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Who Are the Greeks?

The Greek called their country Hellas and themselves, Hellenes. With the arrival of the Romans, they called themselves Gracias. The Greeks were not the natives of Hellas, and there were other people who were called the (Protogreeks). They had dark skin and black or brown hair with brown or black eyes. Their origin is not known but they immigrated to Greece in 2200 BC and they lived there for several centuries until they made a civilization called the Mycenaean civilization in 1400 BC. The Mycenaean Civilization had many centers (such as Macedonia, Argos and Daphne). Their civilization lasted for 200 years, until a sudden death in 1200BC. At this point, the history of the Greeks begins with the Sea People (Dorians) invasion. The Dorian might have come from Central Europe. Dates in the Greek history: 1-The Greek Dark Ages extended from 1200BC to 800/750 BC .We did not find any thing dating back to this period. 2-The Archaic period took place from 800 /759 to 550 /500 BC .the Greek history began when they invented the writing and the basics of their civilization. 3-The Hellenic Period extended from 550/500 to 334/323/305BC. In 334 BC, Alexander, the Great left Macedonia to go eastwards with the aim of fighting the Persians. In 323 BC, Alexander, the Great died. The year 305 BC is known in history as the year of kings as when Alexander, the Great died leaving his empire to his generals without an heir, his generals or leaders divided his empire between them and Egypt was taken by Ptolemy I). 4-The Hellenistic Period extended from 334/323/305 to 31 BC. It began with the Roman leader, Octavious, defeating Cleopatra and joining Egypt to his empire, the Roman Empire, in 27 BC (the time of Alexander the Great, to 31 BC, the time of the Roman conquest of the Eastern Mediterranean). The Sea People: Between 1000 and 500B.C, people living around the Mediterranean Sea became civilized. They organized themselves into city-states. Three of these people came to have particular significance, namely the Carthaginians, the Etruscans and the Hellenes. Each of the Sea People developed independently, with individual characteristics of living that grew out of their geographical and historical circumstances. The Hellenes were particularly fortune as they were close enough to the civilized East to be in touch with it. The Hellenes: The Hellenes were a mixed people descending from two main groups of ancestors who differed physically and culturally. One branch came from the Bronze Age Sea People, including people of Crete, Cyprus and Phoenicia, most of whom had a delicate small bone structure, coppery skin that easily took on brownish-red tones when exposed to the Sun and wide dark eyes. The other ancestral group was the IndoEuropean people including the Dorians and the Ionians. 1-The Dorians: they were the original invaders who refused to mix with the native people (the Protogreeks) and kept their race. They were blond with blue eyes. They were good warriors and their most famous city was Sparta. 2-The Ionians: they were the Dorians who married from the Protogreeks. They were dark-skinned with black or brown eyes and hair. Compared with the Dorians, they were more and their most famous city was Athens. Greece is divided into two distinct parts separated by a narrow strip of land known as Isthmus of Corinth. The southern portion was known as Pelephesseus and the Northern as Attica .Greece was not a united country but it consisted of several cities called ‘Polis’ which means ‘a city-state’. The number of citizens in the polis should not be less than 5000 to 10000 persons, with the exception of Athens the population of which reached 20000 citizens.

– Hellenic Polis

Though all were Greeks, people of the polis can be divided into 3 main categories: 1-The citizens: they were the natives who were born in the polis. They enjoyed their own freedom on the condition that they avoid threatening the polis’ safety and if this condition was broken, punishment would be what they reaped. Besides, they enjoyed many rights, the most important of which were as follows: A- The right of voting: the king of any polis couldn’t take any decision before the acceptance of his people through voting. Afterwards, the king had to do what people chose, even if it was against his desire. B- The right of joining the army during the war: if any one refused, he would be turned to a slave. C-Paying taxes: resembling privilege, taxes were not paid in the form of money but everyone was responsible for undertaking something, a person might be responsible, for example, for building a temple. D-Participation in the official worship of the city: each city had an altar around which citizens gathered in the city’s official ceremony. 2-The non- citizens: the large majority of the non-citizens were merchants, traders and craftsmen. Though free, they didn’t have any of the rights enjoyed by the citizens. That is, if a non-citizen stayed in a polis, he would never have the citizenship of this polis. 3-The slaves: one could be taken into slavery once failing to pay back a sum of money he had borrowed. When caught as a thief, a citizen was taken as a slave, and if caught again, he was to be expelled. Plus, the father inside a family had the right to sell any of the family members as a slave.

– Government in the Hellas Polis

Each polis had merely one king, with the sole exception of Sparta that had two. Kingship could be hereditary or by election for a limited period of time then, the king was to be elected again by people. The king also could be elected once for his life time, having the duties of leading the army during war, running the polis’ affaires, summoning citizens for voting on important issues and leading them during the official worship. In some polises, the noblemen expelled the king and took over his office, and therefore were called tyrants.

