the elite, Gaius Marius, opened mil- itary service to the poor to boost his personal status, his creation of “client armies” undermined faithfulness to the general good of the community. When the people’s unwillingness to share citizen- ship with Italian allies sparked a war in Roman ter- ritory and then the clashing ambitions of the “great men” Sulla, Pompey, and Julius Caesar burst into civil war, the republic fractured, never to recover.

The Gracchus Brothers and Factional Politics, 133–121 B.C.E. Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus based their political careers on pressing the rich to make concessions to strengthen the state. They came from the cream of Roman society: their grandfather had defeated Hannibal, and their mother was the Cornelia whom the king of Egypt had courted. Their poli- cies supporting the poor angered many of their fellow elite. Tiberius explained the tragic circum- stances that motivated them politically:

The wild beasts that roam over Italy have their dens. . . . But the men who fight and die for Italy enjoy nothing but the air and light; without house or home they wan- der about with their wives and children. . . . They fight and die to protect the wealth and luxury of others; they are styled masters of the world, and have not a clod of earth they call their own.

When Tiberius won election as a tribune in 133 B.C.E., his opponents blocked his attempts at reform. He therefore took the radical step of dis- regarding the Senate’s advice by having the Ple- beian Assembly pass reform laws to redistribute public land to landless Romans. He further broke with tradition by circumventing the Senate to fi- nance his agrarian reform, having the people pass a law to use the Attalid king’s bequest of his king- dom to equip new farms on the redistributed land.

Tiberius then announced he would run for re- election as tribune for the following year, violating the prohibition against consecutive terms. His opponents had had enough: Tiberius’s cousin, an ex-consul, led a band of senators and their clients in a sudden attack on him, shouting, “Save the republic.” Pulling up their togas over their left arms so they would not trip in a fight, they clubbed the tribune to death, along with many of his followers.

Gaius, whom the people elected tribune for 123 B.C.E. and, contrary to tradition, again for the next year, also pushed measures that outraged the elite: more agrarian reform, subsidized prices for grain, public works projects to employ the poor, and colonies abroad with farms for the landless. His most revolutionary measures proposed Ro- man citizenship for many Italians and new courts to try senators accused of corruption as provincial governors. The new juries would be manned not by senators but by equites (“equestrians” or “knights”). These were elite landowners who, in the earliest republic, had been men rich enough to

152 Chapter 5 ■ The Rise of Rome 753–44 b.c .e .

equites (EHK wih tehs): Wealthy Roman businessmen who chose not to pursue a government career.

provide horses for cavalry service but were now wealthy businessmen, whose careers in commerce instead of government made their interests differ- ent from the senators’. Because they did not serve in the Senate, the equites could convict criminal senators free of peer pressure. Gaius’s proposal marked the equites’ emergence as a political force in Roman politics, to the senators’ dismay.

When in 121 B.C.E. the senators blocked Gaius’s plans, he assembled an armed group to threaten them. They responded by telling the con- suls “to take all measures necessary to defend the republic,” meaning the use of force. To escape be- ing murdered, Gaius had one of his slaves cut his throat; the senators then killed hundreds of his supporters and their servants.

The violence provoked by the Gracchus broth- ers introduced factions (strongly aggressive inter- est groups) into Roman politics. From that point on, members of the elite identified themselves as either supporters of the people, the populares fac- tion, or supporters of “the best,” the optimates fac- tion. Some chose a faction from genuine allegiance to its policies; others supported whichever side better promoted their own political advancement. The elite’s splintering into bitterly hostile factions remained a source of violent conflict until the end of the republic.

Marius and the Origin of Client Armies, 107–100 B.C.E. The republic needed imaginative commanders to combat slave revolts and foreign invasions in the late second and early first centuries B.C.E. A new kind of leader arose to meet this need: the “new man,” an upper-class man without a consul among his ancestors, who relied on sheer ability and of- ten political violence to force his way to fame, for- tune, and — his ultimate goal — the consulship.

Gaius Marius (c. 157–86 B.C.E.), who came from the equites class, set the pattern for this new kind of leader. Ordinarily, a man of Marius’s sta- tus had no chance to crack the ranks of Rome’s ruling oligarchy. Capitalizing on his brilliant mil- itary record as a junior officer and on the people’s anger at the current war leadership, Marius won election as a consul for 107 B.C.E. In Roman terms

this election made him a “new man” — that is, the first man in his family’s history to become consul. Marius’s continuing success as a commander, first in North Africa and next against German tribes who attacked southern France and then Italy, led the people to elect him consul six times, breaking all tradition.

For his victories, the Senate voted Marius a tri- umph, Rome’s ultimate military honor. In the cer- emony, as he rode in a chariot through the streets of Rome, huge crowds cheered him, while his army pricked him with off-color jokes, to ward off the evil eye at this moment of supreme glory. For a former small-town member of the equites class like Marius, this honor was a supreme social coup. Yet, despite his triumph, the optimates never ac- cepted Marius because they viewed him as an up- start. His support came from the common people, whom he had won over with his reform of en- trance requirements for the army. Previously, only men with property could enroll as soldiers. Mar- ius opened the ranks to proletarians, men who had no property and could not afford weapons on their own. For them, serving in the army meant an opportunity to better their lot by acquiring booty and a grant of land. (See Document, “Polybius on Roman Military Discipline,” page 154.)

Marius’s reform changed Roman history by creating armies more loyal to their commander than to the republic. Proletarian troops felt im- mense goodwill toward a commander who led them to victory and then divided the spoils with them generously. The crowds of poor Roman sol- diers thus began to behave like an army of clients following their commander as patron. In keeping with the patron-client system, they supported his personal ambitions. Marius was the first to pro- mote his own career in this way. He lost his polit- ical importance after 100 B.C.E. when, no longer consul, he foolishly tried to win favor with the op- timates. Commanders after Marius used client armies to advance their political careers more ruthlessly than he had, thereby accelerating the re- public’s disintegration.

Sulla and Civil War, 91–78 B.C.E. One such commander, Lucius Cornelius Sulla (c. 138–78 B.C.E.), took advantage of uprisings in Italy and Asia Minor in the early first century B.C.E. to use his client army to seize Rome’s highest offices and compel the Senate to support his poli-

Upheaval in the Late Republic 153753–44 b.c .e .

populares (poh poo LAH rehs): The Roman political faction supporting the common people; established during the late republic.

optimates (op tee MAH tehs): The Roman political faction sup- porting the “best,” or highest, social class; established during the late republic.

proletarians: In the Roman republic, the mass of people so poor they owned no property.

cies. His career revealed the dirty secret of politics in the late republic: traditional values no longer restrained commanders who prized their own advancement and the enrichment of their troops above peace and the good of the community.

The Social War. The uprisings in Italy occurred because many of Rome’s Italian allies lacked Ro- man citizenship and therefore had no vote in decisions concern- ing their own interests. They be- came increasingly unhappy as wealth from conquests piled up in the late republic; their upper classes wanted a greater share of the prosperity that war had brought to the citizen elite. Ro- mans rejected the allies’ demand for citizenship, from fear that sharing such status would lessen their own privileges.

The Italians’ discontent erupted in 91–87 B.C.E. in the So- cial War (so named because the Latin word for “ally” is socius). Forming a confed- eracy to fight Rome, the allies demonstrated their commitment by the number of their casualties — 300,000 dead. Although Rome’s army prevailed, the rebels won the political war: the Romans granted citizenship and the vote to all freeborn peoples in Italy south of the Po River. The Social War’s bloodshed therefore reestablished Rome’s tradition of strengthening the state by granting cit-

izenship to outsiders. The war’s other significant outcome was that Sulla’s successful generalship won him election as consul for 88 B.C.E.

Plunder Abroad and Violence at Home. Sulla gained supreme power by taking advantage of events in Asia Minor in 88 B.C.E., when Mithridates VI (120–63 B.C.E.), king of Pontus on the Black

Sea’s southern coast, instigated a rebellion against Roman control. The peoples of Asia Minor hated Rome’s tax collectors, who tried to make provincials pay much more than was required. Denouncing the Romans as “the common ene- mies of all mankind,” Mithridates persuaded the locals to kill all the Italians there — tens of thousands of them — in a single day.

In retaliation for this treach- ery, the Senate advised a military expedition; victory would mean unimaginable booty from Asia Minor’s wealthy cities. Born to a

patrician family that had lost much of its status and all of its money, Sulla craved the command. When the Senate gave it to him, his jealous rival Marius, now an old man, immediately plotted to have it transferred to himself by plebiscite. Out- raged, Sulla marched his client army against Rome itself. All his officers except one deserted him in horror at this unthinkable outrage, but his com- mon soldiers followed him to a man. Neither they

154 Chapter 5 ■ The Rise of Rome 753–44 b.c .e .

Polybius on Roman Military Discipline


Polybius, a Greek commander who spent years on campaign with Roman armies in the second century B.C.E., describes the ideal centurion (an experienced soldier appointed to discipline the troop) and the importance of harsh punishments and the fear of dis- grace for maintaining military discipline.

The Romans want centurions not so much to be bold and eager to take risks but rather to be capable of leadership and steady and solid in character. Nor do they want them to initiate attacks and precip- itate battle. They want men who will hold

their position and stay in place even when they are losing the battle and will die to hold their ground. . . . Soldiers [con- victed of neglecting sentry duty] who manage to live [after being beaten or stoned as punishment] don’t thereby se- cure their safety. How could they? For they are not permitted to return to their homeland, and none of their relatives would dare to accept such a man into their households. For this reason men who have once fallen into this misfortune are completely ruined. . . . Even when clearly at risk of being wiped out by enor-

mously superior enemy forces, troops in tactical reserve units are not willing to desert their places in the battle line, for fear of the punishment that would be in- flicted by their own side. Some men who have lost a shield or sword or another part of their arms in battle heedlessly throw themselves against the enemy, hoping either to recover what they lost, or to escape the inevitable disgrace and the in- sults of their relatives by suffering [injury or death].

Source: Polybius, Histories, Book 6.24, 37. Translation by Thomas R. Martin.

0 200 400 kilometers

0 200 400 miles

Black Sea

Mediterranean Sea

Tigris R.Euphrates R.



Mithridates’ kingdom

Roman territory

Sinope �

The Kingdom of Mithridates VI, 88 B.C.E.

nor their commander shrank from starting a civil war. After capturing Rome, Sulla killed or exiled his opponents and let his men rampage through the city. He then led them off to Asia Minor, ig- noring a summons to stand trial and sacking Athens on the way. In Sulla’s absence, Marius em- barked on his own reign of terror in Rome to try to regain his former preeminence. In 83 B.C.E., Sulla returned victorious, having allowed his sol- diers to plunder Asia Minor. Civil war recom- menced for two years until Sulla crushed his enemies at home.

Sulla then exterminated everyone who had opposed him. To speed the process, he devised a horrific procedure called proscription — posting a list of people supposedly traitors so that anyone could hunt them down and execute them. Because proscribed men’s property was confiscated, the victors fraudulently added to the list anyone’s name whose wealth they coveted. The terrorized Senate appointed Sulla dictator — an emergency office supposed to be held only temporarily — without any limitation of term. As dictator, he reorganized the government to favor the optimates — his social class — by making senators the only ones allowed to judge cases against their colleagues and forbidding tribunes to sponsor leg- islation or hold any other office after their term.

The Effects of Sulla’s Career. Sulla died before he could permanently remake republican govern- ment, but his murderous career revealed the strengths and weaknesses of Roman values. First, success in war had changed from defending the community to accumulating plunder for common soldiers as well as commanders. Second, the patron-client system led proletarian soldiers to feel stronger ties of obligation to their generals than to the republic.

Finally, the traditional desire for status worked both for and against political stability. When that value motivated men to seek office to promote the community’s welfare — the traditional ideal of a public career — it exerted a powerful force for so- cial unity and prosperity. But pushed to its ex- treme, as in the case of Sulla, the drive for prestige and wealth could overshadow all considerations of public service and weaken the republic.

The Republic’s Downfall, 83–44 B.C.E. Powerful generals after Sulla took him as their model: while professing allegiance to the state, they ruthlessly pursued their own advancement. Two Roman aristocrats’ competition for power and money flared into a civil war that ruined the re-

public and opened the way for the return of monar- chy. Those competitors were Gnaeus Pompey and Julius Caesar. (See “Contrasting Views,” page 156.)

Pompey’s Irregular Career. Pompey (106–48 B.C.E.) was a better general than a politician. In his early twenties he won victories supporting Sulla. In 71 B.C.E. Pompey won the mop-up battles de- feating a massive slave rebellion led by a fugitive gladiator named Spartacus, stealing the glory from the real victor, Marcus Licinius Crassus. (Sparta- cus had terrorized southern Italy for two years and defeated consuls with his army of 100,000 escaped slaves.) Pompey demanded the consulship for 70 B.C.E., long before he had reached the legal age of forty-two or been elected to any other office. Three years later, he received a command with unlimited powers to exterminate the pirates then infesting the Mediterranean, a task he accomplished in a matter of months. This success made him wildly popular with many groups: the urban poor, who depended on a steady flow of imported grain; mer- chants, who depended on safe sea lanes; and coastal communities, which were vulnerable to pi- rates’ raids. In 66 B.C.E., he defeated Mithridates, who was still stirring up trouble in Asia Minor. By annexing Syria as a province in 64 B.C.E., Pompey ended the Seleucid kingdom and extended Rome’s power to the Mediterranean’s eastern coast.

People compared Pompey to Alexander the Great and nicknamed him Magnus (“the Great”). His actions show the degree to which Roman for- eign policy had become the personal business of “great men.” He ignored the tradition of com- manders consulting the Senate about conquering and administering

Upheaval in the Late Republic 155753–44 b.c .e .

