Andrew's Greek Project

My project for Professor Wickkiser's Classics 208 class. These artifacts demonstrate that the rise and fall of Greece in antiquity can be traced alongside the relations between city-states - Greece was at its best when they were united, and its downfall was their infighting.

This dagger from Paros in the Cyclades is made with bronze. For millennia, the Neolithic Greeks had used stone and flint in tools and obsidian blades - the development of bronze hints toward a growing regional awareness and trade routes. Because bronze requires two components, tin and copper, and tin was rather rare, the prevalence of bronze artifacts means that complex trade routes - not only through Greece, where only minor stocks of tin existed, but with other parts of Europe - would have developed to spread tin (as well as copper and the teaching of metallurgy), and thus the beginnings of Greece's interactions within the region and with Europe's other developing cultures can be observed.
As distinct societies developed in Greece they spread their culture through contact with other regions, particularly trade as mentioned previously. Mycenaean culture absorbed that of the Minoans after conquering them, particularly the bull as an icon of religious significance. As a product of Cyprus, this bull reflects that trade and contact with other Greek societies spread Mycenaean (and its Minoan influences) culture, and indicates a well-established trade route with Cyprus and throughout the Mediterranean. These aspects that became common amongst early Greek societies were the bedrock for Greek culture in later centuries, uniting various city-states through shared traditions, showing the influence of the full-fledged trade network that was already established and was bringing societies together, and a common Greek identity was forming.
The date and origin of this helmet hold particular value when looking at Greece from a standpoint of diplomatic and political history. Around the time this helmet dates to, Sparta was becoming more powerful through a series of alliances, gaining powerful allies - one being Corinth. This diplomacy would eventually result in the establishment of the Peloponnesian League, the first of several leagues in ancient Greek history. The member states pledged to protect and help one another whenever they were at war - thus establishing what may be called the first large alliance between powerful states in Greece. An attack on a member of the League was an attack on all of them. As a mainly military arrangement, this development in Greek politics is well-reflected by the Corinthian helmet.
Entering the century that was the zenith of Ancient Greek society, this period saw a high degree of Greek unity early on. After the Ionian Revolts, most of the Greek city-states were united against Persia when Darius tried to invade, and even more so when his son Xerxes made his own attempt a decade later. It led to unprecedented cooperation between the city-states, particularly the second invasion where Sparta and Athens led a coalition of states against Xerxes. The war led to the establishment of the Delian League led by Athens, which united states against Persia with the promise of revenge. However, it also ensured the s**erpower status of Athens and Sparta, who would be locked in rivalry for decades, eventually spilling over into war. Despite this, the Persian Wars would remain a uniting memory for most Greek states and a point of common pride, where they all stood together to defeat a tyrannical invader. This is reflected in Spartan rhetoric at the outset of the Peloponnesian War, which was meant to compare it to the Persian Wars and stir ** Greeks to join them. Representing a time of uncommonly cooperative relations between states (nothing brings people together like a common threat) and camaraderie, it was appropriate that the Persian Wars were early events in what is considered the Greek Golden Age. This helmet, from around the time the Persian Wars begins, can thus serve as a reminder for the events that led Greek states to better relations than ever before.
Pericles is an important figure not only to Athens but to Greece because during his reign Athens tightened its grip on the Delian League. Dying shortly after the beginning of the Peloponnesian War, during his rule many of the factors which led to the war materialized: Athens began to exercise hegemonic domination over the Delian League. The League's treasury was moved to Athens. Athenian actions towards Samos when it rebelled in 440 BCE were ruthless. Tensions with Corinth were stirred when Athens allied Corcyra. While he oversaw the Golden Age of Athens, by consolidating the state's power over the Delian League, Pericles is also tied to the development of Athens into a hegemonic empire, souring its relations with other states.
A rare piece of actual Greek government policy, these Athenian decrees are telling of relations after the Peloponnesian War; the Delian League had crumbled and Athens was crippled. Many of her allies in the League had left, and as Samos was one of the few loyal states who remained, Athens chose to reward it. Athens would never reach its prewar heights again, and indeed in the aftermath of the war neither would any of the other hopeful contenders, not even Sparta; the vacuum of power left by the humbled Athens would lead to squabbles between the other states, and it would not be conclusively filled until the Macedonian Philip II conquered most of Greece, unifying all the states (save Sparta) under his rule. The breakdown in relations between states (who had once been united against Persia) weakened Greece considerably and made them a target for outside forces like Macedon.
In stark contrast to the decades before it, there were no clear reigning powers after the Peloponnesian War. They were all simply trying to keep one another in check. Allies from the war began to fight one another, like Thebes and Sparta. Sparta briefly held power until Thebes utterly routed them at Leuctra in 371 BCE. In its aftermath it seemed now that Thebes and the Boeotian League had power. As more defeats were inflicted upon Sparta and more members left in response, the Peloponnesian League fell apart. This coin not only reflects the brief period wherein Thebes appeared to be the most powerful state in Greece, but also the post-Peloponnesian War feuding and the breakdown in relations between states which created an enticing opportunity for an outside power to take over.
By 340 BCE, Philip II of Macedon held most Greek city-states under his sway, and in a few years would consolidate his command to all but Sparta. He and his son Alexander, Macedonians (seen by the Greeks as non-Greeks) would now lead Greece. However, Philip understood the discontent this would brew amongst Greeks and sought to prove himself to be just as Greek as them; this coin which features Zeus and Philip represents an attempt by Philip to associate himself with Greek icons. This would be common as Greek remained occupied by foreign powers for the next 2000 years; many civilizations so admired Greece during its golden age that they sought to emulate it or associate themselves with it. As Philip looked to conquer Persia, and his son extended his empire to the Hydaspes, Greek culture and admiration for it spread. So, through aggressive expansionism, Philip and Alexander began a new era which would last hundreds of years - one where Greece, though conquered, still captured the hearts and minds of its captors and held great symbolic and cultural significance.
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