The peasant majority of such a society was always tended to regard city dwellers as aliens and oppressors often with good reason. In Greece, on the contrary, the farmers who produced the wine and oil essential to urban commerce regarded themselves and were regarded by others as the ideal type of citizen.

They took a leading part in political life, bore the brunt of phalanx warfare, and purchased the products of city workshops as freely as any urban resident. Herein lay much of the secret of Greek military effectiveness against Oriental foes, and although Herodotus may have overdrawn his contrast between Persian soldiers driven by the lash into battle and Greeks fighting of their own free will, his picture nonetheless contains an element of truth.


Nonetheless, Greek democracy was never total. Slaves, who very numerous in some cities, lacked all political rights; women were likewise disfranchised, and resident aliens or metics were admitted to citizenship only in very exceptional circumstances. The citizen body remained always a privileged corporation, quite distinct from the adult male inhabitants of the polis territory.

Aristocratic ideals continued to dominate even the radically democratic polis. A good citizen had to be a man of some leisure; otherwise, he could not attend to the public business of the law courts, assembly, and religious festivals, or train himself adequately to bear arms for his polis.

A rural community of independent small farmers constituted the Greek political ideas at least as late as the fourth century B.C. The Athenians themselves tended to regard the commercial-industrial activities of their city as an unfortunate departure from the best.

Probably the pinnacle of ambition for the average citizen-rower of the Athenian fleet was to make a rich haul of booty on some fortunate expedition and then buy a farm, on which to live out his life as a free man and citizen should. Neither artisan occupations nor the pecuniary cunning of the marketplace ever commanded social respect in ancient Greece.

The mature Greek polis exercised an extraordinarily pervasive influence upon the lives of its citizens. Politics tended to coincide with life itself, and little indeed was left private. Democratic Athens found it quite natural to demand that the citizens’ time, wealth, and wholehearted devotion be lavished upon public affairs.

The experience could be widely shared without losing its intimate intensity to produce the extraordinary flowering of classical Greek culture. The public ceremonies of Greek religion originated as household rites conducted in the royal palace. As monarchical power was whittled away, magistrates took over royal religious functions; and these underwent a considerable elaboration and enrichment as the wealth and organization of the state grew.

Greek religion had manifested a double character: the pantheon of Olympus confronting what the Greeks called the “mysteries.” The gods of Olympus were themselves a mixed assemblage, derived partly from Indo-European sky and nature deities and partly from the autochthonous protectresses worshipped by pre-Greek populations. Yet not all of the Greek religion fitted into the polis framework. The splendid public festivals did not supersede family rites, especially among the wellborn.

In Ancient Greece, same-sex relationships between men were considered the highest form of love. This male-male relationship was based on love and reciprocity and typically called for the older man to initiate the relationship. He would give gifts to the younger man as a promise of love. The relationship between the lover and the beloved was thought to of the highest form of love. Examples of this highly regarded male-male relationship can be found all throughout Greek myth, and Greek history


Because of its geographic nature which consisted of islands, mountains and rivers, Ancient Greece was politically fragmented. It consisted of independent city-states or poleis (plural of polis) rather than one country. A polis was a community of adult free persons who make up a town or any inhabited place. It had its own laws, political system, and income. Examples of poleis were Athens, Sparta, Corinth and Thebes.


The poleis sometimes fought with each other where a war between Athens and Sparta and their allies in the Peloponnesian War brought the downfall of Athens. The poleis, however, sometimes joined together against a bigger enemy like the Persians in the Greco-Persian War. Inevitably smaller poleis might be dominated by larger neighbours, but conquest or direct rule by another city-state appears to have been quite rare. Instead the poleis grouped themselves into leagues, membership of which was in a constant state of flux.

Later in the Classical period, the leagues would become fewer and larger, be dominated by one city, particularly Athens, Sparta and Thebes; and often poleis would be compelled to join under threat of war or as part of a peace treaty.

The ancient Greeks were loyal to their poleis and the independence of the poleis were fiercely defended. Yet, they also thought of themselves as part of that distinct and superior family of peoples calling themselves “Greek”.