Bust of Pompey Pompey (106–48 B.C.E.) became Julius Caesar’s main political opponent, until Caesar defeated him in the civil war that fractured the republic. Pompey was a brilliant general, even when young. At twenty- three he raised a client army to fight on Sulla’s side. So frightening was Pompey’s power that Sulla could not refuse the youth’s astonishing demand for a triumph—the ultimate military honor. Awarding the supreme honor to such a young man, who had held not a single public office, shattered the republic’s traditions. But as Pompey told Sulla, “People worship the rising, not the setting, sun.” (© NY Carslberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen,

Denmark/ The Bridgeman Art Library.)

156 Chapter 5 ■ The Rise of Rome 753–44 b.c .e .

Julius Caesar provoked strong reactions among people: some loved him, some hated him, some ridiculed him (Document 2), and some changed their minds (Document 3) — but only fools failed to rec- ognize his extraordinary energy and will (Document 1). These ex- cerpts, including one in his own words (Document 4), offer sample assessments of what this most famous Roman was like. The biog- rapher Suetonius presented a balanced view of Caesar’s strengths and faults (Document 5).

1. Caesar and the Pirates

Plutarch also wrote a biography of Caesar, which illustrated Cae- sar’s personality with this story of the eighteen-year-old being cap- tured by pirates, after he refused Sulla’s politically motivated order to divorce his wife and fled Rome to escape being murdered by the dictator.

[To escape Sulla], Caesar sailed to King Nicomedes in Bithynia (in Asia Minor). On his voyage home, pirates from Cilicia cap- tured him and held him on an island. When they demanded twenty talents [a huge sum] for his ransom, he laughed at them for not knowing who he was, and spontaneously promised to give them fifty talents instead. Next, after he had dispatched friends to various cities to gather the money, he had only one friend and two attendants left while a captive of the most murderous men in the world. Nevertheless, he felt so superior to them that when- ever he wanted to sleep, he would order them to be quiet.

For thirty-eight days, as if the pirates were not his kidnap- pers but rather his bodyguards, he participated in their games and exercises with a carefree spirit. He also composed poems and speeches that he read aloud to them, and anyone who failed to admire his work he would call an illiterate barbarian to his face, and often with a laugh threatened to string them all up. The pi- rates loved this, and attributed his free speech to simpleminded- ness and youthful spirit.

After Caesar had paid the ransom and was released, he im- mediately manned ships and put to sea against the pirates. He caught them still anchored, and captured most of them. He took their loot as his booty and threw the men into prison, telling the Roman provincial governor that it was his job to punish them. But since the governor had his eyes on the pirates’ rich loot and kept saying that he would consider their case when he had time, Caesar took the pirates out of prison and crucified them all, just as he had often warned them on the island that he was going to do, when they thought he was joking.

Source: Plutarch, Life of Julius Caesar, 1–2 (excerpted). Translation by Thomas R. Martin.

2. A Poet Mocks Caesar about Sex

In about 58 B.C.E., the twenty-something Catullus ridiculed Caesar (in his early forties) and his follower Mamurra in several acid- tongued poems. The biographer Suetonius (Life of Julius Caesar 73) reports that Caesar said the ridicule inflicted a permanent blot on his name, but that when Catullus apologized, Caesar invited the poet to dinner that very same day.

They’re a pretty good match, those fags, Mamurra and that queer, Caesar. And no wonder. They’ve both got the same stains, One of them a City guy and the other from Formiae, And they won’t wash out. One’s just as sick as the other, those twins, Two little brainiacs on the same little couch, This one’s just as greedy an adulterer as the other, They’re allies competing even for little girlies; So, they’re a pretty good match, those fags.

Source: Catullus, Poem 57. Translation by Thomas R. Martin.

3. Cicero Writes to a Friend about Caesar

Cicero, Rome’s most famous orator, wrote many private letters that have survived. In this one, written to his friend Atticus a few days after Caesar began the civil war by crossing the Rubicon River in January 49 B.C.E., Cicero worriedly expresses his opinion of Caesar at the time.

What’s going on? I’m in the dark. . . . That awful fool Caesar, who has never had even the slightest thought of “the good and the fair!” He claims he’s doing all this for the sake of honor? But how can you have honor if you have no ethics? Is it ethical to lead an army without official confirmation of your command, to capture cities of Roman citizens to force your way more eas- ily to our mother city, to plot abolition of debts and the recall of exiles, a thousand outrages, “all to obtain the greatest of divini- ties, sole rule”?

In this letter, written on March 1 of the same year, Cicero offers a different opinion.

Just look at the kind of man who has taken over the republic: clear thinking, sharp, on the ball. By god, if he doesn’t murder anyone and doesn’t take away people’s property, the very people who lived in fear of him will worship him the most.

Source: Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 7.11, 8.13. Translation by Thomas R. Martin.


What Was Julius Caesar Like?

Upheaval in the Late Republic 157753–44 b.c .e .

4. Caesar Explains Why He Fought the Civil War

In his memoirs, Caesar provided his own account of the civil war that made him Rome’s most powerful man. Here he reports what he said to the Senate on April 1, 49 B.C.E., after Pompey left the capital and Caesar took it without a struggle. Curiously, in his writ- ing Caesar refers to himself in the third person, so the “he” in this excerpt is Caesar.

A meeting of the Senate convened, and he spoke about the wrongs his enemies had done him. He explained that he had only wanted a usual office [i.e., consul] . . . and was content with what any citizen could obtain. . . . He emphasized his moderation in asking on his own initiative that both his army and Pompey’s be disbanded [to prevent war], a concession that would have cost him both status and office. He talked about how bitter his ene- mies had been . . . and how they had not laid down their com- mand and armies, even at the cost of anarchy. He stressed how unfair they had been to try to deprive him of his legions, and how savage and arrogant in putting restrictions on the tribunes [who favored him]. He spoke about the offers he had made, the meeting that he had suggested but they had rejected. Given all this, he encouraged, he asked the Senators to take responsibility for the state and govern it together with him. But, he added, if they ran away out of fear, he would not run away from the job and would govern the state by himself. His opinion was that the Senate should send delegates to Pompey to arrange a settlement; he was not cowed by Pompey’s recent remark in the Senate that to receive a delegation implied authority but sending it implied fear. That sort of thought revealed a weak and superficial spirit. He, by contrast, wished to win the competition to be just and fair in the same way in which he had striven to excel in his achievements.

Source: Julius Caesar, The Civil War, 1.32. Translation by Thomas R. Martin.

5. A Biographer Describes Caesar’s Character

These excerpts come from Suetonius’s biography, written about 150 years after Caesar’s assassination.

Caesar was somewhat overly concerned with how he looked, and he always had a careful haircut and shave, and even had excess hair removed. . . . His baldness embarrassed him because his enemies made fun of it. He therefore used to comb his little re- maining hair forward, and more than any other honor bestowed by the Senate and people he treasured and used the right to wear a wreath of laurel leaves on his head all the time. . . .

The only sexual impropriety in his reputation was his rela- tionship with the king of Bythinia, but that accusation was seri-

ous and lasted; everybody insulted him about it. . . . He seduced lots of women. . . . and had love affairs with queens. . . . He drank only very little.

Both as a military commander and as a public official at Rome he used every trick to accumulate money. . . . As a pub- lic speaker and a general he either equaled or outstripped the fame of the most outstanding men of the past. . . . He wrote memoirs . . . which Cicero says “deserve the highest praise — they’re simple and elegant at the same time.”

On military campaigns he showed incredible endurance. . . . It’s hard to say whether as a commander he relied more on cau- tion or boldness because he never led his army into a spot where it could be ambushed without first making a careful scouting of the territory. . . . He never let concern for religious scruples de- ter him from action or slow him down. . . . Whenever his troops started to retreat, he often rallied them himself, using his body to block their way . . . even grabbing them by the throat and mak- ing them turn around to face the enemy. . . . He judged his sol- diers not by their character or luck but only by how skilled they were, and he treated them all with the same strictness and the same indulgence. . . . He would sometimes overlook their mis- takes and didn’t punish them strictly according to the rules, but he always kept careful watch for soldiers deserting or mutinying, and these he punished with great harshness. . . . So, he made his men very devoted to him and also very brave.

Even as a young man he treated his clients faithfully. . . . He was always kind to his friends. . . . He never became so much of an enemy to anyone that he couldn’t make them a friend when the chance came. . . . Even in seeking revenge he was naturally very merciful . . . and he certainly showed wonderful self- restraint and mercy while fighting the civil war and after he won. . . .

In the end, however, his other words and deeds outbalance all this, and there is the opinion that he abused his rule and that it was justice that he was murdered.

Source: Suetonius, Life of Julius Caesar, 45–76. Translation by Thomas R. Martin.

Questions to Consider 1. What characteristics made Julius Caesar such a remarkable

individual? 2. How and why do an individual’s personal characteristics mat-

ter for political success?

foreign territories, behaving like an independent king rather than a Roman official. He summed up his attitude by replying to some foreigners who criticized his actions as unjust: “Stop quoting the laws to us,” he told them. “We carry swords.”

Pompey’s enemies at Rome sought popular support by proclaiming their concern for the com- mon people’s plight. By the 60s B.C.E., Rome’s ur- ban population had soared to more than half a million. Hundreds of thousands of the poor lived crowded together in slum apartments, surviving on subsidized food distributions. Jobs were scarce. Danger haunted the streets because the city had no police force. Even property owners were in trouble: Sulla’s confiscations had caused land values to plummet and produced a credit crunch by flood- ing the real estate market with properties for sale. Overextended investors were trying to borrow their way back to financial security, without success.

The First Triumvirate. The Senate, eager to curb Pompey’s power, blocked his reorganization of the former Seleucid kingdom and his distribution of land to his army veterans. Pompey therefore nego- tiated with his fiercest political rivals, Crassus and Caesar (100–44 B.C.E.). In 60 B.C.E., these three formed an unofficial arrangement called the First Triumvirate. Pompey then forced through laws confirming his earlier plans, thus reinforcing his status as a great patron. Caesar got the consulship for 59 B.C.E. and a special command in Gaul, where he could seize booty to build his own client army, and Crassus received financial breaks for the Ro- man tax collectors in Asia Minor, who supported him politically and financially.

This coalition of political rivals revealed how private relationships had largely replaced commu- nal values in republican politics. To cement their political bond, Caesar arranged to have his daugh- ter, Julia, married to Pompey in 59 B.C.E., even though she had been engaged to another man. Pompey soothed Julia’s jilted fiancé by having him marry his own daughter, who had been engaged to yet somebody else. Through these marital machinations, the two powerful antagonists now had a common interest: the fate of Julia, Caesar’s only daughter and Pompey’s new wife. (Pompey had earlier divorced his second wife after Caesar allegedly seduced her.) Pompey and Julia appar- ently fell deeply in love in their arranged marriage. As long as Julia lived, Pompey’s affection for her kept him from breaking with her father.

Civil War. During the 50s B.C.E., Caesar won his soldiers’ loyalty with victories and plunder in Gaul, which he added to the Roman provinces, and where he awed his troops with his daring by cross- ing the channel to campaign in Britain. His polit- ical enemies in Rome dreaded him even more as his military successes mounted, and the bond link- ing him to Pompey shattered in 54 B.C.E. when Julia died in childbirth. The two leaders’ rivalry then exploded into violence: gangs of their sup- porters battled each other in the streets of Rome. The violence reached such a pitch in 53 B.C.E. that it was impossible to hold elections. The First Triumvirate soon dissolved, and in 52 B.C.E. Caesar’s enemies convinced the Senate to make Pompey consul by himself, an outrageous repudiation of the republican tradition of shared rule.

Civil war erupted when the Senate ordered Caesar to surrender his command. Like Sulla, Cae- sar led his army against Rome. As he crossed the Rubicon River, the official northern boundary of Italy, in early 49 B.C.E., he uttered the famous words signaling that he had made an irrevocable choice: “The die is cast.” His troops followed him without hesitation, and the people in the countryside cheered him on. He had many backers in Rome, too: the masses counting on his legendary generos- ity for handouts, and impoverished members of the elite hoping to recoup their fortunes through proscriptions of the rich.

The support for Caesar induced Pompey and most senators to flee to Greece. Caesar entered Rome peacefully, left to defeat Roman enemies in Spain, and then sailed to Greece. There he nearly lost the war when his supplies ran out, but his sol- diers stayed loyal even when they were reduced to eating bread made from roots. When Pompey saw what Caesar’s men were willing to subsist on, he cried, “I am fighting wild beasts.” Caesar’s nail- hard troops defeated the army of Pompey and the Senate at the battle of Pharsalus in central Greece in 48 B.C.E. Pompey fled to Egypt, where the min- isters of the teenaged pharaoh Ptolemy XIII (63–47 B.C.E.) treacherously murdered him.

Caesar next invaded Egypt, winning a difficult campaign that ended when he restored Cleopatra VII (69–30 B.C.E.) to the throne of Egypt. As ruth- less as she was intelligent, Cleopatra charmed Cae- sar into sharing her bed and supporting her rule. Their love affair shocked the general’s friends and enemies alike: they thought Rome should seize power from foreigners, not share it with them.

Caesar’s Dictatorship and Murder. By 45 B.C.E., Caesar had won the civil war. He now had to de- cide how to rule a shattered republic. He appar-

158 Chapter 5 ■ The Rise of Rome 753–44 b.c .e .

First Triumvirate: The coalition formed in 60 B.C.E. by Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar. (The word triumvirate means “group of three.”)

ently believed that only a sole ruler could end the chaotic violence of factional politics, but the repub- lic’s oldest tradition prohibited monarchy. Still, Caesar decided to rule as a king, but without the title, taking instead the traditional Roman title of dictator, used for a temporary emergency ruler. In 44 B.C.E., he announced he would continue as dic- tator without a term limit. “I am not a king,” he in- sisted. The distinction, however, was meaningless. As dictator, he controlled the government. Elec- tions for offices continued, but Caesar manipulated the results by recommending candidates to the as- semblies, which his supporters dominated.

