Albany Senior High School/History/StudyClassics

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Classics: a rough guide

Hello, This is a project. That may explain the quality of the pages to come but enough of that. We (the people working on this) aim to create a resource to help those studying classics or thinking about studying clasics at level 2 (ncea). If all goes well, it may even help you smarter chaps (level 3). We welcome suggestions to what you guys wish to see on this page/ pages and hope to make as useful as we can be bothered to make it.

Creation Myth

According to the Greeks, before the world existed, there was only an entity called Chaos, who was an infinite nothingness

In time, Chaos spawned Eurynome, Gaia, Eros, Tartarus and Erebus. Without any assistance, Gaia gave birth to Uranos, whom she conceived numerous children with (e.g Chronos, Rhea). These children were known as the Titans. After the 12 titans were born, Gaia and Uranos stopped bearing titans, instead Gaia gave birth to the Cyclopes and the hecatonchires, the hundred-handed ones.

Chronos castrated Uranos and proclaimed himself to be the king of the titans and took his sister Rhea as his consort. She bore him 6 children, which became the Olympians, Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, Hera, Hestia and Demeter. Just as Chronos had risen up to his father, Uranos had declared that Chronos' children would rise up to him. To prevent this, Chronos ate his Olympian children has Rhea birthed them, to Rheas dismay. Just as the last child was to born, Zeus, Rhea decided to feed Chronos a rock wrapped in a cloth, and hid the baby Zeus with Gaia. When Zeus came of age, he came back to rise up against his father, just as Uranos had prophesied.

In some myths, Zeus forced Chronos to throw up his children, where in others, Zeus cut open Chronos' stomach and pulled his brothers and sisters out. This was the beginning of the Titanomachy, or the Great Titan War.

This war was won by the gods, who then punished the Titans by trapping them in Tartarus, all except Atlas, who was tasked with holding up the celestial spheres for the rest of eternity.

The Gods then decided who would rule over what. Poseiden claimed the sea, Zeus took the sky and Hades took the Underworld.

The Gods- an overview

Put simply, In classics, the gods are important. here they are in all theit glory, Learn them well

The Gods (Greek name first, Roman in brackets)

Zeus (Jupiter)

The king of the gods, the ruler of Mount Olympus and the god of the sky, weather, thunder, law, order and fate. He is the youngest son of Cronus and Rhea, whom he overthrew, and brother-husband to Hera. He was often depicted as a royal-looking man, around middle aged, with a dark beard. His symbols are the thunderbolt and the royal sceptre.

Poseidon (Neptune)

God of the sea, rivers, floods, droughts, earthquakes and horses. His epithets (poetic titles of sorts) were "Earth Shaker" or "Storm Bringer". He is a son of Cronus and Rhea and brother to Zeus and Hades. In artwork he was depicted as a fairly stocky, middle aged man with a dark beard, and holding a trident.

Aphrodite (Venus)

Goddess of love and beauty. Married to Hephaestus but despite this, she had many other lovers, most notably Ares. She was depicted as a beautiful woman usually accompanied by her son Eros (Cupid). Her symbols include the dove, apple, rose, scallop shell and myrtle wreath.

Apollo (still Apollo)

God of music, healing, plague, prophecies, poetry, and archery. Also associated with light, truth and the sun. He is Artemis's twin brother and Hermes elder brother, and son of Zeus and Leto. He was depicted as a handsome, beardless youth with long hair and various symbols including a laurel wreath, bow and quiver, raven, and lyre.

Hades (Pluto)

King of the Underworld and god of death, the dead, and the hidden wealth of the Earth. His attributes are the key of Hades, the Helm of Darkness, and the three-headed dog, Cerberus. Despite being the son of Cronus and Rhea and older brother of Zeus, he is only rarely listed among the Olympians.


Virgin goddess of the hearth, home and cooking. She is a daughter of Rhea and Cronus and sister of Zeus. She was depicted as a modestly veiled woman, whose symbols are the hearth and kettle. In some accounts, she gave up her seat as one of the Twelve Olympians to tend to the sacred flame on Mount Olympus for Dionysus.

