Ancient Greece

Portion of the Acropolis, Athens, Greece

Think of Crystal Spires and Togas, but without the crystal spires or the togas.

Home of columned temples, chiton-wearing gods, slinkily dressed goddesses, amazons, and bearded philosophers. Also home to mythic thong-wearingnote  heroes who ride winged horses and do great deeds (all without getting either chafed or sunburnt). The Spartans live here too, and they're known for their brutal training methods, stylish slow-motion fighting techniques and for being manly enough to charge nearly naked into battle even when outnumbered 70 to 1. And they definitely aren't gay. Frequently confused with Ancient Rome by directors who just don't care.

In fact, this picture is a blend of two distinct periods; mythical Greece, conventionally said to end with The Trojan War around 1000BC, and classical Greece, home to the first philosophers. The "classical Greece" period itself tends to blend cultures that evolved and combined over the course of many centuries. While Athens at one time pulled the city-states together for defense against Persia, and both Sparta and Athens were heads of large military unions at one time or another, Greece never had a monolithic culture any more than the NATO block or Europe; it was the sum of the cultures of many independent city-states, each with its own culture, religion and calendar, all ultimately blended together in the giant food processor of history. If you were to visit the Balkan Peninsula in, say, Pythagoras' day, you'd find that religious practices and social mores varied heavily depending on what city you were in. Nonetheless, it's been suggested that the Ancient Greeks in general did see themselves as such, in a manner not too dissimilar to what's now called nationalism.

The ancient Greeks were also great coloniser, founding cities across the Mediterranean from what is now Spain to the Black Sea. In fact after the 4th century BC the largest Greek-speaking cities were generally outside the territory of modern Greece, though only Alexandria in Egypt shows up much in popular fiction.

Ancient Greece has suffered more than usual cliche-making tendencies, because it was unfortuanately cast as the embodiment of Enlightenment in the Romanticism Versus Enlightenment contrast (with The Middle Ages suffering the opposite fate as its foil).

Popular tropes that feature this time period are:

