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A History of World Societies, Sixth Edition
McKay/Hill/Buckler/Ebrey
Web Exercises
Chapter 5: The Greek Experience

Ancient Greek civilization laid the foundation for modern Western society through its experimentation in politics, science, and philosophy. It also played a crucial role in world history. This series of web activities will stress both of these themes as it reinforces and elaborates on key issues developed in Chapter 5.

Helpful Hints:
  • You may want to begin by printing this page. As you explore different sites, use the printout to refer back to the instructions and questions detailed in each activity.
  • On many web sites you can increase the size of the images by clicking on them. Whenever possible, use the larger images to examine fine details in photographs.
Activity One:
  • To begin your investigation, familiarize yourself with Greek history. Using McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition), as reference, make a chronological list of the major periods in ancient Greek history starting with the Minoans and ending with Hellenistic society. (Hint: Look at the subheadings in the chapter for clues. You can also look at the chronology at The Ancient Greek World or Ancient Greece.)
Activity Two:
  • Go to Map 1 to orient yourself to the Mediterranean basin. What three continents does the Mediterranean Sea unite? What previous civilizations that you studied in Chapters 1–4 could you place on this map?
  • Locate the Greek homeland on this map.  Note the physical environment of the Greek world. After reviewing pages 107 and 113–114 in McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition), make a list of how this physical environment shaped Greek civilization. You also might want to look at National Geographic's View from Above: The Mediterranean and Map 5.1 on page 106 of McKay.
  • List several examples of how other civilizations might have affected Greek culture. Hint: consider the history of writing. Examine this example of Greek writing: what other writing system(s) does Greek writing resemble?
Activity Three:
  • Another Greek tradition that most of the nations of the world celebrate today is the Olympic games. Yet, the ancient games were quite different from their modern counterparts. To better understand the ancient games, read the following history of the Olympic Games. Make sure to click on and read the pages on Olympia. How did the ancient games reflect Greek values and culture? What were the major events? Which events have modern equivalents and which are unique to the ancient games? What were the important buildings at ancient Olympia and what was their significance?
Activity Four:
  • The Greek philosophical tradition has profoundly influenced the modern world, especially Western views on science and mathematics. In Chapter 5 of McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition), you read overviews so the thought of Plato and Aristotle.  Take a moment to consider specific examples from the work of each.  Read the following excerpts from Plato's Republic and Aristotle's Politics.  Aside from the fact that both of these texts concern the state and how it should be governed, how do they resemble and differ from each other in their style, tone, and emphasis? What principles of government does each text articulate, and how do those principles differ from each other? How do these texts exemplify the thought of these important philosophers as you understand it? (Feel free to review McKay pp. 122-123.)
Activity Five:
  • As you know, drama, both tragedy and comedy, played an important role in the social life of Athens and other city-states.  (See McKay, A History of World Societies [Sixth Edition], pp. 116-118.) To learn more about this art form, read this brief history of Greek drama.  What were its origins? What was the religious dimension of the drama? how did the theatrical competition develop? Who were the major figures in the evolution of Greek drama?
  • The short historical piece ends with a diagram of the great theater at Epidauros.  Take a look at the archeological remains of the theater at Epidauros (you can click on the images to enlarge them). 
  • Finally read these short documents on Greek drama: what do they tell you about the social significance of and philosophical attitudes toward drama?
Activity Six:
  • Among their many achievements, the ancient Greeks laid the foundations of Western art.  The basic Greek artistic values of realism and correct proportion would shape the work of Western artists until the late nineteenth century.  However, Greek art did not develop in isolation from larger developments in the Mediterranean world.  For example compare these Egyptian and Persian sculptures with this early Archaic Greek Kouros (i.e. Youth).  How does the Greek statue resemble the Egyptian and Persian pieces? How do you think the Egyptian and Mesopotamian art came to influence Greek art?
  • Now trace the development from Archaic to Classical art.  Look again at the early Archaic Kouros, as well as the Archaic Kleobis and Biton.  Now examine the classical Kritios Boy, Discobolos (discus thrower), Zeus, and Youth from Antikythera.  What has changed in artistic technique from the Archaic period to the Classical age? What continuities and differences can you see between the Archaic and Classical sculptures?
  • Finally, consider the development of sculpture during the Hellenistic period. Look back at the Classical pieces.  Now compare them with the following Hellenistic sculptures: Apoxyomenos (a young athlete removing dirt and sweat with a scraper), Seated Boxer, veiled dancer, Eros (or Cupid) Sleeping, and two of the most famous Hellenistic statues, Laocoön and the Nike of Samothrace.  How do the Hellenistic sculptures resemble and differ from their Classical precursors?  What new artistic interests and techniques do the Hellenistic pieces display? Recall what you have read In McKay, A History of World Societies, about Hellenistic civilization: what characteristics of the civilization might explain the distinctive features of Hellenistic sculpture?


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