Caesar’s policies as dictator were meant to im- prove the financial situation and reward his support- ers: a moderate cancellation of debts; a cap on the number of people eligible for subsidized grain; a large program of public works, including public li- braries; colonies for his veterans in Italy and abroad; rebuilding Corinth and Carthage as commercial centers; and citizenship for more non-Romans.

Unlike Sulla, Caesar did not proscribe his en- emies. Instead, he exercised clemency; its benefici- aries were obligated to be his grateful clients. His foregoing revenge earned him unprecedented hon- ors, such as a special golden seat in the Senate house and the renaming of the seventh month of the year after him (July). He also regularized the Roman calendar by having each year include 365 days, a calculation based on an ancient Egyptian calendar that forms the basis for our modern one.

Caesar’s dictatorship suited the people but outraged the optimates. (See “Contrasting Views,” page 156.) They resented being dominated by one of their own, a “traitor” who had deserted to the people’s faction. Some senators, led by Caesar’s former close friend Brutus and inspired by the

memory of Brutus’s ancestor, who headed the overthrow of Rome’s first monarchy five hundred years before, conspired to murder him. They stabbed Caesar repeatedly in a shower of blood in the Senate house on March 15 (the Ides of March in the Roman calendar), 44 B.C.E. When his friend Brutus struck him, Caesar gasped his last words — in Greek: “You, too, child?” He collapsed dead at the foot of a statue of Pompey.

The liberators, as they called themselves, had no new plans for government. They naively thought the traditional republic would revive au- tomatically after Caesar’s murder, ignoring the po- litical violence of the past forty years and the deadly imbalance in Roman values, with “great men” placing their private interests above the com- munity’s. The liberators were stunned when the people rioted at Caesar’s funeral to vent their anger against the upper class that had robbed them of their generous patron. Instead of then forming a united front, the elite resumed their personal vendettas. Old republican values had failed to save the republic.

Review: What factors generated the conflicts that caused the republic’s downfall?

Conclusion The most remarkable features of the Roman re- public’s history were its phenomenal expansion and its violent disintegration. Rome expanded be- cause it incorporated outsiders, its small farmers produced agricultural surpluses to support a growing population and army, and its leaders

Conclusion 159753–44 b.c .e .

Ides of March Coin Celebrating Caesar’s Murder Roman coins were the most widely distributed form of art and communication in the Roman world. Their messages became topical and contemporary during the crisis of the late republic. Caesar’s assassins, led by Marcus Junius Brutus (85–42 B.C.E.), issued this coin celebrating the murder and their claim to be liberators. The daggers refer to their method, while the conical cap stands for liberation—it was the kind of headgear worn by slaves who had won their freedom. The inscription gives the date of the assassination, the Ides of March (March 15). What political message was intended by putting pictures of murder weapons on a coin? (© The Trustees of the British Museum.)

Coin Portrait of Julius Caesar Julius Caesar (100–44 B.C.E. ) was the first living Roman to have his portrait on a coin, defying the tradition of showing only dead persons (the same rule applies to U.S. currency). After he won the civil war in 45 B.C.E., Caesar broke that tradition, as he did many others, to show that he was Rome’s supreme leader. Here he wears the laurel wreath of a conquering general. The portrait conforms to late republican style, in which the subject is shown realistically. Caesar’s

wrinkled neck and careworn expression emphasize the suffering he had endured—and imposed on others—to reach the pinnacle of success. (Bibliothèque nationale de France.)

respected the traditional values stressing the com- mon good. The Romans’ willingness to endure great loss of life and property — the proof of their faithfulness — made their army unstoppable in prolonged conflicts: Rome might lose battles, but never wars. Because wars of conquest brought profits to leaders and the common people alike, peace seemed a wasted opportunity.

But the republic’s victories against Carthage and in Macedonia and Greece had unexpected con- sequences. Long military service ruined many farming families, and security needs forced many others to relocate. Many poor people flocked to Rome to live on subsidized food, becoming an un- stable political force. Members of the upper class escalated their competition with each other for the increased career opportunities presented by con- stant war. These rivalries became unmanageable when successful generals began acting as patrons to client armies of poor troops. In this dog-eat-dog atmosphere, violence and murder became the pre- ferred means for settling political disputes. Com-

160 Chapter 5 ■ The Rise of Rome 753–44 b.c .e .


The Roman World at the End of the Republic, 44 B.C.E. Upon Julius Caesar’s assassination in 44 B.C.E., the territory that would be the Roman Empire was almost complete. Caesar’s young relative Octavian (the future Augustus) would conquer and add Egypt in 30 B.C.E. Geography, distance, and formidable enemies were the primary factors inhibiting further expansion, which Romans never stopped wanting, even when lack of money and political discord rendered it purely theoretical. The deserts of Africa and the resurgent Persian kingdom in the Near East worked against expansion southward or eastward, while trackless forests and fierce resistance from local inhabitants made expansion into central Europe and the British Isles impossible to maintain.

For Further Exploration ■ For suggested references, including Web sites,

for topics in this chapter, see page SR-1 at the end of the book.

■ For additional primary-source material from this period, see Chapter 5 in Sources of THE MAKING OF THE WEST, Third Edition.

■ For Web sites and documents related to topics in this chapter, see Make History at

munal values were drowned in the blood of civil war. No reasonable Roman could have been opti- mistic about the chances for an enduring peace following Caesar’s assassination in 44 B.C.E.; that Caesar’s adopted son Octavian — a teenage stu- dent at the time of the murder — would eventually forge peace by devising a new political system as Augustus would have seemed an impossible dream.

0 250 500 kilometers

0 250 500 miles




Roman territory at Caesar’s death, 44 B.C.E.

Roman client states

Caesar’s major battles in Gaul

Major battles of the civil war

Black Sea


Red Sea

M e d i t e r r a n e a n S e a

N ile R.

Tigris R.

Euphrates R.

Danube R.

Po R.

Rubicon R.
























Avaricum 52 B.C.E.

Gergovia 52 B.C.E.

Carrhae 53 B.C.E.

Bibracte 58 B.C.E.

Alesia 52 B.C.E.

Arar River 58 B.C.E.

Munda 45 B.C.E.

Ilerda 49 B.C.E.

Thapsus 46 B.C.E.

Dyrrhacium 48 B.C.E.

Pharsalus 48 B.C.E.

Zela 47 B.C.E.

Alexandria 47 B.C.E.

Philippi 42 B.C.E.

� �




Jerusalem �

Key Terms and People Making Connections

Review Questions

1. How do the political and social values of the Roman repub- lic compare to those of the Greek city-state in the Classi- cal Age?

2. What were the positive and the negative consequences of war for the Roman republic?

1. What common themes underlay Roman values? How did Romans’ behavior reflect those values?

2. How and why did the Roman republic develop its compli- cated political and judicial systems?

3. What advantages and disadvantages did Rome’s victories over foreign peoples create for both rich and poor Romans?

4. What factors generated the conflicts that caused the repub- lic’s downfall?

Chapter Review

mos maiorum (134)

patron-client system (136)

patria potestas (136)

res publica (140)

orders (142)

Twelve Tables (142)

ladder of offices (142)

plebiscites (143)

Cicero (150)

humanitas (150)

equites (152)

populares (153)

optimates (153)

proletarians (153)

First Triumvirate (158)

For practice quizzes, a customized study plan, and other study tools, see the Online Study Guide at

Important Events

753 B.C.E. Traditional date of Rome’s founding as a monarchy

509 B.C.E. Roman republic established

509–287 B.C.E. Struggle of the orders

451–449 B.C.E. Creation of the Twelve Tables, Rome’s first written law code

396 B.C.E. Defeat of the Etruscan city of Veii; first great expansion of Roman territory

387 B.C.E. Gauls sack Rome

264–241 B.C.E. Rome and Carthage fight First Punic War

220 B.C.E. Rome controls Italy south of the Po River

218–201 B.C.E. Rome and Carthage fight Second Punic War

168–149 B.C.E. Cato writes The Origins, the first history of Rome in Latin

149–146 B.C.E. Rome and Carthage fight Third Punic War

146 B.C.E. Carthage and Corinth destroyed

133 B.C.E. Tiberius Gracchus elected tribune; assassi- nated in same year

91–87 B.C.E. Social War between Rome and its Italian allies

60 B.C.E. First Triumvirate of Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus

49–45 B.C.E. Civil war, with Caesar the victor

45–44 B.C.E. Cicero writes his philosophical works on humanitas

44 B.C.E. Caesar appointed dictator for life; assassi- nated in same year

Chapter Review 161753–44 b.c .e .

In 203 C.E., Vibia Perpetua, wealthy and twenty-two years old, sat ina Carthage jail, nursing her infant while awaiting execution; shehad received the death sentence for refusing to sacrifice to the gods for the Roman emperor’s health and safety. One morning the jailer

dragged her off to the city’s main square, where a crowd had gathered.

Perpetua described in a journal what happened when the local gover-

nor tried to persuade her to save her life:

My father came carrying my son, crying “Perform the sacrifice; take pity on your baby!” Then the governor said, “Think of your old father; show pity for your little child! Offer the sacrifice for the imperial family’s wel- fare.”“I refuse,” I answered.“Are you a Christian?” asked the governor.“Yes.” When my father would not stop trying to change my mind, the governor ordered him flung to the earth and whipped with a rod. I felt sorry for my father; it seemed they were beating me. I pitied his pathetic old age.

The brutality of Perpetua’s punishment failed to break her: gored by a

wild cow and stabbed by a gladiator, she died professing her faith.

Perpetua went to her death because she believed that her Christ-

ian faith required her not only to disregard the traditional Roman value

of faithfulness to her family obligations but also to refuse the state’s

demand to show loyalty. Her decision to put her personal religious

commitment ahead of her civic duty was a different version of the

republic’s commanders’ fighting civil wars because they valued their

individual success above service to the common good.

Following Julius Caesar’s assassination in 44 B.C.E., Augustus

(63 B.C.E.–14 C.E.) eventually forged peace by reforming Roman

Creating the Pax Romana 164 • From Republic to Principate,

44–27 B.C.E. • Augustus’s “Restoration of the

Republic,” 27 B.C.E.–14 C.E. • Augustan Rome • Imperial Education, Literature,

and Art

Maintaining the Pax Romana 173 • Making Monarchy Permanent,

14–180 C.E. • Life in the Roman Golden Age,

96–180 C.E.

The Emergence of Christianity 181 • Jesus and His Teachings • Growth of a New Religion • Competing Beliefs

The Third-Century Crisis 188 • Defending the Frontiers • The Severan Emperors and Catastrophe


The Roman Empire 44 B.C.E.–284 C.E.



Executing a Criminal in the Amphitheater This mosaic shows a condemned man being mauled by a leopard in the arena of an amphitheater. Being condemned to the beasts, as the execution was called, was the most spectacularly gruesome of punishments. Martyrs charged with treason, such as Vibia Perpetua, were often executed in this way. Here the prisoner is tied to a stake on a chariot so that the handlers can propel him into the face of the leopard to provoke an angry leap; wild animals often refused to attack without this provocation. This scene formed part of a larger mosaic showing gladiators and other performers before a large crowd in the arena. Laid about 200 C.E., the mosaic covered a floor in a North African villa; it belonged to the same time and region of the Roman Empire as did Perpetua. The villa’s owner probably ordered these subjects for the mosaic to show that he paid for the expensive spectacle that included the execution. (Roger Wood/ Corbis.)

government. Ever after, Rome’s rulers feared dis- loyalty above all because it threatened to rekindle the civil wars that had consumed the republic. The refusal of Christians such as Perpetua to perform traditional sacrifice was considered treason — the ultimate disloyalty — because Romans believed the gods would punish the entire community for harboring such impious people.

The Roman Empire, the modern name ap- plied to the period from Augustus onward, opened with a bloodbath: seventeen years of civil war followed Caesar’s funeral. Finally, in 27 B.C.E., Augustus created a disguised monarchy — the principate — to end the violence, ingeniously masking his creation as a restoration of the repub- lic. He retained the republic’s name and its insti- tutions for sharing power — the Senate, the consuls, the courts — while in reality making him- self sole ruler. He concealed his monarchy by re- ferring to himself not as a rex (“king”) but only with the informal title princeps (“first man among social equals”), an honorary designation from the republic indicating general agreement about who was the leading individual of the time, or who was the most distinguished Roman senator. Princeps is therefore the position we call “emperor.” Each new princeps was supposed to be designated only with the Senate’s approval, but in practice each ruler chose his own successor, as in a monarchy. More than a thousand years would pass before republi- can government reappeared in Western civilization.

The challenge for Romans during the empire was to maintain political stability and prosperity. Augustus’s political system brought peace for two hundred years, except for a struggle between gen- erals for rule in 69 C.E. This Pax Romana (from

the Latin for “Roman peace”) allowed agriculture and trade to flourish in the provinces, but war still determined Rome’s long-term future because of its financial effects. Under the republic, foreign wars had won huge amounts of land and money for Ro- mans, but now the distances were too great, the adjoining lands too rough, and the foreign ene- mies too strong for continued conquest. The army became no longer a offensive weapon for expan- sion but instead a defense force protecting the frontier regions. This change during the Pax Ro- mana slowly created a financial crisis that weak- ened the principate and destabilized the empire. The emergence of Christianity created a new reli- gion that would over centuries transform the Roman world, but this change also created tension because the growing presence of Christians made other Romans worry about punishment from the gods. In the third century C.E., a crisis developed when generals competing to rule reignited pro- longed civil war. By the 280s C.E., Roman govern- ment teetered once more on the brink of disintegration.

Focus Question: How did Augustus’s “restored re- public” successfully keep the Pax Romana for more than two centuries, and why did it fail in the third century?

