The History of Greece
3200-1100 BC
Cycladic Civilization
2600-1200 BC
1600-1100 BC

100-800 BC
Dark Ages of Greece

800-500 BC
Growth of City-States
Rise of City-States Classical Period Persian Wars
Peloponnesian War Rise of Philip of Macedon Roman Period Byzantine Period
Ottoman Occupation War of Independence Modern Times After World War II

The Cycladic Civilization (3200-1100 BC)
The beginning of a permanent human activity in Cyclades dates to at least the 5th millenium BC, however, such human occupancy may be supportable as far back as the 8th millenium B.C or approximately 10,000 years ago. Remnants of the Cycladic culture have been found in most all of the Cycladic islands, even in the smallest ones. Because of the lack of fertile soil, settlements appear to have been small in size, with a continuing island flair with fishing as a significant economic activity. Trade with the huge island of Crete seems to be at the center of the evolving economic activities of the early Cycladic culture.

Greece experienced significant Stone Age settlements. According to some archaeological remains in Thessaly, the earliest stages of settlement are from the Palaeolithic era, between 11.000-3.000 BC, when a population coming from the east (and, as some believe, from Central Europe) started to develop stone tools and basic agricultural activities.

The excavations and discoveries made have proved that the civilization in Greece became more complex between 3500 and 3000 B.C, with larger villages and a social organization turning from the tribalism to chiefdoms with the formation of an elite group. In the meanwhile, Thessaly, Anatolia, and the islands of the Aegean and Crete were colonized around 6000 B.C. and extensive agricultural communities appeared.

These civilizations fished, produced clay pottery and started sea expeditions. These regions offered perfect conditions for human settings: olive trees, grape vines, fertile plains, forests, water… These conditions attracted immigrants and traders from all the Mediterranean. At the same period, trace of religion appeared: clay figurines of female and animals were placed in sanctuaries and graves.

Many of the key locations in the Cycladic Islands were coastal ports and were on trade between Crete and the rest of the Greece. These settlements date back to the time of the Cycladic Civilization and include those in the islands of Melos, Paros, Kea, Thera (also known as Santorini), Therasia, Delos, Tinos, Syros, Sifnos and Amorgos. Throughout the majority of the Cycladic Civilization, the influence of Crete on trace and culture was strong. In the beginning of the later Cycladic civilization, the Cyclade Islands were generally influenced by the domination of the Minoan sea empire.

The Minoan Civilization (2600-1200 BC)
The first settlers of the large Greek island of Crete probably came from western Asia Minor or modern day Turkey well before 3000 B.C. Ultimately Crete became a thriving sea power. The Cretans engendered trade with the older civilizations of Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia and Asia. Because of these influences and her own diligence and creativity, Crete produced a distinctive and highly advanced civilization.

The Cretan civilization was principally excavated by the English archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans. In 1900, Evans began his excavations of Knossos, the leading city of ancient Crete. Evans discovered amazing multistory buildings that he called the “Palace of Minos.” Evans named the archaeological find as a tribute to legendary king of Crete. Because of this, the civilization of Crete has been referred to as the Minoan Civilization. Evans relied heavily not only on the archaeology of the main edifices at Knossus, but he also drew heavily on the chronology on the residue of pottery found at Knossos. This is because different styles of pottery often provide an accurate record of the successive stages of civilization at a site like Knossus or other sites in ancient Greece.

A spectacular palace setting created during the Minoan period was found at Phaistos. The complex of the palaces at Phaistos, which were built in the shadows of spectacular snow-capped mountains, were repeatedly destroyed by earthquakes. However, they were consistently reconstructed by the enterprising Minoans.

Around 1700, Knossos and Phaistos were destroyed by earthquakes. Shortly after these disasters, the palaces of Knossos and Phaistos were reconstructed again and the Minoan sea empire or thalassocracy was founded. Minoan military bases were placed on the islands of Kythira, Thera (Santorini), Melos, Kea and Aegina, as well as, in Rhodes and Miletus.

Around this time, the influence and importance of the Greek royal house in Mycenae and in western Peloponnese was being felt. The Minoan stronghold at Knossos had good relations and trade with other powers in the Mediterranean. In Crete, art is beginning to soar with a more naturalistic formal art in sculpture and dance. Further, frescoes such as scenes of gardens, are beginning to attain a status of high quality. However, around 1600 B.C. the palaces of Knossos and Phaestos were destroyed again, most likely by subsequent earthquakes which frequently ravaged the Mediterranean region.

Crete was reconstructed again from the ruins of these earthquakes and four palaces were stellar at this time, the palaces of Knossos, Phaistos, Malia and Zakros. Most of these palaces were used for the exchange of products with the mainland, where now the Mycenaean civilization, which later launched the Trojan War, was thriving. The relations with other Greeks, particularly the Greeks of Mycenae, appeared peaceful.

Around 1450 Zakros was destroyed by fire, as the palaces at Malia, and Phaistos had now lost it's importance. Perhaps these facts have to do with the volcanic disasters in Thera. Around 1400 B.C, Knossos was destroyed again, perhaps by another earthquake, and the Minoan palaces were not reconstructed to their earlier grandeur thereafter. Predominant influence on Crete was assumed by the mainland Mycenean culture.

The Bronze Age brought numerous changes to Greece and the Greek Islands. The art of metalworking arrived from the east around 3.000 B.C. The use of Bronze in tool making and weaponry was a rebirth for the civilization settled in Greece. The second millennium B.C gave birth to some great civilizations: the Minoan on Crete, the Mycenaean on the Mainland and the Cycladic in the islands of Centre Aegean.

The period is characterized by a rapid growth of population and a rapid development of trade. The Cyclades islands, located between Crete and the mainland, were an important trade centre between Europe and Asia. These islands offered safe harbor in bridging the gaps in what may have otherwise been treacherous travel for early sailors. The Cycladic civilization developed rapidly in all domains: trade, politics and culture with impressive frescoes and marble figurines.

The Minoan civilization, named after the reputedly mythical King Minos, developed in Crete in 2.600 B.C. Remains of large villages were found as well as sculpture and pottery. Around 2.000 B.C., the Minoans had a flourishing economic, political, social and cultural organization. The Minoan period was characterized by important trade activities and the construction of impressive palaces such as Knossos, Malia and Phaistos. During this period, the first writing in the Greek World, called Linear A, appeared for the first time in Crete. The Minoan also developed a strong fleet and had power and influence over all the Aegean while establishing many colonies in various places.

According to the remains that were found on the island and the lack of defensive walls, the Minoan civilization, an obviously strong seapower, must have had peaceful or friendly relations with the other civilizations of the Aegean. However, the Minoan civilization disappeared suddenly around 1.500 B.C., possibly due to the huge volcanic eruption of the island of Santorini. It is said that the eruption has caused an enormous earthquake and huge tidal waves.

It is after that period, around 1.200 B.C. that the rival Mycenaean civilization took control of the trade network of Crete.

The Mycenaean Civilization (1600-1100 BC)
As brilliantly described in the Ancient Greek Thesaursus:
Greeks first settled on the Greek mainland about 2000 B.C. Geography played a large part in the formation of their society, as it does in all civilizations. Mountain ranges divide Greece into many small valleys. The resulting pattern of settlement, so different from that of Egypt, encouraged the Greeks to develop independent political communities without the direction—or oppression—of a central ruler. The broken coastline, indented with countless small harbors, invited the people to become sailors, traders, and warriors at sea. By 1600 enterprises by sea had transformed a number of the independent Greek communities into wealthy, fortified states. Chief among them was Mycenae; therefore the years from 1600 to 1100 B.C. are often called the Mycenaean Age.

Fabulous grave discoveries were made at Mycaneae on the mainland of Greece that reflect that the Mycenaeans were also wealthy like the Minoans on Crete but were considerably more warlike. Nonetheless, the island culture on Crete apparently did not decline primarily because of war but went downhill after the devastating volcanic eruption on Thera which significantly erodeded the economic and trading activities of the Minoans on Crete.

