While early archaeological remains suggest that humans have inhabited Greece as far back as 700,000 years ago, a more pastoral existence did not begin until Neolithic times. At this time, farmers began growing barley and wheat among other agricultural crops and by 3,000 BC, relatively modern settlements had begun to expand.
While the Bronze Age signified the introduction of new technologies to many areas, for Greece, it was also the introduction of three different civilizations: the Cycladic, the Minoan, and the Mycenaean. The Cycladic established extensive trade routes as a result of their remarkable seafaring abilities. The Minoans, credited as being Europe’s first advanced civilization, created remarkable palaces and artwork. Research has also shown that they had quite sophisticated water supply and sewage systems. Finally, the Mycenaean, also known as the Achaean civilization, were characterized by the independent city-states they created.
These city-states included the likes of Athens and Sparta, two places cemented not only in Greek history but also in world history. Each city-state was independent, with its own laws, currency, and government. Athens quickly emerged as the cultural hub of the Mediterranean, encouraging and creating remarkable works of art, literature, and more. Sparta, on the other hand, became infamous for its military, which provided much-needed stability, setting it apart from other city-states.
Oftentimes these states were at war with each other, constantly vying for more power. However, by 490 BC, they became united against a common goal, the Persians. The Persians wanted to destroy Athens, and with a much larger army, it seemed to be a certainty. Yet with the help of Sparta’s military and navy, the Greek city-states were successful in beating back the Persian advance.
Under King Philip II and his son, Alexander the Great, Macedon took control of Greece during the 4th century BC. Under Alexander, an empire emerged and then expanded with control reaching as far as India. Unfortunately, upon the death of Alexander, Greece was once again divided, allowing for Rome to step in. While Alexander had been focused on the east, Rome was looking to the west, recognizing the important role that Greece would play in any empire.
For the next 300 years, the citizens of Greece enjoyed relative peace. This was largely due to the fact that many Roman aristocrats respected Greek philosophy among other things and did not wish to change it. Under Rome, Christianity became the official religion of the empire and the worship of other gods was prohibited. Eventually, Roman expansion became too much and the empire was divided in half. The capital was moved to the Greek half (Byzantium) and named Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul).
The Roman Empire fell to Frankish crusaders when Constantinople was attacked in 1204, but would eventually come under Turkish control in 1453. Greece would remain part of the Ottoman Empire for the next 350 years. Despite being under the control of a foreign power, a sense of national identity began to emerge. During the 19th century, when the empire was considerably weaker, the Greeks embarked on the War of Independence in 1821. In 1829, a free state was declared, however, in 1833, Britain, France, and Russia appointed a foreign king to Greece, thus establishing a monarchy that would last until 1973.
Occupied by Germany during part of the Second World War, an internal war broke out between communist and monarchist resistance groups that didn’t finish until 1949. After the monarchy was overthrown, Greece became a democratic republic in 1975. They joined the European Union in 1981, adopting the Euro in 2001.
A new century brought a European Football Championship and the opportunity to host the Olympics, both of which happened in 2004. Despite these incredible accomplishments that showcased Greece to the world, the economy began to have significant issues in 2010. Yet Greece remains ever popular amongst international tourists. A rich history allows visitors to step back in time and rediscover the first great western civilization, while a welcoming population, known for its hospitality, ensures time spent in Greece is memorable.
Greece Travel Information
At Goway we believe that a well-informed traveller is a safer traveller. With this in mind, we have compiled an easy-to-navigate travel information section dedicated to Greece.
Learn about the history and culture of Greece, the must-try food and drink, and what to pack in your suitcase. Read about Greece's nature and wildlife, weather, and geography, along with 'Country Quickfacts' compiled by our travel experts. Our globetrotting tips, as well as our visa and health information, will help ensure you're properly prepared for a safe and enjoyable trip. The only way you could possibly learn more is by embarking on your journey and discovering Greece for yourself. Start exploring… book one of our Greece tours today!
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