Medical Information for Greece – USA


Members of Team USA must fill out an updated medical form, regardless if your information has changed.

Please bring this with you to the hotel in Baltimore. PRESCRIPTIONS Athletes and coaches need to plan to be on an 8am (breakfast), 12pm (lunch), 4pm (dinner) and 8pm (evening or bedtime) med schedule by the time they arrive in Baltimore.

This will make sure everyone is able to check-in at “med times.” We will err on the side of slightly over-medicating while getting everyone on Greek time asap, but is better than the alternative of under-medicating, especially with seizure meds.

For the very few athletes/coaches who are on insulin, Dr. Whitt will meet with them in Baltimore to adjust their meds prior to departure.

Any athletes or coaches with questions may contact Dr. Whitt prior to leaving Baltimore. L. Janelle Whitt, D.O. Medical Director – OU Tulsa Community Health/Bedlam Medical Director – OU Tulsa PA Program

More Travel Tips for Greece…..

Thanks to our friends at Special Olympics Illinois and the Chicago Hellenic Museum Greece for this information.

• Difference 8 hours CST.
• Greece uses Military time.

• 80-95 F
• Dry not humid
• Sun is very strong. Sunscreen is a must and apply often.
• Drink lots of water.

• Rhodes – English is spoken
Attempt to speak Greek language as a sign of respect.
• Signage is in Greek and English.

• Family oriented
• Hospitality is very important.
• Relaxed
• Time schedules not always exact.
• Trusting. One’s word is golden.

• Exchange at airport or any bank.  Euros are used.
• Carry a small amount of cash – less than $50.00.
• Vendors will ask how you are paying. Prices go down with cash.
• Credit cards will be charged an extra 1-2%.  Visa or Master Card best. Not Discover
• ATM’s are plentiful. Usage charge $3.00

• Small purses
• Nothing in back pockets
• Carry passport at all times
• Make multiple copies of passport – keep one at home and place 1 in each piece of luggage.
• Emergency: Dial 100 ( = our 911)
• Pharmacies have green cross signs
• Pick up “Athens Guide” free little magazine at hotels. Contains maps and restaurant information.
• Rail system – 3 Euros for a day pass.
• 220 volt   use 1600 watt  transformer.   Round plugs use on appliances.
• Traffic bad around 14:00 PM

• Purchase prepaid cell phones.
• Minutes on Greek prepaid phones are not used on incoming calls.
• Use Cosmote Phone system ( like our AT&T)
• Check international card packages for hidden charges.
• Calling cards may be used.

• Tip and tax  included on bill.
• Beef is tough and not often served.
• Pork is the main meat
• Waiters will not interrupt the meal once it is served. Raise your hand for service.
• Served family style. Salad and bread placed in center of table and everyone shares.
• Sandwiches are served with fries wrapped in the sandwich.
• Seafood, pork chops and shish-kabobs are excellent.

• Breakfasts:  Light meal. Honey main topping, yogurt, fruit.
• Main meal 14:00 PM. (2:00 PM)
• Evening meal – 20:00PM

• Bring comfortable non-slip shoes. Lots of marble steps and walkways which gets slippery when wet.
• Cotton or dry-fit material.
• Windbreaker
• Casual clothes, no need for ties or sport coats.

• Businesses open Daily – 9:00 AM -14:00 PM
Also: Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 17:00 PM -20:00 PM
• Quiet hour 14:00 pm – 17:00 PM – Family time
• Kiosks on every corner.  ½ of water 50 cents

Tourist sites:
• Visit in the morning before the heat of the day.
• Open 9:00 AM – 14:00 PM and 17:00 PM – 23:00PM

• NW Suburb of City Center – Omonoia – Stay to main street and take cab at night.
• Nothing in back pockets.

Beat the Heat: A Word from the Team USA Medical Staff

It will be hot and humid in Athens. The summer daytime temperatures are about the same as they are in the hot southern cities of Miami, New Orleans or Atlanta.

Air conditioning in Greece is a lot different than in the United States. Even with air conditioning, it is not as cool inside the buildings as we are accustomed to in the USA.

The best way for you to prepare for the heat that we expect in Athens is to GET READY. The most important thing you need to do to get your body ready for the heat is to start exercising outside in the heat of the day. This might be uncomfortable, but you should know that exercising in an air conditioned room or merely sitting outside in the heat without exercising does not do a very good job getting your body ready to perform in the heat. If you are going to play in the heat, you need to prepare by training in the heat.

There is no question that drinking a lot of fluid and resting in the shade will be very important while we are in Greece. You will do better and decrease your risk of having trouble in the heat if you begin getting your body ready now.

When you start your outside exercise program, you should build up slowly and not try to do too much too soon. It takes the body approximately 30 days to get fully adjusted to working in the heat, so it is best if you start your program right away. Be careful, advance slowly, but START NOW.