The dwellers of a polis were not entirely citizens. Basically, only free males of twenty years of age or more possessed full civil rights. They could vote on public affairs, joined public activities and more. Women, slaves and metics or foreigners, were excluded from citizenship and political life.

The two poleis that dominated Greek life and politics in the Classical Age were Athens and Sparta which were poles apart on various aspects. Athens was the center of Greek artistic and scientific activity and the birthplace of political democracy. Sparta on the other hand, was a militaristic, authoritarian society that held the arts and intellectual life in contempt.

There were four types of government in ancient Greece. A monarchy is ruled by a single person like a king who had the final word in law by right. An aristocracy is ruled by those who are born to the leading families or the nobility. An oligarchy is ruled by a few of the nobility or the wealthiest members of the society. A democracy is a rule by the people, always by means of a majority vote on disputed issues. Additionally, the Greek word tyranny originally meant rule by a dictator who had illegally seized power, whether a man or woman, bad or good.

Most of the poleis were monarchies like Corinth, but many of them apparently began and ended as such. Sparta was oligarchy where it was ruled by two hereditary kings who were assisted by the gerousia, a council of elders which was the policy maker, and five ephors, the officers or governors who managed the public life.

Athens on the contrary experienced all the forms of government. Its original monarchy was forced aside by the aristocrats who later gave way to the oligarchs, some of whom were nobly born while some were rich commoners. Eventually, Athens fell under a tyranny in the second half of the 6th century.

When this was ended, the Athenians founded democracy to prevent the aristocrats from regaining power. The ekklesia, or citizen’s assembly, enabled all free male Athenian, who had an equal voice to discuss decisions of the polis. A few poleis, under the strong pressure of powerful Athens, later adopted democracy.


The Ancient Greeks were highly innovative and creative when it comes to communication methods during celebration, war and sorrow. Some communication methods were used to communicate between people to people, between armies, leaders and also from emperors to his citizens. Other type of communication involved relaying messages to the gods.

Acoustic signals

The stentorophonic horn, also known as a “tube”, was an effective communication tools to delivers messages to thousands of people. It is commonly used in war and can be viewed in the Vatican’s museum today. This tool is used by Alexander the Great to send acoustic signals that his army could hear from a distance of 5km away (some even quoted up to 12 miles) depends on weather conditions, the range and pitch quality would vary because air density plays a role in sound quality and how it travels.

Sending Messages

Messages come in different ranges where some are short, some are vague and the others are detailed. The system of using light or fire signals from torches is called fryktories, which were used across the sky to deliver quick and urgent notes. The ancient Greeks also possessed the concept of using pigeons to deliver messages, such as the outcomes of the Olympic Games, which were borrowed and developed by the Sumerians in 2000 BCE. The historian Polybius (203-120 BCE) wrote about the communication and data encryption system and described it in which two parties had tablets arranged in order and would know which letter is used to decode the message according to signalman’s torch by observing how many time the torch was raised and to which angle in order to dictate which letter the other party would use in decoding messages.


Cryptography was used to ensure private communication between two people with some prior relationship. A scytale or skytale is a tool used to perform transposition cipher, consisting of a cylinder with a strip of parchment wound around it on which is written a message. Any communicating party must acquire the same wooden piece in terms of the size where the secret message that was written on a leather strip to be wounded on it, unwound again and sent to the recipient through messenger where the latter would rewind the leather and by doing this the message in enciphered.


Like any other societies, the ancient Greeks also by any chance communicated by speaking. They were the first Europeans to establish an alphabet in which developed into today’s modern languages. The language was believed to travel with Proto-Greek speakers via the Greek Peninsula from 2500 to 1700 BCE.

Communicating to gods

In which the Greeks were famous with their Greek gods where they had a tremendous amount of respect and love as well as fear towards them. They prayed, gave sacrifices, asked for blessings, put up festivals such as Olympic Games as well as performing in theatre in order to avoid angering their gods. For example, where one was about to go on a voyage out to sea they will likely pray to Poseidon asking for blessing and safety. The same goes for Zeus, Athena, and many others.


Next, education in Greek was influenced by Sophists, Plato and Isocrates. Education in Greek was divided according to two systems, Athenian System and Spartan System.


