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Geography of Greece - History

Geography of Greece - History

Geography Greece

The geography of Greece was key in its growth and development. Greece is a series of small plains and river valleys, surrounded by high mountain chains. This resulted in Greek communities being isolated from one another and cultivating their own unique identities. In addition, with a majority of Greeks living on or near the sea, they took to using the sea as the most efficient means of transport. The Greeks became seafaring people and spread their culture throughout the Mediterranean.

Geography, Environment, and Archaeology in Greece

Mankind's relationship with the environment is always important, and this is certainly true in the Mediterranean area. The sea itself provided relatively easy lanes of transport and communications the numerous islands and rough coastline encouraged the movement of people and goods, throughout the centuries. In addition, the sea provided a moderating climatic influence: the so-called "Mediterranean climate" brings hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters, commonly with enough rainfall to make farming without irrigation possible. Away from the sea the climate is more extreme, with hotter summers and colder winters. The whole of the Mediterranean area is mountainous, but the mountains are not inordinately high and they do not keep their snow during the summer the mountains, however, are relatively irregular and they break the countryside into small areas of fairly flat land, separated by often inhospitable mountains. At one time much of the Mediterranean hinterland was forested and wild, inhabited by animals that are now virtually gone: bears, wild boars and wild goats, and even in some regions strange animals - such as pigmy hippopotamus - that are now completely extinct. The whole of the Mediterranean area is seismically active, the result of large- and small-scale tectonic movements, especially the movement of the African plate to the north, toward Europe. The result of this was - and is - the devastating earthquakes that frequently devastated various parts of the region. Archaeologists naturally have to consider the environment as a significant factor in the birth and development of the civilizations that they examine. Nonetheless, the study of geography in classical archaeology - until recently - mainly focused on the environmental factors that encouraged or inhibited the growth of individual ancient cities, and little attention was paid to the countryside, which was traditionally ignored for a variety of reasons, most especially the fact that most of ancient literature tends to emphasize human activities in cities and only underplay the sphere of countryside. Modern classicists, historians, and archaeologists largely accepted the ancient bias, focusing modern narrative primarily on war and politics this is despite the fact that most ancient Greeks spent their everyday lives sowing, reaping, and toiling in rural areas. The shift in interest towards ancient environment has arrived with the recognition that one cannot understand ancient Greek society without understanding the ways in which Greeks interacted with their land. As a result, today one frequently encounters archaeologists walking in lines across the Greek countryside, collecting sediments from the middle of bogs, or counting pollen grains through a microscope as they ask new questions about the ancient Greek countryside (Figure 2.1).

Landscape archaeology is a relatively new approach to the study of the human-environment relationship in Greece. As will be discussed at length in a later section of this site, archaeologists are using the methods of intensive surface survey to illuminate the culture of farmer, peasant, and slave by the material remains left behind. With the help of geomorphologists, who study the processes in which landscapes are created and changed, archaeologists are now able to reconstruct the human exploitation of natural resources as well as the restrictions that geography and environment posed on local society. On the one hand, human utilization and demands on the landscape have resulted in a constantly (but gradually) changing appearance to the countryside so that the Greece of today is vastly different from the Greece of 2000 years ago (Figure 2.2). On the other hand, environmental, geographic, and climatic conditions, largely beyond the control of humans, both limited and encouraged the range of human activities for any given region. Moreover, environmental and landscape changes, such as shifting sea levels, fluctuating rainfall, uplifting land (from tectonic activity), and cooling temperatures, demanded adjustments and adaptation on the part of individual people. Humans in turn developed new technologies and ways of dealing with these ecological changes. The cycle of people effecting environment and environment limiting humans continues spiraling through time, leaving its traces on the modern landscape. Landscape archaeologists seek to illuminate this process during and between different periods of the past.

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37 Project Ideas - Geography of Ancient Greece

Years ago I wrote a post on Ancient Mesopotamia school project ideas broken down by Gardner's Multiple Intelligences. I don't know what's taken me so long, but I finally decided it's time to come up with a list of projects for Ancient Greece!

Rather than making one big long post with all the project ideas, I'm going to do a series of posts, each one based on a different topic. This first post is project ideas for the geography of Ancient Greece.

If you are a classroom teacher, maybe you'll find something here you can use. If you are a student, maybe you'll find a project to do or ignite a spark for an idea of your own. In any case, thanks for reading! Let me hear from you in the comments because it helps me know my post was helpful (or not.)

Verbal-Linguistic Project Ideas (Focused on words and language)

  • Write an acrostic poem using Ancient Greece, Geography of Greece, or some similar starter. Each line should say something about the geography of Greece and/or how it affected the ancient Greeks.
  • Imagine you are a traveler in Ancient Greece. Write a letter to a fellow traveler about the challenges that you must face because of Greece's geography. Make recommendations to your fellow traveler on things he or she could do to make the journey easier.
  • Imagine you are trying to persuade the leaders of Greek city-states to come together and pay for public projects that would help make life in Ancient Greece better for all people. Brainstorm a list of these projects. Write and / or deliver a speech to convince your fellow Greek citizens that they should support these projects. Consider how your project would alter and / or help the environment and include that information in your speech.
  • Pick a physical geographical feature of Ancient Greece. (Examples: Sea of Salamis, Aegean Sea, Crete, Isthmus of Corinth, the Peloponnesus, the pass at Thermopylae, etc. ) Write a report or speech about that feature. One option would be to use the 5 Themes of Geography as a framework.
  • Read an Ancient Greek myth. Describe how the geography of the places in the story affected the story. Do the think the storyteller or author of the myth considered geography when they told or wrote the myth? Should the story be different based on the geography that's in it or should be in it?
  • Pick an event in Ancient Greek history. Read about the event. How did geography affect the event? Consider changing the geography and rewriting the event. How would it change? Example: The Persian Wars. They'd have turned out a lot different if the geography was different!
  • Write a play. Make the characters in your play different geographical features of Greece and see what happens. For example, how would the Aegean Sea interact in a play with a particular island? What would they say to each other? What would they do together? How could they work together to solve a problem?
  • Write a Top Ten List (or top seven, five, three, whatever. ) Focus your list on geography. Examples: "Top Ten Most Epic Natural Disasters for Ancient Greece" or "Top Ten Most Important Places in Ancient Greece." Make your list, in order of your choosing. For each item on the list, write a short description of it and why it made the top ten.
  • Ancient Greek Tweets. Write a series of tweets about the geography of Ancient Greece. Remember, only 140 characters, including spaces and skipped lines! Tweets can be from real ancient Greek people or made up. (Example: @KingLeonidasOfSparta Pass at #Thermopylae AWESOME for defending Persian attack.They must squeeze a few through at a time. #neversurrender) For extra fun, tweet using the Greek alphabet! (Make sure to give your teacher an English copy also. )
  • Label a blank map of Greece and the Aegean but write the names using the Greek alphabet. I'd probably write them in English too.

