Hekataios the Milesian speaks thus: I write these things as they seem to me; for the stories of the Greeks are many and absurd in my opinion, Shotwell, James T , The History of History

The first important culture in Greece was the Minoan established 3000 BC or earlier. Around 1000 years later probably there was a slow and continous flow of Greek speaking people to Greece. They formed the first Greek civilization around 1600 BC known as "Mycenean". Before there was a long period where both Greeks and pre-Greeks lived together. Greek speaking people around 1500 started to control the Minoans who slowly adopted the Greek language. The Linear A script of the Minoans was replaced by the Linear B script. Some important differences between the Minoans and Myceneans: The Minoans did not use fortification to protect their palaces. The rulers of Mycenae were buried in monumental tombs that demonstrated probably their status. The name for the ruler was wannaka (something like "lord" that later was transformed in Classical Greek to wanax and anax . The Myceneans adopted the Minoan Art but as a more warriorlike culture they were less artistic skilled.

ἐν δορὶ μέν μοι μᾶζα μεμαγμένη, ἐν δορὶ δ' οἶνος
Ἰσμαρικός· πίνω δ' ἐν δορὶ κεκλιμένος.

Mycenean Soldiers with a bottle wine on their spears as the poet Archilochus explains in his poem

Around 1200 BC decline of the Mycenean civilization, reason for the crisis (not only in Greece) not known (no written records). Loss of the knowledge of writing using the linear B script (known probably by a few persons only and used mainly for documentation of transactions and recording the goods stored in the palaces).

Greek Dark Ages


Recovery, Period of formation of Greek Colonies

After an economical crisis of almost 3 centuries some improvements in the period 900-750 BC. Settlements in Ionia (probably earlier). Increasing use of Iron for weapons and other tools. In 776 establishment of the Olympic Games every 4 years. 750-500 BC Archaic Period in Art. Development of city states (Poleis). How these Poleis were formed is not completely understood, one of the problems to understand is the increasing influence of non-aristocratic citizens. One important aspect was the hoplite revolution, a miltary fighting system (Phalanx, men marched into combat in a rectangular formation) dressed with a metal body armor. Initially the armor was expensive but with iron the cost was reduced. These hoplites as assumed were important for the city states and thus more and more persons were included in the decision making process.

The Geography of Greece played some role in forming the various separate city states (Aristotle includes also the climate). Period of colonization from Spain to the Black Sea, important colonies in Italy (Magna Graecia). Persons "ktistes" in a Polis are selected to lead the foundation of a new colony which although independent has some ties with its "mother city" the metropolis. In this period the Oracle of Delphi is established as a cultural center of all Greek city-states and it gives advices related to colonization. Cyrene was founded around 630 BC by citizens of Thera ( forced by law, death penalty if they refuse). The founders of the new colonies were probably only men and therefore there was a mixing with the local population in the new colonies but surprisingly the colonists were able to keep their national identity and Hellenic culture. One of the reasons of the colonization was an increase of the population and the limited ressources.

The Archaic Period was a very important period. It is characterized by:

The formation of city-states, colonies, new trading relations, invention of coinage in Lydia , improvement of the economy, travel of wealthy citizens who acquire the knowledge of other cultures. Ionia is the center of a scientific revolution. The Phoenician alphabet is modified and used to record not only transactions but also literature.

Archaic Period (Forms of Organization)

War is the father of all and king of all, and some he shows as gods, others as men; some he makes slaves, others free, Heraclitus

Solon, Reforms (Seisachtheia), 594 BC (classification of population according to their economic power (timokratia) in four categories: pentakosiomedimnoi , hippeis , zeugitai , thetes) (On the Athenian Constitution by Solon of Athens)

Pisistratus , after earlier attempte tyrant of Athens, 546 BC (building program) (one of many examples were tyrants were responsible for important developments)

Cleisthenes , democratic reforms, organization of population in demoi, phyle.

Amphictyonic League

The Greek Ionian colonies revolt against the Persians is supported by Athens, Eretria and Naxos. Miletus is destroyed, the citizens sold as slaves. Phrynichus an author and a pioneer of Tragedy 2 years later, around 492 BC, represents the tragic events on stage in his work The capture of Miletus.

