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 or came around in this time period are:
- Achilles' Heel: Actually not from The Iliad but rather a later writer who just happened to write that himself. Yes, Fan Fiction is Older Than They Think.
- 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: The Trope Namer, Aesop, lived and wrote back then, although the concept is probably as old as storytelling itself.
- Badass Army: The Spartans (well, according to pop culture that rose since, anyway; other cities were no slouch either).
- Athens and Rhodes counted as a Badass Navy 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!
- Though played straight (hem, hem) 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 its 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 one of your own and hoping it doesn't break. Hoplites largely were Greek warfare for many years before the tacticians 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.
- 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: Since it's the keystone of Greek Tragedy.
- Losing the Team Spirit: Battles in ancient Greece for many years were just hoplite formations smashing into each other. Being both heavily armoured and 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 couldn't win anymore.
- Hegemonic Empire: Athens could be considered the Ur-Example and Trope Namer. It led 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: Played straight with Athenian society, which was profoundly misogynistic (which is itself a Greek word). One of the very few famous Athenian women was Aspasia, the mistress of Pericles, Athens's most eminent statesman. Very little about her is known for sure, because most of the men who said or wrote anything about her were repelled by the fact that she was both smart and opinionated.
- Averted, weirdly, with Spartan society, where (unlike in Athens) women were allowed to inherit property and taught to read and write. Spartan girls were also fed the same food as boys and, unlike Athenian girls who were typically married off at 12 or 13, Spartan girls weren't expected to take a husband until their late teens or early 20s, making them much healthier than their Athenian counterparts.note Spartan girls exercised, just like Spartan boys. They had their own rites and rituals, and whereas Athenian women were dressed in heavy clothes and kept indoors, Spartan women wore light clothes and could walk around in public. They were also encouraged to develop the famous laconic wit. Plutarch published a collection of Sayings of Spartan Women. There are next to no recorded sayings of Athenian women.note
- Hit-and-Run Tactics: The innovation of lightly-armoured skirmishers attacking from afar and retreating when the slow hoplite formations got 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. The big exception, of course, was Sparta, where it was illegal for a citizen male to be anything except a soldier.
- 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 a while beefed up by a general who wanted to try something new), they would talk of how many shields deep it was.
- 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: Ancient Greece, or, to be more precise, the Greek cities in Asia Minor is where western philosophy first appeared.
- 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.
- Slave Galley: 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 than 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.
- 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
- Three, an intentional Spiritual Antithesis to 300.
- Astérix at the Olympic Games
- The Cartoon History of the Universe: Volumes 5-7, at any rate.
- Epicurus the Sage by William Messner-Loebs and Sam Kieth.
- Mosaik No. 218-233 sees the Abrafaxe in Athens, Delphi and elsewhere on the eve of The Peloponnesian War. They meet Alcibiades, Socrates and Sophocles, but it is not all wine and roses - Abrax even becomes a slave and has to work building the Parthenon and in the Athenian silver mines.
- The Trojan Cycle, including the Homeric epics
- The Batrachomyomachia
- The Aeneid
- The Metamorphoses
- David Gemmell's Lion of Macedon is a retelling of Alexander the Great (or, rather, his dad).
- The End of Sparta by Victor Davis Hanson is a novel about the deeds of the author's hero Epaminondas.
- Terry Pratchett's Pyramids and Small Gods both feature Ephebe, an Affectionate Parody of Athens and her philosophers, while Eric (as well as the videogame Discworld Noir) touches on The Trojan War.
- Gene Wolfe's Soldier of the Mist series tells the story of a mercenary in Xerxes' army who does something to offend the gods, and is cursed with forgetting everything that happens more than a day ago, but who can see the gods. Wolfe "translates" place names (for example, Sparta is "Rope", and they fought the "Great King" at "Hot Springs"), lending a sense of immediacy, and distancing the book from the familiarity of the trope.
- The Firebrand by Marion Zimmer Bradley is a retelling of the Trojan War that gives the focus to the female characters.
- Mary Renault's mature period novels.
- Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon: Decidedly Non-Fiction.
- Thaïs of Athens is set during the classical period and the onset of Hellenism.
- Time Scout mentions Ancient Greece as the destination of a tourist gate, but only one brief scene features it and only two downtimers came through that gate.
- Over the Wine-Dark Sea: Hellenistic period.
Live Action TV
- God of War
- The Battle of Olympus
- Kid Icarus
- Empire Earth
- Age of Empires, as well as Age of Mythology; also, Rise of Nations has a tour through the "Classical Age"
- The Civilization series when playing as Greece.
- The first two games in the Hegemony Series.
- The Wrath of Sparta expansion campaign to Total War: Rome II, which focuses on the Peloponnesian War.
- GastroPhobia is about an Amazonian single mother and her son and their adventures in Ancient Greece.
- Odysseus the Rebel
- Rumors of War: Somewhere between the Late Bronze Age and the Classical Period, presumably in the Greek Dark Ages.
- In Sluggy Freelance, this is seemingly where the Holiday figures (Santa Claus, Tom Turkey, etc.) got their origins.
- The setting of the Cubby Bear cartoon "Fiddlin' Fun" is in times of Ancient Greece, with Cubby participating in a chariot race.