Classical Studies

More than one historian has emphasized "the importance of knowing the past to understand the present and to imagine the future" and under this premise we enter in the world of Classical Culture, which is the basis of Western civilization. Throughout this course we will know the Greco-Latin society in depth: history, literature, art, architecture, the way of life, etc. In addition, it will have a second purpose, one of the main objectives of this subject is to teach a student to appreciate and recognize the legacy of the classical world in our days.



1.- The origin of writing, the birth of History

In ancient times


Writing is a system of representation of words, thanks to which we communicate ideas and thoughts.


Remember, pictograms like the hieroglyphs were composed of drawings and signs that meant exactly what they represented.


Attention!! The ideograms represent words, not objects.

Egipcian hieroglyph

Chinese words

To remember and understand

Phonological writing, which is the one we use today, shows a relationship between written signs and pronounced sounds, while non-phonological writing does not show such relationship. An example of non-phonological writing are the hieroglyphs.

What is the difference between a pictogram and an idiogram?

  • A pictogram is a symbol or drawing that represents an object, while the ideogram is a drawing that represents an idea or statement.
  • A pictogram is a symbol or drawing that represents an object, while the ideogram is a drawing representing a word.

The alphabet

Cradle of Europe

Around 1500 BC there was a breakthrough in the field of writing, the first alphabets were created. Little by little they were evolving and fulfilling its function, until arriving at the Greek and Latin alphabets, which are considered the linguistic cradle of Europe. This means that many of the languages spoken today come from these two languages, especially from Latin because when the romans formed their immense Empire, they extended their language.

Greek alphabet

Roman script that use our same letters.

Roman or latin alphabet

The Romans were conquerors and as their territory grew, they were assimilating the customs and languages of the conquered people, adapting them to their benefit. The original language of the Latin groups was influenced by the contact with speakers of other Indo-European (Oscos, Umbros, Greeks, Celts) as well as non-Indo-European groups (Etruscans, Cretans, Picenos, Ilirios, Ligures ...).

From the Greeks they took much: art, music, customs, so it is not uncommon for them to adapt their own language, to reinvent their own language, the Etruscan, on the basis of Greek structure and grammar. Much of the Latin lexical wealth comes from the Greek.

Today we continue to use symbols to transmit messages, this is due to two factors: the brevity and the security of all understand their content. What are the most common types of idiograms?

For example, in public places as cinemas, theatres or pubs, there are some ideograms that help to distinguish the ladies toilets from gentlemen toilets. 

Romance languages

As you can see in the map, the most common origins of European languages come from the germanic and anglo-saxon languages (orange), romance or romanic languages (green) and slavic languages (yellow). 

2.- The ancient Greece

Location and historical antecedents

Crete and Mycenae

Remember that both civilizations are recognized as the precursors of Greece; indeed, many of the cities and myths that became part of the greek civilization come from these two population.

The Cretans were fond of representing bullfighting, what does this word mean?

  • The term bullfighting refers to the plastic art of representing bulls.
  • Artistic work or book, related to the bulls, that deals with this art and technique.
  • The term only refers to bullfighting techniques.
  • Artistic representation that deals with the art and technique of bullfighting.
  • Art and technique of bullfighting or bullfighting.

From the Dark Ages to Hellenism


The term Democracy means "government of the people" and was introduced by Clistenes in the city of Athens. He instituted isonomy, that is, equality before the law; ostracism, by which one could banish a person if it was a danger to the city; compulsory military service and constituted a council consisting of 500 members, 50 of each of the tribes, who were elected by citizens over the age of thirty.

Pericles consolidated the Athenian Democracy and for that reason is considered like the father of this one. One of its first measures was to annul the power of the Areopagus, composed by the most powerful citizens. He also separated the legislative (Assembly) and executive power (Magistrates).

The Battle of Thermopylae

During Athenian hegemony, the city created a maritime confederation between several cities to subtract power from the persian king Darius, who aspired to conquer the Greek territories.