– Religion in the Hellenic polis

As much as religion was concerned, Greeks were very tolerant believing that any element in life had a spirit, therefore; minor deities for all elements of life rose. However, there were also universal deities and Zeus was the king of gods. These universal deities were known as the Olympic Gods because they used to dwell on the top of the mountain Columbus. All Greek gods and goddesses were represented in human form acting like human beings, yet, they were different from the human beings in two main points: A-They enjoyed superpower and extraordinary abilities. B-They were immortals. Worship wasn’t a private affair in Ancient Hellas, so each polis had only one altar around which citizens gathered.

– Greek Gods and Goddesses

1-Zeus: for the Greeks, Zeus was the King of Gods whose voice was the thunder and his messengers to the human beings were the rainbow and the eagles. 2-Hera: representing the motherly virtue, Hera was the wife of Zeus. 3- Poesidon: he was a brother of god Zeus and the god of the sea. 4-Artemis: she was the goddess of wood and hunting. 5- Hermes: he was the messenger of the deities and he led the deceased to the after life. 6-Appolo: he represented man’s virtues and beauty. 7-Dionysis: he was the god of wine and celebration. 8- Aphrodite: created from the sea foam, Aphrodite was the goddess of love and beauty of woman. 9-Haphaestus: he was the god of industries and black smiths. 10-Hadas: he was the god of the afterlife (and the afterlife was thus called Hades. ( The Ancient Greeks believed a sea separated between the world and the afterlife, therefore; the soul of the deceased should be ferried across by a ferry man called Charon.

– The Rise of Hellas Kingdom

Bigger in size, Macedonia was situated to the northwest of Hellas as a united country ruled by a sole king. Macedonia was famous for its good quality wood so, the Greeks imported wood from there to build ships and as a result Macedonia was the only foreign country invited to the Olympic Games. The Macedonian people spoke a different accent of the Greek language never considering themselves Greeks and the Greeks never considered them Greeks because they were less cultured and civilized than the Greeks. Macedonia was also less developed than Hellas. However, the first Macedonian family claimed itself of Greek origin but the Greeks refused such a claim, so the first known Macedonian king (Alexander) claimed that he was a descendant of god Zeus.

– Alexander II

Alexander II: he ruled for a short period and since he was childless, he was followed by his brother. Predicass II: he ruled for a limited number of years but he had a son called Amyntas III who was still a minor king so he was placed under the regency of his uncle Philip II.

– Philip II

After a short period of time, he killed his nephew Amyntas III and claimed himself as king in 359BC. When aging 17 years, he fell in captivity for 3 years in the polis of Thebes as a prisoner of war. During his stay in Thebes, he noted that the Greeks were more advanced than his own people. One of his dreams was to make Macedonia as advanced as Hellas, so he studied the new military technique which was called phalanxes. After being freed, he became the king of Macedonia. He decided to build a strong army and to train the army in the phalanx technique. The main dream of Philip II was to unite the Greek polises (cities) under his leadership, the leadership of Macedonia to fight the Persians who were their common enemy. In order to achieve his dream he followed 3 main means:- 1-The political mean: he sent messengers to all the Greek polises calling on them to join him in the wars against Persia, but only very few cities accepted his offer. 2-The bribery mean: By using this means, a large number of cities joined Macedonia. 3-The military mean: he declared war against the polis which refused to join Macedonia by the first 2 means and he succeeded in defeating them by force, and finally he succeeded in uniting the Greek cities under the leadership of Macedonia. He prepared a joint army of Greeks and Macedonians that was ready to start to fight the Persians. Before his departure, he decided that his daughter should marry, and during her wedding, one of his army officers killed him for a personal dispute in 336BC. Philip II was married to a Greek princess (called Olympus) who was rough-natured, so they were not on good terms. She gave him children among whom was Alexander III. With the advance of time, their relationship deteriorated and the children sided with their mother. So the relationship between Alexander and Philip II (his father) was tense. However, Philip II provided his son, Alexander III with the best military training and brought Aristotle to be his personal tutor as he provided his son with the best education. When the relationship between them became very bad, Philip exiled some of Alexander’s friends outside Macedonia believing that they were the reason for this bad relationship. Among these friends was Ptolemy, son of Lagos, who was brought up with Alexander in the royal palace and was 10 years older than him. When Alexander III became the king of Macedonia, he asked his friend Ptolemy to return back to Macedonia and appointed him as an officer in the army. Ptolemy, son of Lagos, proved his ability and became one of the 7 top generals of the army who were the bodyguards of Alexander III.

