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Introduction to the Greek History

The first evidence of human life in Greece dates back to the Palaeolithic period between
120,000-10,000 B.. !owever, it was not until the "eolithic period dated
appro#imatel$ %,000 - &,000 B.. that Greek civilisation 'rew and flourished. (an$
remains of settlements and burial chambers of this period have been discovered in
Thessal$, (acedonia and the Peloponnese. The first urban centres appeared durin' the
Bron)e *'e +&,000-1100 B.., -vidence of these have been found all over modern da$
Greece, for e#ample, in some "orth -astern *e'ean islands, the $cladic islands, rete
and the Greek mainland.
.urin' the (inoan period in rete +appro#imatel$, 2nd millennium B.., a more
sophisticated, or'anised societ$ developed with a culture specific to that re'ion. The
first scripts were invented and communication opened up between the (inoans and
people from the -ast (editerranean countries. This led to an e#chan'e of culture and
ideas which became not onl$ established as part of (inoan culture but spread to
influence cultures, reli'ion and 'overnment all over the *e'ean islands and mainland
Greece. .urin' this time rete became the main e#porter of /eweller$, skilled
craftworks, oil and wine as well as importers of food and raw materials. 0t was durin'
this time in rete that the first ma/or mercentile nav$ was developed.
This state of affairs continued until around 1100 B.. when the tra'ic destruction of rete occurred due to the
eruption of the volcano of 2antorini. The ($cenaeans, based on the Greek mainland were able to take advanta'e of
this collapse of retan culture and established themselves as the leadin' force throu'hout the *e'ean in the last
centuries of the 2nd millennium B.. Their cities in ($cenae, P$los, Tir$ns, Thebes, 0olkos and *thens became the
bureaucratic centres of their vast kin'dom. This period of ($cenaean civilisation saw the con3uest and settlement
b$ Greeks. Their societ$ was based essentiall$ upon warfare and its elite class were war-chiefs. Their culture thrived
for around four hundred $ears. The cities of the warlords were lar'e and powerful, art and a'riculture flourished and
there was 'reat prosperit$. !owever, unlike the earlier (inoan societies the wealth was not distributed amon'st the
population. *s a monarchical societ$, it was the warrin' kin's who accumulated the riches of the societ$ and spent
vast amounts of it upon battles and invasions.
This continued until around 1200 B.., b$ which time the power of the ($cenae kin's was declinin' and b$ the
12th centur$ B their dominance had collapsed - considered b$ some to be due to the invasion of the .orian tribes
from the north of Greece. *lternativel$, it is postulated that as the ($cenaean superstructure weakened it was
overthrown b$ other 'roups of the ($cenaean population who then settled in man$ of the areas formerl$ controlled
b$ them.
4ollowin' the ($cenaeans,there was a lon' period of cultural and economic sta'nation which lasted from around
1110-500 B. This .ark *'e however ended with the emer'ence of the be'innin' of the Greek renaissance, known
as the Geometric period +5th-6th centur$ B,. The Greek cit$-states were formed and, as in all subse3uent
renaissance times, the Geometric period saw the development of literature and arts. !omeric epics and the Greek
alphabet were both created durin' this time of enli'htenment. The *rchaic Period which followed durin' the %th-7th
centuries B saw fundamental political and social chan'es. The Greek cit$ states be'an to colonise and open up
their dominance, establishin' colonies at all points of the compass, "orth *frica to the south, the Black 2ea to the
north and 2pain to the west.
This was the start of what has come to be known as the lassical period. B$ the 1th-8th centuries B *thens
dominated both politicall$ and culturall$ in what is called the 9Golden *'e of Pericles9, onl$ to lose this dominance
at the end of the Peloponnesian :ar in 808 B The 8th centur$ B saw the development of (acedonians as a new
force in the Greek world. Philip 00, kin' of (acedonia and his son *le#ander pla$ed a leadin' role. 0n &66 B the
ei'hteen $ear old *le#ander led the (acedonian cavalr$ to victor$ at the Battle of haeronea. *fter the
assassination of his father Phillip in &&7 B durin' an e#pedition to free the Greek states of *sia (inor from the
Persians, there was unrest between Greeks and (acedonians in Thebes.