Visual-Spatial Project Ideas

  • Draw a cartoon map of Ancient Greece and the surrounding region. Illustrate it with cartoon-like characters showing people, events, etc.
  • Create a comic book or comic strip about the geography of Greece. Make up a hero - or I suppose you could use Hercules. The story line of your comic should have the hero interacting in some way with the geography. For example, perhaps the hero visits various city-states and helps them overcome the obstacles put up by Greece's geography.
  • Make a 3D Map of Greece. Make it in Word! Make it in Minecraft! Make it out of pasta or some other material!
  • Create a poster, drawing, painting, etc. that shows examples of the 5 Themes of Geography of Ancient Greece. Use pictures only. No words!
  • Create a PowerPoint, Prezi, or other presentation. Show and discuss the main features of Ancient Greece's geography. Be sure to include how Greece's geography affected the Ancient Greeks.
  • Make a memory card game. You could make the matching cards the same picture. Or, you could have one be a picture and the match be the name, a description, a clue, etc. Use your imagination. There are lot's of ways you could do this.
  • Make a flip book animation. Show whatever you want. Just make sure it focuses on the Geography of Greece in some way. Example: show a major event in Greek history taking place. Focus on how geography affected the event.
  • Make a graphic organizer. Show examples of the 5 Themes of Geography of Greece. Do it in a unique way. For example, maybe your organizer is the shape of a Greek ship, or maybe it's a 5 Greek gods or goddesses, with each god or goddess representing one of the 5 Themes.

Discover the geography by location

Information about the characteristics of the geography of Greece: Athens, the capital of Greece, the different regions in the mainland and the Greek islands.

Athens, the Capital

Athens is the capital of Greece. It belongs to the Prefecture of Attica, located at the center of the Greek territory. Attica is a peninsula surrounded by four high mountains that form a basin. In this basin, the city and suburbs of Athens have been constructed. The southernmost point of Attica is Cape Sounion, on top of which an ancient temple dedicated to god Poseidon is found. According to the myth, King Aegeus fell from Cape Sounion and got drowned, when he thought that his only son Theseus was killed by the Minotaur in Crete. On the western side, the Attica peninsula is divided by Peloponnese with the Corinth Canal, an artificial work that was completed in 1893.

The regions

The Greek mainland consists of the following regions: Sterea (Central Greece), Peloponnese, Thessaly (east-central), Epirus (northwest), Macedonia (north) and Thrace (northeast). Also, Greece consists of many islands and island complexes: Crete, Cyclades, Dodecanese, Ionian, Sporades, Saronic, and Eastern Aegean islands.

Peloponnese is the most popular region of mainland Greece. It is located in the southern part of Greece and looks like an island connected to the mainland with two bridges: the bridge at the Corinth Canal and the cable bridge of Rio-Antirrio. The island is dissected by high mountains that extend southwards towards a landscape of fertile plains, pine forests uplands, and craggy foothills.

Greek islands

There are more than 2,000 large and smaller Greek islands scattered both in the Aegean and the Ionian Sea. Most of them are located in the Aegean between the mainland and Turkey. The largest Greek island is Crete and the second largest in Evia. Lesvos and Rhodes come next. Some of the most famous islands are Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes, Crete, Zakynthos, and Corfu.


The Mesolithic period in Greece started after Upper Paleolithic and it is part of Middle Stone Age in Greece before Neolithic emerging. Mesolithic sites in Greece were limited and the majority are located near the coast. Franchthi cave and Theopetra are among the most important Mesolithic sites in Greece and South Eastern Europe [1]

Neolithic to Bronze Age (7000–1100 BC) Edit

The Neolithic Revolution reached Europe beginning in 7000–6500 BC when agriculturalists from the Near East entered the Greek peninsula from Anatolia by island-hopping through the Aegean Sea. The earliest Neolithic sites with developed agricultural economies in Europe dated 8500–9000 BPE are found in Greece. [3] The first Greek-speaking tribes, speaking the predecessor of the Mycenaean language, arrived in the Greek mainland sometime in the Neolithic period or the Early Bronze Age (c. 3200 BC). [4] [5]

Cycladic and Minoan civilization Edit

The Cycladic culture is a significant Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age culture, is best known for its schematic flat female idols carved out of the islands' pure white marble centuries before the great Middle Bronze Age ("Minoan") culture arose in Crete, to the south. The Minoan civilization in Crete lasted from about c. 3000 BC (Early Minoan) to c. 1400 BC, [6] and the Helladic culture on the Greek mainland from c. 3200 – c. 3100 to c. 2000 – c. 1900 .

Little specific information is known about the Minoans (even the name Minoans is a modern appellation, derived from Minos, the legendary king of Crete), including their written system, which was recorded on the undeciphered Linear A script [6] and Cretan hieroglyphs. They were primarily a mercantile people engaged in extensive overseas trade throughout the Mediterranean region. [6]

Minoan civilization was affected by a number of natural cataclysms such as the volcanic eruption at Thera (c. 1628–1627 BC) and earthquakes (c. 1600 BC). [6] In 1425 BC, the Minoan palaces (except Knossos) were devastated by fire, which allowed the Mycenaean Greeks, influenced by the Minoans' culture, to expand into Crete. [6] The Minoan civilization which preceded the Mycenaean civilization on Crete was revealed to the modern world by Sir Arthur Evans in 1900, when he purchased and then began excavating a site at Knossos. [7]

Pre Mycenean Helladic period

Following the end of the Neolithic ages, the last Stone Age period, the early and middle Helladic period was established in the Greek mainland. Firstly, the slow transition from the Final Neolithic period took place with the Eutresis culture. The agricultural communities of that period needed entire centuries in order to replace their stone tools with metal tools. Following the materialistic developments, more powerful micro-states and the base of the future Late Helladic Mycenaean civilization were developed. The Early Bronze Age settlements saw further development during Helladic III or Tiryns culture and the Middle Helladic period before the Mycenean period.

Mycenaean civilization Edit

Mycenaean civilization originated and evolved from the society and culture of the Early and Middle Helladic periods in mainland Greece. [8] It emerged in c. 1600 BC, when Helladic culture in mainland Greece was transformed under influences from Minoan Crete and lasted until the collapse of the Mycenaean palaces in c. 1100 BC. Mycenaean Greece is the Late Helladic Bronze Age civilization of Ancient Greece and it is the historical setting of the epics of Homer and most of Greek mythology and religion. The Mycenaean period takes its name from the archaeological site Mycenae in the northeastern Argolid, in the Peloponnesos of southern Greece. Athens, Pylos, Thebes, and Tiryns are also important Mycenaean sites.

Mycenaean civilization was dominated by a warrior aristocracy. Around 1400 BC, the Mycenaeans extended their control to Crete, the center of the Minoan civilization, and adopted a form of the Minoan script called Linear A to write their early form of Greek. The Mycenaean-era script is called Linear B, which was deciphered in 1952 by Michael Ventris. The Mycenaeans buried their nobles in beehive tombs (tholoi), large circular burial chambers with a high-vaulted roof and straight entry passage lined with stone. They often buried daggers or some other form of military equipment with the deceased. The nobility was often buried with gold masks, tiaras, armor, and jeweled weapons. Mycenaeans were buried in a sitting position, and some of the nobility underwent mummification.