... and the whole audience burst into tears. The art of the poet was considered criminal in thus forcibly reminding the Athenians of a calamity which was deemed their own: he was fined a thousand drachmae, and the repetition of the piece forbidden--a punishment that was but a glorious homage to the genius of the poet and the sensibility of the people. Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Athens: Its Rise and Fall .

A new power establishes in the East. The Persians conquer Lydia, Egypt, Thrace, Macedonia... In the West the Carthaginians try to conquer Sicily with its Greek colonies. In Miletus Histiaeus rules with Persian support as a tyrant.

Persian archers, Susa

Ionian Revolt

Darius I, the Persian King and Pharaoh of Egypt, starts an expedition against the Greeks under the command of Datis and Artaphernes (a nephew of Darius).

Herodotus enumerates no less than 56 different nations, all of them in their national dress and arms. Besides the Persians there were "Medes and Bactrians; Libyans in war chariots with four horses; Arabs on camels; Sagartians, wild huntsmen who employed, instead of the usual weapons of the time, the lasso; the nomadic tribes of Bucharia and Mongolia; Ethiopians in lions' skins, and Indians in cotton robes; Phoenician sailors, and Greeks from Asia Minor." James Mactear

The Greek Hippias works as a adviser for the Persians. In the year 490 BC not far from Athens, in Marathon, the Persian forces are attacked by the Greeks.

Xerxes I

The Phalanx, hoplite armour and tactics are important for the victory of the Greeks. Ten years later Xerxes I ("The leader of Heroes"), the son of Darius I, starts a new expedition against the Greeks. It took 10 years to attack again Greece after it had to manage a revolt in Egypt. In 482a significant source of silver os discoverd in Laurium / Attica. Themistocles proposes to use it for the construction of a fleet of trireme ships.

From the East Xerxes attacks central Greece, from the West his allies the Carthagenians attack the Greek colonies in Italy. Aeschylus comments: "Now this is the battle for everything"

Many Greek city states actually send "Earth and Water" to Xerxes.

Among [these] ... were the Thessalians, Dolopians, Enianians, Perrhaebians, Locrians, Magnetians, Malians, Achaeans of Phthiotis, Thebans, and Boeotians generally, except those of Plataea and Thespiae. These are the nations against whom the Greeks that had taken up arms to resist the barbarians swore the oath, which ran thus—“From all those of Greek blood who delivered themselves up to the Persians without necessity, when their affairs were in good condition, we will take a tithe of their goods, and give it to the god at Delphi.” Herodotus

A lofty mound was raised on the plain of Marathon, beneath which the remains of the men of Athens who fell in the battle were deposited. Ten columns were erected on the spot, one for each of the Athenian tribes; and on the monumental column of each tribe were graven the names of those of its members whose glory it was to have fallen in the great battle of liberation. The antiquary Pausanias read those names there six hundred years after the time when they were first graven. The columns have long perished, but the mound still marks the spot where the noblest heroes of antiquity, the Marathonomakhoi repose. [Pausanias states, with implicit belief, that the battlefield was haunted at night by supernatural beings, and that the noise of combatants and the snorting of horses were heard to resound on it...] Marathon, from The 15 decisive battle of the world, by Edward Creasy


“The Father of Lies”, (Info) is the author of the Greek colonization. He provides important information about the civilizations he visited, for example Egypt., Persia, Lydia... He describes the Greek Persian War.

Herodotus History

Would the result of the Peloponnesian war for the Athenians different without the Plague and how would the world be today?

An Air Force officer concluded an essay by observing that the Athenians might have changed the course of the Western world had they managed to get one F-16. Alvin H. Bernstein

The Society in the Classical Period


The absence of romance in my history will, I fear, detract somewhat from its interest; but if it be judged useful by those inquirers who desire an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the interpretation of the future, which in the course of human things must resemble if it does not reflect it, I shall be content. In fine, I have written my work, not as an essay which is to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time. Thucydides - History of the Peloponnesian War, Book I


Xerxes I follows the route back to Persia after his Army and Navy is defeated in the Battles of Plataea and Salamis. In Aeschylus work The Persians the mother of Xerxes waits the return of her son. A messanger tells her the bad news. With the ghost of her dead husband she tries to find an explanation of why this happened. Is it because Xerxes constructed a bridge of boats across the Hellespont (actually as his father did with Greek engineers) as Aeschylus poetically explains and thus made the Gods angry? Xerxes ordered that after a storm the waters of the Dardanelles be whipped and branded with hot irons. His soldiers explaining this action: "O vile waterway! Xerxes lays on you this punishment because you have offended him, although he has done you no wrong! The great king Xerxes will cross you even without your permission, for you are a treacherous and foul river!"

