History of the ancient Greece

Indo-European ancestors of Greeks arrived in southern Balkans at the turn of the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. Material culture of the strangers was very poor and it did not leave many tracks before 1600 BC. At the same time, on Crete, the glory days of the Minoan civilization started. About 2000 BC monumental palace complexes Knossos, Faistos, Malia, later Cato and Zacro were erected there. These buildings were administered with the use of writing (linear writing A).

Mycenaean Age

Just after 1600 BC the Minoan culture started to influence the continental Greece, where the first Greek culture, called Mycenaean, was developing. About 1450 BC Mycenaeans invaded and settled Crete, dragging it into the limits of the Greek world. The full bloom of the Mycenaean culture fell on the 14th and 13th centuries BC. Magnificent palaces in Mycenae, Tirins, Pylos on Peloponnesse, Athens in Attica, Thebes and Gla in Boeotia were built at that time. On Crete Mycenaeans used the Minoan palace in Knossos. To administer the palaces Mycenaeans adopted Minoans' writing and adapted it to the needs of the Greek language (linear writing B).

Echo of the Mycenaean civilization's power is the mythical tradition about the great expedition against Troya that was ultimately shaped by Homer's poems in 8th century BC.

Dark Ages

The end of the Mycenaean civilization came after 1200 BC. Grand palaces were demolished, writing disappeared, material culture became impoverished. That is why the period between 1100 and 800 BC is described as the Dark Ages. During these ages Greece was definitively divided into separate tribes. Political geography also changed. Out of Mycenaean centers Athens was the only city that survived. Out of the newly born centers the most magnificent one was discovered on Eubea. The Greek world expanded: in 10th century BC Greeks from the continent settled islands on the Aegean Sea and western coast of the Asia Minor.

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Ancient Age

During the Dark Ages a process started that resulted, in 8th century BC, in coming into being of the new political form: city-state. That form determined the nature of the Greek civilization till the end of the antiquity. Inhabitants from individual regions started to concentrate around one urban center. Consequently Peloponnesse and the Central Greece were divided into separate city-states, with clearly demarcated borders. Urban centers had similar look and consisted of acropolis, agora and central temple, dedicated to the tutelary deity of the city. When Greeks started to found colonies in the 8th century BC , they had the structure of city-states.

In the first half of the century alphabetical writing appeared, borrowed from the Phoenicians. It enabled Homer's poems to see the light of day in the end of the 8th century BC.

The years between about 750 and 580 BC were the period of the Great Colonization. It was accompanied by the commercial expansion. Greek wares were purchased all over the Mediterranean world. Colonies made the residents of the founding city live better because they helped to get rid of a people surplus and at the same time they were a new area to acquire and sell off the goods.

The Greek polis tried to improve their financial situation and enhance their prestige in conflicts with neighboring cities. In the end of the 8th century a war between Eritrea and Chalcis broke out, for Lelantine flatland, located between these two cities. At the same time Spartans conquered Messenia, and Athenians incorporated Eleusis by force. Argives made the same with Tirins and Mycenae.

Growing respect for the subjectivity of the Greek polis caused that, starting from the 7th century BC, the conflicting sides stopped aiming at the elimination of the opponent. The winner settled for annexation of a moot border territory or for acknowledgment of his leadership in the international arena.

Permanent border conflicts had repercussions for internal relations in the city-states. They initiated the transformation process that brought about coming into existence of the first in the history democratic state.

Classical Age

The most important phenomenon after the Persian wars was growth of the Athenian power. The Sea Union very fast became the instrument of the Athenian imperial policy and any attempts made by its members to step out of the Union were brutally suppressed.

Sparta and its allies, especially Corinth and Thebes stood up to the growth of the Athenian power. After a couple of military conflicts a long and exhausting war (the so-called Pelponnesse War, 431-404 BC) broke out. Its first stage finished with a compromise peace agreement in 421 BC.

In 415 BC Athenians organized a huge expedition to Sicily, against Sparta's allies. The expedition was a total disaster. Spartans took the initiative. They made use of Persian support and revolts of Athenian allies and gained a final victory, destroying the Athenian navy at Aigos Potamos and forcing Athens to surrender.

Spartan authoritarian style of leadership in the Greek world made alliances change soon. In less than 10 years after the Peloponnesse War Corinthians, Boeotians and Athenians stood up together to Sparta – the so-called Corinthian War 395-386 BC. The conflict finished thank to the intervention of the Persian king, who dictated conditions for the peace agreement, advantageous for Sparta. The Spartan hegemony did not last for long though.

