The History of Greece spans a long time. A really long time- at least nine thousand years from today. This brief history, however, will hit the highlights and origins of the Greeks, before delving into more detail for the Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic Eras before ending with the Roman conquest of Greece.

It is known that ancient Greece was not the most hospitable of lands. While it had good weather conducive to crops and humans, it was a rough land with few natural resources usable to the people of the time. There were some semi-nomadic tribes spread about, but the true wealth and survival lay upon the sea. There is confirmed evidence revealing that the Neolithic Greeks were sailing the Aegean as early as 7000 BCE, thirteen hundred years before they began building permanent settlements in central Greece.

The first real civilization in the area was called the Minoan civilization, after the mythical King Minos. This began on Crete, and was known for its mercantile endeavors which brought it into contact with other peoples, among them the Phoenicians. From these other peoples, they learned about writing, and began using it themselves. Their 'Linear A' was not a true letter-type alphabet such as we use today, but more a syllabic alphabet like the Japanese- where every symbol represents a syllable instead of a single sound. Palaces were built to administer the realm, and from these palaces cities began to grow.

Other peoples were learning as well. The Ionians, as the mainland Greeks of that era called themselves, were learning from the Minoans and soon overtook them in both power and prestige. The Palace at Knossos was destroyed circa 1370 BCE, leaving the Ionian palaces on mainland Greece as the main centers of power in the region. From these palaces grew the Mycenaean culture, named for the most famous of the Mycenaean cities- Mycenae itself.

The Mycenaean culture was one of high sophistication for its day. They had adopted the Minoan syllabic Linear A alphabet early, but modified it to suit their own language which evidently used different syllables than the Minoan, evolving it into 'Linear B'. The use of writing was a tremendous asset to government and administration, allowing for the rise of Kings, the spreading of power, and the inventorying of supplies and other things, as well as allowing the conveyance of thoughts between scholars and other thinkers or inventors. It also allowed poets like Homer to write down the songs of his people and codify them into his famous Iliad.

Mycenaean Greeks were also bellicose. This was the Age of Heroes, when battles were fought first and foremost between kings and heroes upon their chariots. Power was spread by the sword or the spear, and very little was needed to incite one warlord to attack another. It is known that the Trojan War, of which Homer writes, was fought in this time.

Mycenaean power came crashing down between 1200 and 1000 BCE, ushering in the Greek Dark Ages. Little is known of this time since the knowledge of writing was lost, hence the name. It is thought that the Dorians, an Iron Age group of tribes, successfully assaulted the decaying Mycenaean Ionians and drove their refugees across the Aegean to the west coast of Modern Turkey, where they founded the Ionian cities. Another thought is that the invasion of Sea Peoples, aquatic raiders, may have contributed to the fall. Several other civilizations around the Mediterranean fell at this time as well- the Egyptians and the Hittites.

Time passed, and the Doric invaders intermingled with the remaining Ionians. From this fusion grew a new culture, based on the city-state (polis). These developed independently, yet interconnected. Sparta grew martial, and conquered the Messenians to provide it with helots to work the lands so that its menfolk could concentrate on war. Writing was relearned, allowing Corinth to develop into a blossoming mercantile center while Athens began experimenting with democracy and philosophy.

The close contact these city-states had with each other was reflected in the immense growth of power and culture in these days, as well as the first Olympic Games, held in 776 BCE. By the 750's BCE, Greeks began exploring and colonizing Southern Italia and Sicily, founding Syracuse.

The growing economic and mercantile power of the Greeks brought them to the attention of the Persians, who were a world power in their own right. Another thing bringing them to Persian attention was their meddling with what Persia thought its internal affairs. The Persians had conquered the Ionian cities of the Aegean Eastern Shore in 540 BCE, and lumped them together into a satrapy centered on Sardis.

Athens and Eretria were feeling powerful in their newfound might. Thus both supported the Ionians in revolting against their Persian overlords. Their expedition in 498 BCE reached and burned the satrapy's capital of Sardis, though the expeditionary forces were ultimately decisively defeated a few short weeks afterward. By 493 BCE the revolt was finally put down and Darius I the Great swore vengeance upon Athens. He extended this desire for conquest against all Greek cities- whose meddling, style of warfare, and democratic ideas he considered a threat to his own divine rule.

