Introduction to Greek history

Greek history is the history of the Greek people and their cultures from their appearance to the present day. However, despite the fact that the independent state of Greece was only recognized in the beginning of the 19th century, Greek history extends beyond the geographical boundaries of the current state and into a long period of centuries into the past.

The first historical evidence of human life in Greece dates back to 120,000-10,000 B.C. However, it was not until the Neolithic period dated approximately 7,000 – 3,000 B.C. that Greek civilisation grew and flourished. Many remains of settlements and burial chambers of this period have been discovered in Thessaly, Macedonia and the Peloponnese. The first urban centres appeared during the Bronze Age (3,000-1100 B.C.) Evidence of these have been found all over modern day Greece, for example, in some North Eastern Aegean islands, the Cycladic islands, Crete and the Greek mainland. Due to its strategic position, straddling east and west, Greece was considered a vital link in world’s History. The first Greek-speaking peoples are thought to have migrated into the Balkan peninsula shortly before 2200 , during the Aegean Bronze Age. Their arrival is attested by signs of violent destruction in the vicinity of Argos, most notably at the town of Lerna. By 1500 their descendants in mainland Greece had established a civilisation that reached as far as Rhodes and was in contact with the Near East kingdoms.


The gradual collapse of the Mycenaean civilization, which took place based on archaeological findings between the end of the 13th and the end of the 12th century BC, is an important historical milestone for Greece.

It is also important to note that in the following centuries, the 11th and 10th, an important technological change takes place in the wider Mediterranean and the Middle East: the technique of working iron spreads and this new metal replaces copper in various uses, such as the manufacture of weapons and tools.
With this development human history passes from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age. At the same time, in the area of ​​the eastern Mediterranean, war raids and population movements are taking place and social and political changes are taking place.

In Greece the beginning of the end of the Mycenaean era is marked by the abandonment of the building complexes we call palaces, which were built on fortified citadels with so-called cyclopean walls; from there a ruler called anax, surrounded by officials, controlled the economy, politics and military a wider area (such as the plains of Argolis and Messinia in Peloponnese, Kopaida in Boeotia or the valley of Evrotas in Laconia).

The change in the mode of government, whatever its cause, undoubtedly created new political conditions and led to a different social organization, which, combined with other factors not sufficiently known to us, created the conditions for the birth of a new culture.

The archaeological data indeed show that, over time, a new one with different characteristics took the place of the Mycenaean civilization. Especially in art the changes are important.

The objects that people used, from the simplest to the most luxurious, the houses where they lived, the places of worship bear little resemblance to those of the previous period.

The explanation can only be related to the political, social and cultural change we talked about. But the cause that caused the overthrow of the centralized administrative system that had developed in the Mycenaean palaces remains essentially unknown.

The absence of reliable historical evidence has led to the formulation of hypotheses that, despite their interest, do not offer a satisfactory explanation.

However, regardless of the uncertainties that remain, we must point out that the end of the Mycenaean world coincides in time (and is possibly connected) with important developments and rearrangements that take place in the wider area of ​​the eastern Mediterranean.

We do know that at about the same time Egypt was shaken by the raids of the “sea people”, while the powerful Hittite state in central Asia Minor was disintegrating.

The question “what was it that caused such a significant political and cultural change” initially led historians and archaeologists to think that the answer lies in the ancient tradition about the Descent of the Dorians, a new Greek race, which, according to all the indications, it actually appeared in Greece at the end of the 2nd millennium BC.

This thought seems in principle completely justified. The ancients themselves were convinced that the Fall of the Dorians was a historical event and associated it with a wave of riots and migrations that placed it in the years after the Trojan War.

It is difficult to say how reliable this historical review of Thucydides can be considered, because we do not know where he gets his information; we assume that his main source was epic poetry.

In any case, however, the appearance in Greece of new population groups (which we can identify with the Dorians) between the 11th and 8th centuries BC. it is undeniable. What we do not know is whether this movement of populations was one of the causes that brought about the end of the Mycenaean civilization or a consequence of its decay.

It is certain that the Dorians are absent from the earliest mythological traditions as well as from the Homeric epics, while the only indisputable testimony to their presence, the Doric dialect, appears in the historical years, after the 8th century BC.

The question of whether the settlement of these populations took the form of a violent invasion or a gradual and essentially peaceful penetration also remains unanswered.

