Ancient Greece

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The ancient Greece , the development of European civilization largely influenced. Its history covers approximately the period from 1600 BC. Until 27 BC When Greece was integrated into the Roman Empire . In cultural terms, ancient Greek history continued into late antiquity .

The Mycenaean culture (up to approx. 1050 BC) was the first advanced civilization of mainland Europe. The so-called " dark centuries " followed their end (broadly approx. 1200 to approx. 750 BC; today mostly more narrowly defined from approx. 1050 to approx. 800 BC) before the archaic age began (approx 800–500 BC, art-historical (see archaic (art) from 700 BC - with modern periodizations, a more or less broad transition period makes less sense than a more or less broad transition period)). In the Archaic period, the polis established itself as a form of government, and many Greek colonies were founded in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea .

The following classical period (approx. 500–336 BC) was a time of great cultural development that laid a foundation for the West . Central political terms were also coined, for example in connection with the development of Attic democracy . The achievements of ancient Greek culture include, to name just a few examples:

With Alexander the Great , the last era of the independent Greek history, which began Hellenism (ca. 336-27 v. Chr.). This time was marked by the establishment of numerous new poleis and the spread of Greek language and culture as far as the Indian suburbs, by the mutual penetration of eastern and western civilization and religion and by the establishment of great empires ruled by Macedonian kings up to the eastern one Mediterranean region since 200 BC BC gradually came under Roman rule in a process that lasted over 150 years and finally became part of the Imperium Romanum .

Greece in the Archaic Period (approx. 800–500 BC)

Homer and Hesiod

In many ways, the archaic period produced foundations for the classical period of ancient Greece. At the beginning, after the “ Dark Ages ”, there were the Homeric epics, the Iliad and the (somewhat later) Odyssey , which were so important as an early link between the Hellenes . In written form (point in time in research disputed, see Homeric question ). The poems of Hesiod , which are important for mythology and worldview, were also created . These works formed an important canon of ancient Greek culture in the period that followed.

The polis

During this time, a new state system was formed in Greece, the formation of which may have been as early as the 12th century BC. BC - the roots of the term may even go back to early Mycenaean times - but at the latest in the geometric period (around 900–700 BC) begins: The polis (city-state) became the dominant form of government (except in parts of northern Greece and parts of it the Peloponnese ). The nobility, which at first was not a nobility by birth, gained in influence, at the same time the royal rule was pushed back more and more and largely disappeared. Among other things, oligarchies emerged , while in other city-states the population was more involved in government. The developed democracy (see also isonomy , the principle of equality of rights), as in the case of Athens , did not emerge until classical times. Full citizens were entitled to take part in political life in the polis. The degree of co-determination was of course differently graded from city to city. Pole ice often had only a very limited area around them ( chora ). Large poleis with extensive chora, such as Athens and Sparta , were the exception. As a rule, each polis had an acropolis and an agora , the marketplace, which served as an economic and political center.

The great colonization

Already at the end of the 2nd millennium BC Greeks are said to have moved to places on the coast of Asia Minor . In the period from approx. 750-550 BC Then came the Great Colonization , in the course of which daughter cities were founded in large parts of the Black Sea region and in many areas of the Mediterranean . Here, especially in southern Italy and Sicily - after Thucydides z. B. 735 BC BC Naxos and 730 BC BC Syracuse - many colonies founded ( Magna Graecia ). In addition to overpopulation and the safeguarding of trade routes, the reasons were domestic political contradictions and unrest within a polis. The term colonization is not to be interpreted according to modern standards. The newly founded cities were independent of the mother city and the settlement usually took place where no serious resistance from the locals was to be expected.

The Greek and Phoenician colonization

The Greek settlement thus extended over the entire Mediterranean area - with the Aegean Sea as the center. From 700 BC The influence of oriental elements on Greek art increased , with cities on Evia and soon afterwards the mighty Corinth playing an important mediating role. The Greeks had already adopted the Phoenician alphabet and redesigned it for their purposes.

It was in this widening horizon that Ionic philosophy arose . Its outstanding representatives include u. a. the natural philosopher Thales of Miletus , the mathematician Pythagoras of Samos and the dialectician Heraclitus of Ephesus .

Argos and Sparta

Meanwhile, on the Greek mainland, various poles competed for supremacy and often warred with one another. In the Peloponnese, Argos was the leader for a long time; but Sparta succeeded in becoming the leading military power in Greece - after conquering Messenia in several bitter wars (up to 640 BC) and on the basis of internal reforms. The military model of hoplite tactics had long since established itself . Around 550 BC Sparta finally founded the Peloponnesian League and cemented its claim to rule.

The tyranny

In the 7th and 6th centuries BC The form of government of tyranny spread . This first happened in Corinth , where the Kypselids around 660 BC. Came to power and thus established the earliest tyranny in Greece, and then in Sikyon and Samos , and later in Athens . The term tyranny came from Asia Minor and initially referred to sole rule without any evaluation. As a rule, a powerful aristocrat took control of a polis, secured his power militarily, and also sought support from other tyrants. So there was no legal basis, but a purely power-political one. Tyrants also came to power in the western Mediterranean region in later times, with developments in Sicily being quite spectacular (see Gelon , Agathokles ). In the Greek heartland around 500, Sparta in particular opposed this form of government and fought it vigorously, but not without the ulterior motive of increasing its own influence in this way.