*le#ander con3uered Thebes and, as a warnin' to other Greeks, destro$ed the cit$, leavin' onl$ their temples
standin'. Greeks and (acedonians a'ain /oined forces under *le#ander and went on to con3uer Persia, -'$pt and
re'ions as far as the 0ndus ;iver. !is tremendous empire radicall$ chan'ed the political and cultural situation in the
then-known world.
*fter his earl$ death at the a'e of thirt$ three his vast empire was divided amon'st his 'enerals and althou'h the
political entit$ that he created did not continue, his le'ac$ was a uniform economic and cutlural world that stretched
from the 2traits of Gibraltar to the 0ndus ;iver. 0n the succeedin' !ellenistic *'e +&rd to 1st centuries B, the Greek
cit$-states had lost their position of power and presti'e althou'h the$ did remain self-'overnin' and independent of
each other.
This, however, was soon to chan'e for, in 187 B,
Greece was con3uered b$ the ;omans and the countr$
absorbed into their e#pandin' empire. This occupation thou'h was not wholl$ ne'ative as Greek culture was 'reatl$
admired b$ the ;oman emperors and there was respect and admiration for the Greek cities, especiall$ *thens.
*postle Paul in the first centur$ B was instrumental in spreadin' hristianit$ throu'hout Greece. 0n the 8th
centur$ *. the -mporer onstantine the Great decided to move the empire9s capital awa$ from ;ome to
onstantinople. This shift of focus to the east of the -mpire heralded the be'innin' of the B$)antine period in
4or one thousand $ears the B$)antine -mpire was one of the most powerful militar$, economic and cultural forces
throu'hout -urope meetin' its downfall in 1208 when onstantinople was sei)ed b$ the rusaders from the west
and the spoils divided up amon'st the victors. Parts of Greece were 'iven awa$ to western leaders whilst strate'ic
coastal areas were taken over b$ the tradin' <enetians. The restoration of the B$)antine -mpire was attempted in
1272 onl$ to be dismantled a'ain b$ the Turks culminatin' in its complete destruction in 181&. This period in Greek
histor$ saw its absorbtion into the =ttoman -mpire, be'innin' with the capture of onstantinople in 181&, followed
b$ the capture of *thens in 1817 and, in the decade 1870-18%0, addin' *chaia, (orea, -uboea and (istra to its
e#pandin' territories. rete was the last area of Greece to fall under the =ttoman rule in 1775.
The =ttoman empire went on to flourish in Greece for four hundred $ears and it was not until the Greek :ar of
0ndependence +1621-1625, that it was finall$ ousted. Greece was the first countr$ to secure its independence from
the Turkish occupation. *fter a lon' and blood$ conflict, in 16&0 an independent Greek kin'dom was formed which
was finall$ ratified b$ the Treat$ of onstantinople in >ul$ 16&2. This kin'dom however did not cover all of modern
da$ Greece. The stru''le for liberation of all the re'ions of Greek speakin' people continued ri'ht up to the end of
the 2econd :orld :ar. The 0onian islands were incorporated in 1678, followed b$ parts of -pirus and Thessal$ in
0n 151& durin' the Balcan wars and under the leadership of the 'reat Greek politician -leftherios <eni)elos,
(acedonia, -pirus and the -astern *e'ean were included followed in 1515 b$ :estern Thrace. 0t was a more
drawn-out process however for the island of rete. 0ts final steps for independence be'an in 1656 and continued
until 151& when rete unified with Greece at last. The .odecanese were the last 'roup of islands to /oin Greece in
.ue to its strate'ic position, straddlin' east and west, Greece was considered a vital link. 0n 1512, Greece became a
member of "*T=. =n 21st *pril 157% there was a coup d9etat led b$ colonels of the Greek militar$ and this state of
affairs continued until >ul$ 15%8 when a referendum led to the re/ection of constitutional monarch$, establishin' in
its place the current Presidential Parliamentar$ .emocrac$. 2ince 1561 Greece has been a member of the -uropean
?nion. -vidence of modern da$ Greece9s lon' and turbulent histor$ can be seen all over the Greek mainland and its
islands. ountless archaeolo'ical sites, museums and collections of artefacts, from the Palaeolithic period to the
;oman era, e#ist for visitors to wonder at. The period of the B$)antine and =ttoman -mpires can also be seen with
the man$ churches, monasteries, castles and other buildin's and monuments in ever$ area of Greece that the visitor
will encounter.
