Monday, April 10, 2017

Greece: Engineering an Empire

On the History Channel's Engineering an Empire: Greece, some major engineering and building achievements are described. Students are responsible for finding the answers to the following questions:

The Parthenon
Important people:
  • Themistocles (c. 525 – 460 BCE)
    • Trireme ships
  • Agamemnon (c. 1200 BCE)
    • The Iliad and the Odyssey
  • Pericles (c. 495 – 429 BCE)
    • The Parthenon
Mycenaean Civilization
1. What group of people dominates large portions of mainland Greece in 1300 BCE? Who led these people in their capital city (see map at 11:13)?

2. What was the Iliad, and who supposedly wrote it? How was it really meant to be shared?

3. What was the Lion’s Gate, and what did it symbolize about Mycenae? What architectural building technique did this structure introduce?

*What was a “tholos” tomb? Feel free to draw a sketch of one:

War with Persia
4. In September 480 BCE, what civilization tried to add Greece to their empire?

5. Briefly describe who Themistocles was.

6. How did Themistocles win the battle at Salamis?

7. In 471 BCE, Themistocles was ostracized. Why? What does being ostracized mean?

8. Briefly describe who Pericles was.

9. What was the alliance called that joined Athens together with other city-states in 478 BCE?

10. How did Athens get its name (29:15)?

The Parthenon
11. What was the Parthenon’s main function?

12. Why did many Athenians, including Plato, dislike the Parthenon?

13. Why did the Golden Age of Athens end?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Iliad and the Odyssey

The two most important texts of the ancient Greeks were the Iliad, the story of the Trojan War, and the Odyssey, the story of Odysseus's journey home and the adventures he has along the way.

Originally, these stories developed as oral tradition and were meant to be shared among a group of people by a storyteller, usually after a large meal.

Around 800 BC, when the Dark Ages were ending and the Phoenician alphabet was adopted by the Greeks, the stories of the Iliad and the Odyssey began to be written down.

Many people, even in ancient times, considered the author of these two epics to be a man named Homer, a blind storyteller who lived around 800 BC. The truth is that the word Homer come from the Greek word meaning storyteller. There wasn't one single Homer, but generations of storytellers from the late Bronze Age of Greece that told the same epics, but with many different variations.

The Iliad

In the Iliad, the Greeks and Trojans are fighting at the city of Troy. The prince of Troy, Paris, has stolen away Helen, the daughter of Zeus and queen of Sparta. The Greeks are led by King Agamemnon of Mycenae, who is an arrogant leader that wants to destroy Troy. The greatest of all Greek warriors, and the main character of the Iliad is Achilles. Achilles is also a king, coming from the area of Phthia in Greece. Achilles is famous among Greeks and Trojans for his speed and deadly fighting skills.

The actual story of the Iliad begins with an argument between Achilles and Agamemnon. Agamemnon is forced to give back one of his prizes, a captured Trojan girl, and so he takes Achilles's prize girl to make up for his loss. Achilles refuses to fight after such unfair treatment, and without him the Greeks start losing, badly.

Later, Achilles's best friend Patroclus begs Achilles to let him use his armor to scare the Trojans and help the Greeks win again. When Patroclus goes into battle in Achilles's armor, Greeks and Trojans both think it's Achilles. The Trojan prince Hector, greatest warrior of Troy, kills Patroclus and thinks that he has killed Achilles. When word of the death of Patroclus reaches Achilles, he goes into a murderous rage! He plows through the Trojan army like a lawnmower and kills every Trojan he sees, though he really wants to kill Hector. At one most, he even fights a river when that river is angry at Achilles for clogging it with so many dead Trojans.

Hector and Achilles meet outside of the walls of Troy, with the entire royal family watching, including Hector's father, King Priam, and the two warriors engage in single combat. The fighting is intense, but Achilles kills Hector. He then proceeds to drag Hector's dead body around the city of Troy three times to get his revenge.

After a few nights, King Priam sneaks into the Greek camp and meets privately with Achilles. He begs Achilles to return the body of Hector so the King can give his son a proper burial. Achilles agrees because King Priam reminds him of his own father, and he learns to let go of his rage.

At the end of the Iliad, the city of Troy still stands, although both Greeks and Trojans know that the gods have destined for Troy to fall.

Later myths speak about the Trojan horse and the Greek destruction of the city of Troy.

On this ancient vase, you can see the Greek soldiers hiding inside of the legendary Trojan Horse

Here's what the beginning of the Iliad would have sounded like in the original Greek:

Here is a scene from the movie Troy in which Hector and Achilles fight in front of the walls of Troy. Warning/Spoiler Alert: it shows Hector dying. Notice that when Hector dies, the Trojans know that this means their city will be defeated.