In its first confrontation, in the First Medical War, the Persian army was defeated. The Second Medical War was more complicated, the successor of Darius, Xerxes, formed a great army that managed to defeat the Spartan troops and to conquer Athens. It was the efficiency of the Greek fleet that led to the Hellenic victory.

The movie "300" tells the Battle of Thermopylae (2nd Medical War) in which the Greek troops (300 Spartans, 700 Thespians and 400 Thebans) managed to stop the persian army of 250.000 men for three days.

                                              An immeasurable empire.

The Empire of Alexander the Great, as we pointed out in the audio, was very extensive. In this image we can see all the territory that covered, which was divided into dozens of independent kingdoms after his death. In you tube you can find numerous videos, if you want to delve into the topic.

Fill in the blanks

The Battle of Thermopylae took place during the  and in it, the   clashed. At the head of the greek army was , who maintained his positions against the troops of for/during three days.

Greek society

The city-states

You should remember that the reality of Greek society is much more complex than it seems at first glance, as it varied from one city to another. There are many cities in the Ancient Greece, but two of them had special relevance: Athens and Sparta.


Nowadays the capital of Greece, it was considered the rich and more relevant in relation to history, politic and philosophy. It was the precedent, was the social and cultural lighthouse of Ancient Greece.


Characterized by its tremendous military force, it was a city very different from the rest of Greek localities. Focus entirely on the art of war, all the education of its citizens centered on creating the perfect soldier.

Social Classes

Social inequality was a common trait in antiquity; however, one should not go so far back in time to be aware of its existence. In Athens existed three social strata: citizens, metecs and slaves; while in Sparta the three social classes were composed by the spartans, periecos and helots.

Home, education and family

The home was the center of life for most Greeks: they lived, slept, ate, had fun educating children ... It was the nerve center of the family, in which the decisions of the house remained in the hands of the Patriarch, who had power to decide the life and death of its inhabitants.


In Greek society, marriage and motherhood were the ultimate aspiration of every woman. But it was also important un men, because though marriage they continue their family name.

Family and education

Within the family nucleus, the patriarch had control over his wife, children, daughters-in-law and slaves, and even from birth, children were perceived differently, no matter the social rank. The education varied from one polis to another.

Make a brief summary about the theory and point out some of the customs that continue today.

3.- The eternal city

History of Rome, from myth to reality

Origins or historic antecedents

Before Rome existence, Italy was occupied by different societies or groups of people as etruscans or greek settlers.

The most numerous group settled on the Latium, near the Tiber River. Those divided the territory between different families who became the patricians of Rome. They reunited in the same location, the city of Alba Longa, because of their similarities: same language, customs, laws and religion.

The myth of the wolf

Every civilization has its foundational myth, in the Ancient Age was quite normal to resort to divine intervention to explain the origin of a city in order to ennoble its foundation, Rome is no different. The legend says that the founders of Rome, the twins Romulus and Remus were sons of Mars, the god of war, and Rhea Silvia, the daughter of Numitor, king of Alba Longa.

The story tells how they were abandoned to their death by their uncle who coveted the throne, but saved by divine intervention, were raised by the wolf Lupercal and when they grew up, they regained their throne. Finally, was Romulus who founded Rome after killing his brother when they argued about where  they should settled the city, whose birth took place in 753 BC.

Nace la ciudad eterna

Rome is the fruit of the combination of three tribes that settled on the banks of the Tiber and that as they grew, ended up foorling a single city.

Rome began to emerge among its seven hills: Palatine, Quirinal, Capitol, Esquiline, Celio, Viminal and Aventine. The city ended up being built in a strategic place and bathed by the Tiber.

An origin of legend

In the foundation of Rome many other myths intervene, but the most outstanding ones would be "The rape of the Sabine Women" or the history of the trojan hero Aeneas. Both events have captured the attention of literature and art, as shown by authors such as Rubens, Picasso and Bernini. Some have even been fortunate enough to have their own film or documentary, such as the one below:



Order the following statements

  • In Italy lived the Ligures, Italos and Etruscans.
  • Greek settlers settled south of the Italian peninsula and in Sicily.
  • The Latin primitives founded the city of Alba Longa, according to the legend its founder was the trojan Aeneas.
  • The tribes of Latium settled around the Tiber.
  • The first two inhabited hills of the city of Rome were the Palatine and the Quirinal.

