Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece

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Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece

Postby Colin » Wed Jul 28, 2004 2:35 pm

First Ancient Egypt

Egypt is a hot, dry country in North Africa and the River Nile runs through the middle of it. Egypt is almost all desert apart from the land beside the River Nile, which starts in the mountains and flows down through Egypt into the Mediterranean Sea.

People began to settle in Egypt thousands of years ago and the Ancient Egyptian civilisation developed long before Christ. Despite Egypt being largely desert, the people were able to grow food because ;

1) Every year it rains a lot in the lands to the south of Egypt. This causes extra water to run into the River Nile. When it gets to Egypt, there is so much water that it floods the land.

2) The swollen river pulls lumps of earth, mud and plants from its edges. When the floodwater go down, all the stuff dragged down by the river is left on the ground. This is rich and fertile and fantastic to grow crops in.

People grew crops by the Nile, which flooded from July until October. The flooodwaters left black mud or silt behind. As soon as the floods went down, everyone helped to clear the stones and dead branches. Farmers used ploughs pulled by oxen, a type of cattle. They scattered seed into the furrow made by the plough, and the plough covered the seeds with soil. The Ancient Egyptians grew wheat, barley and vegetables.

The Nile also had other uses to Ancient Egyptians who caught fish from it and hunted the animals and birds that lived on its banks, and almost all Ancient Egyptians lived close to the Nile.

Farmers had to irrigate their crops. It hardly ever rained in Egypt, so farmers watered their crops every day. They dug channels (little rivers) from the Nile so that water flowed between the fields. This is called irrigation. Sometimes they dug ponds before the flood came, to catch the water.

Farming could be hard when all work had to be done by hand, and sometimes the floods were too high and flooded houses. If the floods were not enough then there was not enough food grown and people could starve.

Travelling was easy in Ancient Egypt, with everyone using the river to get about. The River Nile flowed north to the sea and boats and ships could be carried downstream on the current. And there was always a wind blowing south, so to travel south they raised sails and the wind blew them back upstream.

The Ancient Egyptians believed in the afterlife and thought that when you died you went to live in another world. The dead were buried with all the things they thought they would need in the afterlife - jewellery, furniture, chariots, tools, even model armies. At first the Pharaoh's (king's) tombs were pyramids. Later their tombs were hidden away.

The Ancient Egyptians mummified dead bodies as they believed the body would also be needed in the afterlife. They tried to preserve the body to stop it rotting away, though poor people were just buried in the desert.

How to make an Ancient Egyptian mummy ;

1) Take one fresh, dead body.
2) Remove all the organs (like the stomach, intestines, lungs and liver).
3) Put them in canopic jars with salt to dry out.
4) Cover the body in salt to dry it out.
5) Leave for 40 days.
6) Return the organs to the body.
7) Cover body in nice-smelling oils.
8) Wrap body in bandages with lucky charms.
9) Put resin (glue) on the bandages.
10) Put a mask on the head and place body in coffin.

The Ancient Egyptians had many Gods and Goddesses. Egyptians gods and goddesses often had the body of a man or woman but the head of an animal. People believed that a dead person's spirit had to go before Osiris King of the Dead. Their heart would be weighed against the Feather of Truth to see if they had led a good life. If it balanced, they would live forever with Osiris. But if it was heavier, a monster would eat them.

Civilisation means people living together with rules, laws and leaders. We know a lot about life in Ancient Egypt because of all the different things that have been found. These things are called artefacts. They range from toys found it ruins to wonderful statues like the Sphinx.

Wall paintings also tell us lots about what daily life was like, but we don't know much about the life of the poor. Many of the artefacts and wall paintings have been found in the tombs of Pharaohs (king's) and other wealthy people. Poor people didn't have many things to bury with them, which is partly why we don't know as much about them.

Ancient Egyptians were pretty clever. The Ancient Egyptians invented many things such as locks for doors, lighthouses and pottery torches. Temples and pyramids show us how clever their design and technology skill were.

Because there were no machines, everything had to be done by hand. The Ancient Egyptians didn't use an alphabet like ours, but used pictures instead of letters these were called hieroglyphs (pronounced 'hi-ro-gliffs').

The Ancient Egyptians worshipped many more gods are goddness.

Second Ancient Greece.

The Ancient Greeks were really clever. The Ancient Greeks lived nearly 4,000 year ago and their culture still affects our lives today.

The Ancient Greeks invented lots of things like democracy, philosophy, astrology, biology, mathematics, physics and the theatre. Ancient Greek thinkers and writers such as Plato, Socrates, Homer, and Aristotle are still studied today.