We will all have a better time in Athens and you will compete better if your body is prepared. Begin your outdoor workout program now.

The climate of Greece 

Greece is located between 34th and 42nd parallel of the Northern Hemisphere and bordering the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The climate is generally typical of the Mediterranean climate: mild and rainy winters and relatively warm and dry summers with plenty of sunshine all year round.

In various parts of Greece presented a wide range of climate types, even in places that are close together, always within the framework of the Mediterranean climate. This is mainly due to the topographic configuration of the country, namely the existence of large mountain ranges along the mainland or other mountains near the sea and the complexity of the coastline. Thus, the dry climate of Attiki and general decay of eastern Greece in the humid climate of the west country and the relatively cold climate of northern Greece during the winter. Such climatic differences are found in very few countries in the world.

In climatological terms, the year can be divided into two seasons: the cold and rainy period lasting from mid-October to late March and hot and dry season lasts from April to October. In winter the coldest months are January and February during which the mean minimum temperature ranges from an average of 5 to 10 ° C in coastal areas and from 0 to 5 ° C in inland areas with the lowest values ​​occurring in the northern areas not adjacent to the sea.

The rains in Greece even in winter does not last long and the sky of the country does not remain cloudy for several consecutive days, as in other parts of the world. Winter storms often interrupted by sunny days, known since antiquity “halcyon days”, which are usually observed during January and the first fortnight of February. The winter is milder in the Aegean and Ionian Sea in relation to the mainland mainly the eastern and northern Greece.

During the warm and dry weather period in the country is generally stable and the sun shines nearly every day in heaven. Sometimes the weather interrupted by the onset of heavy rain or storms, but apparently they do not last long. The highest temperatures usually occur during July and first fortnight of August, when the average maximum temperature ranges from 29 to 34th C. In the period mentioned above, high temperatures are tempered by cool sea breezes in coastal areas of the country and especially from the northern winds (annual) blowing mainly in Western Greece.

Spring is often short, because the present Late winter and summer starts early. Autumn is long and warm enough, and sometimes in the south extended until mid-December.

Milwaukee Police Officer to Carry Flame of Hope™ in Athens, Greece

Milwaukee Police Officer Kathy Schult was recently selected to represent Wisconsin in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as a Law Enforcement Torch Run® (LETR) Final Leg Runner for the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, Greece. This summer, the Final Leg will travel every corner of Greece, as well as to Cyprus, Egypt and Turkey promoting ability, acceptance and inclusion as Guardians of the Flame®. Officer Schult’s three-week journey will begin June 9th with the Flame Lighting Ceremony and conclude on June 25th at the Opening Ceremonies, both in Athens.

Officer Schult’s involvement with the LETR for Special Olympics Wisconsin began almost 25 years ago by cheering on athletes and handing out awards for various competitions. It has since grown into a desire to do whatever Special Olympics needs to make sure events run smoothly and everyone has a great time. Giving athletes their awards is still something she loves to do. “It’s so exciting to see the athletes get their awards and to see that all their hard work has paid off,” said Schult.

Officer Schult has volunteered extensively with the Greater Milwaukee Area as a member of the local LETR, Polar Plunge and Over the Edge committees. She also uses her resources in law enforcement to educate athletes and their families. She has given personal safety training sessions to children and adults with cognitive disabilities and has attended the State Summer Games in Stevens Point with the Talking Squad Car and McGruff for over 20 years.

As a dedicated member of the Milwaukee Police Department, Officer Schult has committed herself to the LETR movement between coordinating the city’s special events with Milwaukee Police Auxiliaries and Explorers, giving numerous presentations on crime prevention, serving as Vice President of Milwaukee Police Historical Society and as Past President for the Wisconsin Association of Women Police. Her involvement in the community has not stopped her from spending thousands of hours helping athletes and raising over $75,000 for Special Olympics Wisconsin, all while spreading awareness.

“Because of my enthusiasm, dedication and continuous support of Special Olympics, I have gotten other police officers and citizens to get involved with Special Olympics,” Schult added.

Wisconsin is excited for Officer Schult to use this enthusiasm and represent the program in the marquis event in the world of Special Olympics, at the birthplace of the Olympic movement. Her experience will undoubtedly bring fresh ideas and inspiration to the 1,200 law enforcement involved in LETR throughout the state.


Athens is a country with severe History 6,000-year …. Explore…

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Athens won the bid to organize the XIII Special Olympics World Summer Games after a long assessment process among three other outstanding cities in the world. Athens, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, is a city with an ancient tradition in sports, providing a unique platform to showcase the courage, dedication and talents of the Special Olympics athletes.