Community-building factors

The ancient Greek world had no “national feeling”, even if there was broad agreement about who was Greek and who was not. Every polis, no matter how small, watched closely over its own autonomy and was not prepared to give it up voluntarily. As a result, the war in ancient Greece was more the normal state (see the battles between Sparta and Argos or between Athens and Aegina ).

Major events to which Greeks from the various poleis flocked and at which they expressed their sense of togetherness were above all in the form of the Panhellenic Games , the most famous of which was the Olympic Games . Greeks from southern Italy, for example, also took part. The oracle of Delphi was of similar Panhellenic importance .

The canon of gods known from the Homeric epics , to which the first temples were built in archaic times, was of fundamental community-creating effect . The ancient Greek poleis were strongly influenced by religion. Although it was not a book religion - the religion was determined by myths and stories of heroes - almost all public and private actions were accompanied by invocations to the gods.

A certain sense of community , which was also expressed politically, only developed on the eve of the Persian Wars . 510 BC The tyranny in Athens was finally eliminated. Athens had already become the supreme power in Attica ; Thebes later strived for supremacy in Boeotia , while the most important power in Greece was still Sparta. In Asia Minor the Ionian Uprising finally took place (500–494 BC), an event that was to write world history.

Greece in classical times (around 500–336 / 323 BC)


Greek settlement areas on the Aegean Sea in the 5th century BC Chr.

As far as the size of the population is concerned, only extremely rough estimates have been made. At the time when the population peaked, it is estimated that the whole of Ancient Greece was 4 million people (including 2 million in the colonies). The Athens Polis extended over the whole of Attica to an area of ​​2600 square kilometers and was in 435 BC. Approximately 250,000 to 300,000 inhabitants (including 100,000 slaves and 60,000 male adult citizens), in 325 BC. BC only about 150,000 to 250,000 people (including 50,000 slaves and 20,000 male adult citizens). The Attica region had the highest population density in Greece, between 45 and 80 inhabitants per square kilometer (in 2005 it was 3812). Altogether one can assume about 1000 Greek pole ice in the Mediterranean area and on the Black Sea , of which less than half had more than 2000 inhabitants and only 15% more than 5000.

Life expectancy was very low. Just over 50% of all people survived their 5th year of life, only about 40% were at least 30 years old and just over 20% died at the age of 50 or more. Only under 5% of all people reached the age of 75. The high mortality rate, especially among boys, went hand in hand with a high birth rate. It is estimated that each woman must have given birth to around 5.5 children.

Urban planning

Although the poleis were very different from one another, they all had a few things in common. To almost each of the approx. 1000 polis belonged firstly a city surrounded by a city wall and secondly an agricultural area (the chora ). Within the city wall with its gates and towers there were streets, houses and mostly larger temples. The agora was probably the most important and central place . The agora was a public square where political meetings and votes took place in the democratic poleis. Most of the time, important public buildings such as the town hall ( Buleuterion ) and the Prytaneion were located directly at the agora .


Ancient Greek society was not a wealthy society. Most people probably lived in poverty or just above it. In addition, the little that could be generated through the level of self-sufficiency was not infrequently consumed by social elites instead of invested.


The ancient society was indisputably an agrarian society. The farmers are estimated to be 67% to 80% of all employed persons. There is a broad consensus that technology in general, including agricultural technology, was at a low level during the classical period and that - despite slight advances - it remained. Agriculture was organized in small parts, this applies to both the land parcel and the farm structure. So there were mainly small farmers with small fields and - in contrast to Roman antiquity - only very rarely large landowners. The small farmers were self-employed ( auturgoi ), who mostly earned hardly more than they consumed themselves ( subsistence economy ), the few large landowners were aristocrats who often lived in cities and had their goods administered by overseers. Due to the factors mentioned, to which the relatively poor geographical and climatic conditions for agriculture come, it can be assumed that the agricultural yields were mainly generated with strenuous physical activity. This included the cultivation of the soil, the grape harvest, the harvest of the grain and that of the olives.

Crafts, construction and mining

With the exception of blacksmiths, potters and similar manufacturers of products that were firstly in demand and secondly requiring specialization, craftsmen were mainly located in the cities. Like agriculture, the construction industry and, above all, the handicrafts consisted of many small and independent businesses that produced hardly any technical innovations and only rarely produced beyond local needs. Larger workplaces were rare, and even fewer were entrepreneurs who live on income from manufactories and perhaps also invest a fortune. Mining (mainly silver and iron in Attica) has a special position in some respects (mass slavery, mass deployment of labor).

Commerce and Finance

The fact that hardly any surpluses were generated in the dominant branch of the economy, agriculture (subsistence economy), already shows that trade in agricultural products also remained limited. These were sold in local markets and rarely transported over long distances. An exception was the constant import of grain from Athens (from Sicily, Egypt and the Black Sea region), which was necessary due to the geographical and climatic conditions of Attica, which was financed, for example, through silver mining in the mines near Laureion. In addition to grain, precious metals and other raw materials, rare or valuable goods such as wine, spices, olive oil and vases were traded over long distances. Long-distance trade was seldom carried out over land, but mostly, which was many times cheaper, carried out over the sea. Wholesaling and intermediate trade existed at most in urban centers. Over time, Athens developed into a real trading center. As a result of this and because of the so-called sea ​​loans (interest-bearing loans with which cost-intensive maritime trade was pre-financed), Athens also became - as far as one can speak of such a thing in antiquity - a banking center. The coinage originated in the 6th century BC. BC and spread in the following centuries, especially in the cities.


