Minoan art was different than that of the Empires and Kingdoms to the east

 From Knossos Palace ruins, we find skilled frescoes, with (gasp), non-military subjects!




A Minoan navy / merchant fleet, dominating the Aegean Sea




Scene from inside Knossos Palace, capital of the Minoan seafaring civilization on Crete




The partial excavation of the Custom's House on the coast of Crete




The current view of Thera, in the background, scene of the amazing destruction of Knossos




MYCENAE: Art and Architecture

Mycenaen death mask, possibly of King Agamemnon





A modern representation of the Phalanx formation, that which made Greek infantry dominate




Famous Greek vase: Chigi, depicting the hoplite formation




Famous Greek vase: 'Achilles kills Penthesileia' from Trojan War times




Famous Greek vase: 'Francois' showing a procession




Mycenae during its period of prosperity as the chief early Greek city-state




The best preserved part of Mycenae today: the 'Lions Gate'




The City of Troy as it was during the time of the Illiad




A replica of the Trojan Horse built at the site of the ruins of Troy




Today's excavation of Troy, a city that for most of history was only a legend




Finally, Mount Olympus, home of the gods






Greek Hero



King of the Minoans




Minoan Architect



Greek Hero*




King of the Minoans



Greek Hero



King of Sparta



King of Mycenae




Greek Warrior



Spartan Princess



King of Ithaca




Sides: Greeks vs. Trojans
Time:1250 BC
Place: Troy (Turkey)
Action: According to the Iliad, Trojans (who were probably Hittites) kidnapped Helen, wife of the king of Sparta. A coalition is formed of "1,000 ships" to punish Troy with a long siege. After may years and heroic battles by warriors like Achilles and Hector, the Greeks tricked the Trojans by giving them a peace-offering, a wooden horse. You know the rest. Probably the reason for the historical battle was for control over the straits connecting the Mediterranean and Black Seas, on which Troy sits.
Casualties: unknown
Consequence: The battle became a great myth, one of the oldest stories in Western culture, written down 300 years later by Homer. It was studied and known by every Greek. The story of the Odyssey takes place after the battle.

Sides: Persians vs. Greeks
Time: 490 BC
Place: Plains of Marathon, near Athens
Action: To punish Athens for helping the Greeks of Asia Minor rebel against the Persian Empire, Darius sent 600 triremes full of soldiers to subdue the city. They began their landing, and set up, but the Greeks, without waiting for reinforcements for Sparta, lined up in the phalanx and moved in directly at the foe. The clash favored the Greeks at the flanks and the Persians in the center, and soon became a melee. Persian numbers did not win against the will to defend homes and land. 2/3 of the Persians fled back to their ships. Pheidippedes ran to Athens from Marathon, 26 miles, hence the name of the long run.
Casualties: Persians lost 6,400 of their 25,000, Athenians lost 192 of 10,000.
Consequence: The great empire was defeated, but Darius was very angry when General Datis filed his report.

Sides: Persians vs. Greeks
Time: 480 BC
Place: Thessaly, northern Greece
Action: Emperor Xerxes inherited his father's chip-on-the-shoulder and decided to avenge him by defeating Greece once and for all. While many Greek cities chose to give in and accept Persian rule because there was no chance of beating them, others resisted. 300 Spartan Equals under King Lionidas, with 6,000 allies, confronted a gigantic Persian invasion force of 200,000, including the Immortals. This took place in a narrow mountain pass which had to be crossed if the enemy would be able to advance on the Greek heartland to the south. For three days they fought one of the most spectacular fight in the world's history, until a traitor sold them out to Xerxes, whose forces then went around the pass and circled them from all directions. The 300 Spartans did not surrender, they fought to the last man.
Casualties: 2,500 Greeks and 20,000 Persians
Consequence: While they lost the battle, by dying in glory, the Spartans made it possible for the Greeks to ready themselves for the invasion, and eventually, win the war.

Sides: Persians vs. Greeks
Time: 480 BC
Place: Bay of Salamis, southern Greece
Action: A month after Thermoplyae, the Greeks retreated to south of Athens along the Isthmus of Corinth, effectively abandoning the city, which the Persians burned. Themistocles, leader of Athens, got as many people out as he could by sailing them to the south and dropping them off on the island of Salamis. He then sent a message to Xerxes inviting his fleet into the bay, promising that Athens would betray the other cities and change sides! When Xerxes got a front row ticket at the top of a hill overlooking the bay, ready to see his new allies turncoat, he got something else entirely. At the opportune strategic moment, the Greeks attacked his fleet within the confines of the bay and the straits, and sent ship after ship to the bottom of the sea by ramming them in the side at full speed, and connecting with them and storming onto their ships fighting hand to hand.
Casualties: 40 Greek ships sunk, 250 Persian ships.
Consequence: After seven hours of battle, the Persians retreated. Winter was coming, no supplies could be had for the large army, and Xerxes withdrew till spring.

Sides: Persians vs. Greeks
Time: 479 BC
Place: Isthmus of Corinth
Action: Next summer Xerxes mounted his final assault on Greece. His general Mardonius saw the Spartans in a compromising position and went at them. But the Spartans were, as Grant says, "unsurpassed in close combat." At the same time, a Greek force that had previously withdrawn returned unexpectedly and encircled the Persians. The Athenians surrounded and neutralized their cavalry, and the Spartan infantry did their work. They cut them down, and when the Persians fled, they followed, with no mercy, whittling away at their great numbers until the paths were strewn with corpses and no one had the thought of remaining in Greece as an invading force.
Casualties: 1,500 Greeks killed, 50,000 Persians.
Consequence: This was the decisive victory of the Greeks that signaled the end of the Persian wars, the first great East-West battle of civilization.

Sides: Sparta vs. Athens
Time: 425 BC
Place: Peloponnesian coastline
Action: The Peloponnesian War pitted Athens against Sparta, Greek against Greek. The Golden Age was in full swing, but this promised to cut it short. Sparta's superior army fought to the very wall of Athens, and a siege of the city began. Desperate, General Demosthenes escaped with Athenian soldiers by sea- the place the Spartans were weakest. They landed at Pylos, not far from Sparta. This surprise move caught the Spartans off guard, and the Athenians defeated an unprepared force garrisoned nearby with a hail of arrows.
Casualties: 128 Spartans killed or captured.
Consequence: This early victory would be the highpoint for Athens in this war.

Sides: Athens vs. Thebes (Spartan ally)
Time: 424 BC
Place: Attica
Action: An Athenian force advanced from the city against Boeotia, location of Thebes, a Spartan ally. Opposing phalanxes crashed, the Thebeans were 25 ranks deep, however, while the Athenians only 8. They "pushed against each others shields in brutal battle."
Casualties: 1,000 Athenians, unknown number of Thebeans.
Consequence: A setback for Athens.

Sides: Athens vs. Syracuse (Spartan ally)
Time: 415 BC
Place: Sicily's eastern coast
Action: An Athenian naval assault on Syracuse advanced with 100 ships, landed and put the city under siege. Lacking siege engines for scaling the walls, the Athenians built a new wall on the land side to lock the city down and starve it out. A 3,000 man Spartan division appeared and blocked the wall's construction. More Athenians arrived by sea as well, but too many-- disease broke out and Syracuse blockaded Athens' fleet by sea. After failed attempts to break free, the Athenians tried to escape to the interior but were hunted man by man until the force surrendered. The leaders were executed and the men sent to slave in stone quarries.
Casualties: All 30,000 Athenians killed or captured.
Consequence: This incredible blow to Athens' morale was the brainchild of survivalist Alcibiades, who did not lead the disaster himself, and may have averted it if he had. He became hated in Athens anyway, and defected to Sparta, where he help them, but then returned to Athens to help whoever was paying him, helping influence the peace process.

