Greek Guide

Ancient History of Greece Greece

Ancient History of Greece Greek Destinations

What can be said about a civilisation which provided the cornerstone for the building of our modern world? After a few hundred years of tribes warring on the Greek mainland the country entered a more refined period in history around 800 BC. The country evolved into several distinct city states, the most influential of which were Sparta and Athens.

The classical, or golden age for ancient Greece was a time of free thinking, cultural renaissance and the establishment of philosophy and democracy which lasted several hundred years. Athenian politician Pericles commissioned the building of the Parthenon, Homer penned The Iliad and The Odyssey, and Greeks held the ancient Olympics.

But city stated still fought amongst themselves, and in the 4th century BC the Spartans fought and defeated the Athenians in the Peloponnesian Wars. Fighting lasted over 20 years which gave King Philip of Macedonia the opportunity to conquer both states. Philip's achievements were soon dwarfed by those of his son, Alexander the Great, who led a campaign to conquer the world and held Asia Minor, Egypt, Persia, Greece, and parts of modern day Afghanistan and India under his control at the time of his death. The reign of the Macedonian empire at this time is known as the Hellenistic period. Through the Hellenistic period Greece expanded to incorporate other ethnicities and took influence from neighbouring cultures.

Later the Romans all conquering crusade encompassed Greece, and the country became a Roman province in 146 BC. It later became part of the newly established Byzantine Empire. By 1500 the Byzantine capital had fallen to the Turks and Greece sat under Turkish control – the beginning of not so neighbourly behaviour between the two countries.

After an eight year war fought against the Turks for independence in the 1800s, the European powers granted Greece permission to become a monarchy – with a non Greek monarch. This wasn’t the most popular of ideas, and in 1830 Greece became an independent state. The role of a monarch clung on until the 20th century.

During World War One Greece fought on the side of the Allied Forces, but afterwards tensions grew between Turkey and Greece as Greece occupied the Turkish city of Smyrna, now modern day Izmir. This resulted in the exchange in population between the two countries in 1923. Greeks resident in Turkey were forced back to Greece, adding 1.3 million people to a population of five million.

The country lived in the shadow of a fascist dictatorship throughout the late 1930s and early 1940s, during which time the Greek army fought furiously to repel Italian and German troops in the Second World War.

In 1974 Greek colonels attempted to assassinate the leader of Cyprus, prompting the Turkish army to occupy the north of the island nation. They remain there till this day, and Greek immigration will still refuse entry to anyone who has evidence of travelling to Northern Cyprus since 1983. Also in 1974 the Greeks voted against a return to constitutional monarchy, preferring the freedom of democracy.

In January 1981 Greece became a full member of the now European Union, and 23 years later it continued its tradition as the home of the modern Olympics, hosting the summer games in Athens in 2004.