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The origins of Greece can be traced to the Minoans and the Myceneans. The Minoans created an advanced civilization on the Island of Crete around 3000 B.C. Their society was based on sea trade, controlled by a bureaucratic monarchy. Their language was based on Egyptian Hieroglyphs. On the mainland of Greece, the Myceneans would later emerge around 2000 B.C. The Myceneans were actually the people who spoke the Greek language. They had conducted trade with the Minoans before invading them. They had a highly hierarchical society with their King in a position as elevated as the Egyptian Pharaohs did. Actual proof of their existence was lost to history for over two millenium. It wasn't until the discovery of the ruins of the city of Troy, that the legends were proven to have a factual basis. It is this civilization that the Greek Poet, Homer, centuries later based his famous stories about the Trojan Wars on. The Mycenean civilization eventually gave way to the Dorians who would later establish the state of Sparta. They were known for their harsh militaristic society. They would become the most powerful of the Greek city-states along with Athens, who were best known for the invention of democracy, and the many philosophical traditions and scientific ideas of the ancient world. Eventually Phillip of Macedonia, unified the Greek mainland by force in 338 B.C. His son Alexander, who would become known as Alexander the Great, would go on to conquer the Middle East, and into India, creating the largest Empire the world had seen up to that time. His conquests spread Greek learning and culture throughout all of the conquered territories, and his successors would establish Greek based dynasties in each of the regions. The Ottoman rule was a harsh one, most hated were the forced recruitment of non-Muslims into the Ottoman's civil and military service. The Greeks would be under their rule until they rebelled in the early 19th century, and not until 1923 A.D. did the Greek State take its present form, as an independent nation once again.
Prehistory of Greece Edit
Greece and the Islands around the Aegean Sea were first settled by a farm based culture as far back at the Neolithic era between 10000 B.C. and 3000 B.C. Human Settlements on the Island of Crete, which spawned what would become the Minoan civilization began around 6500 B.C. These people were thought to have come mostly from modern day Turkey. During 3000 B.C. however, there was rapid population growth that saw the creation of the first civilization in the region, that of the Minoans. They had a culture based on maritime trade. They were most active in the Eastern Mediterranean but went as far as Spain. Their society was also ruled like a business, with the King acting almost like a CEO of a company. Wealth was more or less spread out throughout its society. They reach their height around 2000 B.C. when they built magnificent palaces with art decorating them which showed the Minoans to be a culture that loved sporting events like boxing and bull jumping. They had a rich culture and their language seemed to have been based on that of the Egyptians.
History and Legend: The Mycenaeans Edit
On the mainland of Greece, known as the Peloponnesus, the Myceneans would emerge around 2000 B.C. They were in fact the people who could be properly considered to be the Greeks we know today, as they were the people who actually use the Greek language. They invaded Greece and displaced the original inhabitants who were probably related to the Minoans, around 3000 B.C. Their culture was much different then the Minoans. They stressed military excellence, while the Minoans hardly have a military establishment to speak of. Their society was also highly hierarchical with powerful Kings ruling its subjects. The Myceneans at first traded with the Minoans and integrated a lot of its culture into that of Greece. However around 1200 B.C. the Myceneans invaded the Minoan empire, after it was devastated by a powerful earthquake putting an end to the Minoan civilization. The Myceneans civilization itself would also come to an end around 1150 B.C. Rebellions and internal wars would destroy all the Mycenean cities. The most famous war which the Myceneans would be known for was the Trojan Wars, which was immortalized by the Greek poet Homer in "The Illiad" and "The Odyssey", centuries later during the 7th century B.C. Some of these cities where reoccupied but on a much smaller scale, and in fact written language was lost during this period.
After the fall of the Mycenean Empire, it would usher in what is known as the "Dark Ages" of Greek civilization. The Myceneans would however form the cultural consciousness of the Greek civilization. During the "Greek Dark Age", the Dorians invaded from their homeland in Macedonia and moved south all the way into Crete and even Asian Minor or modern day Turkey. They would best be known for establishing the city-state of Sparta.