Athens, having been inhabited since the Neolithic age, is considered Europe’s historical capital. During its long, everlasting and fascinating history the city reached its zenith in the 5th century B.C. (the “Golden Age of Pericles”), when its values and civilization acquired a universal significance and glory. Political thought, theatre, the arts, philosophy, science, architecture, among other forms of intellectual thought, reached an epic acme, in a period of intellectual consummation unique in world history.

Therefore, Athens constituted the cradle of western civilization. A host of Greek words and ideas, such as democracy, harmony, music, mathematics, art, gastronomy, architecture, logic, Eros, euphoria, and many others, enriched a multitude of languages, and inspired civilizations.

Over the years, a multitude of conquerors occupied the city and erected splendid monuments of great significance, thus creating a rare historical palimpsest.
Driven by the echo of its classical past, in 1834 the city became the capital of the modern Greek state. During the two centuries that elapsed however, it developed into an attractive, modern metropolis with unrivalled charm and great interest.

Today, it offers visitors a unique experience. A “journey” in its 6,000-year history, including the chance to see renowned monuments and masterpieces of art of the antiquity and the Middle Ages, and the architectural inheritance of the 19th and 20th centuries. You get an uplifting, embracing feeling in the brilliant light of the attic sky, surveying the charming landscape in the environs of the city (the indented coastline, beaches and mountains), and enjoying the modern infrastructure of the city and unique verve of the Athenians.

Year-round visitors are fascinated by Athens, one of the most attractive and charming capitals of Europe.

Therefore, Athens constituted the cradle of western civilization. A host of Greek words and ideas, such as democracy, harmony, music, mathematics, art, gastronomy, architecture, logic, Eros, euphoria and many others, enriched a multitude of languages, and inspired civilizations.

Over the years, a multitude of conquerors occupied the city and erected splendid monuments of great significance, thus creating a rare historical palimpsest.

Click here for more information about Athens.

Greece Timeline

Greece Timeline


8000 BCE

Mesolithic Period
Earliest evidence of burials found in Franchthi Cave in the Argolid, Greece

7250 BCE

Evidence of food producing economy, simple hut construction, and seafaring in mainland Greece and the Aegean

7000 BCE

Neolithic Period
(7000-3000 BCE)
First “Megaron House” at Sesclo, in central Greece

5700 BCE

Evidence of earliest fortifications at Dimini, Greece

3400 BCE

Houses of Vasiliki and Myrtos
Messara Tholoi
House of Tiles at Lerna



3000 BCE

Aegean Bronze Age
or Early Bronze Age


Minoan Prepalatial
or: EMIA, EMIB (3000-2600 BCE)

Early Cycladic Culture

Early Helladic Period

2600 BCE

Minoan Prepalatial Period
(2600-2000 BCE)
Destruction of Minoan settlements

2000 BCE

Minoan Protopalatial Period
(1900-1700 BCE)

Early Middle Cycladic(2000-1600 BCE)

Middle Helladic Period
or Middle Bronze Age

Destruction of Minoan palaces
Settlement of Akrotiri, Thera
Grave Circle B at Mycenae

1700 BCE

Minoan Neopalatial Period
or: LMIA Advanced, LMIA Final, LMIB Early, LMIB Late, LMII
Eruption of Thera volcano (sometime between 1627 and 1600)

1627 BCE

Grave Circle A at Mycenae 
Argo Voyage, Heracles, Oedipus

1600 BCE

Late Bronze Period
or The Heroic Age
Tholos Tomb at Mycenae

1550 BCE

Late Helladic Period
Linear B writing (1450-1180)

1450 BCE

Mycenaean Palaces
Evidence of expanded Mycenaean trade at Levand

1400 BCE

Minoan Postpalatial Period
Palace of Knossos destruction

1370 BCE

“Sea Peoples” begin raids in the Eastern Mediterranean

1300 BCE

Mycenaean Culture
Trojan War (1250 or 1210)

1250 BCE

Destruction of many Mycenaean palaces
Doric Invasions? (1200-1100)
Sea Peoples (1200-1100)

1200 BCE

1180 BCE

Sub-Mycenaean Period
Destruction of Miletus and resettlement

1100 BCE

Sub-Minoan Period

Dark Age of Greece

Proto-Geometric Period

End of Mycenaean civilization
Lefkandi: Toumba building

1000 BCE

900 BCE

Geometric Period


First Olympic Games

776 BCE

Greek colonies established in Southern Italy & Sicily
Invention of Greek alphabet
Homeric poems recorded in writing (750-700)

750 BCE

Late Geometric
(circa 760-700)

740 BCE

Orientalizing Period
(circa 740-650)
First Messenian War
Sparta invades Messenia
Naxos founded (734)
Syracuse founded (733)

730 BCE

700 BCE

Archaic Period
Earliest Lyric Poets

650 BCE

Second Messenian War
Sparta invades Messenia (640-630)
Cyrene founded (630)

