| By the standards of the times Bronze Age (3000-1000B.C.)
Ancient Greece was comparatively sophisticated but was also
strongly influenced by the yet more accomplished Minoan
civilization based on Crete that strongly flourished from 2000
Minoan Crete maintained an extensive network of trading links
that brought influences drawn from Egypt and Mesopotamia to
Crete. The Minoans exported pottery, grains, wines, and oils, and
tended to import luxury materials such as precious metals,
jewels, and ivory. Minoan culture gave rise to several great
cities that featured stone buildings and provision for a water
supply and drainage. The city adjacent to the great Palace of
Knossos was home, at its peak, to almost one hundred thousand
people. Knossos was thus one of the first major cities in human
On the Greek mainland meanwhile Mycenaen authority was
exercised through a number of localised kingdoms. These kingdoms
may have adopted written record keeping based on Minoan
In or around 1450 B.C. one of the most cataclysmic volcanic
eruptions in recorded history, that may have involved tidal
waves, earth quakes, and crop failures, severely disrupted Minoan
civilisation and the Mycenaens were able to bring Minoan Crete
under their sway and to displace the Minoans in exercising a
widespread power and influence.
For reasons that are not fully clear today most Mycenaen
cities tended to very much fortify their perimeters from around
1250 B.C. This period is however associated with the Trojan wars
that are the subject of Homer's Iliad.
The Iliad has it that these Trojan wars irrupted after the
wildly beautiful Helen (the face that launched a thousand ships)
left her husband Menelaus, a brother of the king of Sparta,
after having fallen in love with Paris, a prince of Troy.
Greek mythology often asserted that the Gods of Olympus
intervened directly in human lives and in human history. In this
instance the goddess Aphrodite is said to have promised Helen to
Paris, and to have caused Helen to fall in love with him.
The Greeks are presented as having laid siege to Troy for
some ten years without success. Then the siege was lifted, and
the Greeks apparently sailed away, but a large "Horse" fashioned
from wood was left outside the gates of Troy.
This "Horse" in fact was hollow and contained a number of armed
Greeks. The Trojans opened their gates and drew the wooden horse
inside. That night the concealed Greeks were able to emerge from
the Trojan Horse and to facilitate the invasion of Troy by a
The ploy of the Trojan Horse is attributed to Ulysses, King of
Ithaca. The name Ulysses is a Latin term for the
actual original Greek name Odysseus. Ulysses / Odysseus features as the
central figure in Homer's Odyssey.
Following the Greek capture of Troy its menfolk were put to
the sword, and its women and children enslaved. Only the Trojan
Prince Aenaes, and his family, escaping to the west. Aeneas later
became involved with a Latin Princess and the early history of
There was a time of turmoils - a "Dark Age" - between circa
1100-800 B.C. The Mycenaen cities were abandoned, houses no
longer tended to be built with stone, and the keeping of written
records fell away.
Sources suggest that Mycenaen Greece was itself challenged
by vital and energetic "Dorian" invaders from the north. These
Dorians bore weapons made of iron, in contrast to the softer
Bronze of the Mycenaens.
Emergent "Archaic Period" Ancient Greece (800-500 B.C.)
increasingly featured a number of city states of which "Mycenaen"
Athens and "Dorian" Sparta were amongst the more prominent.
The first "Olympic" games were held in 776 B.C. between
contestants drawn from many city states. The ancient Greeks
increasingly dated notable events in their history in relation to
From Phoenician sources Greece again adopted the practice of
written record keeping. Trading activities were often accompanied
by the deliberate sponsorship by city states of colonies. This
colonialism was encouraged by periodic famines in ancient Greece
and by the results of political and other disputations. Such
colonialism led to an emergence of numerous Greek communities
abroad. The coasts of Asia Minor were colonised from 1000-800
B.C., the south of the Italian peninsula, Sicily, and an area of
the south of France were colonised from 750-650 B.C. and parts
of North Africa and the Black Sea region were colonised from
Mainland Greek visitors to some of the colonial greek cities
were often much impressed by their wealth.
During these times most of the states of Ancient Greece
were initially ruled by rich landowners known as Aristocrats, a
word that translates as "best people".
As a result of resentments of Aristocratic rule, and political
disputations, it became common from 650-500 B.C. for the city
states to be ruled by so called Tyrants. Modern English usage of
this word implies well, "Tyranny", but the original usage of the
word more or less meant "Ruler".