The Greek past is trul$ remarkable. 0t has influenced and tau'ht the modern world much of what it is toda$, and its
ancient lan'ua'e still lives on in the sciences +pi, ome'a, si'ma,, e#pressions +.on9t be such a assandra, and
ever$da$ words +histor$, ta#i, wine,.
Then, of course we have the cultural herita'e of art, architecture, politics, ideas and ideals.
:e owe a lot to the ancient Greeks, and a 'ood wa$ to honour them is to remember them. The man$ stories and
personalities are entertainin' as well, so take some time and look in the :ho is :ho in the Greek *nti3uit$ and
:ho is :ho in Greek ($tholo'$ sections.0f $ou can9t find a specific name, let us know and we9ll tr$ to add it to our
Greek Mythology
The Greek ($tholo'$ is an ama)in' collection from wonderful m$ths. *lmost ever$ Greek child will 'row up with
those famous stories. *mon' the most famous are the -pic poems of !omer, the 0liad, the stor$ the Tro/an war and
the =d$sse$ who tells about the /ourne$s of =d$sseus after the end of the Tro/an war. The -pics of !omer have kept
alive the Greek 2pirit alive for more than &000 $ears. Great *le#ander9s favourite book was the 0liad, but most of the
Greeks have been 'rown up with those stories since then .The famous fables of *esop was the first fables that had
alwa$s a teachin' meanin'. (an$ fair$ tale writers used the fables of *esop as a base like the famous @a 4ontaine.
The stor$ of >ason and the *r'onauts its another Great
and popular stor$ from the Greek ($tholo'$. 0t tells
about the /ourne$ and the adventures of >ason to the ($thic land of the Golden 4leece. 0n that stor$ amon' the
!eroes who are in >ason9s 3uest is the Greatest !ero of Greece, !ercules. There are man$ stories about !ercules and
his labours also popular like the stories of =d$sseus. !ercules like most of the ($thical Greek !eroes was a half
son of Aeus. !is most famous 3uests or labours +*thloi in Greek, was the 3uest for the *ma)on apples, the killin' of
the "emea @ion and the !$dra of @erne, the cleanin' of the stables of Bin' *u'eas and man$ others that until
nowada$s is a source for man$ fiction books and films.
*nother 'reat !ero was Theseus, he as well had to fulfille several 3uests, amon' the most famous was the killin' of
the (inotaur and the liberation of the 12 *thenian $oun' bo$s and 'irls that *thens had to pa$ as a ta# ever$ $ear to
the retan Bin' (inos. *lso his /ourne$ to *thens was an adventure as he had to kill the & bandits +2inis,
Prokroustis and Perifetes, on the wa$ from orinth to -lefsis.
The stor$ of Perseus has inspired also man$ fiction books and films with the adventures of Perseus in his 3uest to
kill the (edusa in order to liberate *ndromeda. 0n man$ Greek m$ths $ou will find as main heroes 2 persons like
the m$th of =rpheus and -ur$dice. There are m$ths and stories for almost ever$ God of the Greek Pantheon. The
m$tholo'$ of the Greek 'ods is what made the *ncient Greek culture and civilisation so much different then an$
other civilisation of this time. The *ncient Greeks show their 'ods as humans with human feelin's and passions.
Their difference from the humans was the immortalit$ and their power but the$ where personalised as humans and
not as animals or nature creatures.
To the ri'ht is a list of m$tholo'ical characters and creatures. The Greek m$tholo'$ is ver$ rich, so this list is far
from complete. !opefull$ $ou will find the name $ou are lookin' for. 2ince m$th and histor$ sometimes mi#, $ou
mi'ht not find the name $ou want here, but in the :ho is :ho in *nti3uit$ section.
The usual practice when namin' a child in Greece is to use one of the 'randparents9 name. *ncient names from
histor$ and m$th are 'ettin' more and more popular and there are man$ *phrodite and 2ocrates around. Cou mi'ht
also have a Greek name without even knowin' it. !ave a look at DGreek namesED to find out.
(ost people have heard of the ancient Greek 'ods, who lived on (t =l$mpos. The twelve ma/or Gods wereF Aeus,
!era, *thena, *pollo, *rtemis, *phrodite, *res, .emeter, Poseidon, !ermes, !estia and !ephaestus. There were of
course hundreds of lesser 'ods, semi'ods and heroes, some of which $ou will find here.

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