Around 1100–1050 BC, the Mycenaean civilization collapsed. Numerous cities were sacked and the region entered what historians see as a "dark age". During this period, Greece experienced a decline in population and literacy. The Greeks themselves have traditionally blamed this decline on an invasion by another wave of Greek people, the Dorians, although there is scant archaeological evidence for this view.

Ancient Greece refers to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Dark Ages to the end of antiquity (c. AD 600). In common usage, it refers to all Greek history before the Roman Empire, but historians use the term more precisely. Some writers include the periods of the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations, while others argue that these civilizations were so different from later Greek cultures that they should be classed separately. Traditionally, the Ancient Greek period was taken to begin with the date of the first Olympic Games in 776 BC, but most historians now extend the term back to about 1000 BC.

The traditional date for the end of the Classical Greek period is the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. The period that follows is classed as Hellenistic. Not everyone treats the Classical Greek and Hellenic periods as distinct however, and some writers treat the Ancient Greek civilization as a continuum running until the advent of Christianity in the 3rd century AD.

Ancient Greece is considered by most historians to be the foundational culture of Western civilization. Greek culture was a powerful influence in the Roman Empire, which carried a version of it to many parts of Europe. Ancient Greek civilization has been immensely influential on the language, politics, educational systems, philosophy, art, and architecture of the modern world, particularly during the Renaissance in Western Europe and again during various neo-classical revivals in 18th and 19th-century Europe and the Americas.

Iron Age (1100–800 BC) Edit

The Greek Dark Ages (c. 1100 – c. 800 BC) refers to the period of Greek history from the presumed Dorian invasion and end of the Mycenaean civilization in the 11th century BC to the rise of the first Greek city-states in the 9th century BC and the epics of Homer and earliest writings in the Greek alphabet in the 8th century BC.

The collapse of the Mycenaean civilization coincided with the fall of several other large empires in the near east, most notably the Hittite and the Egyptian. The cause may be attributed to an invasion of the Sea People wielding iron weapons. When the Dorians came down into Greece they also were equipped with superior iron weapons, easily dispersing the already weakened Mycenaeans. The period that follows these events is collectively known as the Greek Dark Ages.

Kings ruled throughout this period until eventually they were replaced with an aristocracy, then still later, in some areas, an aristocracy within an aristocracy—an elite of the elite. Warfare shifted from a focus on the cavalry to a great emphasis on infantry. Due to its cheapness of production and local availability, iron replaced bronze as the metal of choice in the manufacturing of tools and weapons. Slowly equality grew among the different sects of people, leading to the dethronement of the various Kings and the rise of the family.

At the end of this period of stagnation, the Greek civilization was engulfed in a renaissance that spread the Greek world as far as the Black Sea and Spain. The writing was relearned from the Phoenicians, eventually spreading north into Italy and the Gauls.

Archaic Greece Edit

In the 8th century BC, Greece began to emerge from the Dark Ages which followed the fall of the Mycenaean civilization. Literacy had been lost and Mycenaean script forgotten, but the Greeks adopted the Phoenician alphabet, modifying it to create the Greek alphabet. From about the 9th century BC, written records begin to appear. [9] Greece was divided into many small self-governing communities, a pattern largely dictated by Greek geography, where every island, valley, and plain is cut off from its neighbors by the sea or mountain ranges. [10]

The Archaic period can be understood as the Orientalizing period, when Greece was at the fringe, but not under the sway, of the budding Neo-Assyrian Empire. Greece adopted significant amounts of cultural elements from the Orient, in art as well as in religion and mythology. Archaeologically, Archaic Greece is marked by Geometric pottery.

Classical Greece Edit

The basic unit of politics in Ancient Greece was the polis, sometimes translated as city-state. "Politics" literally means "the things of the polis" where each city-state was independent, at least in theory. Some city-states might be subordinate to others (a colony traditionally deferred to its mother city), some might have had governments wholly dependent upon others (the Thirty Tyrants in Athens was imposed by Sparta following the Peloponnesian War), but the titularly supreme power in each city was located within that city. This meant that when Greece went to war (e.g., against the Persian Empire), it took the form of an alliance going to war. It also gave ample opportunity for wars within Greece between different cities.

Persian Wars Edit

Two major wars shaped the Classical Greek world. The Persian Wars (499–449 BC) are recounted in Herodotus's Histories. By the late 6th century BC, the Achaemenid Persian Empire ruled over all Greek city-states in Ionia (the western coast of modern-day Turkey) and had made territorial gains in the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper as well. The Greek cities of Ionia, led by Miletus, revolted against the Persian Empire, and were supported by some mainland cities, including Athens and Eretria. After the uprising had been quelled, Darius I launched the First Persian invasion of Greece to exact revenge on the Athenians. In 492 BC, Persian general Mardonius led an army (supported by a fleet) across the Hellespont, re-subjugating Thrace and adding Macedonia as a fully-subjugated client kingdom. [11] However, before he could reach Greece proper, his fleet was destroyed in a storm near Mount Athos. In 490 BC, Darius sent another fleet directly across the Aegean (rather than following the land route as Mardonius had done) to subdue Athens. After destroying the city of Eretria, the fleet landed and faced the Athenian army at Marathon, which ended in a decisive Athenian victory. Darius's successor, Xerxes I, launched the Second Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC. Despite Greek defeat at Thermopylae, after which the Persians briefly overran northern and central Greece, [12] the Greek city-states once again managed to comprehensively defeat the invaders with naval victory at Salamis and victory on land at Plataea.

To prosecute the war and then to defend Greece from further Persian attack, Athens founded the Delian League in 477 BC. Initially, each city in the League would contribute ships and soldiers to a common army, but in time Athens allowed (and then compelled) the smaller cities to contribute funds so that it could supply their quota of ships. Secession from the League could be punished. Following military reversals against the Persians, the treasury was moved from Delos to Athens, further strengthening the latter's control over the League. The Delian League was eventually referred to pejoratively as the Athenian Empire.

In 458 BC, while the Persian Wars were still ongoing, war broke out between the Delian League and the Peloponnesian League, comprising Sparta and its allies. After some inconclusive fighting, the two sides signed a peace in 447 BC. That peace was stipulated to last thirty years: instead, it held only until 431 BC, with the onset of the Peloponnesian War. Our main sources concerning this war are Thucydides's History of the Peloponnesian War and Xenophon's Hellenica.

Peloponnesian War Edit

The war began over a dispute between Corcyra and Epidamnus. Corinth intervened on the Epidamnian side. Fearful lest Corinth capture the Corcyran navy (second only to the Athenian in size), Athens intervened. It prevented Corinth from landing on Corcyra at the Battle of Sybota, laid siege to Potidaea, and forbade all commerce with Corinth's closely situated ally, Megara (the Megarian decree).

There was disagreement among the Greeks as to which party violated the treaty between the Delian and Peloponnesian Leagues, as Athens was technically defending a new ally. The Corinthians turned to Sparta for aid. Fearing the growing might of Athens, and witnessing Athens' willingness to use it against the Megarians (the embargo would have ruined them), Sparta declared the treaty to have been violated and the Peloponnesian War began in earnest.

