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The Ionian Greeks

ionian greeks

The Ionian Greeks, who lived on the coast of Asia Minor and the adjoining islands, had produced some of the leading poets and thinkers of the Greek world. Thales of Miletus (640-546 B.C.) predicted an eclipse of the sun and introduced geometry to the Greeks. Pythagoras of Samos (c. 500) won fame as a philosopher and mathematician, although it is not now thought that he discovered the geometrical truth which bears his name (i.e. that the square on the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides). Thales was interested in politics as well as mathematics and tried to unite the cities of Ionia into a federation. Each city-state would have renamed independent but would have sent representatives to a council to discuss affairs of common interest. This scheme did not succeed. The Ionian cities of the mainland (except for the largest, Miletus) became subject to Lydia and later, when Cyrus conquered Croesus (p. 21), they all became subject to Persia. Even some of the islands succumbed. Polycrates, the fabulously wealthy tyrant of Samos, whose position was such that he could enter into a treaty with the king of Egypt, was enticed by the Persians onto the mainland and killed (522). In the year 522 a pretender had seized the throne of Persia and some nobles, of whom Darius was one, joined in assassinating him. They then decided that they would ride out early in the morning and that the one whose horse neighed first after the sun rose should be King. Darius’s groom saw to it that his master’s horse neighed first and Darius became King of Persia. Neither fate nor the other nobles punished him for cheating in this way. He ruled Persia until 485, by no means …

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Companions of the King 1500 B.C. – 1000 B.C.


Across the plains of Peloponnesus, flashed the swift chariots of knights and warrior-princes. They wore armour of gleaming bronze and bright proud plumes bobbed above their helmets. They were the new men of a new country and they called themselves the Achaeans. Their kings called themselves the Sons of Pelops, the mighty chief and hero who had given his name to the Peloponnesus. Pelops, the Achaeans said, was the son of a god. Probably, however, he was the grandson of an European invader, for many of the Achaeans’ ancestors were barbarian invaders from the north. But they may have seemed like gods to the Shore People when they first hacked their way into the country. Their ragged beards and horned helmets were frightening to look at and they fought like demons, they took the land they wanted, built fortresses and settles down to stay. When Minoan sailor-merchants began to stop at their towns, the warriors went into business, growing olives and squeezing them in presses to make oil. Olive oil was the butter, cooking grease, lamp fuel and hair tonic of the ancient world and the Achaeans began to grow rich. For a hundred years, from 1500 to 1400 B. C., the Achaean kings built a stronghold at Mycenae, not for from the Isthmus, the strip of land that connected the Peloponnesus to the mainland. The new castle, towering above the plain, had room inside to shelter all the people of Mycenae. Its huge walls looked like cliffs and people said that the stones had been put there by the Cyclops, the one-eyed giants whose parents were the gods of the earth and sky. When the king’s trumpets sounded the warning that an enemy was near, farmers ran from their fields and potters and armourers left their shops at the …

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