A Brief History of Greece People have been living in Greece since at least 4000 BC.

The country has thousands of islands within easy reach of each other, encouraging movement between the islands. This has made Greece a crossroads for various cultures throughout the ages, with many different peoples making the country their home. The Cycladic Civilisation In 4000 BC, an Early Bronze Age civilisation flourished in the Cyclades islands, which lie between Athens and Crete. Not a lot is known about these people, but they produced some wonderful marble figures of humans: these have a very abstract look, often with no facial features other than a nose. They are reminiscent of the giant heads of Easter Island or the sculptures of Henry Moore. The Cycladic civilisation appears to have died out or been incorporated into other civilisations in about 2000 BC. The Minoans In the Middle Bronze Age, the Minoan Civilisation of Crete started to develop around 2500 BC. The Minoans were extremely advanced, with art, music and architecture. They built huge palaces on Crete, with hundreds or even thousands of rooms. They decorated these with beautiful frescoes (wall paintings) - these show the people dressed in amazing finery, with highly coiffured hair and ornate jewellery. Much of this jewellery has been recovered from excavations of the palaces. The Minoans do not appear to have been a Greek-speaking people, but it is not known what language they did speak. They had a form of writing which is now known as Linear A. This appears to be a syllabic script, with each symbol representing one syllable, but it has never been deciphered.

They took the writing system of the Minoans and adapted it to suit their own language. Frescoes there show that the Minoans had big sea-going vessels. The most distinctive feature of the palace of Mycenae is the Lion Gate with its carved lions guarding the doorway. It grew up in the Peloponnese peninsula (to the southwest of Athens) but spread to other areas of Greece. a type of one-eyed giant. could have moved such stones. which is in the Plain of Argos near to modern day Corinth. They are built with huge stones. but it seems more likely that they defended their island by means of a defensive fleet of ships. Mycenae1. and was not in fact rediscovered until the 20th Century. It is named after its biggest city. The Minoan settlement there was wiped off the face of the earth. suggesting that these were a peaceful people. so they could be considered the first Greeks. After the rebuilding. with devastating effect. They then used this in Crete and in their cities on the Greek mainland for writing . which started in about 2000 BC. The Mycenaeans The Mycenaean Civilisation was another Bronze Age Civilisation. unlike the Minoan ones. burning down all the palaces and then rebuilding them again. The Mycenaeans spoke a very ancient sort of Greek. the palaces were under Mycenaean control and Greek was spoken throughout Crete. but it seems likely that the Minoan fleet would have been badly damaged by tsunamis. The Volcano of Santorini erupted in about 1650 BC. Mycenaean buildings. are heavily fortified. They appear to have invaded Crete in 1450 BC. which the later Greeks called 'cyclopean'. buried beneath metres of pumice. because they thought that only a cyclops. There have been no discoveries of any fortresses on Crete.Minoan remains have been found in Santorini which is the southernmost of the Cyclades islands. and the first major island north of Crete. It is not known what effect the volcanic eruption had on Crete.

so none of them have survived. Mycenaean civilisation came to an abrupt end in about 1200 BC. In addition. . These have been described as 'barbarians'. The Greeks used it and changed it to suit their own language. The Iliad tells of an incident in the war. which was his Roman name) after the war. a supposed war between the Achaians and the Trojans. are no written records. Why it ended is a mystery. while the Odyssey tells of the home journey of the hero Odysseus (also known as Ulysses. This system is known as Linear B. The Beginnings of Greek Literature In about 800 BC. This was the Phoenician alphabet. The Iron Age had arrived. It is also the forerunner of our Roman alphabet and of the Cyrillic (Russian) alphabet. the Dorian made of wood. making the Greek Alphabet which is still used in Greece to this day. a new form of writing appeared in Greece. The earliest pieces of literature to survive in the Greek language are the two epic poems attributed to the poet Homer: the Iliad and the Odyssey. Both of these talk about the Trojan War. Perhaps it was civil war or maybe an uprising of slaves.records. Greek-speaking people known as Dorians invaded Greece from the North. but they brought with them the knowledge of iron.it is used purely for stock lists. Unfortunately Linear B does not seem to have been used to write down any literature or accounts of history . This era because there buildings were of the Dorians. Iron Age Dorians In about 1100 BC. Under control lost. the knowledge of writing was is often known as the 'Dark Age' of Greece. nobody knows for certain what happened.