The Dawn of Western Democracy: The City-States Edit
The period of cultural and population stagnation would last until the 8th century B.C. when the ports of Argos and Corinth began to emerge. Trade resumed in the region, and as a result the Greeks adopted the Phoenician alphabet. This period would mark the Classical Period of ancient Greece, which saw the rise of the City states and a cultural renaissance for which much of ancient Greece is known for. For example the tradition of friendly athletic competition between states in the Olympic games was created so that the rival Greeks states could meet in peace under a period of truce. The Greeks would also be the first to drill their troops to march in order, and enter a battle in formation. Statue of Discus Athlete The Greeks also began to establish colonies all around the Southern Mediterranean to the Black Sea. More then 150 colonies would be established between 750 B.C. to 500 B.C., and in particular Southern Italy and Sicily. The two most powerful of the Greek city-states that would emerge were Athens and Sparta. Athens was the largest and based their society on class levels based on wealth. While the Spartans based their society on a ruling military elite over Serfs serving aristocratic land owners.
The "Persian Wars" Edit
Although the Greeks long had a presence on the western coast of Anatolia, between 750BCE to 500BCE the Greek city-states to the West, overpopulated and clashing with one another, began to establish colonies all around the Southern Mediterranean to the Black Sea, as well as intensify migration to the Ionian coast of Anatolia. Many of the Greek cities of Ionia came under Lydian and then Median suzerainty, before falling in with the rest of the Median empire under the rule of the Achaemenids. Even so, the Ionians were highly restive and stubbornly independent, and frequently rebelled against their Persian overlords — it is thought that the Persians invaded Greece to prevent the stronger Greek city-states, Athens and Sparta, from helping the Ionians to rebel.
The Persians under Darius the Great invaded in 490BCE as a reprisal for Greek raids against Greek satraps, but were defeated at Marathon. The Greek force that stood before them was half their numbers, but the superior armor and phalanx tactics used by the Greeks routed the Persians. Then in 481BCE, the Persians under Xerxes invaded with a force of 100,000 men intent on conquering all of Greece. The Greeks formed the Hellenic League, which included Sparta, while some Greek States defected to the Persian side. Although the Persian would in fact defeat all of the land forces the Greeks threw at them and even sacked Athens, the Greeks again destroyed the Persian fleet at the Battle of Salamis, effectively ending the war. The Persians retreated hastily from this defeat, and the next year saw another Greek victory at the Battle of Paltaia ending the threat of a Persian invasion of Greece for good. From this point on, Xerxes' successors would choose other methods to divide the Greeks and limit their influence, using financial aid and political meddling, but this strategy worked only for a while. The turmoil of the early 4th century BCE was finally settled when Phillip II of Macedonia emerged, and conquered the whole of Greece by 338BCE, his son Alexander would succeed him after he was assassinated in 336BCE.
Alexander the Great Edit
Alexander the Great, as he would be known was a brilliant soldier, and received his formal education from the Aristotle. Alexander lived only thirteen years after he took the throne from his father but had a greater impact on western civilization then any other man of the ancient world. He would continue his father's plans for conquest all the way to India. Along the way, he would conquer the cities along eastern Mediterranean and the coast of Asia Minor, to deprive Persia of its ports, then defeating them all together in 331 B.C. at the Battle of Gaugamela where the Persians, under King Darius III "Codomannus", had 100,000 troops at his disposal.
Alexander's rule and reputation is rather mixed. For the West, he remains somewhat of a cultural hero but to present-day Iranians he is still castigated as Gizistag Segunder, "Alexander the Accursed" but this negative interpretation probably stems particularly from an "incident" during his occupation of Persepolis, the Achaemenid capital in which the treasury of the Imperial palace was looted and holy books and shrines were violated by the Macedonians.