640 BCE

Sappho born in Lesbos

630 BCE

Thales (625-545) born in Miletos

625 BCE

Pythagoras (ca. 569-475) born in Samos

569 BCE

Solon replaces the Draconian law in Athens and lays the foundation for Democracy.
He introduced to Athens the first coinage and a system of weights and measures

594 BCE

Pisistratos becomes tyrant of Athens

546 BCE

Pesistratos Dies. His sons become tyrants of Athens

527 BCE

Red-figure pottery developed in Athens

525 BCE

Alcmaeonid family and Spartans free Athens from tyranny.
Introduction of Democracy in Athens

510 BCE

Kleisthenes begins reforming Athenian code of laws, and establishes a democratic constitution

508 BCE

Ionian revolt

499 BCE

Ionian revolt defeated by Persians

494 BCE

Persian Wars

497-479 BCE

Battle of Marathon
Athenians defeat Darius and his Persian army

490 BCE

Silver mines discovered near Athens.
Athens begin building naval fleet

483 BCE

Aristides ostracized

482 BCE

Xerxes marches on Greece
Battle of Thermopylae
Persians burn the Acropolis
Athens and allies defeat Persian fleet at naval battle of Salamis

480 BCE

Classical Period
(480-323 )

Transitional (480-450)

Battle of Plataea
Greeks defeat Persian army

479 BCE

Delian league lead by Athens

477 BCE

Earthquake in Lakonia
Helot revolt against Sparta in Messenia

465 BCE

Peloponnesian Wars:
“First Peloponnesian War”


Perikles leads Athens through its “Golden Era” (ca. 460-429)

460 BCE

Aeschylus produces “the Oresteia” trilogy of tragedies (Agamemnon, Libation Barers, Eumenides) in Athens

458 BCE

Delian league treasury moved from Delos to Athens

454 BCE

Sophist Protagoras visits Athens

450 BCE

Acropolis and other major building projects begin in Athens
Construction of Parthenon (449-432)
Sophocles produces the tragedy “Ajax”

449 BCE

Thirty-year peace treaty signed between Athens and Sparta in winter 446/445

446 BCE

Sophocles produces “Antigone” in Athens 430-429

441 BCE

Peloponnesian War (431-404) resumes
Euripedes produces “Medea” in Athens

431 BCE

Plague epidemic in Athens

430 BCE

Death of Perikles

429 BCE

Peace of Nicias

421 BCE

Construction of Temple of Athena Nike (420-410)

420 BCE

Athenians resume hostilities
Spartans defeat Athens at Mantinea

418 BCE

Athens razes Melos

416 BCE

Athens expedition to Syracuse
Alcibiades defects to Sparta

415 BCE

Syracuse defeats Athens

413 BCE

Aristophanes produces “Lysistrata”

411 BCE

Athens surrenders to Sparta
Thirty tyrants rule Athens

404 BCE

Democracy restored in Athens

403 BCE

Trial and execution of Socrates

399 BCE

Plato establishes the Athens Academy

380 BCE

Sparta defeated in Leuctra

371 BCE

Thebes defeats Sparta at Mantinea

362 BCE

Philip II, becomes King of Macedonia

359 BCE

Macedonian army defeats Athens and its allies at Chaeronea
League of Corinth founded

338 BCE

Phillip II Assassinated.
Alexander the Great becomes king of Macedonia

336 BCE

Aristotle founds the Lyceum in Athens

335 BCE

Alexander the Great defeats Persian army at Granicus river in Anatolia

334 BCE

Alexander the Great defeats Persians at Issus

333 BCE

Tyre capitulates to Alexander after siege

332 BCE

Alexander invades Egypt
City of Alexandria founded in Egypt
Alexander defeats Persians at Gaugamela

331 BCE

Alexander’s army reaches Bactria (Afghanistan)

329 BCE

Alexander marries Roxane (princes of Bactria)

327 BCE

Alexander’s army reaches India

326 BCE

Death of Alexander the Great

323 BCE

Hellenistic Period
Aristotle dies

322 BCE

Stoic philosopher Zeno founds school in Athens

310 BCE

Stoic philosopher Epicurus founds school in Athens

307 BCE

Ptolemy I founds museum in Alexandria

300 BCE

Archimedes (287-212) born in Syracuse

287 BCE

Achaean League founded

284 BCE

Invasion of Greece by Gauls

279 BCE

Gauls defeated by king Attalus I

238 BCE

First Macedonian War (214-204)
Rome defeats Philip V of Macedon

214 BCE

Second Macedonian War (200-196)
Victory of Flamininus at Cynoscephalae

200 BCE

Third Macedonian War (172-168/7)
Lucius Aemelius Paulus of Rome defeats Perseus of Macedon at Pydna.
Macedonia divided into four republics

