II. Ancient and Classical Periods, 3500 B.C.E.–500 C.E. > D. Classical Greece and the Hellenistic World > 4. The Classical Age, 510–323 B.C.E.
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
4. The Classical Age, 510–323 B.C.E.
a. Economy, Technology, Society, and Culture
In this period, crop rotation was introduced, dramatically increasing agricultural production. Large estates that were worked by slave labor emerged, though small farms owned by free citizens remained the rule. Slavery became more important in Greek economy. Slaves were employed mainly in domestic service and mining, but also in manufacture and agriculture. The ruling class in all Greek cities, including democracies, depended on unfree labor both for income and personal services. War and piracy were the main sources of slaves, and slavery was never confined to any particular ethnic group. Slaves were often freed, or manumitted, and eventually their descendants merged with the free population. By the 5th century, Athenian coinage became the predominant medium of exchange in the Greek world, though after the Peloponnesian War, the Rhodian standard replaced it in Ionia. Temples continued to serve as depositories of money, but c. 500 B.C.E., private bankers (trapezitai) took over most of the business of exchanging and lending money. Bottomry loans (nautika) developed, repayable only if a cargo safely reached its destination; often given by groups of investors, such loans spread out risk and encouraged trade. Around the same time, the Athenians developed a new kind of colony, the cleruchy. Each settler received an allotment (kleros) but retained Athenian citizenship. The financial system of most Greek cities was highly developed. Cities generally covered the costs of some sort of police force or night watch, the military (except equipment provided by the hoplites themselves), fortifications, sacrifices and religious festivals, public buildings, salaries for officials and jurors, and pensions for orphans and crippled soldiers. Food and money were also distributed to the population under certain circumstances. Direct taxes were unusual, and paid mainly by resident aliens (metics), freed slaves, and those employed in certain low-class crafts and trades. Most state income was provided by indirect taxes, excise duties, and assessments, such as court fees and fines, gate tolls, auction taxes, sales taxes, harbor dues, fees for fishing rights and pasturage, and duties for using public scales and temple precincts. Many cities had income from state property, such as mines, quarries, and state-owned land. Hegemonic states received tribute from allies and subject states. Compulsory contributions by wealthy citizens, called liturgies, helped with certain large expenditures such as equipping warships. In peacetime, cities were able to amass cash reserves, usually deposited in temples. But during famine or war, regular revenues were not always sufficient to meet expenditures. In such cases, direct property taxes (eisphora) were sometimes introduced, state property and political rights were sold, and public loans were raised, often on a compulsory basis. Some cities debased their coinage to raise cash. Public finance in Sparta remained simple: it had no regular taxes at all except a small contribution in kind to the kings. Administration and the army were provided by the Spartiates, financially supported by their helots.  1
The best examples of 5th-century architecture were erected on the Acropolis at Athens: the Parthenon (447–432), the Propylaea (437–432), and the Erechtheum (420–408). In the mid-4th century, the center of architecture shifted to Ionia, with masterpieces such as the tomb of Mausolus (Mausoleum) in Caria, and the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. By the 5th century the Greek sculpture was representing the body very accurately, reaching its height in the works of Myron (c. 480–445) and Polyclitus (c. 430) of the Argive School and Phidias (c. 490–431). Phidias is best known for his colossal chryselephantine (gold and ivory) statue of Athena in the Parthenon and of Zeus at Olympia, but he also designed the architectural sculptures of the Parthenon (Elgin Marbles). From 500 to 415, Attic painters of red-figured vases developed line drawing in a series of exquisite styles. Polygnotus (c. 490–447) mastered the technique of large-scale painting, and Agatharchus of Samos (c. 430) was the first to use perspective on a large scale.  2
The level of literacy in the classical period is controversial. Probably only a minority of even the citizen body could read and write, but the proportion had clearly increased dramatically from archaic times. The number of teachers and schools grew, though there was no public education in the classical period. The culture remained essentially oral, but written works now became more common. Aeschylus (525–456) introduced a second actor into tragic drama, and by the time of Sophocles (c. 496–405) there could be up to four. Euripides (480–406) developed tragedy to its height. Plots were usually mythological, but sometimes reflected current events, for example, Aeschylus's Persians. Aristophanes (c. 448–385) was the acknowledged master of the Old Comedy. Comic plots were fantastic, often took off on contemporary events, and held important people up to ridicule. The little-known Middle Comedy was replaced by New Comedy, in which plays became less vulgar and plots more sentimental. Its most outstanding playwright was Menander (342–c. 280).  3
The first true historian in the Western world, Herodotus of Halicarnassus (484–425), wrote a lengthy account of the Persian War. Thucydides (471–c. 400) perfected the writing of history in his Peloponnesian War. Xenophon (431–354) continued Thucydides' history from 410 to 362, in addition to writing other prose works. Instruction in rhetoric was given by professional teachers, called Sophists, such as Gorgias (c. 485–380), who came from Sicily to Athens in 427; Protagoras (c. 485–415); Prodicus (c. 430); and Hippias (c. 400). The best-known Attic orators were Lysias (c. 459–380), Demosthenes (384–322), and the advocate of Pan-Hellenism, Isocrates (436–338).  4
The philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 550–480) envisioned a universe in constant flux governed by universal law (Logos). Parmenides of Elea (c. 515–445) and the Eleatic School argued that what is real is motionless and made the distinction between belief and knowledge. Empedocles in Sicily (c. 500–430) developed the idea of the four elements (fire, air, water, and earth). Leucippus (c. 450) and his student Democritus of Abdera (c. 460–370) advanced the atomic theory: the universe was made up of indivisible units (atoms) whose motion created the sensible world. Anaxagoras of Miletus (c. 500–425), the first philosopher to live in Athens, argued that the world was made up of “elements” (homoeomeries) organized by the cosmic mind (nous). Anaxagoras strongly influenced Socrates (469–399), the key figure in Greek philosophy. Socrates emphasized ethics over physics and was known for his morality, personal courage, and relentless pursuit of the truth by means of dialectic inquiry (the Socratic Method). His greatest pupil, Plato (427–347) founded the Academy, the most important philosophical school in Greece. Plato reconciled reason and observation, arguing that while perception is flawed, everything is a reflection of a perfect form (idea). True knowledge is obtained by recollecting the ideas our souls knew before they were imprisoned in our bodies. Plato's antidemocratic political ideas are set out in the Republic and the Laws. Another of Socrates' students, Antisthenes (c. 445–360) inspired Diogenes (c. 400–325), the founder of Cynicism, a philosophy which rejected all unnatural conventions. Aristotle (384–322) studied under Plato, became the teacher of Alexander the Great, and upon returning to Athens in 335 B.C.E. founded the Lyceum or Peripatetic School. Aristotle ultimately rejected the idea of forms and felt that flaws in perception could be overcome by careful categorization of reality. In medicine Hippocrates of Cos (born c. 460) founded a school combining common sense, natural medicine, and personal hygiene. In the classical period women continued to lead very limited lives. Most women remained under the guardianship of a man, generally their father or husband, their entire life. Women could not inherit, witness in court, or own property. While divorce was theoretically easy to obtain, the woman's case had to be brought by a male third party. Most citizen women remained at home, but poor women worked in the fields and in the cities as washerwomen, woolworkers, vendors (mostly of food or flowers), nurses, and midwives. Women did not participate in the government in any direct way, though Aspasia, the mistress of Pericles, wielded considerable political power. Women did play an important role in religion as priests and seers. Many prostitutes were slaves, but the free ones, while they had to register with the state and pay taxes, had control over their own money.  5
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.