PLACE KNOWLEDGE – 2c(ii) Ancient Greece

Greece was once one of the most important places on the planet (about 2,500 years ago!) and the ancient Greeks are still remembered for their great thinkers, warriors, writers, actors, athletes, artists, architects and politicians.

In ancient time there was not one single country called ‘Greece’. Instead, Greece was divided up into small ‘city-states’, such as Athens, Sparta, Corinth and Olympia. Each city-state ruled itself independently and had their own governments, laws and army. Ancient Greeks living in Sparta considered themselves Spartan first, and Greek second.

The city-states often didn’t get on well with each other and regularly fought bloody wars. At times, however, they were also capable of joining together to fight against bigger enemies, such as the Persian Empire. Only a very powerful ruler could control all of Greece. One man who achieved the feat around 300 BC was Alexander the Great, of Macedonia. Alexander led his armies to rule over an empire that stretched as far as Afghanistan and India.

When fighting, the Greek army used a foot soldier who fought with a long spear and a large round shield. These soldiers were called hoplites and they fought in teams, lining up with their shields locked together and their spears pointing over the top. This formation is known as a ‘phalanx’.

The Greeks were also known for their fearsome warships, which had oars as well as sails. The largest warships had three banks of oars and were called ‘triremes’. The largest triremes needed as many as 170 men to row them – one man to each oar. Fixed to the front of the triremes were sharp metal rams. In battle, the triremes tried to as get close to the enemy ships as possible, and if possible crash into them.

The ancient Greeks loved sport and competition and the Olympic Games were the biggest event in their calendar. The games originally began over 2,700 years ago in Olympia and took place every four years, just as they do today. People would come from all over Greece to watch the competition. As well as a sporting event they were also a religious festival in honour of Zeus, the king of the gods.

In the ancient games the winners did not receive medals. but were instead given a wreath of leaves, as well as a hero’s welcome when they returned home. Athletes who won were seen as having been touched by the gods.

The competitors at the games were all men, and married women were barred from even watching! The main events were:

  • Running
  • Discus
  • Long Jump
  • Javelin
  • Wrestling and Boxing
  • Horse Racing

Follow these hyperlinks to learn more:-

  1. National Geographic Kids – Ancient Greeks
  2. BBC – Ancient Olympic Games
  3. British Museum – Ancient Greeks

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