In Athenian System, children at an early age were taught with the guidance of a pedagogue at home. They learnt basic morals, reading, writing, drawing and counting. Then, they were given poetry to memorize and recite. As for upper social class children, they would be sent to receive formal education at school or from tutors, unlike children from poor families, who were only exposed to the range of their parents’ knowledge. T

here was the gymnasium, and a training place where Greek boys went to have their physical education. They were trained by private teachers called paidotribe. This education was important in Greek as they believed that it will improve one’s appearance, preparing for war, and to ensure good health in old age. When turning 14, boys from a wealthy family would attend secondary school. Secondary education included subjects such as natural science (biology and chemistry), rhetoric (the art of speaking or writing effectively), geometry, astronomy and meteorology.

The teaching of these subjects was highly valued by Athenians. From this, great leaders such as Themistocles and Pericles were able to influence political and military endeavors. The boys then could continue obtaining ephebic training in order to be an ephebe at the age of eighteen. Before advanced academic schooling was included, the training began with military education followed by two years of military service. As for the poor families, they were encouraged to gain vocational education; some Athenians also learned music and dance for their tradition.

On the other hand, in Spartan System, all male citizens must have stamina and skills to become soldiers in Sparta. They only allowed healthy babies to stay alive; if any baby was sensed to have a weakness they would not be letting to stay alive would be left at the mountainside. There was an extreme military boot camp called agoge. The process of gaining academic knowledge was kept to the minimum as all Spartan boys were devoted to their school that only had one purpose, to be an indestructible Spartan phalanx, the soldiers in the polis.

Their education began at the age of seven when they were sent away from their parents and living with the boys of their age at the barracks. They will live in their barracks-unit for the next 5 years. They will learn the skills that they need in war. There were stages in the training as the punishments will get harsher as the level increased. Physical training was non-stop in order to build strength and endurance. When they reached around 18 years old, fighting within the unit was encouraged.

They were also trained to dance as it will help them to move gracefully as a unit. After graduated from agoge, the boys now were called ephebe. They would be sucked into private organizations and compete in gymnastics, hunting, and performing the planned battles with real weapons. After these two years of training, the boys were now grown-up men officially entitled Spartan soldiers.

Meanwhile, unlike Athenian women, Spartan women received formal physical education that was controlled by the state. They learned how to wrestle, throw discus, and javelin until the age of 18. Young girls were also taught how to sing and dance. These were to ensure that they were fit and strong to give birth and care for strong would-be Spartan soldiers.


The Greeks like all pre-modern societies were primarily agricultural people. All countries except Sparta practiced agriculture involving the cultivation of crops, and the keeping of sheep, goats, and cattle. However, because of Greece soil’s poverty, only a few types of crops can be planted such as olives, grapes, and barley. The main challenge Greek farmers faced was that there was too little good farming land in Greece that causing insufficient supplies of needs to the growing communities. This forced them to take to sea-borne trade to gain the needs of others.

Many Greeks looked to the sea for their livelihood. Sea provides a link for trade exchange between the Mediterranean communities. Greek traders soon dominated the maritime trade of the Mediterranean.

Trade was a fundamental aspect of the ancient Greek world and due to territorial expansion, an increase in population, and innovations in transport, goods could be bought, sold, and exchanged in other parts of the Mediterranean which had their origin in completely different and far distant regions. Food, raw materials, and manufactured goods were not only made available to Greeks for the first time but the export of such classics as wine, olives, and pottery helped to spread Greek culture to the wider world.

Greece has large deposits of clays available that the people soon began to develop craftsmanship field of work. They were famous for their potteries which highly demanded and help in increasing the commercialization of the Greek economy.

Business in the early civilization is trade by the barter system. It was only then, in Lydia around 600BC that coinage probably began to be used as a medium of exchange in business trading.

Athens’ port of Piraeus became the most important trading center in the Mediterranean and gained a higher reputation as the place was used for the market’s storage. However, due to heavy taxation implemented, the price of goods also increased. Thus, this causes the people to move away to other places like Alexandria at the times of Greco-Roman in 300BC.

author avatar
William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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