The height of Mycenean culture and wealth followed the volcanic catastrophe on Santorini and the decline of the Minoan civilization. The Mycenean civilization had thus supplanted the Minonan civilization as the predominant sphere of influence on the Greek Islands. The city-states during this period were probably generally independent. The only time these cities appear to have united was during the Trojan war. The origin of the Trojans is not totally clear, but pottery suggests a close trading and ties to the Greeks. One layer of the city of Troy, in modern Turkey, was destroyed by an enemy about 1250. In addition to the very specific evidence portrayed in the Illiad, archaeological evidence suggests that Homer's account of a successful Greek expedition against Troy is based on substantial historical truth.

As described in the Ancient Greek Thesaursus:
The war against Troy was the last feat of the Mycenaean Age. About 1300 or a little later, various marauders began to attack Greek ships and even mainland Greece. The identity of these warriors is still uncertain. Historians usually call them sea-peoples, and their homes were probably somewhere in Asia Minor. Whoever they were, they made trading by sea so dangerous that the export of Mycenaean pottery virtually ended. The raids by sea were temporarily destructive. But much more significant was a series of attacks by land, lasting roughly from 1200 to 1100. Near 1100, Mycenae itself was overrun and destroyed.

It is not completely clear who these land invaders were, however, ancient Greek tradition spoke of the "return of the sons of Heracles (Hercules)," which apparently meant the return of Greeks speaking the Doric dialect of Greek to their ancestral home in the Peloponnese. The same suggestions worked out a date for this event, at about 1100 B.C.

The Mycenaean civilization took it name after the discovery of Mycenae, the first site were this culture was identified. As shown by the excavations, the Mycenaean society was formed by an elite group organized around the judicial and executive authority of a single figure, with varying degrees of power. Their citadels were fortified with the “Cyclopean” walls, called this way because Greeks believed that only Cyclopes could have lift stones that large. The Mycenaean society had a great military strength and therefore conquered Crete and took the control of the Minoan trade network.

The Mycenaeans also used a written language called Linear B, a development of the former Minoan Linear A, used only for register the flow of goods and produce into the palaces. Between 1250 and 1150 B.C., a combination of peasant rebellions and internal warfare destroyed most of the Mycenaean palace and the Mycenaean civilization disappeared.

3200-1100 BC
Cycladic Civilization
2600-1200 BC
1600-1100 BC

100-800 BC
Dark Ages of Greece

800-500 BC
Growth of City-States
Rise of City-States Classical Period Persian Wars
Peloponnesian War Rise of Philip of Macedon Roman Period Byzantine Period
Ottoman Occupation War of Independence Modern Times After World War II

The Dark Ages of Greece (1100-800 BC)
The Dark Ages of Greece dramatically illustrate the historical principal that cultures can decline and the future may not be as prosperous as the past. The period from 1100 to 800 B.C. is known as the Dark Age of Greece. As described in the Ancient Greek Thesaursus: Throughout the area there are signs of a sharp cultural decline. Some sites, formerly inhabited, were now abandoned. Pottery was much less elegant; burials were made without expensive ornaments; and the construction of massive buildings came to a halt. Even the art of writing in Linear B vanished. The palace-centered bureaucracies no longer existed, but of the political machinery that replaced them we know almost nothing.

Still, the cultural decline was not quite a cultural break. Farming, weaving, and other technological skills survived; pottery, though it was for a while much less gracious, revived and developed the so-called Geometric style. Nor was the Greek language submerged. Many Greeks, displaced from their homes, found safety by settling in other parts of Greece.

In a larger sense, the shattering of the monarchic pattern in the Mycenaean Age can be viewed as a liberating and constructive event. We cannot show that the kings and dynasties in Greece were dependent on or were imitating kings in the ancient Near East, but the two systems of monarchy resembled each other. If the Mycenaean kings had survived, mainland Greece might have developed as Anatolia did, with strong monarchies and priests who interpreted and refined religious thought in ways that would justify the divine right of kings. Self-government within Greek states might not have emerged for centuries if it appeared at all. But the invasions of the twelfth century, in which the Dorians at least played a part, ended forever the domination of the palace-centered kings.

The civilizations that flourished during the Bronze Age ended in an abrupt way during the 12th century B.C. when a Greek speaking civilization, the Dorians, came from the North of Greece.

They scattered the Mycenaean population and decentralized the Mycenaean established control system. Agriculture, industry and trade activities were divided in some hundred of villages.

The disruption that followed was of great importance. The economy, the politics and the culture declined and all the trade networks with the Near East collapsed. The art of writing also disappeared and the only literary work of that period is the amazing Trojan War epic poem, the Iliad, written by the famous Homer.

This period was characterized as the "Dark Ages" following the decline and fall of the Mycenean kingdoms after the middle of the 12th century, partially because the facts for this period were very poor. It is also sometimes referred to as the Geometric period from the geometric shapes at the decoration of the vases made during that time. There was a significant migration of peoples during this period both to the Greek mainland as well as Greek islands in the Aegean Sea. Greek peoples that previously inhabited mountainous and barren areas in the periphery migrated toward fertile areas and population centers. This transformation was a precursor to the formation of the Greek city-states that would shine so brightly in the Classical period which would soon follow.

This age was also referred to as the Homeric Age which existed roughly from 1200 – 800 BC. The Greece that we know today was roughly formulated during this period and it was the first period of Greece’s history. During this era, not only was the Greek nation formed, but the foundations were put in place for many of the social and political developments throughout the ages. The era was also forever etched in history with the creation of the two greatest epic novels in world history – Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.

The Ancient Greek Thesaursus describes the Homeric period as:
By 1200 BC the Greeks had occupied most of the northern sections of the peninsula and a few scattered locations along the coast. At first they filtered in slowly, bringing their herds and flocks with them and settling in the more sparsely populated areas. Many of these early immigrants seem to have belonged to the group which later came to be known as Ionians. Another division the Achaeans pushed further south, conquered Mycenae and Troy, and ultimately gained dominion over Crete. Soon after 1200 the great Dorian invasions began and reached their climax about two centuries later. Some of the Dorians settled in central Greece, but most of them took to the sea, conquering the eastern sections of the Peloponnesus and the southern islands of the Aegean. About 1000 BC they captured Knossos, the chief center of the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete.

Whether Achaeans, Ionians, or Dorians, all of the Greeks in the Homeric Age had essentially the same culture, which was comparatively primitive. Not until the very last century of the period was there any general knowledge of writing. We must therefore envisage the Homeric Greeks as a preliterate people during the greater part of their history, with intellectual accomplishments that extended no farther than development of folk songs, ballads, and short epics sung and embellished by bards as they wandered from one village to another. A large part of this material was finally woven into a great epic cycle by one or more poets and put into written form in the ninth century BC. Though not all of the poems of this cycle have come down to us, the two most important, the Iliad and the Odyssey, provide us with our richest store of information about the ideals and customs of the Homeric Age.

The political institutions of the Homeric Greeks were also exceedingly primitive. Each little community of villages was independent of external control, but political authority was so tenuous that it would not be too much to say that the state scarcely existed at all. The king could not make or enforce laws or administer justice. He received no remuneration of any kind, but had to cultivate his farm for a living the same as any other citizen. Practically his only functions were military and priestly. He commanded the army in time of war and offered sacrifices to keep the gods on the good side of the community. Although each little group of villages had its council of nobles and assembly of warriors, neither of these bodies had any definite membership or status as an organ of government. The duties of the former were to advise and assist the king and prevent him from usurping despotic powers. The functions of the latter were to ratify declarations of war and assent to the conclusion of peace. Almost without exception custom took the place of law, and the administration of justice was private. Even willful murder was punishable only by the family of the victim. While it is true that disputes were sometimes submitted to the king for settlement, he acted in such cases merely as an arbitrator, not as a judge. As a matter of fact, the political consciousness of the Greeks of this time was so poorly developed that they had no conception of government as an indispensable agency for the preservation of social order. When Odysseus, king of Ithaca, was absent for twenty years, no regent was appointed in his place, and no session of the council or assembly was held. No one seemed to think that the complete suspension of government, even for so long a time, was a matter of any critical importance.

