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The Greek Antiquity
Stone and Bronze Age
Spanning from 2 million BC to 3,200 BC, the Stone Age in the Greek lands is divided in the Palaeolithic, the Mesolithic, and the Neolithic Periods. The increase of population which occurred during the Early Bronze Age, particularly in southern Greece, resulted in a rise in number of settlements.
The geographic position of Crete in the southernmost part of the eastern Mediterranean and its natural environment played a decisive role in the genesis, evolution and overall character of Minoan civilization. Under the influence of Minoan Crete the Mycenaean Civilization flourished in mainland Greece (Mycenae in Argolis, but also in Tiryns, Pylos, Athens, Thebes, Orchomenus and Iolkos). Its syllabic script (Linear B) was an early form of Greek, as proven in 1952 by the english architect and classical scholar Michael Ventris who deciphered it.
The Aegean Sea constituted a region that attracted people as early as the 11th millennium BC, constituting a region of intense economic, social and cultural activities.
See also: Hellenic History- Prehistory
The two centuries known as the Dark Years (1150 - 900 BC), were followed by the Geometric Period (9th - 8th Century BC). This period consituted the beginning of the ancient Greek Renaissance and was marked by the formation of the Greek City-States, the consolidation of the Greek alphabet and the composition of the Homeric epics (end of the 8th Century BC).
The awareness among all Greeks of common descent, customs and language was strengthened during the Archaic period. At the same time, a feeling of a more particular 'local' pride was cultivated. The Greek City-States expanded their trade and cultural caliber as far as Spain to the west, the Black Sea to the north and Northern Africa to the south and they heralded the upcoming Classical period.
The political, social and economic rise of Athens as well as the cultural and military empowerment of Sparta laid the foundations for the succesful repulse of invading Persian forces (490-479 BC). This instance of collective resistance set the preconditions for the "Golden Era", also known as the Greek Classical period. It was a time when fundamental concepts of human thought such as Democracy, the Olympic Games and Theatre flourished. The works of spirit and art from that period continue to be a source of inspiration and admiration to this day.
New forces emerged during the 4th Century BC. The Greek Kingdom of Macedonia, with Philip II and his son Alexander the Great, played a dominant role in Greece. Alexander’s campaign to the East marked the expansion of Greek civilization to a region stretching from mainland Greece to the Indus River. In the wake of Alexander’s death (323 BC), a number of kingdoms were formed, mainly by his commanders, signaling the commencement of the Hellenistic Period (3rd - 1st Century BC). During that era, the Greek City-States maintained their autonomy for the most part, yet lost much of their old power and prestige. Nevertheless, literary and art production continued to thrive. Finally, the conquest of Greece by Rome in 146 BC ushered in the period of Roman domination.
That was the era of osmosis between the Greek and the Roman cultures, which led to what later came to be known as the Greco-Roman civilization. At the same time, Christianity, the new religion that would depose Dodekatheon worshipping, spread all over Greece. The decision by the Emperor Constantine to move the capital of the empire from Rome to Constantinople (324 A.D.) shifted the focus of attention to the eastern part of the empire, marking thus the beginning of the Eastern Roman Empire, later called “Byzantine Empire”.
See also: Hellenic History- Antiquity
Early Byzantine Era
Emperors Constantine (the Great) and Justinian dominated the period from 324 to 610. During their reigns, the Roman tradition was assimilated and transcended in order to provide the basis for the emergence of the Hellenic character of the Byzantine Empire. During their time, state institutions were strengthened and the boundaries of the Empire expanded significantly.
Middle Byzantine Era
In the Middle Byzantine era the Empire was repeatedly contested both by old rivals (Persians, Lombards, Avars, Slavs) and by newly emerging ones (Arabs, Bulgars). Major Byzantine scholars (e.g. Patriarch Photios, Michael Psellos, Romanos Melodos) elaborated Byzantine spiritual and literary life, contributing to the preservation and dissemination of Greek classical heritage. This period witnessed the introduction and gradual adoption of the Cyrillic alphabet in the eastern Balkans.
Late Byzantine Era
In the year 1204 Constantinople was lost for the first time, as it was conquered by Latin crusaders. It was the beginning of a long and painful period of land losses and state decline, marked by the invasion of the Turkish tribes in Asia Minor. The fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 marked the end of the Byzantine Era. The Greeks, struggled to maintain their identity under Ottoman rule for the next four centuries.
See also: Hellenic History- Byzantium
Under the Ottoman Turks the Greek populations took recourse to their church and religion, as these were the only recognized institutional forms of identification of and administration for the non-Muslims. The awakening of the Greek collective identity brought about the Greek War of Independence in 1821, which led to the emergence of the Modern Greek state (1830).
See also: Hellenic History-Ottoman Era
The Formation of the Greek State (1830-1897)
The Modern Greek State at the beginning comprised only Peloponnesus, west and east-central Greece (Sterea Hellas), and the Aegean Islands of Cyclades and Sporades. During the rest of the 19th Century, new areas inhabited by compact Greek populations were gradually included into the Greek state. At the same time, the newly emerged state took its first steps toward political and economic modernization.
The Territorial Integration of the Greek State (1897-1922)
The period from 1897 to 1922 witnessed the territorial integration of the Modern Greek state. Important events and headlong developments, as well as the improvement of constitutional democracy determined the evolution of Greece and decisively contributed to its formation as a modern state.
Greece in the Interwar Period and the World War II
The Greek inter-war period between 1923 and 1940, (from the Asia Minor Catastrophe until the World War II) was a period of transition and unfinished political consolidation. Although major economic, as well as democratic constitutional changes took place, Greece shared with the rest of Europe times of uncertainty and of great efforts to achieve systemic stability both at home and abroad.
Contemporary Greece (1945-2010)
The heavy death toll paid by the country during World War II and the subsequent Civil Strife, left Greece in a rather disadvantageous position at the threshold of the post-war Era. Nevertheless, a period of economic reconstruction began shortly afterwards, combined with new efforts for democratic political consolidation. These efforts were interrupted by seven years of military dictatorship (1967-1974). From 1974 onwards the ripening of the political environment brought about the consolidation of the country’s institutions. Greece became a full member of the E.E.C. in 1981 and joined the European Common Currency in 2002.
See also: Hellenic History- Modern times & The History of Modern Greece
Did you know?
- Some scholars say that the Greek civilization has been around for so long that it has had a chance to try nearly every form of government.
- The word ‘barbarian’ comes from Greek barbari, which means people who don’t speak Greek and therefore sound like they’re saying ‘bar-bar-bar-bar’.
- At its height, Greek colonization reached as far as Russia and France to the west and Turkey to the east.
- Alexander the Great was the first Greek ruler to put his own face on Greek coins. Previously, Greek coins had shown the face of a god or goddess.
- Europe’s oldest currency is the Greek drachma, used for more than 2,500 years. Greeks replaced the drachma with the euro in 2002.