ANCIENT GREECE

Ancient Greece

 

 

a) Archaic period (8th-6th century BC)

The most important event of this era was the configuration space of the Greek city-state, the abolition of the monarchy and afterwards domination of the tyranny. In the same time, two cities were raised: the aristocratic Sparta, which after the Messenian Wars (734-724 BC and 645-628 BC) dominated throughout Peloponnese, and Athens, which was oriented towards the sea trade, after the change of tyranny to democracy.

 

b) The second Greek colonization (750-550 BC)

That moment there was a strong migratory movement of main Greece and Asia Minor cities, to all destinations of the Mediterranean. Colonies were established on the shores of the Hellespont and the Black Sea (Abydus, Lampsacus, Cyzicus, Sinope, Trebizond, Olbia, Istros, Odessa, Tanais, Step, etc.), on the estuary of the Nile (Naucratis), Spain (Marseille, Mainaki), Corsica (Alalia), in southern Italy (Elea, Kimi, Reggio, Gela, Agrigento, Tara, etc.), in Sicily (Zankle, Naxos, Syracuse, etc.), in North. Africa (Cyrene, Boat) etc.

The causes of this huge movement was mainly economic, such as the necessity for the supply of raw materials and foodstuffs, the search for new trade routes etc. Other causes were overpopulation and political abnormalities forced part of the population to leave the metropolis. The results of this colonization was brilliant: The colonists quickly developed economically, build beautiful cities, create new conditions of social and political life and develop important intellectual and artistic culture. The main focus of Greek civilization was shifted now and in Southern Italy and Sicily, where the number of colonies called "Magna Graecia".

 

 

c) Persian Wars

Towards the end of the 6th century BC the Persians conquered the Greek colonies in Asia Minor and settled in each one of them, tyrants. From these tyrants, Aristagoras fell into disfavour of the Persian king Darius and asked to be saved by revolution. It aroused a revolution of Miletus (499 BC) against the Persians and sought the assistance of metropolitan Greece. Sparta refused, but Athens and Eretria sent ships and soldiers. With the aid of Main Greece, the Greeks of Asia Minor succeeded in the fall of Sardis. The operation finally failed, and Darius, subjugated again the colonies and destroyed Miletus (493 BC). Afterwards he turned against Athens and Eretria, to take revenge on them, because they helped the Ionians.

The first campaign of the Persians in Greece was in 492 BC and the leader was Mardonius. His army encountered great difficulties in Thrace and his fleet, while passing the cape of Athos, fell into a storm and lost 300 ships. Because of this loss, Mardonius was forced to return to Asia empty handed.

The Second Persian invasion was from the sea in 490 BC. Leaders of the new army and fleet was Datis and Artaphernes. Since conquered Eretria in Euboea, sailed in Attica and landed with 110,000 Persians at Marathon. In front of them, stood 10,000 Athenians and 1,000 Plataeans under the leadership the Athenian general Miltiades. The momentum of the Greeks was so great, that managed to crush ten times the Persian army and to repel them, at the ships. On the battlefield were counted more than 6,000 dead Persians and only 192 Athenians. Seven ships were captured, while the rest rushed to seize undefended Athens. But the Athenians are quickly returned to the city and was arrayed at Kynosarges (a suburb of Athens), by the time the barbarian ships appeared in front of the Faliro. When the Persians saw this lineup, without attacking, turned back and returned to Asia empty handed, again.

The Third Persian invasion took place after the death of Darius (480-479) by his son Xerxes. He started with 1,700,000 pedestrians and 80,000 horsemen and crossed the Hellespont towards to Central Greece, while the fleet of 1,207 military and 3,000 troop ships followed him and sailing along the Greek coast. Xerxes believed that without fight, only with the number of his forces, would be able to exterminate the Greeks. The risk, in fact, was very big, so the Spartans and the Athenians called National Conference at the Isthmus, which decided to organize a joint defense.

Sparta sent one of their kings, Leonidas, with a small army of 7,200 men to guard the Thermopylae. In the final phase of the fight, Leonidas kept only 300 Spartans, 700 Thespians and 80 Mycenaeans, who sacrificed all in the field of honor. The legendary sacrifice, encouraged the Greeks and boosted their morale and their decision to fight "to the bitter end".

On the other hand, the Athenians, equipped on their own 127 triremes, which, along with 144 vessels of other cities, went to the cape of Artemisium in Euboea and prevented the Persian fleet to enhance Xerxes at Thermopylae.  After the sacrifice of Leonidas and his soldiers, the Greek ships left and gathered at Salamis, while Xerxes proceeded with his army to Attica and destroyed Athens, where few residents had remained. The rest had found refuge to Salamis. Simultaneously the Persian fleet had arrived at Faliron bay and was ordered by Xerxes to destroy the Greek ships. There followed the famous naval battle of Salamis (480 BC), which ended with the victory of the Greeks and the Persians destruction.

Xerxes returned to Persia, leaving behind his general Mardonius in Greece, with 300,000 men to continue the war. Mardonius passed the winter in Thessaly and in 479 BC, encamped at Plataea. The Spartan king Pausanias, campaigned against them in the battle known as the Battle of Plataea, he defeated the Persians and killed Mardonius.

On the same day, the Greek fleet beat the Persian,  opposite Samos, near the promontory of Mycale. This concludes the triumph and the Spartans and other Peloponnesians withdrew from the alliance and the continuation of war taken by the Athenians the head of the Greeks. This opened the scope for the flourishing of Athens. Τhe triumph was completed and the Spartans and other Peloponnesians withdrew from the alliance, and the continuation of war taken by the Athenians as  the leader of the Greeks. This opened the scope, for the “flourishing” of Athens.

 

d) "The Golden Age of Athens."