The Growth of City-States (800 – 500 BC)
About 800 B.C., the need for protection became more pronounced. Therefore, the village communities which had been centered around clan groups underwent a transformation to larger political units which would ultimately evolve into the Greek City-State. A central feature of these City-States was the acropolis, which means “high city.” The acropolis was a citadel built on a high location. I allowed the citizenry of the area to have protection against an invasion or siege. Therefore, a city would grow up around the acropolis. This settlement became a political and commercial center and various forms of government would emerge to manage the affairs of the city and its environs, the state. One form of government that arose from this evolving process was democracy. The largest and most prominent of these city-states were Athens and Sparta. They would have radically different forms of government and spheres of influence.

Generally Greek city-states experienced similar political transformations. They started out as monarchies. During the eighth century BC, they were generally changed into oligarchies. Around a century later, these oligarchies were overthrown by dictators as this became the period of "tyrants." Some ruled oppressively but the period of tyranny was counter to the basic essence of being Greek. The evolution process continued to where in the sixth and fifth centuries, other forms of governing arose that provided more freedom and responsibility for the Greeks. Certain city-states, like Athens, adopted forms of democracy. Other city states turned to a form of government called "timocracies" based on property ownership for participation.

These political changes were based on a growing ownership of land and economic prosperity in the region. As people became wealthy, they were not satisfied with having their politics dictated to them by kings or tyrants. This period was also characterized by a dispersion of people seeking more land and expansion of trade.

Greece has two geologic and geographic phenomena that shaped its development and evolution. Because of its proximity to the sea, no place in Greece is more than one hundred kilometers from the sea. Greece is also eighty percent mountains and is therefore was relatively poor in agricultural resources. The increase in population around this time period, plus the natural seafaring essence of the Greeks led to colonization of the known world. In lieu of importing food, the Greeks solved problems created by an expanding population by exporting people to other lands.

As land began scarce, settlements were increased in the islands and on the coast in the area of the Aegean and Ionian Seas. But this was not enough and a period of colonization occurred. Some of the colonies founded ended up being more famous than their founder as in the case of Megara’s foundation of Byzantium, later known as Constantinople and now, Istanbul.

The Greeks colonized extensively and by the end of this period had spread over an enormous area. Greek colonies could be found from the northern, western, and southern shores of the Black Sea through Western Asia Minor and Greece proper, including the Aegean islands, Sicily and southern Italy, and continuing west along both shores of the Mediterranean to Cyrene in Libya, to Marseilles, and to Spanish coastal sites. Wherever they went, the Greeks settled near the sea. Among the settlements founded by the Greeks are some of the great modern port cities like Istanbul, Naples, and Syracuse.

A positive externality of Greek colonization was a renewal of trade throughout the Mediterranean region. Often the colonies were strategically located and the colonists were able to inject raw materials into the trading pipeline, thus allowing for expanded production of finished goods. As is true today, prosperity for the Greeks was a natural consequence of the expanded trade made possible by the extensive colonization of the Greeks.

Trade also brought other benefits to the Greeks by bringing them in close contact with other cultures and practices. One of these great benefits was the alphabet. Around 750 BC, the Greeks began to trade with the Phoenicians, a people generally living along the southern coast of the Mediterranean, who utilized a Semitic script called the alphabet (from the first two characters, aleph, "ox," and beth, "house"). The Greeks incorporated this Phoenician alphabet into their own language. At some later time poets used the alphabet to preserve the Homeric poems, which originally were passed down as oral epics. Ultimately large regions of the world use a derivative of the Phoenician alphabet as transformed by the Greeks, that being either the Latin alphabet in the West or the Cyrillic alphabet in the East.

The Ancient Greek Thesaursus describes this period of economic transformation as: The consequence was a veritable economic revolution in the Greek world. Commerce and industry grew to be leading pursuits, the urban population increased, and wealth assumed new forms. The rising middle class now joined with dispossessed farmers in an attack upon the landholding oligarchy. The natural fruit of the bitter class conflicts that ensued was dictatorship. By encouraging extravagant hopes and promising relief from chaos, ambitious demagogues attracted enough popular support to enable them to ride into power in defiance of constitutions and laws. Ultimately, however, dissatisfaction with tyrannical rule and the increasing economic power and political consciousness of the common citizens led to the establishment of democracies or liberal oligarchies.

Greek colonies became independent Greek city-states. In spite of this independence, often the founding city-state would look to its colonies for support in certain areas. Such support was not always forthcoming and this led to conflict in the Greek world.

The Rise of the City-State
In the 8th century B.C., in Ancient Greece, the Dorian’s rule declined and the states started to re-emerge. Two ports, Argos and Corinth started to flourish, and began trades with the Near East and a local production. A wealthy elite class therefore emerged. These two ports were specialized in the manufacture of luxury goods. In trade contacts with the Phoenicians, they adopted their alphabet and other innovations that accelerated the changes in the Greek civilization.

Many Greek colonies based on metal trade were founded all around the Mediterranean Basin and the Black Sea and the Greek culture and military power started slowly to establish. In order to find additional land for agriculture, Corinth later sent out settlers to Corfu and Sicily. More than 150 colonies were established.

This period is characterized by the growth of the city state, the “polis”. The two important city-states that began to develop were Sparta and Athens. Sparta was the first city that organised itself with a rigid social structure and a government that included an assembly that represented every citizen. In the meanwhile, a largest polis appeared which also included several other regions of Attica, and was named Athens. The social system of Athens was based on wealth rather than aristocratic birth. Although in different ways, Sparta and Athens both included all citizens in their political system.

During this period, inter-state relations started to grow from an economical, political and religious point of view. During religious or athletic festivals such as the Olympic Games, a political ramification was established between the city states and Greek people developed an early sense of common identity and referred to themselves as Hellenes. All the foreigners were called “barbaroi”, barbarians.

3200-1100 BC
Cycladic Civilization
2600-1200 BC
1600-1100 BC

100-800 BC
Dark Ages of Greece

800-500 BC
Growth of City-States
Rise of City-States Classical Period Persian Wars
Peloponnesian War Rise of Philip of Macedon Roman Period Byzantine Period
Ottoman Occupation War of Independence Modern Times After World War II

The Classical Period
Greece reached a pinnacle in relation to the rest of the world during the Classical Period. The Classical Period of Greece History (6th -4th centuries BC) was the Golden Age and the most famous, worldwide; during this period lived the greatest philosophers and mathematicians. This Age saw the construction of the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens. It was also unfortunately characterized also by political and military tensions between the two superpowers in the Greek world, Athens and Sparta.

The cultural accomplishments brightened not only the mainland Greece but had tremendous impact on the growth and development of the islands. The conflict, most prominently the twenty-seven year Peloponnesian War, between Athens and Sparta, was the first truly world war, drawing in the entire Greek world and other peoples as well. Alliances and conflicts in the Greek Islands helped shape the outcome of that war and the future of Greece for centuries to come.

Athens began her history under conditions quite different from found in her main rival Sparta. As described in the Ancient Greek Thesaursus, “Attica had not been the scene of an armed invasion or of bitter conflict between opposing races. The Ionian penetration of that area was gradual and largely peaceful. As a result, no military caste imposed its rule upon a vanquished people. Furthermore, the wealth of Attica consisted of mineral deposits and splendid harbors rather than agricultural resources. Athens, consequently, never remained a predominantly agrarian state but rapidly developed a prosperous trade and a culture essentially urban.”