Creating the Pax Romana Inventing tradition takes time. Augustus created his new political system gradually; as his biogra- pher expressed it, Augustus “made haste slowly.” Augustus succeeded because he won the struggle for power, reinvented government, and built legit- imacy and loyalty by communicating an image of himself as a dedicated leader. His professed respect for tradition and his reign’s length established

164 Chapter 6 ■ The Roman Empire 44 b.c .e .–284 c .e .

50 B.C.E. 0 50 C.E. 100 C.E.

■ 30 Octavian conquers Egypt

■ 27 Augustus inaugurates principate

■ 70 Titus destroys Jewish temple

■ 30 Jesus crucified

■ 69 Civil war during Year of the Four Emperors

■ 64 Rome burns; Nero blames Christians

■ 80s Domitian’s campaigns against invaders

■ 70–90 New Testament Gospels

principate: Roman political system invented by Augustus as a disguised monarchy with the princeps (“first man”) as emperor.

Pax Romana: The two centuries of relative peace and prosper- ity in the Roman Empire under the early principate begun by Augustus.

monarchy as Rome’s political system and saved the state from anarchy. Succeeding where Caesar had failed, he did it by making the new look old.

From Republic to Principate, 44–27 B.C.E. Aristocrats competing for power after Caesar’s as- sassination in 44 B.C.E. started a civil war that lasted until 30 B.C.E. The main competitors were Caesar’s friend Mark Antony and Caesar’s eighteen-year- old grandnephew and adopted son, Octavian (the future Augustus). Octavian won over Caesar’s sol- diers by promising them rewards from their mur- dered general’s wealth, which he had inherited. Marching these troops to Rome, the teenager forced the Senate to make him consul in 43 B.C.E., disregarding the rule that a man had to climb the ladder of offices before becoming consul.

Octavian and Antony put aside their differ- ences — for a time — and with a general named Lepidus joined forces against Caesar’s assassins and anyone else they thought dangerous. In late 43 B.C.E., the trio formed the so-called Second Triumvirate and compelled the Senate to recognize them as an official panel for reconstituting the state. They then proscribed their enemies, including their own relatives, and confiscated their property.

Octavian and Antony next forced Lepidus into retirement and began fighting each other. Antony controlled the eastern provinces by allying with the Ptolemaic queen Cleopatra VII (69–30 B.C.E.), who had earlier allied with Caesar. Dazzled by her in- telligence and personal magnetism, Antony, who was married to Octavian’s sister, fell in love with Cleopatra. Octavian rallied support by claiming that Antony planned to make this foreign queen Rome’s ruler. He made the residents of Italy and the western provinces swear an oath of allegiance to him. His victory in the naval battle of Actium in northwest Greece in 31 B.C.E. won the war.

Cleopatra and Antony fled to Egypt, where they both committed suicide in 30 B.C.E. The general first stabbed himself, bleeding to death in his lover’s embrace. The queen then ended her life by allowing a poisonous snake to bite her. Octavian’s profits from capturing Egypt made him Rome’s richest citizen.

Augustus’s “Restoration of the Republic,” 27 B.C.E.–14 C.E. After distributing land to army veterans and cre- ating colonies in the provinces, in 27 B.C.E. Octa- vian, in his own words, “returned the state from my own power to the control of the Roman Sen- ate and the people” and said they should decide how to preserve it. His action triggered a turning point in Roman history: recognizing Octavian’s overwhelming power, the senators asked him to safeguard the restored republic, granted him special civil and military powers, and bestowed on him the honorary name Augustus, meaning “divinely favored.”

Inventing the Principate. In reality, the arrange- ments of 27 B.C.E. changed Rome’s political system, but Augustus, as everyone now called him, kept up the appearance and the name of republican gov- ernment. Consuls were elected, the Senate gave advice, and the assemblies met. Augustus period- ically served as consul, but mostly he let others be consuls. To preserve the tradition that no official should hold more than one post at a time, he had the Senate grant him a tribune’s powers without holding the office; that is, he possessed the author- ity to act and to veto as if he were a tribune pro- tecting the rights of the people, but he left all the

Creating the Pa x Romana 16544 b.c .e .–284 c .e .

■ 161–180 Multiethnic bands attack northern frontiers

■ 249–251 Decius persecutes Christians

■ 212 Caracalla extends Roman citizenship

■ 230s–280s Third-century crisis

150 C.E. 200 C.E. 250 C.E.

Augustus: The honorary name meaning “divinely favored” that the Roman Senate bestowed on Octavian; it became shorthand for “Roman imperial ruler.”

tribunates open for plebeians to occupy, just as under the republic. In 23 B.C.E., the Senate agreed that he should also have a consul’s power to com- mand — with the crucial addition that his power would be superior to the power of the actual consuls.

Holding the power of a tribune and the “su- perior power” of a consul meant that Augustus ex- ercised supreme power, and future emperors claimed these same powers as the basis of their rule. The naked truth was that Augustus and the emperors after him ruled because they controlled the army and the treasury. Augustus knew, how- ever, that symbols affect people’s perception of re- ality, so he dressed and acted modestly, like a regular republican citizen, not an arrogant king.

Livia, his wife, played a prominent role under his regime as his political adviser and partner in upholding old-fashioned values.

Augustus’s choice of princeps as his public, though unofficial, title was a brilliant symbolic move be- cause it used tradition to give legit- imacy to revolution. He claimed that he commanded public affairs only through the respect and auc- toritas (“moral authority”) he merited; he had no more potestas (“formal power”), he insisted, than any other leader. He in-

vented the principate to disguise a monarchy as a corrected and re-

stored republic, headed by an em- peror cloaked as a princeps ruling

only by auctoritas. Roman emperors after Augustus used the same propa-

ganda: they always called the Roman state “the republic.” In truth, Augustus

revolutionized the underlying power structure of Rome’s government: no one

previously could have exercised the pow- ers of both tribune and “superior” consul simulta- neously while also controlling the state’s money and troops.

Augustus made the military the foundation of his power by turning the republic’s citizen militia into a professional, full-time army and navy. He established regular lengths of service and a sub- stantial retirement benefit, changes that made the princeps the troops’ patron and solidified their loyalty to him. To pay the added costs, Augustus imposed Rome’s first inheritance tax on citizens, angering the rich. His other major military inno- vation was to station several thousand soldiers in Rome for the first time ever. These soldiers — the praetorian guard — would later play a crucial role in imperial politics by selecting the princeps. Au- gustus meant them to provide security for him and prevent rebellion in the capital by serving as a vis- ible reminder that the princeps’s superiority was grounded in the threat of force.

Communicating the Emperor’s Image. In keep- ing with his policy of using both force and sym- bols, Augustus constantly communicated his image as patron and public benefactor (see Doc-

166 Chapter 6 ■ The Roman Empire 44 b.c .e .–284 c .e .

praetorian (pree TOR ee uhn) guard: The group of soldiers stationed in Rome under the emperor’s control; first formed by Augustus.

Cameo Celebrating Augustus This cameo, about eight by nine inches, was carved early in the Roman Empire from a stone with layers of blue and white. Interpretations of the scenes vary, but the upper scene probably shows Augustus being crowned for saving Roman citizens by a standing female figure rep- resenting the Inhabited World. The seated female figure represents Rome and resembles Augustus’s wife, Livia, his partner in rule. The man stepping out of a chariot is Tiberius, Augustus’s choice to succeed him as princeps. Why do you think Tiberius carries a scepter like that held by Augustus? The lower scene shows defeated enemies subjected to Roman power. How do you think the lower scene relates to the upper scene? (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien.)

ument, “Augustus, Res Gestae,” page 168). He used media as small as coins and as large as buildings. The only mass-produced medium for official mes- sages, Roman coins functioned like modern polit- ical advertising. They proclaimed slogans such as “Father of His Country” to remind Romans of the princeps’s moral authority, or “Roads have been built” to emphasize his generosity in paying for highway construction.

Augustus used his personal fortune to erect spectacular public buildings in Rome. The huge Forum of Augustus, dedicated in 2 B.C.E., best illustrates his skill at sending messages through architecture (Figure 6.1). This public gathering space centered on a temple to Mars, the Roman god of war, where Julius Caesar’s sword was pre- served as a national treasure. Two-story colon- nades extended from the temple like wings, sheltering statues of famous Roman heroes to serve as inspirations to future leaders. Augustus’s forum provided space for religious rituals and the coming-of-age ceremonies of upper-class boys, but it also stressed his justifications for his rule: peace and security restored through military power, the foundation of a new age, devotion to the gods who protected Rome, respect for tradition, and his gen- erosity in spending money for public purposes.

Augustus’s Motives. Augustus never revealed his motives for establishing the principate, but his challenge was the one every Roman leader faced — balancing the need for peace and Rome’s tradi- tional commitment to its citizens’ freedom of ac- tion with his own ambitions. Augustus’s solution was to employ traditional values to justify changes, as with his reinvention of the meaning of the word princeps. Above all, he transferred the traditional paternalism of social relations — the patron-client system — to politics by making the princeps every- one’s most important patron, with the moral au- thority to guide their lives. This process culminated in 2 B.C.E. when the Senate joined the Roman people in formally proclaiming Augustus “Father of His Country” (a title that Julius Caesar had also received). The title emphasized that the principate gave Romans a sole ruler who governed them like a father: stern but caring, expecting obe- dience and loyalty from his children, and obligated to nurture them in return. The goal of such an arrangement was a combination of stability and order, not political freedom.

Augustus ruled until his death at age seventy- five in 14 C.E. The length of his reign — forty-one years — solidified his transformation of Roman government. As the historian Tacitus (c. 56–120

C.E.) remarked, by the time Augustus died, “almost no one was still alive who had seen the republic.” Through his longevity, command over the army, rapport with the capital’s urban masses, and ma- nipulation of political symbols and language to mask his power, Augustus restored political stabil- ity and transformed republican Rome into impe- rial Rome.

Augustan Rome Archaeological and literary sources reveal a com- posite picture of life in Augustan Rome. Although some of the sources refer to times after Augustus and to cities other than Rome, they help us under- stand the Augustan period because economic and social conditions were essentially the same in Ro- man cities throughout the Pax Romana.

Augustan Rome’s population of nearly one million was vast for the ancient world. No Euro- pean city would have this many people again un- til London in the 1700s. Many people had no regular jobs and too little to eat. The streets were packed: “One man jabs me with his elbow, another whacks me with a pole; my legs are smeared with mud, and big feet step on me from all sides” was

Creating the Pa x Romana 16744 b.c .e .–284 c .e .

Temple of Mars Ultor Colonnades (porches)

lined with columns

Statues of

Roman heroes

Unroofed area

FIGURE 6.1 Cutaway Reconstruction of the Forum of Augustus Augustus built this large forum (120 � 90 yards) to commemorate his victory over the assassins of Julius Caesar. The centerpiece was a marble temple to Mars Ultor (“The Avenger”), and inside the temple were statues of Mars, Venus (the divine ancestor of Julius Caesar), and Julius Caesar (as a god), as well as works of art and Caesar’s sword. The two apses flanking the temple featured statues of Aeneas and Romulus, Rome’s founders. The high stone wall behind the temple protected it from fire, a constant threat in the crowded neighborhood just behind.

how the poet Juvenal described walking in Rome in the early second century. To ease congestion in the narrow streets, the city banned carts and wag- ons in the daytime. This regulation made nights noisy with the creaking of axles and the shouting of drivers caught in traffic jams.

The Precariousness of City Life. Most urban res- idents lived in small apartments in multistoried buildings called islands. Outnumbering private houses by more than twenty to one, the islands’ first floors housed shops, bars, and restaurants. Graffiti of all kinds — political endorsements, the

168 Chapter 6 ■ The Roman Empire 44 b.c .e .–284 c .e .

Augustus, Res Gestae (My Accomplishments)


Augustus, the first Roman emperor, had an autobiographical report of his accomplish- ments displayed around the empire. These excerpts reveal his justifications for his rule. Many of the sections not included here list his numerous and expensive personal con- tributions to public works.

1. At the age of nineteen, on my own ini- tiative and at my own expense, I raised an army, which I used to liberate the republic, which had been oppressed by the tyranny of a faction. For this reason the Senate passed honorary votes for me and made me a member [in 43 B.C.E.], at the same time grant- ing me the rank of a consul in its vot- ing, and it gave me the power of military command [imperium]. It or- dered me as propraetor to see to it, along with the consuls, that no harm came to the state. Moreover, in the same year, when both consuls had died in the war, the people elected me consul and a triumvir with the duty of establishing the republic. . . .

3. I waged many wars, civil and foreign, throughout the whole world by land and by sea, and as victor I spared all citizens who asked for pardons. For- eign peoples who could safely be par- doned I preferred to spare rather than destroy. Approximately 500,000 Ro- man citizens swore military oaths to me. A little more than 300,000 of these, when their terms of service were ended, I settled in colonies or sent back to their own municipalities; I allotted lands or granted money to all of them as rewards for military service. . . .

5. I refused to accept the dictatorship offered to me [in 22 B.C.E.] by the people and by the senate, both in my absence and my presence. During a se- vere scarcity of grain I accepted the supervision of the grain supply, which I so administered that within a few days I freed the whole people from imminent panic and danger by my ex- penditures and effort. The consulship, too, which was offered to me at that time as an annual office for life, I re- fused to accept.

6. [In 19, 18, and 11 B.C.E.], although the Roman Senate and people in unison agreed that I should be elected sole guardian of the laws and morals with supreme power, I refused to accept any office offered to me that was con- trary to our ancestors’ traditions [mos maiorum]. The measures that the Sen- ate desired me to take at that time I carried out under the tribunician power. While holding this power I five times voluntarily requested and was given a colleague by the senate.

7. . . . I have been ranking senator [prin- ceps senatus] for forty years, up to the day on which I wrote this document. [There follows a list of priesthoods he held, including that of “the greatest priest,” pontifex maximus.]

8. . . . By new legislation that I sponsored I restored many precedents from our ancestors that were becoming dead letters in our generation, and I myself handed down precedents in many spheres for posterity to imitate. . . .