Historians and archaeologists often date the era between the end of the Mycenaean civilization and the 8th century BC. the name “Dark Ages” due to the relatively few archaeological finds and the lack of historical evidence. In recent years, however, archaeological research has brought to light evidence that sheds light on certain aspects of this dark period.

The archaeological remains testify that at the end of the 2nd and the beginning of the 1st millennium BC. the population in Greece was not only smaller than in the heyday of Mycenaean civilization but, most importantly, lived scattered in small settlements, in houses made of perishable materials that are not easy to trace.

Commercial exchanges were, according to all indications, limited, as shown, among other things, by the fact that precious metals are almost entirely absent.
From a political point of view, the settlements of this era seem to have constituted, alone or together with other neighboring ones, independent and self-governing communities.

Each community must have been headed by powerful families who ruled over relatively small territories, much like medieval timaras.
It also seems that in some cases the heads of these families (which we can call aristocratic) allied themselves with each other and chose a common superior lord, who was called king and had both political and religious powers.
Later the system we have described gave way to a more collective form of government as the number of people participating in the commons expanded.

The Aegean Civilisation

Aegean civilisationAegean civilisation is a general term used for the Bronze Age cultures in the Aegean area. In fact, the term covers three regions: the Aegean islands, Crete and mainland Greece. Crete from the Early Bronze Age is associated with the Minoan civilization, while in the Cyclades and mainland Greece there are various cultures.
The Cyclades were in close contact with mainly Greece during the Early Helladic Minoan period and with Crete during the Minoan period.
From about 1450 BC, the early Greek Mycenaean civilization spread to Crete.

The Minoan period

During the Minoan period in Crete (approximately, 2nd millennium B.C.) a more sophisticated, organised society developed with a culture specific to that region. The first scripts were invented and communication opened up between the Minoans and people from the East Mediterranean countries. This led to an exchange of culture and ideas which became not only established as part of Minoan culture but spread to influence cultures, religion and government all over the Greek islands of the Aegean and the mainland of Greece. During this time Crete became the main exporter of jewellery, skilled craft works, oil and wine as well as importers of food and raw materials. It was during this time in Crete that the first major mercantile navy was developed.

This state of affairs continued until around 1500 B.C. when the tragic destruction of Crete occurred due to the eruption of the volcano of Santorini. The Mycenaeans, based on the Greek mainland were able to take advantage of this collapse of Cretan culture and established themselves as the leading force throughout the Aegean in the last centuries of the 2nd millennium B.C. Their cities in Mycenae, Pylos, Tiryns, Thebes, Iolkos and Athens became the bureaucratic centres of their vast kingdom. This period of Mycenaean civilisation saw the conquest and settlement by Greeks. Their society was based essentially upon warfare and its elite class were war-chiefs. Their culture thrived for around four hundred years. The cities of the warlords were large and powerful, art and agriculture flourished and there was great prosperity. However, unlike the earlier Minoan societies the wealth was not distributed amongst the population. As a monarchical society, it was the warring kings who accumulated the riches of the society and spent vast amounts of it upon battles and invasions. This continued until around 1200 B.C., by which time the power of the Mycenae kings was declining and by the 12th century BC their dominance had collapsed – considered by some to be due to the invasion of the Dorian tribes from the north of Greece.

Alternatively, it is postulated that as the Mycenaean superstructure weakened it was overthrown by other groups of the Mycenaean population who then settled in many of the areas formerly controlled by them.

The Mycenean Civilisation

Mycenaean civilisation is best known from the remains of Mycenae, although many other sites exist in the Peloponnesus as well as in south central Greece, on the islands of the Aegean, and on the coast of Anatolia. The graves at Mycenae have yielded many precious objects of great beauty. Golden crowns, diadems, and cups, some in raised relief, were found with vessels of silver and alabaster and numerous bronze weapons. Some tombs, called beehive tombs because of their shape, show developed architectural skill. The most monumental tomb is the so-called Treasury of Atreus. Like Mycenae’s Lion Gate and the palace remains, this tomb reflects the Mycenaeans’ ability to organize their resources on a large scale. The great palaces of the mainland were built in the 14th century .

mycenaeThey were enclosed in fortified citadels defended by strong walls. Major palaces have been excavated at Tiryns and Pylos as well as at Mycenae. The Linear B tablets found at Knossos and Pylos attest the existence of an elaborate palace bureaucracy headed by a king. Matters of cult were overseen by a priest or priestess, and the workforce was highly specialized and regimented. The workers lived beyond the walls of the palaces, the king and nobles within. Archaeological evidence indicates that the Mycenaeans enjoyed their greatest prosperity during the 14th and early 13th centuries . They pursued trade with east and west, establishing footholds in both areas of the Aegean.