However, many in the middle and lower rungs of the Athenian economy became overburdened with debt in efforts to survive economically. This led to outcries for governmental reform which were eventually made leading to the creation of a more democratic form of government. These reforms resulted from the appointment of Solon in 594 B.C. as a magistrate with absolute power to effect change. The measures Solon enacted provided for both political and economic adjustments benefitting the poor farmers by canceling existing mortgages, prohibiting enslavement for debt in the future, and limiting the amount of land any one individual could nnyaown. Solon also introduced a new system of coinage designed to give Athens an advantage in foreign trade. Solon also imposed penalties for idleness and ordered every man to teach his son a trade. Solon offered full privileges of citizenship to foreign craftsmen who would become permanent residents of the country.

Although, very important, these reforms led to discontent and war, and were not enough to keep Athens from slipping into a state of tyranny around 560 BC. The tyrants reversed many of the reforms of Solon.

The second tyrant, Hippias was overthrown by a group of nobles with aid from Sparta in 510 BC. Conflict among various factions persisted until Cleisthenes, an intelligent aristocrat, enlisted the support of the masses to eliminate his rivals from the scene. Having promised concessions to the people as a reward for their help, he proceeded to reform the government in so sweeping a fashion that he has since been known as the father of Athenian democracy. He greatly enlarged the citizen population by granting full rights to all freemen who resided in the country at that time. He established a new Council of Five Hundred and made it the chief organ of government with power to prepare measures for submission to the assembly and with supreme control over executive and administrative functions.

As described by the Ancient Greek Thesaursus: Cleisthenes also expanded the authority of the assembly, giving it power to debate and pass or reject the measures submitted by the Council, to declare war, to appropriate money, and to audit the accounts of retiring magistrates. Lastly, Cleisthenes is believed to have instituted the device of ostracism, whereby any citizen who might be dangerous to the state could be sent into honorable exile for a ten-year period. The device was quite obviously intended to eliminate men who were suspected of cherishing dictatorial ambitions.

Although far from a utopian society, the accomplishments of the Ancient Greeks are undeniably remarkable especially considering the lack of natural resources or agricultural lands. The Greeks created a very high and multi-faceted civilization. The Greeks brought forth architectural, artistic, political, intellectual and cultural achievements which have paved the way from the future development of the world. The amazing contributions of the ancient Greeks Hellenic adventure was of such profound significance that nearly all those ideals which we commonly think of as peculiar to the West.

From the 6th to the 4th century, Athens was the pre-eminent power in the Mediterranean. The Athenian Empire was composed of 172 tribute-paying states and was totally controlling the Aegean. The enormous wealth permitted to Athens to flourish in terms of art, architecture, literature, philosophy and politics that is still source of inspiration all over the world.

Until the beginning of the 6th century, Athens was ruled by aristocrats and generals. The position of the citizen in the hierarchy depended from his wealth. Poor people has no rights until Solon, the law giver and poet, placed the first basis for democracy when he declared all free Athenians equal by law and abolished inherited privileges.

Pericles, who came into power in 461 B.C, established democracy and built great architectural monuments, including the Parthenon, to employ workers and symbolize the majesty of Athens. This period was considered as the Golden Age of the Greek civilization. However, with the enormous growth of Athens, many states felt threatened. One of the states was Sparta. Their differences led into the Peloponnesian Wars, the longest war of antiquity.

The Persian Wars
Even during the height of Greek cultural accomplishments, Greece was beset by conflict that would shape its future. Soon after the democracy had been established in Athens the Greek people as a whole had to face a severe invasion by the Persian Empire – an aggregation of peoples that was more than thirty times larger than the Greeks.

In the 6th century, the Greek Empire was under the threat of the Persian Empire, under King Xerxes rule who had views on invading Greece. The Hellenic league, under the leadership of Athens and Sparta decisively defeated the Persians at the battles of Marathon, Salamis and Platea. This conflict was known as the Persian Wars and was of great importance because they resulted, after centuries of trade and cultural relations, into the separation between the Greek Empire and the Near East including Phoenicia, Lydia, Egypt, and other cultures.

Then, Sparta left the Hellenic League and Athens gain the total leadership of the League with Themistocles and Kimon. The new Alliance was created that took the name of Delian League. A military force started to be built by using monetary contribution from other member states like its rival Sparta, head of the Peloponnesian league.

In revenge for assistance given by the Athenians and one or two other of the Greek peoples to a revolt against the Persian monarch in Ionia, across the Aegean Sea, Darius, the "Great King" of Persia, sent a naval expedition to punish the offenders. The brunt of the attack fell upon Athens. Darius, it seems, expected to be aided by the dissident antidemocratic party of Hippias, but although the latter was apparently willing to play traitor, it was unable to give him much assistance. The tactics adopted by the Persians were not well suited to the conditions, and the army which landed near Marathon in 490 B.C. was severely defeated by the Athenians, aided by the Plataeans, but without much support from any other of the Greeks. During the battle the Persians could not decide whether to use their superior navy to take Athens directly or to aid their land troops which were being beaten. This indecision meant the defeat of the entire expedition. The navy was unable to take Piraeus, the port of Athens, and returned to Persia.

Darius bequeathed the chastisement of the Greeks to his son Xerxes, who spent the next ten years in preparing a huge army which was expected to overwhelm the Greeks. In the meanwhile, however, the great Athenian leader Themistocles, well aware of the impending expedition, had persuaded the Athenians to use all their surplus money to build a fleet. But Themistocles did not have at his disposal from the citizenry of Athens a really worthwhile army. He therefore attempted to persuade the Spartans of the great danger that all the Greeks were in from the aggressive intentions of the Persians. The Spartans, however, were very jealous of the Athenians and had different notions on the strategy that ought to be employed against the Persians. Indeed, they went so far as to suggest that Greece north of the Peloponnesus was indefensible, and that a wall should be constructed to the north of the peninsula beyond which the Persians would not be able to march. Nothing had been settled when the Persian army in 480 B.C. crossed the Hellespont and proceeded into Greece from the north, receiving the submission of almost all the Greeks in their path. Too late the Spartans sent the flower of their army to stop the Persians but were overwhelmed on the third day at the battle of Thermopylae, after a traitor had betrayed to the Persians the path over the mountains by which the Spartan soldiers could be taken in the rear. The Spartans were killed to the last man, winning undying fame, but not holding up the Persians for any significant period of time.

Athens was now wide open to the invaders. By winning a great naval battle at Salamis, the Athenians prevented the Persian fleet from invading the Peloponnese. But Athens itself was captured and its citizens took refuge on the island of Salamis, just outside the Athenian harbor. The next year, for the first and almost the only time in Greek history, all the Greeks who had not submitted to the Persians joined together, and under Spartan leadership they defeated the Persians at the decisive Battle of Plataea (479 B.C). The Athenians performed their part of the bargain by again defeating the Persians on sea at the Battle of Mycale. This proved to be the end of the Persian threat until almost a century later. In the late fifth century Persia had her revenge by subsidizing and assisting the Spartans to win the Peloponnesian War, and throughout much of the fourth century it was, to a great extent, Persian intrigues and money that kept most of the Greek states in constant enmity with one another.

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Growth of City-States
Rise of City-States Classical Period Persian Wars
Peloponnesian War Rise of Philip of Macedon Roman Period Byzantine Period
Ottoman Occupation War of Independence Modern Times After World War II

The Peloponnesian War
The policy of the great Athenian ruler, Pericles succeeded in arousing the fear of both Sparta and Corinth, who might expect in the event of a war to be aided by dissident cities of the League who wished to escape from the domination of Athens. In 431 B.C., the league that had been organized by Sparta, launched a preventive war, known to history as the Peloponnesian War. This was the first truly world war and became one of the most destructive wars of the ancient world. Because of their various sources of power, Sparta on land and Athens on the sea, the parties were virtually stalemated from the first.

In general, it may be said that the Spartans and their allies were successful by land, while the Athenians were successful by sea. But after the death of Pericles due to a horrid plague in Athens about a year after the beginning of the war, the leadership in Athens fell into the hands of less moderate statesmen. Although for a time a peace was patched up under the influence of a conservative Athenian statesman, the war-party, evidently supported by the mass of the people, soon renewed the war. In 415 B.C., under the leadership of Alcibiades, a brilliant but erratic genius, a great expedition which ought to have succeeded was launched against Syracuse, a colony of Corinth.

