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The Greeks:

Questions for Thought

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  1. What were the early Greek Minoan [Cretan] and Mycenaean cultures like? What caused their eventual destruction? How do we know? What were the repercussions of the fall of the Mycenaean kingdoms?
  2. What impact did climate and population size have on the polis?
  3. What was the relationship between religion and civic duty in the polis? What was the relationship between Greek religion, science, and philosophy?
  4. Greek civilization was rocked continually by destructive wars. Using specific examples, discuss and analyze the causes and consequences of this pattern. How does Aeschylus's The Persians further our understanding of the impact of warfare on the Greeks? In general, how did warfare affect the development of Greek civilization?
  5. Sparta and Athens represent opposite poles of the social and political development of the Greek city-state. Describe the social and political evolution of each polis. What similarities and differences do you find? How do you account for them?
  6. The achievements of Greek artists, architects and writers have long been admired. What were the basic themes of their endeavors? How did the art, architecture and literature of Greece reflect the society in which it was created?
  7. What is the real significance of Athenian democracy? Was Athens democratic in the modern sense?
  8. "Perhaps the greatest legacy of Greece is intellectual." Trace the development of philosophy and science from the pre-Socratic origins through Aristotle. What were the most significant developments? What are the most striking differences between the philosophy of the Greeks and that of the people of the ancient Near East?
  9. Why did Greek civilization lack political unity? How did disunity affect the development of Greek society in general? What, if any, were the factors that fostered homogeneity?
  10. Discuss the political development of Athens from the reforms of Solon through the Macedonian conquest. What factors motivated reformers? How well did they respond to the needs of the community? To what extent was Athens a true democracy?
  11. The polis has been called a "community of citizens." How does this definition reflect the reality of the situation in Greek city-states? Who were citizens, and what rights and responsibilities did they possess? What segments of the population were not considered citizens? What rights and duties did these people have? Were they part of the "community" too?
  12. What was the role of women in Greek city-states? What opportunities and obligations did they typically have? How did social status affect those opportunities and obligations? How and why did Athenian women differ from Spartan women? How did Greek notions of family structure and sex roles affect the activities of both men and women in the city states?
  13. What role did architecture and building play in the age of Pericles?
  14. How widespread and important was homosexuality in Greek society? Did the Greeks regard homosexuality as deviant behavior? How did Greek ideas about sexuality reflect ideas about sex differences, gender roles, and family life?
  15. How did life in Macedonia prepare Alexander for success in the cosmopolitan world of Greece and Asia Minor?
  16. Why has Alexander been remembered so vividly? What were his major achievements? Does he deserve to be called "the Great"?
  17. Why did Alexander's empire begin disintegrating at the time of his death? Why didn't the empire remain intact? Could anyone have held it together?
  18. The Hellenistic civilization saw the spread of cities founded by Alexander and his successors. What was the role and impact of these new cities?
  19. How was the Hellenistic polis different from the earlier Greek polis? Why? What did the new Hellenistic kingdoms offer the Greeks? Why couldn't these kingdoms gain the loyalty of the Greek immigrants?
  20. How successful was Greek culture in penetrating Egypt and the East? Did any cultural elements transfer in the other direction?
  21. "Perhaps the greatest consequence of Alexander's conquest was economic." Discuss this statement. In what ways did the pattern of economic activity change in the Hellenistic era? What were the long-term consequences of this change?
  22. In the Hellenistic period, women enjoyed a new prominence. How had their life chances changed? What caused the change?
  23. "Despite its undeniable brilliance, Hellenistic science was remarkable for its impracticality." Discuss this statement. Why was Hellenistic science impractical? Who were the great thinkers of the period? What were their contributions?
  24. Despite the efforts of Alexander's successors to create Greek-style cities, the new Hellenistic cities differed profoundly from Hellenic city-states. Describe these differences and assess both the causes and consequences of these differences.
  25. What were the major religious and philosophical trends in the Hellenistic world? Why did the common person become interested in philosophy?