Ancient Greece

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In ancient times, a loose collection of Greek-speaking city-states predominated throughout the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea and formed a brilliant civilisation that has left a huge legacy in the fields of culture, politics and science. Greek civilisation was first established in mainland Greece, Crete, western Asia Minor and throughout the islands of the Aegean Sea, but it became widespread with colonies founded as far afield as the Black Sea, Italy, the Levant and North Africa.




Bronze Age

Minoan Crete




Persian Wars

Peloponnesian War

Fourth century

Rise of Macedon

Alexander the Great


Roman Greece

Greece was overrun by the Romans after a series of wars ended in the Roman victories at the battles of Pydna (148 BCE) and Corinth (146 BCE). The country was part of the Roman Empire until 395 and then of the Byzantine Empire until 1453.


Art and architecture

Exploration, trade and colonisation

Literature and drama

Numerous great writers flourished throughout Greek civilisation. They included historians like Herodotus and Thucydides; dramatists such as Aristophanes, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides; and poets such as Sappho.

Philosophy and science

Thales of Miletus was an early Greek philosopher who correctly predicted the solar eclipse on 28 May 585 BCE.

In classical times, Athens was the main centre of philosophical and scientific research. Its three most famous philosophers were Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

Euclid (Εύκλείδες, c. 300 BCE) was a Greek mathematician who worked in Alexandria at the Museum founded by Ptolemy I. He systematised the geometric and arithmetic knowledge of his times in thirteen books called the Elements (Στοιχεία).



Athens has been called the cradle of democracy in that its government during the classical period was in the hands of its citizens, who formed an assembly for debate and decision. Leaders like Pericles were elected by popular vote instead of being installed by force of arms, as in earlier times when the city was ruled by tyrannoi (dictators) like Pisistratus.

Even during its democratic period, however, Athens was a slave-owning imperial power. In the aftermath of the Second Persian War, they formed a trading confederation called the Delian League which became an Athenian Empire.