The Roman power and the art of war

The Monarchy (753-509 B.C.)

The monarchy period start with the foundation of Rome and after the kidnapped and raped of the sabine women. It was an elected monarchy which lasted for about two centuries until the horrendus act committed by the son of the last king, who raped a noble woman named Lucretia. 

Remember, after Romulus there were six kings: 

  1. Numa Pompilius
  2. Tullus Hostilius
  3. Ancus Marcius
  4. Tarquinius Priscus
  5. Servius Tullius
  6. Lucius Tarquinius Superbus

The Republic (509-29 B.C.) 

Republic is denominated to the second period of the Roman history that begins with the deposition of Tarquinius Superbus in 509 B.C. and continues until the 29 BC. 

There is one of the most important stages in the history of Rome begins: the eternal city becomes the first power of the Ancient World, with numerous colonies in Europe, Asia and Africa, and with extensive territories under the power of a roman governor. As a result of the great conquests, life in Rome and its provinces changed politically, socially, economically and culturally.

However, it was not without problems: numerous social revolts, the emergence of new social classes and the appearance of new positions like the one of Consul or political destabilization that originated two triumvirates. Nor can wars be forgotten, to expand its territory Rome participated in battle after battle, although it was not until the Punic wars  against the Carthaginians that they feared the defeat.

The Empire

It is called the Roman Empire to the stage in which all power was concentrated in the hands of a single person. This period begins in 29 BC. with the government of Octavio Augusto and concludes in 476 AD. with the fall of Rome.

After defeating Mark Antony in Egypt, Octavian was conferred the titles of: Imperator, Great Pontiff, Prince of the Senate, Augustus and Caesar, that is, he gathered all power in his person and became the first Roman emperor. He undertook the task of reorganizing the Empire and introduced major reforms of a political, social and economic nature.

Four dynasties succeed: the Julio-Claudia, the Flavia, the Antonina and the Severa. After this period begins the crisis of the III century that initiates the Low Roman Empire.

Theodosius, the last emperor of the Valentinian dynasty (364-395) divided the empire between his two sons. The territories grew apart, developing their own culture and art, until the end of the Roman Empire of the West in 476. 


True or false

  • Triumvirate is called the form of government composed of three people. The first Roman triumvirate was formed by Marcus Aurelius, Julius Caesar and Pompey.
  • The territory of the Roman Empire encompassed three continents: southern and western Europe, western Asia and northern Africa.
  • The son of Servius Tullius kidnapped and raped Lucretia, the daughter of a patrician.
  • The Roman army consisted of 42 centuries, 400 knights, three centuries of engineers and two of musicians.
  • Magna Grecia was the southern part of the Italian peninsula.

Roman society

Social classes

"The main division of people is this: that all men, whether they are free or they are slaves", in this forceful way Roman law divided their society.It should be noted that the social reality had many more nuances, because within free people there were huge differences as they were structured according to wealth and legal rights. However, we can highlight two large groups: free men (citizens, freedmen and clients) and slaves.


As in Ancient Greece, the purpose of the Roman woman was motherhood and, therefore, marriage. However, this imposition was not exclusive to women, it also fell on men and both had a duty to contribute to the growth of their community.

For a time, specifically in the Republic, it was mandatory, if he was healthy and of childbearing age, to marry. Men tended to marry between the ages of 35 and 40, although the legal age was 14 for males and 12 for females.

Once the ideal suitor was chosen, the sponsales were held, for which the couple had to meet several requirements: to be both older than seven years; Physiological capacity of the contractors to be able to have children; Legal capacity, that is to say, to be free persons and in possession of the citizenship, and paterfamilias consent.

In the beginning only the patricians could marry and later, from 445 B.C. the rest of free people. Those who never got married were slaves, foreigners, actors and prostitutes.


