A. The Athens-Sparta Rivalry--these two cities were the pre-eminent Greek city-states of the Archaic and Classical periods. The different character of these two cities underscores the diversity of human societies, even when they share similar climates and cultures.
1. Sparta--Sparta's unique (to Greece) solution for handling the conundrum of an exploding population and lack of arable land--the annexation of Messenia and the enslavement of its population--changed Sparta politically and, eventually, culturally.
a. Land near Sparta and Messenia was divided into several thousand lots and assigned to Spartan citizens. The helots (the enslaved population of Messenia) worked the land and turned over a portion of what they grew to their Spartan masters who, being freed from the work of food production, could spend their lives in military training and service.
b. The Spartan army was undoubtedly the finest in Greece, far superior, militarily, than the citizen militias of the other city-states. Military training for Spartan boys began at age seven, when they were taken from their families and placed in barracks, under strict discipline, often placed in conditions of deprivation, to prepare them for such conditions on the battlefield.
c. A Spartan male's whole life was subordinated to the military needs of the state. Sparta essentially stopped the cultural clock at about 500BCE, and took no part in the flowering of Greek culture that occurred during the Archaic period.
d. Sparta's military might was largely used to ensure that there was no uprising of the helots; after proving their bravery and military skill early in the Archaic period, Sparta's military prowess became a given, and few rivals felt the need to test it. The need to remain in close range of Sparta meant that the city-state adopted a cautious and isolationist foreign policy.
a. Political turmoil--by 594BCE, Athens was on the verge of a civil war, as aristocratic families vied for control of the city. To reduce this growing conflict, a respected member of the elite class, Solon, was given extraordinary powers as a lawgiver. First, he divided Athenians into four classes, based upon the annual yield of their farms. Those members of the top three social classes were granted the right to hold political office, while members of the lowest class could not. While this arrangement cannot really be classified as democracy, it did break the political stranglehold wealthy aristocratic families had exercised in Athens.
b. Continued political turmoil--despite this broadened political base, political turmoil continued in Athens until 546BCE, when an aristocrat named Pisistratus seized power as a tyrant. To strengthen his position and weaken the power of the other members of the aristocracy, Pisistratus began a major building program (he is responsible for the construction of the Temple of Athena on the Acropolis) to provide public space in the city that, in conjunction with an expanded program of festivals, religious processions, play performances, athletic contests, and the equivalent of modern-day "poetry slams" to entice people in the hinterland to identify with Athens, were he was most popular. In large part, this strategy worked, and he was able to pass on the leadership of the city on to his son.
B. Wars Between Persia and Greece, 546-323BCE--this series of wars was probably more meaningful to the Greeks, who saw the Persians as a threatening enemy, while Persia was more concerned with rivals to the east.
1. Early Encounters, 546-499BCE--Cyrus' conquest of Lydia in 546BCE led to the subjugation of the Greek city-states on the Anatolian coast. In the years that followed, local groups or individuals who collaborated with the Persians ruled their home cities with minimal Persian interference as satraps. All of this changed with the Ionian Revolt, when the Greeks and other subject peoples on the western frontier of the Persian Empire took up arms to wrest control from Persia. After five years and a massive infusion of troops, the rebellion was finally put down.
a. First Persian War, 490BCE--Darius dispatched his army to punish Eretria and Athens, the two mainland city-states that had aided the Ionian rebels. Eretria was betrayed to the Persians, and the survivors were marched of to permanent exile in southwestern Iran. The Athenians probably would have suffered a similar fate, but their hoplites defeated the more numerous but lighter-armed Persian troops at the battle of Marathon, 26 miles from Athens.
c. On the Offensive--Athens stubborn refusal to submit, and the vital role its navy had played in defeating the Persian advance--coupled with the losses Sparta had suffered at Thermopylae, and Sparta's preferred isolationist stance--made Athens the natural choice to lead a counter-offensive to liberate those Greek states still under Persian control. The formation of the Delian League (477BCE), initially a voluntary alliance of Greek states and led by Athens, permitted them to sweep the Persians from the waters of the eastern Mediterranean within twenty years.
