Tuesday , August 3 2021

The history of Greece, part one

Greece is an incredible place, not only is it full of welcoming people and great scenery, but it also has an extensive and interesting history. In a forthcoming series of blog posts, we’ll explore that history and share some great facts with you that you may not have known about the country.

Greece was one of the most important places in the ancient world. The land of Greece was originally known as Hellas, and the Greeks themselves were Hellenes. These terms are still sometimes used today. Their land was vast ranging from mainland Greece and the many islands dotted across the Mediterranean to Greek colonies throughout other countries such as Italy and even North Africa. Parts of today’s countries of North Macedonia and Turkey were once mainland Greece but over time, the land borders shifted.

Ancient Greek mosaic

The Early Greeks

Historians have estimated that humans have been living in Greece for approximately 40,000yrs. The early Greeks were very different to those early Hellenes we have learned about. Like many other early civilisations, these early Greeks were simple folk. Life consisted of living off the land, using the seasons as a guide, farming, hunting, and gathering.

The first truly recognised Greek civilisation thought to have existed between 2200B.C. and 1450B.C. was based on the island of Crete. These ancient people were the Minoans, named after a King, called Minos. The Minoans were a great civilisation. They were artistic, great builders of palaces and towns, which were often decorated in bright, vibrant colours and frescoes. They were also seafaring people and created important trade routes throughout the Levant. This enabled the Minoans to move to other islands and the mainland. Eventually, however, the Minoans were replaced by the Mycenaeans.

Knossos Temple on Crete

Coming from mainland Greece, the Mycenaeans, were great warriors. They were also very skilled in building and trading, and they slowly made their way through Greece, settling on numerous islands, making it their home, they were also involved in the battle of Troy. The life of the Mycenaeans was incredibly interesting. So much so that the famous writer Homer, captured their glorious age in his works The Iliad and The Odyssey, his words give readers a great connection to this ancient time.

Mycenaean Temple

The Mycenaean age ended in around 1100 B.C. no one knows exactly why, but some archaeological evidence suggests that Mycenae was attacked by people called the Dorians, who ransacked the city and burned it to the ground. Whatever the reason, Greece was plunged into a Dark Age for around 300yrs.

Greek civilisation slowly came back around 800 B.C. It was a time in Greek history when the Greeks came into their own. Cities were ruled by kings, and they fought off the Persian army. These Greeks were people who embraced life fully. They covered every creative and academic aspect of life. There was a mix of actors, artists, and writers. Athletes and warriors. Architects, philosophers, and politicians. These Greeks used their skills and over the next 400yrs Greece moved from the Archaic period to the Classical period. Incredible temples were built, important written works were produced, scientific discoveries were made, and democracy was founded. Trade was also important to them, and like previous Greeks they explored the seas and often set up colonies in other countries, to help with their ongoing trade. These Greeks also held the first Olympic Games, something that continues today.

Temple at Olympia

In 30 B.C. Greece was invaded by the Romans. Whilst many places in the acquired Roman Empire were forced into a Roman way of living, Greece was different. The Romans copied many things from Greece, like their buildings, their beliefs and the Romans respected the Greeks.

Greek history is incredibly complex, but also interesting. This blog post is intended to give a short synopsis of the history of Greece. There are many books and websites out there that will provide more in-depth information if you want to learn more.

Our next ancient Greece post will be Greek rulers, gods and Goddess and Temples.


Research material:

Ancient Greece by Geddes and Grosset

Ancient Greece, Utopia and Reality by New Horizons

An Introduction to Greek Mythology by David Bellingham

Greek Mythology by Katerina Servi, Archaeologist

The Encyclopaedia of Greek Mythology by Guus Houtzager


About Chrissie Parker

Chrissie Parker joined the Zakynthos Informer Team in 2014. Chrissie’s first experience of the island was a combined birthday and wedding celebration, in true Zakynthian style. Since then she has been able to combine her love of the island, including its incredible history, tradition and culture, with her love of writing.

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