Neolithic Period to Bronze Age

Neolithic Period to Bronze Age

7000 BCE Jan 1 - 6500 BCE
, Anatolia

The Neolithic Revolution reached Europe beginning in 7000–6500 BCE when agriculturalists from the Near East entered the Greek peninsula from Anatolia by island-hopping through the Aegean Sea. The earliest Neolithic sites with developed agricultural economies in Europe dated 8500–9000 BCE are found in Greece. The first Greek-speaking tribes, speaking the predecessor of the Mycenaean language, arrived in the Greek mainland sometime in the Neolithic period or the Early Bronze Age ( c. 3200 BCE).

Detail of Minoan painting, from Akrotiri, the Ship Procession

Minoan Civilization

3500 BCE Jan 1 - 1100 BCE
, Crete

The Minoan civilization in Crete lasted from about c. 3000 BCE (Early Minoan) to c. 1400 BCE, and the Helladic culture on the Greek mainland from c. 3200 - c. 3100 to c. 2000 - c. 1900.

Little specific information is known about the Minoans (even the name Minoans is a modern appellation, derived from Minos, the legendary king of Crete), including their written system, which was recorded on the undeciphered Linear A script and Cretan hieroglyphs. They were primarily a mercantile people engaged in extensive overseas trade throughout the Mediterranean region.

Minoan civilization was affected by a number of natural cataclysms such as the volcanic eruption at Thera (c. 1628-1627 BCE) and earthquakes (c. 1600 BCE). In 1425 BCE, the Minoan palaces (except Knossos) were devastated by fire, which allowed the Mycenaean Greeks, influenced by the Minoans' culture, to expand into Crete. The Minoan civilization which preceded the Mycenaean civilization on Crete was revealed to the modern world by Sir Arthur Evans in 1900, when he purchased and then began excavating a site at Knossos.

Cycladic culture

Cycladic culture

3200 BCE Jan 1 - 1050 BCE
, Naxos

The Cycladic culture is a significant Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age culture, is best known for its schematic flat female idols carved out of the islands' pure white marble centuries before the great Middle Bronze Age ("Minoan") culture arose in Crete, to the south. In chronological terms, it is a relative dating system for artifacts which broadly complement Helladic chronology (mainland Greece) and Minoan chronology (Crete) during the same period of time.

Death mask, known as the Mask of Agamemnon, Grave Circle A, Mycenae, 16th century BC, probably the most famous artifact of Mycenaean Greece.

Mycenaean Greece

1750 BCE Jan 1 - 1050 BCE
, Mycenae

Mycenaean civilization originated and evolved from the society and culture of the Early and Middle Helladic periods in mainland Greece. It emerged in c. 1600 BCE, when Helladic culture in mainland Greece was transformed under influences from Minoan Crete and lasted until the collapse of the Mycenaean palaces in c. 1100 BCE. Mycenaean Greece is the Late Helladic Bronze Age civilization of Ancient Greece and it is the historical setting of the epics of Homer and most of Greek mythology and religion. The Mycenaean period takes its name from the archaeological site Mycenae in the northeastern Argolid, in the Peloponnesos of southern Greece. Athens, Pylos, Thebes, and Tiryns are also important Mycenaean sites.

Mycenaean civilization was dominated by a warrior aristocracy. Around 1400 BCE, the Mycenaeans extended their control to Crete, the center of the Minoan civilization, and adopted a form of the Minoan script called Linear A to write their early form of Greek. The Mycenaean-era script is called Linear B, which was deciphered in 1952 by Michael Ventris. The Mycenaeans buried their nobles in beehive tombs (tholoi), large circular burial chambers with a high-vaulted roof and straight entry passage lined with stone. They often buried daggers or some other form of military equipment with the deceased. The nobility was often buried with gold masks, tiaras, armor, and jeweled weapons. Mycenaeans were buried in a sitting position, and some of the nobility underwent mummification.