– Alexander III (Alexander the Great)

He was born in 356 BC and became the king of Macedonia in 336 BC at the age of twenty. He had a fair complexion and had the figure of a real athlete as he received the best military training and education. As soon as he became the King of Macedonia, he reduced taxes on the Macedonian people promising them that he would follow the political system of his father, Philip II. He summoned the Greek polises to meet him to renew their loyalty for him but some Greek cities – led by Sparta – refused to meet him. Before taking any decision against them, on the borders of Macedonia, a trouble had broken out by the semi-private tribes, Ghol. After preparing the army, Alexander III defeated them and restored law and order. During his fight against these tribes, rumors spread in Greece that Alexander, the Great was killed. Such rumors arouse a number of Greek polises – headed by Thebes – to revolt against Macedonia. When Alexander III returned to his capital and knew about the Greek revolution, he marched with his army very fast until he reached Thebes and surrounded it. He asked the polis to surrender and to join Macedonia once more, but the citizens refused. With their refusal, he didn’t wait; rather, he attacked the polis without giving any chance for his army to have a rest. By morning, all men were killed and both women and children were taken as slaves. He destroyed the whole city with the exception of its temples. When the news of Thebes reached the other Greek polises, they declared their loyalty for Alexander, the Great. Once more, he prepared a joint army of Macedonian and Greeks headed by him and went towards eastwards to fight the Persians in 334 BC. The first encounter between Alexander III and the Persians was a battle near a river called Eranicus in Asia Minor. The Persian army was led by a Persian satrap. After a short-timed battle, Alexander III defeated the Persian army and defeated their forces towards Persia. Then, the news reached Alexander III about the presence of another Persian army at Issus on the northern Syrian coast under the command of the Persian king. So Alexander III moved with his army to Issus meeting for the second time with another Persian army. After a fierce battle, he succeeded in defeating the Persian army and the defeated forces escaped to Persia. At this time Alexander had two options to choose from: 1- To follow the defeated Persian army in order to finish it off before getting improved. 2-To occupy the east of the Mediterranean Sea and Egypt to prevent the strong Persian fleet there from receiving orders or supplies and thus, this fleet could be defeated without having to fight them. Alexander chose the second option by occupying the east of the Mediterranean Sea and continuing his march to Egypt in 332 BC. Egypt at that time was under the 7-year second Persian occupation. The Egyptian welcomed the arrival of Alexander the Great believing that he came to help them getting out of the Persian occupation but Alexander III had another idea in his mind. He was crowned as the new Pharaoh of Egypt by the priest of god ptah in their famous temple H.t-k3-ptH at Memphis then he decided to consult the famous oracle of god Amun at Siwa Oasis. He followed the Canope branch of the Nile until he reached the Mediterranean Sea then headed west to Marsa Matrouh and south to Siwa Oasis. Reaching the Mediterranean Sea, he noticed the strategy of the site of the Ancient Egyptian village that was located there so he ordered his chief architect, Dinocratis, to build a new city carrying his name and so the city of Alexandria was found. Then he reached Siwa Oasis and consulted the oracle of Amon. He sent a letter to his mother Olympius telling her that she would be the first one to know what Amon told him. Alexander the Great never returned back to Memphis and he appointed Clemenes (a Greek banker) from Naucratis a chief administrator of Egypt. Alexander III left Egypt and continued his conquest against the Persian Empire that he succeeded to demolish. Alexander the Great married to a Persian princess called Roxona. On the night of his wedding, 5000-9000 Greek and Macedonian officers and soldiers married to Eastern women, among them was Ptolemy, Son of Lagos. This night is known in the history as the great wedding night. Alexander III continued his conquest until he reached the Indian borders but his army refused to proceed any further, so; he was forced to retreat back. On his way back at Babylon, he fell in suffering from swamp fever. After a short period of the illness, Alexander III died in 13th of June 323 BC, leaving behind him his pregnant wife, Roxona, and his half brother, Phillip Arthemidis. After the death of Alexander the Great, his army’s leaders decided to hold a conference (which is known as the Babylon conference) to decide the future of the newly created empire. After a long debate, they reached the following decisions: 1- Alexander III’s body should be mummified. 2-His mummy should be buried at Pella, the capital of Macedonia. 3-Pella should be the capital of the new empire. 4- Alexander III should be succeeded by his half brother, Phillip Arthemides, and his son (if Roxona gave birth to a baby boy). In fact three months later, Roxona gave birth to a baby boy called Alexander IV. 5-Minor kings should be under the regency of the army’s oldest ruler who was called Predicass. The countries of the Empire were divided among the other leaders of the army to rule them as satraps in the name of the family of Alexander the Great.

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