Greek history

Classical Studies (OFC304C)

Skills Practice Task

Short Answers

1) The sources for ancient history are divided into four categories. Name each of them, and briefly describe two of those categories.

„h Archaeology:

Archaeology is the science or study of history derived from the evidence of the relics and remains of early human cultures as discovered chiefly by systematic excavations. The Oxford Classical dictionary defines archaeology as ‘the study of the whole material culture’. By this definition, archaeology is the study of history through the analysis of tangible evidence. e.g. roads, buildings, sculptures, tools

„h Coins (Numismatics)

Numismatics is the science of coins and medals. As a source, coins are of particular importance. A lot can be determined in regards to metal usage, quantity of metals, craftsmanship, identity (in terms of origin) and trade. Coins were generally made of gold, silver, electrum, bronze and copper. Not much has changed in the way of coins. The designs are easily identifiable as to which period and origin they had belonged to. In addition to this, the complexity of the design work shows the relative ability of the people of that time in terms of workmanship.
Roman coins can be found all over Europe. In light of this, it is possible to deduce that Romans had contact with other countries. Also the quantity of coins at a certain location could give some idea as to the amount of trade that existed. In addition coins are incredibly durable, thus being an ideal source for archaeological evidence.

„h Inscriptions

„h Literature

2) What was a Greek Polis?

The Poleis were a body of cities in an autonomous state. There are many sources that define the Polis in one way or the other as a city-state. In all simplicity, it is a community of citizens (adult males), women, children, slaves and resident foreigners. It was self- sufficient, had its own government, constitution, unique culture (religion, tradition and so forth) and a defined territory. Some poleis were incredibly small and others such as Athens and Sparta have been estimated to have population figures above a hundred thousand. Although they were individual Heles and fought each other frequently over the scarce resources (in regards to arable land, metals etc.), they did unite to fight a common enemy in the Persian Wars.

3) Did the geography of Greece affect the development of the Polis? How?

The topography of Greece is mountainous, rocky and there are only small patches of land that are suitable for agriculture. Poleis were intended to be small, it was a fact that the Greeks could not support large populations due to a lack of food resources among other deficiencies.
Socrates said that an ideal population for an poleis would be that of 5000 citizens, which taking into consideration of non-citizens came to a figure of roughly 15000 to 20000 people. These lack of resources had forced groups of people to roam and create colonies that could be self supporting and very often those Poleis were situated on the sparse and separated patches of suitable land all over Greece. This later extended to islands and land that was far removed from the Greek peninsula.

Not only did the lack of resources affect them, yet the sheer physical divisions, which were the result of mountains and other natural land formations. These physical formations affected the development of Poleis in regards to location. Many Poleis could be found near the coastal areas where the sea was accessible and the land less rugged.

4) What was an Agora and why was it important in a polis?

The Oxford History of the Classical World defines the agora to be a place of assembly, a seat of justice and of government. The agora was the focal point for the city’s everyday affairs and trade of all kinds. Brothels, foodstuffs, barbers and all levels of commerce took place here. Some Agora’s were rather spacious, with dimensions up to the size of 100m by 200m.
In addition there was an area known as the colonus agoraeus which was situated by the hill near the marketplace in Athens. Important public buildings and equally important public officials were stationed here. Even of more significance was the ‘Council House’ where the ‘Boule’ sat. These were the eldest and richest in the city (council of 500) who ran