Sides: Sparta vs. Athens
Time: 405 BC
Place: Hellespont in Thrace, northern Greece
Action: Following the lead of the beloved Pericles, who counseled Athens to seek out its fortunes on the sea, the weakened city relied on grain imports from the Black Sea colonies to feed itself. Sparta under Lysander struck the fleet by sea to cut that lifeline. After Lysander won a battle off the coast of Ephesus, he was recalled to Sparta and replaced by a lesser admiral, who was soundly defeated by Athens. Sparta sought out Cyrus the Younger, a Persian prince, for financing a new navy. It was barely needed. When Lysander came back as admiral, he monitored the activities of the Athenian fleet, noting how they "set sail in the morning, paraded on the sea, then returned to shore for lunch." This they did religiously. Lysander had a small scout ship monitor when they were ashore, and by a light flash, the Spartans struck, seizing the Athenian ships that were empty in port. Only 8 escaped with a skeleton crew.
Casualties: 190 Athenian warships destroyed or captured.
Consequence: Facing starvation, Athens surrendered, ending the Peloponnesian War and the Greek Golden Age, marking the first time the Western world fought itself nearly to death. Other times, such as WWI and WWII, would follow.

Sides: Cyrus the Younger with Spartan mercenaries vs. Persian Emperor Artaxerxes II
Time: 401 BC
Place: north of Babylon
Action: After the Peloponnesian War, the Spartans were in-hock to Persian Prince Cyrus the Younger. The battle of Cunaxa was an attempt by Cyrus to take control of the empire from his brother Artaxerxes II. To do this he hired the Spartans as mercenaries to man his right flank. His Asiatic soldiers were on the left, and his Persian rebels were in the center. The Greeks routed Artaxerxes' left flank, but the Persians in the center were fighting the Immortals and it wasn't working. In the battle Cyrus was killed by a javelin through the stomach, and the purpose of the battle was moot. The Greeks did not know this, and Spartan General Clearchus kept fighting until the Persians were in a rout. But Artaxerxes knew the battle was needless at this point, and ordered his men to destroy the Greeks' food supplies and their campsite on the retreat.
Casualties: unknown
Consequence: The Greeks did their part, but were stuck in the middle of the huge Persian Empire, with no food and no friends. They approached a satrap (provincial governor) as mercenaries but were denied. Clearchus and other Spartan leaders were invited to a feast with the satrap, and were decapitated. The new Greek leaders secured some food and began a grueling two year journey home, through Iraq's northern deserts and Turkey's rugged east, an event known to history as the March of the Ten Thousand, one of which was Xenophon, who wrote it all down.

Sides: Sparta vs. Thebes
Time: 371 BC
Place: Boeotia, central Greece
Action: The Spartans were the prime city in Greece after the Peloponnesian War, until 30 years later, when Thebes revolted. A force of 11,000 was sent to crush Thebes, but Thebean General Epaminondas had other plans. He anticipated the Spartan battle formation, counting on their tradition and conservatism, and modified the Thebean to hit with a massive 48 rank deep phalanx from the left side. His Sacred Band, of top-notch soldiers formed their spearhead. Skirmishers fought the Spartan center while the Sacred Band led a whoosh from their side, surprising and scattering the Spartans.
Casualties: 2,000 Spartans killed, not many Thebeans
Consequence: Thebes' defeat of the top-tier city in a declining age gave it primacy over Greece. This prompted the old enemies Sparta and Athens to form an alliance against it.

Sides: Spartan-Athenian Alliance vs. Thebes
Time: 362 BC
Place: north of Sparta on the Peloponnesian Peninsula
Action: General Empaminondas of Thebes did not want to see the alliance gain too many members, and decided to preempt its growth. He marched south for Sparta, but when the way was blocked by a Spartan force, he struck the nearby city of Mantinea, an ally. But the arrival of an Athenian force blocked him there, and the three cities joined up against Thebes. Empaminondas rocked the Mantineans on the left flank, and the Theban cavalry harrassed the Athenians. The Mantineans broke ranks and ran, but at the moment of victory their general was slain, and moral nosedived.
Casualties: 1,000 killed on each side out of 25,000.
Consequence: Thebes fell from prominence.

Sides: Macedonia vs. Athens and Thebes
Time: 338 BC
Place: Thebes
Action: To the sophisticated Athenians, Macedonia was the redneck part of the country to the far, far north, past Mt. Olympus. King Philip II of the Macedonians, however, built his people into a fighting force to behold, using Greek strategy and an appreciation of the concepts of unity and bravery. They came out of the mountains, 24 years after the Thebeans were humbled by the Spartans and Athenians, to find Athens and Thebes had formed a new alliance. Philip wanted to conquer the Greek cities one by one, and unite them, like Sargon of old. He learned from Epaminondas and built a multifaceted fighting force. Infantry, phalanx, cavalry, missile troops, and hypaspists who were elite infantry given leeway to break rules if need be. It was vicious. Philip tricked the Athenian hoplites by pretending to retreat then swooping back, while Alexander, his son, charged with the cavalry and fought the Thebean Sacred Band until 46 out of 300 were left.
Casualties: 20,000 alliance members were dead.
Consequence: Philip II of Macedon became ruler of all Greece. He loved Greek culture and had his son tutored by Aristotle when he was young. He also had his son learn the military arts. He began consolidation of the country, but two years in, he was assassinated. Now this son would take command.

Sides: Macedonian-Greeks vs. Persians (with Greek mercenaries)
Time: 334 BC
Place: Granicus River, Western Anatolia
Action: After crushing a revolt in Thebes upon his father's death, Alexander the Great consolidated his rule over Greece. He massed his army and went on a path of world conquest. He planned to march down the Anatolian seacoast and have resupply ships meet him, through Phoenicia, Israel and down to Egypt. His scouts reported Persians in the vicinity of the river, by the Aegean sea. Crossing it with cavalry first, the Persians and Greek mercenaries pushed, horse-to-horse, until the Macedonians were almost backed in the river. Alexander's infantry waded across and took up the spear. The Persians ran, and the Greeks kept fighting. 15,000 were killed by Alexander's men before the rest submitted to working for them as servants.
Casualties:15,000 Greeks
Consequence: Alexander's next stop was the ruins of Troy where he gave a speech in which he called upon the spirit of the ancestors of old, of Achilles; declaring it was time to bring the rule of the Occident over the Orient. They stopped at Pergamum, Sardis, Ephesus, Priene, Xanthus and up to Gordium, where he solved the puzzle of the Gordian knot, of which it was said he who did so would become Lord of Asia. 30 cities in Lydia and Lycia surrendered without a fight to Alexander. Then he got to Tarsus on the southern coast, and the greatest general of antiquity was about to face his greatest test.