As their fortifications suggest, the Mycenaeans were a warlike people. Battle scenes are prominent in their art, and they took their weapons with them to their graves. Homer made one of their military expeditions famous when he sang about the Trojan War. Troy, in northwest Anatolia, was in fact violently destroyed shortly after 1300, apparently after a siege, and there is no reason to doubt that this destruction was brought by the Mycenaeans. It is unknown, however, whether the town of Mycenae ever acquired the leadership of Greece, as Homer supposed, or whether each palace was autonomous. The homogeneity of the civilisation is not conclusive evidence that there was a dominant imperial city.

The Geometric period

Following the Mycenaeans, there was a long history period of cultural and economic stagnation in Greece which lasted from around 1150-900 BC. This Dark Age however ended with the emergence of the beginning of the Greek renaissance, known as the Geometric period (9th-8th century BC). The Greek city-states were formed and, as in all subsequent renaissance times, the Geometric period saw the development of literature and arts. Homeric epics and the Greek alphabet were both created during this time of enlightenment. The Archaic Period which followed during the 7th-6th centuries BC saw fundamental political and social changes. The Greek city states began to colonise and open up their dominance, establishing colonies at all points of the compass, North Africa to the south, the Black Sea to the north and Spain to the west.

Archaic period of Greece

In the 13th century a dark age set in, although the precise cause of Mycenaean decline is unknown. There may have been some intercity warfare; wandering peoples certainly brought war by sea into both the Near East and Greece. The main Mycenaean cities were destroyed by the end of the century. The Dorians, themselves a Greek people, took possession of much of the Peloponnesus, and although some Mycenaean sites lingered on for a considerable period, civilisation was swept away and the population decreased. The art of writing was lost, not to be regained until the Greeks adapted it from the Phoenician script about 400 years later. Many Mycenaeans fled from Greece to the coast of Anatolia, which later came to be called Ionia. Athens, which was immune from Dorian conquest, was the embarkation point. These refugees took with them a recollection of their traditions, which crystallized into the oral and epic poetry best known from Homer.

A new aristocratic social structure, less rigid than the Mycenaean, began to take rootÑin Ionia, as well as in Greece itself. The DoriansÑsome of whom passed from the Peloponnesus to Crete, other islands in the Aegean, southwest Anatolia, and RhodesÑlived in tribal communities led by a hereditary king who commanded in war and served as chief priest. The king heeded the advice of a council of elders, and the warrior class ratified major decisions about war and peace. Hunting and war were the main business of life. The non-Dorian Greeks of Boeotia and elsewhere led a similar existence.

Establishment of Greek City States

In Ionia, where kingship was also the early rule, the refugees remained on the seacoast and quickly organized themselves into cities, probably in order to defend themselves better from the adjacent Near Eastern population, although there must have been considerable cultural interchange between the two peoples. The walled cities, which served as the focus of the surrounding population, began to evolve into city-states (the polis). The defensible city, with its citadel, central shrine, hearth and sacred fire, and marketplace (agora), became the center of government for town and country. One’s city, not one’s village or race, determined one’s political identity. A similar process occurred in Greece itself, though in some areas, such as Arcadia in the center of the Peloponnesus, village life continued; in other areas exceptional or fortunate cities assimilated a relatively large surrounding area. Thus Athens and Sparta absorbed Attica and Laconia, respectively.

The Greeks on both sides of the Aegean early on frequented common shrines. Apollo was worshipped at Delphi, Zeus at Olympia, Apollo and Artemis at Delos. The Greeks celebrated festivals at these shrines with dance, song, and athletics. These meetings reinforced their common identity and prompted them to formulate some basic rules of interstate behavior concerning warfare, religious truces, and the sanctity of heralds or messengers. Delphi became the center of a league that initially comprised only the surrounding peoples but eventually came to include both Athens and Sparta. The oracle at Delphi was much consulted throughout ancient times. In the archaic period it was very influential, fixing the site of prospective colonies and helping to formulate major policies for cities as well as individuals.