These people set the events of the poems in about 1200 BC.Both are huge poems2. What's a Greek Urn? At the same time. This suggests that they date back to Mycenaean times. by about 800 BC. but based on folk memories of the earlier era. Many of these are set in Mycenaean cities such as Thebes. These poems were first written down in about the 8th Century BC. they painted the figures in black paint on the red background of the ceramic material. such as the stories of Oedipus. Odysseus and all the others were genuine characters. Achilles. Many other Greek legends were also written down soon after this. and a pantheon of gods and goddesses in whose hands it was believed the fate of the people lay. In 'red figure'. They appear to tell of a time when King Agamemnon ruled the Achaians in Mainland Greece. In 'black figure' style. although we may know them by their Roman names of Jupiter. Others think they were written much later and are purely imaginary. Some believe that they describe the time when the Mycenaeans ruled Mainland Greece. Greece had a strong tradition of storytelling. or Mycenae itself. Exactly how old they are and whether they are historically accurate is a matter for debate. Poseidon and Aphrodite. One thing is for certain. but it is clear that they date from long before that. and feel that Agamemnon. but they may have just become associated with these cities because of their antiquity. they painted the background black and left the . Most of us will have heard of Zeus. in the way that a modern writer may set a piece of fiction in ancient Rome. Jason and Theseus. a tradition in pottery grew up. in which earthenware pots were decorated in an elaborate red and black style with pictures showing scenes from mythology and everyday life. Neptune and Venus.

and the island of Cyprus. where groups would go out in ships and found new cities. showing processions of animals and floral patterns in black figure. showing every aspect of Greek life. each ruling over the agricultural land around it. There were three main styles. showing scenes from mythology in both black and red figure. as well as many small patches dotted around the coast of the Mediterranean. Corinth and Sparta are the most famous of them. Massalia (Marseilles) in France. and later Athenian.red colour to show through for the figures. most of the coast of the Black Sea. and the cities needed to expand their land to support their growing populations. the details of which were then picked out in thin black lines. There are literally hundreds of thousands of these pots and urns. a process of colonisation started. early Athenian. Such cities as Malaca (Malaga) in Spain. In this way. The new cities would send food back to the mother city. various cities had grown up. Athens. There were hundreds of such cities. Syracuse in Sicily and Byzantion (Istanbul) in Turkey all started out as Greek colonies. the northern part of Libya. and the Greek world spread to include most of Southern Italy. As agricultural land is scarce due to the high mountains. showing everyday scenes in red figure. From earliest to latest these were: Corinthian style. the west coast of Turkey. The Archaic Age 800 .500 BC By about 800 BC. Greek-speaking cities grew up all around the Mediterranean and on the Black Sea. This makes the ancient Greek culture one of the best documented in history. so we have an incredible record of what the everyday Greeks did and looked like. Thebes. The furthest west these colonists reached was the valley of the . but there were many more.

The first of these wars was the Graeco-Persian War. Athens and Sparta.336 BC) was king of Macedon. in the Battle of Chaironeia in 338 BC. two cities came to prominence. The new art form of 'drama' was developed. in which the Greeks successfully united to repel an invasion from Persia. and soon had taken all of Thrace and Thessaly. and many elegant temples such as the Parthenon were built. The country had a strong army while the city-states of Greece were weak having worn themselves out fighting. After this. He defeated Athens and Thebes. Philip started the conquest of Greece. The Greeks were always a war-like people. and many of the plays that were written at that time are still performed to this day. he was suddenly murdered. . and the Classical Age saw two major wars. on the modern border between Spain and Portugal. Aristotle and Socrates. But then in 336 BC. The Hellenistic Age Philip (382 .350 BC The height of Greek civilisation is generally considered to be the period 500 to 350 BC. two of the most powerful cities. This culminated in the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. It is the time when Greek sculpture reached its most advanced form.Guadiana river. a small independent Greek country in the north of modern Greece. Macedon was a single country united under one king. which eventually resulted in victory for Sparta and the ruin of Athens. This time also saw the great Greek philosophers: Plato. Unlike the rest of Greece which consisted of independent cities. with most other cities siding with one or the other. which effectively put him in control of almost all of Greece. This is known as the Classical Age. The Classical Age 500 . Almost as soon as he became king.

