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Geography, population of Ancient Greece and chronological periods

Geography and population of Ancient Greece

The history of Ancient Greece — an integral part of the history of the ancient world-studies the emergence, flourishing and crisis of slave-owning societies that formed on the territory of the Balkan Peninsula and in the Aegean region, in Southern Italy, on the island of Sicily and in the Black Sea region. It begins with the turn of the III-II millennium BC – with the emergence of the first state formations on the island of Crete, and ends with the II—I centuries BC, when the Greek and Hellenistic states of the Eastern Mediterranean were captured by Rome and incorporated into the Roman empire.

During the two-thousand-year period of history, the ancient Greeks created a developed economic system based on the rational and cruel exploitation of slave labor, slave-owning social relations of the classical type,(a polis organization with a republican structure, a high culture that had a huge impact on the development of Roman and world culture. These achievements of the ancient Greek civilization enriched the world historical process, served as the foundation for the subsequent development of the peoples of the Mediterranean during the era of Roman rule.

The geographical framework of ancient Greek history was not constant, but changed and expanded as historical development progressed. The main territory of the ancient Greek civilization was the Aegean region, i.e. the Balkan, Thracian and Asia Minor coasts and numerous islands of the Aegean Sea. From the VIII-VI centuries BC. e. after a powerful colonization movement from the Aegean region, the Greeks mastered the territories of Sicily and Southern Italy, which were called Magna Graecia, as well as the Black Sea coast. After the victorious campaigns of Alexander the Great at the end of the IV century BC. After the conquest of the Persian empire, Hellenistic states were formed in the Near and Middle East, and these territories became part of the ancient Greek world. In the Hellenistic era, the Greek world covered a vast territory from Sicily in the west to India in the east, from the Northern Black Sea Coast in the north to the first rapids of the Nile in the south. However, in all periods of ancient Greek history, its central part was considered the Aegean region, where Greek statehood and culture were born and reached their peak.

Unlike many countries of the Ancient East, which are characterized by ethnic diversity, the coexistence within the same states of many peoples, tribes, ethnic groups belonging to different language families and even races, for the central region of Greece, i.e. the Aegean Basin and the southern part of the Balkan Peninsula, is characterized by a certain ethnic homogeneity. These areas were inhabited mainly by the Greek people, represented by four tribal groups: Achaeans, Dorians, Ionians and Aeolians. Each of these tribal groups spoke a dialect and had some differences in customs and religious beliefs, but these differences were minor. All the Greeks spoke the same language, understood each other well and were clearly aware of their belonging to the same nationality and one civilization. The most ancient tribal group was the Achaeans, who came to the southern part of Balkan Greece at the end of the third millennium BC. At the end of the second millennium BC, under the pressure of the Dorian tribes moving from the area of modern Epirus and Macedonia, the Achaeans were partially assimilated, partially pushed into the mountainous areas. In the first millennium BC, the descendants of the ancient Achaeans lived in the mountains of Arcadia, in the Asia Minor region of Pamphylia and in Cyprus. The Dorians settled most of the Peloponnese (Laconica, Messenia, Argolis, Elida), most of the southern islands of the Aegean Sea, in particular Crete and Rhodes, and some territories of Caria in Asia Minor. The inhabitants of Epirus, Aetolia, and other regions of Western Greece were close to the Dorians.

A third tribal group, speaking the Attic-Ionian dialect, settled in Attica, Euboea, the islands of the central Aegean Sea, such as Samos, Chios, Lemnos, and in the region of Ionia on the coast of Asia Minor. A tribal group of Aeolians lived in Boeotia, Thessaly and in the Aeolid region on the coast of Asia Minor north of Ionia, on the island of Lesbos.

In addition to the Greeks, the Aegean region was inhabited by the remnants of local pre-Greek tribes: Lelegs, Pelasgians, and Carians, who did not play a significant role in the ethnogenesis of the Greek population in the first millennium BC.The inhabitants of Southern Thrace were more important in the fate of the Greek states.

The natural conditions of Balkan Greece are peculiar. In general, it is a mountainous country, with only about 20% of the entire territory being divided into valleys and plains. Numerous mountain ranges divide Balkan Greece into many small and minute valleys, isolated from each other, offering a closed, isolated life. Many of these valleys had access to the sea and could maintain communication not only with neighboring polis, but also with distant countries. The sea played a huge role in the life and historical development of the ancient Greek states. The coastline of the Aegean coast is extremely rugged and abounds with numerous bays and harbors, convenient for navigation.

Greece is rich in minerals: marble, iron ores, copper, silver, wood, pottery clay of good quality, which provided the Greek craft with a sufficient amount of raw materials. The soils of Greece are stony, fertile and difficult to cultivate. However, the abundance of sun and mild subtropical climate made them favorable for growing vines and olive trees. There were also quite significant valleys (in Boeotia, Laconica, Thessaly), suitable for agriculture and grain cultivation.

