Ancient Greece

The Greek World

Where the Western civilisation began?

Ancient Greece is called the birthplace of Western civilisation. About 2500 years ago, the Greeks created a way of life that other people admired and copied. The Romans copied Greek art and gods. The Ancient Greeks tried out democracy, started the Olympic Games and left new ideas in science, art and philosophy.

The Ancient Greeks lived in mainland Greece and the Greek islands, but also in what is now Turkey, and in colonies scattered around the Mediterranean sea coast. There were also Greeks in Italy, Sicily, North Africa and as far as France. Sailing the sea to trade and find new land, Greeks took their way of life to many places.

How was Greece ruled?

There was not one country called Ancient Greece. Instead, there were small city-states. Each city-state had its own government. Sometimes the city-states fought one another, other times they joined together against a bigger enemy like the Persian Empire. Athens, Sparta, Corinth and Olympia were four of these city-states. Only a very powerful ruler could control all of Greece. One man did in the 300 BC. He was Alexander the Great, from Macedonia. Alexander led his army to conquer not just Greece but an empire that reached as far as Afghanistan and India.

What was Ancient Greece like?

Ancient Greece had a warm, dry climate, as Greece does today. People lived by farming, fishing, and trade. Some were soldiers. Others were scholars, scientists or artists. Most Greeks lived in villages or in small cities. There were beautiful temples with stone columns and statues, and open-air theatres where people sat to watch plays.

Many Greeks were poor. Life was hard because farmland, water and timber for building were all very scarce at the time. That's why many Greeks sailed off to find new lands to settle.

Trojan War and Wooden Horse

The Trojan War began when Paris, Prince of Troy, ran away with Helen, wife of King Menelaus of Sparta. The Greeks sent a fleet of ships, with an army, to get her back. The war lasted for 10 years. In single combat, the greatest Greek warrior, Achilles, killed the Trojan leader Hector. In the end the Greeks won, by a clever trick using a wooden horse.

The Wooden Horse was the trick the Greeks used to capture Troy. First they pretended to sail away, but left behind a giant wooden horse. Inside the horse, Greek soldiers were hiding. Rejoicing that the Greeks had gone, the Trojans dragged the horse into their city. They thought it was a gift. That night the Greek ships returned. While the Trojans were asleep, the hidden Greeks climbed out of the wooden horse. They opened the city gates, and let in the Greek army. Troy was destroyed. The Trojan War was over.

By Herbie Sage