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HOW DO WE BEST DEFINE ANCIENT GREECE?
ANCIENT GREEK GOVERNMENT SYSTEMS
Read the following primary source documents using the critical reading method that was taught during the introductory unit and then answer
the questions that follow each document. As you read this source, remember to: Circle words you do not understand. Underline sections
that are unclear. Periodically make notations in the margin that summarizes what you have just read. Write the question number (from
the previous exercise) next to where you found the answer in the text (the number can be placed in the sentence or after it). You MUST write
your answers on a separate sheet of paper.
The Funeral Oration of Pericles (431 BCE)
Our constitution is called a democracy because the power is in the
hands not of a minority but of the whole people. When it is a question
of settling private disputes, everyone is equal before the law; when it is
a question of putting one person before another in position of public
responsibility, what counts is not membership of a particular class, but
the actual ability which the man possesses. No one, so long as he has
it in him to be of service to the state, is kept in political obscurity
because of poverty. And, just as our political life is free and open so is
our day-to-day life in our relations with each other. We do not get
into a state with our next door neighbor if he enjoys himself in his
own way, nor do we give him the kind of blank looks which though do
no real harm, still do hurt people’s feelings. We are free and tolerant
in our private lives; but in public affairs we keep to the law. This is
because it commands our deep respect.
We give our obedience to those whom we put in positions of
authority, and we obey the laws themselves, especially those which are
for the protection of the oppressed, and those unwritten laws which it
is an acknowledged shame to break. Here each individual in interested
not only in his own affairs but in the affairs of the state as well; even
those who are mostly occupied with the affairs of their own business
are extremely well informed on general politics- this is a peculiarity of
ours: we do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics is a
man who minds his own business; we say that he has business here at
all. We Athenians, in our own persons take our decisions on polity or
submit them to proper discussions: for we do not think there is an
incompatibility between words and deeds; the worst thing is to rush
into action before the consequences have been properly debated…
1. Explain how this document describes the following aspects of Athenian life and democracy:
a. Political Power
b. Requirements for public office
2. What does the following quote mean, “this is a peculiarity of ours: we do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics is a man
who minds his own business; we say that he has no business here at all”?
Aristotle: On the Lacedaemonian Constitution (340 BCE)
At Sparta everyone is eligible, and the body of the people, having a
share in the highest office, want the constitution to be permanent.
Some, indeed, say that the best constitution is a combination of all
existing forms, and they praise the Lacedaemonian because it is made
up of oligarchy, monarchy, and democracy, the king forming the
monarchy, and the council of elders the oligarchy while the
democratic element is represented by the Ephors; for the Ephors are
selected from the people. There is a tradition that, in the days of their
ancient kings, they were in the habit of giving the rights of citizenship
to strangers, and therefore, in spite of their long wars, no lack of
population was experienced by them; indeed, at one time Sparta is
said to have numbered not less than 10,000 citizens Whether this
statement is true or not, it would certainly have been better to have
maintained their numbers by the equalization of property. Again, the
law which relates to the procreation of children is adverse to the
correction of this inequality. For the legislator, wanting to have as
many Spartans as he could, encouraged the citizens to have large
families; and there is a law at Sparta that the father of three sons shall
be exempt from military service, and he who has four from all the
burdens of the state. Yet it is obvious that, if there were many
children, the land being distributed as it is, many of them must
necessarily fall into poverty…the Ephors are chosen from the whole
people, and so the office is apt to fall into the hands of very poor men,
who, being badly off, are open to bribes. The Ephoralty certainly does
keep the state together; for the people are contented when they have
a share in the highest office, and the result, whether due to the
legislator or to chance, has been advantageous.
1. Explain how this document described the following aspects of Spartan life and government:
b. Political Participation
2. Why might the Spartan government encourage families to produce multiple offspring and to allow so many other individuals to
gain citizenship to Sparta?
1. What are the similarities and differences in Athenian and Spartan government systems?
2. What title(s) could be used to define the time period of Ancient Greece based upon your study of ancient Greek governments?