The Odyssey

The Odyssey is the journey home of the Greek king of Ithaka, Odysseus. Because he angers Poseidon by blinding the Cyclops, Poseidon's son, his journey is long and difficult.

Finally, I want to share with you my favorite translation of both the Iliad and the Odyssey from Stanley Lombardo. These are the translations that I read from during class:

The Iliad translated by Stanley Lombardo

The Odyssey translated by Stanley Lombardo

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Sanctuaries, Oracles, and Theaters

In ancient Greece, people honored the gods in several ways. Throughout Greece there were special places called sanctuaries where people could offer sacrifices, perform rituals, and pray to different gods.

At Olympia, the god Zeus was honored with athletic games and competitions that took place every four years. These events were so important that all of the city-states of Greece would send their top athletes. Wars would be put on hold, and the winners would receive prizes like free food for life. The games were so important, in fact, that the ancient Greeks numbered their years according to which Olympiad had recently taken place. The first Olympic Games were in 776 BC.

Also at Olympia, The massive temple complex of Zeus, and specifically the monumental gold and ivory statue of the god, was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Rituals were performed, and animal sacrifices were made on the altar just outside and in front of the temple.

At the sites of oracles, ancient Greeks could ask a specific god for advice about the future. The most famous oracle, at Delphi, was the site of the Pythia. The Pythia was a mystical woman that spoke the prophesies of the god Apollo.

The Pythia sat on a tripod, suspended over a pit in the earth, in the back of the Temple of Delphi

Travelers from all over the Greek world came to Delphi and left many offerings for Apollo. The city of Delphi was thought to be the geographical center of the ancient world. There was a large stone there called the "omphalos," which means bellybutton. This was thought to be the stone that Kronos vomited up after he threw up Zeus's siblings.

Lastly, the god Dionysus was honored by the staging of plays--both dramas and comedies. Because he was the god of transitions and consequences, theaters were actually considered holy places dedicated to the god. Dionysus was also the god of wine and partying. Groups of people would have feasts, or even bonfire parties in the woods and get drunk in honor of Dionysus.

This is what ancient Delphi looked like-- Notice the Temple of Apollo

Here's a clip showing a traditional staging of the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus's play Agamemnon. Notice the masks, the beat of the drum, and the way the production looks. How is it different from a modern play?

Now check out three videos from Brainpop:

Monday, April 3, 2017

Ancient Greek Religious Beliefs

The ancient Greeks were polytheistic. They had many gods and goddesses that represented the forces of nature (like the sky, the sea, and death), and to represent human nature (like love, war, and wisdom). The Greeks also told many myths about their gods, their heroes, and their wars. During the Dark Ages (1100 BC - 800 BC), oral tradition kept these stories alive and helped to pass Greek culture down from earlier generations.

Greek Mythology
Achilles and Ajax play dice. Dice represented a game of chance that was similar to the way luck affects life. 
Mythology is based on oral tradition. Myths are meant to be spoken aloud by a storyteller. Each storyteller adds his own emphasis and keeps the audience engaged.

Mythology has several purposes: Entertainment, Religion, Cultural Norms, Heroic Ideal

Greek mythology is the foundation of Western Literature.

Even though Greek city-states were separated by geography, it is their stories and language that made them all united as Greeks.

The two most important works of Greek mythology are the Iliad and the Odyssey. These epics were often memorized by average people, and recited around campfires, after dinners, and whenever groups of Greeks came together.

While the Iliad and the Odyssey are long poems, they were almost never recited in their entirety—Instead storytellers would choose particular parts to perform.

Other myths explain natural phenomena, human behavior, or explore the heroic feats of real or imagined characters. While we might ask, “Did these things really happen?”, to the ancient Greeks, it didn’t matter because the telling of the story made it real.

While some folks today look for the “original version,” or “correct version” of a myth, as with all oral tradition there are many versions with different emphasis or characters.

The gods are a fun part of the mythology, but the most important aspects of the Greek myths were meant to explain the human experience, and to teach what it was to be a good Greek. 

Ancient Greek Deities

The Ancient Greeks told stories and sang songs about their gods and heroes as part of their religion. The gods appear in many different, sometimes contradictory stories. The best way to understand the different personalities, drama, relationships, and temper tantrums of the Greek gods was to listen to a storyteller tell myths.

For your notes, here are some of the major divine characters and some basic information about each. Of course, there are many more gods, heroes, and creatures than listed here!

Then there was that one time when a fully grown warrior goddess popped out of Zeus's head!

The Primordial/Cthonic Gods:

Primordial Gods are those that come before the Olympians, and represent a time before human civilization

Cthonic Gods represent the primordial gods that were associated with the earth and underworld. 

