In what centuries did Greek civilization flourish?

Greece history

An overview of Greek history

Greece from ancient times to the present

Early history

Since the Paleolithic there have been settlements on what is now Greek territory, such as the Neolithic Sesklo culture in Thessaly (3500 to 2800 BC), an early peasant culture with cattle breeding and grain cultivation, or the Dimini culture (from 2800 BC). Chr.).

The beginning of the Bronze Age marks the transition into the Metal Age and covers the period from 3100/3000 BC. BC to 1100 BC A distinction is usually made between an early period up to 2000 BC and a middle period up to 1700 BC. and to a later period, up to 1100 BC. Lasted.

The transition to the Bronze Age is considered to be the birth of the Minoan culture on Crete; from 2500 BC one speaks of the beginning first European high culture. The palaces of Knossos and Phaistos are among the most important examples of Minoan culture. The Minoan languages, which were spoken not only on Crete, but also on other Aegean islands, formally belong to the ancient Mediterranean languages, more precisely to the Aegean languages.

In the period from the 17th to the 11th century BC. the Mycenaean period is set. The Mycenaean culture is the Greek culture of mainland Greece in the late Bronze Age and is considered to be the first advanced civilization of mainland Europe. Palace centers such as Mycenae, Thebes or the palace of Nestor near Pylos were important testimonies to the Mycenaean culture. The reasons for the destruction of many Mycenaean centers shortly after 1200 BC. and the emigration of large parts of the population are still controversial and controversial.

The following centuries (1200 BC to approx. 750 BC) are referred to as the dark centuries or the dark ages of Greece, because this period has been little or no research due to the lack of written sources and few archaeological finds. During this period the transition to the Iron Age takes place. From 750 BC. begins the archaic period, the first period of antiquity.

It should be mentioned that in the 10th and 9th centuries the Greeks took over the Phoenician script and expanded it by adding the vowel signs. The spread of the script was carried out by colonists and traders throughout the Mediterranean.

Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece is divided into three periods: the Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic periods.

Archaic time

The archaic period (approx. 800–500 BC) is characterized by the great colonization of the Greeks in the Mediterranean area. The reasons for emigration in the first phase of colonization (850 to 750 BC) are mainly due to the internal circumstances of the Greek mother country. On the one hand, it is the search for new land to solve the demographic problems (overpopulation) attested by many ancient authors such as Hesiod. In addition to the overpopulation, it is the profound social contradictions, as can be inferred from the internal conflicts in cities like Megara, Corinth or Athens, which have caused thousands to leave their homeland for Sicily and southern Italy.

In the second phase (700 to 500 BC) the colonists from Greece came from the mainland, from the islands and from Asia Minor and pursued purely commercial interests, with their expansion area expanding to include the coast of the Pyrenees Peninsula, the Black Sea and North Africa. The pursuit of new arable land is linked to trade policy aspects, in particular to securing trade routes. The Greek colonization thus extends over the entire Mediterranean area.

The usual form of government in Greece is the city-state (in Greek: Polis), except in some parts of northern Greece and the Peloponnese. The monarchy is losing ground and oligarchic forms of government are gaining influence in the city-states. However, the form of government of tyranny also took place in the 7th and 6th centuries BC. Chr. Distribution - first in Corinth, later in Sikyon, Samos and Athens. Tyranny is understood as the unrestricted autocracy of a tyrant, which lacks a legal basis and is based on a power-political basis.
Sparta creates 550 BC. the Peloponnesian League and consolidates its claim to power.

Classic period

The Greek classical period (500 to 336 BC) begins with the Ionian uprising (approx. 500–494 BC) and the resulting conflict between Greece and the Persian Empire. Athens asserts itself against the Persians in the battle of Marathon (490 BC), the Hellenic League, led by Athens and Sparta, defeats the Persians in the sea battle of Salamis (480 BC) after the battle of Thermopylae devastating. Against this background, 478/477 BC. Founded the Attic League of Athens.