Sides: Macedonian-Greeks vs. Persians
Time: 333 BC
Place: near Antioch, southern Turkey, on the Gulf of Iskenderun (Alexander)
Action: King Darius III set out with an army of 110,000 to end Alexander's invasion and put his 35,000 men into early graves. They met at the turn of the coastline from Turkey to Syria. When Alexander discovered Darius' force, he turned to meet them on the coast, where the superior numbers would be less likely to overwhelm. His usual phalanx was 16 ranks deep, but he couldn't fight the Persians numbers without stretching this line longer and thinner. As his infantry advanced, Alexander took the lead of the cavalry charge, boldly flying right into the Persian forces. Like at Granicus they had to wait for the infantry to ford the river. Gaps formed in the Macedonian phalanx, where the spears were broken or the man was killed, and soon the Persians and mercenaries broke into the Macedonian numbers and a melee ensued. Now Alexander brought his Companions, his shock cavalry, into full boar attack on the Persian flank. They carried the day and Darius turned around and ran away from the battlefield, though his whole family was captured by the Macedonians.
Casualties: 450 Greeks and c. 20,000 Persians
Consequence: Following the victory at Issus when Darius fled east to Persia proper, Alexander did not follow him directly. He moved south through Phoenicia (Lebanon), Israel and into Egypt, where he secured an alliance with the Persian province. He founded Alexandria, where the great lighthouse, the Pharos, would be built in his honor. Alexandria would become the greatest city of the world for a century or more, until eclipsed by Rome.

Sides: Macedonian-Greeks vs. Persians
Time: 331 BC
Place: plains of Guagamela, (Irbil, Iraq).
Action: Upon hearing that Darius was readying a gigantic force of 200,000 for the destruction of Alexander's army, it was time to settle the score. Outnumbered 4-1, Alexander moved east across the Sinai, through Jordan, and across Syria to Iraq, east of old Nineveh on the Tigris. Darius had been busy refilling his army (the Greek mercenaries were gone) with war elephants from India, Scythian and Afghan horsemen, and 200 chariots outfitted with special 'scythed' wheels. It would be impossible to not be outflanked on the open plains, but when Darius called for his charioteers to charge Alexander's phalanx, but the skirmishers used their javelins to put the riders down. Stretched thin, his flank guards tried to hold back the Scythian cavalry, while the elite hypaspist infantry broke through. While his army was taking a beating, Alexander saw the opportunity for charging right for Darius, which he did, chasing him off the field of battle. He called in for his cavalry, which charged and routed the Persians, and the melee ended in a riot, with people fleeing the battlefield everywhere.
Casualties: 500 Macedonians killed with 3,000 wounded, c. 50,000 killed or wounded.
Consequence: King Darius was chased down not by Alexander, but by his own noblemen, who out of shame assassinated him. Alexander gathered his forces and rode south to Babylon, which promptly surrendered. Turning east to Susa and Persepolis, twin capitals of the empire, he routed all resistance and the Persian Empire surrendered to the Lord of Asia. Alexander burned the Palace of Persepolis to the ground in revenge for the burning of Athens exactly 150 years earlier.

Sides: Macedonians vs. Indians
Time: 326 BC
Place: Hydaspes river, northwest India
Action: The decision Alexander made in Persia was to press on and see what other worlds there were to conquer and overlay with Greek culture. Alexander took Taxila and the land of Bactria, including Samarkand and Bukhara. On the River Jaxartes, he attacked a nomadic Scythian army and won, marking the first time one had been defeated in living memory. His men fought Indians at Arbela, now they would find this land and subdue it. Four years later, after crossing the Indus River, following it south, they found King Porus, rajah of the Punjab. Many of Alexander's men remained in the west, however, and he was down to 11,000 vs. Porus' 30,000. They met on different sides of the river, and Alexander made camp. But Porus woke up to find Alexander's men had crossed the river during the night. Javelin throwers harassed the elephants, which trampled many of Porus' own men, while the phalanx did its work, followed by a cavalry charge of the Companions led by... Alexander himself. The Punjabi army was smashed, the remnants ran, and Porus was captured.
Casualties: 310 Macedonians, c. 20,000 Indians
Consequence: Alexander's last major battle was a victory, making him undefeated in his career. But his men were weary, many rebelled and wanted to go home. He turned back west. In Babylon, he died of fever.                                               

Sides: Antigonid Empire vs. Seleucid Empire
Time: 301 BC
Place: Phyrgia (south of Lydia in western Anatolia)
Action: Alexander's death led to a power struggle among his three generals, and the empire was divided between them into three Hellenistic realms, Persia, Mesopotamia and the Levant went to Seleucus, Egypt went to Ptolemy and Greece (including Macedonia) went to Antigonus. The question was Asia Minor. Antigonus did battle with Seleucus over it. The latter fielded a large number of elephants and better trained archers and javelin throwers. Grant says both sides kept the same old tactics but without Alexander's genius on improvisation. Many of Antigonus' men switched sides in the middle of the battle! Antigonus was killed by a javelin and the cause was lost.
Casualties: unknown
Consequence: Anatolia was split between Seleucus and his lieutenant. Antigonid Greece was limited to the peninsula and Macedonia proper. The Greek empires held sway despite the infighting for two centuries.

Sides: Antigonid Greece vs. Ptolemaic Egypt
Time: 217 BC
Place: Gaza, Levant
Action: 75 years after Ipsus, Antiochus III fielded 62,000 infantry, 6,000 cavalry and 102 elephants against the comparable forces of Ptolemy IV. The objective was control of the entire Levant- Syria, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon and northern Arabia. Antiochus mistakenly allowed two years preparation time for Ptolemy, and when he arrived, he was matched with an equal foe. His elephants were better, the Indian elephants were larger and more used to battle than the African elephants from south of Egypt. The Indian elephants charged and the African elephants ran. Elephants gored each other with their tusks and interlocked them. But the phalanx strike of Ptolemy was superior- he inspired the soldiers by presenting himself in the midst of the fray.
Casualties: unknown
Consequence: Egypt held the Levant for a time.

***Battle of Chios***
Sides: Macedonians vs. Rhodes-Pergamum alliance
Time: 201 BC
Place: Off the island of Chios
Action: Philip V of Macedonia built a fleet of triremes and began to challenge the islands of the Aegean in their home waters. Rhodes was the chief local power, along with Pergamum (Bergama, Turkey), a fortress city and local power. The encounter went bad for the Macedonians when they lost their flagship, and then fought a protracted but losing battle.
Casualties: 9,000 Macedonians killed, 130 alliance members
Consequence: This battle awakened a spate of navy-building.




700s B.C.

The Illiad / The Odyssey


The Illiad is the story of the Battle of Troy, as the Greek city states banded together to rescue Helen of Troy, wife of Menalaus, king of Sparta. "The face that launched a thousand ships," Helen was abducted by the Greeks' Trojan cousins. Achilles, Paris, Agamemnon and Odysseus star in this first of the classic works of the Western canon.

The Odyssey is the story of Odysseus (Ulysses) the warrior, prince of Ithaca, as he returns from Troy to his home. It stands as one of the singular works of world history, a standard by which all other books will be judged, forever. Odysseus must battle cyclops, his own pride, Calypso's seduction, Charybdis and Sylla before he returns home to claim his bride. On the way, he learns what it means to go on an "odyssey."


600s B.C.


The classic book of fairy tales, Aesop's Fables have been an entertaining and moralizing force for 25 Centuries. Usually featuring animals with anthropomorphic personalities Walt Disney style, the stories are one of a kind.


400s BC

Seven Against Thebes is a tragedy about a fratricide and an attack on the City of Thebes, and a discourse between women and men, and faith in the Olympian gods of the Greeks.

Prometheus Bound is the famous tragedy of the titan who is punished for giving the gift of fire to mankind, and who now has choice words to say to every man and god that visits him.

The Persians is a play about real events: the destruction of the Persian fleet by the Athenians at the Battle of Salamis, while Emperor Xerxes watches on from atop a craggy outcropping.