But the enemies of Alcibiades, though unable to prevent the launching of the expedition, were strong enough to force his recall before he had won any successes in Sicily. This left the command in the hands of a general who had from the first disapproved of the expedition. He wasted time and took no decisive action, while Alcibiades, who had refused to come home to stand trial for a supposed impiety he had committed, went to Sparta and divulged the strategic secrets of Athens. The early part of this conflict favored Athens and the Syracuseans had considered surrender, however the Spartans sent out an effective general named Gylippos, who turned the tide and ultimately destroyed the entire Athenian expedition.

The Athenians were so shocked by their defeat that they abolished the democracy for a period of about a year. The new government, however, was unpopular and did not achieve much. In despair the Athenians recalled Alcibiades and gave him the command. Though he won several victories he soon fell from favor, accused this time of intriguing with the Persians for his own profit. The Persians, in fact, regarded Alcibiades as their most dangerous enemy, but dealt with him as well as with his Spartan opponent, the able admiral Lysander in their attempts to accomplish the defeat of Athens by means of well-placed bribes. It was Lysander whom the Persians really favored, and, after a long and complex struggle, he who won the crucial battle of Aegospotami in 404 B.C., after Alcibiades had once more been driven into exile. The victory enabled the Spartans to cut off the Athenian grain supply and compelled the surrender of the city. Sparta, ever mindful of the fact that Athens had played a noble part in defeating the Persians a century before, refused to accept the advice of her allies that the city should be destroyed and was content with dismantling its defenses. Nevertheless, Athens was not able in the following century to recover the leadership in Greece which she lost through the Peloponnesian War.

The Rise of Philip of Macedon
During the Peloponnesian Wars, a new political force was rising in Macedonia. The Macedonians were a civilization speaking another form of Greek and with different customs and social organizations. The Macedonian political and social system was totally different from those which were centered around the traditional Greek polis. The Macedonian system was organized around kings wielding the majority of the power fostered by a strong military.

By the end of the Peloponnesian war, Sparta was the acknowledged hegemon of Greece. But though for a while she tried to play the part of an imperialist, she soon lost Persian aid, which was then for a time given to Thebes, previously a relatively unimportant city. Thebes, indeed, had lost all title to respect in Greece by collaborating with the Persians during the Persian Wars. Now however, she developed a new military tactic, and under the leadership of two great generals established herself temporarily as the leading power in Greece. By defeating the Spartans in open warfare she freed the helots, thereby reducing Sparta forever to the rank of a second- or third-rate power. But away in the north from 359 B.C. onward, a new power was rising in Greece. This was Macedon, ruled by a shrewd and crafty semi-barbarian named Philip. Philip perceived very clearly that if he could keep the Greeks disunited he could pick them off one by one.

Thebes never did come to realize the dangerous nature of Philip, nor the threat that he presented to Greece. The Athenians were divided in their opinions, one party thinking it best to collaborate and "appease" Philip; the other, led by Demosthenes, believing that the only safe policy was to stop Philip before he became too strong. Philip himself did his best to win support in both cities, spending lavishly of the gold which he had won in northeastern Greece, while at the same time building himself a small but strong and effective army, with new military formations hitherto unknown in Greece Though Demosthenes was able to persuade the Athenians to send an expedition to Olynthus, which Philip was threatening, the expedition was too small and arrived too late to be of any great assistance. Philip, after capturing Olynthus, destroyed it completely, thereby providing an example to the rest of the Greeks which he hoped would prove salutary.

Philip's barbarity incensed Demosthenes but cowed most of the Athenian statesmen. Indeed, a writer of speeches named Isocrates even urged Philip to unite the Greeks and engage in a great expedition against Persia. Philip in fact intended to make such an expedition, but the means by which he proposed to unite Greece were not calculated to please any Athenian democrats. In fact Philip's diplomacy paid off handsomely. Although he was not himself regarded as a Greek by the other Greeks, who thought they could use him for their own ends, he was made head of a Greek religious league and invited to chastise some Greek cities which had been accused of sacrilege. Philip, nothing loath, came down into Greece, and suddenly confronted Thebes, which realized at last that there was nothing to hinder him if he wished to turn upon Thebes itself. Demosthenes hastily organized an alliance between Athens and Thebes, but it was too late. Philip defeated the united armies at the battle of Chaeronea in 338 B.C, and thereafter was the undisputed leader of Greece.

Macedonia quickly became a great Empire and conquered, under King Philip II, a number of city-states, defeating Athens and Thebes in 338 BC at the Battle of Chaeronea. King Philip was assassinated thereafter and the task of expanding the empire was given to his young son Alexander the Great, the most renowned student of the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle. When his father died, twenty two years old Alexander became king of Macedon.

Alexander forged the largest empire the world had yet seen. After having conquered all the city-states of Greece, he invaded Asia Minor with approximately 35.000 soldiers. Before dying at the age of 33, Alexander the Great had conquered the entire Persian Empire, Egypt and the Mesopotamia, Afghanistan and some parts of India. At the time of Alexander’s conquests, the Persian empire was thirty times larger than Greece. Alexander truly ushered in a new world age – the Hellenistic Age, characterized by the spread of Greek culture throughout the world.

On his deathbed, Alexander reputedly left his empire “to the strongest.” After the death of Alexander the Great, the Macedonian Empire was divided in several parts: such as, the Antigonids in Macedonia, the Seleucids in Asia Minor, Syria, Persia and the Ptolemies in Egypt.

There were severe wars among the successors to Alexander following the King’s death.

Athens was too weak to pose a serious threat at this time and new Hellenistic and autonomous monarchies made their appearance. The concept of the “polis” disappeared and states of larger size appeared. However, the Greek language remained the official language in trade, administration and literature throughout the Hellinistic world.

The Roman Period
Because of its geographical placement and great historical achievements, Greece faced constant warfare from among the several autonomous kingdoms and was made exceedingly vulnerable. Simultaneously, Greece faced threats from the East by Persians, Parthians, and Bactrians and from the West by the Romans, who started expanding their power in the South of Italy and began competing with Greek colonies, especially Tarentum (Taranto) and Syracuse.

Around 280 B.C., the Greek king of Epirus, Pyrrhus, confronted his army against the Romans in southern Italy. Feeling the threat of the Roman Empire, Greeks allied with their former enemies against Rome. Pyrrhus defeated the Romans on various occasions but at such a cost that left his armies depleted. Thus the term “Pyrrhic victory” has forever been used to describe a win in warfare, but at an exceedingly high price.

The most important adversary of Rome was Carthage which was located in present day Tunisia. Wars started between these two Empires, called the Punic Wars, which lasted 45 tears. The Greeks were involved in this campaign against Rome. Hannibal, the Carthaginian leader, allied with Philip V of Macedonia, the most important power of the Balkans. The Romans defeated the Macedonians in the first and second Macedonian Wars that ended in 197 B.C. The victorious commander Flamininus established a protectorate over the “independent” city-states of Greece. The Achaean confederacy started a rebellion in 146 B.C. that resulted in the destruction of Corinth. Severe and oppressive restrictions were set. Rome had no consistent policy about the Greek states. The Romans sought principally security and revenue.

Greece from 31 B.C. to 180 AD under the Roman Empire is described as the era of the Pax Romana, which was an era of peace between Rome and the central areas of the Empire like Greece, the Greek Islands and points to the east. This period was generally characterized as a period of peace and security which facilitated economic and cultural progress, especially in the major cities, such as Athens, Corinth, Alexandria, Miletus, Thessaloniki, and Smyrna. Because of the decentralized Roman provincial administration, a primarily urban-centered elite reemerged in the Greek world, accompanied by the right to participate in the Roman Senate.