The struggle for supremacy in Greece culminates in the Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens, in which Athens is defeated by Sparta (404 BC). But Sparta cannot maintain its dominance for long and becomes 371 BC. Defeated by the Theban general Epaminondas at the Battle of Leuctra. After a short period of Theban hegemony (until approx. 362 BC), under the 336 BC Philip II murdered Macedonia from 359 BC onwards. BC to the hegemonic power in Greece.

The form of government of the Attic democracy developed over two centuries: After the abolition of the monarchy, an oligarchic form of government emerged. Various reforms by Solon and Kleisthenes, however, pave the way and ultimately lead to the development of Attic democracy.


During the Hellenistic period (336 to 146 BC), Alexander of Macedon continued the policy of his father, Philip II. Not only did he push back the Persians, but he established a great empire that reached as far as India and included Egypt, the Middle East, Asia Minor and northern India. The spread of the Greek language and culture in this great empire is known as Hellenism. With the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC The empire is divided into three major empires: the empire of the Ptolemies in Egypt, the Seleucids in Syria and the Antigonids in Macedonia. In addition to these great empires, there are still many independent city-states.

Against this background, many Greek city-states are banding together and fighting against each other and against Macedonia. Finally, the Roman Empire intervened against Philip V and defeated Macedonia in the Second Macedonian-Roman War (200–197 BC). Macedonia becomes 168 BC. After the defeat in the battle of Pydna Roman province, the rest of Greece is 146 BC. Incorporated into the Roman Empire as the province of Achaia; it follows 133 BC. Western Asia Minor as the province of Asia, 64 BC. The rest of the Seleucid Empire as the province of Syria and 30 BC. BC Egypt. This marks the end of politically independent Greece for almost two millennia.

Roman and Byzantine empires

Greek culture does not lose its importance during Roman rule and also influences Roman civilization.

The Roman Emperor Constantine the Great moves the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to Constantinople in 330 AD. At the same time, Greece was Christianized by AD 400. Until then, people called themselves Hellenes, this term becomes uncommon because it is used to denote non-Christians; the Greeks now see themselves as Romans (Rhomeans). When the actual split of the Roman Empire took place in AD 395, Greece fell to the Eastern Roman Empire as the Diocese of Macedonia. The end of antiquity marked the penetration and settlement of Slavic groups in the Eastern Roman provinces from around 580 AD. The Byzantine Empire developed from the Eastern Roman Empire, in which Christianity became the state religion and in which Roman-Greek traditions were maintained.

In the centuries that followed, the Byzantine Empire had to defend itself against Slavs, Bulgarians, Arabs, Venetians and Normans, gradually losing national territory and in the 11th century consisting of what is now Greece and Asia Minor. Asia Minor fell to the Seljuks in the 11th century and to the Ottomans in the 14th century. Little by little the Ottomans conquered more and more parts of Byzantium, finally with the fall of Constantinople in 1453 it was finally taken by the Ottomans.
The Greeks have been under Ottoman rule for almost 400 years, but can preserve their language, religion and identity.

The 19th century

Under the signs of the Enlightenment, but also influenced by the ideas of the French Revolution, a movement for the liberation of Greece from the Ottoman yoke formed at the beginning of the 19th century. This movement is supported domestically by Greek merchants and the Greek Orthodox Church, abroad by Greeks abroad, by the great powers or personalities such as Lord Byron.

On March 25, 1821, the uprising against the Ottomans began and lasted eight years. Athens is taken on April 7th, 1821, in December of the same year a national assembly consisting of 67 members meets in Epidaurus to proclaim a provisional constitution and independence in January 1822 and to set up a government. In the military and political struggles of the following years, the intervention of Great Britain, Russia and France brought about the decisive turning point by defeating the Ottoman fleet in the naval battle of Navarino (1827): in 1830 the independence of Greece was enshrined in the London Protocol as a hereditary kingdom.