172 BCE

Roman Invasion of Greece
Mummius Achaicus sacks Corinth and dissolves the Achaean league.
Rome rules Greece henceforth

146 BCE

Late Hellenistic or Greco-Roman (146-30)
Romans lead by Sulla sack Athens

86 BCE

Battle of Aktion
Octavian (later Augustus) defeats Mark Antony and Cleopatra

31 BCE

Death of Cleopatra

30 BCE

End of “Ancient Greece” period


Ιστορία της Ελλάδα: Ελληνιστική

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The Hellenistic Age marks the transformation of Greek society from the localized and introverted city-states to an open, cosmopolitan, and at times exuberant culture that permeated the entire eastern Mediterranean, and Southwest Asia. While the Hellenistic world incorporated a number of different people, Greek thinking, mores, and way of life dominated the public affairs of the time. All aspects of culture took a Greek hue, with the Greek language being established as the official language of the Hellenistic world. The art and literature of the era were transformed accordingly. Instead of the previous preoccupation with the Ideal, Hellenistic art focused on the Real. Depictions of man in both art and literature revolved around exuberant, and often amusing themes that for the most part explored the daily life and the emotional world of humans, gods, and heroes alike.

The autonomy of individual cities of the Classical era gave way to the will of the large kingdoms that were led by one ruler. As Alexander left no apparent heir, his generals controlled the empire. They fought common enemies and against each other as they attempted to establish their power, and eventually, three major kingdoms emerged through the strife that followed the death of Alexander in 323 BCE and persisted for the most part over the next three hundred years.

Egypt and parts of the Middle East came under the rule of Ptolemy, Seleucus controlled Syria and the remnants of the Persian Empire, while Macedonia, Thrace, and parts of northern Asia Minor came under the hegemony of Antigonus and his son Demetrius. Several smaller kingdoms were established at various times, in Hellenistic Greece. Notably, the Attalid kingdom was formed around Pergamum in eastern Asia Minor, and the independent kingdom of Bactria was created after Diodotos led a rebellion of Greeks there against Seleucid rule. Most of the classical Greek cities south of Thessaly and on the southern shores of the Black Sea remained independent.

Several Greek cities became dominant in the Hellenistic era. City-states of the classical Greece like Athens, Corinth, Thebes, Miletus, and Syracuse continued to flourish, while others emerged as major centers throughout the kingdoms. Pergamum, Ephesus, Antioch, Damascus, and Trapezus are few of the cities whose reputations have survived to our day.  None were more influential than Alexandria of Egypt however. Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great himself in 331 BCE and very quickly became the center of commerce and culture of the Hellenistic world under the Ptolemies. Alexandria hosted the tomb of Alexander the Great, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the faros (lighthouse) of Alexandria, and the famed Library of Alexandria that aspired to host the entire knowledge of the known world.

Many famous thinkers and artists of the Hellenistic era created works that remained influential for centuries. Schools of thought like the Stoics, the Skeptics, and the Epicurians continued the substantial philosophical tradition of Greece, while art, literature, and poetry reached new heights of innovation and development through the work of Kalimachus, Apollonious of Rhodes, Menander, and Theocritos. The sculptures and canons of Polykleitos remained influential and were copied throughout the Hellenistic and Roman Eras, and even centuries later during the Italian Renaissance. Great works of art were created during the Hellenistic Era. In Architecture, the classical styles were further refined and augmented with new ideas like the Corinthian order which was first used on the exterior of the Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens. Public buildings and monuments were constructed on larger scale in more ambitious configuration and complexity. The Mausoleum of Pergamum, merged architectural space and sculpture by the placement of heroic sculptures in the close proximity of a grand staircase.

Hellenistic Greece became a time of substantial maturity of the sciences. In geometry, Euclid’s elements became the standard all the way up to the 20th c. CE., and the work of Archimedes on mathematics along with his practical inventions became influential and legendary. Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the earth within 1500 miles by simultaneously measuring the shadow of two vertical sticks placed one in Alexandria and one in Syene. The fact that the earth was a sphere was common knowledge in the Hellenistic world.

The Hellenistic age was by no means free of conflict, even after the major kingdoms were established. Challenges to the Hellenistic kingdoms appeared from internal conflict and new external enemies. The size of the empire made securing it next to impossible, and life outside the orderly large cities was filled with danger from bandits and pirates. Internal strife and revolutions caused the borders of the kingdoms to be shifted several times as the rulers of the major and minor kingdoms engaged in continuous conflict. At the same time serious threats to the Hellenistic world came from external threats. A Celtic people, the Gauls invaded Macedonia and reached southern Greece in 279 BCE attempting to plunder the treasure of Delphi, which was miraculously saved (Pausanias, 20). Eventually, Attalus defeated the Gauls after they crossed into Asia Minor.

