The Greeks, having adopted an improved civilization, profited by it and made several important contributions. The Greeks were a people appreciative of superior intellectual work. They were interested in architecture, and erected fine buildings with beautiful columns. The Parthenon in Athens was one of their best. They also made contributions to civilization in their sculpture and their literature. Among the great masterpieces of Greek literature we find Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Greece produced many great philosophers, among whom were Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.
In the field of good government, also, the Greeks were pioneers. They learned the lesson of democracy, but it was not a democracy in the sense of allowing all male adults to vote and hold office. Citizenship was usually hereditary, and more than half of the population were excluded from it. Within the citizen class the government was conducted directly by the people. The Greek political units consisted of city states, each made up of a city proper and the surrounding territory. The Greeks failed, however, to unite the different city states into a strong central government.
Jealousy among the city states led to civil wars. These small democracies, because they could not unite, were in constant danger of attack. When the Persians attempted to conquer them, they fought many important battles to keep their freedom. Later they were united for a time under the rule of Alexander the Great, of Macedonia (about 338 B.C. to 323 B.C.). Still later, the Greeks were absorbed by a more powerful state to the west – Rome.