It is believed that about two to three percent of the total population belonged to the property class . This consisted of large landowners, mine tenants, owners of large workshops (with 20–50 slaves), moneylenders as well as ship owners, house or apartment tenants and larger traders. The majority of the population, however, was made up of a largely poor middle class, which in turn consisted primarily of farmers, especially small farmers. It also included artisans, smaller traders and the Metöken . The "lower class" included the wage laborers (unskilled workers on construction sites, in factories, etc .; mercenaries; small owners of donkeys, carts, oxen, mules, wagons, barges, etc.) and forced laborers (slaves; serfs like the helots in Sparta ; Debt servants who were forbidden by law in Athens, for example).

Visual arts

Greek historiography

In the time around 500 BC Chr. Developed the ancient Greek history . Impulses came from both the expanded geographical horizon and the Ionic philosophy. Hecataios of Miletus , the so-called logographers and the histories of Herodotus stand at the beginning of the extremely rich Greek historiography, which produced important prose works and was thematically extremely diverse. Herodotus and Thucydides represented the standard by which many of the following ancient Greek historians orientated themselves up to the end of late antiquity . The subjects dealt with by these authors ranged from universal and contemporary history to specialized writings (such as the Persika and Indica ), historical-geographical works and local histories. However, a large part of ancient literature and thus also of Greek historiography has been lost and is often only preserved in quotations and excerpts ( The Fragments of Greek Historians ).

Athenian democracy

Athens was not the only democratic polis. Here, the Athenian democracy should only be used as an example, since there are significantly more historical sources for it than for other poles, which allows a better overall picture. The most important institutions of the democratic Athenian polis were, firstly, the regular popular assemblies of male adult citizens, which passed “valid resolutions that were also binding on officials and council bodies”; secondly, one or more councils with “fixed, usually preliminary, managerial and controlling functions”; and thirdly, permanent offices "with fixed, functionally differentiated material responsibilities, the holders of which were periodically reappointed according to certain rules". In addition, as a legal institution, there is the people's court responsible for jurisdiction . These democratic institutions were continuously improved over a period of around 150 years, and they reached their final shape around the middle of the 5th century. v. Chr.

People's Assembly

The assembly ( ekklesia ) was the main institution of democracy which has been constantly evolving since Solon and Kleisthenes. In classical times, every male citizen (the right of citizenship was decisive) had the right to participate, propose, speak and vote after reaching the age of 18. Her competencies were unrestricted, she made all the decisions. The assembly was responsible, among other things, for legislation, decisions on war and peace, international treaties, all questions of public order and the election: the strategists, the treasurer, the officials who were not chosen by drawing lots. The agenda was set by the Council and the topics to be voted on had to be prepared by it first. However, any adult male citizen could submit an application to prepare a voting point at any time. The council was also responsible for calling, running and leading the meeting. The assembly met regularly (40 times a year since the 4th century); Voting was done (initially by the volume of the calls, then) by show of hands or secretly, with voting cards; a majority prevailed against a minority (majority principle). Participation for male adult citizens who lived up to 70 kilometers from the meeting place was made significantly more difficult by this geographic situation. A daily allowance paid for all participants. Fundamental resolutions were subject to a quorum of 6,000 votes (approx. 20% of all voters).

Council (the 500)

The council ( bule ), created by Solon (council of the four hundred) and further developed by Kleisthenes (council of the five hundred), assumed important functions within the Attic democracy. Since Kleisthenes, the male adult citizens of all of Attica were represented proportionally balanced, which ensured a balance of the interests of the general citizens as well as of the different regions. The term of office of the elected members ( buleutai ) of the Council of Five Hundred was 1 year, the main task of the council ( bule ), which met in the town hall ( buleuterion ), was to prepare and carry out the popular assemblies, which only vote on topics ( probuleuma ) that have been prepared by the council could. Within the council, each phyle was represented by a 50-strong phyle section ( prytaneia ). Each of these 10 Prytania chaired the council and the popular assembly for a tenth of the year. In the 4th century BC However, this management was - for better control - transferred to a college of 9 chairmen ( prohedroi ) from the Prytania, who were not in charge . Other tasks of the council were the financial control and the supervision of the officials. Since the council represented all male adult citizens equally, it was incidentally possible in some points “to act as a representative for all those citizens who could not regularly take part in the popular assemblies”.


“In accordance with the democratic self-image of the Athenian citizenship, the tasks that affected everyone should also be borne by everyone. The clothing of public offices ( archai ) was therefore usually subject to the principle of the slogan and the (mostly annual) rotation ”. The officials received wages (at least from the 5th century), there were around 600 lot officials, 100 election officials as well as the already discussed 500 council members and occasionally also temporarily created official posts (e.g. 700 officials for the administration of the Delisch-Attic maritime union ). The responsibilities and tasks were regulated very precisely. This included the administration of the cults, the army, then financial administration, "the administration of justice up to police functions and [...] market supervision". The activities of the officials of the council and the people's assembly were checked and checked for abuse of office.

People's Court

There were no professional judges in democratic Athens, but a people's court ( heliaia ). Since Solon, jurisdiction has been in the hands of all equal citizens, from whom the jury is drawn every year. They had to adhere to the laws and resolutions of the assembly and the council and make fair and impartial decisions (Heliasteneid). The judiciary probably took place in the open air, and court officials were responsible for its administration and administration. Since approx. 450 BC Every year 6,000 salaried jury members ( heliastai ) were drawn from the male citizens of at least 30 years old who together formed the people's court. Different numbers of jurors were assigned to the various important trials: at least 201, but also 501 or 1501 and in particularly important cases all 6000. After the parties had been heard, the verdict was determined in a secret ballot without debate.