A timeline of Ancient Greece ;

776 BC. First Olympic Games.
508 BC. Athens becomes a Democracy.
490 BC. Greeks defeat the Persians at the battle of Marathon.
450 BC. Athens controls a large empire and is very powerful.
432 BC. The Parthenon in Athens is built.
431-404 BC. Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. Sparta defeats Athens in 404 BC.
338 BC. Philip, King of Macedonia, becomes ruler of Greece.
336 BC. Alexander the Great (King Philip's son) conquers most of the known world.
146 BC. Greece is conquered by the Romans and becomes part of the Roman Empire.

Greece is on the north-eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea and is surrounded by sea, except in the North. Its many natural harbours allowed the Greeks to become great seafarers and prosperous merchants. But Greece is also very mountainous, making it difficult for other civilisations to attack. The mountains also made farming difficult, making the Greeks want to conquer other lands for better farming.

Ancient Greece was made up of city states and had only small patchs of fertile land where people were able to grow enough food to live. These places were separated from one another by rugged mountains and coastal inlets. It was difficult for people to travel between settlements.

From early times the Greeks lived in independent communities, isolated from one another. These communities formed city states called a polis and each had its own king or ruler, its own system of government, its own money and its own laws.

Most of the time the city states kept themselves to themselves. But sometimes the cities would work together, for example if they were threatened with invasion by another civilisation.

The most powerful Greek city states were Athens and Sparta. They did not alaways get on, and fought wars against each other. We know quite a lot about Athens and Sparta, compared to the other Greek city states.

Athens was the most powerful Greek city-state and was the centre of the arts and learning. The people of Athens lived on the land below a rocky hill called the Acropolis. The Parthenon temple was built on the highest point of the Acropolis. Athens was the world's first democray, with all wealthy adult Athenian men having a say in how the city was run in meetings which took place on a hill called the Phyx near to the Acropolis.

In Athens boys were educated from the age of six or seven and were taught politics, history and philosophy. Women were not educated, could not take part in politics and were expected to look after the home.

Athenian - "I'm terribly wise and clever. I drink wine and eat nice food. I had to do 2 years military service."

Sparta was disciplined and warlike and was no democray . All decisions were made by a council of 30 elders and Sparta had two kings at a time who were only really in charge of the army. Spartan life was dedicated to military training at the expense of learning and the arts. Boys were sent to harsh military schools at the age of seven and Spartan soldiers spent their lives with fellow soldiers in constant training.

Spartans believed in a simple life of self-denial and discipline and were very concerned with physical fitness. Both men and women trained and competed against each other to keep fit and other Greeks were shocked by this behaviour. Newborn badies were checked by Spartan officials when they were born and those who were not healthy were left outside the city to die.

The Spartans conquered other people. These people became slaves or 'helots'.

Spartan - "I've been training as a soldier all my life. I only drink water, and eat bread and gruel. I don't need luxuries."

Greek city states were always quarrelling. The land surrounding Athens and Sparta had poor soil. This made it difficult to grow enough food to feed the people. Sparta and Athens made agreements with others states that had better land to provide them with food in exchange for protection from possible invaders.

Athens is located near to the sea and had a very powerful navy. Other states were worried that Athens would soon be powerful enough to rule the wholes of Greece. Sparta had a very powerful army and Athens was equally worried that Sparta would soon be powerful enough to rule the whole of Greece. These worries were reasons enough for war.

The Greeks fought with soldiers and ships. Hoplites were heavily armoured foot soldiers. A hoplite's equipment consisted of a long spear, short sword, bronze helmet and horsehair crest, shield, bronze greaves (to protect their shins) and bronze cuirasses (to protect their chests). They had to buy their own armour and weapons.

The best type of Greek warship was called a trireme. It was the fastest and most up-to-date ship of the time. It was a large rowing boat with a very sharp spear at the front like a knife. The idea was to row as fast as possible towards the enemy ship and run the knife into it so that it sank.

The Greeks were great at fighting. Greek hoplites fought as a team using sophisticated battle tactics. They often fought in phalanxes. These were square formations of hoplites. The hoplites were fit and well equipped and also very brave and patriotic.

In 490 BC, Greece was invaded by the Persians who had a big Empire to the east of Greece. 600 Persian ships landed at the harbour of Marathon near Athens, and the Athenians raised an army of about 10,000 men. Miltiades alos sent a Greek hoplite called Pheidippides (who was their fastest runner) to Sparta to ask for help. But the Spartans wouldn't help because they were in the middle of a religious festival. By the time Pheidippides got back to Marathon he'd run over 100 miles.