Democracy - rule by the people - appeared in Athens around 508
B.C. following a two year period of civil war.
In Sparta meanwhile a Dorian elite, organised on martial
lines, maintained its authority over a subject population of
"Helots" that paid heavy taxes. Sparta, fearing rebellion by its
Helots, imposed a Peloponessian League within its orbit that
compelled neighbouring states to render assistance to Sparta if
Although Sparta was militarily more formidable than Athens the
Athenians were inclined towards commercial and artistic persuits
and gained much in wealth and prestige as a result.
The trading states of Ancient Greece, with Athens and Corinth
being the most prominent, tended to export oils, wines, and
pottery and to import grains to feed their hungry people.
The Classical Period of the history of Ancient Greece
(500-336 B.C.) featured an intense rivalry with the mighty Empire
of the Persians. This Empire had been greatly extended under
Cyrus the Great 600-529 B.C. who had united Media and Persia in
549 B.C., become master of Asia Minor in 546 B.C., and captured
Babylon in 539 B.C. The Greek states in Asia Minor were variously
imposed upon by the Empire of the Medes and Persians from 546
In 522 B.C. Darius I ascended to the throne in the Empire of
the Medes and Persians. Under Darius I the Persian Empire
continued to be expansionary and also continued in its practice
of making demands for such things as revenues and manpower from
territories subject to it's control. In 499 B.C. several colonies
variously founded by the city states of Ancient Greece in Asia
Minor rose in rebellion against the Persian Empire and received
the backing of Athens in this insurrection.
As the struggles continued a formidable Persian army landed on
the shores of Greece where it crushed an ally of Athens, but was
itself humbled in a battle contested at Marathon in 490 B.C. A
Greek soldier perished from exhaustion after running the 42 km.
(26 miles) from Marathon to Athens with news of a Greek
Following these events the Athenian politician Themistocles
urged that Athens should undertake the heavy expense of building
a large number of warships for its future defence. It happened
that the state silver mines that were worked at Laurion in the
Attic hills by some twenty thousand slaves at that time yielded a
particularly rich body of ore and this helped to defray the costs
The Athenians built a number of Triremes, a newly developed
type of war galley, that featured rowers being arrayed in three
banks on each side of the ship.
The war galleys of the day tended to have an armoured prow
that could burst through the sides of adversary ships as a result
of planned collisions. The Triremes with their three banks of
oars required a high degree of sophistication in their
construction, and their handling, to allow them to be used
without the myriad of oars clashing and causing confusion.
In 480 B.C. Xerxes, successor to Darius, led the largest
army the world had ever seen against the Greek world. In his
progress towards Greece Xerxes ordered a a mighty bridge
supported by a large number of boats ambitiously bridged the
formidable "Hellespont - Greek bridge" channel and allowed
Xerxes' army to proceed from Asia Minor to Europe. Xerxes also
ordered that a canal be built to avoid the necessity of rounding
a notorious headland where ships were known to founder in
At Thermopylae three hundred Spartans and Boetians led by King
Leonidas checked Xerxes' advance for several days. Once Xerxes
army was through the pass of Thermopylae Athens was captured and
largely burnt. The Athenian fleet however was able, through
astute leadership, to inflict much damage on that of Xerxes at
the battle of Salamis. In 479 B.C. a League of Greek states,
under a Spartan general, decisively overwhelmed Xerxes' forces at
From these times Athens recovered in trade and influence and
entered upon what is known to history as its Golden Age (479-431
B.C.). Athenian trade centered upon the nearby harbour at Piraeus
recovered. A statesman named Pericles ruled in Athens 460-430
B.C. and encouraged an ambitious rebuilding of the city. This
programme of included the construction of the Parthenon, an
imposing temple dedicated to the goddess Athene, on the elevated
site known as the Acropolis.
Wealthy Athens became a centre for the arts where the ancient
Greeks, and humanity, made great strides in, amongst other things
Philosophy. Socrates lived from about 470-400 B.C., Plato from
428-347 B.C., and Aristotle from 384-322 B.C.
Relations between Athens and Sparta deteriorated and there
was a brief contest of arms in 448-447 B.C. In 431 B.C. Corinth
came to blows with its colony of Corcyra and Sparta lent support
to Corinth, Athens to Corcyra. From these events there was an
outbreak of what history calls the Pelopenessian war. This
Peloponessian war intermittently continued from 431-404
Athens was subjected to a Spartan siege and, in 430 B.C.
suffered cruelly from a plague lasting several years that swept
up perhaps a quarter of her population including Pericles. The
Spartan army was however unable to breach Athens defensive walls.