The first king of Greece was Prince Otto of Wittelsbach in 1833. The abolition of parliament and his autocratic style of government earned him little sympathy from the population. Otto I had to abdicate in 1862, he was succeeded by the Danish Prince Wilhelm as King George I on the throne. In 1864 the new king introduced the parliamentary monarchy. This was followed by wars between the European powers and the Ottoman Empire. The national territory, which until now only encompassed the Peloponnese, is expanded to include the Ionian Islands (1864), Thessaly (1881), large parts of central Greece and Crete. In April 1896, the first modern Olympic Games opened in Athens.

The 20th and 21st centuries

First World War and Asia Minor catastrophe

The Greater Greek idea, which meant the incorporation of all areas inhabited by the majority of Greek people (including Thrace, Constantinople, Cyprus, etc.) into the Greek national territory, formed the essential basis of Greek foreign policy from the late 19th to the early 20th century. Eleftherios Venizelos, an important supporter of the “Great Idea”, succeeded as Prime Minister in the Balkan Wars from 1912 to 1913 to expand Greek territory.

The entry into the First World War in 1917 and the victory of the Entente brought Greece through the Treaty of Sèvres the northern part of Epirus, the islands of Imbros and Tenedos as well as western Thrace (including Adrianople, today Edirne) and the then predominantly Greek-speaking regions of the western Asia Minor. But the attempt, with the approval of the victorious powers (League of Nations mandate), to decide the Turkish defeat in favor of Greece in 1919 and to conquer further territories ended in the so-called Asia Minor catastrophe in 1922. In the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, it is stipulated that Imbros, Tenedos, Izmir and Eastern Thrace will revert to Turkey, Northern Epirus to Albania; this is accompanied by a population exchange. Around one and a half million Greek and Armenian refugees have to leave Asia Minor, in return, around 400,000 Muslims leave Greece. The Dodecanese Islands fell back to Greece after the Second World War in 1947.

World War II and Civil War

After the Asia Minor catastrophe, a deep rift went through Greek society, dividing the population into monarchists and supporters of the republic. In the midst of these unrest, General Ioannis Metaxas was appointed head of government and foreign minister to King George II. In the wake of domestic political unrest and the bloody suppression of a strike, Ioannis Metaxas established his authoritarian "August 4th regime" through a coup, which lasted until 1941.

During the Second World War, German and Italian troops invade and occupy Greece (1941). At the same time as the formation of a government-in-exile in London, resistance movements were forming in the country, some of which were nationalist and partly communist.

In the period that followed, the civil war raged in Greece (03/1946 to 10/1949), which was the continuation of the conflict that had existed since 1943 between the left, the Greek Popular Front, and the right, the Greek conservatives and monarchists. The civil war was decided in favor of the monarchy by the intervention of British and American troops in 1949.

post war period

The new constitution of 1952 provides for a constitutional monarchy for Greece. In terms of foreign policy, the aim is to integrate into the Western alliance, for example by joining NATO, becoming an EEC member or joining the EU in 1981.

An economic upswing can be observed from the 1950s onwards, but the domestic political situation is only relatively stable. As a result of a domestic political crisis in the mid-1960s, a military coup led by Georgios Papadopoulos, who deposed the king, proclaimed the presidential republic and appointed himself first prime minister.

Konstaninos Karamanlis, who has returned from exile, takes over the government on July 23, 1974 and, after a peaceful transition, introduces a new constitution; the monarchy is finally replaced by the Third Republic.

Since the transition to democracy, two parties dominated the political stage in Greece until January 2015: The Nea Dimokratia (New Democracy) and the PASOK (Panhellenic Socialist Party).

In 2001 Greece joined the Economic and Monetary Union, and in 2002 the euro was also introduced in Greece. In 2004 the 28th Summer Olympics will take place in Athens.

Greece has been fighting the debt, financial and economic crisis since 2010 at the latest. Since 2017, the Greek economy seems to be back on a growth path.

Greek mythology

An important part of Greek history must not be ignored: Greek mythology, which has enchanted the whole world with its gods and demigods as well as its countless stories and legends. Greek mythology is usually understood to mean ancient Greek myths that revolve around the gods and heroes of ancient Greece.
Greek mythology is considered to be one of the richest mythologies in the world. It has had a major impact on “Western culture,” philosophy, history, politics, fine arts and literature, and is considered an essential element of Western cultural heritage.

