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Ancient Greek Culture

Time and Place

Geography of Ancient Greece:

Map of Ancient GreeceAncient Greece is the term used to describe the Greek-speaking world in ancient times. It refers not only to the geographical peninsula of modern Greece, but also to areas of Hellenic culture that were settled in ancient times by Greeks including Cyprus, the Aegean coast of Turkey (then known as Ionia), Sicily and southern Italy (known as Magna Graecia), and the scattered Greek settlements on the coasts of what are now Albania, Bulgaria, Egypt, Libya, southern France, southern Spain, Catalonia, Georgia, Romania, and Ukraine.

Timeline of Ancient Greece:

There are no fixed or universally agreed upon dates for the beginning or the end of the Ancient Greek period. Traditionally, the Ancient Greek period was taken to begin with the date of the first Olympic Games in 776 BC, but many historians now extend the term back to about 1000 BC.

Modern Greek school-books date the "ancient times" as a period of about 1000 years (from the catastrophe of Mycenae) until the conquest of the country by the Romans. The timeline is divided in four periods, based on styles of art as much as culture and politics. The historical line starts with:

  • The Greek Dark Ages (1100–800 BC). In this period artists use geometrical schemes such as squares, circles, lines to decorate amphoras and other pottery.
  • The Archaic Period (800–500 BC) representing those years when the artists made larger free-standing sculptures in stiff, hieratic poses with the dreamlike "archaic smile."
  • The Classical Years (500–323 BC) when artists perfected the style that since has been taken as exemplary: "classical", such as the Parthenon.
  • The Hellenistic Years which followed the conquests of Alexander (323–146 BC), also known as Alexandrian. Aspects of Hellenic civilization expanded to Egypt and Bactria and the integration of Greece into the Roman Republic in 146 BC.

These dates are historians' conventions. Some writers treat the Ancient Greek civilization as a continuum running until the advent of Christianity in the third century AD.

Religion in Ancient Greece

The ancient Greeks were a deeply religious people. They worshipped many gods whom they believed appeared in human form and yet were endowed with superhuman strength and ageless beauty. The deities were depicted either by themselves or in traditional mythological situations in which they would interact with humans and a broad range of minor deities, demi-gods and legendary characters.

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“Mythology: the body of a primitive people's beliefs, concerning its origin, early history, heroes, deities and so forth, as distinguished from the true accounts which it invents later.” 
-- Ambrose Bierce

Metaphysics Network 

"It is the part of men to fear and tremble when the most mighty gods by tokens send such dreadful heralds to astonish us."
-- William Shakespeare 

The Metaphysical Store 

“A one sentence definition of mythology? "Mythology" is what we call someone else's religion” 
-- Joseph Campbell


"In all the antique religions, Mythology takes the place of dogma."
-- William Robertson Smith

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"I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded on fables and Mythology."
-- Thomas Jefferson

The Metaphysical Society 

"A myth is an image in terms of which we try to make sense of the world."
-- Alan Watts

The Metaphysical Dictopedia 

"I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge... myth is more potent than history... dreams are more powerful than facts... hope always triumphs over experience... laughter is the cure for grief... and love is stronger than death."
-- Robert Fulghum