The Greek Colonization

Increasing stability and prosperity caused a growth of population; a great wave of colonization ensued between 750 and 500 . Greek culture spread throughout the Mediterranean and even into the southern Ukraine. Markets were opened for Greek oil, wine, and other wares in return for precious metals, timber, grain, and other goods. One major center of colonization was Sicily and southern Italy. Corinth founded Syracuse, the greatest Greek city in the west; Chalcis (modern Khalkis), in Euboea, settled many other cities in the area. The region of the Black Sea was settled from Ionia, Miletus being the chief coloniser. The small island of Thera ( Santorini today ) founded the great kingdom of Cyrene in northeast Libya. Further expansion in Africa was blocked by Carthage; Phoenicia proved impermeable; in Egypt the Greeks were able to establish a commercial emporium, Naucratis, on the Nile delta. Neither Sparta nor Athens were colonial powers.

Aristocracy and Tyranny in Ancient Greece

This was also a time of great social upheaval. The landholding aristocracy, which had already wrested power from the kings, found their own supremacy challenged by those beneath them. People of less-distinguished birth became increasingly dissatisfied with the prevailing aristocratic order and were acquiring power in their own right. The rise of literacy, the increased concentration of economic power in the hands of traders and artisans, and the introduction of the phalanx mass of men fighting in unison in heavy armour, which made discipline and manpower the key element of success in warÑshifted the balance of power to the general citizenry.

By the 7th century , ambitious or sympathetic individuals from the circle of the aristocracy were capitalising on the general discontent, especially in prosperous cities, and establishing tyrannies. Cypselus (d. 625) seized control of Corinth and built a colonial empire, founding cities on the west coast of Greece and modern Albania. Tyrants also arose in Megara, Epidaurus, and Sicyon, just northwest of Corinth. In the Aegean, Polycrates, (d. c.522), tyrant of Samos, made his island a major naval power.


Classical period of Greece

Ca 650 BC there were many turnovers in the leadership of the city-states, since many noble families were overthrown and replaced by tyrants, or one man rulers as the title suggests. The tyrant system, which often was popular, lasted until about 500 BC.

During 550 BC connections with the other countries improved even more. But there was also the new threat of Persia, which was expanding westwards, forcing the Greeks of Asia Minor emigrate. Many moved to the colonies in south Italy, and to the Greek mainland. Athens was beginning to be a powerful city. During Pisistratos, who was considered a tyrant, Athens became an important political and financial center. Until now cities like Corinth, Megara and Aegina had been significant commercial centers, but Athens was now rising in power.

In the 5th-4th century BC. Athens dominated both politically and culturally most of Greece. In this period was created what is called the “golden age of Pericles”. The sciences, theater, sculpture and architecture, and especially Philosophy, are making tremendous progress. During the golden age, the Parthenon and other masterpieces of sculpture and architecture were built. Greek philosophy reached its zenith with philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Anaxagoras, Zeno, etc. Great playwrights such as Euripides, Sophocles, Aristophanes create Immortal works, while great sculptors and architects such as Pheidias, Iktinos, Praxitelis create monuments and statues that will forever remain as the masterpieces of classical Greek civilization.

On the Peloponnese, Sparta was completing its organization, making pacts with other city-states on the peninsula. Argos remained independent, but suffered interior setbacks under its king Kleomenes, who had tried to stretch the Doric reign to Middle Greece. In the west, other important centers were Syracuse, Akragas (Agrigentum), Selinous and Taras (Tarent). From the South of Sicily they had the threat from the Carthages and from the North the Etruscans.

The religion was flourishing everywhere, with the oracle of Delphi and its many visitors and the Eleusinian mysteries in Athens.The first philosophers started gathering knowledge. From Miletus Thales and Anaximander worked, and this influenced amongst others Heraclitus in Efessus and Pythagoras and Xenofanes in South Italy. Pisistratos and his sons gathered scientists and artist at their court and the first dramas were played in Athens.

This was a time when the Greeks came closer together, and what one would call a nationa-listic feeling. Although the city-states were still very much autonomous, people came to realize that they shared the same culture, history, language, religion and also games.

