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Hellenic Studies (also Greek Studies) is an interdisciplinary scholarly field that focuses on the language, literature, history and politics of post-classical Greece. In university, a wide range of courses, expose students to a viewpoints that help them understand the historical and political experiences of Byzantine, Ottoman and modern Greece; the ways in which Greece has borne its several pasts and translated them into the modern era; and the era's distinguished literary and artistic traditions.
"Hellenic" refers to a period in Ancient Greek history between 507 BCE (the date of the first democracy in Athens) and 323 BCE (the death of Alexander the Great). This period is also referred to as the age of Classical Greece and should not be confused with The Hellenistic World, which designates the period between Alexander's death and the Roman Empire's conquest of Greece (323/146/31 BCE). The Hellenic World of ancient Greece consisted of the Greek mainland, Crete, the islands of the Greek archipelago and the coast of Asia Minor primarily (though mention is made of cities within the interior of Asia Minor and, of course, the colonies in southern Italy). This is the great Golden Age of Greece and, in the popular imagination, resonates as 'ancient Greece'.
The great law-giver, Solon, having served as Archon of Athens for 22 years, retired from public life and saw the city, almost immediately, fall under the dictatorship of Peisistratus. Though a dictator, Peisistratus understood Solon's wisdom, carried on his policies and after his death, his son Hippias continued this tradition (though maintaining a dictatorship that favored the aristocracy). His younger brother was assassinated (inspired, according to Thucydides, by a love affair gone wrong and not, as later thought, politically motivated) Hippias then became wary of the Athenians, instituted a rule of terror and was finally overthrown by the army under Kleomenes I of Sparta and Cleisthenes of Athens. Cleisthenes reformed the Athenian constitution and established democracy in the city during 507 BCE. He also followed Solon's lead, but instituted new laws that decreased the artistocracy's power, raised the status of the common people and attempted to join the separate tribes of the mountain, the plain and the shore into one, unified people under a new form of government. According to Will Durant, "The Athenians themselves were exhilarated by this adventure into sovereignty...they knew the zest of freedom in action, speech and thought; and from that moment they began to lead all Greece in literature and art, even in statesmanship and war". This foundation of democracy, of a free state consisting of men who "owned the soil that they tilled and who ruled the state that governed them", stabilized Athens and provided the groundwork for the Golden Age.
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