34. In my sixth and seventh consulships [28 and 27 B.C.E.], after I had put an

end to the civil wars, having gained possession of everything through the consent of everyone, I returned the state from my own power [potes- tas] to the control of the Roman Sen- ate and the people. As reward for this meritorious service, I received the title of Augustus by vote of the Sen- ate, and the doorposts of my house were publicly decked with laurels, the civic crown was affixed over my doorway, and a golden shield was set up in the Julian Senate house, which, as the inscription on this shield tes- tifies, the Roman Senate and people gave me in recognition of my valor, clemency, justice, and devotion. Af- ter that time I excelled all in author- ity [auctoritas], but I possessed no more power [potestas] than the oth- ers who were my colleagues in each magistracy.

35. When I held my thirteenth consulship [2 B.C.E.], the Senate, the equestrian order, and the entire Roman people gave me the title of “father of the country” [pater patriae] and voted that this title should be inscribed in the vestibule of my house, in the Ju- lian Senate house, and in the Augus- tan Forum on the pedestal of the chariot which was set up in my honor by vote of the Senate. At the time I wrote this document I was in my seventy-sixth year.

Source: Herbert W. Benario, ed., Caesaris Augusti Res Gestae et Fragmenta, 2nd ed. (1990). Translation by Thomas R. Martin.

posting of rewards, personal insults, and advertis- ing — covered the exterior walls. The higher the floor, the cheaper the rent. Well-off tenants occu- pied the lower stories, while the poorest people lived in single rooms rented by the day on the top floors. Aqueducts delivered a plentiful supply of fresh water to public fountains, but apartment dwellers had to lug heavy jugs up the stairs. The wealthy few had piped-in water at ground level. Most tenants lacked bathrooms and had to use the public latrines or pots for toilets at home. Some buildings had cesspits, but most people had to carry buckets of excrement down to the streets to be emptied by sewage collectors. Lazy tenants flung these containers’ foul-smelling contents out the window. Sanitation was an enormous problem in a city that generated sixty tons of human waste every day.

To keep clean, residents used public baths. Be- cause admission fees were low, almost everyone could afford to bathe daily. Baths existed all over the city; like modern health clubs, they served as centers for exercising and socializing (see Docu- ment, “The Scene at a Roman Bath,” page 170). Bath patrons progressed through a series of in- creasingly warm, humid areas until they reached a sauna-like room. Bathers swam naked in their choice of hot or cold pools. Women had access to the public baths, but men and women bathed apart. Since bathing was thought to be helpful for sick people, communal baths unintentionally con- tributed to the spread of communicable diseases.

Augustus’s care for citizens’ everyday lives helped them accept his political changes. He did all he could to improve Rome’s public safety and health. Since fire presented a constant danger, Au- gustus gave Rome the first public fire department in Western history. He also established the first permanent police force, despite his fondness for watching the frequent brawls in Rome’s crowded streets. There were challenges in urban life, how- ever, that not even his power and money could overcome. He greatly enlarged the city’s main sewer, but its contents still emptied untreated into the Tiber River. The technology for sanitary dis- posal of waste did not exist. People often left hu- man and animal corpses in the streets, to be gnawed by vultures and dogs. The poor were not the only people affected by such conditions: a stray mutt once brought a human hand to the table where Vespasian, who would be emperor from 69 to 79 C.E., was eating lunch. Flies everywhere and a lack of refrigeration contributed to frequent gas- trointestinal ailments: the most popular jewelry of the time was supposed to ward off stomach trouble.

Although the wealthy could not avoid such prob- lems, they made their lives more pleasant with luxuries such as snow rushed from the mountains to ice their drinks and slaves to clean their houses, which were built around courtyards and gardens.

City residents faced hazards beyond infectious disease. Apartment dwellers often hurled broken pots and debris out their windows, where it rained down on pedestrians. “If you are walking to a din- ner party in Rome,” Juvenal warned, “you would be foolish not to make out your will first. For every open window is a source of potential disaster.” Apartment buildings could be dangerous because they sometimes collapsed. Roman architects built public structures from concrete, brick, and stone that lasted centuries, but crooked contractors cut costs by cheating on materials for private build-

Creating the Pa x Romana 16944 b.c .e .–284 c .e .

A Roman Street Like Pompeii, the town of Herculaneum on the Bay of Naples was frozen in time by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 C.E. Mud from the eruption buried the town and preserved its buildings. Herculaneum’s straight roads paved with flat stones and sidewalks were typical for a Roman town. Balconies jutted from the houses, offering a shady viewing point for life in the streets. Roman houses often enclosed a garden courtyard instead of having yards in front or back. Why do you think urban homes had this arrangement? (Scala / Art Resource, NY.)

ings. Augustus imposed a height limit of seventy feet on new apartment buildings to limit the danger.

As Rome’s patron, Augustus used his own money to import grain to feed the urban poor. State distribution of some grain had long been a tradition, but Augustus’s welfare plan reached 250,000 recipients. Counting the recipients’ fami- lies, more than 700,000 people depended on the princeps to survive. Poor Romans cooked this grain into soup or bread, washed down with cheap wine. If they were lucky, they might add beans, leeks, or cheese. The rich ate more delectable dishes, such as roast pork or crayfish, flavored with sweet-and-sour sauce concocted from honey and vinegar.

Wealthy Romans increasingly spent money on luxuries and political careers instead of raising families. Fearing that the falling birthrate would destroy the elite on whom Rome relied for public service, Augustus granted legal privileges to the parents of three or more children. To strengthen marriages, he made adultery a crime and sup- ported this reform so strongly that he exiled his own daughter — his only child — and a grand- daughter for sex scandals. His legislation had little effect, however, and the prestigious old fam- ilies dwindled over the coming centuries. Recent re- search suggests that up to three-quarters of senatorial families either lost their official status by

spending all their money or died out every gener- ation by failing to have children. Equestrians and provincials who won imperial favor took their places in the social hierarchy and the Senate.

Roman Slavery. Unlike other ancient states, Rome gave citizenship to freed slaves. All slaves could hope to acquire the rights of a free citizen, and their descendants, if they became wealthy, could become members of the social elite. This policy gave slaves reason to persevere and cooper- ate with their masters. It also meant that most Romans had slave ancestors.

The harshness of slaves’ lives varied widely. Slaves in agriculture and manufacturing lived a grueling existence. Most such workers were men, although women might assist the foremen who managed gangs of rural laborers. The second- century novelist Apuleius described the grim situ- ation of slaves in a flour mill: “Through the holes in their ragged clothes you could see all over their bodies the scars from whippings. Some wore only loincloths. Letters had been branded on their fore- heads and irons manacled their ankles.” Worse than the mills were the mines, where the foremen whipped the miners to keep them working in such a dangerous environment.

Household slaves lived better. Most Romans owned slaves as home servants; modestly well-off families had one or two, while rich houses and the

170 Chapter 6 ■ The Roman Empire 44 b.c .e .–284 c .e .

The Scene at a Roman Bath


The Roman philosopher Seneca (4 B.C.E.–65 C.E.) wrote to a friend describing the com- motion that he had to endure to keep up his studies while living in a rented apartment over a public bath of the kind that existed in every sizable community in the Roman Empire.

I am staying in an apartment directly above a public bath. Imagine all the kinds of voices that I hear, enough to make me hate having ears! When the really strong guys are working out with heavy lead weights, when they are working hard or at least pretending to work hard, I hear their grunts; and whenever they exhale

the breath they’ve been holding in, I hear them hissing and panting harshly. When I happen to notice some sluggish type getting a cheap rubdown, I hear the slap of the hand pounding his shoulders, changing its sound according to whether it’s a blow with an open or a closed fist. If a serious ball-player comes along and starts keeping score out loud, then I’m done for. Add to this the bruiser who likes to pick fights, the pickpocket who’s been caught, and the man who loves to hear the sound of his own voice in the bath. And there are those people who jump into the swimming pool with a tremen- dous splash and lots of noise. Besides all

the ones who have awful voices, imagine the “armpit hair plucker-outer” with his high, shrill voice — so he’ll be noticed — always chattering and never shutting up, except when he is plucking armpits and making his customer yell instead of yelling himself. And there are also all the different cries from the sausage seller, and the fellow selling pastries, and all the food vendors screaming out what they have to sell, all of them with their own special tones.

Source: Seneca, Moral Epistles, 56.1–2. Translation by Thomas R. Martin.

imperial palace owned hordes. Domestic slaves were often women, working as nurses, maids, kitchen helpers, and clothes makers. Some male slaves ran businesses for their masters, and they were often allowed to keep part of the profits as an incentive; they saved to purchase their freedom someday. Women had less opportunity to earn money, though masters sometimes granted tips for sexual favors to female and male slaves. Many fe- male prostitutes were slaves working for a master. Slaves with savings would sometimes buy other slaves, especially to have a mate. They could then live as a shadow family, barred from legal marriage because they and their children remained their master’s property. Fortunate slaves could buy themselves from their masters or be freed in their masters’ wills. Some tomb inscriptions record a master’s affection for a slave, but even household slaves endured inhumane treatment if their mas- ters were cruel. Slaves had no legal recourse, and if they attacked their owners, the punishment was death.

Violence in Public Entertainment. Potential vio- lence defined slaves’ lives; actual violence defined much Roman public entertainment. The emper- ors regularly provided spectacles featuring hunters killing fierce beasts, wild African animals mangling condemned criminals, mock naval battles in flooded arenas, blood-drenched gladiatorial com-

bats, and wreck-filled chariot races. Spectators packed arenas for these shows, seated according to their social rank and gender following an Augus- tan law. The emperor and senators sat close to the action, while women and the poor were relegated to the upper tiers, to display the hierarchy that Romans believed necessary to social stability.

War captives, criminals, slaves, and free volun- teers fought as gladiators; most were men, though women sometimes competed. Daughters trained by their gladiator fathers had first competed dur- ing the republic, and women continued to com- pete occasionally until the emperor Septimius Severus (r. 193–211 C.E.) banned their appearance. Gladiatorial shows had originated as part of rich funerals, but Augustus made them popular enter- tainment. Gladiators were often wounded or killed because the fights were so dangerous, but their contests rarely required a fight to the death, unless they were captives or criminals; professional fight- ers could have extended careers and win riches and celebrity. To make the fights unpredictable, pairs of gladiators often competed with different weapons. One favorite bout pitted a lightly ar- mored “net man,” who used a net and a trident, against a more heavily armored “fish man,” so named from the design of his helmet crest. Betting was popular, the crowds rowdy. As a Christian commentator complained: “Look at the mob com- ing to the show — already they’re out of their

Creating the Pa x Romana 17144 b.c .e .–284 c .e .

Gladiator after a Kill This first-century C.E. mosaic covered a villa floor in North Africa. It shows a gladiator staring at the opponent he has just killed. What feelings do you think his expression conveys? Gladiatorial combats originated as part of wealthy people’s funeral ceremonies, symbolizing the human struggle to avoid death. Training an expert gladiator took many years and great expense. Like boxers today, gladiators fought only a couple of times a year. Because it cost so much to replace a dead gladiator, most fights were not to the death intentionally; however, kills often happened in the fury of combat. (Photo: Helmut Ziegert / University of Hamburg.)

minds! Aggressive, thoughtless, already in an up- roar about their bets! They all share the same sus- pense, the same madness, the same voice.”

Public entertainment served as two-way com- munication between ruler and ruled. Emperors provided gladiatorial shows, chariot races, and the- ater productions for the masses, and ordinary cit- izens staged protests at these festivals to express their wishes to the emperors, who were expected to attend. Poor Romans, for example, rioted to protest shortfalls in the free grain supply.

Imperial Education, Literature, and Art Elite culture changed in the Augustan period to serve the same goal as public entertainment: legitimizing the transformed political system. Oratory — the highest attainment of Roman edu- cation— lost its freedom. Under the republic, the

ability to make frank speeches criticizing political opponents had been such a powerful weapon that it could catapult a “new man” like Cicero to a lead- ership role. Under the principate, the emperor’s supremacy ruled out honest political debate. Now ambitious men required rhetorical skills to praise the emperor. Criticism of the established political system in both oratory and the arts was too risky.

Imperial Education. Education in oratory re- mained a privilege of the wealthy. Rome had no free public schools, so the poor received no formal education. Most people had time for learning only practical skills. A character in a Roman satirical novel expresses this utilitarian attitude: “I didn’t study geometry and literary criticism and worth- less junk like that. I just learned how to read the letters on signs and how to work out percentages, and I learned weights, measures, and the values of the different kinds of coins.”

Servants attended rich boys and girls, who at- tended private elementary schools from ages seven to eleven to learn reading, writing, and basic arith- metic. Some children went on to the next three years of school, in which they studied literature, history, and grammar. Only a few boys then pro- ceeded to the study of rhetoric. Advanced studies concerned literature, history, ethical philosophy, law, and dialectic (reasoned argument). Mathe- matics and science were rarely studied as separate subjects, but engineers and architects became pro- ficient at calculation despite the difficulty of using Roman numerals for complex math.

Ideals in Literature and Sculpture. So much lit- erature blossomed during the Augustan period that scholars call it the Golden Age of Latin liter- ature. The emperor, himself an author, served as a patron for writers and artists. His favorites were Horace (65–8 B.C.E.) and Virgil (70–19 B.C.E.). Ho- race entranced audiences with the rhythms and irony of his poems on public and private subjects. His poem celebrating Augustus’s victory at Actium became famous for its opening line: “Now we have to drink!”

Virgil became the most famous Roman poet for his long poem The Aeneid, which both praised and — very indirectly — criticized the principate. Inspired by Homer’s epics, The Aeneid told the story of the Trojan Aeneas, the legendary founder of Rome. Virgil balanced his praise for Roman civ- ilization with recognition of the price in freedom to be paid for peace. The Aeneid thus revealed the complex mix of gain and loss created by Augus- tus’s transformation of Roman politics.

