An Introduction to Greece
Ancient Greece, and Athens in particular, is the centre piece of our story, for it is here that money first came into use and that the market economy emerged. It was in many ways the turning point in the world’s history. There were new forms of literature, art was transformed and democracy was invented. It was indeed the time indeed when history first emerged as an attempt to write an objective account of what happened in the past. It is a complicated and fascinating story,
But it is going to be a difficult story to tell, for it also means changing the whole emphasis of how Greek history is told. The traditional account, which was, I think the normal account throughout most of the first half of the 20th century, saw the major changes coming in the 5th century. However, throughout the last 50 years the emphasis has been changing towards looking at the major changes that took place in the 8th and 7th centuries BC. These were indeed centuries of change, when Greece, and indeed much of the east Mediterranean, awoke from the Dark Ages. It was the time when the cities began to be formed and expand. It is the time when the Homeric epics reached their canonical form. And it was the time when Greek cities sent out colonies all over east Mediterranean, from the Black Sea to Sicily, and even up in to southern France.
However I believe that the changes took place in the sixth and fifth century were even more important, for this is when money was first introduced. Greece had certainly already emerged as a forerunner in the new world and the reasons why the money was adopted so rapidly and thoroughly in the 6th and 5th centuries lie in the changes that took place in the 8th and 7th centuries. But I believe that the tipping point came in the years around 500, and I aim to present a convincing account as to how this happened.
So far I have only put together three episodes in my story. The first is one of the first pieces I wrote which is now fairly elderly and needs to be rewritten, but it is an account as to how these changes took place and the foremost role played by Athens.
And then there is an account of Sparta which is, I think, quite revolutionary because I present Sparta as being the city that deliberately rejected money and the changes that came with it, and defiantly maintained throughout the 5th and 4th centuries the social structure of an earlier barbarian age. And I look too at the origins of Sparta in the Mycenaean Age and a quick look too at what happened to Sparta in the Middle Ages when the open valley bottom town of Sparta was replaced by the hilltop town of Mistra.
And finally as a sort of side show I take a trip to Epidauros, a town well known to tourists for its superb theatre. However, I basically ignore the theatre and look instead at the accounts that still survive carved on stone. If you want to know how to build a temple in Ancient Greece and get some sort of insight into how the Greek economy really worked, come with me to Epidauros.
On to Athens
Uploaded: 27th September 2011