While in the orient the slave society developed slowly and the free people work dominated, in Greece, because of special conditions, the most developed forms of slavery were reached.
The Greeks explain its the beginning by myths and legends. According to a legend, Elen, the oldest son of the first man on Earth, is the ancestor of the elens.
The historic truth, proved by archaeological findings, is the following: the first inhabitants of Greece werenít the elens, but an older population, which we call the preelens or pelasgs. Over this population of fishermen, hunters and farmers, in the 2nd millennium BC the elen tribes came from the North.
Country and people of Crete
About Crete, the old legends say it was a rich country, placed in the middle of the sea. It became a great maritime power. The skill of pottery knew a great flourishing. The most important handicraft center was Knossos.
Crete had commercial relations with Greece, Fenicia and Egypt, becoming a real maritime power.
Political and social organization
In the 2nd millennium BC the Cretan civilization was divided in: slaves, slave masters and free men (peasants, craftsmen). In the same time the state organization appeared. The Cretan state was similar to the oriental states. It was ruled by kings, which also were high priests.
The Cretan Culture
We know the Cretan Culture by the remains in architecture, pottery, painting and the gold and bronze working. The Cretan pottery- pots with different forms and designs- was a model for craftsmen in the antiquity and later.
Around 14-13 century BC Crete began to fall. It fell under the strikes of the elen tribes migration. The influence of the Cretan culture on the antiques people, especially the Greeks, was very powerful.
The migration of the elen tribes. The Mycenaean Civilization
The Greek people formed from the mix of the native civilizations, the pelasgs and the migrating elen tribes (aheis, ioniens, doriens, eoliens), coming from the North of the Balcanic peninsula.
The aheian migration: the first tribes, aheis, occupied Greece in 2000 BC. They were lead by kings (basileis), helped by the aristocracy. Around 1700 BC the aheis, because of the economic exchanges, they contacted the Cretan civilization.
The ionien migration: after the aheis, in the continental Greece, on the islands and in Small Asia, the ioniens came. They settled in the Attica peninsula, founding the city of Athena.
The dorien migration: In 12-11 century BC the dorien migration, warrior and violent migrating tribes from the north. They destroyed the Aheian civilization.
Even though the migrations had a destructive character, the dorien migration had a positive role, because they brought in Greece their experience in iron working.
The great Greek colonization
In the Greek myths and legends itís spoken about countless expeditions and stops on far lands and islands. They actually speak, in poetical forms, about the often elen colonization.
The causes of the great Greek colonization: It took place between 8-6 century BC. Its causes are of economical and political nature: The lack of land, political struggles, the need for prime matter and sale markets for the goods.
The directions of the great Greek colonization. Main metropolis and colonies.
The state-cities from where the colonists left where called metropolis (= mother cities). The most important colonies where: Milet, Corint, Megara. The new settlements where called colonies. They where organized after the model of the metropolis and had economical, religious and cultural relations with it. The colonies where independent, they had their own leader, laws, army, judges and money.
In this age of the great colonization, the Greeks settled on a large area and in different directions: to the West (southern Italy and France, Sicily), to the South (Egypt), to the North East of Greece, to the North, South and East of the Black Sea, which they called "The Hospitable Sea Ė Pontus Euxinus".
The main Greek colonies: Syracuse (in Sicily); Neapolis, Sibaris and Tarent (in Southern Italy, then called "The Great Greece"); Massilia (today Marseille- Southern France); Cirene (in Libia); Naukaris (in Egypt); Byzantion (the Marmara Sea); Histria, Callatis-today Mangalia, Tomis-today Constanta (on the Western shore of the Black Sea, in the Romanian province Dobrogea).
The great Greek colonization stopped in the 6th century BC because of the Persian danger in the East and the Carthaginian danger in the West of the Mediterranean Sea.
In this period, in Greece the state-city forms, called polis. They where formed by groups of houses, disposed around the public square (agora) where the population (demos) of the city chose the leaders and approved the laws necessary to the life in the city.
The economical and political development of the Greek people in the great Greek colonization age made possible the development of culture, science, literature and art that contributed to the unity of the elen world.