In the beginning of the 5th Century BC the cities in the Ionian part had been destroyed by the Persians, and Greece had to struggle against the Eastern enemy. Athens united the Greeks against the Persians, and managed to free the cities of the coast of Asia Minor, thus controlling the Aegean sea. The feelings towards the orient were hostile, and the different cultures were set against each other: democracy against despotism, freedom against slavery, simplicity against overwhelming luxury. Pindarus with his religious poetry and Aeschylus with his serious strictness were the literary giants.

The classic period 450-300 BC was the most important time in the history of Greece, when Athens became the most powerful city-state. Thanks to its fleet, the Greeks had defeated the Persians, and Athens now had a vast empire. It became the cultural and financial center of Greece, attracting merchants, scientists, philosophers and people of the Arts. Sophocles wrote dramas about the power of the Gods and the religious feelings were depicted in the arts. The Parthenon on the Acropolis was built by Ictinus and Callicrates, the crown of the Greek temples.

Early Athenian and Spartan Development

Athens’s tyranny developed after a long series of troubles. The Athenian noble and Olympic athlete Cylon’s early attempt to establish a tyranny, probably in 632 , ended in failure. The social discontent reflected in his attempt, and perhaps also the sacrilegious murder of his partisans, which brought a curse on the murderers and led to a vendetta, apparently prompted Dracon to draw up and publish a code of laws in 621. Even that proved ineffective, however; the oppression of the poor, some of whom suffered debt-slavery, the exclusion of the middle class from political office, and other factors combined to precipitate a crisis. In 594, Solon was given unique powers as diallakt¼s, or mediator; he canceled debts, abolished debt-slavery, and made wealth the criterion of public office. But his reforms were only temporarily successful; civil strife soon broke out again.

Peisistratus seized the tyranny in 561 by defeating his aristocratic rivals. Though exiled twice, he ended his days as tyrant of Athens in 527, after a continuous rule of 19 years. He was succeeded by his sons Hipparchus and Hippias; the assassination of the former in 514 ended the benign character of the tyranny. In 510, Hippias was expelled from Athens with Spartan assistance. Three years later Cleisthenes established the Athenian democracy, which in many respects fulfilled the tendencies begun by Solon and enforced by Peisistratus.

Despite the modern connotation of the word, tyranny was generally a beneficial stage in the evolution of government. Though the tyrant seized power illegally and ruled extra constitutionally, his power ultimately derived from popular support. The first tyrants centralized the city-state, repressed the aristocracy, fostered commerce and the arts, and brought civic pride to the citizenry. Their heirs, however, ruled despotically and brought about their own destruction. Most tyrants were removed from power by the end of the 6th century, except in Sicily and other areas on the periphery of Greece, where they became monarchs rather than true tyrants.

Tyranny failed to develop at Sparta in archaic times, undoubtedly because of that city’s unique social order. Discontent seems to have arisen by the middle of the 7th century, when Sparta was engaged in the Second Messenian War. While suppressing this rebellion in Messenia, which Sparta had conquered in 735 BC the Spartans effected changes in their constitution. They abolished the right of the people to contradict their leaders, the two kings and the 28-member council of elders. At some point thereafter the power of the five ephors, or overseers, was increased at the expense of the power of the kings. The Spartans also instituted a sweeping social reform, which they attributed to Lycurgus, facilitating the virtually total subordination of the citizenry to the military demands of the state. Helots, or serfs, supplied the Spartans with their material needs, and the use of money was forbidden. By the middle of the 6th century, after taking the southeast portion of the Peloponnesus from Argos, Sparta began to form a series of alliances with other city-states and localities, which it turned into a league under its leadership. Sparta’s policy from 550 BC was to oppose and overthrow the tyrannies. This policy was generally successful.

Persian Wars

A threat to Greek liberty arose in the last half of the 6th century when Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, defeated Croesus in 546 BC and conquered his kingdom of Lydia, in Anatolia. The subjugation of Ionia, already begun by Croesus, entered its final phase. The Ionians, who became tributary to Cyrus and his successors, Cambyses II and Darius I, rebelled in 499 BC. They were granted token aid, which was swiftly withdrawn, by Athens and Eretria, but nevertheless struggled for six years until the Persians sacked Miletus and gained command of the sea.

