Look at the word cloud your teacher shows you and guess what the topic of the next few lessons will be. See if you are right and look up three words of your own choice. Then get into pairs and explain the meaning of your words to your partner. When you have finished, switch partners at least twice.
Ancient Greece had one language and culture, but was not unified until 337 BC, when Macedonia defeated Athens and Thebes. That marked the end of the Classic period, and the start of the Hellenistic period. Even then, the conquered cities were merely joined to Philip II of Macedon's Corinthian League; they were not occupied, and ruled themselves.
Ancient Greece consisted of several hundred more-or-less independent city states. This was different from other societies, which were tribal, or kingdoms ruling over relatively large territories.
Undoubtedly the geography of Greece—divided and sub-divided by hills, mountains and rivers—contributed to the nature of ancient Greece. On the one hand, the ancient Greeks had no doubt that they were 'one people'; they had the same religion, same basic culture, and same language. Yet each city-state or "polis" was independent; unification was something rarely discussed by the ancient Greeks. Even when, during the second Persian invasion of Greece, a group of city-states allied themselves to defend Greece, most poleis remained neutral, and after the Persian defeat, the allies quickly returned to infighting.
The major features of the Ancient Greek political system were:
Its fragmentary nature. There was not one country, but many little countries called "city-states".
The focus on cities in tiny states.
The colonies they set up round the Mediterranean were independent of the founding city. However, they were sympathetic to their 'mother city'.
Conquest or direct rule by another city-state was quite rare.
The cities grouped themselves into leagues, and members sometimes quit one league and joined another.
Later, in the Classical period, the leagues were fewer and larger, and dominated by one city (particularly Athens, Sparta and Thebes). Often cities would be compelled to join under threat of war (or as part of a peace treaty). After Philip II of Macedon 'conquered' the heartlands of ancient Greece, he did not attempt to annex the territory, or unify it into a new province. However, he did force most of the cities to join his own Corinthian League.
Some cities were democratic, some were aristocratic, and some were monarchies. Some had many revolutions in which one kind of government replaced another. One famous Greek kingdom is Macedon, which became briefly the largest empire the world had seen at the time by conquering the Persian empire (including ancient Egypt) and reaching into modern-day India. Other famous kingdoms are Epirus and Thessaly.
Monarchies in ancient Greece were not absolute because there was usually a council of older citizens (the senate, or in Macedonia the congress) who gave advice to the King. These men were not elected or chosen in a lottery like they were in the democratic city-states.
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