Beyond this incident, however, Alexander was known to be an immense admirer of the Persians, and was known to have employed several of Darius III's servitors. When Darius III fled and was murdered by Bessus, a Bactrian satrap, Alexander had Bessus put to death and Darius III buried with full royal honours. He also encouraged his men to take wives from the local population, and kept the local administration in tact to legitimise his rule — which to some was rather unpopular and may have hastened his death.
Alexander would die at the age of 33 under mysterious circumstances in Babylon on his way back from the conquest of India. Roughly sixty years after his death the Pontics, Medes, and Ionian Galatians revolted and separated themselves from the Seleucid state. These peoples later rallied under the Parthian Empire, which would eventually engulf the Seleucid Empire, and grow to become a challenge to Roman rule in the east.
The Hellenistic EraEdit
After Alexander's death, a twenty-year power struggle ensued, that saw his empire divided among his successors. During this period City-states began to be supplanted by nation states as alliances between them solidified, and as the successors conquered each other's territories. Greek culture began to intermingle with the cultures of the near east as these Greek Kings ruled over the Empire Alexander left behind. The two most notable offshoots were the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt, and the Seleucid dynasty in Persia. The democratic traditions of ancient Greece however did not take hold in these conquered lands and indeed even the Greeks themselves more or less abandoned it as power hungry kings seized centralized control to keep their large states intact. As a result of the economic hardships caused by the constant conflicts between these now rival nations, a door opened up for a new power to emerge, this would be Rome, who would later incorporate the Greek Kingdoms into its own Empire. Wall relief of the Battle of Guagamela Emperor Justinian I The Romans had began to expand and come into conflict over the various colonies that the Greeks has established around the Mediterranean since the 4th century B.C. With the establishment of the successor Kingdoms, it would begin a 250-year effort on part of the Romans to incorporate the Greeks into the Roman Empire. Using the excuse that the Macedonians were in alliance with Carthage, Rome's archenemy. The Romans "liberated" all of the territories that Macedonia held outside of their own homeland, and put them under a Roman protectorate in 197 B.C. during the second Punic War. Macedonia was itself incorporated as a Roman province in 146 B.C. and by 31 B.C. all Greek states were thoroughly under Roman control.
A Greek Revival: The "Byzantine" Empire Edit
Despite being the conquered, Greek culture and architecture would come to influence the Romans greatly. Greek gods were recast in Roman terms, Greek art, architecture and science were to be enthusiastically adopted by the Romans particularly while under the rule of Marcus Aurelius and Hadrian. Roman rule saw Greece grow under a period of peace and prosperity, indeed some Greek citizens of the Roman Empire rose to a high status, in 143 A.D. an Athenian by the name of Herodes Atticus rose to become Consul of Rome.
In the first century A.D. the Greeks began to learn of the teachings of Christ. His apostles began to preach Christianity to the Greeks. These early Christians Greeks began to incorporate those teachings with Greek philosophy, establishing Greece as the seat of Gentile Christianity. By the 4th century A.D. Rome under Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Empire. Greek influence persisted for so long that When the Roman Empire finally broke apart, it was divided into the East and Western Roman Empire, with the more mercantile and Greek east becoming the Byzantine Empire (although they kept referring to themselves as Romans even until the end of the 15th century). They were for the most part more Greek then Roman in character and would remain the cultural and religious center of Europe for the next millenium, until they were defeated by the Ottomans in the 15th century.
Emperor Justinian I ruled the Byzantine Empire from 527CE to 565CE and attempted to re-conquer territory lost during the Empire's disintegration, he managed to reincorporate most of the territory around the Mediterranean coast. He also instituted administrative and legal reforms that would become the cornerstone of jurisprudence in Europe. His conquest however drained the Empire's fortunes and between 565 A.D to 867 A.D. the Byzantine Empire was reduced to barely more than Anatolia and parts of the Italian peninsula. In 867 A.D. a Macedonian dynasty took the throne of the Byzantine Empire. They managed to again retake much of their lost territory and drove Muslim pirates from the Aegean sea, allowing Byzantine trade to resume unimpeded. This period saw a period of economic growth and a cultural renaissance. The Byzantines also began to spread Christianity to the Bulgarians, Serbs and then the Russians. After the Macedonian dynasty the Byzantines again began to decline. From the East the Turks defeated the Byzantines at the Battle of Manzikert. From the west, European powers began to make incursions into Greece, culminating in the sack of Constantinople by the marauding armies of the 4th Crusade in 1204 A.D. Little by little the Byzantine Empire was stripped away until only Constantinople held out. But the final blow came in 1453 A.D. when the Ottoman Turks under Mehmed the Conqueror, took the city after a lengthy siege. However Constantinople would be the center of a great Mediterranean empire again, but this time renamed Istanbul when the Turks moved their capitol to the city.
