How did the ancient Greeks develop an advanced civilization?

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academe23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question has a few subtleties. For one, what do we mean by "advanced"? Advances in what? Technology? Politics? Culture?

Technologically, the Greeks were not much further advanced than the other societies around them. Or maybe they were; it is hard to know for sure. The Athenians certainly advanced architecture and had a very "advanced" navy for the time. Other things are also interesting technologically. The aeolipile, otherwise known as "Hero's engine" (because it was described by Hero of Alexandria), was essentially a primitive steam engine. And then there's the antikythera mechanism, a kind of ancient Greek computer which allowed for elaborate astronomical calculations. It was found by archeologists in the early twentieth century.

But these were exceptions. Where the Greeks truly advanced civilization was in the realms of politics and philosophy. Athens witnessed the first participatory democracy in the world, and rhetoric and philosophical thought experienced tremendous advances with the ideas of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

Militarily, the Greek city-state of Sparta was second to none, and in training all its men to be elite soldiers from the time they were about seven until they were about twenty, they created an army that famously held off much larger numbers of Persians in battle at Thermopylae.

So, in many ways, the Greeks advanced civilization. However, like most ancient civilizations, they also depended on slavery. This devaluing of physical labor might be one of the reasons why technological developments like Hero's steam engine weren't developed further. It was simply easier to throw human beings at an engineering problem.

kindledclass eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a rather subjective question; however, you could answer it this way:

The ancient Greeks developed an advanced civilization largely due to their ability to band together for defense and their ability to learn as they traded with others both within and without their culture. Early Greeks formed city-states due to their geography, but in order to keep from being wiped out by neighboring tribes and kingdoms, had to band together. This eventually led to the formation of their democracy. Overpopulation lead to the early Greeks migrating and trading within their country, and later throughout the region. This exposure to different ideas, technologies, and ways of life helped to form them into an advanced civilization. So, due to factors like geography and trade the ancient Greeks were able to develop an advanced civilization.

Also, you can refer to the reference link if you need an answer that refers to a specific era in Greek history.

readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Great question and one that is important. Here are a few factors:

1. They developed a new style of warfare and because of this, they were able to defeat a lot of people (hoplite warfare).

2. They were also good farmers and were able to live off the land.

3. They were able to create great cities that fostered community. Many cities also had great civic pride, always something necessary for cities to grow.

4. They also developed great architecture many of which can still be seen.

5. They also excelled in learning. Think of their luminaries - Plato, Aristotle, Euripides, Sophocles. We still read them in school!

In short, the Greek were an amazing people.

bobbycat | Student