A Brief history of the Greek people

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An introduction

We know that in 3000 B.C. the Aegean people– people that came from Asia Minor- lived and reached its highest development on the islands of the Aegean.

In Crete, another tribe reached its highest point of culture in 1.600 B.C. This was known as the Cretan or Minoan Age (after a mythical king lawgiver, Minos).

During this period, two other Indoeuropean tribes, the Achaeans and the Ionians, settled in Greece and created the created the Mycenaean culture with Mycenae as their chief center.

A few years later, during the  eleventh century, the Doric people over-run Greece and the older inhabitants, the Achaeans, Ionians and the Aeolians were crowded out and forced to migrate to the East and to the West. The shores of Asia Minor and the Black Sea, Sicily, Southern Italy, Spain and the shores of Northern Africa were full of these Greek colonies.

These new dwellers spread their customs ,their religion and their civilization throughout these lands and the numerous relics scattered throughout these places reveal their influence.

The interior of Parthenon. Reconstruction

The market place of Athens. Reconstuction

The market place of Athens. Reconstuction[/caption]

As these races slowly become conscious of their ethnic unity, they assume the name of Hellenes from the common ancestor of the four races ( the Dorians, Ionians, Achaeans and Aeolians) the grandson of Prometheus, called Hellen.

After these invasions  and migrations, Greek Civilization begins to take definite form and so we find that after warding off the danger of complete annihilation by the Persians, they reach their highest degree of culture in the 5th century BC under the rule of Pericles. At this period, known as the Golden Age, Greece had a well-organized commerce and industry, a strong navy and merchant marine and the Arts and Letters as well as science reached a very high level.

Shortly after, the fatal rivalry between Athens and Sparta leads to the destructive Peloponnesian War which lasted over 30 years and left Greece in  such a weak condition that in 338 B.C. the Greeks of Macedonia conquer and over-run all of Greece. Under the rule of Alexander the Great, Greek culture, which had been in danger of disappearing, becomes once more the dominant influence throughout the world. A new phase of Greek Culture develops, the Hellenistic Culture, with Alexandria in Egypt, Antioch and Pergamum in Asia Minor as the chief’s centers.

After the death of Alexander, Greece again becomes weakened and finally is conquered by the Romans who however submit to the Greek spiritual influence and out this union develops the Roman culture.

When Rome eventually is split into the Eastern and Western Empires, during the reign of Emperor Constantine in the 4th century A.D. Constantinople is created and there again a third phase of Greek Culture develops: The Byzantine Period.

The culture is greatly influenced by the Christian Religion and the art and literature of this period is characteristic. This new Greek Empire is faced with the task of holding back the great hordes of crude Asiatics who attempt to overrun the West. It withstood for centuries until, in the 12th century it received its first blow (this time, however, from the Crusaders of the West) and it was so weakened that in 1453 it finally succumbed to the Asiatic invaders- the Turks.

The Theater Dionysos. Reconstruction

The (cemetery) Keramikos

Four centuries of Turkish rule only served to unite the Greeks and strengthen their desire  for freedom and in 1821 the world hears with amazement that the Greeks have revolted against the Turks! A series of heroic events which Dervenaki and Missolonghi are outstanding examples, lead to financial victory and Greece is again free – reborn as a nation just as her emblem the Phoenix – is reborn from its ashes, having as her goal the same ideals and desires that lead her ancestors to seek the answers to the great problems that man  faced: What is the world that surrounds us? What is man’s relation to this world?


The fertile imagination of the early Greeks , in seeking to find the causes for the different natural phenomena such as the changes of the seasons, the mystery of birth life and death the development of usages, institutes and, finally, the creation of the world itself, at first created the myths. Thus, we have the beautiful stories of the gods and the demigods whom they worshiped and to whom they paid tribute in order to gain their good graces. However, as Guerber tells us in his Myths of Greece and Rome these stories never became dogma among the Greeks but remained plastic, freely molded to suit the poet’s fancy or the genealogist’s purpose.

From the early 6th century, under the sharp and clear examination of natural phenomena by such thinkers as Thales of Meletus, Pythagoras (and others), Mythology and Theology slowly develop into Science and Philosophy, a change which historians call the most momentous revolution in the intellectual history of mankind.

The architect and the sculptor gave form to the legends and myths but also gradually the temples of worship, grew and became part of their natural surroundings. Also, in decorating these temples they took as models for their statues and paintings of gods the athletes and maidens who took part on the festivals in honor of the god, the athletic contests, the war-dance, the races and the religious processions. The musicians and poets create songs and poems in praise of the gods and take part in the drama and the theater.

So we can see that the Greek Intellect from the very beginning seek to find the true road to human perfection, while that was influenced by the advantages brought by commerce industry and a flourishing merchant marine. Also, the Greek intellects prevailing of the Democratic form of government, succeed in reaching the highest degree of development but also in laying the foundations for civilization as we know it today.

Illustrated edition dedicated to the Grecian Civilazation.
Year V. Period III. Supplements 18-25
Dir. Z. A. Macatounis- Athens 1949
Pesmazoglou St. 1a

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