Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity (ca. 600 AD). Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the period of Classical Greece, which flourished during the 5th to 4th centuries BC. Classical Greece began with the repelling of a Persian invasion by Athenian leadership. Because of conquests by Alexander the Great, Hellenistic civilization flourished from Central Asia to the western end of the Mediterranean Sea. Classical Greek culture had a powerful influence on the Roman Empire, which carried a version of it to many parts of the Mediterranean region and Europe, for which reason Classical Greece is generally considered to be the seminal culture which provided the foundation of Western culture. Land:
Greece has very hot, dry summers. Rain only falls in winter. This restricts crops in many areas to grapes and olives and the animals to sheep and goats. However, there are also rolling plains that are ideal for growing crops like wheat and barley. As only a certain amount of food could be obtained locally, the Ancient Greeks built boats to fish and to trade what they had. There was no sugar, so honey or boiled grape juice were used as sweeteners. There were often wars when cities wanted to take over the land of a neighboring city. Mountains
Greece is made up almost entirely of mountainous land with only small areas of lowlands. The mountains are beautiful but made it hard to farm and make a living. They also made it hard to travel and communicate with people a distance away. The mountains divided the cities in Ancient Greece and each city had it’s own customs and ideas.
Greece consists of a large mainland at the southern end of the Balkans; the Peloponnesus peninsula (separated from the mainland by the canal of the Isthmus of Corinth); and numerous islands (around 3,000), including Crete, Rhodes, Kos, Euboea and the Dodecanese and Cycladic groups of the Aegean Sea as well as the Ionian sea islands. Greece has more than 15,000 kilometres of coastline and a land boundary of 1,160 kilometres. About 80% of Greece consists of mountains or hills, thus making Greece one of the most montainous countries of Europe. Western Greece contains lakes and wetlands. Pindus, the central mountain range, has a maximum elevation of 2,636 m. The Pindus can be considered as a prolongation of the Dinaric Alps.
The range continues by means of the Peloponnese, the islands of Kythera and Antikythera to find its final point in the island of Crete. (Actually the islands of the Aegean are peaks of underwater mountains that once consisted an extension of the mainland). The Central and Western Greece area contains high, steep peaks dissected by many canyons and other karstic landscapes, including the Meteora and the Vikos gorge the later being the second largest one on earth after the Grand Canyon in the US.
Mount Olympus forms the highest point in Greece at 2,919 metres above sea level. Also northern Greece presents another high range, the Rhodope, located in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace; this area is covered with vast and thick century old forests like the famous Dadia. Plains are mainly found in Eastern Thessaly, Central Macedonia and Thrace.Greece’s climate is divided into three well defined classes the Mediterranean, Alpine and Temperate, the first one features mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. Temperatures rarely reach extremes, although snowfalls do occur occasionally even in Athens, Cyclades or Crete during the winter.
Alpine is found primarily in Western Greece (Epirus, Central Greece, Thessaly, Western Macedonia as well as central parts of Peloponessus like Achaea, Arkadia and parts of Lakonia where the Alpine range pass by). Finally the temperate climate is found in Central and Eastern Macedonia as well as in Thrace at places like Komotini, Xanthi and northern Evros; with cold, damp winters and hot, dry summers. It’s worth to mention that Athens is located in a transition area between the Mediterranean and Alpine climate, thus finding that in its southern suburbs weather is of Mediterranean type while in the Northern suburbs of the Alpine type.
About 50% of Greek land is covered by forests with a rich varied vegetation which spans from Alpine coniferous to mediterranean type vegetation. Seals, sea turtles and other rare marine life live in the seas around Greece, while Greece’s forests provide a home to Western Europe’s last brown bears and lynx as well as other species like Wolf, Roe Deer, Wild Goat, Fox and Wild Boar among others. Ancient Greece
We begin to look at the geography of ancient Greece by examining how Greeks lived on their farms, why they traded, road systems, and the plant life that ancient Greece had. Geography has always had a great influence on Greece and its inhabitants. It is largely responsible for numerous continuities in its extensive history. While the mountains that split the Greek lands have contributed to localism they have been a major barrier to unity as a nation. The struggle of communication by land and the significant presence of the sea have made mariners out of Greeks for numerous generations. The natural resources ensure a steady flow of abundance and guarantee sustenance if governed wisely. Farming
In ancient Greece, many cities had land that was used for farming within the city, but most of the people lived in small towns and villages outside of the city. Archeological survey indicates that there were even smaller settlements such as hamlets (very small villages), and isolated farms which were only lived in seasonally. According to this information, there would have been many villages, hamlets, single farms, and occasional small towns scattered over the land; as can still be seen in Crete. The Greeks had their private space that consisted of the agricultural fields in the territory of the polis and their houses compacted in settlements, whether in the central town of the city-state, in smaller towns, or villages. Ancient Greeks preferred to live in such compacted settlements, even when agriculture was their main source of support. Occasionally, there has been evidence of how agricultural land was organized by the residents of the settlements in rectangular and equal lots.