The Romans welcomed the Greek culture and Latin and Greek became the dominant languages of the Roman Empire, with Greek surfacing as the official language of the Roman provinces. A Greco-Roman Empire was in effect born.

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Growth of City-States
Rise of City-States Classical Period Persian Wars
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Ottoman Occupation War of Independence Modern Times After World War II

The Byzantine Period
The Byzantine Empire had enormous influence in shaping Greece and the Greek Islands. In the third century AD, Greece faced overwhelming invasions by numerous tribes. Greece and its islands were invaded by various tribes, such as the Heruli, the Goths, the Alemanni, the Franks, the Vandals and Sassanians. These invasions led to several significant victories over the Romans during the third century AD. The Pax Romana was seriously placed in danger. Deep social and economic problems rose through the Empire. Taxes were increased to reinforce the effectiveness of the Roman army.

Around the same time, Christianity began to take on and ascended to become Empire’s predominant religion. St Paul came in Greece to proclaim Christianity with his famous “sermon on an Unknown God” in 51 A.D. In 305 AD, Constantine became Emperor of Rome. In 324 A.D., the Emperor Constantine I transferred the capital of the Empire from Rome to Byzantium which took the name of Constantinople.

In 364 AD, the Empire was officially split: the Roman Empire was divided in two parts: the Roman Empire at the west and the Byzantine Empire at the east. The Roman Empire started to decline leaving preeminence to its much wealthier part, the newly-created Byzantine Empire. The strategic location of Constantinople, between the Black Sea and the Aegean, allowed significant control over Eastern and Western half’s of the Roman empire.

Although Constantine blessed Christianity, paganism continued to exist. Christianity started to take a material form with a particular architecture, religions, mosaics and even hymns and theological tracts. Further differences began to take place in religious practices that would influence Greece and the Greek Islands. The Eastern Empire would be and remain principally an Orthodox Country while the Catholic tradition would predominate in the west. Although originally one faith, the two would formally split later on. At that time Greece was, and remains to this day, traditionally Orthodox, with approximately ninety-eight percent of her citizens professing to be Greek Orthodox.

The strength and power in the Roman Empire continued its transition of power to the Eastern Empire in Constantinople. The west faced numerous invaders and was divided in several kingdoms and the power of the Roman Empire moved definitely to the East. Rome was ultimately sacked for the first time in 410 AD. Its decline led to the overall decline in the west and is credited with the beginning of the Dark Ages.

While in the east during the 6th century, the Byzantine Emperor Justinian expanded the empire’s territory by conquering the southern Levant, northern Africa and parts of Italy. He successfully created a centralized bureaucracy and a new fiscal system. However, it was beset by plague that caused many untimely deaths and suffering and hampered the expansion of the Byzantine Empire.

However, the Byzantine Empire was engaged in several wars that had left it very vulnerable. Serious threats came both from the East and West. The more serious threat came from the Islamic civilization that started to expand rapidly. The Islamic forces conquered Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. Even Constantinople almost felt under the hands of the Muslims. During the 6th and 7th, Slavic tribes also invaded the Balkans, but the Greek language remained the official language, and Orthodox Christianity, its dominant faith.

During the 9th Century, the Byzantine Empire was ruled by a Macedonian dynasty which expanded the Empire by conquering Antioch, Syria, Georgia, Armenia, Crete and the Greek Islands in the Aegean Sea. This led to the reopening of trade lines. These military successes ultimately improved the economic conditions of the Byzantine Empire. As is usually the case with history, this short period of prosperity was followed by a period of decline. In the 11th century AD, parts of Greece were invaded by a Norman army. A further setback occurred when Turks from Central Asia successfully captured Romanus IV, the first ruler after the decline of the Macedonian dynasty of the Byzantine Empire.

During the later stages of the Byzantine Empire, Greece was divided in several kingdoms ruled by Western princes. Venice started gaining control of many parts of Greece. Many architectural remains of various European rulers, like the Venetians and the Franks can still be seen in many parts of Greece, particularly the Greek Islands.

The Ottoman Occupation of Greece
During the 14th century, the Ottomans Turks invaded the Balkans and Asia Minor. Constantinople finally fell under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, which marked the end of the Byzantine period. Constantinople was renamed Istanbul by the Ottoman Turks. The Ottoman state was a theocracy and its political system was based on hierarchy with at the top, the Sultan, which had absolute divine rights.

The Ottomans divided the non-Muslim community into so-called “millets,” such as, Armenian, Catholic, Jewish, and Orthodox. The Ottomans gave to the millets some significant autonomy. The ruler of each millet was the religious leader who was responsible for his subject’s obedience to the Sultan. The head of the Orthodox millet was the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the highest ranking person in the Greek Orthodox religion. The patriarch had much power and played an important role to the development of the Greek Orthodox religion and culture.

The Ottoman Empire had, for various reasons, a much decentralized administration. They had designated local military leaders. In later years, the Ottoman Empire was divided into regions ruled by “Pashas". Official contact was limited to tax collection and military conscription. The Ottoman system discriminated against the non-Muslim population by imposing special taxes like the “cizye”, a head tax and tax for freedom.

Orthodox priests and Christian primates collected taxes and maintained order. However, the Greek Orthodox Church was also greatly responsible for keeping the Greek language and traditions alive during the nearly four centuries of Turkish occupation.

During the Ottoman’s domination, Greek-speaking families moved to many countries. There was a significant outmigration to places such as Romania, Russia, and the Hapsburg Empire in Austria. They participated in the trade between the Ottoman Empire and the outside world.

These “diaspora” communities also played an important role in the development of a Greek identity. They were influenced by all the modern currents, including the ideology of revolution. Many wealthy diaspora people became wealthy and helped the Greeks by founding schools and other public institutions. Movements for independence by minorities started to multiply in the beginning of the 19th century.

The Greek War of Independence
The official date for the Declaration of Greek independence is celebrated on March 25, 1821. An independent Greece was recognized on February 3, 1830, in the London Protocol. The Kingdom of Greece was formally instituted in May 1832 in the Convention of London.

Finally, on March 25, 1831, after 400 years of Ottoman rule, the modern state of Greece came into existence after a hard fought and bitter decade long war of independence. The origin of the rebellion originally dated to 1814 with the activities of the “Philikí Etaireía” or the Friendly Brotherhood. It was a patriotic conspiracy founded in Odessa, Ukraine. The formal revolt began in March 25 of 1821 in Kalavytria at the Monastery of Agia Lavra.

Sporadic revolts against the Turkish occupiers broke out in the Peloponnese and in the Aegean islands by fierce guerrilla fighters seeking finally to return Greece to a state of freedom. A year later, the rebels gained key locations in the Peloponnese, and the independence of Greece was formally declared in January 1822.

The Greek cause created a feeling of “philhellenism,” or love for Greece, from foreigners all over Europe. Many of them also came in Greece to fight and die for the country, the most famous of which was the English poet Lord Byron who died at Mesolonghi.

The determination of the Greek freedom fighters and their ardent Philhellene supporters eventually won the support of the great powers of the day: Russia, Britain and France. These allied nations asked the Turkish Sultan to relent in its occupation of Greece. The Turkish government refused and after years of vicious conflict, a final and decisive naval battle was fought when Russia, Britain and France sent their naval fleets to Navarino Bay, off the coast of Messinia. There they destroyed the Egyptian fleets that were helping the Turkish occupiers. This was the coup de grace that led to Greece gaining its independence.

A Greco-Turkish agreement was finally adopted in London which declared Greece an independent monarchical state under the Protection of Britain. However, even with her independence, Greece’s border’s had not been restored to its previous dimensions. For the next century, Greek political and military leaders focused great efforts into regaining the borders of the old Byzantine era. These leaders also sought to reunify the Greek population scattered throughout the Mediterranean.