Hestia (Vesta)

Goddess of the hearth, home and cooking. She is a daughter of Rhea and Cronus and sister of Zeus. She was depicted as a veiled woman, whose symbols are the hearth and kettle. According to some myths she gave up her seat as one of the Twelve Olympians to tend to the sacred flame on Mount Olympus for Dionysus.

Ares (Mars)

God of war, bloodlust, violence, manly courage, and civil order. The son of Zeus and Hera, he was shown in artwork as either a mature, bearded soldier/ warrior dressed in battle arms, or a nude beardless youth with helm and spear. His attributes are golden armour and a bronze-tipped spear.  In Roman mythology, Mars is also the god of agriculture and fertility (Ares isn't) this is quite important as it explains mars being shown as a fairly kind (compared to Ares) and revered while Ares is just seen as very fearsome.


 God of travel, messengers, trade, thievery, cunning , language, writing, diplomacy, athletics, and animal husbandry. He is the messenger of the gods, a guide who leads the souls of the dead into Hades' realm, and the son of Zeus and Maia. He was depicted either as a handsome and athletic beardless youth, or as an older bearded man. His attributes include the herald's wand or caduceus, winged sandals, and a traveler's cap.

Artemis (Diana)

Virgin goddess of the hunt, wilderness, wild animals, childbirth and plague. In later times she became associated with the moon. She is the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and twin sister of Apollo. In art she was usually depicted as a young woman dressed in a short knee-length chiton (sleeveless tunic sorta thang) and equipped with a hunting bow and a quiver of arrows. In addition to the bow, her attributes include hunting spears, animal pelts, deer and other wild animals.

Hephaestus (Vulcan)

Crippled god of fire, metalworking, stonemasonry, sculpture and volcanism. The son of Hera, he is the smith of the gods and the husband to Aphrodite. He was usually depicted as a bearded man holding hammer and tongs—the tools of a smith—and riding a donkey. His symbols are the hammer, tongs and anvil.

Athena (Minerva)

Goddess of wisdom, warfare, strategy, heroism, crafts and reason. The daughter of Zeus, she was born from Zeus's head fully-formed and armoured. She was depicted crowned with a  helm, armed with shield and spear, and wearing the snake-trimmed aegis cloak patterned with the head of the Gorgon. Her symbols include the aegis and the olive tree.

Dionysus (Bachus)

God of wine, parties and festivals, madness, civilization, drunkenness and pleasure. He was depicted in art as either an older bearded god or an effeminate, long-haired youth. His attributes include the thyrsus (a pinecone-tipped staff), cup, grape vine and a crown of ivy. A later addition to the Olympians, in some accounts he replaced Hestia.

Demeter (Ceres)

Goddess of fertility, agriculture, horticulture, grain and harvest. Demeter is a daughter of Cronus and Rhea and sister of Zeus. She was depicted as a mature woman, often crowned and holding sheafs of wheat and a torch. Her symbols are the Cornucopia (horn of plenty), wheat-ears, the winged serpent and the lotus staff.

History of Greece

The history of Ancient Greece is divided to to 5 parts. They are difined by the works of art in that period. They are as follows.

  • The Archaic period (c.750-c.500 BC) Artists made larger free-standing sculptures in stiff, hieratic poses with the dreamlike 'archaic smile'. The Archaic period is often taken to end with the overthrow of the last tyrant of Athens in 510 BC.
    * The Classical period (c.500-323 BC) is characterised by a style which was considered by later observers to be exemplary (i.e. 'classical')—for instance the Parthenon. Politically, the Classical Period was dominated by Athens during the 5th century, displaced by Spartan politics during the early 4th century BC, before power shifted to Thebes and the Boeotian League and finally to the League of Corinth led by Macedon.
    * The Hellenistic period (323-146 BC) is when Greek culture and power expanded into the near and middle east. This period begins with the death of Alexander and ends with the Roman conquest.
    * Roman Greece, the period between Roman victory over the Corinthians at the Battle of Corinth in 146 BC and the establishment of Byzantium by Constantine as the capital of the Roman Empire in 330 AD.
    * the final phase of Antiquity is the period of Christianization during the later 4th to early 6th centuries, taken to be complete with the closure of the Neoplatonic Academy by Justinian I in 529 AD.

