Ancient Greece


The Mycenaean cilivization, influenced by the Minoan culture of Crete, flourished around 1600-1200 BC. It used an early form of Greek as a written language but this seems to have ended around 1100 BC. After the C14th BC, the Achaeans overran Greece and Crete and the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations were destroyed. This was the period of the siege of Troy, probably around 1180 BC. The Dorian Greeks settled in the Peloponnese in c 1100, founding Sparta, and the Ionians left the mainland for the east Aegean in c 1000. From 750-550 BC, the Greeks began great traders and founded colonies around the coasts of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. During the C6th BC, the main centres of Greek culture were the rich Ionian cities of Asia Minor.

Many Greek cities began as monarchies, came under the rule by a land-owning aristocracy and then became democracies. In Athens, Solon instituted debt reforms in 549 BC, the Psistratid tyranny was in control from 560-510 BC and Cleisthenes established a democracy after 510 BC. Sparta remained under the domination of the ruling race which was organized on military lines and dominated the population.

The Persian Empire took control of the Ionian cities and the unsuccessful Athenian-backed revolt of 499-4 BC provoked the invasion of Greece by Darius of Persia in 490 BC. He was defeated at Marathon and withdrew. A later invasion under Xerxes was delayed by the brave defence of Thermopylae by 300 Spartans but lost the sea-battle at Salamis in 480 and on land at Plataea in 479. The freed Ionian cities formed an alliance with Athens, the Delian League. Pericles, democratic ruler of Athens from 455-29 BC, tried to convert this into an Athenian Empire but this was prevented by the Peloponnesian War which destroyed Athenian political power although the city's art and literature were at their peak during the C5th.

Sparta became the leading power in Greece until it was overthrown by Thebes (378-1). The constant wars between the cities allowed Philip II of Macedon (359-36 BC) to establish supremacy over Greece. His son, Alexander the Great, conquered Persia and brought Greek culture to Asia and Egypt, with Alexandria in Egypt becoming a cultural and commercial centre. During the C3rd, the cities tried to remain independent from Macedon, Egypt and Rome by forming federations such as the Achaean and Aeolian leagues but Rome began to intervene in 214 BC and annexed Greece in 146. It remained a cultural centre under Roman rule, but the emperor Justinian closed the university of Athens in AD 529.

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This collection of names compiled by Kate Monk. Copyright January 1997, Kate Monk. Last updated January, 99. Copies may be made for personal use only.