400s BC


Antigone is a play about the nature of Justice. Is doing what is unlawful ok when it satisfies the higher law of true Justice? Antigone wantes to bury her brother against the law and wishes of the King of Thebes, and a drama takes place, ending with an awakening about what is most important in life.

Oedipus Rex is about male pride (hubris) and the relationship between man and the god(s). Sometimes pride is so powerful that it blinds you to people trying to help you. Oedipus kills his own father and marries his mother, and sires his half brothers...but does not know. This is a tragedy!


400s BC


The Bacchae tells the story of the god Dionysus and the hubris (foolish pride) of the new king of Thebes, Pentheus, who does not recognize him as one of the powerful gods and all heck breaks loose when the women go to 'worship' Dionysis in secret outside of town, and Pentheus finds them a kind of ecstasy. Moral: don't ignore the irrational.

The Phoenician Women is about the sons of Oedipus (see Sophocles) battling it out for control of Thebes.

Iphigenia at Aulis compares barbarian and Greek civilization as the background of a daring escape in the lands north of the Euxine (Black) Sea.


300s BC


Lysistrata is a comedy about war and men and women- all the women in a Greek city-state agree to 'declare war'  on the men by withholding sex from them until they stop fighting a pointless war with another city- comedic episodes ensue.

The Birds is a classic epic comedy about human (and Greek-godly) faults, as an Athenian tries to get birds to take over Greece and replace the gods as the new rulers...

The Clouds is a comedy about Socrates, sophistry and a spoiled youth in Athens. A father sends his brat kid who likes fast horses, wine and girls, to Socrates for tutoring. Eventually he is taught and then argues his father into leaving the house. The dad burns down the school.

The Frogs is another comedy- the god Dionysus complains that 'there are no more good poets' now that Euripides has died, so he goes to resurrect Euripides from Hades. He goes to Charon and must now choose between Euripides and Aeschylus, for Charon thinks HE should be resurrected instead, because he is the better writer!

Apollonius of Rhodes

200s BC


This book is better known as 'Jason and the Argonauts.' Written at the famous Ptolemaic capital of Alexandria, Egypt, it is an adventure story about Jason, a Greek, who seeks the legendary Golden Fleece in order to get rich. He travels all around and finally to the north coast of the Black Sea, where he meet a lovely princess, Medea, who falls in love with him. He is not the typical hero- scared of fighting and yet adventerous and witty. He has an idealistic, dreamlike way of thinking and acting, he meets the god Apollo, fights and runs from strange and amazing beasts, and solves puzzles. On the way, he discovers, in a way, what heroism really is.


400s BC

The Persian Wars

Born at Halicarnassus in Ionia when it was under the rule of the Persian Empire, Herodotus was very concerned with the Greek victory over that Empire. He followed it closely and wrote about it. Later he wrote about his extensive travels to Egypt and other places. Because of his style, he is known as 'The Father of History,' since The Persian Wars is history's first real history textbook. It covers the great battles of Marathon, Thermopolyae Pass and Salamis, the strategy and the preparations.


400s BC

The Peloponnesian Wars

One of the greatest war books ever written, Thucydides wrote this book 'to last forever,' and it is well on its way. It details the Greek civil conflict between Athens and Sparta- the conflict that would spell the end of the Golden Age. Athens would lose miserably and nothing would be the same. Thucydides used facts only- no myth nor heresay, which on occasion Herodotus was guilty of. Not only about physical war, the book rails against the corrupting effects of the war on Athenian citizens' minds, as a formerly just polis which attacked a small island simply because they remained neutral in the war. No gods are referenced, either(!).


 400s BC


The Apology is the true story of the trial, in 399 BC, of the philosopher Socrates in Athens. In this book Plato writes as an observer at the trial- relaying what Socrates said and why. and the genius of Socrates radiates forth from every page.

The Crito contains Socrates' answer to his friend on the question of, 'why would you sumbit to their death-sentence when you were not guilty?' Socrates answers in a surprising way.

The Phaedo is the remarkable day of discussion and deliberation and farewell that Socrates and his friends have on day of his death. He shows here that the soul exists before birth and that death comes from life... but can life come from death?

The Republic is the masterpiece of classical political philosophy. Here is the ideal state- and the ideal citizen. Justice as a virtue is covered, as well as Plato's famed metaphor of 'The Cave.' In the individual lies the foundation of the state, and Plato gives an astounding teaching on how the virtue of the individual should be translated to the level of the ideal state. Here also is the Theory of Forms.

The Laws concerns law and order in a just society. A frank and brilliant discussion of laws ranging from everyday stuff like marriage, crime, trade and commerce- to deeper matters like the nature of the soul and just values and how best to achieve them. The root of the matter is found in the best law system: aristocratic elders in each city who guard that city's laws- ensuring fairness and prosperity, law and order in the city.

The Symposium is Plato's treatise on the philosophy of love. Two men in Athens have a dialogue about what love is- finding that love is a universal and a regular thing. How people come to love others is revealed and in this intelligent work, perhaps even who to love is shown.


300s BC


Metaphysics presents Aristotle's adaptation and ultimate rejection of Plato's Forms theory, and then tackles very tough questions: What is reality? Are there any universal things that must exist? This is the foundational work for all else done in matters of Western speculation on the nature of reality.

The Politics shows how high a degree of political culture the Greeks had by the 300's BC. Greek constitutional structures (esp. of Athens and Sparta) are analyzed, the importance of real education to good citizenship, and human nature (man is a political animal)- ie, family, village, polis are the natural outgrowths of individual human nature. Only in the polis will human perfection be found. Importantly, he reminds us that each situation should be considered in context, not with blanket decrees- and of coursem lack of following his advice has led us to our modern bureaucratic jumble.

The Nichomachean Ethics is the foundational work for our views on Ethcis. It shows us two major definitions that have shaped the way the West views life: What the 'good' is and the three 'lives.' The good is that which ones action seeks to accomplish, and the three lives are the 'common life,' the 'political life,' and the 'contemplative life.' He shows us that virtue in itself is worth being a Good person, that true happiness comes with the 'Golden Mean.' Observation of our actions and introspection is necessary for a Good life, and not submitting to basic animalistic instincts, helps too.


300s BC

The Elements

Perhaps the most famous and longest running textbook of all time, The Elements is the landmark work in which geometry, as explained by the master mathematician of the classical world. For 2,000 years, this book was the way that people learned geometry, because it is here, laid bare, in elegant prose unlike most math books. As a textbook, The Elements was first used in Egypt by Ptolemy, whom Euclid told, "there is no royal road to geometry." Yes, he was telling us that it is hard!


200s BC

The Works

Another master mathematician (and inventor) of the Classical World, this is the guy who ran naked from his bath into the street shouting, 'Eureka!'  When he discovered how to measure the volume of gold (to see if the seller cheated on it)- upon the request of the King of Syracuse... he could do it by using water to displace the volume. He also figured out the idea of building simple machines, and used them to make amazing things. A huge lever that could pick up boats out at sea, 'Greek Fire,' and more.


2nd Century

The Almagest

The Almagest is a science book- it carries the teachings of the old world's best astronomer and geographer, Ptolemy. Like Euclid's 'Elements,' it is a long running textbook, this one on astronomy. It discusses the solar system's 'geo-centric structure' in terms of the Earth at the center, the Moon, Sun and Planets orbiting it- with the 'celestial sphere' of fixed stars behind. To explain the motions of the planets, the 'epicycle' is introduced- reflecting mathematical clarity and outstanding deduction, though completely, absolutely, 100%, false!