Athenians managed to renew the union of the island city-states, under its own leadership. Spartans found themselves in the open conflict with Thebes, ruled by Epaminondas. The conflict finished with their total defeat. But neither Thebes nor Athens were able to replace Sparta in their role of the hegemonic leader. That fact was soon used by the gifted ruler of Macedonia, Philip II. He defeated Illyrians in 358 BC, united the Macedonian duchies and started the expansion in the east. He used the fact that Athens was at war with its rebellious allies and started to occupy cities that Athenians regarded as their territory. In 338 BC, at Chaeronea, a huge battle took place. Greeks were defeated and Philip became the hegemonic leader of the whole Greece, which was emphasized by setting up of the Greek Cities Union, under his auspices. The Macedonian king started immediately to carry out his plans of an expedition against Persia. He did not manage to put his plans into practice because he was killed in 336, in unclear circumstances. His successor was Alexander II who started immediately to put the plans of the anti-Persian crusade into practice. As the leader of the Macedonian army and the Greek contingents Alexander crossed Hellespont and defeated the Persian army at the Granicus River. After having roamed the whole Asia Minor he defeated king Darius III at Issos in Cilicia. Heading for the south he occupied in turn Syria, Palestine and Egypt.

The final battle with Darius III took place at Gaugamela in Mesopotamia. The Persian army was beaten and Darius was killed in the court conspiracy. Alexander headed in the east and took control of the next Persian satrapies all the way to Indus, where he was forced to retreat because of soldiers' revolt.

In 324 BC he returned to Babylon, where he fell ill suddenly and died in 323 BC .

Hellenic Age

As a result of Alexander's expedition the Greek civilization expanded to the Asia Minor, the Middle East, Iran and Egypt. The king's sudden death caused a series of conflicts in the whole area. Greeks were the first to step out. The coalition of Greek cities started the military action against the governor Antipather, left in Macedonia. The war ended with the defeat of Greeks in a battle at Crannon and restoration of the Macedonian protectorate over the continental Greece. Just after the Greek revolt had been suppressed, an armed competition between Alexander's leaders started. They fought for the inheritance from Alexander. As a result a new political map of the eastern part of the Mediterranean region was shaped.

In 321 BC the most important Alexander's successor, Perdiccas, was killed. According to the agreement that was ratified in the same year in Triparadeisos and aimed at maintaining the integrity of the empire, Antipather became the most important person in the state. However he died in 316 and separatist tendencies very fast got the upper hand.

In the years 306-305 BC several diadochs declared themselves kings. Out of them the most successful diadochs were: Ptolemaeus that ruled Egypt since 321 BC and governor of Babylonia – Seleucos that concentrated the power over Media, Persia and eastern satrapies in his hands. Egypt of Lagides, Babylonia of Seleucid, Macedonia of Antigonid and Pergamon of Attalides were the most important subjects of the early Hellenic political scene. Apart from them Greek city-states had some role to play, especially those that were able to set up a confederation.

The 3rd century BC was filled with the competition of Seleucid and Lagides in the Middle East, which resulted in five next wars and Macedonian problems with keeping Greece under control.

In 215 BC Rome entered the political scene of the Hellenic world. As a result of the conflict of interests in Illyria, the Macedonian king Philip V decided to enter into an alliance with Hannibal. In the answer to that Romans entered into an alliance with the Etolian Union, which resulted in a series of the Macedonian wars. Consequently Macedonia was divided into four regions and forced to pay rent to Rome. In the same year Roman dictated conditions for the end of the sixth Syrian war. Roman policy leaned soon towards the direct incorporation of the conquered territories into the Empire. When in 148 BC the anti-Roman rebellion, led by Andriscus, broke out in Macedonia, the state was transformed into the Roman province. After a revolt of the Achaian League in 146 BC Romans demolished Corinth and transformed Greece into protectorate under control of the Macedonian governor.

In 133 the king of Pergamon Attalos III died and willed his state to Rome and four years later the province Asia was set up in place of Pergamon.

The king of Pont tried to use dissatisfaction with the new order and led to an anti-Roman uprising of Greeks from the continent and the Asia Minor, that took place during the First Mithridatean war. The uprising was bloodily suppressed by Sulla's army and it was the last Greek revolt against the Romans.

In 46 BC Caesar transformed Greece into the separate province called Achaia and in 27 BC Augustus gave Greece its final shape

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  2012-12-03


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  • Home page
  • Cradle of the ancient Greece
  • History of the ancient Greece
  • Women in ancient Greece
  • Myths and legends
  • Famous myths
  • Greek olympics
  • Greek wars
  • Democracy in ancient Greece
  • Sparta
  • Greek Society
  • Greek coins
  • Pythagoras

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