Olympian Gods are those gods and goddesses associated with Mt. Olympus, are led by Zeus, and represent human civilization

Titans are the monstrous offspring of the primordial gods who fight the Olympians and are overthrown

Ouranos and Gaea: Ouranos was the original god who represented the sky, and his wife was the earth goddess Gaea. They gave birth to the horrible Titans, including their crooked son, Kronos. After each Titan was born, Ouranos would shove the monster back inside of Gaea to keep it away from him. 

Ouranos represented the sky, while his wife Gaea was the earth

Kronos and Rhea: Kronos and his mother Gaea conspired to overthrow the cruel and tyrannical Ouranos. Gaea crafted a giant bladed sickle and Kronos used it to slice off Ouranos's "man parts." This made Ouranos powerless and unable to create more monsters. 

Rhea, the goddess of the fertile land, married Kronos and was his sister.

Kronos damages his father in a very rough spot. The image of Kronos and his sickle was adapted as that of the grim reaper.

Aphrodite, the goddess of love, was born from the sea foam when Ouranos's man parts fell into the sea. Aphrodite represented the type of love that creates new life.

A marble carving showing the emergence of Aphrodite from the sea. Once born, she went to the island of Cyprus.
I will sing of stately Aphrodite, gold-crowned and beautiful, whose dominion is the walled cities of all sea-set Cyprus. There the moist breath of the western wind wafted her over the waves of the loud-moaning sea in soft foam, and there the gold-filleted Hours welcomed her joyously. They clothed her with heavenly garments: on her head they put a fine, well-wrought crown of gold, and in her pierced ears they hung ornaments of orichalc and precious gold, and adorned her with golden necklaces over her soft neck and snow-white breasts, jewels which the gold-filleted Hours wear themselves whenever they go to their father's house to join the lovely dances of the gods. And when they had fully decked her, they brought her to the gods, who welcomed her when they saw her, giving her their hands. Each one of them prayed that he might lead her home to be his wedded wife, so greatly were they amazed at the beauty of violet-crowned Cytherea.                   -- Homeric Hymn VI. Trans. H.G. Evelyn-White

Aphrodite was the goddess of love and beauty, often depicted in a clothing-optional setting, and usually on a clam shell.

Worried that his children might overthrown him, Kronos devoured each one of his children as his wife Rhea gave birth to them. Since Kronos was the god of time, the myth also explains how time consumes all things!

Kronos, or Saturn to the Romans, had interesting ideas about fatherhood.
After swallowing their first five children, Poseidon, Hades, Demeter, Hera, and Hestia, Kronos was annoyed to learn about another child -- Zeus-- and determined to eat him too. This time, however, Rhea had a plan... She wrapped up a rock in baby clothes...
Rhea presented the rock, wrapped in baby blankets, to Kronos.

Kronos was easily fooled by Rhea's scheme and promptly swallowed the rock, convinced it was his youngest son, Zeus.
Rhea then hid baby Zeus in a cave on the island of Crete. There he was raised by a magical goat that spouted milk from her horns. Also, mythical warriors would clatter their armor to mask the crying of baby Zeus.

The Diktaean Cave - A perfect hiding place for a god-baby whose father wants to eat him!

Also a great place for a goofy archaeologist to visit!
Once Zeus grew up to be a man-god, he planned the overthrow of Kronos with the help of his mother and grandmother. The earth goddesses created a vomit potion and Rhea gave it to Kronos to drink...

Once he drank it, Kronos barfed up all of Zeus's siblings, and gave him some powerful allies in the fight against their father.

After that, the Olympian gods always hated their father, Kronos.
It must have been quite a scene, seeing an old god throwing up five new gods...
Once free, Zeus and his siblings started a cosmic battle for control of the universe against Kronos and all the Titans. This epic battle lasted 10 years and was a struggle among all the powers of the world called the "Titanomachy." The Titanomachy was a favorite subject for Greek artists and poets.

The Titanomachy matched up newer Olympian gods against older monsters and giants.

The battle was pretty epic...literally, there were epics written about it.

The Titanomachy was also called the gigantomachy.

The very famous sculptures of the Pergamon Altar show vivid scenes from the Titanomchy.

The struggle against the Titans represented the struggle of civilization against the wild and dangerous world of nature.
Here's a Khan Academy video describing the Pergamon Altar, one of the most famous works of Greek art, which depicted scenes from the Titanomachy:

After winning the battle, the Olympian gods took over the different aspects of nature that the Titans had controlled, and made their base on the top of Mt. Olympus, the tallest peak in Greece.

Of course, start with a BrainPop:
Click the picture and log in to BrainPop
Zeus: As the leader of the Olympian gods, Zeus won control of the sky, weather, kings, and a leadership position among all gods. Zeus was known for spending time with pretty ladies (that were not his wife), being the father of many mythical heroes, and for wielding the lightning bolt as a weapon of choice. Zeus represented the power of the sky.