These defensive walls included the so-called long walls that
inclusively linked Piraeus to Athens. Even though the city was
besieged food could still be imported through Piraeus.
There was a declared peace in 421B.C. and then a renewal of
hostilities. In 415 B.C. Athens suffered the ultimately
disastrous loss of an army that had been sent against Syracuse.
Some six thousand men, perhaps one in ten of her citizens, were
lost. Athens suffered a degree of political unsettlement, a
council of 400 men asserted their control and abolished democracy
in 411 B.C.
Sparta, as well as being involved in its long tussle with
Athens, was also giving the Greeks of Asia Minor support against
Persia. Persia bought off the Spartans, awarding them vast monies
that allowed the construction of a Spartan fleet. In 405 B.C.
this Spartan fleet inflicted a critical reverse on that of
Athens. Without its fleet Athens could be starved into
submission and fell to Sparta.
At Spartan insistence democracy was abolished and an oligarchy
known as the Thirty Tyrants ruled in Athens. In the ensuing times
the Athenian Empire was largely dismembered.
In 386 B.C. the Persian King Artaxerxes again asserted
Persian sway over the several colonies established by the states
of Ancient Greece in Asia Minor.
In 359 B.C. Philip II gained the Macedonian throne and
thereafter transformed his traditionally disunited and weak
dominions into a political and military power.
The history of King Philip's reign was remarkable for the
degree to which Macedonia imposed its sway over other Greek
states. In 338 B.C. Macedonia defeated the forces of the Greek
Confederation in a battle contested at Chaeronea. This was
followed by the formation, at Philips behest, of a pan-Hellenic
Corinthian League directed against the Persian Empire. Philip
himself was regarded as the Hegemon ( as in Hegemony!!!)
of this League that was dominated by the Macedonian power.
In 337 B.C. took yet another wife marrying a lady named
Cleopatra, he had several wives already one of whom, Olympias,
bore the title of Queen !!!, but this marriage involved the
displacement of Olympias.
In 336 B.C. an expeditionary force was sent against the Persian
Empire by Philip II.
Philips' son and accepted heir, Alexander, a son of Olympias,
was coming into young manhood. Alexander had, from the age of
thirteen, been tutored by Aristotle and had shown himself to be
an enthusiatic student. He had later assisted his father in
military operations intended to remind the rest of Greece of the
reality of Macedonian power.
Philip II was murdered by a bowman at a wedding feast for a
daughter and the twenty one year old Alexander was recognised as
Alexanders accession is considered to mark the beginning of
the Hellenistic Age in the history of Ancient Greece.
Alexander decided to continue his fathers policy of outright
opposition to Persia and led an army several tens of thousands
strong into Asia Minor.
Between 334-323 B.C. armies led by Alexander conquered the
Persian empire and much of the known world!!!
Macedonian Greek armies were victorious as far east as India
and as far south as Egypt.
In 323 B.C. Alexander "the Great" became severely sick and
died. His empire was initially adminstered in the name of close
male relatives of Alexander but was subsequently contested over
by several prominent soldiers.
Although Alexander's empire was dismembered the establishment
of Macedonian dynasties over sweeping Asian and Egyptian
territories allowed the continuance of a high degree of
Macedonian and Greek influence over a most extensive geographical
By 281 B.C. the contest between the claimants to the
Macedonian territories left Ptolemy in control in Egypt, Seleucus
in power over much of Asia Minor and the Middle East, and
Antigonas holding sway in Macedonian Greece.
In these times a new power , centered on Rome, was emerging
and encroaching upon the Greek colonies in the Italian
The Macedonian King Philip V offered support, against Rome, to
the Carthaginian general Hannibal. This support given by
Macedonia to a dire enemy of Rome led to a protracted series of
wars between Rome and Macedonia.
The Antigonid dynasty was dethroned by Rome in 168 B.C. and by
146 B.C. Greece was brought within Rome's system of
The Queen Cleopatra who was involved a century later in the
history of Julius Caesar, Mark Anthony, and the Roman Empire, was
a descendant of the Ptolemaic dynasty. With her death in 30 B.C.
the tradition of powerful eastern ruling dynaties of Macedonian
extraction came to an end.