Darius, alleging Athenian participation in the revolt, dispatched an army across the Aegean to conquer Athens. After Athens won a splendid victory in the Battle of Marathon in 490, a new expedition, on a grander scale, was readied by Darius’s son, Xerxes I. It too was defeated, in the Great Persian War of 480-479 BC. Though a small band of Spartans led by King Leonidas was destroyed at the narrow pass of Thermopylae, a sea battle fought simultaneously off Artemesium, the northern tip of Euboea, resulted in the destruction of a considerable portion of Xerxes’ fleet. The Greeks withdrew to the isthmus of Corinth while the Persians sacked Athens. Later in the same year the Greeks annihilated Xerxes’ fleet at Salamis; in 479 BC, they destroyed his land army at Plataea, in Boeotia. The battle of Mycale, on the southern coast of Anatolia, opened up Ionia to the Greeks. Athens continued the Ionian war, liberated the Greeks, and, in 478 BC organized the Delian League. The Greeks always remembered the defeat of Xerxes as their finest achievement.

Athenian-Spartan Rivalry

The 5th century also was marked by a great conflict between Athens and Sparta, the strongest powers in Greece and the proponents of two different systems of government and society progressively radical democracy and oligarchy, respectively. By the middle of the century Athens had used its mighty naval force to transform the Delian League into an empire. Athens’s new prosperity and pride in its achievements, particularly under the leadership of Pericles (460-429 BC) led to an outpouring of creativity, especially in drama, and allowed the city to adorn itself with public buildings of unsurpassed beauty, such as the Parthenon, begun in 447.

In the 450s, while Athens was attempting to deprive Persia of Egypt, it entered into a sporadically fought and inconclusive war with the Peloponnesians for the possession of Megara and Aegina. Sparta was largely inactive in this war, though it fought and defeated the Athenians in the Battle of Tanagra (c.457). Sparta was probably distracted (or left weakened) by the great helot revolt that had erupted in 464 and lasted for ten (or possibly only four) years.

The war ended in the winter of 446 BC with the so-called Thirty Years’ Peace. The peace was broken in 431, however, when the Peloponnesian War began; it was to last until 404. This destructive conflict, which is chronicled by Thucydides, brought revolution to many cities and resulted in increasingly brutal acts perpetrated by both sides. After the Spartans invaded Attica and sought to incite Athens’s subjects to rebellion, Athens retaliated by raiding the Peloponnesian coast. The Athenians sought to retain control of the sea and attacked Corinthian settlements in northwestern Greece. After Athens’s disastrous defeat in Sicily in 413, Sparta itself became a naval power and gradually drove Athens from the sea. Under siege, Athens capitulated in 404. It consented to the destruction of its fortifications and gave up its navy and empire. Meanwhile, Persia had succeeded in reasserting its presence in Ionia by financing the Spartan fleet.
Spartan and Theban Ascendancy

The Spartans, now leaders of the Greeks, soon aroused widespread enmity by their high-handed rule. In 395 , Thebes and Corinth, which had been fierce enemies of Athens in the Peloponnesian War, formed a coalition with Argos to wage war against Sparta. To maintain its predominance, Sparta had to bargain with Persia. In 386 the Persians dictated the so-called King’s Peace, which asserted Persia’s ancestral claim to Ionia and acknowledged, in exchange, Spartan supremacy in Greece. Nevertheless, Thebes defeated Sparta at Leuctra in 371. The Theban army under Epaminondas then drove into the Peloponnesus and liberated Messenia from Sparta in 366 BC devastating blow to the Spartans. Meanwhile, the Athenians partially regained their naval leadership by forming the Second Athenian Confederacy in 377. The confederacy was too decentralized to permit Athens to regain its earlier dominance, however; within 20 years it virtually disintegrated.

Rise of the Macedonian Kingdom

A monarchy in the north soon arose to dictate the fortunes of the Greeks. The brilliant statesman and warrior Philip II became regent of Macedonia in 359 and its king in 356. Under his leadership this newly centralized kingdom gradually overwhelmed the disunited land. By easy stages Philip advanced into central Greece, winning control of Delphi as a result of the Third Sacred War (355Ð47) against Phocis. In 338 he destroyed a Theban and Athenian army on the field of Chaeronea. He imposed a short-lived federal union on the Greeks and made himself their commander in chief in anticipation of a war against Persia. He was assassinated in 336, however, before the war could be fought.