Around 1100–1050 BCE, the Mycenaean civilization collapsed. Numerous cities were sacked and the region entered what historians see as a "dark age". During this period, Greece experienced a decline in population and literacy. The Greeks themselves have traditionally blamed this decline on an invasion by another wave of Greek people, the Dorians, although there is scant archaeological evidence for this view.

Invasions of the Sea Peoples.

Late Bronze Age Collapse

1150 BCE Jan 1 - 1120 BCE
, Greece

The Late Bronze Age collapse was a time of widespread societal collapse during the 12th century BCE, between c. 1200 and 1150. The collapse affected a large area of the Eastern Mediterranean (North Africa and Southeast Europe) and the Near East, in particular Egypt, eastern Libya, the Balkans, the Aegean, Anatolia, and the Caucasus. It was sudden, violent, and culturally disruptive for many Bronze Age civilizations, and it brought a sharp economic decline to regional powers, notably ushering in the Greek Dark Ages.

The palace economy of Mycenaean Greece, the Aegean region, and Anatolia that characterized the Late Bronze Age disintegrated, transforming into the small isolated village cultures of the Greek Dark Ages, which lasted from around 1100 to the beginning of the better-known Archaic age around 750 BCE. The Hittite Empire of Anatolia and the Levant collapsed, while states such as the Middle Assyrian Empire in Mesopotamia and the New Kingdom of Egypt survived but were weakened. Conversely, some peoples such as the Phoenicians enjoyed increased autonomy and power with the waning military presence of Egypt and Assyria in West Asia.

The reason why the arbitrary date 1200 BCE acts as the beginning of the end of the Late Bronze Age goes back to one German historian, Arnold Hermann Ludwig Heeren. In one of his histories on ancient Greece from 1817, Heeren stated that the first period of Greek prehistory ended around 1200 BCE, basing this date on the fall of Troy at 1190 after ten years of war. He then went on in 1826 to date the end of the Egyptian 19th Dynasty as well to around 1200 BCE. Throughout the remainder of the 19th century A.D. other events were then subsumed into the year 1200 BCE including the invasion of the Sea Peoples, the Dorian invasion, the fall of Mycenaean Greece, and eventually in 1896 the first mention of Israel in the southern Levant recorded on the Merneptah Stele.

Competing theories of the cause of the Late Bronze Age collapse have been proposed since the 19th century, with most involving the violent destruction of cities and towns. These include volcanic eruptions, droughts, disease, earthquakes, invasions by the Sea Peoples or migrations of the Dorians, economic disruptions due to increased ironworking, and changes in military technology and methods that brought the decline of chariot warfare. However, recent research suggests that earthquakes were not as impactful as previously believed. Following the collapse, gradual changes in metallurgic technology led to the subsequent Iron Age across Eurasia and Africa during the 1st millennium BCE.

Geometric-style box in the shape of a barn. On display in the Ancient Agora Museum in Athens, housed in the Stoa of Attalus. From early geometric cremation burial of a pregnant wealthy woman, 850 BC.

Greek Dark Ages

1050 BCE Jan 1 - 750 BCE
, Greece

The Greek Dark Ages ( c. 1100 - c. 800 BCE) refers to the period of Greek history from the presumed Dorian invasion and end of the Mycenaean civilization in the 11th century BCE to the rise of the first Greek city-states in the 9th century BCE and the epics of Homer and earliest writings in the Greek alphabet in the 8th century BCE.

The collapse of the Mycenaean civilization coincided with the fall of several other large empires in the near east, most notably the Hittite and the Egyptian. The cause may be attributed to an invasion of the Sea People wielding iron weapons. When the Dorians came down into Greece they also were equipped with superior iron weapons, easily dispersing the already weakened Mycenaeans. The period that follows these events is collectively known as the Greek Dark Ages.