The first stage of the war (known as the Archidamian War for the Spartan king, Archidamus II) lasted until 421 BC with the signing of the Peace of Nicias. The Athenian general Pericles recommended that his city fight a defensive war, avoiding battle against the superior land forces led by Sparta, and importing everything needful by maintaining its powerful navy. Athens would simply outlast Sparta, whose citizens feared to be out of their city for long lest the helots revolt.

This strategy required that Athens endure regular sieges, and in 430 BC it was visited with an awful plague that killed about a quarter of its people, including Pericles. With Pericles gone, less conservative elements gained power in the city and Athens went on the offensive. It captured 300–400 Spartan hoplites at the Battle of Pylos. This represented a significant fraction of the Spartan fighting force which the latter decided it could not afford to lose. Meanwhile, Athens had suffered humiliating defeats at Delium and Amphipolis. The Peace of Nicias concluded with Sparta recovering its hostages and Athens recovering the city of Amphipolis.

Those who signed the Peace of Nicias in 421 BC swore to uphold it for fifty years. The second stage of the Peloponnesian War began in 415 BC when Athens embarked on the Sicilian Expedition to support an ally (Segesta) attacked by Syracuse and to conquer Sicily. Initially, Sparta was reluctant, but Alcibiades, the Athenian general who had argued for the Sicilian Expedition, defected to the Spartan cause upon being accused of grossly impious acts and convinced them that they could not allow Athens to subjugate Syracuse. The campaign ended in disaster for the Athenians.

Athens' Ionian possessions rebelled with the support of Sparta, as advised by Alcibiades. In 411 BC, an oligarchical revolt in Athens held out the chance for peace, but the Athenian navy, which remained committed to the democracy, refused to accept the change and continued fighting in Athens' name. The navy recalled Alcibiades (who had been forced to abandon the Spartan cause after reputedly seducing the wife of Agis II, a Spartan king) and made him its head. The oligarchy in Athens collapsed and Alcibiades reconquered what had been lost.

In 407 BC, Alcibiades was replaced following a minor naval defeat at the Battle of Notium. The Spartan general Lysander, having fortified his city's naval power, won victory after victory. Following the Battle of Arginusae, which Athens won but was prevented by bad weather from rescuing some of its sailors, Athens executed or exiled eight of its top naval commanders. Lysander followed with a crushing blow at the Battle of Aegospotami in 405 BC which almost destroyed the Athenian fleet. Athens surrendered one year later, ending the Peloponnesian War.

The war had left devastation in its wake. Discontent with the Spartan hegemony that followed (including the fact that it ceded Ionia and Cyprus to the Persian Empire at the conclusion of the Corinthian War (395–387 BC) see Treaty of Antalcidas) induced the Thebans to attack. Their general, Epaminondas, crushed Sparta at the Battle of Leuctra in 371 BC, inaugurating a period of Theban dominance in Greece. In 346 BC, unable to prevail in its ten-year war with Phocis, Thebes called upon Philip II of Macedon for aid. Macedon quickly forced the city-states into being united by the League of Corinth which led to the conquering of the Persian Empire and the Hellenistic Age had begun.

Hellenistic Greece Edit

The Hellenistic period of Greek history begins with the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and ends with the annexation of the Greek peninsula and islands by Rome in 146 BC. Although the establishment of Roman rule did not break the continuity of Hellenistic society and culture, which remained essentially unchanged until the advent of Christianity, it did mark the end of Greek political independence.

During the Hellenistic period, the importance of "Greece proper" (that is, the territory of modern Greece) within the Greek-speaking world declined sharply. The great centres of Hellenistic culture were Alexandria and Antioch, capitals of Ptolemaic Egypt and Seleucid Syria. (See Hellenistic civilization for the history of Greek culture outside Greece in this period.)

Athens and her allies revolted against Macedon upon hearing that Alexander had died, but were defeated within a year in the Lamian War. Meanwhile, a struggle for power broke out among Alexander's generals, which resulted in the break-up of his empire and the establishment of a number of new kingdoms (see the Wars of the Diadochi). Ptolemy was left with Egypt, Seleucus with the Levant, Mesopotamia, and points east. Control of Greece, Thrace, and Anatolia was contested, but by 298 BC the Antigonid dynasty had supplanted the Antipatrid.

Macedonian control of the city-states was intermittent, with a number of revolts. Athens, Rhodes, Pergamum and other Greek states retained substantial independence and joined the Aetolian League as a means of defending it and restoring democracy in their states, whereas they saw Macedon as a tyrannical kingdom because of the fact they had not adopted democracy. The Achaean League, while nominally subject to the Ptolemies was in effect independent, and controlled most of southern Greece. Sparta also remained independent, but generally refused to join any league.

In 267 BC, Ptolemy II persuaded the Greek cities to revolt against Macedon, in what became the Chremonidean War, after the Athenian leader Chremonides. The cities were defeated and Athens lost her independence and her democratic institutions. This marked the end of Athens as a political actor, although it remained the largest, wealthiest and most cultivated city in Greece. In 225 BC, Macedon defeated the Egyptian fleet at Cos and brought the Aegean islands, except Rhodes, under its rule as well.

Sparta remained hostile to the Achaeans, and in 227 BC invaded Achaea and seized control of the League. The remaining Achaeans preferred distant Macedon to nearby Sparta and allied with the former. In 222 BC, the Macedonian army defeated the Spartans and annexed their city—the first time Sparta had ever been occupied by a different state.

Philip V of Macedon was the last Greek ruler with both the talent and the opportunity to unite Greece and preserve its independence against the ever-increasing power of Rome. Under his auspices, the Peace of Naupactus (217 BC) brought conflict between Macedon and the Greek leagues to an end, and at this time he controlled all of Greece except Athens, Rhodes, and Pergamum.

In 215 BC, however, Philip formed an alliance with Rome's enemy Carthage. Rome promptly lured the Achaean cities away from their nominal loyalty to Philip, and formed alliances with Rhodes and Pergamum, now the strongest power in Asia Minor. The First Macedonian War broke out in 212 BC and ended inconclusively in 205 BC, but Macedon was now marked as an enemy of Rome.

In 202 BC, Rome defeated Carthage and was free to turn her attention eastwards. In 198 BC, the Second Macedonian War broke out because Rome saw Macedon as a potential ally of the Seleucid Empire, the greatest power in the east. Philip's allies in Greece deserted him and in 197 BC he was decisively defeated at the Battle of Cynoscephalae by the Roman proconsul Titus Quinctius Flaminius.

Luckily for the Greeks, Flaminius was a moderate man and an admirer of Greek culture. Philip had to surrender his fleet and become a Roman ally, but was otherwise spared. At the Isthmian Games in 196 BC, Flaminius declared all the Greek cities free, although Roman garrisons were placed at Corinth and Chalcis. But the freedom promised by Rome was an illusion. All the cities except Rhodes were enrolled in a new League which Rome ultimately controlled, and aristocratic constitutions were favored and actively promoted.

Militarily, Greece itself declined to the point that the Romans conquered the land (168 BC onwards), though Greek culture would in turn conquer Roman life. Although the period of Roman rule in Greece is conventionally dated as starting from the sacking of Corinth by the Roman Lucius Mummius in 146 BC, Macedonia had already come under Roman control with the defeat of its king, Perseus, by the Roman Aemilius Paullus at Pydna in 168 BC.