The role of fate

One of the key religious beliefs of Ancient Rome is that everything is controlled by the faceless divinity 'Fate'. Even the Gods are not free from it's will. Jupiter alone knows what Fate has in store and often acts in such a way that ensures it occurrence. No one can escape their Fate. This is shown strongly in Virgils epic Poem The Aeneid. Here is an example essay showing some characters whose death was caused by fate and why it had to happen.

In Virgil’s epic poem, ‘The Aeneid’, Fate plays a huge role. In fact, the entire poem centers around a Prophecy that Aeneas, The main character and son of Venus, will take the recently homeless Trojans to Italy where he will found the great city of Rome. Since destiny plays such a huge part in the poem, it’s not surprising that, throughout the poem, several characters are doomed to die so Fate’s will can be carried out. The gods know of Fate’s decrees and this contributes to some events occurring.

One of the first characters to die in Book Two is Priam, King of Troy. For Aeneas to leave the safety of his home and found Rome, There has to be some kind of motive. The fall of his home and death of his king provides such a motive. The death of the king is used to symbolise the death and end of the city. The quote on page 67, line 25“ Priam’s destiny ended here, after seeing Troy fired and Troy’s walls down”,shows how Priam’s fate, as king, is tied to Troy and how, for one to fall, the other must too. By using the imagery of Troy’s walls falling along with Priam, Virgil shows how both the physical and metaphorical walls preventing Aeneas leaving the safety of Troy to found Rome fall along with the death of Priam and end of Troy. The ‘walls’ for Aeneas in this case are his view of Troy as home and being honor bound to his home city. So his city and King falling symbolizes the fall of the barriers preventing him from completing his larger destiny. The quote “he who massacres a son before his fathers eyes and then slays the father at an altar” from page 70, line 35 can be read both in the sense that the Greeks were savages in killing a (literal) child before his father and that Priam was, in a sense, Troys father and so were linked as family and so the ‘deaths’ were connected. The placing of Priam’s death in front of an altar is also important. This shows that Priam is a sacrifice for the future of Rome and the success of Aeneas’ journey and mission. Virgil uses him to show that the death of troy was as tribute to the gods so that great city of Rome could be built. The roe of Priam’s death, in respect to fate, is to start Aeneas’ whole journey because if his home was not destroyed, he’d have no reason to leave.

Another character that was doomed to die in The Aeneid was Dido, Queen of Carthage. Dido met Aeneas and the surviving Trojans after they are blown off course by a storm started at the request of Juno which she hoped would kill the remaining Trojans. Luckily, it is stopped in time by Neptune and they are merely blown to northern Africa at Carthage. To protect her son in this strange new land, Venus causes Dido to fall in love with Aeneas. Because of this, Aeneas gets rather comfortable in his new role as husband of the queen. He procrastinates the leaving of Carthage to Italy and fulfilling his destiny. Jupiter, whose role in the poem is to ensure Fates decrees are carried out, eventually sends Mercury to inspire Aeneas to once more take up his role given to him by destiny. Mercury tells Aeneas: “What, are you sitting foundation for proud Carthage and building here a noble city? A model Husband? For shame! You forget your destiny and that other kingdom which is to be yours.” (page 105, line 17). The purpose of this section of the poem is to show what happens if you do not follow your destiny and the gods wishes, if you do now show the Roman value of pietus and instead give into Furor, immoral passion. While dido was infatuated with Aeneas, construction of her city stopped and “the vow which I made to the ashes of Sychaeus is broken too” (page 114, line 16). Rejection of one’s gods was the ultimate display of Furor and because of it, Dido had her heart broken and was moved to commit suicide. The reason Dido had to die for Fate is double. One, that, because Aeneas is destined to found the great city of troy, he could not be tied to any other country. Secondly, a prophecy states that Aeneas will marry Lavinia, daughter of the Latin king. If Dido hadn’t died, even had Aeneas still left Carthage, he may of still had feelings and be tied to Dido. Because she had died, he had no reservations on fulfilling this part of his destiny. Virgil uses her death for another reason too, to illustrate the dangers of furor. Dido’s death by flame is used to show it was the furor that killed her. Throughout book one and four, the passion Dido feels for Aeneas is described as fire. For example: “For all the time the flame ate into her melting marrow” (page 99, line 11). Dido then dying from flame shows that her passion and furor killed her, it was her fault she burned. in this sense, Dido serves as a warning to Aeneas not to stray from his fate again and to show pietus at all time.