They formed the Roman family all those under the authority of the paterfamilias (patriarch), that is to say, the mother and children, slaves and clients, of the latter there were four types:

  • Those who aspired to make a public career.
  • Businessmen.
  • The artists.
  • The men who wanted to join their circle of friends (clientele).

The patriarch had complete control over the tenants of his house, also acted as their legal representative: the patriarch was a judge and executioner in his house.

Relate the following statements

  • The patricians were...
    the descendants of the early Romans.
  • The slaves...
    they had no political or civil rights.
  • The paterfamilias was...
    the patriarch of the gens.
  • The freedmen...
    had bought their freedom.
  • The greek slaves...
    used to act as preceptors/teachers.

4.- Culture, sport and gastronomy


The word religion means "obligation" or "commitment" to worship a divinity, for the Greeks and Romans all life revolved around the gods they honored.


Greek mythology is a set of legends and myths that derive from the different influences that gave rise to the Hellenic culture. Eastern gods, celestial, nature, Mediterranean, Indo-European ... were some of those who shaped the Greek religion and originated a culture.

One of the characteristics of Greek religion is that worship was done in community, it was a social act. Moreover, the religion itself was part of their day to day, because for every activity they did, they asked permission from a god.

The greek gods adopted human figures and represented the forces of the Cosmos. Like the regular human, the gods had personality and feelings, they were unpredictable and therefore the life of mortals was subject to their whims: sometimes they were just, others were cruel and vengeful, indifferent, etc.

Greek mythology is very complex, full of major and minor gods, monsters, wars, fantasy beings and other deities. In this section we will address the Olympic Pantheon, the twelve great gods of the Hellenic culture.


The Romans had a similar religion to the Greek because they were polytheistic and anthropomorphic, that is to say, their gods had human form. The Roman pantheon was created from many cultures, for example it took the Greek divinities or the Etruscan celestial gods, as well as other smaller divinities that represented natural phenomena and / or human activities.

The priests celebrated the cult of the gods in the name of the city, each god had his own temple, liturgies and private priests.

One of the characteristics of religion in Rome is that, except in ceremonies of great importance, the religious act was rather intimate and personal. Each family had a number of deities to worship, generally smaller divinities than believed to be descendants.

They also worshiped their ancestors and their purpose in life was to emulate their exploits. In addition, within the home environment, the gods of other cultures had been adopted that were in charge of protecting the home against the spirits.

The 12 great, Greek and Roman gods

1.- Zeus or Jupiter                           2.- Poseidon or Neptune                              3.- Hades or Pluto

4.- Hera or Juno                                5.- Demeter or Ceres                                     6.- Aphrodite or Venus

7.- Athena or Minerva                    8.- Artemis or Diana                                      9.- Apollo or Phoebus

10.- Hermes or Mercury               11.-Dionisio or Bacchus                                12.- Ares or Mars

Finally, highlight that in Rome existed the private cult, in which the familiar gods were honored:

  • The Manes or souls of the ancestors, who watched over the continuity and prosperity of their descendants.
  • Lares or home gods
  • Penates or geniuses that made possible the family supply.

Relate each god to his counterpart

  • Zeus
  • Hera
  • Vulcan
  • Artemis
  • Minerva
  • Ceres
  • Pluto
  • Apollo

Art and literature


Of the Greek literature little has come to us due to the quality of the format, however, we must emphasize, that thanks to them, we have developed the epic literature, lyric, drama, comedy, history, etc. On the other hand, the Romans were not only very prolific, but also very careful and for that reason many of his writings have arrived to our days.

Both civilizations have endowed us with literary, epic and lyrical works. Among the Greeks are historians such as the great Herodotus, considered as the father of history; Tragic playwrights like Euripides, Sophocles and Aeschylus; Epic narrators like Hesiod and philosophers of the stature of Aristotle.

The Romans were not far behind, Virgilio exemplifies the epic writer par excellence; Horacio and Ovid were two unequaled poets and historians such as Plutarch or Livy narrated the greatness and history of Rome without pause, and even in politics they emphasize orators like Cicero.


