A bitesize history of Greece

The history of Greece goes back to its first settlers, around 40,000 years ago who mainly lived a rural hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The country’s development doesn’t just concern mainland Greece – each of its many islands and colonies can lay claim to some monument, philosopher or stunning piece of architecture that illustrates the growth of this extraordinary country. And, with anywhere between 1,200 and 6,000 islands that come under Greek influence or rule, you’ll understand why the history of this country is so important.

The Minoans on Crete

It wasn’t until the birth of the Minoan culture on Crete, around 2,200 BCE that Greek civilisation started to flourish.

From the splendours of the Minoan Palace at Knossos, first established around 7,000 BCE by Neolithic settlers, and developed into the wondrous ruins that are on show today, this site was in constant occupation until 1450 BCE when much of Crete was destroyed by earthquake and Mycenae occupation.

The Mycenae

At the same time as the Minoans on Crete flourished, the Mycenae on mainland Greece were starting to expand their empire and develop their artistic culture. The archetypal Greek urn dates back to this time. Thebes, Athens and Mycenae itself all developed between 1600 and 1100 BCE. The Mycenae travelled around both the Aegean and the Mediterranean – you’ll see remnants of Mycenae civilisation on Rhodes, though why this flourishing civilisation declined so rapidly is still a mystery to historians.

The birth of the modern age

From 800 BCE until 146 BCE, Greece entered an era of unparalleled growth and development. This was the era that saw the birth of the philosophy of democracy, led to the teachings of Plato, Socrates and Aristotle – as well as the founding of the Olympic Games in 776 BCE, and the building of the famous Parthenon in Athens.

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