HOW CAN WE BEST DEFINE ANCIENT GREECE?
HOW CAN THE SOCIAL CLASSES OF ANCIENT GREECE DEFINE THE TIME PERIOD?
As you read these sources, remember to : Circle words you do not understand. Underline sections that are unclear. Periodically make
notations in the margin that summarizes what you have just read.
Population of Athens
Women & children
Adult male citizens
Metics (resident aliens)
Approximately 8,000 Spartiates (adult male citizens) ruled over a population of 100,000
enslaved and semi-enslaved people.
Aristotle, On a Good (Athenian) Wife circa 330BCE
A good wife should be the mistress of her home, having under her care all that is within it,
according to the rules we have laid down. She should allow none to enter without her
husband’s knowledge, dreading above all things the gossip of gadding women, which tends to
poison the soul. She alone should have knowledge of what happens within. She must
exercise control of the money spent on such festivities as her husband has approved—
keeping, moreover, within the limit set by law upon expenditure, dress, and ornament—and
remembering that beauty depends not on costliness of raiment. Nor does abundance of gold
so conduce to the praise of a woman as self-control in all that she does. This, then, is the
province over which a woman should be minded to bear an orderly rule; for it seems not
fitting that a man should know all that passes within the house. But in all other matters, let it
be her aim to obey her husband; giving no heed to public affairs, nor having any part in arranging
the marriages of her children.
Excerpt from Plutarch’s Life of Lycurgus (King of Sparta)
First he toughened the girls physically by making them run and wrestle and throw the discus
and javelin. Thereby their children in embryo would make a strong start in strong bodies
and would develop better while the women themselves would also bear their pregnancies
with vigor and would meet the challenge of childbirth in a successful, relaxed way…As a
result the women came to talk as well as to think in a way that Leonidas’ wife Gorgo is said
to have done. For when some woman, evidently a foreigner, said to her “You Spartan
women are the only ones who can rule men,” she replied “That is because we are the only
ones who give birth to men.”
The citizen should be molded to suit the form of government under which he lives. The
customary branches of education are in number four; they are—(1) reading and writing, (2)
gymnastic exercises, (3) music, to which is sometimes added (4) drawing. Of these, reading
and writing and drawing are regarded as useful for the purposes of life in a variety of ways,
and gymnastic exercises are thought to infuse courage. Concerning music a doubt may be
raised.—in our own day most men cultivate it for the sake of pleasure, but originally it was
included in education, because nature herself, as has been often said, requires that we
should be able, not only to work well, but to use leisure well; for, what ought we to do
when at leisure? Clearly we ought not to be amusing ourselves, for then amusement would
be the end of life. But if this is inconceivable, we should introduce amusements only at
suitable times, and they should be our medicines, for the emotion which they create in the
soul is a relaxation, and from the pleasure we obtain rest…..
HOW CAN WE BEST DEFINE ANCIENT GREECE?
As you read these sources, remember to : Circle words you do not understand. Underline sections
that are unclear. Periodically make notations in the margin that summarizes what you have just read.
Aristotle on Slavery (Athens) c. 330 BCE
Is there any one intended by nature to be a slave, and for whom such a condition is
appropriate and right, or rather is not all slavery a violation of nature? There is no difficulty
in answering this question, on grounds both of reason and of fact. For that some should
rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but it is natural; from the hour of
their birth, some are marked out to be subjects, others to be rulers….Again, the male is by
nature superior, and the female inferior; and the one rules, and the other is ruled; this
principle, of necessity, extends to all mankind.
Xenophon, On Athens
Now as for slaves and metics in Athens, they live a most undisciplined life: one is not
permitted to strike them there and a slave will not stand out of the way for you there. Let
me explain why. If the law permitted a free man to strike a slave or a metic or a freedman,
he would often find that he had mistaken an Athenian for a slave and struck him, for, so far
as clothing and general appearance are concerned, the common people look just the same
as the slaves and the metics.
