From Athens to Sparta (04:26)
Pheidippides ran from Athens to Sparta to get help to defend against Persian invasion. A 152-mile race, the Spartathlon, honors this event. Athens’ democracy, the first in history, was only 17 years old.
Battle of Marathon (05:25)
Pheidippides ran from Athens to Sparta, made the request for aid and was told that Sparta would help when there was a full moon in a few days. Outnumber two to one and without help from the Spartans, the Athenian routed the Persian army in the Battle of Marthon.
Turning Point (05:41)
General Themistocles convinced the Athenians to invest their wealth into building a navy. In 480 BC the Persians invaded, winning the Battle of Thermopylae and invading Athens, though all its citizens had been evacuated. The Athenian navy and its allies won over the Persian navy in the Battle of Salamis, which Bjørn Lovén says is a major turning point in the history of western civilization.
In the Golden Age of Greece, the Parthenon became the symbol of democracy, but the Agora is where it was developed and worked out practically. The Agora was an open square where elections, markets, and athletic competitions were held.
Elements of Athenian Democracy (03:34)
Athenian leaders were not elected, but randomly selected. Citizens voted on laws that they proposed. Dubious leaders could be ostracized and banned from the city for ten years. Women, people from outside of Athens, and slaves could not vote.
Philosophy and the Arts (04:59)
In the Agora, Socrates confronted citizens to consider assumptions of life, creating the Socratic Method. Western drama was born, with tragedy addressing philosophical questions, and comedy, lampooning contemporary society. The art of sculpture put humans, not gods, at the center of the universe.
The myth of Icarus proves a cautionary tale for the end of Golden Age Athens. As Athens was growing, Sparta’s resentment grew and it declared war in 332 BC. The Peloponnesian War lasted three decades. During this time, Athens lost one quarter of its population to the plague.
End of Classical Greece (04:35)
By the time Socrates was put to death, the Peloponnesian War was lost and the Athenian Empire was crumbling. Its democracy fell in 388 BC. King Philip II of Macedon conquered all of Greece, except Sparta, uniting it into one kingdom; he was assassinated in 336 BC.
Alexander to Constantine (03:46)
Alexander the Great, trained by Spartans, educated by Aristotle, spread Greek ideas from Greece to India to Egypt. The Romans would pick up and spread Greek ideals until the fourth century AD, when Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity.
Enduring Legacy (04:10)
Things such as science, philosophy, and Greco-Roman religion were described as pagan by the church and considered heretical or blasphemous. In the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, classical Greek ideas were rediscovered. These ideas of democracy and humanism continue to influence our world.
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