Kings ruled throughout this period until eventually they were replaced with an aristocracy, then still later, in some areas, an aristocracy within an aristocracy - an elite of the elite. Warfare shifted from a focus on the cavalry to a great emphasis on infantry. Due to its cheapness of production and local availability, iron replaced bronze as the metal of choice in the manufacturing of tools and weapons. Slowly equality grew among the different sects of people, leading to the dethronement of the various Kings and the rise of the family.

At the end of this period of stagnation, the Greek civilization was engulfed in a renaissance that spread the Greek world as far as the Black Sea and Spain. The writing was relearned from the Phoenicians, eventually spreading north into Italy and the Gauls.

The Parthenon, a temple dedicated to Athena, located on the Acropolis in Athens, is one of the most representative symbols of the culture and sophistication of the ancient Greeks.

Ancient Greece

1000 BCE Jan 1 - 146 BCE
, Greece

Ancient Greece refers to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Dark Ages to the end of antiquity ( c. 600 CE). In common usage, it refers to all Greek history before the Roman Empire, but historians use the term more precisely. Some writers include the periods of the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations, while others argue that these civilizations were so different from later Greek cultures that they should be classed separately. Traditionally, the Ancient Greek period was taken to begin with the date of the first Olympic Games in 776 BCE, but most historians now extend the term back to about 1000 BCE.

The traditional date for the end of the Classical Greek period is the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE. The period that follows is classed as Hellenistic. Not everyone treats the Classical Greek and Hellenic periods as distinct; however, and some writers treat the Ancient Greek civilization as a continuum running until the advent of Christianity in the 3rd century CE.

Ancient Greece is considered by most historians to be the foundational culture of Western civilization. Greek culture was a powerful influence in the Roman Empire, which carried a version of it to many parts of Europe. Ancient Greek civilization has been immensely influential on the language, politics, educational systems, philosophy, art, and architecture of the modern world, particularly during the Renaissance in Western Europe and again during various neo-classical revivals in 18th and 19th-century Europe and the Americas.

Ruins of the Temple of Heracles, Agrigento, Sicily, built in the late 6th century BC. Sicily was the site of the earliest Greek colonies.

Archaic Greece

800 BCE Jan 1 - 480 BCE
, Greece

In the 8th century BCE, Greece began to emerge from the Dark Ages which followed the fall of the Mycenaean civilization. Literacy had been lost and Mycenaean script forgotten, but the Greeks adopted the Phoenician alphabet, modifying it to create the Greek alphabet. From about the 9th century BCE, written records begin to appear. Greece was divided into many small self-governing communities, a pattern largely dictated by Greek geography, where every island, valley, and plain is cut off from its neighbors by the sea or mountain ranges.

The Archaic period can be understood as the Orientalizing period, when Greece was at the fringe, but not under the sway, of the budding Neo-Assyrian Empire. Greece adopted significant amounts of cultural elements from the Orient, in art as well as in religion and mythology. Archaeologically, Archaic Greece is marked by Geometric pottery.

The Greek theater in Taormina

Classical Greece

510 BCE Jan 1 - 323 BCE
, Greece

Classical Greece was a period of around 200 years (the 5th and 4th centuries BCE) in Ancient Greece, marked by much of the eastern Aegean and northern regions of Greek culture (such as Ionia and Macedonia) gaining increased autonomy from the Persian Empire ( Persian Wars ); the peak flourishing of democratic Athens; the First and Second Peloponnesian Wars; the Spartan and then Theban hegemonies; and the expansion of Macedonia under Philip II. Much of the early defining politics, artistic thought (architecture, sculpture), scientific thought, theatre, literature and philosophy of Western civilization derives from this period of Greek history, which had a powerful influence on the later Roman Empire. The Classical era ended after Philip II's unification of most of the Greek world against the common enemy of the Persian Empire, which was conquered within 13 years during the wars of Alexander the Great.

In the context of the art, architecture, and culture of Ancient Greece, the Classical period corresponds to most of the 5th and 4th centuries BCE (the most common dates being the fall of the last Athenian tyrant in 510 BCE to the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE). The Classical period in this sense follows the Greek Dark Ages and Archaic period and is in turn succeeded by the Hellenistic period.

