The first European civilisation began in Crete about 2,000 BC. This bronze age civilisation is known as the Minoan civilisation. By about 1600 BC civilisation had spread to mainland Greece. This early Greek culture is called Mycenae.
The Mycenaeans built great palaces with frescoes and bathrooms. However the Mycenaeans seem to have been a warlike society. People were often buried with weapons such as swords, spears and daggers.
Most soldiers wore helmets made of leather with boar's tusks sewn on. They carried shields of leather over a wooden frame. Few could afford bronze armour or shields. They also fought in chariots.
However the Mycenaeans were also merchants and traders and they sailed all over the Mediterranean.
Then about 1,100 BC Mycenaean civilisation broke down amid famines and wars. The invention of writing was lost and Greece entered a dark age.
Cities in Ancient Greece
About 800 BC a new civilisation arose in Greece. This one used iron tools and weapons.
The new civilisation was made up of city-states called polis. Each city ruled the surrounding countryside. However although a city was the centre of each state most people lived in the countryside and made their living from farming.
Ancient Greek cities were protected by stone walls. Inside them most of the land was occupied by private homes. However there were also many temples and workshops. In a typical workshop a craftsman worked with one or two assistants and perhaps a slave.
In the middle of each city was a marketplace called the agora. Around it were rows of shops and colonnaded walkways called stoa.
Methods of government varied among the Ancient Greek city-states. However Athens is famous for democracy. The word democracy comes from the Greek words demos, meaning people and kratos meaning rule. Democracy was introduced in Athens 508 BC. Only men could vote, not women, slaves or foreigners.
In Athens there was a council made up of 500 men. They proposed new laws...
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