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Ancient Greece
Richard Poe
Author of Black Spark White Fire



"1.The Egyptian Civilization is aboriginal African.
2. African Egypt is at the root of Greek culture. In stating this I must hasten to add that only a few of the Greeks were able to appreciate the lessons taught by Egyptian priests and were able to reach any respectable level of civility. Overall, Greek societies were not representative of Egyptian culture. The two cultures existed with different value systems. You do not have to take my word for if, study Greek history and I recommend this book be used as a guide."

Official Name: Hellenic Republic (Elliniki Dhimokratia) Location: Greece is located in southern Europe (around the 40th parallel, North). It is bordered on the west by the Ionian Sea, on the east by the Aegean Sea, and on the south by the Mediterranean Sea. It touches Albania, Macedonia, and Bulgaria to the north, and Turkey to the south. It includes many small islands in the Mediterranean, Ionian, and Mediterranean Seas and the large island of Crete.


"The glory that was Greece, " in the words of Edgar Allan Poe, was short-lived and confined to a very small geographic area. Yet it has influenced the growth of Western civilization far out of proportion to its size and duration. The Greece that Poe praised was primarily Athens during its golden age in the 5th century BC. Strictly speaking, the state was Attica; Athens was its heart. The English poet John Milton called Athens "the eye of Greece, mother of arts and eloquence." Athens was the city-state in which the arts, philosophy, and democracy flourished. At least it was the city that attracted those who wanted to work, speak, and think in an environment of freedom. In the rarefied atmosphere of Athens were born ideas about human nature and political society that are fundamental to the Western world today.

Athens was not all of Greece, however. Sparta, Corinth, Thebes, and Thessalonica were but a few of the many other city-states that existed on the rocky and mountainous peninsula at the southern end of the Balkans. Each city-state was an independent political unit, and each vied with the others for power and wealth. These city-states planted Greek colonies in Asia Minor, on many islands in the Aegean Sea, and in southern Italy and Sicily.

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The Beginnings of Ancient Greece

The story of ancient Greece began between 1900 and 1600 BC. At that time the Greeks--or Hellenes, as they called themselves--were simple nomadic herdsmen. Their language shows that they were a branch of the Indo-European-speaking peoples. They came from the grasslands east of the Caspian Sea, driving their flocks and herds before them. They entered the peninsula from the north, one small group after another. The first invaders were the fair-haired Achaeans of whom Homer wrote. The Dorians came perhaps three or four centuries later and subjugated their Achaean kinsmen. Other tribes, the Aeolians and the Ionians, found homes chiefly on the islands in the Aegean Sea and on the coast of Asia Minor. The land that these tribes invaded-- the Aegean Basin--was the site of a well-developed civilization. The people who lived there had cities and palaces. They used gold and bronze and made pottery and paintings.

The earliest civilization in Europe appeared on the coasts and islands of the Aegean Sea. This body of water is a branch of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bounded by the Greek mainland on the west, Asia Minor (now Turkey) on the east, and the island of Crete on the south. Here, while the rest of Europe was still in the Stone Age, the Minoan-Mycenaean peoples achieved a highly organized Bronze Age culture. Two different civilizations flourished in this region from about 3000 BC to 1000 BC. The earliest is known as Minoan, because its center at Knossos (also spelled Cnossus) on the island of Crete was the legendary home of King Minos (King Min of ancient Egypt.) The Greek invaders were still in the barbarian stage. They plundered and destroyed the Aegean cities. Gradually, as they settled and intermarried with the people they conquered, they absorbed some of the Aegean culture.


Life of the Early Wanderers

Little is known of the earliest stages of Greek settlement. The invaders probably moved southward from their pasturelands along the Danube, bringing their families and primitive goods in rough oxcarts. Along the way they grazed their herds. In the spring they stopped long enough to plant and harvest a single crop. Gradually they settled down to form communities ruled by kings and elders. The background of the two great Greek epics--the `Iliad' and the `Odyssey'--is the background of the Age of Kings. These epics depict the simple, warlike life of the early Greeks. The Achaeans had excellent weapons and sang stirring songs. Such luxuries as they possessed, however-- gorgeous robes, jewelry, elaborate metalwork --they bought from the Phoenician traders. More than 2,500 years ago African (Phoenician) mariners sailed to Mediterranean and southwestern European ports. The Phoenicians were the great merchants of ancient times. They sold rich treasures from many lands.  

The Greek City-States and Their Colonies

The `Iliad' tells how Greeks from many city-states-- among them, Sparta, Athens, Thebes, and Argos-- joined forces to fight their common foe Troy in Asia Minor. In historical times the Greek city-states were again able to combine when the power of Persia threatened them. However, ancient Greece never became a nation. The only patriotism the ancient Greek knew was loyalty to his city. This seems particularly strange today, as the cities were very small. Athens was probably the only Greek city-state with more than 20,000 citizens.

Just as Europe, unlike North America, is divided into many small nations rather than a few large political units, so ancient Greece was divided into many small city-states. Sometimes the Greek city-states were separated by mountain ranges. Often, however, a single plain contained several city-states, each surrounding its acropolis, or citadel. These flat-topped, inaccessible rocks or mounds are characteristic of Greece and were first used as places of refuge. From the Corinthian isthmus rose the lofty acrocorinthus, from Attica the Acropolis of Athens, from the plain of Argolis the mound of Tiryns, and, loftier still, the Larissa of Argos. On these rocks the Greek cities built their temples and their king's palace, and their houses clustered about the base.

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Only in a few cases did a city-state push its holdings beyond very narrow limits. Athens held the whole plain of Attica, and most of the Attic villagers were Athenian citizens. Argos conquered the plain of Argolis. Sparta made a conquest of Laconia and part of the fertile plain of Messenia. The conquered people were subjects, not citizens. Thebes attempted to be the ruling city of Boeotia but never quite succeeded.


Similar city-states were found all over the Greek world, which had early flung its outposts throughout the Aegean Basin and even beyond. There were Greeks in all the islands of the Aegean. Among these islands was Thasos, famous for its gold mines. Samothrace, Imbros, and Lemnos were long occupied by Athenian colonists. Other Aegean islands colonized by Greeks included Lesbos, the home of the poet Sappho; Scyros, the island of Achilles; and Chios, Samos, and Rhodes. Also settled by Greeks were the nearer-lying Cyclades--so called (from the Greek word for "circle") because they encircled the sacred island of Delos--and the southern island of Crete.

The western shores of Asia Minor were fringed with Greek colonies, reaching out past the Propontis (Sea of Marmara) and the Bosporus to the northern and southern shores of the Euxine, or Black, Sea. In Africa there were, among others, the colony of Cyrene, now the site of a town in Libya, and the trading post of Naucratis in Egypt. Sicily too was colonized by the Greeks, and there and in southern Italy so many colonies were planted that this region came to be known as Magna Graecia (Great Greece). Pressing farther still, the Greeks founded the city of Massilia, now Marseilles, France.

This many-sided culture seemed to spring into being almost full-grown. Before the rise of the Greek city-states, Babylon had made contributions to astronomy, and the rudiments of geometry and medicine had been developed in Egypt. The history of Rome began in 753 BC when a basket, floating on the Tiber River, washed ashore at a place near seven hills. According to Roman mythology the basket carried twin infants, Romulus and Remus. Their mother was the daughter of a local king, and their father, appropriately, was Mars, the god of war.