  • Achilles' Heel: Actually not from The Iliad but rather a later writer who just happened to write that in himself.
  • Achilles in His Tent: From The Iliad.
  • Action Girl: Artemis, Atalanta, Athena, the Amazons... and that's just startin' with the letter A!
  • An Aesop
  • Badass Army: The Spartans (well, according to pop culture that rose since, anyway, other cities were no slouch either).
    • Badass Navy: Athens and Rhodes during their respective time periods.
  • Badass Gay: Notably the Sacred Band
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Inverted to Tartarus and back. A small wang was a sign of virility, while being hung like a horse was just plain silly looking to them!
    • Though played straight with Priapus, a Greek god of fertility, who sported such a monster, and in fact is the source of the medical term for an unnaturally long-lasting erection. However Priapus' erection is also seen as a symbol of his incredibly boorish and vulgar nature, and all the other gods scorn him.
  • Bazaar of the Bizarre : The Agora was not only the town market but the place where they went to argue philosophy and politics. You could say that it's most bizarre product was knowledge or attempts at it.
  • Blade on a Stick: Hoplites' combined spears with heavy armour and shields in a tight formation to create a mass of metal which couldn't be fought head-on any other way than using your own and hoping yours doesn't break. Hoplites largely were Greek warfare for many years before tactics thought about not fighting them head-on.
  • Boarding Party: The normal tactic for any navy that wasn't handy with a ram.
  • Call That a Formation?: Averted. When Greeks fought they liked to get into dense columns called phalanxes (roller, because of course it rolls over people), and simply smash into each other. Holding this formation against the enemy's was more or less Greek warfare for a good while.
  • Cassandra Truth
  • Classical Mythology
  • Conscription: Citizens of Greek city-states were expected to buy the equipment of a hoplite and serve in campaigns whenever called upon. Those unable to afford such equipment served as skirmishers, while wealthy nobles were expected to pay for the upkeep of horses and act as cavalry. Fortunately for them, since that's what everyone did and no more for major military manpower, warfare was confined to the summer and generally single-battle conflicts.
  • The Federation: What the Delian league started as, before becoming a Hegemonic Empire
  • Erastes Eromenos
  • Fatal Flaw
  • Galley Slave: Subverted. Nobody put slaves on an oar if they could help it, that was a development of the Renaissance; they weren't reliable or skilled enough (proper oarsmanship and fitness was more difficult than one might think) and local custom made them less easy then freemen to dismiss after hostilities. Moreover there were usually enough poor around who were desperate for work. If a navy was pressed so hard that it stooped to using slaves it would purchase and manumit them.
  • Love Potion (Eros's arrows)
  • Losing the Team Spirit: Battles in ancient Greece for many years were just hoplite formations smashing into each other. Being both heavily armoured in close formation, these battles led to very few casualties and ended with one side cracking first by breaking ranks and subsequently fleeing, knowing they now had no ability to engage their enemies and win.
  • Hegemonic Empire: Athens could be considered the Ur-Example and Trope Namer. It lead the formation of the Delian League of cities to fight the Persians, but continued leading the league after the war (as "hegemon"), and militarily/navaly and economically dominated the other cities and dictated policy to them to the point that it became referred to as the "Athenian Empire"
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Greek Society was profoundly mysogynistic (which is itself an ancient Greek word).
  • Hit-and-Run Tactics: The innovation of lightly-armoured skirmishers attacking from afar and retreating when the slow hoplite formations got somewhat close ended the hoplites' dominance over Greek battlefields.
    • To be more precise, it wasn't that skirmishers (archers, javelin users, etc.) were unknown to the Greeks. Most armies had them, although they were considered to be far less honorable than hoplite heavy infantry and rarely decided the outcome of battles. During the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC), however, the role of the skirmishers and other, more flexible troops became more important, particularly after an incident when an entire Spartan mora of six hundred hoplites was defeated by a force comprised mostly of peltasts. By the time the Roman legions landed in Greece, the hoplite phalanx had long since been made obsolete by more flexible troops.
  • Home Guard: Standing armies were not a known concept for much of Ancient Greece - warfare largely consisted of middle-class citizens acting as hoplites with equipment purchased by themselves. Due to this, conflicts were close to the participants' land, confirmed to summertime and usually consisted of a single battle. However, serving in the military however temporary it tended to be was mandatory for citizens.
  • Land of One City: Independent city-states, of a variety of administrative types, were dominant.
  • Luckily My Shield Will Protect Me: In Ancient Greek tradition the symbol of martial pride was not the sword as in many cultures(Greek swords were sidearms which came in two flavors: leaf-bladed xiphoses, and falcata-like kopides from which the Nepalese kukri is descended), but their gigantic shields or "hoplons" made for phalanx fighting. For instance when measuring the depth of a phalanx (customarily eight deep but once in awhile beefed up by a general who wanted to try something new), they would talk of how many shields deep it was.
  • Made of Iron: Not really, no. But they sure took a lot of iron with them when they went to battle.
  • Mighty Glacier: Hoplites' phalanxes heavy armor and shields in tight formation with spears extended dominated their battlefields for years... until skirmisher tactics with ranged weapons made sure to stay away from the formation that necessarily had to move slowly to keep properly close together enforced a more combined-arms approach in warfare.
  • Opposing Combat Philosophies: Athens ruled the sea. Sparta ruled the land. Everyone else got out of the way.
  • The Philosopher
  • Physical God
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Spartans.
  • Ramming Always Works: At least it did for Athenians and Rhodians, both of whom were really good at shiphandling. Corinthians, Syracuseans, and others were less obsessed with rams.
  • The Spartan Way: The Spartans are, of course, the Trope Namer.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Inverted for the Spartans; a classic saying had a Spartan woman contrast another woman's fine weaving with her excellent sons — that is what a woman should produce.
  • Training from Hell: Spartans did it for their citizens to let them give name to The Spartan Way.
  • Uriah Gambit: There are a few nasty stories about commanders of a coalition army putting the hoplites from an ally he thought might be an enemy in the next round directly opposite the enemy's best troops.

Series set in this time period are:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Historie
  • So far, alluded to in Axis Powers Hetalia though Herakles/Greece's as yet unseen mother, Mama Greece. It's also implied that she eventually became the Byzantine Empire...only for her to die in Turkey's hands.

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    Live Action TV 


    Video Games 


     Western Animation 
  • The setting of the Cubby Bear cartoon "Fiddlin' Fun" is in times of Ancient Greece, with Cubby participating in a chariot race.