Although heavily outnumbered, the Athenians won the battle, due to better military tactics and the strengh of the hoplites. The Athenians positioned their strongest troops to the left and right of the attacking Persians. This allowed them to attack the Persians from the sides. Pheidippides ran to Athens to tell them that the Persians were defeated, but then collapsed and died.

Pheidippides ran over twenty-six miles to get from Marathon to Athens, and this is where our modern marathon comes from. A marathon is now a race over exactly 26 miles and 385 yards, and is run at the Olympics held every four years. Marathons are also run often annually in many cities around the world, including London.

Ordinary Greek homes were usually made of mud and brick. But a great deal of money was spent on temples because the Greeks believed that their gods needed a home on earth. Greek temples and other large public buildings were made of limestone or marble. Roof frames and ceilings were made of wood and roof tiles were usually made from terracotta. Most temples were designed with a series of pillars with horizontal lintels.

The grandest temple of them all was the Parthenon built around 447-438 BC on the Acropolis overlooking Athens. It was a large and elaborate temple to the goddess Athene, the city's goddess. The exterior was decorated with frienzes (carvings on the wall) and statues in bright colours. The building was made of marble and a peristyle surrounded the whole building - a row of columns. Inside was a 40ft (12m) tall statue of Athene, while one room inside was used as a treasury and was full of offerings to the gods such as jewellery, vases and statues. The remains of the Parthenon can still be seen in Athens today.

The ancient Greek had lots of different gods and believed that the most important gods lived on Mount Olympus in the north of Greece. They believed that gods and goddnesses had human qualities, and built temples to be the gods and goddesses homes. People prayed and made sacrifices to gods in order to obtain good harvests, safe journeys and pretty children. They worshipped more male gods than godesses.

The Olympians (gods that lived on Mount Olympus) included ;

Zeus, the supreme god, whose symbols were thunderbolts, oak trees and eagles.
Hera, Zeus's wife, whose symbols were pomegranates and peacocks.
Aphrodite, the goddess of love, whose symbols were roses, doves and dolphins.
Apollo, the sun god, whose symbol was the laurel tree.
Poseidon, the god of earthquakes and the sea, whose symbols were a trident, horses, and dolphins.
Dionysus, the god of theatre and wine, whose symbol was a thyrsus (a staff with a pina cone on the end).

Greek theatre started as a festival held in honour of Dionysus. Greek theatres were large and semi-circular with rows of raised seats and in the centre had a circular dancing floor (orchestra) with an altar dedicated to Dionysus. The stage was a raised area within this circle and behind the stage was a small building called a skene. Actors came onto the stage through the skene which was the background for plays.

Actors were always men and plays were often about the gods. Greek comedies often made fun of heroes and gods and often were put on as part of religious festivals. There were two main types of Greek play - tragedies, often about the past, and comedies, often about current affairs and everyday life.

Everyone went to the theatre in Ancient Greece, with leading citizens and distinguished foreign visitors sat at the front in special stone seats. Everyone else sat in a block of seats reserved for people from their own district. From the time of Pericles the state paid for poor people's theatre tickets.

The Olympic Games were held every four years at Olympia, in south-west Greece, in honour of Zeus. The games were seen as very good training for soldiers and one slight difference from today was that athletes competed naked. Only men were allowed to compete and married women were not allowed to watch the events. Separate running events for women were held every four years in honour of Hera.

There were lots of different Olympic Games events including wrestling, long jump, running, running in armour, chariot-racing, horse-racing, javelin and discus. Winners received a laurel or olive wreath.
Last edited by Colin on Thu Aug 05, 2004 10:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Clare » Thu Aug 05, 2004 10:12 pm

Your ancient Egypt and ancient Greece are good Colin.
I'm not sure that I will be making a mummy, but it is interesting to read how to !
And I am surprised to read that the Greek naked-males olympic games could be watched by single women but not by married women !? Supposed to prevent married women seeing the grass that is greener !?
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Re: Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece

Postby Melina11 » Tue Jan 11, 2011 7:57 am

Most people lived off land. Public buildings, such as temples and the Parthenon of Athens, were indeed grand, but most Greeks lived a simple life, and this was reflected in costume. Greek attire was simple and involved a minimum amount of sewing. It was no more than a rectangular piece of cloth, either linen or wool, that after wearing be folded and stored away. The primary wardrobe item for both men and women was the chiton, or tunic. It was worn with belt, draped over the body, in a way that it covered the left arm while the right arm remained bare. We distinguish four main costume silhouettes, which existed in ancient Greece. These are Cretan Minoan, Mycenaean, Archaic, and Classical, each named after era during which it appeared.

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