Three years later he acted. He attacked Athens by landing on the shores of Marathon with the intention of driving overland and seizing the city. Miltiades, the Athenian in command of a much smaller force of hoplites, charged down upon the waking, unarmored Persians and drove them back into the sea. A forced march later, the army was near enough to Athens to discourage a second landing. The Persians withdrew.

The son of Darius, Xerxes, renewed the Persian attempt to conquer the Greeks in 480 BCE. Unlike his father, Xerxes traveled overland most of the way, conquering the northern Greek cities and southern Thracian tribes along his way. The Spartans tried to stop him in the famous battle of Thermoplylae, but ultimately failed. Xerxes tried by sea, but was driven off in the naval Battle of Salamis. His army met a humiliating defeat at Plataea a year later, which ended the Persian invasions for good.

The defeat of the Persians lent a new prosperity and goodwill among the Greek states, especially among those who still feared the Persians. Alliances were formed, leagues of city-states announced. Athens led the Delian League, while the cities of southern Greece bonded together in the Peloponnesian League. Both grew strong, and when two strong neighbors live in close quarters, they will eventually have a falling out.

This is exactly what happened in Greece in 459 BCE. Athens, which had grown strong by using its Delian League to press the Persians out of the area and recover the Ionian cities as well, intervened in a dispute between two Spartan allies, Megara and Corinth. This led to a brutal war between the two leagues, one in which the disciplined battles of the past evolved into an almost 'total war' aspect to include the ravaging of vast areas, destruction of cities, and enslavement of total populations. When the war concluded with a Spartan victory in 404 BCE, Greece and Greek lands were devastated.

The Spartans led the Greeks now, but their supremacy did not last long. Their core class of warriors, the Spartiate, had been heavily depleted. Thirty-three years after defeating Athens, Sparta herself was defeated on the field of Leuctra by Epaminondas of Thebes, bringing Thebes to the forefront of Greek leadership in 371 BCE. A short nine years later, in 362 BCE, Thebes itself was thrust rudely from the pedestal with the death of Epaminondas at Mantinea, leaving each Greek polis vying for supremacy.

Into this void came Philip II of Macedon, invited in at first to be a member of the Delian League, but soon became a threat to the Greeks. They tried to settle their differences on the field of battle at Chaeronea, led by Thebes and Athens, but failed miserably. The Greeks fell under Macedonian rule and would not emerge until long after the death of Philip's son Alexander the Great.

They did eventually emerge, and in 284 BCE the northern poleis (plural of polis) banded together in the Achaean League. Sparta also resumed independence, but it was but a shadow of its former self. The devastation wrought in the great war, and again by Philip II, had done too much long-term damage to the Greeks for them to be strong again. They did, however, manage to drive off a Gallic incursion. The Gauls invaded in 279 BCE and were driven out by Atticus I in 238. It only took them forty years, but they did it.

The Greek poleis allied themselves to a decadent Macedon afterward. Their glory days were long gone, but their was still pride and strength left in them- as well as a fear of a growing Roman power. The Macedonians foolishly allowed their king to conduct and alliance with Carthage, then stupidly could not support the Carthaginians in any way, shape, or form. The Romans repaid that stupidity by sending a few legions to Greece. Flaminius destroyed Macedonian power in 196 BCE at Cynocephalae, and Aemilius Paullus fiished them off at Pydna in 168 BCE. And when Mummius sacked Corinth in 146 BCE, the Greek poleis became a single province ruled directly by Rome.

The Greek city-states were no more. Greek ways, however, would continue to help shape Roman ways. And when the Empire split into West and East, Greek ways became the more dominant than Roman in the East. Their empire lasted until the Turks finally took Constantinople in 1453, and Greece as a nation would not be seen again until after the successful conclusion of the Greek War of Independence in 1829.

Sources:
www.historyforkids.org/learn/greeks/history/history.htm
www.facts-about.org.uk/history-and-events-timeline-ancient-greek.htm
www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/04/eusb/ht04eusb.htm
www.ancientgreece.com/s/History/
www.historyforkids.org/learn/greeks/history/history.htm
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Greece

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