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Events of Ancient Greece

Updated on September 14, 2012

Ancient Greek civilizations date back several millenia before the birth of Christ, and many of the basic building blocks of civilization were formed in ancient Greece. The ancient Greeks were under constant threat of conquest by neighboring civilizations, which partially led to them expanding their empire to regions around the Mediterranean Sea via conquest as well. Athenians became heroes after they valiantly defended Athens during the Battle of Marathon, but were later stricken by a deadly plague that devastated nearly a third of the population. During times of peace, the Greeks took part in the Olympics. The games withstood the test of time and are still celebrated today.

Greek Parthenon
Greek Parthenon | Source
View of Athens
View of Athens | Source

The Settling of the Mycenaeans

The Mycenaeans began to settle Greece around 2000 BC. They soon discovered the land was not fertile enough to raise appropriate crops able to sustain their civilization. The Mycenaeans eventually became successful traders and merchants to acquire what they needed, and soon assembled a powerful Navy that was capable of traversing the seas in search of other civilizations to exchange wares with. Overseas trade flourished with naval expansion, which allowed the Mycenaeans to expand their empire and provide for their members. The navy had enlisted strong warriors to help expand via conquest, which was the primary source of expansion. Crete and Troy were examples of fierce conquest.

Greco-Persian Wars

The Greco-Persian Wars primarily occurred because of Greek city-states bordering the Persian Empire. Both empires were superpowers of the region and tension between the empires grew unstable around 450 BC. Greek colonies that settled in the Asia Minor region were lost due to Persian conquest. The Greeks strongly opposed the autocracy of the Persian Empire and revolted against the Persians. The Persian Empire was larger and more equipped than the Greeks, which led to the Greek colonies remaining under Persian control. The Greco-Persian Wars were a catalyst that led to the Battle of Marathon.

Roman Colosseum
Roman Colosseum | Source

The Battle of Marathon

The Persian Empire made a strong statement of superiority over the retaliation of former Greek city-states by directly attacking Athens. The Persian soldiers outnumbered the Athenian soldiers 5 to 2 - a true "David vs. Goliath" match-up. The Athenian defenses showed strong discipline and skill while combating the Persians. History has proven time and again that it is much more difficult to attack an enemy's city, than to be the one's defending it. The Battle of Marathon was no different. The Athenians were so strongly entrenched that the Persians were forced to retreat, with losses of over 6,000 confirmed Persian deaths. The Athenians lost a mere 200 soldiers during the entire Battle of Marathon. The Athenians defended their homes extraordinarily while being faced with near-impossible odds.

Spartan Attacks & Athenian Plague

The Spartans attacked Athens around 430 BC. The attacks sparked a 27-year war between the Athenians and Spartans. The political leader of Athens at the time was Pericles. His tactic to defend Athens relied heavily on the strength of naval forces. The Athenian military blocked all ports of entrance into the city, and forced all citizens to remain inside the city. Athens was essentially under siege once Pericles ordered entrances to be closed. The Spartans would continue attacks with little success, but the citizens of Athens were suffering from rampant disease due to cramped conditions and low resources. A plague eventually broke out and spread freely within the city. The plague consumed nearly a third of the population by the time the war had ended. Athens ultimately won the war, but at a very high cost of civilian lives.

Modern Olympic Stadium
Modern Olympic Stadium | Source

The First Olympic Games

The first Olympic games took place nearly two decades before the founding of Rome, around the 10th century BC. The games were originally a religious event dedicated to the Olympian gods, and took place on the plains of Olympia. Central Olympia was dominated by temples of Zeus and Hera. Participants of the games were only allowed to be men, and the games were performed in the nude. The games included contests like foot races, wrestling, and javelin. Winners were presented with an olive wreath and a red ribbon. Their name was also entered into official records. Competition winners were sometimes awarded food, equipment, and essential items as well. Currency was never awarded to the champions.


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    • ata1515 profile image

      ata1515 5 years ago from Buffalo, New York.

      Nice, quick summary of the important events in classical Greece. Voted up and shared!

    • seh1101 profile image

      Sean Hemmer 5 years ago from Wisconsin, USA

      Thank you, Rema! I was doing some spring cleaning and found some old reports I wrote back in high school. This was one of them! I made quite a few revisions and overhauled the factual information, and presto!

    • remaniki profile image

      Rema T V 5 years ago from Chennai, India

      Hi SEH1101,

      Well-researched hub. Thanks for the knowledge. This will be particularly useful for students because it is presented in a simple yet clear manner. Socially shared.