Alexander also founded a number of cities called 'Alexandria'. Nevertheless. a simplified version of the language called Koinë (koe-eenay) grew up and was used throughout the empire. Greek became the language of the new empire. Lebanon and Jordan. the mathematician Euclid.Philip's son. became a great centre of the arts and learning. which included Egypt. He created in his short lifetime a huge empire known as the Hellenistic Empire. so they looked down on the new empire and were never proud of it. comprising most of Greece. conquering Phrygia (modern Turkey). By 270 BC. the astronomer Ptolemy and the geographer Eratosthenes. . the Hellenistic world consisted of three main regions: y y The Kingdom of Macedonia. This grew to be one of the greatest cities in the world. Alexander left behind a Greek speaking core to the civilised world. The Kingdom of Ptolemy.323 BC) was a brilliant general. North Africa as far as Libya. Alexander's conquests spread the new Greek so that it was the standard language of the educated people in the east for the next thousand years or so. the middle East. Egypt. and and finally the Persian Empire. Palestine. but because ancient Greek was a complex language. Many ancient Greeks we learn about didn't come from Greece itself but from Alexandria. In the heartland of ancient Greece. but it was divided into separately controlled regions which spent the next 50 years or so fighting each other for control. Alexander died suddenly while he was still on his campaigns illness. people considered Alexander a yokel and the new language to be a corruption of their pure tongue. and with the wisdom of Egypt behind it. for example. who carried on to greatly expand the region of Greece's control. His empire was immediately divided between his generals. excessive drinking and poison have all been suggested as reasons. the first and most important being the one on the north coast of Egypt. Alexander the Great (356 .

Events in the history of the Byzantine Empire that were particularly significant for Greece are as follows: . The history of the Byzantine Empire is given in detail elsewhere in the Guide. Iraq. The Romans greatly admired the Greeks and considered Greek to be the language of knowledge and culture. then the Middle East and finally Egypt. speaking Greek and to all intents and purposes a Greek Empire. most of Uzbekistan and some of Pakistan. with most of modern Turkey. Afghanistan. the Empire moved its capital from Rome to Byzantion. gradually over the period 229 BC . Iran. although they gave them different names: Zeus became Jupiter. in honour of the Roman emperor Constantine. Educated Romans were expected to be able to speak Greek and to be familiar with the works of the by now ancient Greek philosophers. the biggest of the three.1 AD conquering the whole of Greece. When the western Roman Empire was invaded by 'barbarians'. Tajikstan. the name changed once more to Constantinople. The Byzantine Empire The eastern parts of the Roman Empire were much richer and more prosperous than the western parts. Aphrodite became Venus and so on.y The Seleukid Empire. renaming it Byzantium. Syria. Eventually in 330 AD. This city is now Istanbul in Turkey. the Romans remained in Byzantium. The Romans adopted the Greek Gods. The Roman Empire The up and coming Roman Empire managed to take over the reins of much of the Hellenistic Empire. and it grew to be a great thorn in the side to the Roman Empire in later centuries. Sixty five years later. The Romans did not conquer a lot of the Seleukid Kingdom (the former Persian Empire).

the Venetians getting control of most of the islands. They took over the capital. control until as late as the 20th Century. they were in fact treated quite well. and were prepared to allow their Greek 'subjects' to do as they pleased as long as they paid their taxes. the Turks reaching the gates of Vienna on one occasion. Although the capital went back to Greek control less than a century later. many of the islands stayed under Venetian. so the modern Greek man or woman is racially a mixture of many different races. The Byzantine Empire was totally destroyed by the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Constantinople.four ports . Slavic peoples invade the Balkan Peninsula from the North. but on the other hand. So although the official religion throughout the Ottoman Empire was Islam. they were excused from compulsory military service.y y y In the 7th Century. but in peace they favoured a pluralist society. The Venetians still controlled various bits around the edges of Greece . In the 13th Century. conquering most of modernday Greece. The Ottoman Empire grew until it occupied within Europe not just Greece but most of south east Europe. the Greeks were completely free to practise their Greek Orthodox Christianity. The Turks were ruthless in war. Istanbul. The land was divided up between the westerners. and subsequently Italian. known to the Greeks as Franks. and made it into their own capital. The Turks and the Ottoman Empire Although the Greeks would describe the 400 years of Turkish rule as slavery. Greece was then ruled by the Turks for the best part of four centuries. It's true that the Greeks were taxed more heavily than other parts of the Empire. These people then adopted the Greek language with many Slavic words. Western European crusaders. and Venetians conquered the Empire.

