Overview and Timeline of Ancient Greek Civilization

Jun 17, 2022 0 Comments in same day payday loan by

Overview and Timeline of Ancient Greek Civilization

This article deals with the civilization of Classical Greece. Other articles cover the Minoan civilization, which preceded it, and the Hellenistic civilization, which followed it.

The civilization of Ancient Greece emerged into the light of history in the 8th century BC. Normally it is regarded as coming to an end when Greece fell to the Romans, in 146 BC. However, major Greek (or “Hellenistic”, as modern scholars call them) kingdoms lasted longer than this. As a culture (as opposed to a political force), Greek civilization lasted longer still, continuing right to the end of the ancient world.

Timeline of Ancient Greece:

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c. 750: Greek cities start planting colonies on other Mediterranean coasts, adapt the Phoenician alphabet for their own use, and later adopt metal coinage from Lydia, in Asia Minor

490-479: The Persian Wars – Athens and Sparta lead the Greeks in defending their land against invasion from the huge Persian Empire

Philip of Macedon’s defeat of the Greek city-states is traditionally seen as drawing down the curtain on “Classical Greece” and ushering in the “Hellenistic Age“. This includes the conquests of Alexander the Great, and ends with the conquests of the different Hellenistic states by Rome (146-31 BC).

The history of Ancient Greece falls into four major divisions. The Archaic period , when the civilization’s main features were evolving, lasted from the 8th to the 6th centuries BC. Classical Greece flourished during the 5th to 4th centuries BC. This was marked by the period of the Persian Wars (c. 510-479 BC), the Golden Age of Athens (c. 479-404 BC), and the later Classical era (404-338 BC).

Greek civilization had a powerful influence on the Roman civilization. Indeed, some modern scholars see the Roman era as a continuation of the same civilization, which they label “Graeco-Roman”. In any case, the Roman conquest carried many features of Greek civilization to far-flung parts of the Mediterranean world and Western Europe. Through the mediation of the Romans, therefore, Greek civilization came to be the founding culture of Western civilization.

The Geography of Ancient Greece

The geographical coverage of Ancient Greek civilization changed markedly during its history. Its origins were in the land of Greece and the islands of the Aegean Sea, plus the west coast of Asia Minor (modern Turkey). This is a landscape of mountains and sea. Land useful for farming is found in valley bottoms, hedged in by steep slopes, or on small islands, confined by water. As a result, ancient Greece consisted of many small territories, each with its own dialect, cultural peculiarities, and identity. Cities tended to be located in valleys between mountains, or on narrow coastal plains, and only dominated a limited area around them. These “city-states” were fiercely independent of each other.

From about 750 BC the Greeks began sending out colonies in all directions, settling the coasts and islands of the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea. By around 600 BC Greek city-states could be found, “like frogs round a pond”, as one Greek writer put it, from the coasts of Spain in the west to Cyprus in the east, and as far north as present day Ukraine and Russia and as far south as the Egypt and Libya. Sicily and Southern Italy above all became a major locus for Greek colonization, and this region was known to the Romans as “Magna Graeca”.

Later, the conquests of Alexander the Great took Greek civilization right across the Middle East. There it mingled with the more ancient cultures of that region to form a hybrid civilization which scholars label “Hellenistic” civilization. This is described in a separate article; here we shall focus on the original Greek civilization.