2. The Height of Athenian Power--the reluctance of other Greek states to continue to supply troops for this enterprise allowed Athens to transform the Delian League from a voluntary association to a means of dominating the other city-states.
b. Pre-eminent Trade Center--Athen's port, Piraeus, became the most important commercial center in the eastern Mediterranean, and Athens did not hesitate to use its naval power to promote its economic interests. Subject states were forced to pay tribute, and Athenian political leaders like Pericles used this tribute money to build monuments and temples on the Acropolis--as well as buildings throughout the city, thereby transferring the tribute money to the citizens of Athens though wages and goods for buildings these structures.
4. Inequality in Classical Greece--Athenian democracy was enjoyed by a relatively few men, perhaps 30,000 to 40,000, out of a total population in Athens of some 300,000 people.
5. Failure of the City-State and the Triumph of Macedonia
a. Peloponnesian War (431-404BCE)--resentment towards the high-handed attitude of Athens led a number of other city-states, under the direction of Sparta, to begin the two-decade long Peloponnesian War. During the early years of the conflict, Athens refused to engage the invading army outside the walls it had constructed to connect it to the port of Piraeus; the hoplites that made up the bulk of the attacking force would have to withdraw during the year to harvest the crops at their farms. With the financial assistance of Persia, however, Sparta was able to build a navy to defeat the Athenians, and Sparta quickly assumed Athens place as the most despised city-state because of its own haughty attitude. The skirmishing continued in Greece until the king of Persia brokered the King's Peace in 387BCE. Problems in the eastern portion of the empire diverted Persian attention elsewhere, but the position of the King of Persia as the guarantor of the status quo kept the Greek city-states in a weakened condition.
C. The Hellenistic Sythesis, 323-30BCE
1. The Three Kingdoms--the short-lived Macedonian dynasty was broken into three kingdoms after Alexander's death: Seleucid, Ptolemaic, and Antigonid.
a. Selucid--took over the bulk of the empire, and promptly lost great portions of it--the Indus Valley and Afghanistan, and most of Iran by the middle of the second century BCE. From their capital is Syrian Antioch, the Selucid monarchs controlled Mesopotamia, Syrian, and parts of Anatolia
b. Ptolemies--ruled Egypt, which was more homogenous than the Selucid kingdom, and easier to control. The Ptolemies ruled from Alexandria, planned by Alexander himself. The Ptolemies were happy to collect taxes from the rich agricultural lands, but did little to attempt to integrate Egyptians into the kingdom; only the last Ptolemy ruler, Cleopatra (51-30BCE) even bothered to learn the Egyptian language.
c. Antigonids--ruled over the ethnically homogeneous region of Macedonia and northern Greece. While they maintained garrisons in the southern part, and the threat of invasion kept the southern city-states in line, they did not control southern Greece. The southern city-states banded together in various alliances, except for Sparta and Greece. Sparta continued to believe its own myth of invincibility, even while losing battles to Macedonia, and Athens was content to remain neutral, an educational center.
2. Alexandria--was the premier city of the Hellenistic Age, the center of learning, culture, and Greek-style democracy.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
1. Geography and Resources--present-day Iran (which contains ancient Persia) is bounded by the Zagros Mountains to the west, the Caucus Mountains and the Caspian Sea to the northwest and north, the mountains of Afghanistan and the Baluchistan Desert to the east and southeast, and the Persian Gulf to the southwest. Many of these features provide natural barriers to the threat of attack, although Persia was susceptible from the northeast, which the nomads from Central Asia took advantage of. Iran is characterized by high mountains at the edge of the region, salt deserts in the interior depressions, and mountain streams draining into interior salt lakes and marshes. This land could not support a very large population in the ancient era.
a. Irrigation--in the first millenium BCE, irrigation enable people to move down from the mountain valleys, and open the plains to agriculture. To irrigate the hot, dry plains, however, the channels had to be built underground. Constructing and maintaining these channels was very labor intensive, and helped to create the conditions for a more hierarchical society.