The Romans divided the region into four smaller republics, and in 146 BC Macedonia officially became a province, with its capital at Thessalonica. The rest of the Greek city-states gradually and eventually paid homage to Rome ending their de jure autonomy as well. The Romans left local administration to the Greeks without making any attempt to abolish traditional political patterns. The agora in Athens continued to be the center of civic and political life.

Caracalla's decree in AD 212, the Constitutio Antoniniana, extended citizenship outside Italy to all free adult men in the entire Roman Empire, effectively raising provincial populations to equal status with the city of Rome itself. The importance of this decree is historical, not political. It set the basis for integration where the economic and judicial mechanisms of the state could be applied throughout the Mediterranean as was once done from Latium into all Italy. In practice of course, integration did not take place uniformly. Societies already integrated with Rome, such as Greece, were favored by this decree, in comparison with those far away, too poor, or just too alien such as Britain, Palestine, or Egypt.

Caracalla's decree did not set in motion the processes that led to the transfer of power from Italy and the West to Greece and the East, but rather accelerated them, setting the foundations for the millennium-long rise of Greece, in the form of the Eastern Roman Empire, as a major power in Europe and the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages.

Byzantine rule (324–AD 1204) Edit

The division of the empire into East and West and the subsequent collapse of the Western Roman Empire were developments that constantly accentuated the position of the Greeks in the empire and eventually allowed them to become identified with it altogether. The leading role of Constantinople began when Constantine the Great turned Byzantium into the new capital of the Roman Empire, from then on to be known as Constantinople, placing the city at the center of Hellenism, a beacon for the Greeks that lasted to the modern era.

The figures of Constantine the Great and Justinian dominated during 324–610. Assimilating the Roman tradition, the emperors sought to offer the basis for later developments and for the formation of the Byzantine Empire. Efforts to secure the borders of the Empire and to restore the Roman territories marked the early centuries. At the same time, the definitive formation and establishment of the Orthodox doctrine, but also a series of conflicts resulting from heresies that developed within the boundaries of the empire, marked the early period of Byzantine history.

In the first period of the middle Byzantine era (610–867), the empire was attacked both by old enemies (Persians, Lombards, Avars and Slavs) as well as by new ones, appearing for the first time in history (Arabs, Bulgars). The main characteristic of this period was that the enemy attacks were not localized to the border areas of the state but they were extended deep beyond, even threatening the capital itself.

The attacks of the Slavs lost their periodical and temporary character and became permanent settlements that transformed into new states, initially hostile to Constantinople until their christianization. Those states were referred to by the Byzantines as Sclavinias.

Changes were also observed in the internal structure of the empire which was dictated by both external and internal conditions. The predominance of the small free farmers, the expansion of the military estates, and the development of the system of themes, brought to completion developments that had started in the previous period. Changes were noted also in the sector of administration: the administration and society had become immiscibly Greek, while the restoration of Orthodoxy after the iconoclast movement, allowed the successful resumption of missionary action among neighboring peoples and their placement within the sphere of Byzantine cultural influence. During this period the state was geographically reduced and economically damaged since it lost wealth-producing regions however, it obtained greater lingual, dogmatic and cultural homogeneity.

From the late 8th century, the Empire began to recover from the devastating impact of successive invasions, and the reconquest of the Greek peninsula began. Greeks from Sicily and Asia Minor were brought in as settlers. The Slavs were either driven out to Asia Minor or assimilated and the Sclavinias were eliminated. By the middle of the 9th century, Greece was Byzantine again, and the cities began to recover due to improved security and the restoration of effective central control.

Economic prosperity Edit

When the Byzantine Empire was rescued from a period of crisis by the resolute leadership of the three Komnenoi emperors Alexios, John and Manuel in the 12th century, Greece prospered. Recent research has revealed that this period was a time of significant growth in the rural economy, with rising population levels and extensive tracts of new agricultural land being brought into production. The widespread construction of new rural churches is a strong indication that prosperity was being generated even in remote areas.

A steady increase in population led to a higher population density, and there is good evidence that the demographic increase was accompanied by the revival of towns. According to Alan Harvey's Economic Expansion in the Byzantine Empire 900–1200, towns expanded significantly in the twelfth century. Archaeological evidence shows an increase in the size of urban settlements, together with a ‘notable upsurge’ in new towns. Archaeological evidence tells us that many of the medieval towns, including Athens, Thessaloniki, Thebes and Corinth, experienced a period of rapid and sustained growth, starting in the 11th century and continuing until the end of the 12th century.

The growth of the towns attracted the Venetians, and this interest in trade appears to have further increased economic prosperity in Greece. Certainly, the Venetians and others were active traders in the ports of the Holy Land, and they made a living out of shipping goods between the Crusader Kingdoms of Outremer and the West while also trading extensively with Byzantium and Egypt.

Artistic revival Edit

A kind of "Renaissance" of the Byzantine art began in the 10th century. Many of the most important Byzantine churches in and around Athens, for example, were built during these two centuries, and this reflects the growth of urbanization in Greece during this period. There was also a revival in mosaic art with artists showing great interest in depicting natural landscapes with wild animals and scenes from the hunt. Mosaics became more realistic and vivid, with an increased emphasis on depicting three-dimensional forms. With its love of luxury and passion for color, the art of this age delighted in the production of masterpieces that spread the fame of Byzantium throughout the Christian world.

Beautiful silks from the workshops of Constantinople also portrayed in dazzling color animals—lions, elephants, eagles, and griffins—confronting each other, or representing Emperors gorgeously arrayed on horseback or engaged in the chase. The eyes of many patrons were attracted and the economy of Greece grew. In the provinces, regional schools of architecture began producing many distinctive styles that drew on a range of cultural influences. All this suggests that there was an increased demand for art, with more people having access to the necessary wealth to commission and pay for such work.

Yet the marvelous expansion of Byzantine art during this period, one of the most remarkable facts in the history of the empire, did not stop there. From the 10th to the 12th century, Byzantium was the main source of inspiration for the West. By their style, arrangement, and iconography the mosaics of St. Mark's at Venice and of the cathedral at Torcello clearly show their Byzantine origin. Similarly, those of the Palatine Chapel, the Martorana at Palermo, and the cathedral of Cefalu, together with the vast decoration of the cathedral at Monreale, prove the influence of Byzantium on the Norman Court of Sicily in the 12th century.

Hispano-Moorish art was unquestionably derived from the Byzantine. Romanesque art owes much to the East, from which it borrowed not only its decorative forms but the plan of some of its buildings, as is proved, for instance, by the domed churches of south-western France. Princes of Kiev, Venetian doges, abbots of Monte Cassino, merchants of Amalfi, and the Norman kings of Sicily all looked to Byzantium for artists or works of art. Such was the influence of Byzantine art in the 12th century, that Russia, Venice, southern Italy, and Sicily all virtually became provincial centers dedicated to its production.