Leonidas I at Thermopylae (waiting the Persians by dancing and singing Paeans of Tyrtaeus, At the center is Leonidas , naked and armed (large round shield , armor, helmet and head ) sitting on a rock, his left leg bent , right, Agis, his brother , laid the wreath he wore during the sacrifice , the blind Eurytus , driven by a helot (slave Spartan ) , brandishing a spear), Jacques-Louis David (1814). None of them will survive the battle (Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie, Simonides of Ceos).

Democracy glorifies Demos, Agora Museum, Athens

History of the Peloponnesian War

478 BC Athens, the savior of Greece, takes a leading role, the Delian League is created. Greek states provide money collected by the "Hellenotamiae". Naxos is punished after a revolt refusing to pay. Around 466 BC the Delian League destroys a large fleet of Persian (Carthaginian) triremes in the Battle of Eurymedon.

465 Earthquake hits Sparta, the Helots revolt.

Sparta controls the Laconia and Messenia region. The result of revolts of the larger population in the conquered land is an early formation of a military dominated society. Each warrior spends most of this live in exercises and obtains some land that others have to cultivate and do the necessary work. Important Spartan reformer: Chilon of Sparta

After the Persian war Pericles starts a construction program in Athens with money from the League, 447 BC start of the construction of the Parthenon. For fifty years [pentekontaetia] Athens is the dominating power. Since 459 BC the fortification of the city is improved with the " long walls". The only serious opponent is Sparta. Pericles believes that the Athenians are able to win a war with Sparta.

435 BC Corinth and Corcyra differences over Epidamnos, two years later battle of Sybota

The war started 4 April 431 BC and ended 25 April 404 BC. The Spartans in the last years of the war were supported even by the Persians, the Athenians often divided.

Athens is hit by a plague in 430 BC, many Athenians die. One year later Pericles dies.

427 BC Athens start expedition against Sicily, Syracuse.

421 BC a temporary peace signed (Nicias), Battle of Mantineia 418 BC

Thucydides: The Melian Conference - Fate of Melos

Mutilation of the Herms before the Sicilian Expedition, William D. Furley, Andokides and the Herms: A Study of Crisis in fifth-century Athenian Religion. University of London Inst.of Classical Studies , 1996

Defeat of Athens in Syracuse, after it is supported by Spartans (Gylippus)

"The Romans knew not, and could not know, how deeply the greatness of their own posterity, and the fate of the whole Western world, were involved in the destruction of the fleet of Athens in the harbour of Syracuse. Had that great expedition proved victorious, the energies of Greece during the next eventful century would have found their field in the West no less than in the East; Greece, and not Rome, might have conquered Carthage; Greek instead of Latin might have been at this day the principal element of the language of Spain, of France, and of Italy; and the laws of Athens, rather than of Rome, might be the foundation of the law of the civilized world."- The 15 decisive battle of the world, by Edward Creasy

410 BC battle of Cyzicus won by the Athenians, four years later Arginousae battle , victory of the Spartans. The war is in principle decided, Spartans establish oligarchy system who controls Athens (Thirty tyrants).

  Spirit of freedom! when on Phyle’s brow
   Thou sat’st with Thrasybulus and his train,
   Couldst thou forebode the dismal hour which now
   Dims the green beauties of thine Attic plain?
   Not thirty tyrants now enforce the chain, Lord Byron

Magna Graecia

In Sicily the Carthaginians attack the Greek Colonies, destroy Selinus and Himera and conquer Acragas but Dionysius I (405-467) can resist with some success in Syracuse. He is followed by his son Dionysius II and later by the Corinthian Timoleon. Agathocles follows as a tyrant and then king of Sicily. Pyrrhus of Epirus supports Syracuse against the Carthaginians. The last important ruler is Hiero II (274-215 BC). Syracuse is conquered 212 BC by the Romans who kill Archimedes. In 201 BC Syracuse is finally a part of the Roman Empire (province Sicilia).

After the Peloponnesian war in Greece

Around 10000 Greek soldiers participatee as mercenary soliders in a Persian civil war. Among these Xenophon. After a long journey through Persian territory they reache the sea (Thalatta , Thalatta!) and are able to return to Greece. The story was written by Xenophon in the Anabasis. It is probably this work read by the young Macedonian Prince Alexander that influenced him.