From Plutarch on Spartan Slavery
The helots were slaves whom the Dorians had conquered. They were owned by the state,
not by individuals, and they were ruthlessly oppressed by their Spartan masters.
Thucydides on Spartan Slavery
At the same time, the Spartans were glad to send out the helots to go to war, as they were
afraid, in the present state of affairs, that they might start a revolution. Also, on one
occasion, because they were afraid of the difficulties they could cause and their numbers,
they proclaimed that the helots should pick out all those who claimed to have done best
service to Sparta in their wars, implying that they would be freed, but they were actually
conducting a test, as they considered that those with spirit would turn against Sparta. So
they picked out about 2,000 who crowned themselves with garlands (and claimed to have
done the best service) and caused them to disappear and no one knows in what way any of
Red figure vase depicting a non- Greek, most
likely a Persian soldier
-circa 475 B.C.E.
“The origin of the term “barbarian” in Greek
is probably echoic (the product of repeating
another sound), the bar-bar as mimicry of what
a foreign and unintelligible language sounded
like. In ancient Greece, the word was used to
refer to anyone from a non-Hellenic culture.”
THE BATTLE OF THERMOPYLAE
[7.175] [As the Persian force approached Hellas] the Hellenes…consulted as to…how
they should make a stand for war, and in what places. And the opinion which won out
was that they should guard the pass at Thermopylae…
[7.176] ….At Thermopylae on the side towards evening [= the West] is a mountain,
impassable and very steep, an extension of Mt. Oita; and on the side of the road
towards the dawn there lies sea and shallows. (There are in this pass warm bathing
pools….) [The ruins of an old wall were also present at the pass. This enabled the
Hellenes to use the wall for cover and defense.]
[7.204] …[When the Hellenes gathered at Thermopylae, each contingent had its own
general] but the most highly regarded one, and the leader of the whole army, was the
Lacedaimian Leonidas son of Anaxandrides…[a descendant of] Herakles; and he was a
king in Sparta….
[7.207] …The Hellenes at Thermopylae, when the Persian was near the pass, grew
afraid and began discussing a withdrawal. Now to the other Peloponnesians it seemed
best to return to the Peloponnese and to hold that isthmus under guard. But Leonidas,
voted to remain there and to send messengers to the other poleis commanding them to
come and help, since the ones there were too few to ward off the army of the Persians.
[7.208] While they were discussing these things, Xerxes sent a scout, a mounted one,
to see how many they were and what they were doing. It happened that at that time
the Lacedaimians were stationed outside the wall and the scout saw some men
exercising naked and others combing their hair. Seeing these things he marveled, and
took note of their number; and when he had noted everything exactly he departed and
went back in. He told Xerxes all he had seen. When Xerxes heard it, he did not
understand; but to him they appeared to be doing laughable things….
Four whole days Xerxes suffered to go by, expecting that the Greeks would run away.
When, however, he found on the fifth that they were not gone, thinking that their firm
stand was mere impudence and recklessness, he grew wroth, and sent against them his
soldiers, with orders to take them alive and bring them into his presence. Then the
Persians rushed forward and charged the Greeks, but fell in vast numbers: others
however took the places of the slain, and would not be beaten off, though they suffered
terrible losses. In this way it became clear to all, and especially to the king, that though
he had plenty of combatants, he had but very few warriors. The struggle, however,
continued during the whole day.
Then the Persians, having met so rough a reception, withdrew from the fight; and their
place was taken by the band of Persians under Hydarnes, whom the king called his
“Immortals”: they, it was thought, would soon finish the business. But when they joined
battle with the Greeks, ’twas with no better success than the other detachment- things
went much as before- the two armies fighting in a narrow space, and the barbarians
using shorter spears than the Greeks, and having no advantage from their numbers. The
Lacedaimians fought in a way worthy of note, and showed themselves far more skilful in
fight than their adversaries, often turning their backs, and making as though they were all
flying away, on which the barbarians would rush after them with much noise and
shouting, when the Spartans at their approach would wheel round and face their
pursuers, in this way destroying vast numbers of the enemy. Some Spartans likewise fell
in these encounters, but only a very few. At last the Persians, finding that all their efforts
to gain the pass availed nothing, and that, whether they attacked by divisions or in any
other way, it was to no purpose, withdrew to their own quarters.