The Fourth Crusade (1204) Edit

The year 1204 marks the beginning of the Late Byzantine period when Constantinople and a number of Byzantine territories were conquered by the Latins during the Fourth Crusade. During this period, a number of Byzantine Greek successor states emerged such as the Empire of Nicaea, the Despotate of Epirus and the Empire of Trebizond, such as a number of Frankish/Latin Catholic states (Principality of Achaea, Duchy of Athens, Duchy of the Archipelago, Kingdom of Thessalonica etc.) In Latin-occupied territories, elements of feudality entered medieval Greek life.

From partial Byzantine restoration to 1453 Edit

The Latin Empire, however, lasted only 57 years, when in 1261 Constantinople was reclaimed by the Byzantine Greeks and the Byzantine Empire was restored. However, in mainland Greece and islands various Latin possessions continued to exist. From 1261 onwards, Byzantium underwent a gradual weakening of its internal structures and the reduction of its territories from Ottoman invasions culminating in the Fall of Constantinople on May 29, 1453. The Ottoman conquest of Constantinople resulted in the official end of both the Eastern Roman Empire and the Byzantine period of Greek history.

The Greeks held out in the Peloponnese until 1460, and the Venetians and Genoese clung to some of the islands, but by the early 16th century all of mainland Greece and most of the Aegean islands were in Ottoman hands, excluding several port cities still held by the Venetians (Nafplio, Monemvasia, Parga and Methone the most important of them). The Cyclades islands, in the middle of the Aegean, were officially annexed by the Ottomans in 1579, although they were under vassal status since the 1530s. Cyprus fell in 1571, and the Venetians retained Crete until 1669. The Ionian Islands were never ruled by the Ottomans, with the exception of Kefalonia (from 1479 to 1481 and from 1485 to 1500), and remained under the rule of the Republic of Venice. It was in the Ionian Islands where modern Greek statehood was born, with the creation of the Republic of the Seven Islands in 1800.

Ottoman Greece was a multiethnic society. However, the modern Western notion of multiculturalism, although at first glance appears to correspond to the system of millets, is considered to be incompatible with the Ottoman system. [13] The Greeks with the one hand were given some privileges and freedom with the other they were exposed to a tyranny deriving from the malpractices of its administrative personnel over which the central government had only remote and incomplete control. [14] When the Ottomans arrived, two Greek migrations occurred. The first migration entailed the Greek intelligentsia migrating to Western Europe and influencing the advent of the Renaissance. The second migration entailed Greeks leaving the plains of the Greek peninsula and resettling in the mountains. [15] The millet system contributed to the ethnic cohesion of Orthodox Greeks by segregating the various peoples within the Ottoman Empire based on religion. The Greeks living in the plains during Ottoman rule were either Christians who dealt with the burdens of foreign rule or crypto-Christians (Greek Muslims who were secret practitioners of the Greek Orthodox faith). Some Greeks became crypto-Christians to avoid heavy taxes and at the same time express their identity by maintaining their ties to the Greek Orthodox Church. However, Greeks who converted to Islam and were not crypto-Christians were deemed "Turks" (Muslims) in the eyes of Orthodox Greeks, even if they didn't adopt the Turkish language.

The Ottomans ruled most of Greece until the early 19th century. The first self-governed, since the Middle Ages, Hellenic state was established during the French Revolutionary Wars, in 1800, 21 years before the outbreak of the Greek revolution in mainland Greece. It was the Septinsular Republic with Corfu as capital.

In the early months of 1821, the Greeks declared their independence, but did not achieve it until 1829. The Great Powers first shared the same view concerning the necessity of preserving the status quo of the Ottoman Empire, but soon changed their stance. Scores of non-Greeks philhellenes volunteered to fight for the cause, including Lord Byron.

On October 20, 1827, a combined British, French and Russian naval force destroyed the Ottoman and Egyptian armada. The Russian minister of foreign affairs, Ioannis Kapodistrias, himself a Greek, returned home as President of the new Republic and with his diplomatic handling, managed to secure the Greek independence and the military dominination in Central Greece. The first capital of the independent Greece was temporarily Aigina (1828–1829) and later officially Nafplion (1828–1834). After his assassination, the European powers turned Greece into a monarchy the first King, Otto, came from Bavaria and the second, George I, from Denmark. In 1834, King Otto transferred the capital to Athens.

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Greece sought to enlarge its boundaries to include the ethnic Greek population of the Ottoman Empire. Greece played a peripheral role in the Crimean War. When Russia attacked the Ottoman Empire in 1853, Greek leaders saw an opportunity to expand North and South into Ottoman areas that had a Christian majority. However, Greece did not coordinate its plans with Russia, did not declare war, and received no outside military or financial support. The French and British seized its major port and effectively neutralized the Greek army. Greek efforts to cause insurrections failed as they were easily crushed by Ottoman forces. Greece was not invited to the peace conference and made no gains out of the war. The frustrated Greek leadership blamed the King for failing to take advantage of the situation his popularity plunged and he was later forced to abdicate. The Ionian Islands were given by Britain upon the arrival of the new King George I in 1863 and Thessaly was ceded by the Ottomans in 1880.

Modernization Edit

In the late 19th century, modernization transformed the social structure of Greece. The population grew rapidly, putting heavy pressure on the system of small farms with low productivity. Overall, population density more than doubled from 41 persons per square mile in 1829 to 114 in 1912 (16 to 44 per km 2 ). One response was emigration to the United States, with a quarter million people leaving between 1906 and 1914. Entrepreneurs found numerous business opportunities in the retail and restaurant sectors of American cities some sent money back to their families, others returned with hundreds of dollars, enough to purchase a farm or a small business in the old village. The urban population tripled from 8% in 1853 to 24% in 1907. Athens grew from a village of 6000 people in 1834, when it became the capital, to 63,000 in 1879, 111,000 in 1896, and 167,000 in 1907. [16]

In Athens and other cities, men arriving from rural areas set up workshops and stores, creating a middle class. They joined with bankers, professional men, university students, and military officers, to demand reform and modernization of the political and economic system. Athens became the center of the merchant marine, which quadrupled from 250,000 tons in 1875 to more than 1,000,000 tons in 1915. As the cities modernized, businessmen adopted the latest styles of Western European architecture. [17]

Balkan Wars Edit

The participation of Greece in the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913 is one of the most important episodes in modern Greek history, as it allowed the Greek state to almost double its size and achieve most of its present territorial size. As a result of the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913, most of Epirus, Macedonia, Crete and the northern Aegean islands were incorporated into the Kingdom of Greece.

The Stone Age (circa 400,000 – 3000 BCE)

In the Stone Age, humans inhabited Greece relatively later than the rest of Europe, according to most scientists.

A skull found in the Petralona cave in Halkidiki is tentatively dated between 300,000 and 400,000. Some estimates putting it as far back as 700,000 BP.

Frangthi cave in Argolis provide us with the earliest evidence of commerce and burials in Greece (7250 BCE).

Other Stone Age sites found in Epirus, Thessaly, Macedonia, and the Peloponnesse tell of the existence of successful Paleolithic and Mesolithic settlements.