172 Chapter 6 ■ The Roman Empire 44 b.c .e .–284 c .e .

Literacy and Social Status This twenty-six-inch-high wall painting of a woman and her husband was found in a comfortable house in Pompeii, buried by twelve feet of ash from Mount Vesuvius’s volcanic eruption in 79 C.E. The couple may have owned the bakery that adjoined the house. Both are depicted with items showing that they were literate and therefore deserving of social status. She holds the notepad of the time, a hinged wooden tablet filled with wax for writing on with the stylus (thin stick) that she touches to her lips; he holds a scroll of papyrus or animal skin, the standard form for books at the time. Her hairstyle was one popular in the mid-first century C.E. (Erich Lessing/ Art Resource, NY.)

Authors with a more inde- pendent streak had to be careful. The historian Livy (54 B.C.E.–17 C.E.) composed a history of Rome in which he recorded Augustus’s ruthlessness in the civil war after Caesar’s murder. The emperor scolded but did not punish Livy be- cause his work proclaimed that sta- bility and prosperity depended on traditional values of loyalty and self-sacrifice. The poet Ovid (43 B.C.E.–17 C.E.), however, wrote Art of Love and Love Af- fairs to mock the emperor’s moral legislation with witty ad- vice for conducting sexual af- fairs and picking up other men’s wives. His work Metamorphoses undermined the idea of hierar- chy as natural by telling bizarre stories of supernatural shape- changes, with people becoming an- imals and confusion between the human and the divine. In 8 B.C.E., af- ter Ovid became embroiled in the scandal involving Augustus’s grand- daughter, the emperor exiled him.

Public sculpture also reflected the emperor’s influence. When Augustus was growing up, por- traits were starkly realistic. The sculpture that Augustus ordered displayed an idealized style based on classical Greek models. In works such as the Prima Porta statue, Augustus had himself portrayed as serene and dignified, not careworn and sick, as he often was. As with architecture, Augustus used sculpture to project a calm and competent image of himself as the “restorer of the republic” and founder of a new age for Rome.

Review: How did the peace gained through Augustus’s “restoration of the republic” affect Romans’ lives?

Maintaining the Pax Romana Augustus made political changes to promote sta- bility and prosperity (and his personal glory) — above all by preventing civil war — but his new sys- tem lacked a way to block struggles for power when

the princeps died. Since he claimed not to have created a monarchy, no successor could automat- ically inherit his power without the Senate’s ap- proval. Augustus therefore decided to identify an heir whom he wished the senators to recognize as princeps after his death. This strategy succeeded and kept rule in his family, called the Julio- Claudians, until the death in 68 C.E. of Augustus’s last descendent, the infamous Nero. It established the tradition that family dynasties ruled the “re- stored republic” of imperial Rome.

Under the principate, the emperor’s main goals were preventing unrest, building loyalty, and financing the administration while governing the diverse provinces. Augustus set the pattern for effective imperial rule: take special care of the army, communicate the emperor’s image as a just and generous ruler, and promote Roman law and

Maintaining the Pa x Romana 17344 b.c .e .–284 c .e .

Marble Statue of Augustus from Prima Porta At six feet eight inches high, this statue of Augustus stood a foot taller than he did. Found at his wife Livia’s country villa at Prima Porta (“First Gate”), the portrait was probably done about 20 B.C.E., when Augustus was in his forties; however, it shows him as younger, using the idealizing techniques of classical Greek art. Compare his smooth face to the realistic portraiture in Chapter 5. The statue’s symbols communicate Augustus’s image: his bare feet hint he is a near-divine hero, the Cupid refers to the Julian family’s descent from the goddess Venus, and the breastplate’s design shows a Parthian surrendering to a Roman soldier under the gaze of personified cosmic forces admiring the peace Augustus’s regime has created. (Scala / Art Resource, NY.)

■ For more help analyzing this image, see the visual activity for this chapter in the Online Study Guide at

Julio-Claudians: The ruling family of the early principate from Augustus through Nero, descended from the aristocratic fami- lies of the Julians and the Claudians.

culture as universal standards. The citizens, in re- turn for their loyalty, expected the emperors to be generous patrons — but the difficulties of long- range communication imposed practical limits on imperial intervention in the lives of the residents of the provinces.

Making Monarchy Permanent, 14–180 C.E. Augustus’s claim that the republic continued meant that he needed the Senate’s cooperation to give legitimacy to his successor. He had no son, so he adopted Livia’s son by a previous marriage, Tiberius (42 B.C.E.–37 C.E.). Since Tiberius had a distinguished record as a general, the army sup- ported Augustus’s choice. Augustus had Tiberius granted the power of a tribune and the power of a consul equal to his own so that he would be rec- ognized as princeps after Augustus’s death. The senators did just that when Augustus died in 14 C.E., allowing the Julio-Claudian dynasty to begin.

The First Dynasty: The Julio-Claudians, 14–68 C.E. Tiberius (r. 14–37 C.E.) stayed in power for twenty- three years because he had the most important qualification for succeeding as emperor: the army’s respect. He built the praetorian guard a fortified camp in Rome so that its soldiers could better pro- tect the emperor. This change had the unintended consequence of guaranteeing the guards a role in determining all future successions — no emperor could come to power without their support. Tiberius described his position by saying,“I am the master of the slaves, the commander of the sol- diers, and the princeps of the rest.”

Tiberius’s long reign provided the protracted transition period that the principate needed to en- dure, establishing the compromise on power be- tween the elite and the emperor essential for political stability. The traditional offices of consul, senator, and provincial governor continued, with elite Romans filling them and basking in their prestige, but the emperors decided who received the offices and controlled law and government pol- icy. In this way, the social elite performed valuable service, especially by keeping the peace and over- seeing the collection of taxes while governing provinces that the emperor allotted them (though the provinces with strong military forces he gov- erned through his assistants). Everyone saved face by pretending that the republic’s political offices retained their original power.

Tiberius paid a bitter price to rule. To strengthen their family tie, Augustus forced

Tiberius to divorce his beloved wife, Vipsania, to marry Augustus’s daughter, Julia — and the mar- riage proved disastrously unhappy. When Tiberius’s sadness led him to spend his reign’s last decade in seclusion far from Rome, his neglect of the gov- ernment permitted abuses in the capital and kept him from training a decent successor for the Sen- ate’s approval.

Tiberius designated Gaius (r. 37–41 C.E.), bet- ter known as Caligula, to be the next emperor be- cause Gaius was Augustus’s great-grandson and Tiberius’s fawning supporter, not because he had leadership qualities. The third Julio-Claudian emperor might have been successful because he knew about soldiering: Caligula means “baby boots,” the nickname the soldiers gave him as a child because he wore little leather shoes like theirs when he was growing up in the military garrisons his father (Tiberius’s nephew and adopted son Germanicus) commanded. Unfortunately, Gaius’s enormous appetites dominated his feeble virtues. Cruel and violent, he bankrupted the treasury to humor his desires. His biographer labeled him a monster for his murders and sexual crimes; the lat- ter, gossip said, included incest with his sisters. He outraged the elite by fighting in mock gladiatorial combats and appearing in public in women’s clothing or costumes imitating gods. As he said, “I’m allowed to do anything.” The praetorian com- manders murdered him in 41 C.E. to avenge per- sonal insults.

The senators then debated the idea of truly restoring the republic by refusing to approve a new emperor. They capitulated, however, when Claudius (r. 41–54 C.E.), Augustus’s grandnephew and Caligula’s uncle, bribed the praetorian guard to back him. Claudius’s succession revealed that the soldiers would insist on there always being an emperor so that they would have a patron to pay them and that senatorial yearnings for the repub- lic’s return would never be fulfilled.

Claudius was an active emperor, commanding a successful invasion of Britain in 43 C.E. that made much of the island into a Roman province. He opened the way for provincial elites to expand their participation in government by enrolling men from Gaul in the Senate. In return for keeping their regions peaceful and ensuring tax payments, they would receive offices at Rome and imperial pa- tronage. Claudius also transformed imperial bu- reaucracy by employing freed slaves as powerful administrators; since they owed their positions to the emperor, they could be expected to be loyal.

Power corrupted Claudius’s teenage successor, Nero (r. 54–68 C.E.). Emperor at sixteen, he loved

174 Chapter 6 ■ The Roman Empire 44 b.c .e .–284 c .e .

music and acting, not governing. The spectacles he sponsored and the cash he distributed kept him popular with Rome’s poor. His generals put down the revolt in Britain led by the woman commander Boudica in 60 C.E. and fought the Jewish rebels who tried to throw off Roman rule in Judaea in 66 C.E., but he himself had no military career. A giant fire in 64 C.E. (the event behind the legend that Nero fiddled while Rome burned) aroused suspi- cions that he ordered the conflagration to make space for a new palace. Nero scandalized the sen- atorial class by appearing onstage to sing, and he emptied the treasury by building a palace called the Golden House. To raise money he faked trea- son charges against senators and equites to seize their property. When his generals toppled his regime, Nero had a servant help him cut his own throat as he dug his grave, wailing, “I’m dying re- duced to a laborer’s status!”

The Flavian Dynasty and the Imperial Cult, 69–96 C.E. Nero’s fall sparked a year of civil war in which four generals vied for power (69 C.E., the Year of the Four Emperors). Vespasian (r. 69–79 C.E.) won. His victory proved that the principate would con- tinue because the elite and the army demanded it. To give his new dynasty — the Flavian, from his family name — legitimacy, Vespasian had the Sen- ate grant him the same powers as previous emper- ors, pointedly leaving Caligula and Nero off the list. He encouraged the spread of the imperial cult (worship of the emperor as a living god and sac- rifices for his household’s welfare) in the provinces but not in Italy, where this innovation would have disturbed traditional Romans. The imperial cult communicated the same image of the emperor to the provinces as Rome’s architecture and sculpture did: he was superhuman, provided benefactions, and deserved loyalty. Vespasian reportedly did not believe in his own divinity, to judge from his witty remark on his deathbed: “Oh me! I think I’m be- coming a god.”

Vespasian’s sons, Titus (r. 79–81 C.E.) and Domitian (r. 81–96 C.E.), conducted hardheaded fiscal policy and high-profile military campaigns. Titus finally suppressed the Jewish revolt by cap- turing Jerusalem in 70 C.E. He sent relief to Pom- peii and Herculaneum when, in 79 C.E., Mount Vesuvius’s volcanic eruption buried these towns. He built a state-of-the-art site for public entertain- ment by finishing Rome’s Colosseum, outfitting

the amphitheater seating fifty thousand spectators with awnings to shade the crowd. The Colosseum was deliberately constructed on the site of the for- mer fishpond in Nero’s Golden House to demon- strate the new dynasty’s public-spiritedness.

During his reign, Domitian balanced the budget and campaigned against Germanic tribes threatening the empire’s northern frontiers, but his arrogance turned the senators against him; once he sent them a letter announcing, “Our lord god, myself, orders you to do this.” Alarmed by an elite general’s rebellion, Domitian executed numerous upper-class citizens as conspirators. Fearful that they, too, would become victims, his wife and members of his court murdered him in 96 C.E.

The Five “Good Emperors,” 96–180 C.E. As Domitian’s fate showed, the principate had not solved monarchy’s inevitable weakness: rivalry among the elite for rule. The danger of civil war persisted, whether generated by ambitious gener- als or the emperor’s jealous heirs. No one could predict whether a good ruler or a bad one would emerge. As Tacitus commented, emperors were like the weather: “We just have to wait for bad ones to pass and hope for good ones to appear.” Fortu- nately for Rome, fair weather dawned with the next five emperors — Nerva (r. 96–98 C.E.), Trajan (r. 98–117 C.E.), Hadrian (r. 117–138 C.E.), Anton- inus Pius (r. 138–161 C.E.), and Marcus Aurelius (r. 161–180 C.E.). Historians call this period the Roman political Golden Age because it had peace- ful successions for nearly a century. Nevertheless, it saw ample war and strife: Trajan fought to expand Roman control across the Danube River into Dacia (today Romania) and eastward into Mesopotamia (Map 6.1); Hadrian executed several senators as alleged conspirators, punished a Jewish revolt by turning Jerusalem into a military colony, and withdrew Roman forces from Mesopotamia. Marcus Aurelius faithfully did his duty by spend- ing difficult years fighting off invasions in the Danube region.

Still, the five “good emperors” did preside over a political and economic Golden Age. They suc- ceeded one another without murder or conspir- acy — the first four, having no surviving sons, used adoption to find the best possible successor. The economy provided enough money to finance building projects such as the fortification wall Hadrian built across Britain. Most important, they kept the army obedient. Their reigns marked Rome’s longest stretch without a civil war since the second century B.C.E.

Maintaining the Pa x Romana 17544 b.c .e .–284 c .e .

Colosseum: Rome’s fifty-thousand-seat amphitheater built by the Flavian dynasty for gladiatorial combats and other spectacles.

Life in the Roman Golden Age, 96–180 C.E. Peace and prosperity in Rome’s Golden Age depended on defense by a loyal military, public- spiritedness by provincial elites in local adminis- tration and tax collection, common laws enforced throughout the empire, and a healthy population reproducing itself. The empire’s vast size and the relatively small numbers of soldiers and imperial officials in the provinces meant that emperors had only limited control over these factors.

Imperial Military Aims and the Army. In theory, Rome’s military goal remained perpetual expan-

sion, because conquest brought land, money, and glory. Virgil expressed this notion in The Aeneid by portraying Jupiter, the king of the gods, as promising Rome “imperial rule without limit.” In reality, the emperors lacked the resources to ex- pand the empire permanently much beyond what Augustus had controlled and had to concentrate on defending imperial territory.

Most provinces were peaceful and had no need for garrisons. Even Gaul, which had fiercely resisted Roman control, was, according to one contemporary witness, “kept in order by 1,200 troops — hardly more soldiers than it has towns.” Most legions (units of five thousand troops) were stationed on frontiers to prevent invasions from

176 Chapter 6 ■ The Roman Empire 44 b.c .e .–284 c .e .

0 250 500 kilometers

0 250 500 miles




Conquered by Augustus, 30 B.C.E.–14 C.E.

Roman Empire by the death of Augustus, 14 C.E.

Roman Empire at the end of Trajan’s reign, 117 C.E.

