The Parthenon (top) in Athens, built in 432 BC About 2500 years ago, Greece enjoyed a time of wealth, discovery and invention. It was known as the “Golden Age” of Greece. The country was divided into small states, each normally consisting of a city or town and its surrounding villages. The city-state of Athens was the most powerful of all. It was full of beautiful temples and theatres, and the Athenian people lived well. Health and fitness fanatics, the Greeks held a festival of sport every four years at Olympia. (Today, we have our own version, called the Olympic Games.) The Greeks also prized freedom of speech. Political speeches were often made in the city marketplace.
Greece civilization grew up around the shores and islands of the Aegean Sea. It was divided into many small states. By the 6th century BC several cities had emerged as dominant powers, including Athens, Sparta and Corinth. Each controlled the surrounding towns and countryside to become city-states. In the 8th and 7th centuries many Greeks emigrated to establish Greek-speaking colonies in southern Italy, Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and further afield.
Science and ideas
The ancient Greeks had many ideas that have passed down to us today. They were the first to use a system of government called democracy, in which ordinary people choose their leaders by voting for them. Greek doctors understood that some illnesses could be cured by medicines made from herbs and plants. The Greek alphabet (which was adapted from the Phoenician alphabet) spread from Greece to become the basis of the one we use today. Brilliant writers, mathematicians and scientists lived in ancient Greece. Clever thinkers, called philosophers, including Socrates (469–399 BC), Plato (c.428 BC–347 BC) and Aristotle (384–322 BC), asked questions about the world that still puzzle us today.
Myths and drama
Actors perform in an amphitheatre.The Greeks loved to listen to music, poetry and songs. Many told stories, or myths, about heroes and the gods, such as Zeus, Hera and Artemis, whom people believed lived on Mount Olympus. Plays were very popular. The Greeks built huge open-air amphitheatres, which were cut into hillsides so that as many people as possible could see the play. The actors were always men.
Consultant: Philip Parker
The Minoans build great palaces on the island of Crete.
The Mycenaean civilization begins in Greece.
Greek city-states are founded.
The first Olympic Games are held.
The start of democracy in Greece.
The Persians attempt to invade Greece but are fought back.
The Greeks make peace with Persia. Athens flourishes.
The Peloponnesian Wars are fought between Athens and the Peloponnesian League, led by Sparta.
King Philip of Macedonia unites Greece under his rule.
Alexander the Great seizes power in Greece and invades Persia.
Greece becomes a province of the Roman Empire.
See also in Space