Ancient Greek myths have been the subject of almost every literary genre. In the classical period they were treated in epic, choral poetry and tragedy, and in the Hellenistic period they were also treated as collections. The oldest surviving sources include Homer's epics (9th / 8th century BC), the Iliad and the Odyssey, as well as the goddess epics by Hesiod. The Iliad deals with the Trojan War, while the Odyssey deals with Odysseus' wanderings. Hesiod's poetic works (8th century BC) "Theogony" and "Works and Days" are just as valuable. These works relate to the creation of the world, the succession of divine rulers, the origin of human drama and sacrificial rituals, as they were anchored in ancient thought. Myths, parts of Homeric epics, poems of epic cycles, lyric poems, tragedies of the 5th century BC. B.C., are preserved as well as writings about the time of Hellenism by authors from the time of the Roman Empire such as Plutarch and Pausanias.

Since Greek mythology has a wealth of stories in store and its narrative would go beyond the scope, the creation of the world and the gods are shown below.

According to the ancient Greeks, in the beginning there was chaos, there was nothing, that is, there was a dark space in the universe without earth, life and gods, in which the "primordial elements" of life (earth, fire, air, Water). The elements joined together and soon formed a solid mass from which the earth emerged. The first goddess and primordial mother of all gods arose from the earth: Gaia. In order to give life and to ensure reproduction, chaos produced Eros (representing the desire for love), Erebos (= darkness), Nyx (= black night); the union of Erebos and Nyx resulted in Aither (= air and light) and Hemera (= day).

Gaia begat Uranus, the sky, Pontus, the sea, and Tartaros, the underworld. From the union with their son Uranos, Oceanus and Tithys were sired, from whose connection the rivers and the Oceanids emerged. Many more children followed; to name just a few: the sun (Helios), the moon (Selene) and the dawn (Eos). A whole family of gods was created, to which twelve titans, one-eyed beings, cyclops and hundred-armed giants joined and drove their mischief.The titans founded the first dynasty of gods.

This was followed by the expulsion of the first father of gods, Uranus, from the throne by his son Kronos, the battle of the titans and the battle of the giants. Finally, Kronos' son, namely Zeus, conquered Olympus and the third generation of the gods dynasty established itself.

The twelve main gods of the Greeks who reside on Olympus are counted:

The supreme and most powerful Olympian god and ruler over the other gods is Zeus, Son of the titan couple Kronos and Rhea. Only the moiren (fate) to which Zeus obeys stand above Zeus.

Zeus is wife and sister Hera, Guardian of conjugal sexuality and protective goddess of marriage and childbirth.

The virgin goddess of the sacrificial fire and family unity as well as the hearth is Estia, also a sister of Zeus.

The sea god is Poseidon, another brother of Zeus ’who lives in a crystal palace in the depths of the sea.

The goddess of fertility, the earth and agriculture is Demeter, a sister of Zeus; however, she has a daughter in common with Zeus, Persephone.

God of war is Ares, a son of Hera and Zeus.

Is also the son of Hera and Zeus Hephaestus, the god of fire, volcanoes and blacksmithing and architecture.

Is goddess of the hunt and the moon Artemis, Daughter of the god father and the titan Leto and twin sister of Apollo.

The god of poetry, healing, spring and light and the fine arts, especially music, poetry and song, and the god of archers is Apollo.

Messenger of the gods as well as god of thieves, trade and travelers Hermes, Son of Zeus and the nymph Maia.

She is the goddess of wisdom, struggle, strategy, art, craft and manual labor Athena and at the same time the patron goddess of Athens. Athena is the daughter of Zeus and Metis, the first lover of the father of gods.

Goddess of beauty, love and sensual desire is Aphrodite, Wife of Hephaestus and according to Homer the daughter of Zeus and Dione or according to Hesiod the daughter of Uranus, one of the pre-Olympic gods.