Conquered and lost by Trajan, 114–117 C.E.


Black Sea


R ed


M e d i t e r r a n e a n S e a

Tigris R.

.R se

ta rh

pu E

Danube R.

Seine R.

Caspian Sea

North Sea Ba


c S ea

N ile








Actium 31 B.C.E.








Mt. Vesuvius









JerusalemAlexandria �

MAP 6.1 The Expansion of the Roman Empire, 30 B.C.E.–117 C.E. When Octavian (the future Augustus) captured Egypt in 30 B.C.E. after the suicides of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, he greatly boosted Rome’s economic strength. The land produced enormous amounts of grain and gold, and Roman power now almost encircled the Mediterranean Sea. When the emperor Trajan took over the southern part of Mesopotamia in 114–117 C.E., imperial conquest reached its height; Rome’s control had never extended so far east. Egypt remained part of the empire until the Arab conquest in 642 C.E., but Mesopotamia was immediately abandoned by Hadrian, Trajan’s successor, probably because it seemed too distant to defend. ■ How did territorial expansion both strengthen and weaken the Roman Empire?

barbarians to the north and Persians to the east. The Pax Romana supported the Golden Age’s pros- perity and promoted long-distance trade for lux- ury goods, such as spices and silk, from as far away as India and China.

The army, which included both Romans and noncitizens from the provinces, reflected the pop- ulation’s diversity. Serving under Roman officers, the non-Romans could learn to speak Latin and to practice Roman customs. Upon discharge, they re- ceived Roman citizenship. Thus, the army helped spread a common way of life.

Financing Government and Defense. Paying for imperial government became an insoluble prob- lem. In the past, foreign wars had brought in huge amounts of capital through booty and through prisoners of war sold into slavery. Conquered ter- ritory also provided additional tax revenues. Now the army was no longer making big conquests, but the soldiers had to be paid well to maintain disci- pline. As the army’s patrons, emperors at their ac- cession and other special occasions supplemented soldiers’ regular pay with substantial bonuses. These rewards made a soldier’s career desirable but cost the emperors dearly.

A tax on agriculture in the provinces (Italy was exempt) now provided the principal source of rev- enue for the imperial government and the army. The administration itself required relatively little money because it was small compared with the size of the territory being governed: no more than sev- eral hundred top officials governed a population of about fifty million. Most locally collected taxes stayed in the provinces for expenditures there, es- pecially legionnaires’ pay. Senatorial and eques- trian governors with small staffs ran the provinces, which eventually numbered about forty. In Rome, the emperor employed a large staff of freedmen and slaves, while equestrian officials called prefects managed the city.

The government’s finances depended on tax collection carried out by provincial elites. Serving as decurions (municipal senate members), these wealthy men were required personally to guaran- tee that their area’s financial responsibilities were met. If there was a shortfall in tax collection or lo- cal finances, the decurions had to make up the dif- ference from their own pockets. Wise emperors kept taxes moderate. As Tiberius put it when re- fusing a request for tax increases from provincial governors, “I want you to shear my sheep, not skin

them alive.” The financial liability could make holding civic office expensive, but the accompany- ing prestige made the elite willing to take the risk. Some decurions received priesthoods in the impe- rial cult as a reward, an honor open to both men and women.

The system worked because it observed tradi- tion: the local elites were their communities’ pa- trons and the emperor’s clients. As long as there were enough rich, public-spirited provincials par- ticipating, the principate functioned by fostering the republican ideal of communal values.

The Impact of Roman Culture on the Provinces. The provinces contained diverse peoples who spoke different languages, observed different cus- toms, dressed differently, and worshipped differ- ent divinities (Map 6.2). In the countryside, Roman conquest only lightly affected local cus- toms. Where new towns sprang up around Roman forts or settlements of army veterans, Roman in- fluence prevailed. Modern cities such as Trier and Cologne, in Germany, started as such towns. Ro- man culture had the greatest effect on western Europe, permanently rooting Latin (and the languages that would emerge from it) as well as Roman law and customs there. Over time, social and cultural distinctions lessened between the provinces and Italy. Eventually, emperors came from citizen-families in the provinces; Trajan, from Spain, was the first.

Romanization, as historians call the spread of Roman law and culture in the provinces, raised the standard of living for many by providing roads and bridges, increasing trade, and establishing peace- ful conditions for agriculture. The army’s need for supplies created business for farmers and mer- chants. The prosperity that provincials enjoyed under Roman rule made Romanization accept- able. In addition, Romanization was not a one-way street. In western regions as diverse as Gaul, Britain, and North Africa, interaction between the local people and Romans produced new, mixed cultural traditions, especially in religion and art. Therefore, the process led to a gradual merging of Roman and local culture, not the unilateral impo- sition of the conquerors’ way of life. (See Roman Architecture in North Africa on page 179.)

Romanization affected the eastern provinces less, and they largely retained their Greek and Near Eastern character. Huge Hellenistic cities such as Alexandria (in Egypt) and Antioch (in Syria)

Maintaining the Pa x Romana 17744 b.c .e .–284 c .e .

decurions (dih KYUR ee uhns): Municipal senate members in the Roman Empire responsible for collecting local taxes.

Romanization: The spread of Roman law and culture in the provinces of the Roman Empire.

rivaled Rome in size and splendor. The eastern provincial elites readily accepted Roman gover- nance because Hellenistic royal traditions had pre- pared them to see the emperor as their patron and themselves as his clients.

New Trends in Literature. The continuing vital- ity of Greek language and culture contributed to a flourishing of Roman literature. New trends, often harking back to classical literature, blos-

somed. Lucian (c. 117–180 C.E.) composed satirical dialogues fiercely mocking stuffy and superstitious people. The essayist and philosopher Plutarch (c. 50–120 C.E.) wrote Parallel Lives, biographies of matching Greek and Roman men. His exciting sto- ries made him favorite reading for centuries; William Shakespeare (1564–1616) based several plays on Plutarch’s work.

So vigorous was the growth of Latin literature that scholars rank the late first and early to mid-

178 Chapter 6 ■ The Roman Empire 44 b.c .e .–284 c .e .

0 250 500 kilometers

0 250 500 miles

Main division between Latin and Greek as predominant language of government and commerce

Regional language

Northern limit of vine growing (for wine)

Northern limit of olive growing

Northern limit of date palm growing

Open desert

Distribution of cities





Black Sea


R ed


M e d i t e r r a n e a n S e a

Danube R.

North Sea Ba

lti c S


R hô

n e

R .

Rhine R


N ile
















































MAP 6.2 Natural Features and Languages of the Roman World The environment of the Roman world included a large variety of topography, climate, and languages. The inhabitants of the Roman Empire, estimated to have numbered as many as fifty million, spoke dozens of different tongues, many of which survived well into the late empire. The two predominant languages were Latin in the western part of the empire and Greek in the eastern. Latin remained the language of law even in the eastern empire. Vineyards and olive groves were important agricultural resources because wine was regarded as an essential beverage, and olive oil was the principal source of fat for most people as well as being used to make soap, perfume, and other products for daily life. Dates and figs were popular sweets in the Roman world, which had no sugar.

second centuries C.E. as the Silver Age of Latin lit- erature, second only to the Augustan Golden Age. Tacitus (c. 56–120 C.E.) composed historical works that exposed the Julio-Claudian emperors’ ruth- lessness. Juvenal (c. 65–130 C.E.) wrote poems mocking pretentious Romans while bemoaning the indignities of living broke in the capital. Apuleius (c. 125–170 C.E.) excited readers with his Golden Ass, a sexually explicit novel about a man turned into a donkey who regains his body and his soul through the kindness of the Egyptian god- dess Isis.

Law and Order through Equity. Romans prided themselves on their ability to order their society through law. As Virgil said, their divine mission was “to establish law and order within a frame- work of peace.” Roman law influenced most mod- ern European legal systems. It featured the principle of equity, which meant doing what was “good and fair” even if that meant ignoring the let- ter of the law. This principle taught that the intent in a contract outweighed its words, and that ac- cusers should prove the accused guilty because it

was unfair to make defendants prove their inno- cence. The emperor Trajan ruled that no one should be convicted on the grounds of suspicion alone because it was better for a guilty person to go unpunished than for an innocent person to be condemned. (See “Contrasting Views,” page 186.)

The Roman notion of hierarchy required for- mal distinctions in society. The elites constituted a tiny portion of the population. Only about one in every fifty thousand had enough money to qual- ify for the senatorial order, the highest-ranking class, while about one in a thousand belonged to the equestrian order, the second-ranking class. Different purple stripes on clothing identified these orders. The third highest order consisted of decurions, the local senate members in provincial towns.

Republican law had made a legal distinction between “better people” and “humbler people” that became even stricter under the principate. “Better people” included senators, equites, decuri- ons, and retired army veterans. Everybody else — except slaves, who counted as property, not people — made up the vastly larger group of

Maintaining the Pa x Romana 17944 b.c .e .–284 c .e .

Roman Architecture in North Africa The Roman town of Thysdrus (today El Djem in Tunisia) built this amphitheater for public entertainment in the early third century C.E. Seating thirty-two thousand spectators (more than the town’s total population), it imitated the larger Colosseum in Rome and was the seventh biggest such building in the empire. Its arched walls soared more than a hundred feet high, and storerooms under the arena floor had three elevators to lift wild animals to the surface. Thysdrus also had a track for chariot racing and a smaller amphitheater. (© Erich Lessing/ Art Resource, NY.)

“humbler people.” The law imposed harsher penal- ties on them than on “better people” for the same crime. “Humbler people” convicted of capital crimes were regularly executed by being crucified or torn apart by wild animals before a crowd of spectators. “Better people” rarely suffered the death penalty; if they did, they received a quicker and more dignified execution by the sword.“Hum- bler people” could also be tortured in criminal in- vestigations, even if they were citizens. Romans regarded these differences as fair on the grounds that an elite person’s higher status required of him or her a higher level of responsibility for the com- mon good. As one provincial governor expressed it, “Nothing is less equitable than mere equality it- self.”

Reproduction and Marriage. Nothing mattered more to the empire’s strength than steady popula- tion levels. Concern about reproduction filled Ro- man society. The upper-class government official Pliny, for example, sent the following report to the

grandfather of his third wife, Calpurnia: “You will be very sad to learn that your granddaughter has suffered a miscarriage. She is a young girl and did not realize she was pregnant. As a result she was more active than she should have been and paid a high price.”

Complications in childbirth could easily lead to the mother’s death because doctors could not stop internal bleeding or cure infections. They pos- sessed sturdy instruments for surgery and physi- cal examinations, but they misunderstood the biology of reproduction. Gynecologists erro- neously recommended the days just after menstru- ation as the best time to become pregnant, when the woman’s body was “not congested.” Many doc- tors were freedmen from the provinces, usually with only informal training. People considered their occupation of low status, unless they served the upper class.

As in earlier times, girls often wed in their early teens, to have as many years as possible to bear children. Wealthy women hired wet nurses to breastfeed their babies. Because so many babies died young, families had to produce numerous off- spring to keep from disappearing. The tombstone of Veturia, a soldier’s wife married at eleven, tells a typical story: “Here I lie, having lived for twenty- seven years. I was married to the same man for sixteen years and bore six children, five of whom died before I did.” The propertied classes usually arranged marriages between spouses who hardly knew each other, although husband and wife could grow to love each other in a partnership devoted to family.

The emphasis on childbearing brought many health hazards to women, but to remain single and childless represented social failure for women and men. When Romans wanted to control family size, they practiced contraception by obstructing the female organs or by administering drugs to the female partner, or they abandoned unwanted in- fants.

The emperors tried to support reproduction. They aided needy children to encourage larger families. Following the emperors’ lead, wealthy people often adopted children in their communi- ties. One North African man supported three hun- dred boys and three hundred girls each year until they grew up.

Review: In the early Roman Empire, what was life like in the cities and in the country for the elite and for ordinary people?

180 Chapter 6 ■ The Roman Empire 44 b.c .e .–284 c .e .

Midwife’s Sign Childbirth was dangerous for women because of possible death from infection or internal hemorrhage. This terra-cotta sign from Ostia, the ancient port city of Rome, probably hung outside a midwife’s room to announce her expertise in helping women give birth. It shows a pregnant woman clutching the sides of her chair, with an assistant supporting her from behind and the midwife crouched in front to help deliver the baby. Why do you think the woman is seated for delivery instead of lying down? Such signs were especially effective for people who were illiterate; a person did not have to read to understand the services that the specialist inside could provide. (Scala / Art Resource, NY.)

The Emergence of Christianity Christianity began as what scholars call “the Jesus Movement,” a Jewish splinter group in Judaea, where, as elsewhere under Roman rule, Jews were allowed to practice their ancestral religion. The new faith was slow to attract believers; three cen- turies after the death of Jesus, Christians were still a minority. Moreover, from time to time they aroused official suspicion and hostility. The new religion grew, if slowly, because it had an appeal based on Jesus’s charismatic career, its message of salvation, its early believers’ sense of mission, and the strong bonds of community it inspired. Ulti- mately, Christianity’s emergence proved the most significant development in Roman history.

Jesus and His Teachings Jesus (c. 4 B.C.E.–30 C.E.) grew up in a troubled re- gion. Harsh Roman rule in Judaea had angered the Jews, and the provincial authorities worried about rebellion. Jesus’s execution reflected the Roman policy of eliminating any threat to social order. In the two decades after his crucifixion, his followers, particularly Paul of Tarsus, spread his teachings be- yond his region’s Jewish community to the wider Roman world.

Jewish Apocalypticism and Christianity. Chris- tianity offered an answer to a difficult question about divine justice raised by the Jews’ long his- tory of oppression under the kingdoms of the an- cient and Hellenistic Near East: If God was just, as Hebrew monotheism taught, how could he allow the wicked to prosper and the righteous to suffer? Nearly two hundred years before Jesus’s birth, per- secution by the Seleucid king Antiochus IV (r. 175–164 B.C.E.) had provoked the Jews into revolt, a struggle that generated the concept of apocalypticism (see Chapter 2, page 41). Accord- ing to this doctrine, evil powers controlled the world, but God would end their rule by sending the Messiah (“anointed one,” Mashiach in Hebrew, Christ in Greek) to conquer them. A final judg- ment would soon follow, punishing the wicked and rewarding the righteous for eternity. Apoca- lypticism especially influenced the Jews living in Judaea under Roman rule and later inspired Chris- tians and Muslims.

