The Ancient Greek World

Around the time the Indus Valley Civilization was coming to an end, another civilization was forming off the coast of Greece on the island of Crete. You can see Crete at the bottom of the map below. This map shows what the area was like in ancient times, but the purple part is basically where modern-day Greece is. Both colors on the map show Greek areas.


Crete was the home of the Minoan civilization, which was the first really advanced civilization in Europe. Around 1420 BC, the Minoans were overrun by the Mycenaeans from the Greek mainland.

The Trojan War is a famous event that may have take place around this time.  We say “may have” because it is not known whether it was an actual event or is just a legend. It was written about in a book called the Illiad, which is an epic poem. The whole book is a poem about this war, which began when the Prince of Troy (located north of Lesbos on the map above) kidnapped Helen, the wife of the king of Sparta (a city in ancient Greece). They fought for ten years but the city walls of Troy kept the Greek soldiers out and protected the city. Achilles was the greatest warrior for Greece, and the Greeks won by using their famous trick of hiding inside of a gift horse that the Trojans received and then brought into their city. The Greeks then got out and attacked and conquered the city.

Someone’s replica of the wooden horse used to trick Troy into letting Greek soldiers into their city


After the soldiers took over, there was a “Dark Age” in Greece which means not a lot of new things were happening. We don’t have writings, art, music, discoveries, inventions, etc. from there during this period.

Hector (on the right) was a famous Trojan soldier who was killed by Achilles.

That ended when the Greeks started exploring and claiming colonies. This was around 800 BC, and soon after was the start of the Olympic Games.

mount olympus
Mount Olympus in Greece

The games were named after the highest mountain in Greece, Mt. Olympus, because this is where legend has it the gods of ancient Greece lived. Think of the Psalm that says, “I lift my eyes up unto the mountains. Where does my help come from?” He’s saying it doesn’t come from the mountains, not from the false gods who supposedly dwell there. Not just in Greece, but in ancient Israel, there would be idols set up on the tops of hills and mountains. They were called “high places” for a reason.

A few hundred years after this time is what we call the Classical period in Greek history. It’s also what would be called its Golden Age, the time when lots of new ideas were born. Some of those ideas gave birth to what we know as Western civilization, which America is part of. It’s a way of thinking, a way of life. The Romans would be the first to copy it.

They would be the inventors of democracy, the idea that people should vote and have a say in how they are ruled.

Look at the map at the top of the page. The key colors don’t exactly match the map, but use your imagination. The cities labeled in the red-orange part were known as city states. They each had their own ruler. Sometimes they fought against each other; sometimes they fought alongside each other.

Two of those cities were Athens and Sparta. Athens is now the capital of Greece. You may have heard of sports teams or athletic competitions named after the Spartans. They were known as very skilled and tough warriors.

Around 300 BC they all came under one ruler. He is known as Alexander the Great. He was born in the area called Macedonia, in northern Greece (not to be confused with the modern country of North Macedonia, which is to the north of modern Greece).

He conquered not only the cities of Greece but also expanded the empire all the way to Egypt, Persia, and India. The map below shows a rough view of how big his empire was (all the more brightly colored areas from Greece in the west, down into Egypt, across what is now Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and into India.


Picture Credits:

Public Domain unless noted

City-State Map: http://By User:Megistias [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Alexander’s Empire map: By Generic Mapping Tools – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,