Last, but not least, the tragedy, the drama, the comedy ... all the theatrical genres that today still delight us.

The drama and the comedy appeared in Athens in the sixth century BC. and, in little more than a century, was defined with all the traits that would characterize it like gender. The dramas were composed in verse, reason why the authors also were considered poets.

The first theatrical performances, outdoors, took place next to the Acropolis of Athens. From century IV B.C. spread first by Attica and then by the rest of the Hellenistic world.

All considerations on the greek tragedy must be based on indirect testimonies, fragments and loose verses that prevent the full knowledge of many authors, as well as in the works preserved, very few, in relation to their complete theatrical production, of three authors: Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides.

Explains a tragedy or work, for example, "The Aeneid":

Sport and enterteinment


Both Greeks and Romans shared most of their games, both towns were governed under the motto "healthy body, healthy mind" and therefore, spent much time to exercise and baths, especially the Hellenes.

Among the most common sports were discus throwing, marathons, hand-to-hand wrestling, horse racing and carts, fishing, hunting, pole vaulting, long jump, high jump, ball game And the predecessors of handball, soccer and field hockey.


The Greeks were not very keen on leisure, they were practical people and their greatest amusement was none other than training to be fit or attending the theater.

The Romans innovated something more, most of the sports inherited from the Greek culture adapted like public spectacles, thus was born the Circus. In addition, the children and young people had a play and training area, the campus. They also had table games: dice, chess or checkers, among others.

The Olympic Games

The Olympics are known since antiquity, the first reports date from 776 BC, in the Greek city of Olympia. During the game season a truce was agreed, at least a month, throughout the territory, as they were in honor of the king of the gods, Zeus.

These games were celebrated every four years and the athletes trained very hard to be selected. They were a great honor to participate in the games and in case of triumph, they were considered as gods by all their fellow citizens.

The Romans suspended them in 394 AD. And did not return until almost twenty centuries later, when Baron de Coubertin, after a trip to the Olympic stadium of Greece, decided to promote it. They were restarted in Athens in 1896 and, since then, have been held every four years with only two exceptions: the First and Second World Wars.


The Greco-Roman society's food was balanced and healthy, eating many fruits and vegetables, especially apples, dates, figs, onions and bread. They flavored foods with herbs such as thyme and mint, as well as honey to sweeten them. The main meal used to be served mid-afternoon, around five o'clock, always accompanied by wine for the adults, and watery wine for the children.

The main diet of the Mediterranean was composed of the so-called Mediterranean trilogy: bread, oil and wine. They ate lots of bread, at any meal was present, as was the wine, even at breakfast. Fish was the most usual meal, especially tuna, sea bass and mullet, while meat was only eaten on holidays. The latter could come from any animal: foxes, goats, hares, horses ...

Banquets or symposiums were a common celebration in both societies, they were a social gathering act, in which men - only the male gender in the case of the Greeks and, occasionally, women in the Roman case - they congregated in a house.

They ate lying on couches, usually paired two by two, and savored a succulent meal made up of exotic dishes, sweets, and spiced wine. The slaves brought the food and once they retired it, the men continued in what today we would call the table, always accompanied by wine and different appetizers.

At any banquet we must highlight the figure of the "simpoarca", who decided how much wine was drunk and kept order in the discussion. Also note that these banquets were often accompanied by music or recitalsTraductor de Google para empresas:Google Translator ToolkitTraductor de sitios webGlobal Market FinderInformación del Traductor de GoogleComunidadMóvilAcerca de GooglePrivacidad y condicionesAyudaDanos tu opinión

True or false

  • Hockey was born in antiquity.
  • The Romans celebrated their public shows at the Circus and Colosseum.
  • The first reports on the Olympic Games date from AD 776.
  • The Romans suspended the old Olympic Games.
  • Coubertine restarted the Olympic Games at the end of the 19th century.
  • The banquets of Greco-Roman society were characterized by being intimate and family events.
  • The Mediterranean society was nourished with wheat, vine and olive.