THE BEGINNING OF REASON                   PHILOSOPHY SHORTIES I                                          Name_______________

Thales of Miletus is the first scientist. He toured Babylon in 583 B.C. and they told him the god Marduk hurled lightning bolts, but was confused because he was told in Greece that Zeus did that. He had never heard of Marduk before. Could they both be right? He didn’t think so, and then he made a leap of reasoning: if only one was right, then maybe they were both wrong. Maybe it was just some natural phenomenon? So he dug into the Babylonian astronomical archives. He was shocked to find that eclipses did not happen randomly, but in long patterns. He also saw that weather conditions were a good predictor of good and bad harvests. Thales was amazed, and when he went home to Greece, he predicted to his friends when the next eclipse was going to happen, but they laughed at him because “no one can possibly know when that is going to happen!!!” but he was right. In another year, he tracked the weather himself, and that winter he bought up all the olive presses. Why? Because he knew there would be a great olive harvest the following spring, and wanted a monopoly on squeezing them. He was right again, having used science to get rich! Next, he hypothesized that nature arose from some self-animated substance, which moves and changes in various forms. But what was it? He knew it had to be essential to life, because life exists. It must something arche (very old), something omnipresent- everywhere, which underlies all things. Water! Water exists as ice, liquid & vapor, and it surrounds the land-world. Q: What was Thales right and wrong about? How was his questioning new?

Pythagoras of Samos studied geometry. In 520 B.C., he came up with a bizarre hypothesis: that numbers govern the cosmos. In other words, numbers rule! His reasoning was that since everything in the universe conforms to mathematical rules and ratios, numbers are embedded into the fabric of the universe. If we can understand numerical relationships, we can come to understand the structure of the whole cosmos, and so mathematics is the supreme subject- the key to all ideas. His own theorem is a good example: a2+b2=c2, when c is the hypotenuse of a triangle and angle a/b is a right angle of 90 degrees. This is the underlying principle behind all right angled triangles and is always true. From it Pythagoras concluded laws and axioms must explain the workings of nature. He devised dimensions, those being   __,  <>, and [ ]. Numbers filled his mind; he saw them everywhere, and heard them too. Upon hearing a harp, he understood strings made certain notes in precise ratios, and when a smith hit an anvil half the size of another, the ‘note’ produced was precisely the same, an octave (8 notes) apart. Further, he noted some notes are harmonious when paired, and could predict mathematically which ones they were! Music is math, and math is music! Then, he looked up to see if there are harmonics in the heavens too: “There is geometry in the humming of the strings,” he said, “and there is music in the spacing of the spheres.” Later it would be found the elements on the periodic table are harmonic too, and that every 8th element has similar properties. From all this he invented a way of thinking called deductive reasoning, in which one starts with an axiom and trusts that, “Because this is true, these other things must also be true.” Abstract thinking, he said, was more reliable to the senses: “reason is immortal, all else is mortal.” Q: If deductive reasoning is from general axiom to specific situation, what is its opposite (inductive reasoning)?

Heraclitus in 480 B.C. argued that the universe is governed by a divine logos, a single cosmic law, according to which all things came into being, move through time, and eventually die. He wanted to know what the law is, of course, that keeps all the elements in the universe in some kind of order. There is a struggle, he believed, between opposites: hot and cold, day and night, struggle to be in balance, and for that to happen, everything must be in a state of flux, or constant change. People only think the universe is a stable thing, like Thales did, but that is an illusion. He thought its essence was water, but Heraclitus believed it was change itself. To use an aquatic example, he said: “You can never step into the same river twice.” Q: Do you agree? Why or why not?

Parmenides of Elea in 460 B.C. wanted to know what was genuinely real, and stated “all is one,” like the Transformers under Optimus Prime would later on. A follower of Pythagoras and the idea that numbers are the key to the universe, Parmenides used deductive reasoning but came up with something different. He said the premise that something exists means that it cannot also not exist at the same time, because this is a logical contradiction. This means that a state of nothing existing is impossible, a void is impossible, and something cannot come from nothing, so everything must have always existed in some form or another. Everything that is must be in some way eternal, unchanging, and have some underlying unity- all is one. We sense change around us, but reason tells us change in impossible. Thus, we cannot rely on our senses. The elements themselves move in and out of various combinations and that is what produces the illusion of change happening. “Change” is really just a reordering of things. The elements themselves do not pass away or come into being. Q: When a tree decays and turns to muck and then to fossil fuels like coal and petroleum millions of years later, what did not change about it?

Empedocles in 450 B.C. believed Parmenides was right; so he tried to identify the mysterious ‘elements’ that did not ever change, which were eternal. He identified four root elements: earth, water, air and fire. These move together and apart by the forces of Love and Strife. Later, Anaxagoras proposed the universe, even these primordial elements, is made of super tiny seeds, that are moved around and reordered not by blind forces like Love and Strife, but by a transcendent Mind of some kind, nous, which set the material universe into motion and gave it form and order. Q: How do these arguments differ?

Protagoras of Abdera in 440 B.C. didn’t believe something like ‘truth’ exists. Why? He was a lawyer and bragged how he “could make the worse argument the better,” by convincing a jury his perspective was true. They believed it, so was it “false” or “true?” It was true to them, after all! He went to Athens during the Golden Age of Pericles, and there were many people from different cities there. They came to discuss philosophy and other things. On a spring day, he asked a visitor from Egypt if it was hot or cold out and he said “cold.” He asked a visitor from Germania the same question, however, and this person said, “hot.” Both people were telling the “truth,” and so Protagoras argued the truth was relative, as in, relative to the perspective of the person making the statement. “Man, himself, is the measure of all things,” he concluded. Belief is subjective, not objective. There are no absolute definitions to justice, virtue or truth. What is true for one may be false for another. Nothing is good in itself, something is good or ethical only because people agree it is amongst themselves. Q: Do you think there is any real truth out there, or is it like Protagoras and the Sophists believed: all “just an opinion?”

Democritus of Abderra in 400 B.C. waved his hand through the air and felt something. He knew that the air was not empty, because if it were, he would have felt nothing- no ‘woosh,’ just nothing. There must be something too small to see, he figured, that makes up the gas-matter of the air. Also, if you take a piece of paper and cut it in half with a knife, then cut that half in half, and then that half in half again, how many times can you cut it until it is gone? Technically it is a paradox because if you cut something in half you cannot ever make it disappear because it is always still half there! So, eventually, he concluded, you get to something so small that you cannot see it, but even if you could, you could not cut it in half. These things, he hypothesized, are super tiny and of infinite number. They are “the basic building blocks” of matter, separated by voids of empty space in which they move about randomly, combining and recombining into visible matter. He called these things atoms, the Greek word for “uncuttables.” Parmenides was wrong, further, in saying that nothing cannot exist, for nothing is not nothing- it is something: a place in which atoms move. Matter is always conserved. It cannot perish. Only the specific combinations of atoms change, creating and dissolving an infinite number of worlds throughout the void. Q: Who was more right about this, Parmenides or Democritus, and why?

