History of Europe

Greek Civilization - History of Greek Civilization

The Greeks originate from the Balkan peninsula. Coming from the North, from the Eurasian plains, the Indo-Europeans found Greece with an always mild climate, blue sky and sea, and they remained there.

In the 20th century BC the Indo-European peoples faced the Pelagians who inhabited the region, and dominated them.

As the continuous surface of Greece was quite limited, the Greeks also began to inhabit the nearby islands, which were quite numerous. The island of Euboea was separated from the mainland by the Strait of Euripes. Ithaca, Cephanonia, Corcyra and Zakynthos were located in the Ionian Sea. South of the Peloponnese was Zither, which represented a step towards the island of Crete, the most extensive of all. The Cyclades (Andros, Delos, Paros, Nexos) were located in the Aegean, as well as the Sporades (Rhodes, Samos, Chios, Lesbos). These islands constituted colonial Greece, made up of more distant lands:

Asia Minor (Aeolian, Ionic, Doria),
Southern Italy (Magna, Cretia),
Egyptian coast (Naucratis).

Since the Neolithic period, there has been news of the presence of man in the Balkan peninsula. The Pelasgians were its first inhabitants, possibly of Mediterranean origin. The Cretans, however, were more important as a civilization, predominating throughout the Aegean region. Both the Pelasgians and the Cretans are generally considered to be peoples prior to the Greeks (pre-Hellenic peoples).
Aegean history had its origins on the island of Crete, radiating from there to mainland Greece and also to Asia Minor. Around 1800 BC, Knossos and Phaistos, on the island of Crete, reached their zenith. The palace at Knossos was destroyed between one hundred and two hundred years later. A new dynasty was formed, to which several transformations are due, including the type of writing. The Cretans experienced another heyday some fifty years later, when they reached Asia Minor, rebuilding Troy, and mainland Greece, building there Tiryns and Mycenae. The so-called "peoples of the sea" emerged towards the end of the 15th century BC, and were certainly the predecessors of the Greek peoples. They were the Achaeans, people of Indo-European origin. From the miscegenation of Cretans and Achaeans, the Mycenaean civilization originated.

Two hundred years later, the Dorians, the Ionians and the Aeolians, other Hellenic peoples, moved to Greece. The invaders defeated the Achaeans, and replaced the cities with their own. Such cities became the great representatives of Ancient Greece:Athens, Thebes, Sparta and others.

Pre-Hellenic times - in Neolithic times Greece went through several waves of settlement; in Thessaly they were found in sesklo and dhimini, important vestigius of agricultural and pastoral communities. From 2600 to 1900 a. C., the so-called ancient Helladic period corresponds to ancient bronze, the whole of the Greek territory was gradually populated, and maritime relations with the islands of the Aegean Sea, established long ago, were intensified.

The Hellenic Middle Ages:(from the 11th to the 8th century BC). The texts of Homer and Hesiod refer to this obscure period. Archeology has revealed the extent of the use of iron, the appearance of new pottery with geometric elements, and the practice of cremation. A movement of migration and conquest brought the Greeks to the shores of Asia Minor. It was there, without a doubt, that the features of classical Greek were progressively shaped, immediately taken up and developed in the rest of the Hellenic world, as well as the political and social organization of the city (or Polis), in which the most powerful owner exercised the role of king (basileus). But the same civilization (language, later writing, gods and common moral rules) compensated for the territorial dispersion.

Archaic times:(from the 8th to the 6th century BC). This period owes its name to archeology, which places the first manifestations of Greek art in it. An aristocratic regime then extended to all Greek cities. Homeric-type royalty disappeared and a minority of those privileged by birth and fortune (the Eupatrics) possessed the land and authority of the 19th century. VIII ai VI a. C. a vast colonization movement led to the foundation of Greek cities on the coasts of the Mediterranean and the Euxinus point. This emigration was, first of all, a solution to the demand for land on the part of the poorest; in addition, new commercial links were established. In the end, colonization, by modifying traditional economic relations, provoked, in the oligarchic cities, a double movement:those who enriched themselves with commerce and handicrafts claimed political rights, while small peasants and urban labor wanted a social revolution. Legislators, like Solen in Athens (beginning of the 6th century BC), in charge of judging conflicts, drafted written laws, from then on applicable to all (nomoi). The insufficiency of these reforms gave rise to a new political formula:in many cities, a tyrant was in charge of all authority, to rebalance social institutions, but tyrannical regimes, even the one that Pisistratus founded in Athens, could not resist the will of the citizens. to assume their political responsibilities. The value of the institutions created in the archaic period and the cohesion of the city were manifested during the medical wars (490-479 BC). In marathon (490 BC). The Athenian hoplites determined the victory; at Salamis (480 BC), the Persians were defeated by a fleet in which the poorest of the city served as oarsmen and thus gained a new dignity.