Ionic uprising, Persian wars and Athens' development towards democracy

The Ionian uprising (approx. 500–494 BC) of the Greeks from Asia Minor and Cyprus, who had been under Persian rule for decades, against the Achaemenid Empire was only half-heartedly supported by Athens. Nevertheless, the Persian great king Darius I used this occasion to justify the expansion of his empire, which he had already considered for a long time, which he described as a "retaliatory campaign". With this campaign the Persian Wars began for Greece. Herodotus , the father of historiography , gave extensive information about these events in his work.

The Persian Wars

Athens won the marathon 490 BC. BC, but ten years later another campaign took place under the leadership of Darius' son Xerxes I in 481 BC. Therefore the Hellenic League was founded, to which besides Sparta and Athens also several other, but by no means all city-states of the motherland belonged; some were even more ready to submit to the Persians. After the holdout at Thermopylae , a decisive battle broke out at Salamis . The Greeks destroyed the outnumbered Persian fleet (480 BC). A year later, the Persian land army was also defeated at the Battle of Plataiai . 478 BC The conquest of Ionia began . However, Sparta refused to take over the protection of the Greeks far from home. Athens, on the other hand, previously the junior partner, took on the task and founded 478/477 BC. The Attic League .

On the basis of the reforms of Solon and Kleisthenes as well as the naval rule of Athens in the Aegean Sea, arose in the middle of the 5th century BC. The developed Attic democracy with Perikles as the leading statesman. At the same time, according to the historian Thucydides, the dualism between the naval power Athens and the land power Sparta developed , which would eventually lead to the Peloponnesian War .

Athens at the time of the Attic democracy

The Acropolis of Athens

While Thebes in Boeotia pursued the establishment of a hegemony over the other Boeotian communities, Athens pursued a similarly aggressive policy under Pericles . The Seebund, meanwhile an instrument for the pursuit of Athenian interests, developed more and more into the Attic empire . 460-457 BC The so-called Long Walls were built that connected Athens with the port of Piraeus and made Athens itself an impregnable fortress. Based on the financial resources of the federal government, in which the allies had become tributaries of Athens, the Athens Acropolis became a representative center of the new great power, which now knew how to present itself culturally as the "School of Greece" through an elaborate and glamorous building program.

Socrates, the teacher of Plato
Terracotta statue of a girl, 3rd century BC Chr.

From the middle of the 5th century onwards, Athens developed into the spiritual magnet and center of Greece, to which the sophists strove with their teachings and the introduction of paideia and in which the philosophy of Socrates , Plato and Aristotle each set a school. In the 5th century the tragedies of Aeschylus , Sophocles and Euripides emerged , then also the comedies of Aristophanes . The great sculptor Phidias , who headed the building program on the Acropolis, has a longer presence in Athens than his colleague Polyklet, who dealt with human images, or the famous doctor Hippocrates . In the 4th century, the orator Demosthenes opposed the rising Macedonian supremacy, powerfully but powerless, and thus remained an unmatched rhetorical model until the time of Cicero .

The Attic democracy, which ensured equal participation for all full citizens regardless of wealth and which kept them intensively involved in politics for almost a century and a half, had the downside that women and slaves were completely excluded from it, with slaves also playing an important role economically. Moreover, direct democracy did not at all protect against some excesses of external power politics. In many respects it can only be compared to a limited extent with modern representative democracy based on the division of powers .

Power struggles between the Persian Wars and the Peloponnesian War

After the Persian Wars, Athens continued the fight against the Persian Empire in the eastern Mediterranean as a hegemon in the Attic League . In the end it even supported an anti-Persian uprising in Egypt , where the Athenians then saw the limits of their own means of power and possibilities in a very costly defeat. A settlement with Persia came about in 449 BC. In connection with the historically controversial so-called Callias Peace .

In southern Italy and Sicily, meanwhile, the western Greeks who had settled there since the great colonization defended themselves against the threat from the Etruscans and the mighty Carthage . At the Battle of Kyme in 474 BC. The Etruscans were defeated. In Sicily , the conflict with Carthage continued, even if the Carthaginians 480 BC. At Himera were beaten. There tyrants were able to hold onto power in numerous poleis, such as Gelon , who was at times considered the most powerful man in the Greek world. Overall, stasis , that is, civil war-like conflicts within the citizenship, remained a major problem in many poles for centuries; not infrequently they led to the tyranny of the victorious party.

Between Athens and Sparta it happened 460–446 BC. For the First Peloponnesian War . The reason was Megara's provisional exit from the Spartan alliance and his transfer to Athens. During the Athenian fleet expedition to Egypt (460–454 BC) it came in 457 BC. To the battle of Tanagra against the Spartans, which was costly for Athens , but in return for the conquest of Aigina , which, despite its geographical proximity to Piraeus, had been a member of the Peloponnesian League , but now had to join the Attic League . When the outcome of the war between the two great Greek powers was finally undecided, 446 BC. A thirty-year peace between Athens and Sparta was concluded, although the latent tensions remained.