2. The Achaemenid Empire
b. Persian expansion--during the next two decades from 550BCE, Cyrus redrew the map of Western Asia. In 546BCE, his army defeated the kingdom of Lydia, all of Anatolia (including the Greek city-states. In 539BCE, the Persian army swept into Mesopotamia and overthrew the Neo-Babylonian dynasty that had ruled since the decline of Assyrian power. Rather than run roughshod over the conquered peoples, however, Cyrus incorporated local leaders--both political and religious--into his colonial power structure.
c. Cambyses--succeeded his father in 530BCE, upon his father's death. Cambyses set his sights on Egypt, which the Persian army was able to conquer of several bloody battles. The Persian army then explored further south to Nubia, and west into Libya. Contemporary records indicate that Cambyses ruled much as his father had, although the Greeks maintained he was cruel and capricious (in keeping with their general view of Persians).
2. Imperial Organization
a. Persian Satraps--Darius divided the empire into 20 districts, and assigned a satrap (or royal governor) to each one. These satraps were usually connected to the royal family either through kin relationship, or through marriage. Satraps were allowed to pass their positions on to members of their families. This fostered the fact that the families of the satraps living in the districts they governed, becoming familiar with local conditions and customs, and forming connections with local elites.
b. Tribute--Darius set the amount that each district was responsible for contributing to Persia each year, usually paid in precious metal. Some of this money was spent on internal improvements like roads, but much of it was simply hoarded by the king. This took money out of circulation, and the resulting inflation made it more difficult to meet tribute levels, among other financial difficulties. As a result, a gradual economic decline began in the Persian Empire around the fourth century BCE.
c. Mobile Capitol--the king and his court moved with the seasons, living in luxurious tents while on the road between residence in a series of palaces in both Mesopotamia and Iran. The king traveled with an extensive entourage, including the sons of noble families (both to see to their education, and as hostages to ensure good behavior on the part of the relatives), many nobles themselves, the central administrations (including the treasury, the secretariat, and the archives), the royal bodyguard, and lots of courtier and slaves to do all the heavy lifting.
a. Perhaps best depicted by the relief sculptures found at the ruins of Persepolis, which depict the multitude of subjects coming forth willingly with a portion of their wealth to pay tribute,
b. Darius' claim to the throne was tied to his belief that Ahuramazda had called him forth to be king--and convincing others to believe this, as well.
c. Zoroastrianism was one of the great religions of the ancient world. It was one of the earliest monotheistic religions, held humans to high ethical standards, and promised eternal salvation. It probably had great deal of influence upon the development of Judaism, and therefore indirectly on the development of Christianity; the concepts of Heaven and Hell, God and the Devil, reward and punishment, and the Messiah and End Time all appear to be its legacies.
B. The Rise of Archaic Greece, 1000-500BCE
1. Geography and Resources--while Greece benefited from a Mediterranean climate, the rocky, mountainous land could not support a very large population in the ancient world, and resulted in the Greeks establishing colonies around the Mediterranean.
a. Summers are hot and dry in the regions, because a prevailing weather front prevents Atlantic storms from entering the Mediterranean; in the winter, the front dissolves and ocean storms roll in, making the weather cool and wet.
b. Southern Greece is a dry and rocky land, with small plains areas separated by low mountains. To the east of the Greek peninsula, the Aegean Sea is home to hundreds of small islands, populated from early times. People could sail from Greece to Anatolia almost without losing sight of land.
c. Greek farmers were almost entirely reliant upon rainfall for growing crops. Farmers planted grain (mostly barley, since it is hardier than wheat) on the plains, and olives and grapes on the sides of mountains.
d. The Greek mainland has a deeply pitted coastline with many natural harbors. This fact, coupled with the lack of navigable rives in the country and the need to import most trade goods, drew many Greeks to the sea.