The crisis of the city in the century. IV a. C.:most Greek cities were disturbed by social conflicts, consequences of wars; a minority of wealthy merchants, manufacturers and large landowners were opposed by the people, who were often deprived of their land and who suffered competition from slaves in their work. All philosophers felt the need to reform the city (Xenophon, Plato). The individual claimed his rights and his freedom against civic law; Socrates' trial ( 399 ) reflects the problem thus engendered. The Greek world felt its political bankruptcy:the orators, Isocrates above all, preached the need for unity, and the failure of the old alliances made people think that only a king could gather the living forces of Hellenism.

Macedonian intervention (359 to 323 BC). Philip II of Macedonia made his kingdom a centralized monarchy, endowed with a numerous army, whose core was the phalanx. He knew how to use the discords of the cities to reverse Greece and dissolve the Athenian Empire in the north of the Aegean. After the Peace of Philocrates (346), the conflict took on the aspect of a struggle between the king and the Athenian orator Demosthenes, who organized the defense of Athens and concluded an alliance with Thebes. But the war effort was delayed and Philip won at Chaeronea ( 338 . Thus ended the independence of the Greek cities. The peace of 338 severely punished Thebes and deprived Athens of its confederation. The Corinthian League gave Greece a new lease of life. organization; cities should live in peace and join the league, whose generalism (hegemon) was Felipe.

With Philip's death (336), an attempted revolt caused Thebes to be razed to the ground. The Greeks took little part in Alexander's expedition, which set out to liberate the Greek cities of Asia; in fact he created a new world, the basis of which was Greek civilization.

Byzantine Greece:After 395, Greece, included in the Eastern Roman Empire, was repeatedly devastated by invasions. Slavs settled in 547 and converted to Christianity in the 16th century. IX, while the primitive inhabitants flowed back to the coastal regions and to the islands.

The cultural heritage of Greece triumphed in the Eastern Empire, which became the Byzantine Empire. Theodosius II founded a Greek university in Constantinople ( 425 ) and authorized the holding of trials in the Hellenic language. If Justinian closed the philosophical schools of Athens in 529, seen as a focus of paganism, on the other hand he used the Greek language in several of his public acts. Around 630, Heraclius adopted a title from Basileus and made Greek the official language. The use of the Greek language contributed to the spread of the Christian church. Greece, like the rest of the east, adhered to the chrism of 1054, linking itself to the patriarch of constantinople. The history of Greece was confused, from then on, with the vicissitudes of the Byzantine empire. In particular, the Fourth Crusade (1204) led to the creation of the Latin Empire, entrusted to the Count of Flanders, Baldwin, who extended his authority over Thrace, and the formation of Frankish principalities:the kingdom of Thessalonica, taken by the Byzantines in 1222; the Peloponnese, which became the principality of Achaia or Morea; and the Duchy of Athens. In the centuries XIV and XV, Venetians, Catalans and Genoese disputed the possession of Greece proper.

The invading peoples were:

Achaeans:Invaded the island of Crete, destroying its civilization and founded the city of Mycenae.

Ionians:Invaded the region of Crete.

Dorians:Invaded the Peloponnese, dominated the Achaeans who had already established themselves and imposed their civilization.

Climate in Ancient Greece

It had a mild and pleasant climate. Approximately 640mm of rain fell each year, mostly in winter. In summer, the people lived almost entirely outdoors. Although the winter winds were cold, the Greeks held most of their entertainments and public gatherings outside of the covered areas.

Homer wrote books that for many years were considered accounts of Greek legends.
But when the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann excavated and discovered Troy in 1870, Homer's texts acquired veracity and historical importance.