Athens was one of the most important Greek polis. In the Attica peninsula, especially in Athens, because of the many crafts, tools, development of commerce, the society divided: the aristocracy (eupatrizes Ė the great land owners; they had the political power), the slaves (coming from the money owners and war prisoners) and the demos (craftsmen, traders and small land owners)- they where the mass of the free population; without political fights, he will fight permanently against the eupatrizes.
Athens was lead in the beginning by the aristocrats. 9 archons (leaders) where chosen every year. They where helped by a council formed by aristocrats. The gathering of the people still existed, but it had less and less rights. Athens was in this period an aristocratic state.
The reforms of the archon Solon downsized the power of the aristocracy and straightened the demos. In 509 BC the gathering of the people chose the archon Clistene, to finish the reforms of Solon. Clistene re-divided the population on new bases, territorial , in districts (not by money or birth). In every territorial unit there where all the categories of people. Mixing the aristocrats in the mass of the people, Clistene followed the destruction of the gentilic system. He took other measures too: he strengthened the gathering of the people, the army; he stopped the penetration in the leading of the state of the elements endangering the democracy, inventing the ostracism (=the exile of the elements considered dangerous to the democracy and their interests by the people)
In conclusion, in 8-6 century BC, the demos defeated the aristocracy and build the basic slave Athenian democracy. Itís called slave democracy because the slaves where excluded from it.
The Greek-Persian Wars
From 6th century BC, the Persian Empire reached the peak of power. Having a powerful land and water force, the "king of kings" was looking for a pretext o invade Greece. In 499 BC the Greek cities from Small Asia, lead by Milet, rioted against the Persian ruling. Some cities from Continental Greece supported this liberation move. But, insufficient prepared and helped, after an heroic resistance, the riot was defeated and Milet was burned to the ground.
After an old Persian custom, the "king of kings" sent messengers to the Greeks, asking them to surrender. Athens and other polis refused. The fight for the defense of the democracy and Greek culture was lead by Athens.
The first Greek-Persian War
Darius, the king of Persia, sent a great army to Greece and a powerful fleet. In 490 BC, in the swampy plain of Marathon, one of the biggest battles of antiquity took place. In head to head combat, the Athenian hoplites won.
The second Greek-Persian War
In 480 BC, the Persian armies invaded Northern Greece, threatening Athens. The first battle took place at Thermopile. The Greek armies lead by the Spartan king Leonida resisted heroically in the front of the great Persian army. Because of treason, the Persian army encircled the Greeks from the back. Leonida gave retreat order to the allies, and he, with his 300 Spartans, died heroically.
But on the sea, the Athenian fleet formed by new, easy, with 3 rows of paddles ships, called triremes, lead by Temistocle, crushed the heavy Persian fleet at Salamina.
The Battle of Maraton
|The Greek Camp|
|The Persian Camp|
|The city of Maraton|
|The Greek army lead by Temistocle|
|The Greek army lead by Miltiade|
|The Persian Army|
|The Persian Fleet|
The Battle of Salamina
|The Greek Fleet|
|The Persian Fleet|
The Peloponnesian War. The fall of Ancient Greece
In the second half of the 5th century BC, signs of weakening of the Greek society appeared, due to the slave exploit, the pauperization of the small producers etc.
Another grave phenomena was the Peloponnesian war. Itís called like this because it was organized by the states of the Peloponnesian League, lead by Sparta, against Athens. The main cause was the old rivalry between Sparta and Athens. Another cause was the fight for the road to Sicily, one of the granaries of the old world, road controlled by the states of the Peloponnesian League. Another cause was the wish of the states from the Maritime League-that supported the Peloponnesian League- to escape from the hegemony of Athens, that became. This wish was supported by Sparta.
The war took 27 years, but the fights lasted until 4 BC. Athens capitulated and was forced to give up its hegemony, its fleet and to tear down the "long walls", in the sound of Spartan music, to have the same friends and enemies like Sparta.
The fights for hegemony and for the formation of big political organizations proved that state-cities no longer could face the historical necessities. Of this situation, of general decay of Greece, will profit the young slave state Macedonia.