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Ancient Greece

Life in ancient Greece

Caryatids (the female statues) on the AcropolisCaryatids (the female statues) on the Acropolis During the 5th and 4th centuries BC, Greek thinkers and artists made huge progress in the arts, philosophy and science. Historians call this the Classical Age of ancient Greece. The city-state of Athens was at its most powerful during this period. The city had been destroyed by the Persians in 480 BC, but it was rebuilt in great splendour. One of the most magnificent projects was the group of buildings on the Acropolis, the rocky outcrop that still dominates Athens today. At the heart of the Acropolis was the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the city’s goddess, Athena.

Politics and democracy

In ancient Greece, people spoke out against being ruled by rich citizens and having no say in how they were governed. A new system of government, called demokratia, which means “government by the people”, was introduced in Athens in around 508 BC. Our English word “democracy” comes from demokratia.

A man makes a political speech in Athens.A man makes a political speech in Athens.In Greek democracies, all citizens could vote for their leaders and have a say in how the city-state was run, much as people have a say in democracies today. Women and slaves were not considered citizens, so they could not vote. If people were dissatisfied with a member of their government, they could vote for them to be removed from office. Athenian citizens made their feelings known by writing his name on pieces of broken pottery, called ostraka. If ostracized (removed from office—the English word comes from ostraka), they would be exiled for 10 years.

All male athletes competed naked in ancient Greece. It is from this practice that we have our word “gymnasium” which comes from the Greek word gymnos meaning “naked”.

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