2. The Greek "Dark Age"
c. Ionia--the Greek city-states were established along the west coast of Anatolia before and after the Trojan War
d. Isolation--during this Dark Age era, the Greeks were largely isolated from the rest of the world. Importation of needed trade materials steeply declined, which further impoverished the people.
e. Phoenician traders--the Greeks were reconnected to the world through trade with the Phoenicians, who also brought their alphabet, which the Greeks modified (designating some symbols for vowel sounds, which the Phoenicians had not utilized). The Greeks quickly moved on from commercial uses for this innovation to create literature, writing down oral traditions they had long told each other.
3. The Nature of the Polis--polis is another name for city-state, and designated not only a particular city, but also included the hinterland that surrounded the city.
b. Hoplite warfare--each polis was jealous of its independence, and suspicious of its neighbors. By the early seventh century BCE, the Greeks has developed a new form of warfare, called hoplite, which utiliized heavily armored infantrymen fighting in close formation. Hoplites were farmers called to service for short periods of time; this development helped to shape the development of the polis, because the morale of the hoplites was boosted by giving them rights as citizens, so they had some voice in the government of the polis.
4. Political development--while kings ruled in the Mycenaean Age, during the Archaic period a new kind of political system began to develop in the Greek polis.
a. Tyrants--power in the Greek city-state devolved from kings to the aristocracy. Disgruntled aristocrats, acting as tyrants, had to appeal to persons in the lower orders of society to obtain, or regain, political power. This itself quickly devolved in to democracy
5. Sparta--Sparta had a rather unique development as a polis, since it had no overseas colonies. Instead, Sparta conquered and enslaved the people of nearby Messenia, enslaving their fellow Greeks, whom they now referred to as helots. Constantly in fear of an uprising of these helots, Spartan society became completely militarized. Boys were taken from the families at age seven and place in barracks, where they were severely disciplined, and taught the arts of war.
Posted by Gregory M. Miller at 9:54 AM
Thursday, September 23, 2010
A. The Assyrian Empire, 911-612BCE
2. God and king--the Assyrian belief system was predicated upon the idea that the Assyrian gods chose their king; even though the king chose his successor, that decision did not take hold until these gods demonstrated their support through oracles, revealed through their priests--and agreed to by the Assyrian nobles.
a. The king was also the main military commander, supervised the state religion, attended elaborate rituals in both public and private, adjudicated disputes between subjects, managed a large ring of spies, and oversaw the upkeep of temples. He made no major decisions without consulting the gods, who again demonstrated their judgment through oracles. Military success was, of course, the means of demonstrating the correctness of the oracle, and proof that Ashur (the leading Assyrian god) superiority over other gods in the region.
a. Professional army--although the initial successes of the Assyrian army was because of the skill and espirit de corps of these farmer/soldiers fighting for more land, they were soon replaced with professional soldiers--both Assyrians and selected subject people--that at times exceeded more than half a million troops.
b. Weaponry--Assyrians were skilled in the manufacture of iron, and used it in a variety of weapons. These weapons, in combination with the use of horses, allowed the Assyrians to overwhelm most of their opponents.
c. Tactics--the Assyrians were able to innovate in the area of combat engineering, constructing tunnels under the walls of cities, building portable towers for archers, using battering rams against locked city gates.
d. State terror--Assyrians used extremely harsh measures to inhibit resistance to their attempted conquests--burning people alive, skinning people, and beheadings were just a few of the tactics they used.
e. Mass deportation--they removed thousands of conquered people from their homes, a tactic that was part of the Assyrian effort to soften resistance to their rule. While this seems quite harsh to us today, it should be noted that this was common practice over much of the Middle East at this time.
f. Paying for conquest--the expense for all of this was born by those conquered, who were required to pay tribute and taxes for the Assyrian cost of conquest--and for the elaborate castles and temples that were built in Ashur to demonstrate the greatness of the Assyrian king.
g. Effectiveness--the effectiveness of these policies can be judged by the fact that, while the Assyrians could control the area immediately around Ashur, their ability to control areas further away required a near constant state of warfare.