The Peloponnesian War

It came about the dispute between Corinth and Korkyra regarding Athens' interference in the civil war in Epidamnos , Athens' fear of Corinth's involvement in the north and a trade dispute with Megara, an ally of Sparta, but also out of Sparta's fear of a further increase in Athens' power finally to the Peloponnesian War (with interruptions from 431–404 BC), over the course of which up to the year 411 BC. Chr. Thucydides reported in detail in his famous historical work; Xenophon and the Hellenica then joined him .

432 BC BC Megara and Corinth ultimately called on Sparta to intervene, but the war began rather unplanned with an attack by the Thebans, allied with Sparta, on the city of Plataiai. Sparta fell in 431 BC In Attica, but Pericles had withdrawn the population under the protection of the Long Walls . Meanwhile the Athenian fleet plundered the Peloponnese. Pericles expected the opponent to be exhausted while the Spartans invaded Attica every year.

Battles and campaigns of the Peloponnesian War; the coloring corresponds to the situation at the outbreak of the war in 431 BC. BC, with the exception of semi-barbarian Macedonia, which was initially neutral

After the death of Pericles in 429 BC A new generation of politicians came to the helm, with Kleon standing for an aggressive and Nikias for a balancing policy towards Sparta. 425 BC Because of the capture of several Spartians , Sparta seemed ready for peace, but this was rejected by Kleon. However, Sparta reacted and marched under the leadership of Brasidas in 424 BC. In Thrace and threatened the Athenian supply of grain. 421 BC A peace treaty ( Nikiasfrieden ) came about , but this did not resolve all disputes. Sparta fought his arch rival Argos, while Athens under the influence of Alcibiades the momentous Sicilian Expedition undertook (415-413 v. Chr.). This ended in a disaster for Athens. The capture of Syracuse failed and the Athenian army was destroyed, while in Greece Alcibiades, who had defected to the Spartans, persuaded them to adopt a new tactic against Athens. A Lacedaemonian base was now permanently established in Dekeleia , and Sparta also won the support of Persia. With the help of Persian gold, Sparta built a powerful fleet. More and more League members, who were treated like colonies by Athens, fell away from the Attic League. In the course of the punishment of apostate Grisons and in the endeavor to develop the maritime empire as an instrument of rule, atrocities and attacks on the Athenian side increased in the course of the Peloponnesian War, for which the example of the small Aegean island of Melos stands in particular . Democracy was also spread within the League for the purpose of stabilizing rule, following the Athens model, and was used as a means of achieving the political goals of the leading power. 411 BC Because of the tense situation caused by the war in Athens itself, there was an oligarchic constitutional overthrow , which occurred as early as 410 BC. Was reversed - with the help of Alcibiades who defected back to Athens.

However, Sparta's new fleet under the capable Lysander continued to threaten Athens' lifeblood. 406 BC The Athenians won against the Arginus , but the following year the fleet was defeated in the battle of Aigospotamoi . Athens capitulated in 404 BC. BC before Sparta, but was not destroyed because Sparta wanted to maintain a balance of power . Corinth and Thebes, however, felt cheated of the fulfillment of their war aims and now pursued their own aims, also and above all against Sparta.

Theben's rise and struggle with Sparta for hegemony

After the victory of 404 BC, Sparta was able to Despite some efforts not to take over the leading role of Athens; he lacked both the resources and the institutional framework for this. In addition, the war over Asia Minor (400–394 BC) broke out between Sparta and Persia, as Sparta refused to hand over the Greek cities there to the Persians, as was the case in the treaty of 412 BC. Had intended. But the fighting did not break off in Greece either. In the Corinthian War (395–387 BC) Argos, Athens, Corinth and Thebes fought against the Spartans. 387/386 BC Finally the so-called King's Peace came about , which was actually a Persian dictated peace, but which at least brought the war in the Greek motherland to a temporary end. Persia received Asia Minor and Cyprus, while Athens was only allowed to keep some of its ancient clergy . All other poleis should be autonomous.

The idea of ​​the Koine Eirene , the general peace , was based on the principle of autonomy and equality, which developed a strong political effect in the following years and was the defining political thought of this time alongside panhellenism . In the end, however, this idea of ​​peace also failed again and again due to the impossibility of implementing it without the guarantee of a strong hegemonic power. The royal peace is considered by some researchers as the first realization of a Koine Eirene .

Greece at the time of the hegemony of Thebes,
371–362 BC Chr.

As the guardian of the royal peace, Sparta initially posed to defend its own position. But it was increasingly on the defensive. Athens, which had slowly recovered from the defeat in the Peloponnesian War, founded 378/77 BC. Chr. The Attic League new, however smaller and less influenced by the Athenian supremacy. In fact, both Sparta and Athens were concerned about the growth of Theban power and tried to curb Theban influence. But while the two old enemies were getting closer, it happened in 371 BC. At the Battle of Leuktra , in which the Spartan army was defeated in open field battle by the Thebans. This marked the final end of Spartan hegemony . The soaring in Thebes ended after just a few years, when 362 BC. The most important Theban strategist Epameinondas fell. However, Sparta lost Messenia and thus became a second-rate power, especially since the urgently needed internal reforms were not implemented afterwards.

In Sicily flourished during which the rich Polis Syracuse , reaching a quasi-hegemonic position under Dionysius I. During the 4th century BC. However, Syracuse was ravaged by serious civil wars. Since the early 5th century Carthage and the Sicilian Greeks fought fierce battles (see above), with both sides roughly balanced. In fact, it was precisely the peripheral areas - the so-called Third Greece apart from Athens and Sparta - that flourished after the Peloponnesian War, such as Boeotia with Thebes, but also Thessaly , Corinth and Megara, which recovered from the war and profited from trade .

