Greek Civilisation

Ancient Greek

The Greeks have long had a tradition and spirit of exploration. Travelling far from their homes, they expanded Greek (Hellenic) civilisation across the wine-dark seas and over mountains of myth and danger.

Beginning with the Mycenaean Greeks, from around 1400 BC to 1000 BC, the Greeks started to look beyond their rocky homeland and established themselves across the region. Soon, the Mycenaean "wanakes" dotted the Aegean, and Greek palatial culture and gods abounded.

The collapse of the Mycenaean civilisation as part of the wider "Bronze Age Collapse" and the so-called "Dark Ages" that followed did not halt Greek expansion but accelerated it. From the 8th century BC onwards, Greek "apoikiai" or "homes away from home" had entrenched themselves all around the Mediterranean Sea and beyond!

It's during this early period of Colonisation, from Greece and regions like Cyprus, the Balkans, and Asia Minor to Spain and France, south to Libya and Egypt, the Levant and Black Sea, Italy and the Adriatic, Sardinia and Corsica, and even as far as Bactria, that the numerically few Greek people came to envelop the "known world."

These "apoikiai" are best not described as colonies in English since the connotations of modern colonisation are not apt. These apoikiai maintained connections with their mother city, from which the bulk of their population would derive, as well as their founder or "oikistes."

The apoikiai are to be distinguished from "cleruchies" and "emporia" (military garrisons and trade posts). Apoikiai were independent communities, often in alliance and treaty with their mother cities but sometimes hostile to them to the point of war. Often, these apoikiai, city-states of their own now, became far larger and more powerful than their mother cities, as was the case with Corinth and Syracuse.

As the fortunes of the Greeks waxed and waned and non-Greek regional powers rose and fell, the Greek apoikiai often came under foreign influence or even direct control. By the time of the Hellenistic Period, however, Alexander the Great's conquests had broken the hold of one such foreign superpower, the Persian Achaemenid Empire.

During Alexander's life and after his death in 323 BC, there was a resurgence of Greek migration and settlement. Alexander himself founded over 50 settlements in his conquests abroad, and so the Hellenic spirit of exploration and expansion was awakened once more.

Alexander's successors, or Diadochi, continued and entrenched this spirit. Greek successor states such as Bactria (roughly modern-day Afghanistan) and the Greco-Indian Kingdoms pushed the limits of Greek civilisation far into Central Asia, with their trade, linguistic, cultural, and religious influence still echoing in the region to this day.

With over 1,000 city-states in Greece and over 500 settlements founded abroad, this video of "ἀποικισμός" and the making of a Greek home-away-from-home is as important today as it was to our ancestors.

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