As a result, the history of Greece is divided into the following periods:


a) Pre-Homeric period:20th-12th centuries BC.

Characterized by the settlement of Indo-European peoples.

b) Homeric period:20th-8th centuries BC.

Characterized by the formation of the genos, which were small communities led by a political chief, the basileus.

In the geno the land was collective and cultivated by all. A set of genos formed the fatria and a set of fatrias formed a tribe.

With the growth of the geno population, the land became scarce for agriculture and many abandoned the region, generating the disintegration of the system.

Upon leaving, they headed for the colonies in North Africa, Southern Italy, France and Spain. All these locations were called the Greek World.

c) Archaic Period:8th-6th centuries BC.

Characterized by the formation of city-states, so called because they had an independent government and economy.

Their rulers, according to the custom of Greek democracy, could be chosen by the people.

d) Classical Period:VI-IV centuries BC.

Characterized by the hegemony and imperialism of the cities of Athens, Sparta and Thebes.

Dominion of Macedonia

Inhabiting northern Thessaly, the Macedonians were of unknown origin, semi-barbarian. But although they were not Greeks, they participated in Greek politics.

The orator Demosthenes, fearing his power, warned the Greeks of the danger of a Macedonian invasion, in his famous speeches:the Philippics.


King Philip II dominated Macedonia, who participated as a judge in disputes between Greek cities. Knowing the defense of cities, during the fight between Thebes and Sparta, he attacks and comes out victorious.

After the victory, he dies, in 336 BC, assassinated.

Alexander's government:

He was believed to be the son of Zeus and Queen Olympias. He was sent from an early age to Greece to study. Of great culture, he became a disciple of Aristotle.

He unified the Greek people and conquered Persia, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, Syria and Palestine, building one of the greatest empires of antiquity and passing on Greek civilization to it. That is, Alexander the Great provided the Hellenization of the conquered peoples.

He founded the city of Alexandria at the mouth of the Nile.

He died at age 33. After his death the vast Empire collapsed, divided by his generals into 3 great kingdoms:

Egypt, Phoenicia and Palestine:with Ptolemy.
Persia, Mesopotamia and Syria:with Seleucus.
Macedonia and Greece:with Cassander.

Cultural Legacy

The basis of Western European culture was formed by the legacy of the Greeks.

His Philosophy remained alive in the teachings of Democritus, Anaxagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Thales of Miletus, etc.

The works of the great Greek thinkers are still studied today, such as "The Republic", "The Banquet" and "Phaedon" by Plato; and Aristotle's "Politics".

In medicine, Hippocrates stands out; Euclid and Pythagoras, in Geometry; Archimedes in Physics.

In the arts, the search for aesthetic perfection was a constant.

During the 5th century BC Greek culture reached its apogee, under the rule of Pericles, who protected artists and ordered the construction of numerous monuments.

Phidias is the greatest sculptor of this period. His statue of Olympian Zeus was considered one of the wonders of the ancient world.

Miron stands out with the "Discóbolo", in honor of the athletes.

Temples, theaters, amphitheaters and Odeons were built in white marble for the grandeur of Greece, so that it would be seen by foreigners and its beauty spread throughout the world.

Its column patterns were envied and copied by other peoples.

Theater plays are still performed today in our theaters and their revered authors:- Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes.

The Greek Herodotus is considered the father of history.

The Poems of Homer

The Homeric poems, Iliad and Odyssey, narrate these times of struggles and legends. The first narrates the war between Greeks and Trojans, with the victory of the former. The Odyssey, tells the adventures of Odysseus (Odysseus), king of Ithaca. Hence, this period is called the Homeric Times.

Greek Cities

Greek cities are found in the most remote historical times. Many of these cities were perfectly organized. We learn about the genos, tiny natural communities in which the Greeks formerly lived, only through Homeric legends and poems. The genos consisted of all those who worshiped common ancestors who had the same blood. Over time, these genos grouped together in order to obtain better living conditions, and gave rise to cities.

The Greeks, however, founded many cities, each maintaining its independence. They also had their own kings, habits, and regulations. Despite this, the Greeks felt that they formed a single people, which developed in Greece the patriotic feeling.

