Greece is a country that’s truly rich in history. The birthplace of Western civilization, it has long been known for its ancient philosophers, doctors, and artists. But did you know that there were civilizations that rose and fell in the area long before the “Ancient” Greeks trod here? Or that the history of Greece didn’t stop when Socrates died, but continued on, uninterrupted, to the contemporary age, through a blend of religious and political upheavals. This rocky coast and these stoic, tough islands have long withstood the test of time.
Here’s a brief guide to the history of this incredible country:
2700-1500 BCE: The Minoan civilization. This is Greece’s oldest civilization, and it flourished on the island of Crete. This island is still one of the country’s most important spots – for tourism now! – and it’s as good for exploring the ruins as for sunbathing on the beach.
1600-1100 BCE: The Mycenaean civilization. Before you think that it’s short-lived, realize that the USA has been around for less time. And this civilization’s influence may have been as great as the USA’s is today! The highlight here is a visit to the ruins of the capital, Mycenae – which are remarkably well preserved.
776 BCE (the first Olympic games) to 323 BCE (the death of Alexander the Great): Ancient Greece. From Homer to Plato and Socrates to Alexander the Great, a lot of Greece’s most well-known history occurred in the millennium before the birth of Jesus. Relics from this period abound. From the Acropolis to the temples at Delphi, this was Greece’s golden age – and the main draw for many visitors.
276-146 BCE: The Hellenistic period. A dark age for this mighty power. The global influence of Greece declined, until…
126 BCE - 393 CE: Roman Greece. This was a resurgence of Greece, under Roman rule. Much of the Romans’ most famous attributes were copied from the Greeks, from their artwork to their religion. Despite the occupation, this was a high point for Greece, and many Roman monuments remain.
4th – 15th century: Byzantine Greece. From the fall of the Western Roman Empire to the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Greece was a part of the Byzantine Empire, one of the most powerful empires in history. Greek Orthodoxy developed, and many monasteries and churches were built.
15th century - 1821: Ottoman Greece. After the fall of the Byzantines, Greece fell (like most of Eastern Europe) under Ottoman rule. This was a very important period of the country’s history of which many artifacts remain, such as the ones in Thessaloniki.
1821 onward: Modern Greece. The re-emergence of Greece into the global sphere was a rocky one. The country had a revolution in 1821, followed by a kingdom, a dictatorship, occupation by the Axis forces, and finally the “Third Hellenic Republic”, which continues to this day.
As you can see, Greece has a long and varied history. But, fortunately, relics from every moment in this country’s past are still observable today. If you truly love history, you could spend decades coming back here!
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