4. Assyrian Society and Culture--the Assyrians were hierarchially directed, with the king at the top, nobles, priests, and government officials at the next rung of the social ladder, and at the bottom were most Assyrians and conquered peoples.
B. Israel, 2000-500BCE
1. Significance--although its neighbors probably viewed it as relatively insignificant, since the area controlled by the Israelites was relatively small, not terribly strategic, and only "controlled" by them for a relatively short period of time. Nevertheless, the invention of Judaism, which begat both Christianity and Islam, has made Israel much more prominent than its modest history during this era would suggest.
2. Origins, Exodus, and Settlement--the information we know about the early history of Israel comes from a variety of sources, including the royal annals of Egypt and Assyria. Much information also comes from the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible (or the Old Testament, for Christians).
b. The history of ancient Israel follows a familiar pattern in the ancient Middle East: Nomadic pastorlists, occupying marginal land between inhospitable desert and settled agricultural area; Sometimes engaging in trade, but also occasionally stealing from nearby farms and villages; eventually settling into agricultural life themselves.
d. Exodus--Joseph became very successful in Egypt, and was well-placed to help his people when drought struck their country. The Egyptians, however, thought little of these rough herders, and with building projects looming, chose to enslave this group. This enslavement lasted until Moses, raised with the royal family after his fortuitous rescued from the Nile River, was able to lead the Israelites out of Egypt after Yahweh cursed the land with ten different plagues.
e. Wandering in the Desert--on the way back to reclaim Israel, Moses stopped at Mt. Sinai to make a sacred covenant with Yahweh. In his absence, the Israelites immediately began worshiping other gods, incurring Yahweh's wrath, and cursing themselves to wander in the desert for forty years.
f. Back to Canaan--the Israelites claimed to have conquered several Canaanite towns (including, most famously, Jericho), but this contention is not supported by archeological evidence. The period around 1200BCE (when the Israelites arrived) is one of great disturbances throughout the region, with governments in turmoil, and a great number of people on the move. We do know there was not a great cultural break in these cities in Canaan, so it seems most likely that, except for religious practices, the Israelites largely assimilated into Canaan society.
3. Rise of the Monarchy
a. Conflict with the Philistines--the troubles in the region that brought the Israelites to Canaan also brought a people called the Philistines, who had a series of conflicts with the Israelites. This led to an Israeliste religious leader named Samuel to annoint the first Israelite king, Saul, around 1020BCE. When Saul was killed in battle, he was succeeded by David (1000BCE), who in turn was succeeded by his son, Solomon.
4. Fragmentation and Dispersal--this growing inequality gap contributed to the fragmentation of Israelite society.
a. Death of Solomon--around 920BCE, along with the resentment fostered by inequality, continued royal demands for money and labor for elaborate building projects, and the neglect of tribal prerogatives, led to splitting the kingdom in two: Israel in the north, with its capital at Samaria; and Judah in the south, in the area around Jerusalem. These two kingdoms were sometimes allied, and other times at war.
b. The final formulation of monotheism takes place at this time, but many Israelites were still attracted to the ecstatic religious practice around the worship of the Canaanite storm god Baal and the fertility goddess Asherah--although later prophets condemned this practice.
c. The Assyrian Threat--although the two kingdoms were reunited in the attempt, resistance proved futile to the invasion of the Assyrians in 721BCE. The Assyrians invaded and quickly conquered Israel, destroyed the kingdom, and exported most of the people living there (as they did all areas they conquered). Judah was able to hold out for another century, alternating resistance with paying tribute.
C. Phoenicia and the Mediterranean, 1200-500BCE--Phoenicia is the name given to them by the Greeks; they called themselves the Canaanites.
