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The Rise of the Greeks The mythical sacking of Troy was followed by a huge party, at which as usual the Greeks drank themselves senseless with ouzo and smashed all the crockery. Mysterious invaders from the Black Sea called the Sea Peoples took advantage and turned out the Greek lights. This led to a Dark Age. When the Greeks finally came round in around 800 BC, they found that not only was their crockery in a state of disrepair but all their cities had fallen down too. Rubbing their heads, the repentant Greeks set about rebuilding. The Greek word for the new style of city was polis, and for a long time they could only have one as nobody could work out what the plural was. Once they did, however, two main cities sprung up: Athens and Sparta, who spent a third of their time fighting the Persians, a third of their time fighting each other, and the rest of the time fighting themselves. Over time, both of these cities developed democracies, which came from the Greek words kratos, meaning ‘rule by’, and demos, meaning ‘total idiots’. This still provides the inspiration for modern political systems today.

The Spartans Sparta was one of the few Greek cities that didn’t spread its culture through colonisation, a fact that Greeks are grateful for even today. Spartans, in fact, were not permitted to leave their city at all in case they bumped into people with smiles on their faces, a facial expression the Spartans did not understand. Smiling, laughing, and fun in general were not allowed in Sparta, as they got in the way of more important activities, like fighting, grimacing, and running up and down steps. Life was pretty simple for the citizens of Sparta. When children were seven years old, they were given a choice about what they wanted to do with the rest of their lives: either they could become soldiers who would devote themselves to the defence of the state, or they could become women. Those that decided to become soldiers were taken to a barracks, where they spent the next twenty years learning from the best instructors in the land that they had obviously made the wrong choice. Military life was harsh. Spartan authorities were keen for their soldiers to grow up as manly as possible, and believed the best way to do this was to deny them clothes, sleep, women, and blankets. Needless to say, homosexuality was rampant. Girls endured a similarly stringent upbringing, as they prepared themselves to be perfect wives and mothers by being very very physically fit. Children who seemed incapable of becoming either perfect wives or perfect soldiers were put to death as babies. Few of them cried about it. 3

A Brief History of the Greeks  

A brief, irreverent history of the classical Greek civilisation. Free extract from the book from Random House UK. Learn about the Trojan War...

A Brief History of the Greeks  

A brief, irreverent history of the classical Greek civilisation. Free extract from the book from Random House UK. Learn about the Trojan War...

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