World History: Journey Across Time

Chapter 4: The Ancient Greeks

Chapter Overviews

Greece's geography played a major role in the lives of the Greeks. The mountains, climate, and seas determined where people settled and what they did. The geography shaped Greece's government as well, dividing the people into distinct communities. The concept of citizenship was developed by the Greeks. The citizens ran the city-states, and people could meet and debate issues at the agora. Greek citizens could also choose officials, pass laws, vote, and hold public office. In exchange for these rights, Greek citizens were required to serve in government and fight as soldiers.

With the support of Greece's common people, tyrants were able to seize power from the nobles. The majority of the city-states replaced tyrants with new forms of government. Athens established a democracy and Sparta formed an oligarchy.

Cyrus the Great united the Persians and built the largest empire the world has ever seen. Persia paid men to be full-time soldiers, and as a result, its army was very impressive. Beginning around 490 B.C. the Persians and the Greek city-states battled over control of Greece. Sparta and Athens worked together to defeat the Persians. The Persian Empire was conquered by Alexander the Great in 334 B.C.

The Athenian democratic system was a direct democracy. Under the leadership of Pericles, the Athenian government became more democratic and Athens became a powerful figure in Greece. Athens grew wealthy from trade and the other city-states became suspicious. In 431 B.C. Athens went to war with Sparta and the other city-states for control of Greece. Sparta defeated Athens in the Peloponnesian War with the help of Persia.

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