Ancient GreeceGreeceThe Greek peninsula has been culturally linked with the Aegean Islands,and the west coast of Asia Minor since the Neolithic Age. The numerous naturalharbors and close-lying islands lead to a unified, maritime civilization.However cultural unity did not produce political unity. Mountain ranges anddeep valleys separated the peninsula into small economic and political units.Constant feuding between cities and surrounding empires for political power madeGreece the sight of many battles.

Prehistoric PeriodArcheological evidence shows that a primitive Mediterranean people,closely related to races of northern Africa, lived in the southern Aegean areaas far back as the Neolithic Age. A cultural progression from the Stone Age tothe Bronze Age started about 3000 BC. This civilization, during the Bronze Agewas divided into two main cultures. One on these, called Cretan or Minoan wascentered on the island of Crete. The other culture, Helladic (who becameMycenaean) populated mainland Greece. The Minoan culture dominated trade until1500 BC when the Mycenaeans took control.During the third millennium BC a series of invasions from the northbegan.

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The most prominent of the early invaders, who were called the Achaeans,had, in all probability, been forced to migrate by other invaders. They overransouthern Greece and established themselves on the Peloponnesus. Many other,vaguely defined tribes, were assimilated in the Helladic culture.

Ancient GreeceGradually, in the last period of Bronze Age Greece, the Minoancivilization fused with the mainland. By 1400 BC the Achaeans were inpossession of the island itself, and soon afterward gained control of themainland. The Trojan War, described by Homer in the Iliad, began about 1200 BCand was probably one of a series of wars waged during the 12th and 13thcenturies BC. It may have been connected with the last and most important ofthe invasions which happened at about the same time and brought the Iron Age toGreece. The Dorians left the mountains of Epirus and pushed their way down toPeloponnesus and Crete, using iron weapons to conquer the people of thoseregions.

The Invading Dorians overthrew Achaean kings and settled in thesouthern and eastern part of the peninsula.The Hellenic PeriodAfter the great migrations in the Aegean, the Greek developed a proudracial consciousness. They Called themselves Hellenes.

The term Greeks, usedby foreign peoples, was derived from Graecia, the Latin for a small Hellenictribe of Epirus, the first Hellenes that the Romans had dealings with.Out ofthe mythology that became the basis of an intricate religion, the Hellenesdeveloped a genealogy that traced their ancestry to semidivine heroes.Age of TyrantsThe age of Greek tyrants was notable for advances made in Helleniccivilization. The title of tyrant was used on people who had gained politicalpower illegally. Generally the tyrants were wise and popular. Trade andindustry flourished.

In the wake of political and economic strength came aflowering of Hellenic culture, especially in Ionia, where Greek philosophy beganwith the speculations of Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenies. The developmentof cultural pursuits common to all the Hellenic cities was one of the factorsthat united ancient Greece. Another Factor was the Greek language, the manydialects of which were readily understandable in any part of the country. Thethird factor was Greek religion, which held the Hellenes together, and thesanctuary of Delphi, with its oracle, became the greatest national shrine. Inaddition to their religion, the Greeks held four national festivals, calledgamesthe Olympian, Isthmian, Pythian, and Nemean.Monarchy to DemocracySome unification of the city-states took place. Between the 8th and 6thcenturies BC, Athens and Sparta became the two dominant cities of Greece.

Eachof these great states united its weaker neighbors into a league or confederacyunder its control. Sparta, a completely militarized and aristocratic state,established its leadership mainly by conquest, and kept its subject states understrict rule. The unification of Attica was, however, carried on by mutual andpeaceful agreement under the leadership of Athens, and the inhabitants ofsmaller cities were given Athenian citizenship.

The hereditary kingship ofAthens was abolished in 683 BC by the nobles, or Eupatridae, who ruled Athensuntil the mid 6th century BC. The Eupatridae kept complete authority by theirsupreme power to dispense justice. In 621 BC statesman Draco codified andpublished the Athenian law, their by limiting the judiciary power of the nobles.A second major blow to the hereditary power of the Eupatride was the code of theAthenian statesman and legislator Solon in 594 BC, which reformed the Draconiancode and gave citizenship to the lower classes. During the rule of the tyrantPisistratus, the forms of government began to take on the elements of democracy.

Hippias and Hipparchus, sons of Pisistratus, inherited their fathers power, butthey were considerably more despicable. Hippias, who survived Hipparchus, wasexpelled by a popular uprising in 510 BC. In the resulting political strife,the supporters of democracy, under the statesman Cleisthenes, won a completevictory, and a new constitution, based on democratic principles, took effectabout 502 BC.

The beginning of democratic rule was the dawn of the greatestperiod of Athenian history and, to me personally this signifies the end ofAncient Greece. English