The idea was that each family would farm a single plot of land. But, there was a tendency for farmland to become divided and for a landowner to own many plots of land scattered all over the community. The land was organized for mules and donkeys with built mule-tracks reaching every settlement. Since the Bronze Age, there had been chariots and wagons with roads that that were easy to drive on, but the roads were not easy to drive on. Classical Greek roads were more complete with grooves cut for the wheels in steep and rocky places. The road system, the landscape, the markets, and the farms were all part of the geography of ancient Greece.
Greece has thousands of islands Ancient Greeks became a sea-going people due to the close proximity of the sea to most Greek city-states. These merchants and traders developed a sense of freedom and independence not seen before.
Map of Phoenician and Greek colonies at about 550 BC In Ancient Greece, colonies were sometimes founded by vanquished people, who left their homes to escape subjection at the hand of a foreign enemy; sometimes as a sequel to civil disorders, when the losers in internecine battles left to form a new city elsewhere; sometimes to get rid of surplus population, and thereby to avoid internal convulsions. But in most cases the motivation was to establish and facilitate relations of trade with foreign countries and further the wealth of the mother-city (in Greek, metropolis). Colonies were established in Ionia and Thrace as early as the 8th century BC.
More than thirty Greek city-states had multiple colonies around the Mediterranean world, with the most active being Miletus, with ninety colonies stretching throughout the Mediterranean Sea, from the shores of the Black Sea and Anatolia (modern Turkey) in the east, to the southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula in the west, as well as several colonies on the northern coast of Africa with the overall sum being 1500 from the late ninth, up to the 5th century BC. There were two similar types of colonies, ἀποικία – apoikia (pl.: ἀποικίαι, apoikiai) and ἐμπορία – emporia (pl.: ἐμπορίαι, emporiai). The first type of colonies were city-states on their own; the second were Greek trading-colonies.
The Greek city-states began establishing colonies around 800 BC, at first at Al Mina on the coast of Syria and the Greek emporium Pithekoussai at Ischia in the Bay of Naples, both established about 800 BC by Euboeans. Two flushes of new colonists set out from Greece at the transition between the “Dark Ages” and the start of the Archaic Period, one in the early 8th century BC and a second burst of the colonizing spirit in the 6th century. Population growth and cramped spaces at home seem an insufficient explanation, while the economical and political dynamics produced by the competitive spirit between the frequently kingless, newly introduced concept of the Greek city-states, striving to expand their sphere of economical influence better fits as their true incentive. Through this Greek expansion the use of coins flourished throughout the Mediterranean Basin.
Ancient Greek colonies on the northern coast of the Black Sea, c. 450 BCE Influential Greek colonies in the western Mediterranean included Cyme (Aeolis), Rhegium (Rhegion) by Chalcis and Zankle (c. 8th century), Syracuse by Corinth/Tenea (c. 734 BC), Naxos by Chalkis (c. 734 BC), Massalia (what millennia later became Marseille, France) by Phokaia (c. 598 BC), Agathe by Phokaia (shortly after Massalia), Elea (Velia) by Phokaia and Massalia (c. 540 BC), Emporion (nowadays Spain) by Phokaia/Massalia (early 6th century), Antipolis (nowadays France) by Achaea, Alalia (Corsica) by Phokaia/Massalia (c. 545 BC) and Cyrene (North Africa) by Thera (762/61 and 632/31 BCE). Several formulae were generally adhered to on the solemn and sacred occasions when a new colony set forth.
If a Greek city was sending out a colony, an oracle, especially one such as the Oracle of Delphi, was almost invariably consulted beforehand. Sometimes certain classes of citizens were called upon to take part in the enterprises; sometimes one son was chosen by lot from every house where there were several sons; and strangers expressing a desire to join were admitted. A person of distinction was selected to guide the emigrants and make the necessary arrangements. It was usual to honor these founders of colonies, after their death, as heroes. Some of the sacred fire was taken from the public hearth in the Prytaneum, from which the fire on the public hearth of the new city was kindled. And, just as each individual had his private shrines, so the new community maintained the worship of its chief domestic deities, the colony sending embassies and votive gifts to the mother-city’s principal festivals for centuries afterwards. The relation between colony and mother-city, known literally as the metropolis, was viewed as one of mutual affection. Any differences that arose were made up, if possible, by peaceful means, war being deemed excusable only in cases of extreme necessity.
The charter of foundation contained general provisions for the arrangement of the affairs of the colony, and also some special enactments. The constitution of the mother-city was usually adopted by the colony, but the new city remained politically independent. If the colony sent out a fresh colony on its own account, the mother-city was generally consulted, or was at least requested to furnish a leader. Frequently the colonies declaring their commitment to the various metropolitic alliances formed in the Greek mainland and for religious reasons would pay tribute in religious centres, like Delphi, Olympia or Delos. It is worth noting that the Peloponnesian War was in part a result of a dispute between Corinth and her colony of Corcyra (Corfu).
The cleruchs, known in Greek as klêrouchoi, formed a special class of Greek colonists, being assigned individual plots of land in the place to which they had been assigned. The trade factories set up in foreign countries, such as Egypt, were somewhat different from the ordinary colonies, the members retaining the right of domicile in their own fatherland and confining themselves to their own quarter in the foreign city.
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