Xenophanes, Anaxagoras and Aristophanes the comedy writer hailed the victory of reason. Xenophanes made fun of the Olympian gods and people who believed in them because he could not reason why there would be gods engaged in immoral or precocious activities all the time, messing with people voodoo-style as they went. Anaxagoras likewise made fun of people who said the Sun was the god Helios, claiming instead that it is a “huge incandescent stone larger than the Peloponnese,” and that “the Moon is made of the same stuff the Earth was made out of and the sun’s light is reflected off of it.” Aristophanes, meanwhile, parodied the gods in his comedies. The thing Xenophanes emphasized, however, was that no one really knew for sure what was up with the superhuman world. Critical judgment is one thing, but if the world is based on purely mechanical natural forces, then there remained no evident basis upon which to base firm moral judgments… “And if true reality is entirely divorced from common experience, then the very foundations of human knowledge may be called into question.” It seemed that the more man became freely and consciously self-determining, the less sure was his footing. “The gods did not reveal all things to us,” he said, “but in the course of time, we must find out for ourselves.” Just as Athens built its greatest temples then, the Parthenon of Phidias and those to Zeus and Apollo, a vigorous effort was being to combine human rationality with mythic order. Q: To you, can rational clarity and mathematical elegance ever hope to coexist with the divine?


THE STORY SO FAR – SOCRATES           PHILOSOPHY SHORTIES II                        Name_______________

Can 'mind', or else, ‘minding your mind,’ make you a better person? Can philosophy help you to actually live a Good life? Well, Socrates said it could. He grew up when the old gods of Olympus were being called into question by some of the Athenians. People were wondering if virtue could be taught. Socrates said yes, through reason, and being reasonable could be taught as well, and that good, freethinking people can be molded into being from humble beginnings. They can then question the meaning of essential concepts that we use every day but have never thought about, and find their essence, an essence true for everyone in the world. No relativism there. Socrates taught about the role of reason in a person’s ethical outlook on life. Q: Was Socrates’ outlook optimistic or pessimistic? Why?

Born in 5th Century B.C. Greece, Socrates died in 399 at 70, condemned to death by a jury of 501 democratic citizens. No one man in history, except perhaps Jesus, has made more of a difference in the history of Europe. All philosophy after Ssocrates (and science- which is a spin off from philosophy) was inspired by him. Half of Western culture depends on Socrates. Every single philosophical school in antiquity except materialistic Epicureanism claims lineage from him. What made him different was his whole new way of thinking. He invented a skeleton key for thinking, a power tool for reasoning: he invented the logical argument. We use this all the time today, ironically, often without thinking! For example, when a point is proven to be true (to any reasonable person), that was done using logical reasoning. Reason is a thing, a thing that can be used, a things that is shared, and appealed to. The American Founders appealed to the reason of mankind in stating why they were separating from Britain. Socrates questioned people as a lawyer questions someone in court, through cross-examination- this is the Socratic method. If A is B, and B is C, then it must be true that A is C. Sounds like one of the properties you study in math class. Q: What achievements in the process of thinking and talking did Socrates develop?

It seems simple and innate to use logic and reason, but this art had to be discovered and practiced. It awoke from its long slumber in the mind of Socrates first, who gave it expression through his words and actions. In the mind of Socrates, reason became aware of itself. He famously said: “Virtue IS knowledge, and vice IS ignorance.” If you really know the Good, as in, what is Good for you, then you will do the Good thing always. Thus, what is evil? Evil is ignorance of the Good. This means not ignorance of facts, but ignorance of values in general. Rational self-criticism can free the human mind from the bondage of false opinion. So, what does Socrates mean by saying that virtue is knowledge and vice is ignorance? We all have the experience of knowing what is Good and yet choosing evil. Socrates is not ignorant of this fact of human nature, and his answer as to why we do this sometimes is found in one of the greatest speeches ever made: The Apology, given before the court of Athens. An apology is not an admission of guilt in this case, but a defense of beliefs and actions. “I would like to apologize” actually means, “I would like to explain myself.” Q: What is good and what is evil, according to Socrates?

In the event, Socrates tells the democratic crowd in the Theater of Dionysus, which is now a jury, the story about how he became a philosopher. He is on trial for atheism (not believing in the gods of Olympus), and he answers that charge by relating how pious he really is, with the following story: At Delphi, there lived the Delphic Oracle, a prophetess who gave guaranteed true answers in the form of riddles inspired by the god Apollo. Even Greeks who were skeptical of the gods (and there were many) believed in the Oracle because it always came out right. So, when he was a young man, Socrates’ friend Kairophon asked the Oracle, “Is there anyone in this world wiser than my friend Socrates?” And the oracle answered “No.” Well when Kairophon told Socrates this, Socrates was shocked. He didn’t have any true wisdom- he knew he didn’t.  He was a regular person, without any great insight into the universe or nature. But now comes the part that proves his piety: instead of dismissing the Oracle as a fraud, Socrates made a leap of faith. He hypothesized it was possible the Oracle did not lie, that it was not wrong, and therefore wanted to understand the meaning of the Oracle’s riddle. But to be sure, he decided to go out and find a person wiser than himself, to take to the Oracle, so it would explain its riddle to him more clearly. But he never got to go to the Oracle with this wise person, because he never found them. What he found instead was that everybody who thought they had wisdom lost most of it upon Socrates’ cross-examined them. They believed they were wise, but once challenged by Socrates’ method, it turned out they were not, and so not only were they not wise, but they were doubly flawed because they erroneously believed that they were. Q: How was Socrates “wiser” than the people he talked to?

Thus, the self-fulfilling prophecy of the Oracle came to pass because the Oracle’s answer made Socrates go out and invent the Socratic method, discover ignorance, initiate the art of cross-examination still used by lawyers, teachers and debaters today, and become the first philosopher. The Oracle’s riddle was the catalyst that originated Western philosophy’s whole method of understanding! An example of Socratic method: he found a judge who sat on juries, and asked him a question:

S: Oh great and wise politician, what are you wise about? J: I am wise about justice- that's my thing. S: Oh well, then can you answer me the simplest question about what it is, so I don’t confuse it with injustice? J: Come on, Socrates, everybody knows what justice is. S: So then you do too? Please tell me so that I might also know. J: If you insist. It means paying back what you owe and being paid back in turn what is owed to you. S: Thank you kind sir, good day. But wait- before you go, I’m not sure I understand your definition. Do you mean that if I had lent you my knife, and then I, for reasons unknown, became maniacal, that it would be just for you to give me back my knife while I was in that state? J: Well no! Of course not. Do I look like an idiot? S: So by your own admission justice is not always paying back what is owed, because in this case paying me back would be to give me back my property. Please, then, tell me what justice is universally- by its very essence. J: Socrates, don’t be a troublemaker! (man becomes angry and storms off). Q: What is the essence of justice?

Socrates went home, thinking that he didn’t learn much about what justice is, but thinking he did learn a lot about what wisdom is, and what ignorance is. This man thought he was wise, but he was not. The Sophists, likewise, were teachers in Athens who hired out their tutoring to wealthy young men who wanted to be in political life. They wanted to be leaders and to be successful. To these young men the Sophists promised to teach them the skills to help them get ahead in life- to be successful by hook or by crook. They taught them all moral standards were mere conventions, that all knowledge was relative. Socrates found this educational philosophy both intellectually misconceived and morally detrimental. In opposition to the Sophists’ view, Socrates saw his own task as that of finding a way to knowledge that transcended opinion, to inform a morality that transcended mere convention. Q: What would justice be according to the Sophists?