In 1832, the Turkish Sultan finally agreed to recognize Greek Independence. This led to Prince Otto accepting the Greek crown as the first King of modern Greece. Prince Otto was seventeen years old when he arrived at the throne. He was exiled in 1862 for ignoring the Greek Constitution. After that, the Greeks allowed the installation of the Danish King George I. He ruled over Greece for 50 years and brought stability and a new Constitution in 1864 which specified the monarch’s powers.

Even though the revolution had been successful, many serious problems still existed in post-independence Greece. Once the War of Independence came to an end, Greece felt into a period of poverty and lack of direction. The country was very poor, and there was a marked divergence between the wealth of those with land and those without.

Greece in Modern Times
The history of Greece continues as a succession invasions and periods of domination. After the Macedonians Empire, the Greeks were generally occupied by the by the Romans. Next a transition occurred to successors to the Romans in the east, the Byzantine Empire which ended in 1453 AD. However, the Greek Islands were often occupied by other powers of the day like the Franks and Venetians. They were also periodically besieged by pirates which is greatly responsible for many prominent cities in the islands being built in high places and with narrow, winding streets that make attacks disorienting.

Ultimately, the Byzantine Empire ended in 1453 AD when the Ottoman Turks finally conquered Constantinople and renamed it Istanbul. The Ottoman rule over Greece lasted for almost four centuries. This represented a dark period for the inhabitants of the ex-Byzantine Empire, particularly Greece. Seeking their freedom, people of the Greece territory started to organize themselves and various revolts exploded against the Turks.

The Greek War of Independence formally began in 1821 and led to the establishment in March 1831 of a new and independent Greek State. Figuring prominently in the Greek War of Independence were the contributions of three relatively small Greek Islands – Hydra, Spestes and Psara.

Strife continued in Greece to follow in the form of civil war, prior to the difficult occupation during World War II by the Axis Powers, principally Germany. Thereafter, Greece was not able to fully enjoy the joy of liberation because it encountered more civil war. Greece also experienced the dictatorship of Metaxas from 1967 to 1974. An analysis of Greek history reveals the complexity, suffering and alienation of its people who continually fought for its liberation – a liberation it has now achieved.

A monarchy was established a few years after that by the Great Powers. Later, the Greeks elected Eleutherios Venizelos as their first Prime Minister. Venizelos rose to the leadership of the Liberal Party, and was supported by workers and merchants. The Liberal Party won the elections of 1910 and 1912 catapulting Venizelos to the post of Prime Minister. He achieved the passage of constitutional amendments, established social laws to improve worker’s rights. Venizelos also expanded and rearmed the Greek military.

In 1896, Greece hosted the revival of the Olympics with the modern Olympic games in Athens. The 1896 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the I Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event which was celebrated in Athens, Greece, from April 6 to April 15, 1896. It was the first Olympic Games held in the modern era of the Olympic Games. Because ancient Greece was the birthplace of the Olympic Games, Athens was chosen as the appropriate choice to stage the inaugural modern Games. It was unanimously chosen as the host city during a congress organized by Pierre de Coubertin, a French historian, in Paris, on June 23, 1894. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was also established during this congress.

Despite many obstacles and setbacks, the 1896 Olympics were regarded as a great success. The Games had the largest international participation of any sporting event to that date. Panathinaiko Stadium, the first big stadium in the modern world, overflowed with the largest crowd ever to watch a sporting event. The highlight for the host country was the marathon victory by Greek distance runner, Spiridon Louis.

Venizelos, after whom the beautiful, state of the art international airport in Athens was named, was a lawyer from the island of Crete. Venizelos was the most influential Greek politician of the first half of the twentieth century. He worked hard for the reunification of Crete with Greece in the 1890s and was chosen in 1909 to direct a new civilian government, after a coup of the military officers. A great achievement of Prime Minister Venizelos is that he successfully stabilized the majority of Greece. Sadly, but only a few years thereafter, Venizelos was assassinated.

The next major event of that era of modern Greece was the Balkans War of 1912. There were 3 major issues surrounding this war: Crete, the liberation of countries still under the rule of Ottomans, like Albania, and, the disposition of Macedonia, which was itself factionally divided. Some Macedonians wanted their country to be united with Greece while others wanted an independent autonomous state. Others wanted Macedonia to be united with Albania or Bulgaria.

At this time, Athens actively supported Macedonia for its re-unification to Greece. The city of Thessaloniki had also developed a deep nationalist feeling. A pact with Serbia and Bulgaria was signed by Greece and the three nations decided to cooperate military. They declared war against the Turkish occupiers and within few weeks, the Greek armies had taken Thessaloniki and Ioannina.

The Ottoman Empire, in 1913, with the Treaty of London, ceded all its European possessions to the Balkans except Albania and Thrace which later acceded to independence.

Greece and Serbia, in a bilateral agreement, divided the Macedonian territory between those two nations. For that reason, a Second Balkan War was declared by Bulgaria against both Greece and Serbia. Bulgaria was defeated resulting in the Treaty of Bucharest in August 1913.

After the Balkan Wars, the territory of Greece had been expanded by approximately 68 percent, but still more than 3 millions Greeks remained in Ottoman controlled territories.

A new king, Constantine, was crowned in 1913 on the eve of the First World War. During that time, Europe was divided in two parts: the Triple Entente which included principally the allies of Britain, France, and Russia. They were juxtaposed in the growing fog of upcoming conflict by the Triple Alliance or Central Powers, principally consisting of Germany, Austria, Italy, and eventually, the Ottoman Empire.

As World War ! erupted in the summer of 1914 with the assassination of Archduke Ferninand in Sarejevo, Greece faced a difficult choice as to which side to take which caused great distress within the new young nation. The Central powers included Bulgaria in their alliance which was still a rival of Greece for territorial reasons, and also wanted to include Turkey, Greece’s worst enemy. On the other hand, the Entente had supported the national cause during the war of independence but Queen Sofia of Greece was the sister of the Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany. However, Greece shared a common religious heritage with Russia as both were principally orthodox nations.

Factors like these led to a significant division at the highest levels of the Greek government when World War I erupted. King Constantine believed in maintaining a neutral position, but Prime Minister Venizelos was strictly pro-Entente. The Entente reinforced his position by promising to award Asia Minor, Including all of modern Turkey, to Greece. Many of these lands had been Greek lands in antiquity, including the present Istanbul which had been founded as a Greek colony, Byzantium.

Eleutherios Venizelos resigned as Prime Minister when King Constantine opposed the Alliance with the Entente. Venizelos established an allied revolutionary government in Thessaloniki and invaded the city of Smyrna, a city with a large Greek population on the west coast of Turkey. This caused a constitutional crisis called Ethnikos Dikhasmos, or the National Schism.

The treaty that followed provoked a population exchange. 400.000 Turkish Muslims were traded against one million Orthodox Greeks. A new wave of economic difficulties followed.

The next decade was filled with internal political disruptions and economic hardship. Greece endured a succession of monarchies, a military rule and brief democracies. All of that occurred before the horrific inception of the upcoming World War II.

In 1936, General Metaxas was appointed Prime Minister by King George II. Metaxas instituted a harsh, and oppressive fascist dictatorship. To his favor though, Metaxas was staunchly opposed to German and Italian domination. In one of the most famous statements in modern Hellenic history, Metaxas summarily refused the fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini’s demand to occupy Greece during World War II with a one word response – “ohi,” simply meaning no. To this day, Greeks all over the world celebrate “Ohi Day” as a national holiday.

Nonetheless, Italy invaded Greece after receiving Metaxas cryptic rebuff, and was treated like an invading army in antiquity. The Italians were handed a stern and startling defeat. The Italian military efforts went downhill from there on and they would never be a serious factor in advancing the Nazi cause after the defeat at the hands of the Greeks.

Germany had counted on Italy’s being able to secure and conduct operations in Greece to free its resources up for its planned invasion of Russia. A successful German conquest of Russia might have significantly changed the history of the west. However, significant German resources had to be diverted to Greece because of its strategic location.

