Ancient History & Civilisation

ANCIENT GREECE

Introduction

From 800 B.C. to 30 B.C., Ancient Greece remained a powerful entity, playing a significant role in sculpting the world we live in today. The era saw the rise of innovative thinking, artistry, literature and much besides.

Chronicling the fascinating periods of Ancient Greece, this eBook gives you a lofty insight into history’s most fascinating era.

From Archaic Greece to the rise and fall of Alexander the Great; from the Hellenistic era to the demise of Ancient Greece and the conquest of Rome—this eBook will give you a breath taking account of each epoch.

CHAPTER I

The Rise of Ancient Greece

The era of Ancient Greece lasted from the archaic period (800-500 B.C.) to the end of antiquity (600 A.D). Ancient Greece includes the Classical period, which flourished from 500-323 B.C., and the Hellenistic period, which commences with Alexander the Great’s death and ends with the invasion of the Roman Republic.

The Consummation of Empire, by Thomas Cole (1836)

Early History of Greece

During the Paleolithic era there were already settlements and agricultural practices that had begun in Greece. This is proved by the discoveries at the Petra Lona and Franchthi caves— two of the world’s earliest human occupations.

Neolithic Age

During the Neolithic Age (6000-2900 B.C.) in Greece, there were permanent settlements (mainly in the north of Greece), domestication of animals and advancement of agriculture. Archeological discoveries in the northern region of Greece illustrate that there was a migration from Anatolia. This is evidenced by the ceramic cups and bowls and figures discovered there. These artifacts share similar qualities peculiar to the Neolithic finds in Anatolia. The settlers were mainly farmers and dwelled in single-room houses built out of stone.

Cycladic Civilization

The Cycladic Civilization (3200-1100 B.C.) thrived in Aegean Sea (Delos, Naxos and Paros). This civilization gives one of the first finds of recurrent human occupation in the area. In the era of the Cyclades, the habitants were accustomed to fishing and trade; the temples and houses of the time were constructed of finished stone. This era is commonly split into three phases: Early Cycladic, Middle Cycladic and Late Cycladic. The two latter phases overlapped and finally merged with the Minoan Civilization, and the disparity between two phases became indistinguishable.

Minoan Civilization

The Minoan Civilization (2700-1500 B.C.) thrived in Crete, quickly becoming the superpower of the sea in the region. The archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans coined the word ‘Minoan’ after the ancient King Minos of Crete. It was in 1900 B.C. that the archeologist discovered the Minoan palace of Knossos.

The Minoans develop a literary system known as the Liner A. They also made great advances in the sciences, arts, construction, ceramics, ship building, and warfare. Ancient historians, Thucydides being among them, credited King Minos for being the first to set up a navy with which he then used to invade or colonized the Cyclades.

Fall of the Minoan Civilization

In accord with geological and archaeological findings on Crete, the fall of this civilization is mainly attributed to the over cultivation of the land which caused deforestation. Nevertheless, it is traditionally accepted that the Minoans were invaded and colonized by the Mycenaean’s. The final grounds for the fall of the Minoans is generally acknowledged to be the volcanic eruption near the island of Thera (modern day Santorini) between 1650 and 1550 B.C. and the ensuing tsunami. As a consequence the isle of Crete was subsumed in water and the cities and villages were demolished. This occasion is often cited as the inspiration of Plato in his mythical work of Atlantis in the dialogues of the Critias and Timaeus.

Mycenaean Civilization

Believed to be the dawn of Greek Culture, the Mycenaean Civilization lasted from around 1900 to 1100 B.C. The Mycenaeans were credited for instituting the culture mainly due to their advances and enhancement in architecture, literary system (Liner B, a primitive form of Greek) and religious rites.

Apparently the Minoans of Crete have largely influenced the worship of Mycenaean’s. This later culminated to the worship of the ancient Greek Gods.

Fall of Mycenaean Civilization

The major Mycenaean cities in the southwest of Greece were deserted and their civilization annihilated by 1100 B.C. Around 1050 B.C., the decipherable characteristics of Mycenaean culture had disappeared. The collapse of the Mycenaean civilization is mainly attributed to an environmental calamity combined with the invasion of Doric Greeks.

Greek Dark Age

Little account exists of the Greek Dark Age, but it is believed to have existed between the fall of the Mycenaean civilization (1100 B.C.) and the Greek Archaic Period (800 B.C.).

Life in the Dark Ages for the Greeks was unequivocally challenging. The period saw the abandonment of the old major habitations and the dwindling of the population.

Within these 300 years, the population of Greece dwelled in small nomadic groups. There were no literary relics found which often led to the deduction that they were illiterate, but the Greek began to write yet again in the latter days of the Dark Ages. However, this time they used Linear B script which was used by the Mycenaean’s, who implemented the Phoenician alphabet.

Most of the information from the Greek Dark Ages stems from the burial sites and the grave goods contained within them.

Recovery of the Dark Ages and Transition to the Archaic Period

The number of settlements began to increase by 800 B.C. Amongst the changes that were chronicled in the end of the Dark Age were: the revival of literacy (Greek alphabet), the advent of political establishment (the early poleis), and the rise foreign relations beyond the borders of Aegean.

This recovery period signaled the conclusion of the Greek Dark Age and ushered in the Greek Archaic Period— a landmark in the history of Greece.

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