World History: Journey Across Time

Chapter 5: Greek Civilization

Chapter Overviews

The Greeks believed that their lives and the natural world were under the control of a number of gods and goddesses. Greeks built temples and performed rituals in honor of these gods. For hundreds of years, Westerners have used Greek literature as the model for their own writings. The earliest of these stories were epics. Aesop's fables are still used today to teach lessons about persistence and patience. Greek playwrights developed two kinds of drama—tragedies and comedies. Greek art and architecture expressed the concepts of harmony and beauty.

Greek philosophy led to the study of history, political science, science, and mathematics. Greek thinkers called philosophers developed ideas that are still used today. A traveling group of professional teachers called Sophists taught the art of public speaking and debate. Socrates was an Athenian sculptor and philosopher who invented the Socratic method. Both Plato's and Aristotle's ideas about politics impacted Western governments.

Philip II of Macedonia planned to conquer the Persian Empire. His strategy included uniting the Greek city-states. His son, Alexander the Great, accomplished his father's goal when he defeated the Persian Empire in the 330s B.C. Alexander planned to unite the Macedonians, Greeks, and Persians in his new empire, but he died unexpectedly and his empire was divided into four kingdoms: Macedonia, Egypt, Pergamum, and the Seleucid Empire. Alexander the Great left behind a legacy of courage. His conquests of southwest Asia marked the beginning of the Hellenistic Era. Alexander and his armies spread Greek culture throughout southwest Asia and northern Africa.

Hellenistic cities became centers of learning and culture as scientists, writers, philosophers, and architects moved to these lands of opportunity. The philosophies of Epicureanism and Stoicism emerged. Greek astronomers and mathematicians made important discoveries during this era. Archimedes was the most important scientist of the Hellenistic Era. In addition to determining the value of pi, he used solid geometry to invent catapults and levers.

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