During Jesus’s life, Jews disagreed among themselves about what form Judaism should take in such troubled times. Some favored accommo- dation with the Romans, while others preached re- jection of the non-Jewish world and its spiritual corruption. Their local ruler, installed by the Ro- mans, was Herod the Great (r. 37–4 B.C.E.). His Greek style of life, flouting Jewish law, made him unpopular with many locals, despite his magnifi- cent rebuilding of the great Jewish temple in Jerusalem. When a decade of unrest followed Herod’s death, Augustus installed a Roman admin- istration to stop the trouble. Judaea had thus turned into a powder keg by Jesus’s lifetime.

The Life and Ministry of Jesus. Jesus began his career as a teacher and healer during the reign of Tiberius. The books that would later become the New Testament Gospels, composed around 70 to 90 C.E., offer the earliest accounts of his life. Jesus wrote nothing down, and others’ accounts of his words and deeds are varied. He taught not through direct in- struction but by telling stories and parables that challenged his followers to reflect on what he meant.

Jesus’s public ministry be- gan with his baptism by John the Baptist, who preached a message of repentance before the approaching final judg- ment. The Jewish ruler Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great, executed John because he feared that John’s apocalyptic preaching might instigate riots. After John’s death, Jesus continued his mission by trav- eling around Judaea’s countryside teaching that God’s kingdom was coming and that those who heard him needed to prepare spiritually for it. Some saw Jesus as the Messiah, but his apocalyp- ticism did not call for immediate revolt against the Romans. Instead, he taught that God’s true king- dom was to be found not on earth but in heaven. He stressed that this kingdom was open to believ- ers regardless of their social status or apparent sin- fulness. His emphasis on God’s love for humanity and people’s responsibility to love one another re- flected Jewish religious teachings, such as the scrip- tural interpretations and moral teachings of the scholar Hillel, who lived in the time of Jesus.

Realizing that he had to reach more than coun- try people to make an impact, Jesus took his mes- sage to the Jewish population of Jerusalem, the region’s main city. His miraculous healings and ex-

The Emergence of Christianity 18144 b.c .e .–284 c .e .

Christ: Greek for “anointed one,” in Hebrew Mashiach or in English Messiah; in apocalyptic thought, God’s agent sent to conquer the forces of evil.

0 100 kilometers50

0 100 miles50 Desert

M ed

it er

ra ne

an Se


Jo rd

an R


Sea of Galilee

Dead Sea







Palestine in the Time of Jesus, 30 C.E.

orcisms, combined with his powerful preaching, created a sensation. So popular was he that his fol- lowers created the Jesus movement; it was not yet Christianity but rather a Jewish sect, of which there were several, such as the Saduccees and Pharisees, competing for authority at the time. Jesus attracted the attention of Jewish leaders, who assumed that he aspired to replace them. Fearing Jesus might ignite a Jewish revolt, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate ordered his crucifixion in Jerusalem in 30 C.E.

The Mission of Paul of Tarsus. Jesus’s followers reported that they had seen him in person after his death, proclaiming that God had raised him from the dead. They convinced a few other Jews that he would soon return to judge the world and begin God’s kingdom. At this time, his closest disciples, the twelve Apostles (Greek for “messengers”), still considered themselves faithful Jews and continued to follow the commandments of Jewish law. Their leader was Peter, who won acclaim as the greatest miracle worker of the Apostles, an ambassador to Jews interested in the Jesus movement, and the most important messenger proclaiming Jesus’s teachings in the imperial capital; the later Christ- ian church called him the first bishop of Rome.

A radical change took place with the conver- sion of Paul of Tarsus (c. 10–65 C.E.), a pious Jew and a Roman citizen who had violently opposed Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah. A spiri- tual vision on the road to Damascus in Syria, which Paul interpreted as a divine revelation, in- spired him to become a follower of Jesus as the Messiah, or Christ — a Christian, as members of the movement came to be known. Paul taught that accepting Jesus as divine and his crucifixion as the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of humanity was the only way of becoming righteous in the eyes of God. In this way alone could one expect to attain salva- tion in the world to come.

Seeking converts outside Judaea, Paul traveled to preach to Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) who had adopted some Jewish practices in Asia Minor (to- day Turkey), Syria, and Greece. Although he stressed the necessity of ethical behavior as defined by Jewish tradition, especially the rejection of sex- ual immorality and polytheism, Paul also taught that converts need not keep all the provisions of Jewish law. To make conversion easier, he did not require male converts to undergo the Jewish initi- ation rite of circumcision. This tenet and his teach- ings that his congregations did not have to observe Jewish dietary restrictions or festivals led to ten- sions with Jewish authorities in Jerusalem as well as with the followers of Jesus living there, who still

believed that Christians had to follow Jewish law. Roman authorities arrested Paul as a trouble- maker, and he was executed in about 65 C.E.

Hatred of Roman rule provoked Jews to revolt in 66 C.E. After crushing the rebels in 70 C.E., the Roman emperor Titus destroyed the Jerusalem temple and sold most of the city’s population into slavery. In the aftermath of this catastrophe, Chris- tianity began to be separated from Judaism, giving birth to a different religion now that the Jewish community had lost its religious center.

Paul’s importance in early Christianity shows in the number of letters — thirteen — attributed to him among the twenty-seven Christian writings that were put together as the New Testament by around 200 C.E. Followers of Jesus regarded the New Testament as having equal authority with the Jewish Bible, which they then called the Old Tes- tament. Since teachers like Paul preached mainly in the cities to reach large crowds, congregations of Christians sprang up in urban areas. In early Christianity, women in some locations could be leaders, such as Lydia, a businesswoman who founded the congregation in Philippi in Greece, but many men, such as Paul, opposed women’s leadership.

Growth of a New Religion Christianity faced serious obstacles as a new reli- gion. Imperial officials, suspecting Christians such as Vibia Perpetua of being traitors, could prose- cute them for refusing to perform traditional sacrifices. Christian leaders had to build an organ- ization from scratch to administer their growing congregations. Finally, Christians had to settle the dispute over a leadership role for women.

The Rise of Persecution and Martyrdom. The Roman emperors found Christians baffling and troublesome. Unlike Jews, Christians professed a new faith rather than their ancestors’ traditional religion; Roman law therefore granted them no special treatment. Most Romans feared that Chris- tians’ denial of the old gods and the imperial cult would provoke divine retribution. Christians’ se- cret rituals led to accusations of cannibalism and sexual promiscuity because they symbolically ate the body and drank the blood of Jesus during com- munal dinners, called Love Feasts, which men and women attended together.

Not surprisingly, Romans were quick to blame Christians for disasters. Following Rome’s great fire in 64 C.E., Nero punished Christians as arson- ists by draping them in wild animal skins to be

182 Chapter 6 ■ The Roman Empire 44 b.c .e .–284 c .e .

torn to bits by dogs, or fastened to crosses and set on fire to light the streets at night. The cruelty of Nero’s punishments earned Christians sympathy from Rome’s population.

Persecutions like Nero’s were infrequent and sporadic. No law forbade Christianity, but officials could punish Christians, as they could other citi- zens, to maintain public order. Pliny’s actions as a provincial governor in Asia Minor illustrated the situation. (See “Contrasting Views,” page 186.) In about 112 C.E., Pliny asked some people accused of practicing this new religion if they were really Christians and urged those who confessed to re- consider. He freed those who denied Christianity, so long as they sacrificed to the gods, vowed loy- alty through the imperial cult, and cursed Christ. He executed those who persisted in their faith. Ad- vocates of Christianity argued that Romans had nothing to fear from their faith. Far from spread- ing immorality and subversion, they insisted, Christianity taught an elevated moral code and re- spect for authority. It was not a foreign supersti- tion but the true philosophy, combining the best features of Judaism and Greek rational thought.

The sporadic persecutions of the early empire did not stop Christianity. Christians like Perpetua regarded public executions as an opportunity to become a martyr (Greek for “witness”), someone

who dies for his or her religious faith. Martyrs’ be- lief that their deaths would send them directly to paradise allowed them to face torture; some Chris- tians actively sought martyrdom. Tertullian (c. 160–240 C.E.) proclaimed that “martyrs’ blood is the seed of the Church.” Ignatius (c. 35–107 C.E.), bishop of Antioch, begged Rome’s congrega- tion, which was becoming the most prominent Christian group, not to ask the emperor to show him mercy after his arrest: “Let me be food for the wild animals [in the arena] through whom I can reach God,” he pleaded. “I am God’s wheat, to be ground up by the teeth of beasts so that I may be found pure bread of Christ.” Stories reporting the martyrs’ courage inspired the faithful to accept hostility from non-Christians and helped shape the new religion as a creed that gave its believers the spiritual power to endure suffering.

Bishops and Christian Hierarchy. First-century C.E. Christians expected Jesus to return to pass judgment on the world during their lifetimes. When he did not, they began transforming their religion from an apocalyptic Jewish sect expecting the immediate end of the world into one that could survive indefinitely. This transformation was painful because early Christians fiercely disagreed about what they should believe, how they should live, and who had the authority to decide these questions. Some insisted Christians should with- draw from the everyday world to escape its evil,

The Emergence of Christianity 18344 b.c .e .–284 c .e .

Catacomb Painting of Christ as the Good Shepherd Catacombs (underground tombs), cut into soft rock outside various cities of the Roman Empire, served as meeting rooms and vast underground burial chambers for Jews and Christians. Rome alone had 340 miles of catacombs. Painted in the third century C.E. on the wall of a Christian catacomb just outside Rome, this fresco depicts Jesus as the Good Shepherd ( John 10:10–11). In addition to the tired or injured sheep, Jesus carries a pot of milk and perhaps honey, which new Christians received after their baptism as a symbol of their entry into the Promised Land of the Hebrew Bible. Such catacomb paintings were the earliest Christian art. (Scala/ Art Resource, NY.)

martyr: Greek for “witness,” the term for someone who dies for his or her religious beliefs.

abandoning their families and shunning sex and reproduction. Others believed they could live by Christ’s teachings while living ordinary lives. Many Christians worried they could not serve as soldiers without betraying their faith because the army participated in the imperial cult. This dilemma raised the further issue of whether Christians could remain loyal subjects of the emperor. Dis- agreement over these doctrinal questions raged in the many congregations that arose in the early em- pire around the Mediterranean, from Gaul to Africa to the Near East (Map 6.3).

The need to deal with such tensions and to ad- minister the congregations led Christians to create a hierarchical organization, headed by bishops with authority to define Christian doctrine and regulate congregations. The emergence of bishops became the most important institutional develop- ment in early Christianity. Bishops received their positions based on the principle later called apos- tolic succession, which states that the Apostles ap- pointed the first bishops as their successors, granting these new officials the authority Jesus had originally given to the Apostles. Those designated by the Apostles in turn appointed their own suc- cessors. Bishops had authority to ordain priests with the holy power to administer the sacraments, above all baptism and communion, which believ-

ers regarded as necessary for achieving eternal life. Bishops also controlled their congregations’ mem- berships and finances; the money financing the early church flowed from members’ gifts.

The bishops tried to suppress the disagree- ments splintering the new religion. They claimed the authority to define orthodoxy (true doctrine) and heresy (false doctrine). The meetings of the bishops of different cities constituted the church’s organization in this period. Today it is common to refer to this loose organization as the early Catholic (Greek for “universal”) church. Since the bishops themselves often disagreed about doc- trine, unity remained an unachieved goal.

Women in the Church. When bishops came to power, they demoted women from positions of leadership. This change reflected their view that in Christianity women should be subordinate to men, just as in Roman imperial society in general.

Some congregations took a long time to ac- cept this shift, however, and women still claimed authority in some groups in the second and third centuries C.E. In late second-century C.E. Asia Mi- nor, for example, Prisca and Maximilla declared themselves prophetesses with the power to baptize believers in anticipation of the coming end of the

184 Chapter 6 ■ The Roman Empire 44 b.c .e .–284 c .e .

0 250 500 kilometers

0 250 500 miles




Christian majority

Strong Christian minority

Christian minority

Areas with few or no Christians

Borders of the Roman Empire

The missionary journeys of Paul of Tarsus, 46–62 C.E.

Black Sea


M e d i t e r r a n e a n S e a

Danube R.

North Sea

Adriatic Sea

Ba lti

c S ea

N ile


R hô

ne R


Loire R.









Crete Cyprus Syria





Carthage Athens AntiochSyracuse Tarsus


Philippi Naples


Jerusalem Caesarea Tyre


Cyrene �

� �

� �


MAP 6.3 Christian Populations in the Late Third Century C.E. Christians were still a minority in the Roman world three hundred years after Jesus’s crucifixion. Certain areas of the empire, however, especially Asia Minor, where Paul had preached, had a concentration of Christians. Most Christians lived in cities and towns, where the missionaries had gone to find crowds to hear their message. Paganus, a Latin word for “country person” or “rural villager,” came to mean a believer in traditional polytheistic cults—hence the word pagan often found in modern works on this period. Paganism lived on in rural areas for centuries.

apostolic (ah puh STAH lihk) succession: The principle by which Christian bishops traced their authority back to the apostles of Jesus.

orthodoxy: True doctrine; specifically, the beliefs defined for Christians by councils of bishops.

heresy: False doctrine; specifically, the beliefs banned for Chris- tians by councils of bishops.

world. They spread the apocalyptic message that the heavenly Jerusalem would soon descend in their region.

Excluded from leadership posts, many women chose a life without sex to demonstrate their de- votion to Christ. Their commitment to celibacy gave these women the power to control their own