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Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece

Author: Ian McConnell

Differentiate between the primary deities associated with ancient Greek religion.

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An overview of the culture, history, and religion of ancient Greece.

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello, I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell, and today's lesson is about Ancient Greece. As you watch the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as many times as you feel is necessary, and as soon as you are reading, we can begin.

Today's objectives, or the things you're going to learn today, are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you'll be able to identify and define today's key terms, explain some of the basics of ancient Greek culture, geography, and history, and explain some of the basics of ancient Greek religion.

Key terms as always are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. First key term is "Man is the measure of all things"-- a statement made by the ancient Greek philosopher, Protagoras, often interpreted to mean that human beings rather than the gods determine the ultimate value of all things in the world. Zeus, the Greek father of all the gods. Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom. And Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love.

The big idea for today is that Ancient Greece developed into one of the most influential civilizations and cultures in human history. Like other major civilizations that span centuries, Ancient Greece is broken up in to periods. The time frame that we'll be exploring covers the years from 800 to 146 BC, and it includes the Archaic Period, which is the rise of Greece. The Classical Period, which is one of the most influential periods of Western Civilization, and includes the reign of Alexander the Great. And the Hellenistic Period, which starts with the death of Alexander to the conquest of Greece by the Romans.

Quick geography lesson about Ancient Greece. When discussing Ancient Greece, there are a number of very important city-states. Arguably the most important-- if you could assign that label to just one-- would probably be the city-state of Athens located here. The Island of Crete is also shown down there for comparison.

So the study of the Ancient Greek religion is really fascinating, and we'll only be able to skim over just parts of it. However it's important to have an idea of the major players as the religion is so much a part of the art, poetry, the stories, and architecture of Ancient Greece. Now again, this is a very brief introduction to the religion. I'm leaving out a large number of deities in order to focus on a few of the primary deities, and how they relate to one another.

Now the belief was that the original creator gods were a race of super gods called the Titans, which I'm labeling here with an orange circle with a T. Now the two principal deities and first generation of the Titans were Uranus, the sky god, and Gaia, the Earth goddess. And they were married to each other-- husband and wife.

Now many of these names will probably be familiar to you. Uranus and Gaia had a number of children, including Cronus and Rhea and Aphrodite. Now Aphrodite was born from the detached genitals of Uranus, courtesy of Cronus.

Now all three are generation two. Cronus and Rhea had a number of children who constitute the majority of the group of gods called the Olympians, which I labeled as a yellow circle with an O inside. Now Aphrodite is sometimes referred to an Olympian or a Titan. Regardless, she's of an earlier generation as you can see in the diagram.

Now this group includes such notables as Poseidon, the sea god, and the god of Zeus as well as his sister-wife Hera. Now Zeus had a number of children, but Athena is an important god in that-- well, first of all, Athens is named after her. And she's also notable for her birth as she sprung out of the head was Zeus.

Now Zeus led an uprising in which the Olympians eventually overthrew the Titans and became the principal deities among the Greeks. And here are some images of the Greek gods in statue form. There's Zeus, Poseidon, Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite.

Now Greek culture and history is very rich, and I won't be able to do it much justice on a single slide, but let me point out some of the highlights. First of all, the city-state is an important part of the makeup of Ancient Greece. They functioned independently of one another. Greece wasn't so much a country like in a modern day sense, but rather a collection of independent city-states that had a common ancestral lineage.

The Greeks were also very elitist in many respects, and they definitely had reason to be. They refer to themselves as civilized versus the "barbarians", or non-Greeks as they were at times constantly fending off. One of which was the Persian Empire. Now the war with the Persians and the aftermath are historically very significant in the political shaping of Ancient Greece.

Concept of the deity was another interesting aspect among the Greeks. In other religions, gods were seen as operating on a completely different plane from mortals, but this wasn't always the case. In ancient Greece. The deities in Ancient Greece are portrayed as constantly interacting with mortals and asserting their power in some way.

In many ways, they're portrayed as extremely narcissistic, which tend to do more harm than good along the way. They're often depicted in myth as suffering for the same type of fallibilities as humans, which is characteristically very different from what we see in the depictions of most deities, particularly in later religions.

So that brings us to the end of the lesson Let's take a look at our objectives and see how we did. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms? Can you explain some of the basics of Ancient Greek culture, geography, and history? Can you explain some of the basics of Ancient Greek religion?

And once again, the big idea for today is that Ancient Greece developed into one of the most influential civilizations and cultures in modern history. Thank you for joining me today. I will see you next time.

Terms to Know
"Man is the measure of all things"

A statement made by the ancient Greek philosopher Protagoras often interpreted to mean that human beings, rather than the god, determine the ultimate value of all things in the world.


The Greek goddess of love.


The Greek goddess of wisdom.


The Greek god of the sea.


The Greek father of all the gods.