Neolithic settlements of Sesklo (c. 7000 – 3200 BCE) and Dimini (c. 4800 – 4500 BCE) in Thessaly reveal that Stone Age peoples of Greece had reached a high level of development by 3000 BCE. They had advanced economies, art, and complex social structures.

Important Stone Age sites: Francthi, Sesklo, Dimini

The Effect of Geography on Greek History

How did geography affect Greek history? In what ways was Greek civilization molded by the land, the sea, and the weather of the Mediterranean area?
To answer this question I looked at a relief map of Ancient Greece. I saw how easily the land could be divided into city-states. Thinking about the geography of Greece there is hardly a place where you cannot see the sea, and hardly a place where you can grow anything very easily. This, plus the prevailing winds in the Aegean and Adriatic seas, proved that trade and shipping was a natural outcome.

Greece is the South Eastern most regions on the European continents. It is defined by a series of mountains, surrounded on all sides except the north by water, and endowed with countless large and small islands. The Ionian and Aegean seas along with the many deep bays and natural harbors along the coast lines allowed the Greeks to prosper in maritime commerce and to develop a culture which true inspiration from many sources, both foreign and indigenous. The Greek world eventually spread far beyond Greece itself, encompassing many settlements around the Mediterranean and Black seas and, during the Hellenistic period, reaching as far east as India.

The mountains, which served as natural barriers in boundaries, and dictated the political characteristics of Greece, were rugged and dominated the mainland. They ran from northwest to southeast along the Balkan Peninsula. From early times the Greeks lived in independent communities isolated from one another by the landscape. Later these communities were organized into city-states. The mountains prevented large-scale farming and impelled the Greeks to look beyond their borders for new lands where fertile soil was more abundant. Only about 20 to 30 percent of the mainland was arable, thus raising cattle or horses on a large scale was impossible. When the Greeks learned agriculture they grew mostly barely but also has olive trees, and grapes. Natural.

How did Ancient Greece’s Geography Affect its Civilization

Ancient Greece was mostly made up of many small and separated islands. Most people today know about the great Greek Philosophers, the Olympics, the battles, so most people should know at least a little of the history of ancient Greece. Many people don’t know how Greece came to be a great civilization though. I think that the reason why many democracies and civilizations fought for Greece was because of where Greece was located. Ancient Greece’s geography is the thing that helped most in developing ancient Greek’s civilization.

According to a map in the textbook, Greece was composed of a lot of little islands and they were all pretty spread out. It had a larger island more south and inland up north. Bodies of water surrounded Greece, except from the north where it bordered with Epirus and Macedonia. I think it would’ve been hard for others to attack them due to their location (Beck, et al. 121). The islands were fairly spread out but not far enough that they couldn’t communicate with each other. “They were close enough to each other that they rarely ever had to travel more than 85 miles to get to the inland or other islands around them” (Beck, et al. 123).

“Mountains covered most of Greece. Only about 70-80% of Greece was mountains, and only about 20% of the land could be used for farming. They tried to use the most of the land though, and they grew grain on the little amounts of open plains. They also grew olive trees around the edges of those plains. (Geography of Greece).” Olive trees grew easily in Greece because they are used to the soil there. “The mountains served as boundaries and natural barriers. The mountains separated Greece but it also gave them an advantage when they were being attacked. They acted as walls to the people attacking them. All the mountains caused the land to be so spread out, which caused Greece to be separated. They all lived in separate communities, and later they organized them to be city-states (The Land of Ancient Greece, 2002).” That’s why it was very hard to unite Greece under one government.

The sea formed Greek life just like rivers would form other countries and civilizations. Just the fact that the sea surrounded them already shows us that they most likely traded and used the sea a lot. Since they lived by the ocean they probably got used to fishing and traveling by the seas. Greece was made up of mostly mountains, so they lacked natural resources. “Since the seas surrounded them, they traded really easily to surrounding countries near the Mediterranean. Many cities also made settlements known as colonies (Ancient Greece-Geography).” They also probably used the sea to travel a lot because they couldn’t travel any other way since it must have been harder to travel through all those mountains.

Greece was located above the tropic of cancer so it really wasn’t ever too hot. “Their temperature rarely ever went below 40° F or above 80° F and the average yearly rainfall ranged from 25-50 inches a year (Greek Climate and Physical Geography, 2000).” The weather was almost always perfect. It was great weather to have competitions like races, or the Olympics. “The moderate temperatures supported an outdoor life, for the Greek citizens. A lot men spent their extra time at outdoor public events or just spent time outside. City-states would meet often and discuss public issues, exchange news, and take an active part in their civic lives (Beck, et al. 124).” I think that if it wasn’t for the climate people wouldn’t have interacted as much and there would’ve been more wars, and who know maybe even the Olympics wouldn’t exist today because of the climate.

I think that Greece is very interesting, and I would like to visit it one day to experience the wonderful weather. Greece had a huge impact on the Middle Eastern and Western civilizations, because of its geography, and I don’t think the world would’ve been the same if it weren’t for Greece. I have proven that Greek’s civilization was developed because of its geography.

  • OFFICIAL NAME: Hellenic Republic
  • FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Parliamentary republic
  • CAPITAL: Athens
  • POPULATION: 10,761,523
  • MONEY: Euro
  • AREA: 50,942 square miles (131,940 square kilometers)


Greece has the longest coastline in Europe and is the southernmost country in Europe. The mainland has rugged mountains, forests, and lakes, but the country is well known for the thousands of islands dotting the blue Aegean Sea to the east, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, and the Ionian Sea to the west.

The country is divided into three geographical regions: the mainland, the islands, and Peloponnese, the peninsula south of the mainland.

The Pindus mountain range on the mainland contains one of the world's deepest gorges, Vikos Gorge, which plunges 3,600 feet (1,100 meters). Mount Olympus is Greece's highest mountain at 9,570 feet (2,917 meters) above sea level. Ancient Greeks believed it was the home of the gods. Mount Olympus became the first national park in Greece.

Map created by National Geographic Maps


Family life is a very important part of life in Greece. Children often live with their parents even after they get married. Greeks live long lives and it is thought that their varied diet of olives, olive oil, lamb, fish, squid, chickpeas, and lots of fruits and vegetables keep them healthy.

Nearly two-thirds of the people live in large cities. Athens is the largest city, with over 3.7 million people crowding the metropolis. Nefos, the Greek term for smog, is a big problem in Athens. The Parthenon, the temple to goddess Athena atop the Acropolis, is deteriorating due to pollution and acid rain.

Olive trees have been cultivated in Greece for over 6,000 years. Every village has its own olive groves.


Most of the country was forested at one time. Over the centuries, the forests were cut down for firewood, lumber, and to make room for farms. Today, forests can be found mainly in the Pindus and Rhodope ranges.

Greece has ten national parks and there is an effort to protect natural and historic landmarks. Marine parks help protect the habitats of two of Europe's most endangered sea creatures, the loggerhead turtle and monk seal. The long coastline and clear water make Greece an ideal location to spot sea stars, sea anemones, sponges, and seahorses hiding in the seaweed.

The Greek landscape is covered by maquis, a tangle of thorny shrubs that don't need a lot of water. These plants include fragrant herbs such as thyme, rosemary, oregano, and bay and myrtle trees. Bird watching is popular in Greece where geese, ducks, and swallows stop over during their migration from Africa to Europe.