At the time of Hellenistic Era, Rome had risen to a formidable power and by 200 BCE occupied not only Italy, but also the entire coastal Adriatic Sea and Illyria. During the second Punic War (218 – 201 BCE) when Hannibal of Carthage managed to establish a successful campaign against the Romans in Italy, Philip V of Macedon allied with him and annexed Illyria, starting thus a series of wars with Rome that led to the eventual annexation of Greece by the Romans. In the end, large part of the Hellenistic kingdoms disintegrated by constant incursions by tribes of the fringes, many parts were simply given to Rome through the will of deceased rulers, and others won brief independence by revolution. In 31 BCE Octavian (later Augustus) defeated the rulers of Egypt Anthony and Cleopatra in the naval battle of Actium, and completed the demise of the Hellenistic Era.

The battle of Actium is considered the pivotal moment that defines the end of Ancient Greece. After the battle of Actium, the entire Hellenic world became subject to Rome. Greece in the next two thousand years was to undergo a series of conquests that made its people subjects of numerous powers and did not gain its self-determination until the 19th C. CE.


History of Greece: Classical Greece

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The flurry of development and expansion of the Archaic Era was followed by the period of maturity we came to know as “Classical Greece”. Between 480 and until 323 BCE Athens and Sparta dominated the Hellenic world with their cultural and military achievements. These two cities, with the involvement of the other Hellenic states, rose to power through alliances, reforms, and a series of victories against the invading Persian armies. They eventually resolved their rivalry in a long, and particularly nasty war that concluded with the demise of Athens first, Sparta second, and the emergence of Macedonia as the dominant power of Greece. Other city-states like Miletus, Thebes, Corinth, and Syracuse among many others played a major role in the cultural achievements of this period we came to call Classical Greece.

Athens and Sparta coexisted peacefully through their underlying suspicion of each other until the middle of the 5th c. BCE. The political and cultural disposition of the two city-states occupied the opposite ends of the spectrum. Sparta was a closed society governed by an oligarchic government led by two kings, and occupying the harsh southern end of the Peloponnesus, organized its affairs around a powerful military that protected the Spartan citizens from both external invasion and internal revolt of the helots. Athens on the other hand grew to an adventurous, open society, governed by a Democratic government that drew its power from commercial activity. The period of Perikles’ leadership in Athens is described as the “Golden Age”. It was during this period that the massive building project, that included the Acropolis, was undertaken.

Bronze helmet of Miltiades. Dedicated at Olympia, now at the Olympia museum.

The Athenian adventurous spirit, and their loyalty to their Ionian kin led them to come to the aid of the Asia Minor colonies that were feuding with the powerful Persian Empire. To aid the Ionian Revolt, led by Miletus, the Athenians landed a small garrison in Ionia to fight against the Persians and to spread the revolt. The Greek forces burned the capital of Lydia, Sardis in 498 enraging the Persians, before they were finally defeated in 494 BCE. The sacking of Sardis invoked the wrath of Darius who vowed revenge. In 490 BCE, he landed his forces twenty miles north of Athens, at Marathon. While the Spartans were occupied with a religious festival, the outnumbered Athenians under the leadership of Miltiades mounted a surprise attack and routed the dumbfounded Persians at Marathon to preserve Greek independence for the time being.

It took ten years, but the Persian king Xerxes, determined to succeed in his second attempt, amassed what Herodotus described as the greatest army ever put together in order to attack Greece again. The Athenians, expecting a full attack from the Persians, under the leadership of Themistokles cashed the silver extracted from the newly dug mines of Lavrion, and built a formidable navy of triremes. Xerxes crossed the Hellespont in 480 BCE with his massive army and began annexing Greece through land and sea. The first line of defense for the Greek alliance of city-states was at the narrow passage of Thermopylae where Leonidas with 300 Spartans and 700 Thespians held back the mighty Persian army for three days before they fell to a man through deceit. At the same time the Athenian ships fought the Persian navy to a stalemate at nearby Artemision before it withdrew to the straights of Salamina.

The Athenians vacated the entire non-combat population from their city, so when the Persians arrived they met no resistance. They took vengeance on the buildings and temples of Athens by burning them to the ground, and anchored their fleet at Faliron in pursuit of the Greek navy that was sheltered at nearby Salamina Island. While the joint leadership of the Hellenes argued in typical Greek fashion if they should withdraw to the Peloponnese and where to engage the Pesians next, Themistokles, seeking an advantageous quick battle, invoked the Persian fleet into attacking as the Greek ships faked an early morning escape from Salamina. As the Persians pursued what they thought was a fleeing foe, the Greck triremes turned and engaged the surprised Persians inflicting massive casualties and decimating the Persian navy. With his navy destroyed, Xerxes feared that the Greek triremes would rush to the Hellespont to cut off his only way home, so he withdrew back to Asia leaving his able general Mardonious to fight the Greeks. The next year, in 479 BCE, this Persian army was defeated at Plataea by the alliance of Greek states under the leadership of the Spartan general Pausanias, putting a permanent end to further Persian ambitions to annex Greece.