Bust of Alexander the Great

Rise of Macedonia

In northern Greece, in 359 BC. Chr. Philip II. The throne of Macedonia . He managed to get the most out of the struggle for supremacy in the Greek poleis. He was able to bind the warring Macedonian noble families to the royal family more than before. Above all, however, he created a standing and professionally trained army, which made Macedonia the leading military power in Greece. In the 50s he fought the Phokers and acquired 352 BC. The supremacy in Thessaly . 343 BC The conquest of Thrace and the gold mines there followed, which laid the economic basis for the further increase in power. Athens felt seriously threatened by Philip's expansionary policies. Demosthenes in particular tried to convince the Athenians that Philip wanted to subjugate them, but initially had no success. 340 BC At last a defensive league was formed, but the army was defeated in 338 BC. At Chaironeia to Philip's army. This founded 337 BC The Corinthian League , was appointed hegemon and became de facto ruler of Greece. However, he could no longer realize his plans for a campaign against Persia: He was killed in 336 BC. Murdered BC.

The campaign of Alexander

However, his son Alexander , later called the Great, put Philip's ambitious plans into practice: he brought the rebellious Greek cities to their knees and destroyed Thebes. With his legendary Alexanderzug (from 334 BC) he also opened the door to a new world for the Greeks: he defeated the Persian armies and advanced as far as India . This ended the classical age of Greece.

The age of Hellenism began , in which the Greek Poleis faced the Hellenistic empires, which after Alexander's death in 323 BC. (See also Diadochi ), as well as the emerging federal states (see for example Achaean League ) only played a subordinate role in political terms, while Greek culture spread to India.

Greece in the Hellenistic Period (336–30 BC)

The Diadochin empires and their neighbors after the Battle of Ipsos in 301 BC. Chr.

Greece remained the battlefield of the great Hellenistic powers. The Antigonids in particular tried to renew the old Macedonian hegemony. Athens' attempt to regain power after the death of Alexander failed miserably ( Lamish War , 323–322 BC). The Greek federal states took the place of the polis as a power factor . The two most important were the Aitolian League and the Achaean League . From a cultural point of view, the focus shifted more to the east, where Alexandria in Egypt and later Pergamon in Asia Minor played an important role (see also Diadochi ).

Whether after 300 - due to the emigration of Greeks and Macedonians and the recruitment of Greek and Macedonian mercenaries by the Diadochian empires - a partial depopulation of overpopulated regions of Greece, combined with an economic downturn that only came to a standstill in the Roman Empire, is in the recent research controversial. In the meantime, archaeological research has shown that many Greek cities experienced an economic boom during the Hellenistic period.

As a result of the battles between the Greek small and medium powers among themselves and with and against Macedonia , the Roman Empire intervened against Philip V of Macedonia . In the Second Macedonian-Roman War (200–197 BC) Macedonia was crushed. 196 BC The Roman general Titus Quinctius Flamininus proclaimed the freedom of Greece, but Rome remained a protectorate. Since the situation was still unstable, Rome was repeatedly forced to intervene , especially in stasis between Greek "friends of Rome" and "enemies of Rome". After the Battle of Pydna in 168 BC. In BC Macedonia, which under King Perseus had tried again to fight for supremacy in Greece against Rome, was eliminated as a power factor. Rome was now permanently involved in Greece. This led to the final submission of Greece after the destruction of Corinth : 146 BC. The province of Macedonia was established, 133 BC. The province of Asia , which included the Greek cities of Asia Minor, and 27 BC. Then, as Achaea, most of central and southern Greece was subjected to direct Roman rule. As a result, more and more Italians settled in Greece and Asia Minor, who pursued economic interests there. The last time the Roman rule over the Hellenes was around 88 BC. By King Mithridates VI. challenged, but this episode remained.

After 133 BC The empire of Pergamon had been annexed by Rome, followed in 64/63 BC. The empire of the Seleucids in Syria (which had only been of regional importance since the late 2nd century and had long since lost its richest provinces) and 30 BC. Finally the last Hellenistic power, the Egypt of the Ptolemies . This ended the epoch of Hellenism .

Hellas as part of the Roman Empire until the end of antiquity

The political history of independent Greece was no later than 146 BC. Ended for almost two millennia; it was not until the 19th century that the country should become a separate state again. However, Greek culture lived on within the framework of the Roman Empire and, since the 2nd century BC, increasingly shaped Roman civilization. The country thrived economically during the long, largely undisturbed period of peace in the first two centuries AD (the Pax Romana ). Emperor Nero (54–68 AD) was also a great Philhellene and granted Greece numerous privileges, which his successors withdrew. Emperor Hadrian also promoted Hellas and especially let Athens do special gifts. Greek remained the lingua franca in the entire eastern Mediterranean, and until late antiquity it was almost a matter of course for the elites of Rome, even in the west, to master Greek in addition to Latin . Classical Greek education ( paideia ) remained alive, at least in the eastern half of the empire, long after the victory of Christianity.

The so-called imperial crisis of the 3rd century then also affected Greece, which suffered from barbarian invasions in the 260s in particular, but was able to recover to some extent and, with Neoplatonism, produced the last important philosophical current of antiquity. Athens in particular remained an important center of ancient education until the 6th century AD. From about AD 580 Slavic peoples invaded the Eastern Roman Balkan provinces; Around 650 AD Greece was largely Slavic populated up to the Peloponnese and could only be recaptured for the Greek-speaking Byzantine Empire in the Middle Ages . In Byzantium, the Greek language and Greek thought lived on for centuries, although they were transformed into Christianity.

