Ancient Greece

The term ancient Greece refers to the period of Greek history lasting from the Greek Dark Ages ca. 1100 BC and the Dorian invasion, to 146 BC and the Roman conquest of Greece after the battle of Corinth. It is generally considered to be the seminal culture which provided the foundation of Western civilization. Greek culture had a powerful influence on the Roman Empire, which carried a version of it to many parts of Europe. The civilization of the ancient Greeks has been immensely influential on the language, politics, educational systems, philosophy, science, and arts, giving rise to the Renaissance in Western Europe and again resurgent during various neo-Classical revivals in 18th and 19th century Europe and the Americas.


There are no fixed or universally agreed upon dates for the beginning or the end of the ancient Greek period. In common usage it can refer to all Greek history before the Roman conquest, but historians use the term more precisely. The Greek-speaking Mycenaean civilization that collapsed about 1150 BC and which preceded the classical Greek culture is generally excluded from the ancient Greek era. Some historians took the date of the first recorded Olympic Games in 776 BC as the beginning of the ancient Greek period. Between the end of the Mycenaean period and the first Olympics, there is a period known as the Greek Dark Ages, because there are no written records, and few archaeological remnants. This period is now often included in the term Ancient Greece.
The end of the ancient Greek period was traditionally seen as the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, which was seen to begin the Hellenistic period. However, ancient Greece is often taken to include the following period, until to the Roman conquest of 146 BC. Some writers treat the ancient Greek civilization as a continuum running until the advent of Christianity in the 3rd century; this, however, is unconventional.
The ancient Greek period is subdivided into four periods on a pragmatic basis of pottery styles and political events. The Greek Dark Ages (c.1100-c.750 BC) features the use of geometric designs on pottery; it is followed by the Archaic period (c.750-c.480 BC), in which artists made larger free-standing sculptures in stiff, hieratic poses with the dreamlike 'archaic smile'. The Archaic period is often taken to end with the overthrow of the last tyrant of Athens in 510 BC. The Classical period (c.500-323 BC) is characterised by a style which was considered by later observers to be exemplary (i.e. 'classical') - for instance the Parthenon. The death of Alexander in 323 BC is used to mark the beginning of the Hellenistic period, when Greek culture and power expanded into the near and middle east; a period which finishes with the Roman conquest of 146 BC.

Prehistoric and Bronze Age civilization

Helladic period
The tribes who would become the Greeks are believed to have migrated southward into the Balkan peninsula in several waves beginning in the Middle Bronze Age (roughly 2000 BC).[1] The Proto-Greek language would date to the period just preceding these migrations, either to the late 3rd millennium BC, or to the 17th century BC at the latest. The Bronze Age civilization of the proto-Greeks is generally referred to as Helladic and preceded what is known as "Ancient Greece".
The so-called Mycenaean civilization culminated in this period, which features in the famous epics of Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey. For reasons which are unknown, this culture collapsed spectacularly around 1150 BC, with cities being sacked and a massive depopulation. This Bronze Age collapse approximately coincides with the apparent arrival of the last group of proto-Greeks into Greece proper, the Dorians. The two events have traditionally been causally linked, but this is by no means certain. With the Bronze Age collapse, Greece entered into a period of obscurity or 'dark age'

Hellenistic and Roman Greece

Hellenistic Greece
Main articles: Hellenistic Period and Hellenistic civilization
The Hellenistic period lasts from 323 BC to the annexation of the Greece by the Roman Republic in 146 BC. Although the establishment of Roman rule did not break the continuity of Hellenistic society and culture, which remained essentially unchanged until the advent of Christianity, it did mark the end of Greek political independence.
During the Hellenistic period the importance of "Greece proper" (that is, the territory of modern Greece) within the Greek-speaking world declined sharply. The great centers of Hellenistic culture were Alexandria and Antioch, capitals of Ptolemaic Egypt and Seleucid Syria respectively. See Hellenistic civilization for the history of Greek culture outside of Greece in this period.
The conquests of Alexander had a number of consequences for the Greek city-states. It greatly widened the horizons of the Greeks, and led to a steady emigration, particularly of the young and ambitious, to the new Greek empires in the east. Many Greeks migrated to Alexandria, Antioch and the many other new Hellenistic cities founded in Alexander's wake, as far away as what are now Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom and the Indo-Greek Kingdom survived until the end of the 1st century BC.
After the death of Alexander his empire was, after quite some conflict, divided amongst his generals, resulting in the Ptolemaic Kingdom (based upon Egypt), the Seleucid Empire (based on the Levant, Mesopotamia and Persia, and the Antigonid dynasty based in Macedon. In the intervening period, the poleis of Greece were able to wrest back some of their freedom, although still nominally subject to the Macedonian Kingdom. The city states formed themselves into two leagues; the Achaean League (including Thebes, Corinth and Argos) and the Aetolian League (including Sparta and Athens). For much of the period until the Roman conquest, these leagues were usually at war with each other, and/or allied to different sides in the conflicts between the Diadochi (the successor states to Alexander's empire).
The Antigonid Kingdom became involved in a war with the Roman Republic in the late 3rd century. Although the First Macedonian War was inconclusive, the Romans, in typical fashion continued to make war on Macedon until it was completely absorbed into the Roman Republic (by 149 BC). In the east the unwieldy Seleucid Empire gradually disintegrated, although a rump survived until 64 BC, whilst the Ptolemaic Kingdom continued in Egypt until 30 BC, when it too was conquered by the Romans. The Aetolian league grew wary of Roman involvement in Greece, and sided with the Seleucids in the Roman-Syrian War; when the Romans were victorious, the league was effectively absorbed into the Republic. Although the Achaean league outlasted both the Aetolian league and Macedon, it was also soon defeated and absorbed by the Romans in 146 BC, bringing an end to the independence of all of Greece.

Roman Greece
Main article: Roman Greece
Further information: Roman and Byzantine Greece

Main articles: Greek colonies and Magna Graecia

Greek cities & colonies circa 550 BC.

Ruins of Greek Theater in the colony at Taormina in present day Italy
During the Archaic period, the population of Greece grew beyond the capacity of its limited arable land (according to one estimate, the population of Ancient Greece increased by a factor larger than ten during the period from 800 BC to 400 BC, increasing from a population of 800,000 to a total estimated population of 10 to 13 million).[6] From about 750 BC the Greeks began 250 years of expansion, settling colonies in all directions. To the east, the Aegean coast of Asia Minor was colonized first, followed by Cyprus and the coasts of Thrace, the Sea of Marmara and south coast of the Black Sea. Eventually Greek colonization reached as far north-east as present day Ukraine and Russia (Taganrog). To the west the coasts of Illyria, Sicily and Southern Italy were settled, followed by Southern France, Corsica, and even northeastern Spain. Greek colonies were also founded in Egypt and Libya. Modern Syracuse, Naples, Marseille and Istanbul had their beginnings as the Greek colonies Syracusae (Συρακούσαι), Neapolis (Νεάπολις), Massalia (Μασσαλία) and Byzantion (Βυζάντιον). These colonies played an important role in the spread of Greek influence throughout Europe, and also aided in the establishment of long-distance trading networks between the Greek city-states, boosting the economy