Periodization of history

The history of Ancient Greece can be divided into three major stages:

early class societies and the first state formations of the second millennium BC (the history of Crete and Achaean Greece); the
formation and flourishing of polis, slave—owning relations of the classical type, the creation of high culture (XI-IV centuries BC); the
conquest of the Persian empire by the Greeks, the formation of Hellenistic societies and states.
The first stage of ancient Greek history is characterized by the emergence and existence of early class societies and the first states in Crete and in the southern part of Balkan Greece (mainly in the Peloponnese). These early state formations, which had remnants of the tribal system in their structure, established close contacts with the Ancient Eastern states of the Eastern Mediterranean and developed along a path similar to that followed by many Ancient Eastern states (monarchical states with an extensive state apparatus, cumbersome palaces and temple farms, and a strong community). In the first states that emerged in Greece, the role of the local, pre-Greek population was great. In Crete, where class society and the state were formed earlier than in mainland Greece, the local Cretan (non-Greek) population was the main one. In Balkan Greece, the dominant place was occupied by the Achaean Greeks, who came at the end of the third millennium BC from the north, possibly from the Danube region, but here the role of the local element was great. The Cretan-Achaean stage is divided into three periods, depending on the degree of social development, and these periods are different for the history of Crete and for the history of mainland Greece. For the history of Crete, they are called Minoan (after the king Minos who ruled in Crete), and for mainland Greece, Hellas (from the name of Greece Hellas).

The chronology of the Minoan periods is as follows:

  • The Early Minoan period (XXX-XXXX centuries BC) – the dominance of pre-class family relations;
  • The Middle Minoan period, or the period of the old palaces (XXII—XVIII centuries BC) — the formation of the state, the emergence of the first classes and social groups, writing, the unification of Crete;
  • The Late Minoan period, or the period of the new palaces (XVII-XII centuries BC) — the flourishing of Cretan statehood, culture, the creation of the Cretan sea power, the conquest of Crete by the Achaeans and the decline of Crete.

Chronology of the Helladic periods of mainland (Achaean) Greece:

The Early Helladic period (XXX-XXI centuries BC) – the dominance of primitive relations, pre-Greek population;

  • Middle Helladic period (XX-XVII centuries BC) – the penetration and settlement of the Achaean Greeks in the southern part of Balkan Greece, at the end of the period the decomposition of tribal relations;
  • Late Helladic, or Mycenaean (XVI-XII centuries BC) – the emergence of an early class society and state, the emergence of writing, the flourishing of Mycenaean civilization and its decline.
  • At the turn of the II—I millennium BC, serious socio-economic, political and ethnic changes were taking place in Balkan Greece. Since the XII century BC, the Greek tribes of the Dorians, living in the conditions of the primitive system, began to penetrate from the north. Achaean states and class societies wither and perish, and writing is forgotten. On the territory of Greece (including Crete), primeval relations are re-established, the socio-economic and political level of social development is falling. Thus, a new stage of ancient Greek history — the polis stage-begins with the disintegration of the tribal relations established in Greece after the death of the Achaean states and the penetration of the Dorians.

The polis stage of the history of Ancient Greece is divided into three periods:

  1. Homeric period, or the Dark Ages, or the pre-Polis period (XI-IX centuries BC) – tribal relations in Greece;
  2. The archaic period (VIII-VI centuries BC) — the formation of class society and the state in the form of polis. Settlement of the Greeks on the shores of the Mediterranean and Black Seas (Great Greek colonization);
  3. The classical period of Greek history (V-IV centuries BC) — the heyday of the ancient Greek slave-owning society, the polis system, and Greek culture.

The Greek polis as a sovereign small state with its own specific socio-economic and political structure, which ensured the rapid development of production, classical slavery, republican political forms and cultural achievements, exhausted its potential and in the middle of the IV century BC entered a period of protracted crisis. The Persian empire, which united most of the Ancient Eastern world, also experienced a serious crisis in the fourth century. Overcoming the crisis of the Greek polis, on the one hand, and the Ancient Eastern society, on the other, became possible only through the creation of new social structures and state entities that would combine the beginnings of the Greek polis system and the Ancient Eastern society. Such societies and states were the so-called Hellenistic societies and states that emerged at the end of the IV century BC after the collapse of the “world” empire of Alexander the Great.

The unification of the processes of historical development of Ancient Greece and the Ancient East, which had previously developed in a certain isolation, the formation of new Hellenistic societies and states, which represented a greater or lesser combination and interaction of Greek and Eastern principles in the field of economy, social relations, political institutions and culture, opened a new stage of ancient Greek (and Ancient Eastern) history, profoundly different from the previous, actually polis stage of its history.

The Hellenistic stage of ancient Greek (and Ancient Eastern) history is also divided into three periods:

  • the Eastern campaigns of Alexander the great and the formation of a system of Hellenistic (30 years of the fourth century BC — 80-s years of the third century BC);
  • the flowering of Hellenistic societies and States (the 80-ies of the III century B. C. to the middle of the II century BC);
  • the crisis of the Hellenistic system and the conquest of the Hellenistic Rome in the West and Parthia to the East (mid-century II — I century BC).

The capture by the Romans in 30 BC of the last Hellenistic state — the Kingdom of Egypt, ruled by the Ptolemaic dynasty, meant the end not only of the Hellenistic stage of ancient Greek history, but also the end of the long development of slave-owning societies and states that make up the content of the course “History of Ancient Greece”.

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