Ancient History & Civilisation

GLOSSARY

Acropolis:

the top of a city, its highest point. Typically, it was the site of temples, shrines, and public buildings. Enclosed by its own set of defensive walls, it served as the ultimate place of retreat when a city’s outer walls were breeched.

Aeolians:

those Greeks who spoke the Aeolian dialect: Boeotians, Thessalians, Lesbians, and inhabitants of a small part of the adjacent coast of northern Asia Minor.

Agora:

a Greek city’s marketplace, its center for commercial, social, and political activity.

Archon:

a magistrate at Athens, chosen by lot in the later fifth century. The nine archons were concerned with administering justice, overseeing foreign residents of Athens, adjudicating family property disputes, and carrying out a variety of other tasks. The eponymous archon gave his name to the civil year.

Ceramicus:

the district of Athens, both inside and outside the city wall, where the potters lived and worked. It was also the site of an important and famous cemetery.

Delphic Oracle:

a shrine to Apollo at Delphi where petitioners consulted the god as prophet. It was the most important oracular shrine in the Greek world.

Demos:

originally, those Greeks who lived in the villages (demes) of the land. In Athens and other ancient Greek states the term “demos” came to mean the common people, the most numerous body of citizens of the state. They were often a political force—The People or The Many—in contrast to nobles, oligarchs, or despots. In Democratic Athens, the word also stood for the citizen body as a whole.

Dorians:

those Greeks who spoke the Doric dialect and whose lives shared certain distinctive cultural, governmental, and religious features. They were located mainly in the southern areas of Greek settlement: Sicily, Peloponnesus, Crete, Libya, Rhodes and nearby islands.

Drachma:

a unit of Greek currency: Six obols equaled one drachma; one hundred drachmas equaled a mina; six thousand drachmas (or sixty minas) equaled a talent.

Hellenes:

men of Hellas, of Greek descent and Greek speaking, i.e., the Greeks.

Helots:

Although Helot-type unfree laborers are known elsewhere, in Thucydides these are the lowest class of the Spartan state who lived in oppressive, hereditary servitude, and who were for the most part engaged in agriculture. They lived throughout Laconia and also in adjacent Messenia, where the Helot system had been extended by Spartan conquest, and they apparently far outnumbered their masters, who feared as well as exploited them.

Hermes:

messenger of the gods, escort of the dead, and a fertility figure. This last identity is clearly signified by Hermae, stone columns featuring a carved depiction of Hermes’ head at their top and an erect penis at the column’s midpoint. Hermae were placed in front of homes, apparently as good-luck charms.

Homer:

a poet thought to have lived in the eighth century B.C., possibly on the Ionian coast. Greeks knew him as the author of the epics Iliad and Odyssey. These works were famous and familiar to almost all educated Greeks.

Hoplite:

a heavily armed Greek foot soldier. Though not wealthy enough to maintain a horse, a hoplite could afford the expense of outfitting himself with bronze armor consisting of helmet, breastplate, and greaves, a heavy bronze shield, a spear, and a short iron sword. The hoplite fought in close rank and file with his fellows, both giving and receiving support.

Ionians:

those Greeks who spoke the Ionic dialect and whose lives shared certain distinctive cultural, governmental, and religious features. The Athenians believed that the Ionians had originated in Athens and had spread from there by an early colonization to what came to be called Ionia on the central coast of Asia Minor; there they founded and formed a loose league of cities.

Knights:

the second rank of Athenian citizens, whose annual income was between three and five hundred medimnoi of grain; see pentecosiomedimnoi, zeugitae, and thetes.

Lacedaemon:

the region of southeastern Peloponnesus that was governed by Sparta. Thucydides used the terms “Lacedaemon,” “Lacedaemonian,” and “Lacedaemonians” almost interchangeably with those used exclusively in this edition: “Sparta,” “Spartan,” and “Spartans.”

Mede:

the Greeks regularly referred to the Persians as “the Mede,” or “the Medes,” and to the Persian Wars as the “Median Wars,” although the Medes and the Persians were distinct, but related, peoples.

Medimnos:

an Attic dry measure of approximately twelve gallons. The pentecosiomedimnoi, for example, were Athenian citizens whose annual income equaled or exceeded five hundred medimnoi of grain.

Medism:

those Greeks who submitted to the Persians, or who otherwise joined or assisted them, were accused of “Medism” or of having “Medized.”

Metics, Resident Aliens:

inhabitants of Athens who were not citizens. They could not own land but were liable to special taxes and military services. Many were involved in commerce.

Mina:

a unit of currency worth one hundred drachmas. Sixty minae (plural) equaled one talent.

Neodamodeis:

a special military class created by Sparta whose numbers seem to increase steadily in the succeeding half century (Sec. 7.19.3). Their precise status remains unknown, and although the name implies that they were made part of the citizen body, most scholars reject this notion.

Obol:

a small unit of Greek currency; six obols equaled one drachma.

Ostracism:

a formal procedure by which the Athenians could banish a citizen from Attica and other Athenian controlled territory for ten years without his incurring loss of property or citizenship. A citizen was “ostracized” if, after the Athenians had chosen to hold such a vote, he received the most votes, and a total of at least 6,000 votes (noted on shards of pottery called ostraka) were cast.

Paean:

a ritual chant that Greek soldiers and sailors sang as they advanced into battle, rallied, or celebrated victory.

Panathenaea:

an Athenian festival celebrating Athena’s birthday with games, sacrifices, and processions (along the Panathenaic Way from the Ceramicus to the Acropolis). It was celebrated every year but with particular magnificence every fourth year (the Great Panathanaea).

Paralus:

one of two special Athenian state triremes (the other was the Salaminia) used on sacred embassies and for official business.

Peltasts:

lightly armed soldiers who fought without formation from a distance by throwing javelins or other missiles. Their name derived from the small, light shield that they carried.

Pentecosiomedimnoi:

Athenian citizens of the highest economic class whose annual income equaled or exceeded five hundred medimnoi of grain (see medimnos). Below them came knights whose annual income was between three and five hundred medimnoi of grain, zeugitae whose annual income was between two and three hundred medimnoi of grain, and thetes, whose annual income was less than two hundred medimnoi of grain.

Perioikoi:

In Thucydides these are people who “lived around Sparta.” They paid taxes to the Spartan state and served in the Spartan army, but they did not participate in the Spartan government or enjoy the rights and privileges of Spartan citizens.

Peripoli:

a special military corps, perhaps consisting of young recruits who served as a frontier guard.

Pnyx:

the hill where the Athenian assembly met to conduct its deliberations.

Proxenus:

a citizen and resident of his own state who served as a “friend or representative” (much like a modern honorary consul) of a foreign state.

Pythia:

the priestess who conveyed Apollo’s prophecies at Delphi.

Salaminia:

one of two special Athenian state triremes (the other was the Paralus) used on sacred embassies and official business.

Spartiate:

a full citizen of Sparta and a member of its highest citizen elite.

Stade:

a unit of distance from which is derived our word stadium; the Attic stade was 607 feet long; the Olympic stade was 630.8 feet.

Stoa:

a shedlike structure with one open side whose roof is supported by columns.

Talent:

a large unit of currency equal to sixty minae or six thousand drachmas.

Thetes:

the lowest rank of Athenian citizens, whose annual income was less than the two hundred medimnoi of grain; see pentecosiomedimnoi, knights, and zeugitae.

Thranitae:

the uppermost bank of rowers in a trireme.

Zeugitae:

the middle bank of rowers in a trireme; also Athenian citizens of middling status, whose annual income was between two and three hundred medimnoi of grain; see pentecosiomedimnoi, knights, and thetes.

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