Monday, August 5, 2013

Ancient Greek Identity

Greek Identity
During the time of the city-states, Greeks did not think of themselves as belonging to a single country. People identified only with their city-state. However, the Greek people did feel a strong cultural connection, or cultural identity, with one another. Having a common ancestor, language, and religion brought the Greeks together.

Greek Identity
The hero Hellen was believed to have been the ancestor of all Greek people.
A Greek myth, or story passed down about a god or a hero, said that Hellen alone survived an ancient flood. The religion the Greeks shared also set them apart, in their minds, from other peoples who lived along the Mediterranean.

The Greek cultural identity was seen in various activities. The Olympic Games, for example, brought the city-states together in peace. Beginning about 776 B.C. Greeks met every four years to honor the god Zeus by competing in athletic contests. The Greeks believed that Zeus and their other gods controlled daily events in the world.

Greek Identity
A common written language also helped bring the city-states closer together. In the 700s B.C. the Greeks developed an alphabet based on the alphabet of the Phoenicians. Like the Minoans long before them, the Phoenicians were traders and needed a writing system to keep track of their trade. Phoenician writing used symbols to stand for single sounds rather than whole ideas.

The Greeks changed this system to fit their needs. They called their first letter alpha and their second letter beta. Our word alphabet comes from the names of those Greek letters.

What helped the Greeks feel a cultural identity?

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