Ancient Greek History

Ancient Greeks invented historiography – the habit of keeping a written record of events that took place in the past. Also, their own history is very important for the whole western world.

Some 2,500 years ago, the Greeks had a huge influence on the world around them. The ancient Greeks believed in many gods and goddesses who lived on Mount Olympus.

Like most other powerful nations, they were great warriors and architects.

The Greeks were brilliant

  • Thinkers
  • Writers
  • Politicians
  • Artists
  • Athletes
  • Actors


Ancient Greece Facts for Kids

  • The Greek alphabet was created in the 8th-century B.C.E.
  • The Ancient Greeks invented the Yo-Yo
  • Apollo is the god of music
  • Alexander the Great was born in Pella, Greece, on July 20, 356 B.C.E.
  • The most famous temple in Athens is the Parthenon on the big hill of Acropolis
  • The Persian Wars took place between the Persians and Greeks during 492-449 BC
  • Athens and Sparta where always at war
  • Greek mythology comprises wonderful tales and stories about Greek heroes and gods
  • Ancient Greeks believed in many different Gods

What’s in  a name

The Romans invented the name Greece and Greek; the Greeks referred to themselves as Hellenes – and they still do.

Throughout their rich history, they lived in a territory bigger than today’s Greece, and it included continental Greece, as well as various islands in the Ionian, Aegean sea and Mediterranean sea.

There were Greek colonies in Sicily, Italy, North Africa, Turkey, and even France.

Ancient Greece was never one country

There were a number of small city-states, such as Sparta, Athens, Olympia, Thebes, and Corinth. Each city-state had its own territory, government, a set of laws, and an army.

There was always a rivalry between different Greek city-states, and they often fought each other.

For example, the powerful city of Athens and the ancient Greek city Sparta were frequently at war.

However, the Greeks knew how to put their differences aside and fight a bigger enemy.

A joint Pan-Hellenic army managed to fight off the Persian Empire.

All Greece was in control of a single ruler only once in the whole ancient history – and that ruler was Alexander the Great of Macedon.

Alexander’s empire eventually included countries as distant as India and Afghanistan.


The early history: the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations

  • In prehistory, the first people that lived in Greece were hunters, foragers, and farmers.
  • Ancient Greeks built their first great civilization on the island of Crete, and it flourished between 2200 and 1450 BC. Their legendary king was named Minos, and the civilization was called the Minoan after him.
  • The first great civilization on continental Greece was the Mycenaean civilization. The Mycenaean Greeks were excellent soldiers, traders, and builders. There are quite a few artifacts preserved from that period. The famous Greek epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey tell us about the legendary military expedition of Mycenaean people – the battle of Troy.

The period after the Mycenaean age is called the Dark Age, because there are no written or material objects preserved from that period, and we know almost nothing about it.

The Archaic Period

  • The Dark Age lasted for about 300 years. After that, in 800BC, Greek civilization began emerging again. The Archaic era lasted until the fifth century BC.
  • During that time, the Greeks developed new trading routes with other countries, organized the first (and many more) Olympic Games, and resisted the aggressive Persian army that tried to invade Greek lands.

The Golden Age: Classical Greece

The so-called golden age of Greece began around 480BC, and it lasted for 200 years.

During that time, the people of Greek city-states built monumental temples, wrote plays and poems, established a number of sciences, and invented democracy.

Because of all those achievements, this period is called Classical Greece.

The Hellenistic Period

  • The last period of ancient Greek history is called the Hellenistic period. It began in 323 when the Romans invaded Greece, and it lasted until 30BC.
  • The Romans took over Greek territory, but the Greek way of life – including the development of arts, architecture, philosophy, sciences, politics, and literature – remained unaffected.
  • This period is characterized by an expansion of Greek culture into the Roman world. The Romans started copying everything, from clothes and architecture to beliefs – they even invented a whole new pantheon of gods that look just like Greek gods.

What did you learn?

Why is ancient Greek history so important?

Ancient Greeks laid the foundation for the whole western culture; they invented the alphabet, established sciences and literary genres, and lived in a democracy.

When did the Trojan War take place?

The Trojan War happened during the Mycenaean period.

Did the Roman invasion change the life and culture of ancient Greece?

No, it was the other way round – the Romans admired the Greek civilization and they adopted many of its values and customs.

Which ruler made a unified Greek empire?

It was Alexander the Great.

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