Xenophon's Hellenica 411 - 359 BC

Sparta supports the 30 Tyrants of Athens but Thraybulus is able to reestablish democracy. In the next years Argos, Athens, Corinth and Thebes unite against the Spartans in the so-called Corinthian war. They are supported by Persia. The Athenias are successfull in the Battle of Cnidus 394 BC but the Spartans are victorious in the Battle of Coronea 394 BC. In 387 BC Spartans and Athenians end the conflict with the peace of Antalcidas. In 371 Spartans attack Thebes but Epaminondas uses a specialized Phalanx technique in the battle of Leuctra. The Spartans united with Athens are not successfull in the Battle of Mantinea 362 BC but Epaminondas dies and the short period of Theban dominance ends.

A new era starts with Philip II of Macedonia. He organizes the Macedonian army (part of his experience he obtained from the Thebans) includes more offensive weapons like catapults and Helepolis devices, uses a strong cavalry. The Macedonian phalanx uses a long spear the sarissa and a small shield. In 352 he conquers the region of Thessaly. Athenians and Thebans fight in the Battle of Chaeronea 338 BC against Philip II and his son Alexander who shows his talent and who will be called later Alexander the Great. Macedonia is the dominating power in Greece. Two years later Philip is killed. Alexander follows, suppresses revolts, destroys Thebes and in 334 BC starts a campaign against the Persian Empire.

Darius III.


Alexander the Great, Battle of Issus

Asia beheld with astonishment and awe the uninterrupted progress of a hero, the sweep of whose conquests was as wide and rapid as that of her own barbaric kings, or the Scythian or Chaldaean hordes; but, far unlike the transient whirlwinds of Asiatic warfare, the advance of the Macedonian leader was no less deliberate than rapid; at every step the Greek power took root, and the language and the civilization of Greece were planted from the shores of the Aegean to the banks of the Indus, from the Caspian and the great Hyrcanian plain to the cataracts of the Nile; to exist actually for nearly a thousand years, and in their effects to endure for ever."--ARNOLD.


Alexander The Great and the Hellenistic Age

After the Death of Alexander, war between the Diadochoi (the followers) in the period 323-281 BC. Antigonus Monopthalmus and his son Demetrios Poliorcetes against Lysimachus, Cassander, Ptolemy and Seleucus. In 301 BC Batlle of Ipsus divides the Empire in four parts. Demetrios dies 283 BC. Lysimachus dies in the Battle of Corupedium against Seleucus. The Empire is divided in three parts.

1. The Ptolemies control mainly Egypt from 304 BC - 30 BC.

2. Macedonia is controlled from 279 BC- 168 (Battle of Pydna) by the Antigonids. 20 years later Macedonia is a Roman province.

3. The Seleucid Empire formed in 304 BC, based in Syria (Seleucia), controlled by the Seleucid dynasty until 64 BC.

The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom

Indo-Greek Kingdom


History of Greek and Roman Egypt

Historical Battles

Unfortunately, from about the same time as the end of the Second Punic War, Rome's subjugation of southern Italy, the conquest of Greece, and subsequent developments to similar effect, the great achievements of Greek and Hellenistic culture were either destroyed or bowdlerized through the long sweep, circa 212 B.C. to A.D. 1400, of the region of the Mediterranean and its vicinity by the morally and intellectually corrupting impact of the decadent, eclectic system of Rome. This corruption generated that which came to be known as the Latin legacy, or, by the modern technical term Romanticism. Carl Gauss's Fundamental Theorem of Algebra

The End

Some stories about the end of the Greek Epoch. Its End marks a slowing increase of knowledge and often even a loss. A large period then is required to initiate the Scientific Revolution and the rebirth of Science.

It would be best of all if the Greeks never made war on each other, but regarded it as the highest favor in the gift of the gods could they always speak with one heart and one voice, and marching arm in arm like men fording a river, repel barbarian invaders and unite in preserving themselves and their cities” (Agelaus from Polybius, Histories, 5.104.1-2).

Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit et artes intulit agresti Latio, Horace, Epistulae 2.1.156 : Greece, when captured, captured her savage conqueror and brought the arts into uncultured Latium.

The last advice from the Oracle of Delphi and Kavafis , Reasons of the decline

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