During these assaults, it is said that Xerxes, who was watching the battle, thrice leaped
from the throne on which he sate, in terror for his army.
Next day the combat was renewed, but with no better success on the part of the
barbarians. The Greeks were so few that the barbarians hoped to find them disabled, by
reason of their wounds, from offering any further resistance; and so they once more
attacked them. But, when the Persians found no difference between that day and the
preceding, they again retired to their quarters.
[7.219] [When the Persians were shown, by a traitor, a route around the pass], to the
Hellenes in Thermopylae first the prophet Megistes, when he had examined the
sacrificial offerings, said that there would come, together with the dawn, death; and after
that also came deserters who announced the Persian circumvention….Then the Hellenes
held council, and their opinions were divided, some holding that they should not leave
their station, others opposing this; and after that they divided themselves, some going
away and dispersing, turning back each to their own poleis, but others of them were
prepared to remain there with Leonidas.
[7.220] And it is said that Leonidas himself sent them away, caring lest they be
destroyed but for himself and the Spartans present not holding it as fitting that they
should leave that station which they had come to guard at first. For there was an oracle,
given by the Pythian [priestess at Delphi] to the Spartans when they asked about this
war just when it began—that either Lacedaimia would be destroyed by the barbaroi or a
king of theirs must die….It is my opinion that Leonidas considered this and wishing that
the Spartans alone [or, “that he alone of the Spartans”] should get the fame, he sent
away the allies….
[7.223] And the Hellenes with Leonidas, since it was to death that they were making
their march, now much further than at first went out into the wider part of the
pass….and then when they engaged the enemy outside the narrows there fell in a
multitude many of the barbaroi (for behind them the leaders of their companies with
whips kept striking every man, ever driving them forward). Many of them indeed fell into
the sea and perished, while many more still were trampled alive by each other; and
there was no reckoning of who was dying. For, because they knew that for them was
coming death at the hands of the men coming around the mountain, the Hellenes
exhibited as much strength as they possessed against the barbaroi and were
contemptuous [of death] and also reckless.
[7.224] The spears now of the most of them by this time had broken, but they used
their swords to slay the Persians. And Leonidas in that toil fell—a man become heroic—
and others with him, the most renowned of the Spartans
[7.228] And they were buried there in the very spot where they fell, and with them
those who had died before some had been by Leonidas sent away; and written over
them are letters saying the following:
Against three million, once, here fought
from the Peloponnese, four thousand.
This indeed is written over them all; but for the Spartans privately,
O stranger, announce to the Lacedaimians that here
we lie, to their words obedient.
WHAT TITLE CAN BEST BE USED TO DEFINE ANCIENT GREECE?
Critically read each of the following documents. Circle unfamiliar words. Underline confusing phrases. Periodically take notes in the margins.
When you are finished with the documents, answer the questions that appear at the bottom of the second page. You will use the evidence
that you have gathered to complete an analysis activity that will help prepare you for your upcoming unit exam.
DOCUMENT 1 NOTES
A Comparison of Athens & Sparta (Thucydides)
If the Spartans’ city were to become deserted, and only the temples and
foundations of buildings were left, I think that the people of that time far in
the future would find it difficult to believe that the Spartans’ power had
been as great as their fame implied and yet they inhabit two-fifths of the
Peloponnese, and are in command of all of it as well as of many allies
outside it; nevertheless, it has not been synoecized (united) into a city, nor
does it possess costly temples and buildings, but consists of a number of
villages in the early Greek manner, and would seem an inferior place,
whereas if the same thing were to happen to Athens, from its visible
remains one would assume that the city had been twice as powerful as it
DOCUMENT 2 NOTES
Excerpt from Ancient Greece; A Political, Social, and Cultural History
In Athens, there was no respectable alternative for girls other than
marriage. The obligation to dower (provide a dowry; a cash settlement
provided to a groom) each daughter was a prime motivator in female
infanticide. Though the eldest child was normally raised regardless of its
gender, some historians have estimated that as many as 20% of newborn
Athenian girls were abandoned in places like the local garbage dump.