1. Phoenician City-States--the problems around 1200BCE caused several Canaanite cities to be destroyed, and the Canaanite cities that remained were on the coast. By 1100BCE, the Canaanite territory had shrunk to a narrow strip in present-day Lebanon, between the mountains and the coast. From this vantage point, the Phoenicians began to engage in trade, which spurred the development of the port city of Tyre, which was located on an offshore island.
3. Rise of Carthage--the most important of these Phoenician colonies was located in northern Africa, near the present-day city of Tunis.
b. Political organization was dominated by merchants, rather than by birth. This aided Carthage in avoiding the political conflict that created difficulties in Greek city-state and in Rome. Carthage concentrated on maintaining sea lanes, and ensuring that they received the lion's share of the "carrying trade."
a. Carthage did not attempt to rule a huge land area; in fact, it only directly controlled an area sufficient to provide food for its population, and allowed the other Phoenician outposts a great deal of autonomy. Army service was not required of the population.
b. The two major gods--storm god Baal Hammon and female fertility god Tanit, were powerful and capricious entities that had to be appeased--sometimes by the sacrifice of the children of their followers.
D. Conclusion--by 650BCE, Assyrian stood unchallenged in Western Asia. Its now lengthy border, and the ill-will fostered by the brutal methods used to get and keep this empire were already at work undermining it. The emergence of two new groups of people in the region--the Chaldaens and the Medes (an Iranian people), would eventually work to topple the Assyrian control, and open new opportunities.
Posted by Gregory M. Miller at 9:04 AM
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
I. The Cosmopolitan Middle East, 1700-1100BCE
A. Western Asia
a. "Old Assyrian" kingdom--as early as 2000BCE, the city of Ashur on the northern Tigris River anchored a busy trade route stretching north to the Anatolian Plateau, in what is now central Turkey. Assyrian merchant families settled outside the walls of the Anatolian cities to trade textiles and tin for silver.
b. "Middle Kingdom"--engaged in campaigns of conquest and expansion of its economic interest.
b. Iron weapons--which made their weapons more deadly than their opponents. The methodology or iron manufacture was a closely held secret among the Hittite until the conquest of much of the area of the Middle East was complete.
B. New Kingdom Egypt, 1532-1070BCE
1. Decline of the Middle Kingdom--after flourishing for almost four hundred years, the Middle Kingdom declined during the seventeenth century BCE. Central authority began to breakdown, with local officials in the countryside becoming more independent, and new groups of people migrating into the Nile Delta region, less likely to follow edicts from Memphis and Thebes.
b. Compound bow
4. Expansionist--while the Old Kingdom and the Middle Kingdom had been largely content to maintain the core area of their respective kingdoms, the shock of a century of foreign rule spurred the kings of the New Kingdom, initially, to seek to expand into new territory--north into Syria-Palestine, and south into Nubia
a. During Akhenaten's reign, expansion of Egyptian territory halted, as he concentrated on building temples to the glory of Aten.
b. After Akhenaten's death, the other temples re-opened and the god Amon was once again proclaimed the chief god.
c. Akhenaten did not produce a male heir, and was instead succeeded by the nine-year-old Tutankhamen:
Tutankhamen is famous today not only as the butt of an elaborate Steve Martin joke, but also because his grave was one of the few not broken into by grave robbers in the ensuing centuries, and remained intact until its discovery in the 1920s
a. Ramesses II fought the Hitties to a draw at Kadesh; the subsequent peace negotiation proved quite favorable to Egypt and Ramesses II's interests.
C. The Aegean World, 2000-1100BCE
a. Palaces--there were three minor palaces beside the main palace located in Cnossus. All lacked fortifications, however, leading one to assume that Crete was unified politically.
King Minos and the Minotaur.
a. The importance of trade--the modern conception of trade obscures its aggressive beginning. People did not simply put goods in a ship, sail off to foreign lands, lay their goods out on the beach, and wait for customers to show up. Trade often grew out of its predecessor--tribute. Tribute was the result of victory on a field of battle
Posted by Gregory M. Miller at 8:15 AM