ACROPOLIS   ‘high city’, citadel

AGÔGÊ   Sparta’s state education

AGORA   civic centre, marketplace

ALPHABET, GREEK   borrowed from Phoenician, with addition of signs for vowels, probably in eighth century

AMPHICTYONIC LEAGUE   representatives of mainly central Greek communities (especially Thessalian) chosen to oversee sanctuary of Delphi and Pythian Games; Sparta had a permanent seat representing ‘Dorian’ Greeks

ARCHAIC AGE   conventionally dated from 750 or 700 to either 500 or 480 BCE, ‘Archaic’ implying (perhaps falsely) an immaturity by comparison to the Classical Age

ARCHON   civic official

ARISTOCRACY   rule (kratos) of the so-called best men (aristoi)

ATHENO-PELOPONNESIAN WAR   generation-long war between Athens and Sparta and their respective allies (431–404 with intervals), resulting in total victory for Sparta, with Persian aid

ATTICA   home territory of Athens, c.1,000 sq.m./2,400 sq. km.

CHORÊGUS   Athenian impresario, wealthy citizen required to finance a dramatic chorus for a festival

CHORUS   song, dance, group of singers/dancers (e.g. twelve or fifteen in a tragic chorus at Athens)

CLASSICAL AGE   conventionally dated from either 500 or 480 to 323 BCE (death of Alexander the Great)

COINAGE   stamping with an identifying badge of state a fixed weight of precious metal bullion (gold, silver, electrum—a natural gold–silver mix) probably invented by non-Greek Lydians late seventh/early sixth century, soon borrowed by Greeks, e.g. Miletus: see ‘Greek Measures of Money and Distance’, p. xiv–xv

COLONIZATION   conventional but inaccurate term for process of emigration and foundation of entirely new cities/settlements: Ionian migration (eleventh/tenth century), ‘colonization’ era proper c.750–550, and post-Alexander settlement of Middle East and Central Asia

COMEDY   singing and revelry, formally introduced as dramatic form in Great Dionysia, 486

DARK AGE   assumed in this book to be a transitional phase between prehistory and early history, roughly from 1100 to 800 BCE (but darkness is in the eye of the beholder, and some areas of the Greek world in this period were markedly lighter—or darker—than others)

DELIAN LEAGUE   imperial alliance dominated by Athens, 478–404

DEME   parish, ward, village of Athens and Attica, 139 in all

DEMOCRACY   literally, sovereign power (kratos) of the Dêmos

DÊMOS   people, citizen body, common people

DITHYRAMB   a cultic song, perhaps invented by Arion of Lesbos in the late seventh century, sung by a chorus in honour of Dionysus

DORIANS   ethnic division of Greeks, based—as Ionians—on dialect and some distinctive religious customs; chief city Sparta (also Cnossos, Mycenae, Argos, Syracuse, Byzantion)

DRACHMA   monetary unit, literally a ‘fistful’ of 6 obols

ECCLÊSIA   assembly, because attenders were literally ‘called out’ to participate; later associated with religious assemblies in Christian churches, whence ‘ecclesiastical’, French ‘église’

EPHORS   board of five chief executive officials of Sparta, annually elected by the Assembly by a curious process of shouting; had special oversight of the unique Spartan educational system (AGÔGÊ)

GREAT DIONYSIA   annual religious festival at Athens in honour of Dionysus, scene of tragedy, comedy, and satyr-drama

HELLENISTIC AGE   conventionally dated from death of Alexander, 323, to death of Cleopatra, 30 BCE; not to be confused with ‘Hellenic’ = Greek

HELOT   native Greek serf-like subject of Sparta, both in Laconia and Messenia

HETAERA   expensive prostitute, courtesan

HOPLITE   heavily armed Greek infantryman

HYBRIS (hubris) violation of another’s status with malevolent intent

IONIANS   ethnic division of Greeks, based—as Dorians—on dialect and some distinctive religious customs, took name from Ion son of Apollo; chief city Athens (also Miletus, Massalia)

KING’S PEACE   concluded in 386, and so called after Persian Great King Artaxerxes II, but alternatively known as the Peace of Antalcidas (see Who’s Who); between them, Persia and Sparta carved up the Aegean Greek world

KOINÊ   ‘common’ sc. language, the universal form of Greek developed after Alexander the Great’s time, based chiefly on the Athenian local dialect

LACEDAEMÔN   (i) official name of polis of Sparta; (ii) territory of Sparta, c.3,000 sq. m./8,000 sq. km.

LOGOS   word, speech, reason, account

MEDES   Iranian people related to and regularly confused with Persians; ‘medism’, a strictly inaccurate Greek term for traitorous collaboration with the Persians against Greek interests

METIC   more or less permanently resident alien, subject to a monthly poll-tax

MYSTAE   initiates, e.g. in Eleusinian Mysteries

OBOL   monetary unit, derived from obelos, ‘spit’

OIKOS   household or extended family, including slaves, animals, and other property; also house (including that of a god or goddess)

OLIGARCHY   rule (archê) of the (wealthy) few (oligoi)

OLYMPIA   sanctuary of Olympian Zeus, site of quadrennial Games, first in 776 BCE (as determined by Hippias of Elis)

OLYMPIAD   method of time-reckoning according to four-year periods between Olympic Games (first used in third century BCE as historical reckoner, by Timaeus of Sicilian Tauromenium)

OLYMPIANS   major twelve gods and goddesses inhabiting peak of Mount Olympus, presided over by Zeus (see Who’s Who)

OSTRACISM   enforced exile from Athens for ten years, decided by counting names of ‘candidates’ inscribed on ostraka, potsherds

PAGANISM   a paganus (Latin) was a countrydwelling villager, whereas the first Christians were ‘townies’, so that one term for ‘non-Christian’ was ‘pagan’

PELOPONNESE   ‘island of Pelops’, landmass linked to central Greece by Isthmus of Corinth

PELOPONNESIAN WAR   see Atheno-Peloponnesian War

PERSIAN EMPIRE   c.550–330, founded by Cyrus, ended by Alexander

PLATAEA   small town in Boeotia near border with Attica, site of decisive land battle of Persian Wars, 479

POLIS   city (state, urban centre), citizen-state; usually associated with a chôra—countryside, rural territory; whence politeia—citizenship, constitution (e.g. democracy)

PYTHIA   oracular priestess of Apollo at Delphi

SACRED BAND   crack Theban infantry force of 300, consisting of 150 homosexual pairs, founded 378

SATRAP   viceroy of province of the Persian Empire

SATYR-DRAMA   humorous drama with satyrs (goatman mythical familiars of Dionysus) as chorus, presented by tragedians at Athens as a compulsory addition to their trilogies

SEVEN SAGES   a body of varying composition, including Chilon, Solon, Thales

STADION   one length of athletic racetrack, c.200 metres

STASIS   a ‘standing’ apart, so faction, civil war

SYNOECISM   ‘housing-together’ (see oikos), so unification of villages to form centralized political community

TALENT   measure of weight and monetary value, originally Babylonian; equals 6,000 drachmas

THEBES   chief polis of the Boeotians

THERMOPYLAE   ‘Hot Gates’, pass in north-central Greece, site of unsuccessful but heroic Greek resistance, led by Leonidas of Sparta, to Persian land invasion, 480

THIRTY TYRANTS   self-appointed dunasteia (junta) of extreme oligarchs, led by Critias, ruled Athens brutally 404–403, murdering as many as 1,000; defeated by democratic coalition led by Thrasybulus

TRIREME   three-banked, oared warship, 170 rowers

TYRANT   illegitimate, absolute ruler, holding power through usurpation and/or force

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!