The Greek Colonies

Colonies were the means used by the Greeks to spread their religion and habits throughout the Mediterranean. The founding of Greek colonies was not due to the initiative of the state. A group of elements, obeying the leadership of one, in charge of carrying the sacred fire, left the same city in search of a place where they could settle down and build independent cities, linked only by religion to the city of origin. This type of colony is called apoequia.

In the 10th century BC, the Athenians created a new type of colony, the oleruchia. It was the work of the State, and emigrants retained their citizenship rights.

Some Greek colonies:villages in Sicily, southern Italy, Turkey, lands on the Black Sea, India, Portugal and Sudan.

Greek Evolution

In some cities, agriculture was replaced by other economic activities, which attracted foreign elements and led to an increase in the number of slaves. The classes that did not participate in politics increased, numerically, as they grouped together in the city itself. With that, they became aware of the strength they had that until then they had ignored because of their scattered life on the farm.

The emergence of currency was another factor in the economic revolution. Mobile riches were constituted and there was discontent among the lower social classes. Political struggles followed one another. As a solution, laws were enacted to regulate class relations.

The excesses of luxuries were one of the concerns of almost all legislators. Laws of Pítacos, Solon and Zaleucos concerning the use of feminine jewels and funeral processions are known.

With the crisis, the aristocratic regime led to the emergence of tyranny, represented by at least two hundred tyrants distributed throughout Greek history.

The main purpose of the Greek tyrants was to be accepted by the world as protectors of justice and religion, and they sought to surround themselves with literati and artists, who transformed them into benefactors, thereby gaining them sympathy and prestige.

Spartans and Athenians

The Athenians constituted the standard democracy in classical Greece.

The Spartans, as they maintained living conditions similar to those of a reclusive army, underwent few political changes, always remaining with the characteristics of an aristocratic state.

Both Sparta and Athens maintained constant struggles for Greek hegemony. Athens had its heyday during the time of Pericles (463-529 BC). Pericles was the main representative of the democratic party, which came to power in 463 BC. Its main objective was to improve the living conditions of the population, also transforming and improving the characteristics of foreign policy.

As for culture, he sought to attract intellectuals from all parts of Greece, favoring them and installing them in Athens. His time was marked by the names of great personalities:

Phidias, architect and sculptor;
Sophocles, author of tragedies;
Herodotus, the great historian;
Aeschylus, author of tragedies;
Socrates, the father of philosophy;
Euripides, author of tragedies;
Aristophanes, comediographer.

At the end of Pericles' rule, the struggle between Sparta and Athens broke out, which would be one of the longest and most violent wars in the ancient world, and which went down in history as the Peloponnesian War.

The constant warlike disagreements between the Greek cities only managed to shake the country's unity, allowing Philip I I to achieve his conquest.

After having managed to impose himself on the Greeks, many believe that the Macedonian king was taking care of the preparations to subdue the Persians, which he was not able to bring to his satisfaction, as he was assassinated by Pausanias, in 336 BC, leaving his throne to his son, Alexander. .

Alexander's Conquests

At that time, Alexander, 20 years old, was considered a cultured man and admirer of Hellenism, believed to have been a disciple of Aristotle. He tried to consolidate, in Greece, the work of Philip. He invaded Thebes, and destroyed it. He won Athens. After Granicus' victory, he submitted to Asia Minor, in addition to other victories. He died in 323 BC.

After his death, disagreements and fights between the generals led to the division of the Empire into 3 great kingdoms:

that of Egypt;
that of Syria;
that of Macedonia.

Later, smaller kingdoms originated from these 3 great kingdoms:


These small kingdoms constituted the Hellenistic states.

Hellenistic Period

Also in religion the regime was imposed. The cult of kings was established, turning the king almost into a god.

Hellenistic sculpture was oriented towards effect, and was characterized by large proportions. The main sculptural centers were Pergamum and Rhodes. The Colossus of Rhodes was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. In painting, Apelles excelled. In poetry, Theocritus and Menadro were notable. The most famous historian was Polybius. In philosophy, Zenon, Pyrrhus, Diogenes and Epicurus appear. Also lived at this time:

Euclid, the father of geometry;
Archimedes, the father of physics.
The heyday of Greek art occurs with the fusion of Macedonia, this period being called Hellenism.

Greek Civilization

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