The  Mediterranean  Sea

-  a brief history   Page 6  -

                                          

The Greeks

During the same period, various roaming tribes settled down in Greece, the Eoli in the north, the Ion  in Athens, who were good navigators and the Dori, who settled in Pelopenesia and Sparta.

Their homelands, consisting of mountainous territories and many islands, all with very little arable, fertile land, encouraged them to seek more suitable lands. In the east was the Asian Anatolia (Turkey) and in the west was Southern Italy.

The early settlers of the eastern lands, now Turkey, found a blessed territory, innumerable sheltered bays only a few nautical miles from one another, backed by fertile valleys with plentiful water. The favourable coastline encouraged navigation and with it discovery, trade and conquests. It was here that Greece majorly developed a highly advanced culture and civilization.

Current day Turkey, with its many ruins of passed glory is testimony and curator of Western Civilationís long and tormented history. See Pergamon, Ephesos, Priene, Miletus, Didyma etc. In the early 19th century, a division was declared whereby the Greeks had to abandon mainland Anatolia and the Turks to abandon the Aegean islands, so that a clear separation was made between the two peoples.

The ancient Greeks were a litigious people, always at war with one another. Perhaps it was this very characteristic that made them forever dissatisfied and restless and consequently ever desirous of change and betterment, that actually contributed to their development, both physical and intellectual.

The Greeks’ achievements in war, colonisation, sport, democracy (see Pericles), architecture, sculpture (Phidias, Polykleitos, Lysippos, Praxiteles), mythology, astronomy, geography (Ptolemy), theatre (Sophocles, Aeschylus), philosophy (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Parmenides) and mathematics (Euchlid, Archimedes, Pythagoras), are well renowned and their writings substantially form the basis of all modern Western Thought.

The Greeks hated the Persians and revelled in every occasion for a physical confrontation and there are endless stories of battles and wars in their history. They colonised Sicily and southern Italy, building magnificent temples at Paestum and Agrigento (also to be visited), that rivalled the Acropolis in Athens itself.

                   Paestum in Italy Paestum     Agrigento - Italy Agrigento

The Persians who had conquered Babylon and Egypt, created a new empire that encroached on the indomitable Greeks. An impressive army attacked the Greeks at Marathon but failed, as did their second attempt at Athens ten years later. This failure was the fortune of us all, for in the next 100 years, Athens produced more cultural achievements that many other nations couldn't produce in a 1000 years.

However, weakened by a war between Athens and Sparta, only 100 years later, Greece was overcome by its northern neighbours, the Macedons, whose ambitions went much further: the conquest of the whole known world! This great adventure, begun by king Philip and then brilliantly continued by his son, who was soon to become known as Alexander the Great, went on to conquer most of the then known world stretching from Greece, down to Egypt and over to Persia and as far away as India, all in a very short time. Only ten years elapsed from the conquest of Athens by Philip to Alexander the Great's death in 323 BC. 

                                                                        

One might say that Greek culture has dominated the world to this very day. Their magnificently sculptured statues were a source of inspiration for all later Roman sculptors, who accurately copied innumerable Greek masterpieces, to adorn the palaces in Rome. Greek architecture was seen as the ideal of artistic symmetry, with its grace, strength and beauty. The Romans often modelled their public buildings after Greek temples, taking particular example from the Parthenon.

                                                     Acropolis The Acropolis

During the Renaissance period, Europeans rediscovered the arts of the Romans and of the Greeks and in time Greek architecture was spread to many new nations, so that today, with its Doric and Ionic columns, Greek architecture dominates government buildings right around the world.

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