The statue of Zeus at Olympia was one of the wonders of the ancient world.
Zeus's patron animal was the eagle, and his weapon was the thunderbolt.

Poseidon: Poseidon was the short-tempered power of the Mediterranean Sea. He caused earthquakes and carried a trident. Blue-bearded Poseidon could make sailors have a safe and prosperous journey to far away places, or kill them with a storm and a wave. Poseidon really gets angry at Odysseus when the hero blinds Poseidon's son, the Cyclops.

Poseidon was a god that all sailors were taught to respect and fear.

Poseidon's trident was a symbol of his power. His animal was a horse, and his beard was bright blue.
Hera: Hera was the wife and sister of Zeus. Ironically, she represented marriage even though her husband was often hanging out with lots of other women. Hera has no problem choosing heroes that she likes, and those that displease her.

Hera was a strong partner to Zeus and she never failed to tell him exactly what she thought.

Hera had temples all over Greece, and was a patron of marriage and childbirth.
Hestia: Hestia was the goddess of the hearth and home. She represented the settled life and the proper role of women in the household. Later, she gives up her seat on Mt. Olympus when Dionysus arrives.

Hestia's main job was to make a house into a home-- safe, comfortable, and at peace.
Demeter: Demeter represented agriculture and the cultivation of land. She is a more civilized version of Rhea or Gaea. Demeter has special, secret rituals and ceremonies in her honor. She is also the mother of Persephone, who is kidnapped by Hades.

Demeter was often shown with bunches of grain, fruit, or other agricultural products

Demeter never got over the kidnapping of her daughter, Persephone, to become queen of Hades
Hades: Hades represented the power of death. He ruled in the underworld with the three-headed dog named Cerberus beside him. Hades used the helm of darkness to sneak up on unsuspecting people while appearing invisible. 

Hades and Cerberus greeted the souls of the dead into the underworld

Hades and dreaded Persephone were the rulers of the underworld, allowing no one to leave.

Aside from the six Olympian gods that sprang from Kronos and Rhea, there were several other important deities that were children of one or two of those gods. 

Apollo and Artemis: These twin gods were the children of Zeus and Leto. Apollo represented the sun, light, telling the future, archery, and male good looks. Artemis was his sister, and a single, independent woman. She was the goddess representing the moon, the hunt, wilderness, and girl power.

Apollo and Artemis represented the sun and the moon

Apollo and Artemis once killed the 14 children of Niobe, a woman that once made fun of their mother

Dionysus: Dionysus was the god of wine and partying. He also represent transitions and acting differently. Theater was invented as a way to honor Dionysus. He was also the god of consequences, like feeling so sick after drinking too much wine the night before. He had an interesting birth, having been carried in Zeus's thigh as a baby because his mother, Semele, was exploded as a result of one of Hera's tricks. He carried a thyrsos -- a stick with a pine cone on top, representing the wildness of the party!
Dionysus was often shown with grapes in his hair and wearing a leopard skin

Where the party at?? Look how big his drinking cup is!
Athena: Athena was clearly Zeus's favorite daughter. He swallowed her mother, Metis, as a fly and nine months later, Athena sprang fully formed from Zeus's full battle armor. Athena represented cleverness, good ideas, battle strategy, and was referred to as "the grey-eyed goddess."

Athena was usually shown in full battle armor and deep in thought.

Athena wore a special cape called the aegis--made from the skin of the goat that raised Zeus
Ares: Ares was a son of Zeus and Hera and he represented the death and destruction of war. It was said that he was actually a coward, and ran away whenever wars started. His sons were Fear and Terror, and his wife was Discord.  He was also know to sneak around with Aphrodite, although they were both already married. 

Ares loved to start wars among the humans and watched to see what would happen

Ares also liked to hang out with Aphrodite, even though they both were already married
Hephaestus: Hephaestus represented craftsmanship, blacksmithing, and creating objects for use. He was a master builder and even had fem-bots taking care of his palace. He once made a magical chain net to trap his wife Aphrodite and her boyfriend Ares at a particularly sensitive moment. 

Hephaestus was often hot and sweaty from working in his workshop
Hephaestus built the weapons and homes of all the gods
Hermes: Hermes was a son of Zeus and a quick, tricky, and useful god. He was the only god able to travel easily from the Olympian palace of the gods, to the earth where humans lived, and to the kingdom of Hades where the dead souls were. He loved playing pranks and wore sandals that had wings. 

Hermes brought the souls of the dead down to Hades

Hermes had a wicked pair of kicks!
Aside from the Twelve Olympian gods, there were many more deities the Greeks payed tribute to, including nymphs, satyrs, heroes, and other natural forces, not to mention so many monsters and creatures that came from the gods as well. 

Confused yet? Here's a simplified family tree of the gods and monsters:
Click the family tree for a larger view!