Socrates found out that people come in one of two kinds: 1) fools who think they are wise, and 2) the wise who know they are ignorant. He therefore tried to help people become wiser, by teaching them, or else getting them to understand that once they realized they were ignorant, their quest for true knowledge could begin. Those who would undertake this quest were people who loved objective knowledge so much, that they would be prepared to seek it wherever it may lead. They would become philo-sophers (those who love wisdom) and start asking questions. Only though self-knowledge can one find genuine happiness, and all human beings seek happiness by their very nature, and happiness is the key to living the kind of life that best serves the nature of the soul. Humble yourself, and the Socratic paradox will take form in you. Q: What is happiness?

In The Apology, Socrates taught another paradox: he taught the jury to be sure that: “If you sentence me to death, you are actually harming yourselves- for the eternal law makes it impossible for someone good to be harmed by someone bad.” A riddle? What did he mean? It’s baffling, really, because he means it is literally impossible for a good person to suffer at the hands of a bad one. Socrates’ answer to, “why bad things happen to good people?” is that they never do! Yes, Socrates is giving us a puzzle, and, in solving it, we can become wiser. Solving the puzzle: His meaning is that Apollo’s command to “Know Thyself” does not mean “know what personal feelings and experiences you have had in your life” but instead, it means “know what a human being is, and therefore what you are- and what is the nature of being human.” Put another way, it means asking, “What is the ESSENCE of mankind?” If you find the answer to his question, you will find the answer to why a Good person cannot suffer evil. The link is that evil cannot be done to a good person because of what man’s basic essence is. So what is it? Well, it is what is left when everything has been taken away from a person. When honor, freedom, and even life are taken away, only the essence is left. Socrates himself provided a great example at his execution, in which everything, even his life, was taken away. The essence of a person is his or her virtue and wisdom, which cannot be taken away. Q: What does it mean to “know thyself”? Where are these essential things located? They are not located in a person’s mind or body, but in their soul. The true self, therefore, is the soul- the inner self- the inner light- where your personality arises. That is why bad people cannot harm Good people, because they cannot attack your soul. Evil from outside can attack your body, and it can harm your body, it can even kill your body. But the only evil that can ever be visited upon the essence of you, your soul, comes from YOU. It comes from the inside of you. It comes by your folly, self-destructiveness and your vice. No one else but you can make you foolish or vicious, or, for that matter, wise and virtuous. No one but YOU is in charge of your soul, your character, your personality. Not society, but only you- you are the captain of your soul, and ultimately, the master of your fate. Q: Do you agree or disagree with Socrates? Why?


PLATO’S SUPREME IDEA                            PHILOSOPHY SHORTIES III                      Name_______________

This discovery made by Socrates that if you only KNOW the Good, you will do it, always, every time, and that all evil comes only from ignorance of the Good, was a radical discovery in the history of human consciousness. If true, it is an astonishing breakthrough because it isolates the cause of evil, and to know the cause, is to know its cure. If you know your own true good is the good of your soul, then you know that happiness is not ultimately in the body, any more than weight is in the soul. And you know that virtue and good manners, and the way you carry yourself, is the way to happiness because the state of your virtue is the health of your soul. If you know these things, it follows that you will always seek virtue and never vice. You will always be a good person because you want to be, because you know that being good is the greatest good. This is the Socratic revolution: that moral wisdom exists. Once you know that, you “Know Yourself!” Q: Why would people who realize the essence of themselves is in their soul always do good?

Try an example of ignorance to test Socrates’ theory. Pretend that you are poor. You want to be rich and buy things, things you think will give you satisfaction in having them. You are also poor in wisdom, however, and you’ve confused your “essential self” with your “bodily comfort and the material goods your body desires to have.” You identify the Good life incorrectly, therefore, as that which allows you to have the money-power to buy whatever you desire when you desire it. So one day you drive down the street and see a bank robber drop a sack of money in a getaway. You pick it up, look around, and think, “Dang, no one saw me! I can keep it!” You are not a professional thief... it doesn’t feel like stealing... you’re in the clear, so why are you tempted? Because you don’t yet really believe that virtue is what actually makes you happy. You haven’t yet figured out that happiness is a matter of the state of your soul, not a pocket full of someone else’s money. You don’t yet know fully that you are essentially your soul, your mind, your will, and your character. You still have your doubts, and you have them because you are not yet wise enough to Know Yourself. You figure: “Well, a little moral evil like taking the money might be worth it, because it might give me a lot of happiness.” But suppose the thief had dropped a sack of cockroaches instead. You would not be tempted to steal them. Why? Because you see the true value of cockroaches and know they won’t make you happy. You’d have to be nuts to think they’d make you happy... but you do think the money can make your essence happy... and if you do think that, you are just as nuts. YOU DO NOT KNOW YOURSELF. Q: Would you take the money anyway?

How do you resolve the problem of ignorance of yourself? Socrates said ignorance is the cause of evil, but wisdom is the cure. So remove the effect (evil) by removing the cause (ignorance)! Socrates, however, called the mind the soul’s only light, like a navigator in the darkness of life seeking a lighthouse, but he left out the Will. What’s the Will? When you saw that money, and knew you could steal it without being caught, at that moment, was there something telling you to take it because of the temporary satisfaction and desires the money could provide? And did that something want you to listen to IT, like the old cartoons when the angelic and devilish “you” are talking in your ears? One voice comes from your reason (conscience), what Freud called your superego, while another comes from your Will with its many desires (id), and you (the I, or ego) finally cast the deciding vote. The ego, that’s you. That’s your soul. You tell one of those two voices to shut up and agree with the other. You command your thoughts, and you turn to one set of thoughts or another. The captain orders the navigator. You are responsible not just for you actions, but for your thoughts too! Socrates didn’t see that fully. Jesus and Buddha did. Q: What did Socrates not consider in his calculation that Jesus did?

The philosopher Protagoras said “man is the measure of all things,” meaning ideas like justice and virtue were not absolute things like Socrates believed, but were relative to the person thinking about them, meaning they are whatever people’s opinion of them was. Another philosopher, Heraclitus, argued the only constant thing in the universe is change. Everything is in flux, he said, moving all the time. Nothing is eternal. Against these arguments stood Plato, who said clear definitions for absolutes could in fact be produced. Virtue, like Socrates said, was knowledge, and we can recognize the correct, or perfect, form of anything- a form that is true for all societies and for all time. There is an ideal form of things in the world we inhabit- both physical objects and moral concepts. There are many different beds, but I know what a “bed” is supposed to be. Dogs come in all shapes, colors and sizes, but I know what “dogginess” is. True knowledge comes from reasoning, not through the senses. We know the Pythagorean Theorem works even though there is no true triangle in nature. So where does that perfect triangle exist? In our minds. We can see it in our minds; it exists in the realm of ideas. That world is the true “reality,” not the world of the senses around us. If particulars are to have meaning, there must also be universals, and this is the Theory of Forms. What we experience in life are shadows of reality, hence the Allegory of the Cave. Q: How do we get true knowledge of something?



