Two Greek city-states, Athens and Sparta, fought each other in the 27-year-long Peloponnesian War. Both were
trying to gain control of southern Greece. Athens was the first democracy, with most of the people directly
electing their leaders and deciding on their laws; Sparta was an oligarchy, meaning that a few powerful people
were in charge. In 404 BC, Athens surrendered to Sparta, and the Golden Age of ancient Greece came to an end.
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The ancient Greek Olympics were held every four years in Olympia, beginning in 776 BC. They were a celebration
of the Greek god Zeus. There were separate categories for men and boys; women were not allowed to compete in the
Olympic games, but did have separate athletic competitions available to them. Winners of the Olympics received a
crown of olive leaves and could have a statue made of themselves for public display. Olympic sports in ancient
Greece included boxing, chariot racing, horse riding, running, wrestling, and the so-called pentathlon and the
pankration. The pentathlon consisted of five individual sports: discus (pictured above), javelin, jumping, running, and
wrestling. The pentathlon was seen as the most important Olympic event. The pankration was just a free-for-all
fight. The only rules were that you were not allowed to bite or gouge.
The ancient Greeks believed in twelve main gods, who were said to live on Mt. Olympus. The king of the gods was
Zeus; other well-known gods and goddesses include Aphrodite, goddess of beauty; Apollo, god of the sun;
Poseidon, god of the sea; Artemis, goddess of the moon and of hunting; and Athena, goddess of wisdom and many
other things, whose temple, the Parthenon, is pictured above.
Three of the most famous ancient Greek philosophers were Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Socrates was tried and
executed as being a threat to Athens, because of the philosophical and political questions he asked his
students. Plato (whose portrait is above) was a student of Socrates. He opened one of the first schools like what we know today. Plato is
known for his “dialogues,” which are basically plays with two people debating on different topics related to
ethics (right and wrong), forms of government, and others. Aristotle was a student of Plato who wrote on many
subjects and strongly influenced Western thought down to the present-day.