On this day. more and more of Greece came under control of the rebels. but the movement for independence only really came about in the 19th Century. the Turks kept up a relentless war against the Venetians. This was not enough to stop the fighting. virtually the entire Turkish navy was stationed in Navarino Bay. killing any Muslims they came across whether they were armed or not. and there was plenty of fighting. Rhodes and so on. 1827. But the Turks opened . there was a failed rebellion by the Greeks against their Turkish masters. In one bizarre incident. and some islands: Corfu. Within a few weeks they had slaughtered an estimated 20. a huge natural safe harbour on the west coast of the Peloponnese. who weren't officially at war with the Turks but were not far off it. French and Russians. They were aided in this by the allied support of the British. The Turkish response was to blame it all on Patriarch Gregorios V. The rebel peasants were ruthless. on 20 October.000 Muslims. He was not only the leader of the Greek Church but also represented the nearest thing to a ruler of the Greeks.in the Peloponnese. This marked the beginning of the war. 1821. Over the four centuries of Ottoman rule. There was no intention of attacking. and gradually. gradually taking possession of all of the mainland ports and most of the islands. Bishop Germanos of Patra raised a Greek flag at the Monastery of Ayia Lavra in the Peloponnese and called upon the Greeks to rise up against the Turks. The traditional date for the start of the War of Independence is 25 March. The allied navy sailed into the bay in an effort to show the Turks what they would be up against should they go to war. though. Crete. Evia. So they hanged him. they applied political pressure to try and force the Turks to give the Greeks their freedom. The Kingdom Of Greece In the late 18th Century.

Not everyone liked the new king. Otto resigned after about 30 years and was replaced by a Danish prince. leading to blockades on Greek ports. This meant that the Turks would have to fight the allies to pursue their claim to sovereignty over Greece. Otto von Wittelsbach. 1830. with the exception of the Dodecanese Islands which were held by Italy. The Purges of the 1920s . He initially set up court in Nafplio. the Greeks decided it was time to get back some more land from the Turks. as the first king of Greece.fire. Greece supported the Austro-Hungarian / German alliance in the war and was occupied by the Allied forces. After the war. but a year later moved to Athens. Relations with the 'allies' weren't all roses either. Athens became the capital and has never looked back since. as Europe was in turmoil. with a loss of only a few ships of their own. In the 1850s. Greece had gained most of the territory it now possesses. The allies provided a Bavarian prince. who became King George I. They went to war with them and lost. the allies destroyed 58 of the 87 Turkish ships. and in the ensuing mayhem. Eventually on 3 February. at the time reduced to a small farming village at the base of the Acropolis. and there were frequent risings against him. the British and the French went to war with the Russians in the Crimea. and Greece supported the Russian side. William of SonderburgGlücksburg. with the arrival of the king. By the time of the First World War. Things were not plain sailing for the new country. the London Protocol was signed in which the allies recognised Greece as an independent state.

But clashes between ultra-right-wing and ulta-left-wing groups led to much unrest. Here they lived in a giant shanty town. the Greeks decided that anybody of the Muslim religion couldn't possibly be Greek. establishing a dictatorship. and later Germany conquered the whole of the country. Basically. the Turks rounded up everyone in Turkey who was of the Greek Orthodox religion and said that they were Greek. the port of Athens. General Metaxas. On 28 October. the stage was set once again for clashes between the forces of the . including the Turkish bouzouki. From 1924 . when Italian dictator Mussolini demanded that Greece should allow Axis powers to occupy strategic defense locations within Greece.000 such people were thrown out of their homes and sent off to Turkey.The war ended with the Treaty of Lausanne which allowed an 'exchange of population'. The king was hardly back on his throne when the prime minister. carried out a coup d'état and seized control. declaring a republic. he refused. The Second World War and After Metaxas was in favour of siding with the British in World War II. Italy invaded parts of Greece. 28 October is still celebrated as a public holiday in Greece. so they must be Turkish. Metaxas died suddenly during the war.1935. some having fled of their own choice. have been converted into museums. 1940. Greece is littered with mosques which. known as Okhi Day (literally 'No Day'). At the same time. The king fled to Egypt. bringing much of Turkish culture with them. After the war. but they restored the king in 1935. they were kicked out of their homes and shipped to Greece. More than a million people from Turkey arrived in Piraeus. About 400. the Greeks also did without a king. arriving in Piraeus. without any Muslims to use them. now the mainstay of Greek 'traditional' music. As a consequence of the refusal.

the Odyssey more than 12. in 1967. led by Colonel George Papadopoulos. In the late 1960s it looked as if the communists might be gaining popular support again. It is estimated that 100. The final victory in the war was to the government forces. Greece is officially now the 'Hellenic Republic' ( ¨ — ). It joined the European Community (now the European Union) in 1981. and adopted the Euro as currency in 2002. 2 1 . the United States of America backed a group of colonels who seized power in a coup d'état and ran the country as a fascist dictatorship. To combat this.000 lines. The Iliad has more than 15. Pronounced in English 'My see nee'. This degenerated into a bloody civil war which lasted until 1949.000 left homeless by this war.conservative Greek government and the communists.000 lines.000 people were killed and another 700. Democracy was restored in 1974 and the country adopted a new constitution which abolished the monarchy.