Classical Mythology/Historical Background

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Classical Mythology Course

Classical Mythology Course
Odysseus among the Sirens

Objectives[edit | edit source]

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • identify the major time periods of Greek history.
  • find the centers of Bronze Age Greece on a map
  • place the main authors of Greek myths in historical context
  • find the main civilizations whose myths influenced Greek myth on a map
  • place the main cities of Greek myth on a map

The historical background to ancient Greek mythology extends before and after ancient Greek civilization and far beyond the confines of Greece.

Basics about Greek Civilization[edit | edit source]

Geographically, Greece is divided by mountains and seas, so that Greek life has always been local. This division had linguistic effects, the ancient Greek language had many different dialects, even different alphabets. Sometimes the dialects were mutually unintelligible.

Politically, the peoples of Greece were never united under a "Greek" unified government until Greek Independence in the modern era, around 1830. Even then, a majority of Greek-speaking people still lived in communities outside the new nation of Greece.

However, there were strong cultural and economic connections between the Greek cities. Sea travel was far more efficient for trade than land routes, and even in the Bronze Age Greek peoples traded by sea along routes stretching from mainland Greece in Athens to the islands of Crete and Cyprus, all the way to Lebanon and Egypt. In the Classical Period, the economic and political power of Athens helped unify Greek cultural and literary traditions. The tensions between local traditions and unified [[w:panhellenic | panhellenic customs

Early Mediterranean Cultures[edit | edit source]

Greece is often thought of as the Westernmost outpost of European culture. In antiquity and even today, it can be productively thought of as the Easternmost outpost of Southwest Asian culture. Long before Greece developed writing systems, large unified political systems, or large-scale architecture or art, these arts flourished in the major centers of modern-day Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq. These civilizations gave Greece many of the higher arts and culture, including writing systems, astronomy, technology, and even myths and religious practices. Throughout history Greeks and other Mediterranean societies exchanged religious practices and myths. Even at the peaks of Greek civilization and afterwards, when many or all of these areas were ruled by Greek-speaking elites, these areas remained the richest parts of the Mediterranean.

Ancient Egypt[edit source]

Mesopotamia[edit source]

Elamites[edit source]

Hittites[edit source]

Iran (Persia)[edit source]

Prehistoric Period[edit | edit source]

The Indo-Europeans[edit source]

The Minoans[edit source]

The Mycenaeans[edit source]

Historic Period[edit | edit source]

Archaic Greece[edit source]

Classical Greece[edit source]

Hellenistic Greece[edit source]

The Roman World[edit source]

The Post-Classical World[edit | edit source]

References[edit source]

  1. Hittite texts documented from about 1650 BC see
  2. documented from between 1450 and 1350 BC, "Tablet Discovery Pushes Earliest European Writing Back 150 Years".
  3. The adjective Indo-European is best reserved for any language descended from Proto-Indo_European. For example, English is an Indo-European language, and Irish, Spanish, Czech, Urdu, and Armenian are also all Indo-European languages.

Classical Mythology Course

Classical Mythology Course
Odysseus among the Sirens