In 478 BC, the naval alliance of Delos was founded, in which the member cities were formally equal, but essentially increasingly subjugated by the Athenians. During the period 478-431 BC Athens, under the dynamic leadership of Aristides, Cimon and mainly Pericle (443-429), experienced a "golden age" of history, and became the first political and cultural center of ancient Greece and the most powerful naval state. Also highlighted the ancient democratic regime with the finalization of the new institutions, ie. the Parliament, the Ecclesia of the State and Helaea.

 

e) Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC)

The rise of Athenian power and the influence among the Greek world caused the envy of Sparta and the two superpowers of that era were collide. The war lasted for 27 years and was the hardest war of Greek history. The Peloponnesian War divided into three periods: the Archidamian War (431-421 BC), the Sicilian campaign (415-413 BC) and Dhekelia War (431-404 BC).

 

The Archidamian War: In 431 BC Spartans invaded Attica and destroyed the countryside. The winter of the same year, the Athenians buried their first dead and Pericles delivered his famous speech "Epitaph", which was preserved by Thucydides and that is in fact a hymn to the Athenian democracy.

In 429, Pericles died, and in 428 BC, Lesvos apostatized from the Athenian alliance. After these two setbacks, the Athenians now, were commanded by Cleon, and had a success, as the capture of Pylos and Sfaktiria. In 422 BC, however, Cleon was killed at Amphipolis, fighting against the Spartan general Vrasidas and the following year (421 BC) signed the "Peace of Nicias."

 

The Sicilian campaign: was the biggest failure of the Athenians. In this, dragged by Alcibiades, who believed that by the conquest of Sicily, the Athenians would take advantage against the Spartans and that they would eventually succumbed. Unfortunately, the Syracusans defeated the Athenians, and from the 40,000 of them only 7,000 survived.

 

Dhekelia War: In 431 BC Spartans invaded Attica and barricaded in a fortress of Dhekelia, cutting this way Athenians from the mines of Laurium and the contact with the allies cities. The only victory of the Athenians during this period was the destruction of the Spartan fleet near Arginusae (406 BC). The leaders of  this victory were sentenced to death because they had not managed to scavenge their dead from the sea. Lysander, who then took over the leadership of the Spartans, had a battle with the Athenians at Aegos (405 BC), then sailed to Piraeus and ruled Athens by the sea. This was the last act of war, as the Athenians were forced to surrender to degrading terms.

 

f) Hegemony of Sparta (404-371 BC)

Lysander, after his victory over the Athenians, abolished all democracies and imposed oligarchic regimes in Greek cities. In Athens has settled the "Thirty Tyrants" and led by Critias. However, the following year, Thrasybulus, with little power of fugitive patriots, overthrew the tyranny of the Thirty and reinstated democracy in Athens.

The most important event after the Peloponnesian War was the conflict of Sparta against the Persians.

The satrap of Lydia Cyrus decided to dethrone his brother Artaxerxes and become himself the king of Persia. In the army there were 13,000 Greek mercenaries with under the leadership of Cheirisofos. In the battle near Cunaxa, Cyrus was defeated and killed (401 BC), and Greeks, after many adventures, managed to arrive in Trabzon and from there passed to Thrace.

Artaxerxes wanted to punish the Greeks of Ionia who had supported Cyrus. Then Ionians asked the help of the Spartans, who rushed immediately and defeated the Persians. But Persians changed tactics, and assisted financially many Greek cities therefore the Athenians turned against Sparta. So began, a new civil war, the Theban.

 

 

g) Theban or Corinthian War (395-387 BC)

First Thebes, allied with the Persians and the alliance joined by Athens, Corinth and Argos. In 394 BC the Spartans were defeated at the Battle of Aliartos, and the leader of the Spartan tyranny, Lysander, was killed. Then, Sparta risked so much and recall Agesilaus from Asia, who, obeying in the voice of his country and resigned from his plan to subvert the Persian throne. By fighting, he crossed Thrace and Macedonia and arrived in Koroneia in which was waited by allies. The battle was difficult for the Spartans, but eventually defeated the Athenians (394 BC). The victory at Koronea secure the hegemony of Sparta on land, but Conon, the admiral of the Athenian and allied fleet, maintained its hegemony at sea (393 BC).

Then Sparta, with the envoy of Antalcidas made a deal with the Persians the "Antalcidas peace" (387 BC), according to which subjugated the Persians all the Greek cities of Asia Minor, even Clazomenae and Cyprus. Athenians were allowed to keep only Imbros, Lemnos and Skyros. All other Greek cities were left free.

 

h) The hegemony of Thebes

With the help of the Spartan general Foividas the Theban oligarchs, Leontiadis and Archias, catalyzed democracy in their country, in 382 BC. Under Spartan protection ruled tyrannically over three years. 400 democrat fugitives returned to Thebes and with the help of the Athenians restored democracy.

Then, two great men took the governance of Thebes, Pelopidas and Epaminondas, who encouraged the creation of the Second Athenian League (378 BC), as in this supported their hopes for the end of Sparta. But when their hopes are dashed and Athens allied with Sparta, the two co leaders continued their own war against the Spartans (371-362 BC). In 371 BC crushed the Spartans at Leuctra and Epaminondas invaded the Peloponnese during the following year, he released Messinia and limited the Spartans in Laconia. So the Thebans were now masters of Greece. In 363 BC Pelopidas was killed fighting, and the following year (362 BC) Epaminondas died at the battle of Mantinea, fighting against the Spartans.

After the battle of Mantinea, was prevailed greater agitation in Greece than it was previously. This war was certainly the last shock of the Spartan hegemony, but did not secure the Theban power. During the following year agreed and signed a peace, in accordance with the advice left by Epaminondas.

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