DOCUMENT 3 NOTES
Excerpt from Ancient Greece; A Political, Social, and Cultural History
Whereas other Greek city states left the choice to the father, at Sparta
officials appointed by the government examined the newborns. The vitality
of male infants and their potential as soldiers determined whether they
would be raised, or abandoned in a place near Mount Taygetus designated
for that purpose.
DOCUMENT 4 NOTES
A Spartan Poem by Tyrtaeus
Here is a man who proves himself to be valiant in war. With a sudden rush
he turns to flight the rugged battalions of the enemy, and sustains the
beating waves of assault. And he who so falls among the champions and
loses his sweet life, so blessing with honor his city, his father, and all his
people. With wounds in his chest, where the spear that he was facing has
transfixed. Such a man is lamented alike by the young and the elders, and all
his city goes into mourning and grieves for his loss.
DOCUMENT 5 NOTES
Excerpt from Ancient Greece; A Political, Social, and Cultural History
“Spartans themselves were permitted to use only iron money. These small
bars or “spits” made of iron had originally been used throughout Greece
before the invention of coinage. Because iron was no longer used as
currency in any other city state, Spartans were unable to trade for luxury
goods and forced to live off the meager resources that the region of
Laconia offered them.”
DOCUMENT 6 NOTES
Pericles, an Athenian leader
“Furthermore, wealth is for us something to use, not something to brag
about. And as to poverty, there is no shame in admitting to it – the real
shame is in not taking action to escape from it.”
DOCUMENT 7 NOTES
Excerpt from Ancient Greece; A Political, Social, and Cultural History
Athenian commerce especially was driven largely by the need for grain to
feed a large population. Grain might come from north or south. One
crucial source was the Black Sea region, which also provided hides, cattle,
fish, hemp, wax, chestnuts, iron, and slaves. For this the Athenians
exchanged wine and oil, sometimes in decorated vases.
DOCUMENT 8 NOTES
Plutarch’s Sayings of Spartan Women
A Spartan mother burying her son, Plutarch reports received condolences
from an old woman who commented on her bad luck. “No, by the
heavens,” the mother replied, “but rather good luck, for I bore him so that
he could die for Sparta, and this is precisely what has happened.” Another
woman, seeing her son come toward her after a battle and hearing from
him that everyone else had died, picked up a tile, and hurling it at him,
struck him dead, saying “and so they sent you to tell us the bad news?”
EXAMPLES OF SPARTAN
EXAMPLES OF GREEK
EXAMPLES OF ATHENIAN
Excerpts From “Allegory of the Cave”
From Plato’s Republic
An allegory is a figurative mode of conveying meaning; it is a story which compares events to something similar but unstated. It is up
to the reader to interpret the true meaning that the author is trying to convey.
The “Allegory of the Cave” was recorded by the Greek philosopher, Plato. In the “Allegory of the Cave” the Greek philosopher
Socrates is having a conversation with a fellow Greek named Glaucon. Critically read the story and complete the activities and
questions which follow.
Socrates- And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened:
Behold! human beings living in a underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and
reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks
chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from
turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and
the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the
screen which marionette
players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.
Glaucon- I see.
S- And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures
of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are
talking, others silent.
G- You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners.
S- Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which
the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave?
G- True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their
S- And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would only see the shadows?
G- Yes, he said.
S- And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they were naming
what was actually before them?
G- Very true.
S- And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other side, would they not be
sure to fancy when one of the passers-by spoke that the voice which they heard came from the passing
G- No question, he replied.
S- To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.
G- That is certain.
S- And now look again, and see what will naturally follow if the prisoners are released and disabused
their error. At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck
round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he
will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows; and then
conceive someone saying to him, that what he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he is
approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned towards more real existence, he has a clearer vision, –
what will be his reply? And you may further imagine that his instructor is pointing to the objects as they
pass and requiring him to name them, -will he not be perplexed? Will he not fancy that the shadows
which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him?