Modern Greece Edit
Ottoman rule was based on a theocracy, with the Sultan exercising absolute power at the top over a strict social order based on which religion one belonged to. The Ottomans did not demand its subjects to convert to Islam, but non-Muslims were faced with many discriminatory practices. Marriage between Muslims and non-Muslims was forbidden, and in judicial disputes, the word of a Muslim would always be taken over that of non-Muslims. Most hated however was the forced conscription of male children from these non-Muslims families into the military, which were exacerbated when the Turks became to take heavy losses in battles against the Russians in the 18th century CE. Some Greeks however achieved prominent positions by serving the Ottomans as diplomats or interpreters, but in general, most Greeks were generally impoverished, with many choosing to live in fortified villages in the mountains far from the Ottoman-controlled urban centres.
As such, thousands of Greek families would eventually leave the Ottoman Empire to seek better opportunity around the world (this trend would continue for almost a century well after the Ottomans were made to leave, and continues even today). The first recipients of Greek refugees were the Italian city-states, most notably the Venetian Republic which had holdings throughout Greece until countless wars with the Ottomans destroyed them all. Later, Greeks would also play extensive roles in other nations of Europe, most notably Prussian Germany, Italy as well as the Russian Empire. Most famous of these emigrés included "el Greco"; Aleksandr Ypsilantis and Sotirios Bulgari.
By18th century CE. the Greeks began to rebel against Ottoman rule. So by 1821CE after a famine swept through the Peloponnesus, a full-fledged war between Greek Separatists and the Ottomans broke out. With the intervention of the western European powers in particularly Britain, an independent Greek state was finally established in 1828CE. The independent Greece at this point however was beset with economic woes as much of the fertile lands, and strategic ports it had in ancient times was not part of the Greek state of the early 19th century. The Greek monarchy faced several coups, and attempts at liberalization and modernization at the ladder part of the 19th century was stifled by crippling foreign debt. Just prior to the First World War, several wars broke out in the Balkans, Greece came out on top with territory that it had long sought to regain in order to restore its former territorial integrity. The most influential politician in Greece during the first half of the 20th century was Eleutherios Venizelos. He had negotiated a deal where by the Allies promised to cede the entirety of Turkey to Greece if they entered the war on their side. They did in fact join the Allies in fact by only after being blockaded and threatened with an attack, since the Greek Royal family was related to the Germany Monarchy, and was reluctant to take sides.
However at the end of the War, when Venizelos was on his way back with the deal in hand, pro-monarchy factions attempted to assassinate him, and almost succeeded. His skills were mostly in external affairs and he had neglected domestic issues. The assassination attempt forced him into exile and instead Greece had to send military forces into Turkey to seize the territory. This however, caused the Allied powers to get nervous, and eventually withdraw financial support to Greece. The resulting disaster saw the deal crumble, and the Greek forces routed by the Turks with over 30,000 Greek civilians killed. During the Second World War, the Greek initially had some success in resisting the Axis forces but by 1941 A.D. was under occupation by the Axis. The Greeks suffered extensively under this period, with 100,000 dying from famine, and the Jews in the country were all but annihilated. The devastation of the Second World War was followed by a civil war. Political instability would also continued well into the 1970's. However it is more or less a stable democracy at present, and remains part of the NATO alliance, and a member of the European Union.