Ancient Greece

About early Greece

Did you know that 2,500 years ago, Greece was one of the most important places in the ancient world? The Greeks were great at many things including being writers, actors, athletes, artists, architects and politicians.

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The Greeks called themselves 'Hellenes' and their land was 'Hellas'. The name ‘Greeks’ was given to the people of Greece later by the Romans. They lived in mainland Greece and the Greek islands, but also in colonies all around the Mediterranean Sea. There were Greeks in Italy, Sicily, Turkey, North Africa, and as far west as France. They sailed the sea to trade and find new lands.

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greek soldierPeople have been living in Greece for over 40,000 years. The Minoans were the first great Greek civilisation. They didn't live on mainland Greece but on the nearby island of Crete, between 2200BC and 1450BC (a very long time ago!). They were known as the Minoans after their legendary king, Minos.

After the Minoans came the Mycenaean civilisation, from mainland Greece. They were great soldiers and famously fought in the battle of Troy. After the Mycenaean age ended in about 1100BC, Greece entered a ‘Dark Age’.

It is known as a dark age because nobody knows much about what happened - all written language and art disappeared.


But what happened after the 'Dark Age'?

The Greeks held the first Olympic Games and they fought off the invading Persian army. This period is known by historians as the ‘Archaic' period of Greek history. During this time many of the cities in Greece were ruled by a king-like figure.

Around 480BC Greece entered a golden age which lasted for 200 years. The people built temples, made scientific discoveries, wrote plays and founded the first proper democracy. Historians call this ‘Classical Greece’.

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The final period of Greek history is known as the ‘Hellenistic' period. This lasted from 323BC to 30BC, when the Romans took control of Greece. The Romans didn't destroy Greek life, though. They respected the Greeks and copied many things about their culture, including their buildings, beliefs and clothes.

Who ruled Greece?

roman emperorEach city-state ruled itself and they had their own governments, laws and army.

Famously, the city-states didn’t get on very well and often fought each another. However, sometimes they joined together to fight against a bigger enemy,
like the Persian Empire.

Only a very powerful ruler could control all Greece. One man did in the 300s BC. He was Alexander the Great, from Macedonia. Alexander led his army to conquer an empire that stretched as far as Afghanistan and India.

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