A puppet controlled from above by using wires or strings
To persuade someone that an idea or belief is mistaken; a misconception
1) Draw the
cave as it is
to the released
G- Far truer.
S- And if he is compelled to look straight at the light, will he not have a pain in his eyes which will make
him turn away to take and take in the objects of vision which he can see, and which he will conceive to be
in reality clearer than the things which are now being shown to him?
G- True, he now
S- And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until
he’s forced into the presence of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he
approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now
G- Not all in a moment, he said.
S- He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. And first he will see the shadows
best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves; then he
will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven; and he will see the sky and
the stars by night better than the sun or the light of the sun by day?
S- Last of all he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections of him in the water, but he will see
him in his own proper place, and not in another; and he will contemplate him as he is.
S- He will then proceed to argue that this is he who gives the season and the years, and is the guardian of
all that is in the visible world, and in a certain way the cause of all things which he and his fellows have
been accustomed to behold?
G- Clearly, he said, he would first see the sun and then reason about him.
S- And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of the den and his fellow-prisoners, do
you not suppose that he would felicitate
himself on the change, and pity them?
G- Certainly, he would.
S- And if they were in the habit of conferring
honors among themselves on those who were quickest to
observe the passing shadows and to remark which of them went before, and which followed after, and
which were together; and who were therefore best able to draw conclusions as to the future, do you
think that he would care for such honors and glories, or envy the possessors of them? Would he not say
with Homer, Better to be the poor servant of a poor master, and to endure anything, rather than think as
they do and live after their manner?
G- Yes, he said, I think that he would rather suffer anything than entertain these false notions and live in
this miserable manner.
S- Imagine once more, I said, such a one coming suddenly out of the sun to be replaced in his old
situation; would he not be certain to have his eyes full of darkness?
G- To be sure, he said.
S- And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring the shadows with the prisoners who
had never moved out of the den, while his sight was still weak, and before his eyes had become steady
(and the time which would be needed to acquire this new habit of sight might be very considerable)
would he not be ridiculous? Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes;
and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if any one tried to lose another and lead him up
to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death.
G- No question, he said.
To grant/ bestow
Why does the
man want to
return to the
when he returns
to the cave?
How do the
prisoners react to
the change in the
S- This entire allegory, I said, you may now append
, dear Glaucon, to the previous argument; the prison-
house is the world of sight, the light of the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you
interpret the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world according to my
poor belief, which, at your desire, I have expressed whether rightly or wrongly God knows. But, whether
true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen
only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and
right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and
truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which he who would act rationally, either in
public or private life must have his eye fixed.
Be prepared to discuss the following questions in an Accountable Talk class discussion:
What is Plato trying to say about knowledge in this allegory?
What do you think the allegory of the cave is being compared with?
Would you want to be released from the cave?
What is like the cave in our world?
How is the way you understand the world, your ideas, and your beliefs shaped by the actions of others?
Who has the power to shape your ideas and beliefs? How is this good and how is this bad?
Are there things you know to be true? What are they and how do you know them to be true?
What is Plato’s
lesson in this
BACKGROUND ON THE BATTLE OF MARATHON
The Greeks (and especially the Athenians) set up colonies to the east of the Peloponnesus. Further east, the Persians
were colonizing and conquering lands in a westerly direction. Eventually (in the 540s B.C.E.) these two competing powers collided
in Ionia. At this time, the Persians gained control of the Ionian Greek colonies and demanded not much more than taxes from
them. Though the Persians were not very demanding rulers, the Ionians still could not settle to be controlled by “barbarians.” In
499 B.C.E., the Ionians staged a
revolt against Persian rule and
sought help from their fellow
Greeks. The Athenians answered
their call and sent 20 triremes of
hoplites to the aid of the Ionians.