The conquest of the Roman Orient provinces by the Islamic Arabs (from 636 AD) sealed the end of antiquity , as Egypt and Syria were now withdrawn from the Greek language and culture: in 698 AD the Greek caliphs became throughout the empire Official language replaced by Arabic. However, the conquerors were open to many of the achievements of Greek civilization; so not a little of it was only preserved for posterity by the Arabs and finally conveyed back to the West via Sicily and Spain.

See also

Portal: Greek Antiquity  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the topic of Greek Antiquity






Introductory and comprehensive

Introductory (further information can be found in the Bibliography Antiquity and, above all, the bibliographies of the volumes of Cambridge Ancient History , 2nd, fundamentally changed edition. For the period after 30 BC see the articles Roman Empire , Byzantine Empire and Late Antiquity ):

further reading

  • Alain Bresson: Making of the ancient Greek economy. Institutions, markets, and growth in the city-states. Princeton University Press, Lawrenceville 2015, ISBN 978-0-691-14470-2 .
  • Vinzenz Brinkmann (ed.): Back to the classic. A new look at ancient Greece. Hirmer, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-7774-2008-0 .
  • Paul Cartledge : Cultural History of Greece in Antiquity. Stuttgart 2000.
  • Angelos Chaniotis : Age of Conquests: The Greek World from Alexander to Hadrian. Profile Books, London 2018, ISBN 978-1-84668-296-4 .
  • Geoffrey de Ste Croix : The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World. From the Archaic Age to the Arab Conquests . Duckworth, London 1982, ISBN 0-7156-1701-X (study from a Marxist perspective).
  • Moses Israel Finley : The Ancient Economy . University of California Press, Berkeley / Los Angeles 1973.
  • Hellmut Flashar , Friedrich Ueberweg (ed.): Outline of the history of philosophy . The philosophy of antiquity. 4 vols., Schwabe, Basel 1983–1998.
  • Jonathan M. Hall: A History of the Archaic Greek World. Blackwell, Oxford et al. a. 2007.
  • Simon Hornblower : The Greek world 479-323 BC. 4th edition. Routledge, London / New York 2011, ISBN 978-0-415-60292-1 .
    (Recommended representation of the classical period.)
  • Simon Hornblower (Ed.): Greek Historiography. Oxford 1994.
  • Christian Meier : Culture for Freedom's Sake: Greek Beginnings - Beginning of Europe? Siedler, Munich 2009.
  • Christian Meier: Athens. A new beginning in world history. Siedler, Berlin 1993.
    (Excellent linguistic representation, but without scientific apparatus.)
  • Christian Meier: The emergence of the political among the Greeks. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1980.
  • Klaus Meister : The Greek historiography. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1990.
  • Robin Osborne : Greece in the Making. Routledge Ancient History, London / New York 1996.
  • Thomas Paulsen: History of Greek Literature. Ditzingen 2005.
  • Rosa Reuthner : Who wove Athene's robes? The work of women in ancient Greece. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2006, ISBN 978-3-593-38029-2
  • Peter J. Rhodes : A History of the Classical Greek World. 478-323 BC. Blackwell, Malden, Mass./Oxford 2006.
    (Complete presentation of the classical period with helpful references.)
  • Graham Shipley : The Greek World after Alexander. Routledge, London / New York 2000.
    (With the best recent overview of the Hellenistic period.)
  • Michael Stahl : Society and State among the Greeks. 2 Bde., Paderborn 2003.
    (Easy to read, problem-oriented presentation.)
  • Lawrence A. Tritle (Ed.): The Greek world in the fourth century. From the fall of the Athenian Empire to the successors of Alexander. London u. a. 1997.
  • Karl-Wilhelm Welwei : Classical Athens. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1999.
  • Karl-Wilhelm Welwei: Sparta. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2004.

Web links

Commons : Ancient Greece  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Greece  - Sources and full texts


