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L2055

Greek Cities

The following are raw research notes on the development of Greek Cities during the Ancient Greek period.

 

Athens developed as small farming villages around a defended hilltop fortification. (9C)

Greek soil was not good for growing excess crops. The Greeks developed a stronggreece export industry of pottery, metal work and wine. (5C)

"A tremendous stimulus to this commerce was the invention of coinage, not only the use of metal as a stand of value, long familiar in the Middle and Near East, but the practice of stamping the pieces of metal officially, to guarantee not only their weight but their purity." (pg. 166) (5C)

Money allowed them to accumulate wealth on a greater scale. Now a trader did not have to trade for bulky goods which would need to be stored. Instead he could trade for coinage which is easily stored and accumulated. (5C)

The Near East cities were ruled from the top down. In Greece the assemblies, which were elected by the population is where the power was derived. There is no trace of a popular sovereign type of government before the Greeks.(5C) 

Most Greek cities were isolated geographically. Their growth came in the form of trade, especially sea born trade. (5C)

Athens had a large citadel on the Acropolis. It also had a meeting place and market known as the Agora. The Agora was the center of city life where all political, social and economic forms centered on. (5C)

Greeks developed colonies to expand their political as well as gain support for much needed surplus food supplies. A second way to extend influence was that of conquering other cities. (5C)

"The city was synonymous with civilization and in opposition to barbarity and chaos. Two of the accusations which Homer levels at the uncivilized Cyclopes were that they had no assemblies for making laws and that they had no sense of community beyond their immediate family. Both of these qualities were considered crucial for orderly urban life.  Thucydides equated urban life with stability, security and prosperity." (pg. 1) (10C)

"Furthermore, the city was the agency though which the Greco-Roman way of life was disseminated throughout the Mediterranean, Europe and the Near East." (pg. 1 )(10C)

"To the Greeks the polis needed not definition. The city was essentially a community of citizens sharing common political, religious and social traditions." (pg. 1) (10C)

"When after the sack of Athens, the Greek commanders met to decide where to oppose the Persian fleet, Themistocles argued vehemently that they should fight at Salamis and not at the Isthmus of Corinth. During the debate the Corinthian general, Adeimantos, tauntingly replied that a people without a city had no right to vote and even suggest that Themistocles should not participate in the discussion until he had regained his city. In reply Themistocles said that the Athenians had a far greater city than the Corinthians in two hundred fully manned warships." (pg. 2) (10C)

"When considering town planning it is usual to think in terms of the 'Hippodiamian’ grided cities which were a widespread feature of the Greaco-Roman world." (pg. 6) (10C)

Statement about Rome and Athens: "Both cities were characterized by cramped, overcrowded conditions.  The streets were narrow, insinuating themselves between irregular blocks of housed and public buildings. An ancient traveler to Athens was amazed that such a badly arranged city with its haphazard and irregular streets, its lack of water and its mean houses could be the most famous town in Greece." (pg. 11) (10C)

At times the irregular pattern of cities was an advantage during times of war. In Argos an attack was defeated when the attacker cavalry became disoriented and confused in the city's irregular street patterns. When the king called for support the additional troops added to the confusion and congestion and made it difficult to maneuver. The attacking king was killed and the attack failed even after it had breached the walls of the city's defenses. (10C)

"Undoubtedly the Near East remains the most likely area from which the Greeks developed regular town planning. Certainly there was a long, if not widespread, tradition of regular planning there." (pg. 31) (10C)

"By far the most important area of a Greek city was the Agora, which served as the political, religious, social and economic focal point of the community." (pg. 153) (10C)

Athens was also located in a geographic advantageous place. It had steep slopes to the north, east and south, allowing only the west to be a good side for an invading army to attempt to attack. There was available water and near by agricultural land which supported large olive groves. In the middle of the city was a fortified citadel, the Acropolis. (pg. 45)(14C)

Greek cities were for a good part of their history independent and competitive with each other. Athens won an unexpected battle against the Persians at Marathon. After that battle the Greeks realized that the Persian Empire would launch an all out attack on the peninsula so they formed an alliance to defeat these foreign invaders. In preparation Athens developed a very large war fleet to counter the Persian attack. The Athenians abandoned the city with the exception of a small suicidal force on the Acropolis for religious reasons. After defeating the Persians, first on water then on land, the Athenians returned to their city to rebuild. They rebuilt the city in much the same manor, not imposing a planned grid, but instead following the organic plan that had developed over the ages. (14C)

Athens, after its defeat by Sparta and consequential take over by Alexander The Great, stopped any major development and was put on the back burner of the empire’s plans. With the emergence of the Roman empire the city once again was in the lime light. Not with buildings, or in development but it became a center for learning. Many rich Roman aristocrats sent their children to Athens to be educated and it became a mecca for philosophical thought and education. (14C)

Greek cities benefited by a very close supply of marble to build it’s public buildings. In comparison, their private houses were very basic rudimentary structures. (8C)

"The supreme period in Athenian history is know as the Periclean Age, after their most famous leader, Pericles, who dominated the assembly from 461 to his death in 429. His policy made Athens the undisputed artistic center of Greece." (pg. 23) (8C)

Greeks were defeated in 338 by Philip II of Macedonia. His son Alexander The Great secured the Greek peninsula and then used the Greek concept of cities to try to expand his empire down into Egypt. Alexander included in all the new colonies which he developed an Agora and an Acropolis. (8C)

"A small state, about the size of Yorkshire of Connecticut, with a population of some 200,000 free men, made contributions to thought, literature, and the fine arts on an unprecedented scale with so sure a touch that much of it has never been replaced or surpassed." (pg. 10)(3C)

"The Social life was the real basis of Athenian Democracy and of its two great ideals, equal laws and free speech." (pg. 13)(3C)

Mycenae was one of the earliest major Greek cities. It was built on a hill top with good geographical defenses. To the South the hill was steep with a deep ravine for good protection. The city developed large walls to protect its more exposed Northern side. The city had natural spring water accessible from within the walls for times of trouble. (14C)