In the second half of the poem, Aeneas and the other half of the surviving Trojans have made it to Italy and their main obstacle in the way of Rome is Turnus, leader of the Rutillians. Of all the characters in the Aeneid, Turnus is perhaps the one who most had to die for the sake of the prophecy. Not only does he strongly oppose Trojan occupation of Italy but he is also promised to Lavinia, the woman Aeneas is destined to marry. So even in what, in the scope of the poem, is a minor prophecy, Turnus is still a major obstacle. His death is used as a bargaining point for Juno in her arguments against Jupiter. The Trojans are fated to win the battle against Turnus but instead of allowing him to escape or survive, Juno trades his death with the promise that the Trojans will adopt the Latin customs and traditions rather that the other way around. The purpose of Turnus’ death and the trade in reference to the Aeneid (apart from allowing it to end) is to give Rome greatness from the manly Latins who only lost against the Trojans because of Fate and also, the superior Roman gods.

The role of fate

A Woman of means

A Woman of Means is one of the assignments for clasics that you'll be forced like so many before you to complete.

In this section, I've created some exemplar items for the grave goods that you can choose from, and how you can go about describing these.

Example Grave Good 1: Roman vase

This vase was quite expensive, so must have belonged to a woman from a mush higher up class, maybe she was married to a senator or an equistrian, obviously someone with lots of money to spare. The markings on the vase show an old myth, so we can assume she is educated or very religious. 

There, it's not great, but it gives you an idea of what you could write about in your field notebook, just make it longer with more detail and a logical reason as to why she has this.

You should try to choose a class of society that you know a lot about, or are very comfortable with doing heaps of research on.

Choose items that you know your woman would have, don't guess anything and give each item a logical reason of significance.

Here is a really bad exemplar. If you plan on passing, don't copy this

Grave Good 1: Golden Necklace

This is really expensive and she probably bought it because it looks cool.

This above passage is wrong, in everyway. First off, it doesn't explain which class of society this woman is from, it also is a pretty lame reason for her to have this item. Only choose and item that has significance to her, maybe the necklace was given to her as a gift? Whatever the reason, it has to be logical.

Foundtion of Rome

The earlier legend of the founding of Rome (i.e., that it was founded personally by Aeneas), was replaced over the centuries by the attribution of the founding to twin brothers, Romulus and Remus. In Roman mythology, they are sons of the priestess Rhea Silvia and Mars, the god of war, abandoned at birth at Tiber by servants in charge of executing them. The twins were taken by a she-wolf. Later a shepherd named Faustulus came and took Remus and Romulus. Faustulus and his wife (Acca Larentia) raised the children. When Remus and Romulus became adults they decided to establish a city. They could not decide who would rule the city so they gave it to omens. Remus was the first to see six vultures flying in the sky. Soon after Romulus saw twelve vultures. Remus saw the birds first but Romulus saw more. Finally Romulus was the one who was designated. However the following event may have occurred (see Romulus and Remus), Remus was soon murdered by Romulus.