The defeat of the Greek city-states at Chaeronea ended an era of the Ancient Greek history. Neither Sparta, Athens, nor any other city-state had proved capable of uniting Greece under its leadership. Intense mutual jealousies, sharpened by the egoistic abuse each polis dealt the others whenever circumstances permitted, made unity a hopeless dream.

Macedonian period and Great Alexander

The decline and loss of sovereignty of Athens takes place at the end of the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC. The 4th BC century saw the development of the Macedonians as a new force in the Greek world. Philip II, King of Macedonia and his son Alexander played a leading role.

Macedonia expanded into Greek territory and in Athens the Macedonians had a great enemy, the orator Demosthenes. Eventually the Greek city states recognized Philip II as commander. He started preparing for war against Persia, but was assassinated before he started.

In 388 BC. Eighteen-year-old Alexander led his Macedonian cavalry to victory at the battle of Chaeronia. The 4th century was to be the time of the Macedonians, since the state in the north grew stronger under its king Philip II, who became ruler in 359 BC. Philip had the vision to unite Greece since he saw the country’s potential if united. It was his son, Alexander, that made the Greek culture and civilization ruler of the then known world.

During the campaign for the liberation of the Greek states of Asia Minor from the Persians, there was unrest between Greeks and Macedonians in Thebes.
Alexander conquered Thebes and, as a warning to other Greeks, destroyed the city, leaving only the temples standing. Eventually the Greeks and Macedonians joined forces and, led by Alexander, conquered Persia, Egypt and areas up to the Indus River. This vast empire radically changed the political and cultural situation in the then known world.

The Hellenistic times

After the early death of Alexander at the age of thirty-three his vast empire was divided among his generals and although the political entity that was created did not continue, his legacy was a single economic and cultural world extending from the Straits of Gibraltar to the Indus River in the Indies.

This period was called the Hellenistic Age (3rd 1st century BC) the Greek city-states had lost their position in power and prestige, although they remain self-governing and independent of each other. During the Hellenistic Age the sciences and arts flourished .

In 146 BC, Greece was conquered by the Romans and the country was absorbed by their expanding empire. The occupation of Greek territory by Rome was not entirely negative, the admiration of Greek culture by the Roman emperors was great and there was respect and admiration for the Greek cities, especially Athens.

Rome was generally culturally influenced by the Greeks to the point that today we can talk worldwide about the Greco-Roman civilization that was created during this period.

The Apostle Paul in the first century BC. played a decisive role in the spread of Christianity throughout Greece. In the 4th century AD. Constantine the Great decided to move the capital of the Roman Empire away from Rome to Constantinople. This shift of the center of gravity to the eastern part of the empire heralded the beginning of the Byzantine period in Greece.

Roman Period

After the defeat of the last Hellenistic kingdom, that of Ptolemy, Greece was overthrown by the Romans. The Greeks, during the three great civil wars of Rome (48, 42 and 31 BC), sided with the defeated faction (Pompey, Brutus, M. Antonios respectively), partly out of necessity, but in some degree and because the losers preached (in words at least) that they were fighting for the freedom of the world. However, the victors (Caesar, Octavian) did not punish the Greek cities, which had fallen into a miserable state due to the wars, but instead treated them.

Athens especially maintained for centuries until Constantine and his first successors, the ancient regime and the successors of Augustus, called Athens “city free and ally” enjoying all the relevant rights. Tiberius even united the provinces of Achaia and Macedonia with the imperial province of Moisia, so that they too could have the comfort of the Caesarean provinces. This provision was maintained until the years of Claudius, when it was abolished in 44 AD. Documentation Roman Period

Byzantine Period 300 AD -1453 AD

A university is established in Constantinople and the third ecumenical council of Ephesus and the fourth ecumenical council of Chalcedon take place. It becomes the first schism of eastern and western church. During the reign of Justinian, the “Attitude of Nika” is manifested and the Hagia Sophia is inaugurated. The ecumenical council is taking place in Istanbul. The Persians occupy Jerusalem and take the Holy Cross. Heraklios defeats them and takes it back. The Ecumenical Council takes place in Constantinople. The spread of Islam The first phase of the iconoclasm begins and Leo III issues a decree against the icons. With the seventh ecumenical council, this phase ends with a decree in favor of the images. The second phase begins after the Istanbul meeting of 815. A new meeting in 843 ends the iconoclasm and restores the images. The Byzantine Empire clashed for a number of years with the Bulgarians, who were defeated by Basil II .