Greece abolished their monarchy in 1975 and became a parliamentary republic. Under the new constitution, there is a president and a prime minister. The prime minister has the most power, and is the leader of the party that has the most seats in the parliament. The president selects cabinet ministers who run government departments.

The parliament, called the Vouli, has only one house with 300 members who are elected every four years. Greece became part of the European Union in 1981.


The first great civilization in Greece was the Minoan culture on the island of Crete around 2000 B.C. Wall paintings found at the ruins of the palace Knossos show people doing backflips over a charging bull. The Minoans were conquered by the Myceneans from the mainland in 1450 B.C.

During ancient times the country was divided into city-states, which were ruled by noblemen. The largest were Athens, Sparta, Thebes, and Corinth. Each state controlled the territory around a single city. They were often at war with each other.

Athens became the most powerful, and in 508 B.C., the people instituted a new system of rule by the people called democracy. But during that time, only men could vote!

The first Olympic Games were held in the southern city of Olympia in 700 B.C. to honor Zeus, the king of the gods. Only men could compete in the events such as sprinting, long jump, discus, javelin, wrestling, and chariot racing. The games were banned by the Romans in A.D. 393, but began again in Athens in 1896.

Greece was ruled by foreigners for over 2,000 years beginning with the Romans conquering the Greeks in the 2nd century. Then, after almost 400 years under Turkish rule, Greece won independence in 1832.

Key Facts & Information

Geography and People

  • Greece is a mountainous country located on the southern tip of the Balkan Peninsula at the intersection of Europe, Asia and Africa. With both land and sea borders, Greece has the 11th longest coastline in world at 13,676 km.
  • Mount Olympus is the highest peak in Greece at 9,573 feet. The country is divided into geographic regions namely: Central Greece, the Peloponnese, Thessaly, Epirus, the Aegean islands, Thrace, Crete and the Ionian islands.
  • Due to its mountainous terrain, rivers are not navigable.
  • As of 2016, there are approximately 11 million people in Greece. About two-thirds of Greeks live in urban areas like the capital and largest city, Athens. About 98% of Greeks are ethnic Greeks, while the minority is composed of Turks, Armenians, Macedonians and Bulgarians.

Greek History

  • Ancient Greece is considered as the cradle of western civilization due to its pioneering thoughts in philosophy, literature, historiography, politics, mathematics, science and drama.
  • Around 2000 B.C., Minoans in Crete were the first great civilization in Greece until they were conquered by Mycenaeans from the mainland in 1450 B.C.
  • In the ancient times, Greece was ruled by noblemen and was divided into independent city-states known as poleis (polis in singular form). Some included Sparta, Athens, Corinth and Thebes.
  • Around 508 B.C., the world’s first democratic system of government was introduced in Athens by Cleisthenes.
  • In 492 B.C., the Persian Empire invaded mainland Greece but was later defeated by a combined Athens and Sparta. The victory was followed by 50 years of peace known as the Golden Age of Athens.
  • Lack of political unity often bought conflict and war between city-states. In 431 to 404 B.C., the Peloponnesian War broke out and Spartans won.
  • It was Philip of Macedon, along with his son Alexander the Great, who united mainland Greece and conquered lands to expand the empire. By 330 B.C., Alexander conquered the Persian Empire, establishing the largest empire in world history.
  • Upon his death, the empire was divided into the Seleucid empire, Ptolemaic Egypt, Greco-Bactrian Kingdom and Indo-Greek Kingdom. The divide gave way to the Hellenistic civilization, which spread Greek culture and language.
  • During the 2nd century B.C., Greece was conquered by Rome and became a part of the Roman Empire. By the 4th century, Greece suffered from Barbarian invasions and raids by Goths, Huns and Slavs until the 7th century, causing its collapse. The Greek peninsula was later ruled by the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.
  • In 1832, the Greek War of Independence against the Ottomans resulted in Greek victory. Russia, the United Kingdom and France sent their respective navy to Greece for back up against the Ottoman-Egyptian coalition.
  • In 1863, Prince Wilhelm of Denmark, known as George I, brought the Ionian Islands back to the Greeks after his coronation as the new monarch. Since then, Greece has faced a series of political disasters and reconstructions.
  • Today, Greece is a unitary parliamentary republic wherein the head of state is elected by the Parliament for a five-year term. The current Constitution specifies separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches. It also reinforces civil and social liberties including women’s right to suffrage.
  • Aside from its rich ancient history, Greeks are also known for their vibrant culture and mythology.
  • Greek structures, especially on the Cyclades Islands, are painted turquoise because of their ancient belief that it keeps away evil spirits.
  • Ancient Greeks are also guided by mythology including Mt. Olympus as the home of all gods and heroic figures like Hercules, Achilles and Perseus.
  • Greek myths were also used to explain changing of seasons based on the story of Hades and Persephone. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey highlights the Trojan War with elements of Greek gods and goddesses. Moreover, the famous Judgement of Paris became a popular scene for choosing the most beautiful woman.
  • The first Olympic Games took place in 776 B.C. to honor the Olympian gods.
  • Hoplites are ancient Greek soldiers who wore 33 kilograms of bronze armor.
  • Pythagoras, Euclid and Archimedes were some of the Greek intellectuals who laid the foundations for modern mathematics.
  • Herodotus was the first Greek historian and father of history after writing a book about the Greco-Persian war.
  • Greeks consider English poet Lord Byron as a national hero after spending his money to support and fight for Greece during the war of independence.
  • In 534 B.C., the first Greek tragedy was performed by Thespis, a priest of Dionysus.
  • Classical philosophers like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were all Greeks.
  • Ostracism was a famous method of exiling a person deemed dangerous to the public. A citizen’s name was inscribed in a piece of pottery called an ostracon wherein a person with the most number of names needed to leave town for 10 years.
  • Alexander the Great was the first ruler of Greece who had his face on coins. Traditionally, gods and goddesses were shown on Greek coins.
  • The national flag of Greece was first officially adopted at the First National Assembly in 1822. It is popularly called the “sky-blue-white.” The Greek flag has nine blue and white horizontal stripes representing the blue sea, sky and white sand of Greece. The Greek Orthodox cross is represented in the upper right corner of the flag.
  • Greek drachma is the oldest currency in Europe until it was replaced by the Euro in 2002.
  • Numerous world heritage sites including the Parthenon, Acropolis, Delos, Meteora and archeological sites in Mystras and Mycenae are all found in Greece.

Greece Worksheets

This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Greece across 27 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Greece worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Greece which is the southernmost country in Europe with scattered islands in the Mediterranean, Aegean and Ionian Seas. During ancient times, Greece was known as the cradle of western civilization for its influential culture and vibrant history.

Complete List Of Included Worksheets

  • Greece Facts
  • Mapping the Balkan Peninsula
  • Country Profile
  • Everything Greek!
  • Famous Philosophers
  • Mythology
  • Greek Cuisine
  • Ancient Greek Life
  • Grecian Influence
  • Wonders of Greece
  • Sunny Days

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