Though the Athenians aided the
Ionians in burning the Persian city
of Sardis to the ground, the end
result was that the revolt was
suppressed. For the next nine
years, Darius, the king of Persia
ordered a servant to remind him of
his hatred for the Athenians on a
In 490 B.C.E., Darius sent
troops to Greece. First they
conquered the island of Euboea
and then they moved onward to
the shores of Marathon, a coastal
town 26.2 miles from the heart of
FROM THE HISTORIES OF HERODOTUS
[6.105] …[When the Persian fleet was approaching Attica], the
[Athenian] generals sent to Sparta a herald, Pheidippides an Athenian….
[6.106]…[and] on the second day out of Athens he was in Sparta; and
coming before the magistrates he said: “Lacedamians, the Athenians need
you to help them and not to watch a city, the oldest among the Hellenes,
fall enslaved to men who are barbaroi, for even now Euboea is reduced to
slavery and so by a notable polis Greece has become the weaker.”
Indeed, he gave them the message entrusted to him; for their part they
were delighted, on the one hand, to help the Athenians; but it was
impossible, on the other hand, immediately to do this, since they did not
want to break a law; for of the first part of the month it was the ninth day
and on the ninth they would not go out, they said, except when the moon
was at the full point of its cycle.
[6.112] And when the Athenians were stationed and the sacrificial
omens were good, then as soon as they were released the Athenians at a
run went against the barbaroi (and there were between them not less than
eight stades). But when the Persians saw them coming on at a run they
prepared to receive them, and deemed it a mania among the Athenians—
and one wholly destructive—seeing them so few and charging at a run,
not having horsemen with them nor archers. Such things then the barbaroi
surmised; but the Athenians, when all in a bunch they mixed in with the
barbaroi, fought in a way worthy of report. For they were the first of the
Hellenes—of all those of whom we know—to make use of a running
charge against enemy warriors, and the first who bore even seeing the
clothing of the Persians and the men therein clothed—until then it was for
Hellenes a fearful thing even to hear the name of the Persians.
[6.113] While they were battling at Marathon a long time passed, and in
the middle of the battle-line victory went to the barbaroi and breaking
through they pursued the Athenians inland; on the other hand, at the
horn (flank) on each end victory went to the Athenians. And since they
were victors, they allowed the routed part of the barbaroi to flee, but at
the middle, against those who had broken through their own lines, they
pulled together the horns and, on both sides, fought. The Athenians were
the victors. And as the Persians fled, they followed, cutting them down,
until when they had come to the sea they demanded fire and seized the
[6.114] This too: in this work that Kallimachos was killed and also there
died, of the generals, Stesileos son of Thrasileos; and this too: Kynegeiros
son of Euphorion there, seizing the stern of a ship, had his hand cut off by
an axe, and fell; so too other Athenians, many and famous.
[6.115] Seven of the ships were gotten in this way by the Athenians. But
in the rest the barbaroi put out to sea and, taking up from the island in
which they had left them the Euboean slaves, they sailed. The barbaroi
then sailed away later back to Asia.
[6.117] In this battle at Marathon were killed, of the barbaroi about six
thousand four hundred men, and of the Athenians one hundred and
ninety-two—there fell, on both sides, so many.
[6.120] And of the Lacedamians there came to Athens two thousand,
after the full moon, and they had great zeal to get there, so much so that
on the third day out of Sparta they were in Attica. Although they arrived
too late for the battle, they desired nevertheless to view the Persians, and
going to Marathon, they viewed them. Afterwards, praising the Athenians
and the deed done by them, they went off back again.
ASSIGNMENT: Using your critical reading of the previous primary source, create a 3 scene story board that
shows how the battle progressed. Use the drawing on the front of this document to depict the landscape for each
scene. Make sure to label Persian and Athenian troops differently. Use arrows to depict troop movement.
- Ancient Greece Primary Sources_r.pdf
- Ancient Greece Primary Sources.pdf
- government primary source.pdf
- Allegory of the Cave
- Marathon Source
- Encyclopedia of Ancient Greek World.pdf
- Lesson 6 hw reading Marathon