Greek art of the Golden Age



Early Greek sculpture, the Kouros and Myron's, Discus Thrower




Another Golden Age sculpture, the Statue of Zeus of Artemisia




Cast of Bronze, this is the momument to Leonidis, who led the 300 against Persia




Hermes of Olympia- he has a child and a cloth in his arm, noted for outstanding detail




The most admired face of all Classical sculpture, the Apollo of the Belvedere





Greek ideal of feminine beauty, the Venus de Milo, a famous Golden Age sculpture










A detail of a Doric column




A detail of an Ionic column




A detail of a Corinthian column




Sparta's remains. We don't know what it exactly looked like but we know it was probably bland and rugged




The Temple of Apollo at Corinth




Theater of Dionysus at Athens, where votes were tallied and dramas were performed




The great Temple of Poseidon at Sounion, welcome point for Greeks coming home and foreigners coming to visit




The Acropolis of Athens, cultural center, crown jewel of the city and of all of Greece




Close up of the Parthenon, one of the world's most famous buildings




The 3rd Wonder of the World, the huge statue of Zeus at Olympia, site of the games




What Olympia used to look like




Famous gate of Olympia, where the games would begin with the torch coming through and into the arena area




The 4th Wonder of the World, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus in Ionia




The Temple of Apollo at Delphi, home of the famous Oracle of Delphi and the most sacred place in Greece




The Grand Theater of Epidarus, the best preserved of all Classical theaters




The 6th Wonder: the Colossus of Rhodes in the Greek islands




Plan your honeymoon to Athens and you can impress your new bride by eating here... oh wait you just got married,

I guess you don't really need to impress her anymore- don't worry, Athens has McDonalds too!



 Leaders of the Achaean and Golden Ages



King of Sparta



Ruler of Athens



Ruler of Athens




Greek Scientist




Greek Scientist




Ruler of Athens




Ruler of Athens



Spartan General




Greek Dramatist




Athenian General



Leader of the Athenians




Greek Navy Commander




Greek Historian




 Hellenistic Art and Architecture

(300s-100s BC)


The Port of Athens, Piraeus, as it looks today. The Long Walls reached to here from downtown

 During the Peloponnesian War with Sparta, they were the city's lifeline to its colonies and supplies during the long siege.





The face of Alexander the Great:

King of Greece and Macedonia, Pharaoh of Egypt, Emperor of Persia, Master of the World





A map of Alexander's campaigns, locate Byzantium, Gordium, Issus, Tyre, Egypt (off map), Arbela, India (off map)




Town of Gordian, where Alexander "solved" the puzzle of King Gordian's Knot




The great Battle of Issus




Alexander with Baucephalus, his famous horse, at left




Image of Alexander in Northern Greece, being argued about between Greece and Macedonia





Hellenistic sculpture: The Dying Gaul. Expressiveness now we see as never be fore





Sculpture of Laocoon and his Sons- here we see a twisting and struggling situation




The great Farnese Tazza, a Hellenistic masterpiece of craftsmanship





The Nike of Samothrace. Nike means 'Victory' and she is portrayed with eagles wings





The greatest library of world history: at Alexandria, Egypt- now completely destroyed




Alexander built Greek style cities all over his new realm- though many in Asia have not survived. This is Afghanistan!




Pergamum in modern Turkey had some great temples too




Remains of the Tower of the Four Winds- an astronomical tool in Hellenistic times




The 7th Wonder of the World, the Pharos lighthouse of Alexandria






Greek Poet



Although most people have heard of Aesop's Fables, very little is actually known about the man who wrote them. A slave who became a freedman in Greece, Aesop both generated original fables, and codified existing ones. The fables have been contemplated by Socrates and Plato and others down the ages. Outspoken and a gadfly, he was murdered in Delphi. Still, his legacy is unmistakable and has a special place in the history of the Western tradition.


Greek Writer




Greek Mathemetician




Greek Poet




Greek Scientist



Greek Scientist



Greek Scientist



He wrote 120 plays, and mere 7 of which survive, but what wonders they are. His mighty impact on theater in Athens was felt in his own time (writing Antigone and Oedipus Rex) as his plays spoke to people in a unique way.


Greek Dramatist




Greek Sculptor


The father of history, Herodotus collected his materials systematically and after travels to Egypt and the Middle East, and around the Greek world, and after fighting in the Persian Wars, undertook to pen it all down in a book called "History of the Persian Wars". He mixed in a travelogue detailing the history of the places he visited in vivid narrative, which makes for great reading even today. (KS)


Greek Historian




Greek Sophist



A masterworker of bronze sculpture, some of Myron's work depicted heroes and gods, as well as athletes done with appreciation of the pose. Discobolus, the Discus Thrower is his masterpiece. Other work was done of a cow (some athletic pose?), a Satyr and Ladas, a runner who died at the moment of his greatest fame. Myron brought great motion and life to his work, but did not portray emotions in them. (AT)


Greek Sculptor



Greek Dramatist



Greek Writer




Greek Philosopher




Greek Historian



The Father of Medicine. We still take the Hippocratic Oath today. His revolutionary view of clinical medicine differed entirely from what came before: The Hippocratic Theory postulated that prognosis was more important than diagnosis. No supernatural causes or mystical intereference. Disease and sickness were caused by natural forces.


Greek Scientist




Greek Scientist




Greek Dramatist




Greek Orator



One of the all time great philosophers and founder of Western thought, Plato spun masterful dialogues featuring his illustrious teacher Socrates. He also evolved the Theory of Perfect Forms, and illucidated the Allegory of the Cave to show people why their personal perspective is really a flawed represenation of reality... unless they can break the chains of the mind to see things as they really are. The Republic described the ideal state. (SS)


Greek Philosopher



Born in the colony of Sinope, he was exiled for defacing coins and went to Athens, where he lived in the street in a bathtub. He walked with a lamp 'looking for an honest man.' He deficated and masturbated in public, in the Agora. This is a guy who just didn't care. Indeed, he even urinated on someone who trashed his way of living. Plato called him "Socrates gone mad." He was called 'dog', not like the 'dawg' of today's slang, but the dog as in 'behaves like a dog.' He finally had to move to Corinth where Alexander found him laying down in the street and asked if there was "anything he could do for Diogenes." Diogenes replied, "Get out of my light." (EP)


Greek Hellenistic Philosopher



Greek Philosopher


An orator who bridged the Hellenic and Hellenistic periods in Greece. As a child he had an impediment of the speech, which he overcame with the help of an actor after a humiliation. His political speeches (both written and spoken) shook Athens down, at a time when unification was needed to oppose Philip's invasion. His words enlivened a coalition to fight it at Chaeronea, but this did fail. The Philippics remain a classic series of speeches. As Alexander won the world and died young, Demosthenes committed sucide so as not to be arrested. (DM)


Greek Orator


Father of Alexander the Great and reformer of Macedonia (which was on the brink of collapse when he ascended the throne), and reformer of the Macedonian military, Philip dreamed of uniting the ever-divided and independent Greek polei under his rule. He was voracious, a womanizer and an alcoholic. He attacked Greece and was victorious where Persia failed, but was assassinated after the conquest of Greece at his daughter's wedding. His son Alexander was to succeed him. (WM)


King of Macedonia




Ruler of Hellenistic Greece




Greek Sculptor




Ruler of Hellenistic Egypt




Ruler of Hellenistic Asia



Born in tiny Pella, Macedonia, tutored by Aristotle in Greek culture, and sufficiently engrained with a notion of Greek superiority, as to succeed in a life-mission of world conquest and the spreading of Hellenic culture to its very corners. One of the total surprises in history, Alexander marched 11,000 miles, and showed unbelievable military prowess: he never lost a battle. (ES)


World Conqueror




Greek Hellenistic Philosopher




Greek Hellenistic Philosopher



The mathematician who created the building blocks of geometry. He lived for some time in Hellenistic Alexandria, and taught at the school there. He wrote the longest running textbook in history, called "The Elements," about geometry. His proofs and theorems are still used today, and he sought to show how people can gain knowledge through rational methods.


Greek Mathematician




Greek Warrior




Greek Scientist




Greek Mathematician




Greek Scientist




Greek Mathematician




Ruler of Hellenistic Asia




Ruler of Hellenistic Asia




Greek Scientist








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