Greece ultimately fell to Germany in 1941. This invasion resulted in the destruction of ancient sites, large scale executions and the extermination of the largest part of the Jewish community by the Nazis. Resistance movements against the Nazi’s sprang up and were divided between a royalist and communist movement. Some of the fiercest resistance took place on the island of Crete where many villages which had been part of the Cretan resistance were totally destroyed by the Germans. In one of the most famous Greek resistance incidents, Cretan resistance fighters assisted by a young British philhellene, Patrick Leigh Fermor, captured the leading German general on Crete and transported him to the allies in Egypt.

Similar incidents took place on mainland Greece. For example, two villages were the subject of the most brutal massacres. In Kalavryta, Greece in a mountanous regious of the Peloponnessus, the entire adult male population of this sizable village was annihilated by its Nazi occupiers on December 13, 1943. The beautiful town of Kalavryta itself also suffered total destruction at the hands of these German occupying forces during World War II. Kalavryta is the most serious case of war crimes committed during the Axis occupation of Greece during World War II based on the number of innocents massacred.

On a mass murder mission called Unternehmen Kalavryta in German or Operation Kalavryta in English, which began from the coastal area of Achaea in Northern Peloponnese, German Wehrmacht troops marched to the town of Kalavryta burning villages and murdering civilians on their way. When they reached Kalavryta, they locked up all women and children under the age of 14 in the village’s schoolhouse, and then commanded that all male residents 14 and older be marched to a field just outside the village. There, the German troops machine-gunned down 1,258 of the adult Greek males of Kalavryta. There were only 13 survivors. The women and children managed to free themselves from the school while the town was set ablaze. To add far more than insult to injury, the next day, Nazi troops burnt down the Monastery of Agia Lavra, a landmark of the Greek War of Independence and the place credited with the beginning of the Greek revolution on March 21, 1821.

In Kalavryta today, the “Place of Sacrifice” is a memorial site and the events are commemorated each year. Despite the fact that the Federal Republic of Germany has publicly acknowledged the Nazi atrocity at Kalavryta, war reparations have not been paid.

Unfortunately, the Kalavryta massacre was not the only atrocity of the most horrific degree that would befall Greece in World War II. In some ways, Distomo was even more senseless. The Distomo massacre was another Nazi war crime perpetrated by members of the Waffen-SS in the village of Distomo, Greece, during the Axis occupation of Greece during World War II. Distomo is a beautiful mountain village located near the holy city of Delphi, north and west of Athens.

Four days after the successful D-Day invasion in Normandy, France, on June 10, 1944, during a period of just two senseless hours, Waffen-SS troops of the 4th SS Polizei Panzergrenadier Division went door to door and massacred Greek civilians in Distomo, reportedly in revenge for a partisan attack. A total of 218 men, women and children were killed. According to survivors, SS forces "bayoneted babies in their cribs, stabbed pregnant women, and beheaded the village priest."

In the 1960s, the government of West Germany paid Greece 115 million German marks in restitution. Later four relatives of victims made claims for individual compensation and sued in the German courts and the European Court of Human Rights, which could have made Germany liable for several billion dollars in reparations. The claims were denied by the European Court of Human Rights and by German lower courts and in June 2003, and were subsequently rejected by the Federal Court of Justice.

Greece After World War II
As if Greece had not suffered enough during World War II, a civil war started thereafter between the royalists and communists. The royalists had significant financial assistance from the United States in order to prevent a communism taking control of Greece. The United States implemented a document known as the “Certificate of Political Reliability” which declared that the holder did not have left-wing sympathies. It became obligatory to have this certificate otherwise Greek people were hampered in gaining employment. This civil war lasted until 1949 when the royalists claimed victory.

The right-wing Greek Rally party was elected with Konstantinos Karamanlis as head of it. Karamanlis, after the assassination of a communist official, resigned 10 years later. Then, the left-wing Georges Papandreou came to power. A group of army colonels staged a coup d’état on April 21, 1967 that resulted to a Junta which was characterized by repression, brutality upon the people, censorship and political incompetence. The Junta enjoyed the support and investments on the part of the United States which continued to operate in a sphere characterized by extreme fear of communism. It is no coincidence that the military Junta in Greece coincided with the failed efforts of the United States to prevent the spread of communism in Vietnam.

The Junta collapsed in 1974 after the government killed 20 students who were lodging protests. The collapse also occurred after the Junta attempted to assassinate the leader of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios, in order to try to unite Cyprus with Greece. This directly led to Turkey's invasion and occupation of Northern Cyprus in 1974.

Konstantinos Karamanlis returned to power organizing parliamentary elections and a referendum on the future direction of the Greek government. The monarchy was subsequently defeated by a two-third vote and a new constitution was established the 11th June of 1975. A parliamentary republic was organized, with a president at the head of the state, appointed by the legislature.

On January 1, 1981, Greece became a member of the European Community and Andreas Papadreou and his socialist party, PASOK, won the elections. The government of Papadreou was subsequently replaced by a coalition of conservatives and communists. Elections in 1990 brought the conservatives to power, however in 1993, a general election brought Papadreou back to power. Kostas Simitis was appointed Prime Minister in 1996 and again in April 2000. In 2004, it was the turn of the right wing Kostas Karamanlis to be elected.

In the summer of 2004, Greece again hosted the modern Olympic Summer games , officially known as the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad, was a premier international sporting event hosted by Athens from August 13 to August 29, 2004 with the motto “Welcome Home”. More than ten thousand athletes competed, accompanied by 5,501 team officials from 201 countries. There were 301 medal events in 28 different sports . Athens 2004 marked the first time since the 1996 Summer Olympics that all countries with a National Olympic Committee were in attendance. It was also the first time since 1896 that the Olympics were held in Greece.

The Derivation of the Name “Greece”
The name Greece comes from the Latin geographical description of Magna Gracia – a region of southern Italy so called for its expansive and transformation Greek settlements, monuments and culture. Greece is also referred to as "Hellas" or “Ellatha.” Its official language is Modern Greek, although many other languages are spoken there rendering the Greece of today extremely tourist friendly. Its capital and largest city is the vibrant and growing metropolis of Athens. The government of Greece is organized as a Parliamentary republic. The country is currently operating under its constitution dating to 1975, reffered to as the "Third Republic."

The actual name of the Greek nation is the Hellenic Republic or Ελληνική Δημοκρατία [Ellīnikī́ Dīmokratía]. The motto of the Greece of today is Ελευθερία ή θάνατος [Eleftheria i thanatos] which translates to "Freedom or Death." This motto has allowed Greece to persevere through centuries of occupation, poverty and other difficult times. Greece now is a democracy again and thrives as a beacon of light to the world throughout the ages.

3200-1100 BC
Cycladic Civilization
2600-1200 BC
1600-1100 BC

100-800 BC
Dark Ages of Greece

800-500 BC
Growth of City-States
Rise of City-States Classical Period Persian Wars
Peloponnesian War Rise of Philip of Macedon Roman Period Byzantine Period
Ottoman Occupation War of Independence Modern Times After World War II
Map of Greece
Early Greek Cliff Dwellings
Ancient Early Greek Wall
Early Ruins
Early Greek Cunaeus Tablet
Minoan Temple at Knossus, Crete
Clay Vessels from Archaeological Digs
Iraklion, Crete Wall Mural
Early Clay Bull
Knossus Temple
Clay Earthen Jars found at Knossus, Crete
Ruins in Crete
Kylix- ca 540 to 530 B.C.
Ancient Wall in Chanaia
Ancient Clay Figures
Roman Era Bath Ruins
Roman Era Bath Ruins
Storage tunnels in Iraklion, Crete
Roman Bridge in Crete
Fortezza Castle in Rethymno, Crete
Early Greek Orthadox Church
Rethymno, Crete Lighthouse
World War I Era Fort in Chanaia, Crete
German Swastika from World War II
Malame WWII Battle Memorial
Greece in Transition
Popular Greek Tourist Destinations
Modern shops in Iraklion, Crete