is a civilization in Greek history starting from the Archaic Greek period in the 8th to 6th centuries BC, until the end of the Ancient Age and the beginning of the Early Middle Ages. This civilization reached its peak in the Classical Greek period, which began to develop in the 5th-4th centuries BC. In this classical period Greece was ruled by the city-state of Athens and successfully repelled the attacks of the Persian Empire. Athens’ golden age resulted in the conquest of Athens to Sparta in the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC. With the conquests of Alexander the Great, Greek culture, known as the Hellenistic civilization, expanded from Central Asia to the western tip of the Mediterranean Sea.
The term “Ancient Greece” was applied to an area that spoke Greek in Antiquity. Its territory was not only limited to the peninsula of modern Greece, but also included other territories inhabited by the Greeks, including Cyprus and the Aegean Islands, the coast of Anatolia (then Ionia), Sicily and southern Italy (known as the Greater Greece), and other Greek settlements scattered along the coast of Colchis, Illyria, Thrace, Egypt, Cyrenaica, southern Gaul, the eastern and northeastern Iberian Peninsula, Iberia, and Taurica.
By most historians, this civilization is considered the foundation for Western Civilization. Greek cultural norms had a strong influence on the Roman Empire, which in turn passed its version on to other parts of Europe. Ancient Greek civilization also greatly influenced language, politics, educational systems, philosophy, science, and the arts, driving the Renaissance in Western Europe, and a resurgence during the Neo-Classical revival of the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe and America.
5th Century BC
Athens and Sparta allied themselves to face a powerful and dangerous foreign threat, the Persian Empire. After suppressing the Ionian Revolt, Emperor Darius I of Persia, Emperor of the Achaemenid Empire decided to conquer Greece. The Persian offensive in 490 BC ended with the Athenian victory at the Battle of Marathon under Miltiades the Younger.
Xerxes I, son and heir of Darius I, tried to conquer Greece again 10 years later. However, a large Persian army suffered heavy casualties at the Battle of Thermopylae, and the Greeks were victorious in the Battles of Slamis and the Battle of Plataia. The Greco-Persian Wars continued until 449 BC, led by Athens and its Delian League, by this time Macedonia, Thrace, and the Aegean and Ionian Islands were all free from Persian influence.
The dominant position of the Athenian maritime empire threatened the position of Sparta with its Peloponnesian League, which covered the cities of mainland Greece. This inevitable conflict culminated in the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC). Despite repeated success in stopping the war, Athens was repeatedly pushed back. The Plague The plague that hit Athens in 430 BC and the failure of a military expedition to Sicily greatly weakened Athens. It is thought that a third of Athenians died, including Pericles, their leader.
Sparta succeeded in provoking the revolt of the Athenian allies, and as a result crippled Athens’ military power. An important event occurred in 405 BC when Sparta succeeded in cutting off Athens’ food supply from the Hellespont. Forced to attack, the crippled Athenian naval fleet was crushed by Spartan forces under Lysandros in the Battle of Aigospotami. In 404 BC Athens appealed for peace, and Sparta determined the terms; Athens had to lose its city walls (including the Long Wall), its navy, and all its colonies overseas.
4th Century BC
Greece entered the 4th century BC under Spartan hegemony, but it was clear from the start that Sparta had weaknesses. The demographic crisis caused Sparta’s power to be too broad while its ability to manage it was limited. In 395 BC Athens, Argos, Thebes, and Corinth felt capable of challenging Spartan domination, which led to the Battle of Corinth (395-387 BC). This war ended with the status quo, with Persian intervention interspersed on behalf of Sparta.
Sparta’s hegemony continued for 16 years after this event, until Sparta tried to impose its will on the citizens of Thebes, Sparta was defeated at the Battle of Leuktra in 371 BC. The Theban general Epaminondas led the Theban troops into the Peloponnesian peninsula, causing many city-states to cut ties with Sparta. The Theban troops succeeded in entering Messenia and liberating its people.
Deprived of land and colonized people, Sparta fell into a second-class power. The hegemony of Thebes continued to exist even though it was short-lived. In the Battle of Mantinea in 362 BC against Sparta and its allies, Thebes lost their important leader, Epamonides, although they were victorious. As a result of this defeat, both Thebes and Sparta suffered heavy losses so that neither of them nor their allies could gain dominance in Greece.
The weakening of the various city-states in the heart of Greece coincided with the rise of Macedonia, led by Philip II. Within twenty years, Philip had succeeded in unifying his kingdom, expanding it northward by cornering the Illyrian tribes, and subsequently conquering Thessaly and Thrace. His success was due to his innovations, which reformed the Macedonian army. Philippos repeatedly intervened in the political affairs of the southern city-states, leading to his invasion in 338 BC.
After decisively defeating the combined armies of Athens and Thebes at the Battle of Khaironeia in 338 BC, Philippos became the de facto hegemon of all of Greece, except Sparta. He forced the majority of Greek city-states to join the League of Corinth and ally with it, and prevented them from attacking each other. Philiposp began an attack on the Achaemenid Empire, but was killed by Pausanias of Orestis at the start of the conflict.
Alexander the Great, Philip’s son and heir, continued the war. Alexander defeated Darius III of Persia and completely destroyed the Achaemenid Empire, and incorporated it into the Macedonian Empire. Due to his prowess, he earned the title ‘Great’. When Alexander died in 323 BC, Greek power and influence was at its peak. There is a fundamental change in political, social and cultural norms; further away from the polis (city-state) and increasingly developed into a Hellenistic culture.