Forgot everything about the classical era from high school history class? Of course you did! Let’s review Persia, the Greco-Persian Wars, Athens and Sparta, Alexander the Great, and the Roman Republic and Empire!
Today we are looking at an era in history that comes up in modern conversation all the time. Some relics of this era have made a reappearance lately, like the Olympic Games and the Silk Road (although that second one has turned waaay darker than the one we’re going to talk about today. Thanks internet.) Others, like the Coliseum or the Great Wall, are literally still standing and show up in your Facebook news feed to remind you that some friends your age apparently don’t ever have to go to work? What?
Today we’re going back to The Classical Era, or as I like to call it, “That Time Everyone Plagiarized Persia.” We’ll figure out why Cyrus and Alexander were so Great; how Athens got all that nice stuff and why the nation of Iran was so upset with Gerard Butler.
comparing the ancient and classical eras
First, how is the classical era different from the ancient era? What changes at around 600 BCE?
The key word is complexity. These new civilizations are built on the foundations of the Ancient Era River Valley Civs but they have grown up and are far more complex.
World religions develop during this time period, detailed written records become far more common and trade expands from being between adjoining regions to being hemispheric. For example, we used to think that trade routes like the Silk Road were never really traveled end-to-end, instead there were various nomadic groups who hadn’t given up the paleolithic lifestyle who would facilitate trade along the way. But just a few years ago, archaeologists discovered what could be the remains of an ancient Chinese person in London – which would mean that there was at least one instance of someone traveling the entire Silk Road from end to end.
But the most important way that this era is different is that the smaller kingdoms of the ancient era have grown, expanded, and taken over outside groups – they have become empires.
So what has been going on in the east while everyone was fighting over the Mediterranean Sea? India will unite again and – yay! – this time we can read their writing! China will rise. And then, for some reason, all of these impressive empires will fall.
To be continued…