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Tag Archives: Theseus

Athens: City of Wisdom and War 700 B. C. to 500 B. C.


Of all the city-states in Greece, Athens was the most fortunate. The city’s guardian was Athena, the goddess of war and wisdom. Indeed, the Athenians did well in war and were blessed with wisdom. In the dark days, when barbaric invaders had conquered one city after another, Athens had not surrendered. Later, when Athens felt the growing pains that brought civil war and ruin to so many city-states, a series of wise men guided Athenians safely through their troubles. The right leaders always seemed to come along at the right time. It was more than good luck, ofcourse. The Athenians put their trust in men with new ideas and they were willing to experiment. The experiments changed an ordinary little town into a great brilliant polis that left an enduring mark on the world. Athens was old. Its story began with a list of kings so ancient that no one was quite sure when they had lived. The greatest of them was Theseus, the young hero who killed the monster at Crete. The storytellers said that he won the friendship of the neighbouring tribesmen and persuaded their chiefs to swear loyalty to his city. That was the beginning of the polis, but many years passed before it became important. In the seventh century B. C., Athens was only a second-rate, backwoods polis. Its king could do little more than dream of the glorious old days when their forefathers had defended the town’s acropolis – the Athenians called it the Rock – against the barbarians. Attica, the countryside around the old fortress on the Rock, was really ruled by a quarrelsome lot of rival noblemen, the chiefs of the clans. These barons ran their vast estates like private kingdoms. They owned the country villages and all but owned the people in …

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The Power of Minos 2200 B.C. to 1400 B.C.


Far to the south of the Greek Peninsula lay the large island of Crete. It was the home of a nation of sea-warriors – cruel, dark, handsome men, who claimed the eastern Mediterranean and all the Aegean Sea as their own. For eight hundred years — from 2200 to 1400 B. C. —  they made good on their claim. The Cretan seamen strutted about the decks in loincloths and high bools. They wore clanking jewelry of finely worked gold, curled their long hair and rubbed their bodies with perfumed oil so that they glistened in the sunlight. They were fighters and they knew every trick of sailing and of piracy. With the sharp bronze prows of their warships, they smashed the sides of the ships which dared to meet them in battle. No one could remember when they had first come to Crete. Perhaps they had once been Asians, but the island had been their home as far back as 4000 B. C. At first,  they had been farmers. Then they had discovered the gold that waited at the ends of the sea lanes. They began to settle pottery and olive oil to the rich Egyptians. As they grew more daring, they were trading along the coasts of the Aegean Sea. By 1700 B. C., their sleek merchant ships were the best vessels afloat and their battleships were the strongest. By 1600 B. C., when the Greeks were cautiously trying out clumsy little boats that wobbled in the waves, the king of Crete would call the whole Aegean Sea his private empire. As soon as the little towns in Greece seemed wealthy enough to make good customers, the Cretan merchants came calling with things to sell – delicate pottery, brightly painted with flowers and sea creatures; leather armour with bronze …

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