1000-1250 AD
The Crusades The Bulgarians are defeated and subdued. It is founded in Istanbul Law School. There is a schism between the east and the west church. Byzantium loses Italy. The first crusade begins and Jerusalem is conquered. The Normans attack and plunder Greece. It is the second crusade that failed. During the Third Crusade, Richard I of England occupied Cyprus. Alexios III incites the Second Crusade. The Latins occupy Constantinople and the Latin Empire is founded.

1250-1400 AD
The Mongols conquer Asia The Palaeologan dynasty dominates and takes care of the revival of Hellenism. During this period we have uprisings in Central Asia and the gradual domination of new conquerors in parts of Greece. Byzantium is shaken by the “Hesychastic disputes” and the revolution of the “Zealots” takes place. The Turks began to occupy parts of the Byzantine Empire.

1400-1500 AD
Typography and geographical discoveries. Byzantium recaptured Thessaloniki, while at the same time in the Ottoman state there was a decline. Then the Turks unsuccessfully besieged Istanbul. However, they occupy Thessaloniki and Ioannina. On May 29, 1453, they occupied the city and overthrew the Byzantine Empire. Then they occupy the Peloponnese, Lesvos and Samos. Peace is signed between Venetians and Turks. Cyprus is occupied by the Venetians and Nafpaktos is conquered by the Turks.

Documentation Byzantine History

1760-1800 AD The Greek Revoloution

The Greeks awoke spiritually and began to organize, while at the same time the revolutionary movements multiplied. Russo-Turkish war breaks out and the Greeks revolt. The Küçük-Kainartz συν Treaty is signed between Russia and Turkey. The Ionian state is founded. Revolutionary leaflets and the “Charter” of Rigas Feraios are circulating.The birth of industrial power Local uprisings abound in Greece, as revolutionary leaflets circulate everywhere. Hellenism is preparing for the great moment of the revolution. The Friendly Society is founded in Odessa, while the English occupy the Ionian islands. On March 25, 1821, the Greek Revolution broke out in the Peloponnese. Almost a year later, the Constitution of Epidaurus is voted.

1825-1850 AD

The revolution spread throughout Greece, while the Turks were supported by the Egyptians. The Turkish fleet is defeated in the naval battle of Navarino. The Third National Assembly elects I. Kapodistrias as Governor. The Treaty of London designates Otto as king, while the Treaty of Constantinople defines the country’s new borders. The first university is founded, while a revolution breaks out in Crete. Political life is intense and a new conservative constitution is being passed.

Read moreOttoman rule and the Greek war of Independence  

Economic Development 1850-1875 AD

Greece is entering a phase of economic development. Otto is dethroned and a new king is appointed, the Danish prince George A. A new constitution is adopted which establishes the reigning democracy as a state. This period can be characterized as a period of political instability.

1875-1900 AD
The age of imperialism The “principle of the declared” is established. Great Britain acquires the administration of Cyprus. Turkey cedes to Greece Thessaly and the region of Arta. During this period the opening of the isthmus of Corinth begins. Many public works are carried out and the armed forces are being reorganized. In 1896 the Olympic Games are revived. Crete, finally, acquires an autonomous status.

Greece in the first World War and the Balkan wars 1900-1925 AD

Europe at war.  During this period we have changes of governments, with the final predominance of the policy of El. Venizelou. The two Balkan Wars and the First World War take place. Greater Greece of the two continents and the five seas is created. But the Greeks are defeated and we have the Asia Minor Catastrophe. In 1924 we have the First Hellenic Republic.

Greece in World War 2 and the cold war 1940 -1950 

The crisis and the economic recovery. This period is characterized by political instability. Dominant events are the Second World War, the civil war and at the end of the period the integration of the Dodecanese in Greece.The Cold War,  At this time the Zurich Agreement was signed, with which Cyprus became an independent democracy within the framework of the British Commonwealth. Political unrest erupts in Greece with the coup d’etat of the colonels in 1967-1974. Read more about the modern Greek state