The victory of the Greek forces at Marathon and Salamis are hailed as pivotal points in the development of western civilization. The reason being that, if the Persians were victorious all the achievements of Greece (and especially Athens) that followed immediately after and what is widely consider to be the foundation of western civilization, would not have transpired. Following the successful defense of their homeland, the Greek states entered a state of high development. Athens especially emerged as a major superpower that led a host of other Greek city-states (some willing, some unwilling, and some reluctant) in a defensive alliance, the Delian League, against the Persians. The tributes collected by the allies helped Athens expand and maintain a formidable, yet difficult, empire in the Aegean world. At the same time, Sparta led the Peloponnesian League, an alliance of states mostly from the Peloponnese that acted as a counter-balance against the perceived Athenian hegemony of Greece.

The competitive spirit, suspicion, and animosity toward each other that characterized all Greek cities re-emerged once the external danger of the Persians threat subsided, and with the two dominant empires occupying opposite ends of the political and cultural spectrum, it was not long before the underlying differences and mistrust spilled over in a particularly long and nasty conflict: the Peloponnesian War. While Sparta and Athens were the primary adversaries, just about every other Greek city took part at one time or another. With Sparta possessing the stronger land forces, and Athens dominating at sea with its navy of triremes, the war lasted for from 431 until 404 BCE with the Peace of Nicias interrupting it briefly in 421-418 BCE. After surviving a decimating plague in 430/9 BCE and a devastating defeat in Sicily by Syracuse in 413 BCE, Athens drained of resources finally capitulated to the Spartans in 404 BCE.

The Classical Period produced remarkable cultural and scientific achievements. The city of Athens introduced to the world a direct Democracy the likes of which had never been seen hitherto, or subsequently, with western governments like Great Britain, France, and USA emulating it a thousand years later. The rational approach to exploring and explaining the world as reflected in Classical Art, Philosophy, and Literature became the well-grounded springboard that western culture used to leap forward, beginning with the subsequent Hellenistic Age. The thinkers of the Classical Greek era have since dominated thought for thousands of years, and have remained relevant to our day. The teachings of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle among others, either directly, in opposition, or mutation, have been used as reference point of countless western thinkers in the last two thousand years. Hippocrates became the “Father of modern medicine”, and the Hippocratic oath is still used today. The dramas of Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides, and the comedies of Aristophanes are considered among the masterpieces of western culture.

The art of Classical Greece began the trend towards a more naturalistic (even in its early idealistic state) depiction of the world, thus reflecting a shift in philosophy from the abstract and supernatural to more immediate earthly concerns. Artists stopped merely “suggesting” the human form and began “describing” it with accuracy. Man became the focus, and “measure of all things” in daily life through Democratic politics, and in cultural representations. Rational thinking and Logic became the driving force behind this cultural revolution at the expense of emotion and impulse. The most striking illustration of this “Logic over Emotion” approach is frozen on the faces of the statues of the temple of Zeus west pediment at Olympia. In the complex array of sculptures, it is easy to know who is a “Barbarian” and who is a “civilized Hellene” through the expression of their faces. Barbarian Centaurs exhibit an excess of emotion, while Lapithae women and Apollo remain collected and emotionless even in the direst of situations (photo on the right).

Even after its defeat at the Peloponnesian war, Athens remained a guiding light for the rest of Greece for a long time, but this light that shone so bright, began to slowly fade. Sparta won the Peloponnesian war and emerged as the dominant power in Greece, but her political prowess failed to match her military reputation. While Sparta fought against other city-states all over Greece, Athens reconstructed her empire after rebuilding her walls, her navy and army. Sparta’s power and military might were eventually diminished, especially after two crashing defeats at the hands of the Thebans first in Leuctra in 371 BCE, and again nine years later at Mantinea. This power vacuum was quickly filled however by the Macedonians who under the leadership of Philip II emerged as the only major military authority of Greece after their victory at Chaeronea against the Athenians in 338 BCE.

Through diplomacy and might, Philip II who became king in 359 BCE, managed to consolidate the areas around northern Greece under his power, and until his assassination in 336 BCE had added central and southern Greece to his hegemony. The pretext for his military expeditions to southern Greece was the protection of the Delphi Oracle from the Phoceans, but his sight was fixed beyond the borders of Greece. His ambition was to lead a military expedition of united Greece against the Persian Empire to avenge the Persian incursions of Greece.  This ambition was fulfilled by his son Alexander the Great who became king after his fathers assassination.