  1. In the political field new ways of thinking emerged, for which the discovery of the political and a consciousness of ability by the Greeks are characteristic. Cf. Christian Meier: The emergence of the political among the Greeks. Frankfurt am Main 1980 (on the “ability-consciousness” ibid. P. 435 ff.).
  2. ^ Sigrid Deger-Jalkotzy : Mycenaean forms of rule without palaces and the Greek polis. , Aegaeum 12-2, 1995, pp. 367-377 ( online ( Memento of the original from June 7, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and remove then this note. ) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. Miletus z. B., according to tradition, the archaeological support is found in sub-Mycenaean and early Protogeometric pottery, 1053 BC. Founded by the Ionians, but previously settled in the Mycenaean for centuries; or Smyrna (settlement in such an early period but not yet proven)
  4. ^ Scheidel: The Cambridge Economic History of the Greco-Roman World. Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 44.
  5. ^ Scheidel: The Cambridge Economic History of the Greco-Roman World. Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 45. Rachel Sargent gives for the 5th and 4th centuries BC. A number of 100,000 to 150,000 free people in Athens (Rachel L. Sargent: The size of slave population at Athens during fifth and fourth centuries before Christ , Greenwood Press, Westport, 1924, p. 114), The New Pauly speaks of 21,000 to 30,000 adult male citizens in the 4th century BC In Athens (Wiesehöfer in: The New Pauly : Article “Population, Population History”).
  6. ^ Scheidel: The Cambridge Economic History of the Greco-Roman World. Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 46.
  7. ^ Scheidel: The Cambridge Economic History of the Greco-Roman World. Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 75. In Ancient History it is estimated that there were over 800 poleis; see. Peter Funke: The Greek world in classical times. In: Hans-Joachim Gehrke, Helmuth Schneider (Hrsg.): History of antiquity. 3rd expanded edition. Stuttgart / Weimar 2010, p. 130.
  8. ^ Scheidel: The Cambridge Economic History of the Greco-Roman World. Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 77.
  9. ^ Scheidel: The Cambridge Economic History of the Greco-Roman World. Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 40.
  10. ^ Scheidel: The Cambridge Economic History of the Greco-Roman World. Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 41.
  11. For example Hahn in: Der Neue Pauly : Article “Armut”.
  12. ^ Scheidel: The Cambridge Economic History of the Greco-Roman World. Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 62.
  13. For example Gehrke (1986), p. 18.
  14. ^ A b c Alonso-Núñez in Der Neue Pauly (1996–2007): Article “Economy”.
  15. ^ Peter Funke: The Greek world of states in classical times. In: Hans-Joachim Gehrke, Helmuth Schneider (Hrsg.): History of antiquity. 3rd expanded edition. Stuttgart / Weimar 2010, p. 172ff. and Der Neue Pauly (1996-2007): Article “Arbeit” and Gehrke (1986), p. 18.
  16. For example concerning agriculture: Lexikon der Antike (1990): Article "Agriculture".
  17. Lexikon der Antike (1990): Article “Agriculture”; Peter Funke: The Greek world in classical times. In: Hans-Joachim Gehrke, Helmuth Schneider (Hrsg.): History of antiquity. 3rd expanded edition. Stuttgart / Weimar 2010, p. 172 and Gehrke (1988), p. 23.
  18. Gehrke (1988), p. 21
  19. Burford-Cooper in Der Neue Pauly (1996–2007): Article “Handwerk” and Funke in Geschichte der Antike (2000), p. 141 f.
  20. ^ Peter Funke: The Greek world of states in classical times. In: Hans-Joachim Gehrke, Helmuth Schneider (Hrsg.): History of antiquity. 3rd expanded edition. Stuttgart / Weimar 2010, p. 176.
  21. ^ Peter Funke: The Greek world of states in classical times. In: Hans-Joachim Gehrke, Helmuth Schneider (Hrsg.): History of antiquity. 3rd expanded edition. Stuttgart / Weimar 2010, p. 175.
  22. This section on the structure of the company follows: Geoffrey de Ste. Croix : The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World. From the Archaic Age to the Arab Conquests , Duckworth, London 1981. The work is heavily influenced by Marxism and is not undisputed.
  23. Cf. introductory, for example, Otto Lendle : Introduction to Greek Historiography. Darmstadt 1992; Klaus Meister : The Greek historiography. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1990.
  24. Millet calls the representation of Greek history limited to Athens "Athenocentricity" (Millet 1990, p. 18).
  25. K.-J. Hölkeskamp in Geschichte der Antike (2000), p. 65
  26. On the Athenians' self-perception: "Athenians of the later fifth century and the fourth century had differing views about the beginning of the democracy. Some even traced the origins back to their legendary king Theseus, but for most, Solon, the lawgiver of the late 590s, was a key figure. "Sinclair (1988), p. 1.
  27. ^ Peter Funke: The Greek world of states in classical times. In: Hans-Joachim Gehrke, Helmuth Schneider (Hrsg.): History of antiquity. 3rd expanded edition. Stuttgart / Weimar 2010, p. 180.
  28. ^ Peter Funke: The Greek world of states in classical times. In: Hans-Joachim Gehrke, Helmuth Schneider (Hrsg.): History of antiquity. 3rd expanded edition. Stuttgart / Weimar 2010, p. 180.
  29. ^ Rhodes in The New Pauly. (1996–2007): Article “Ekklesia”.
  30. K.-J. Hölkeskamp in Geschichte der Antike (2000), p. 69 f.
  31. ^ Peter Funke: The Greek world of states in classical times. In: Hans-Joachim Gehrke, Helmuth Schneider (Hrsg.): History of antiquity. 3rd expanded edition. Stuttgart / Weimar 2010, p. 180.
  32. E. Stein-Hölkeskamp in History of Antiquity. (2000), p. 95
  33. Lexikon der Antike (1990): Article "Bule".
  34. ^ Rhodes in Der Neue Pauly (1996-2007): Article "Bule".
  35. ^ Peter Funke: The Greek world of states in classical times. In: Hans-Joachim Gehrke, Helmuth Schneider (Hrsg.): History of antiquity. 3rd expanded edition. Stuttgart / Weimar 2010, p. 181.
  36. a b Peter Funke: The Greek world of states in classical times. In: Hans-Joachim Gehrke, Helmuth Schneider (Hrsg.): History of antiquity. 3rd expanded edition. Stuttgart / Weimar 2010, p. 182.
  37. Cf. Peter Funke: The Greek world of states in classical times. In: Hans-Joachim Gehrke, Helmuth Schneider (Hrsg.): History of antiquity. 3rd expanded edition. Stuttgart / Weimar 2010, p. 181.
  38. ^ Christian Meier: Athens. A new beginning in world history. Extended paperback edition, Munich 1995, p. 392.
  39. John Freely : Plato in Baghdad: How the knowledge of antiquity came back to Europe. Stuttgart 2012.