With a copy of the Iliad and a dagger in his hand, Alexander continued the centuries-old conflict between East and West by leading a united Greek army into Asia. His success on the battlefield and the amount of land he conquered became legendary and earned him the epithet “the Great”. Besides brilliant military tactics, Alexander possessed leadership skills and charisma that made his army unbeatable in numerous battles against more numerous opponents, pushing the Greeks all the way to Egypt, India and Bactria (today Afghanistan). Alexander led his army in battle always placing his own self at the point of attack, partaking in the common soldier’s jeopardy, and thus won a series of major battles that obliterated all opposition in its path. In the process he amassed the largest empire hitherto known and altered the composition of the ancient world.

In 334 BCE, Alexander led his army across the Hellespond into Asia and scored successive wins against the Persian Empire. His fist success came at Granicus River in northwest Asia Minor where his Calvary routed the outnumbered Persian mercenaries who fought under the leadership of Memnon of Rhodes. In 333 BCE Alexander’s outnumbered army defeated the Persians at Issus and forced king Darius to flee for his life. The subsequent conquest of Miletus, Tyre (332 BCE), and Egypt (331 BCE) gave the Greeks control of the entire eastern shore of the Mediterranean, and allowed Alexander to move inland towards the heart of the Persian Empire. In Egypt Alexander was proclaimed to be the son of god Ammon (the equivalent of the Greek Zeus), and he proclaimed himself King of Asia after his victory at the battle at Gaugamela in 331 BCE, which sealed the fate of the Persian Empire.

From Babylon, Alexander led his army towards the heart of south Asia, subduing all resistance and establishing cities along the way. Despite the objections of his officers, he incorporated into his army forces from the conquered lands, adopted local customs, and married a Bactrian woman, Roxane. His march eastward eventually stopped on the edge of India partly due to the objections of his fatigued army. He returned from the frontier to Babylon to plan his next expedition southward, towards Arabia, but in 323 BCE his sudden death of a fever at the age of 32 put an end to a brilliant military career, and left his vast conquered land without an apparent heir.

The conquests of Alexander the Great changed the course of Ancient history. The center of gravity of the Greek world moved from the self-containment of city-states to a more vast territory that spanned the entire coast of Eastern Mediterranean and reached far into Asia. Alexander’s conquests placed a plethora of diverse cultures under common hegemony and Greek influence around the Mediterranean and southern Asia, paving the way for the distinct Hellenistic culture that followed his death.


History of Greece: Archaic

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The next period of Greek History is described asArchaic and lasted for about two hundred years from (700 – 480 BCE). During this epoch Greek population recovered and organized politically in city-states (Polis) comprised of citizens, foreign residents, and slaves. This kind of complex social organization required the development of an advanced legal structure that ensured the smooth coexistence of different classes and the equality of the citizens irrespective of their economic status. This was a required precursor for the Democratic principles that we see developed two hundred years later in Athens.

Greek city-states of the Archaic epoch spread throughout the Mediterranean basin through vigorous colonization. As the major city-states grew in size they spawn a plethora of coastal towns in the Aegean, the Ionian, Anatolia (today’s Turkey), Phoenicia (the Middle East), Libya, Southern Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, and as far as southern France, Spain, and the Black Sea. These states, settlements, and trading posts numbered in the hundreds, and became part of an extensive commercial network that involved all the advanced civilizations of the time. As a consequence, Greece came into contact and aided in the exchange of goods and ideas throughout ancient Africa, Asia, and Europe. Through domination of commerce in the Mediterranean, aggressive expansion abroad, and competition at home, several very strong city-states began emerging as dominant cultural centers, most notably Athens, Sparta, Corinth, Thebes, Syracuse, Miletus, Halicarnassus among other.


History of Greece: The Dark Ages


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During the Dark Ages of Greece the old major settlements were abandoned (with the notable exception of Athens), and the population dropped dramatically in numbers. Within these three hundred years, the people of Greece lived in small groups that moved constantly in accordance with their new pastoral lifestyle and livestock needs, while they left no written record behind leading to the conclusion that they were illiterate. Later in the Dark Ages (between 950 and 750 BCE), Greeks relearned how to write once again, but this time instead of using the Linear B script used by the Mycenaeans, they adopted the alphabet used by the Phoenicians “innovating in a fundamental way by introducing vowels as letters. The Greek version of the alphabet eventually formed the base of the alphabet used for English today.” (Martin, 43)

Life was undoubtedly harsh for the Greeks of the Dark ages. However, in retrospect we can identify one major benefit of the period. The deconstruction of the old Mycenaean economic and social structures with the strict class hierarchy and hereditary rule were forgotten, and eventually replaced with new socio-political institutions that eventually allowed for the rise of Democracy in 5th c. BCE Athens. Notable events from this period include the occurrence of the first Olympics in 776, and the writing of the Homeric epics the Iliad and the Odyssey.


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