Macedo-Ptolemaic soldiers of the Ptolemaic kingdom, 100 BC, detail of the Nile mosaic of Palestrina.

Hellenistic Greece

323 BCE Jan 1 - 146 BCE
, Greece

Hellenistic Greece is the historical period of the country following Classical Greece, between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BCE and the annexation of the classical Greek Achaean League heartlands by the Roman Republic. This culminated at the Battle of Corinth in 146 BCE, a crushing Roman victory in the Peloponnese that led to the destruction of Corinth and ushered in the period of Roman Greece. Hellenistic Greece's definitive end was with the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE, when the future emperor Augustus defeated Greek Ptolemaic queen Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony, the next year taking over Alexandria, the last great center of Hellenistic Greece.

During the Hellenistic period the importance of Greece proper within the Greek-speaking world declined sharply. The great centers of Hellenistic culture were Alexandria and Antioch, capitals of Ptolemaic Egypt and Seleucid Syria respectively. Cities such as Pergamon, Ephesus, Rhodes and Seleucia were also important, and increasing urbanisation of the Eastern Mediterranean was characteristic of the time.

The Last Day of Corinth | ©Tony Robert-Fleury

Roman Greece

146 BCE Jan 1 - 324
, Rome

Militarily, Greece itself declined to the point that the Romans conquered the land (168 BCE onwards), though Greek culture would in turn conquer Roman life. Although the period of Roman rule in Greece is conventionally dated as starting from the sacking of Corinth by the Roman Lucius Mummius in 146 BCE, Macedonia had already come under Roman control with the defeat of its king, Perseus, by the Roman Aemilius Paullus at Pydna in 168 BCE.

The Romans divided the region into four smaller republics, and in 146 BCE Macedonia officially became a province, with its capital at Thessalonica. The rest of the Greek city-states gradually and eventually paid homage to Rome ending their de jure autonomy as well. The Romans left local administration to the Greeks without making any attempt to abolish traditional political patterns. The agora in Athens continued to be the center of civic and political life.

Caracalla's decree in CE 212, the Constitutio Antoniniana, extended citizenship outside Italy to all free adult men in the entire Roman Empire, effectively raising provincial populations to equal status with the city of Rome itself. The importance of this decree is historical, not political. It set the basis for integration where the economic and judicial mechanisms of the state could be applied throughout the Mediterranean as was once done from Latium into all Italy. In practice of course, integration did not take place uniformly. Societies already integrated with Rome, such as Greece, were favored by this decree, in comparison with those far away, too poor, or just too alien such as Britain, Palestine, or Egypt.

Caracalla's decree did not set in motion the processes that led to the transfer of power from Italy and the West to Greece and the East, but rather accelerated them, setting the foundations for the millennium-long rise of Greece, in the form of the Eastern Roman Empire, as a major power in Europe and the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages.

Empress Theodora and attendants (Mosaic from Basilica of San Vitale, 6th century)

Byzantine Greece

324 Jan 2 - 1453 May 29
, İstanbul

The division of the empire into East and West and the subsequent collapse of the Western Roman Empire were developments that constantly accentuated the position of the Greeks in the empire and eventually allowed them to become identified with it altogether. The leading role of Constantinople began when Constantine the Great turned Byzantium into the new capital of the Roman Empire, from then on to be known as Constantinople, placing the city at the center of Hellenism, a beacon for the Greeks that lasted to the modern era.

The figures of Constantine the Great and Justinian dominated during 324–610. Assimilating the Roman tradition, the emperors sought to offer the basis for later developments and for the formation of the Byzantine Empire. Efforts to secure the borders of the Empire and to restore the Roman territories marked the early centuries. At the same time, the definitive formation and establishment of the Orthodox doctrine, but also a series of conflicts resulting from heresies that developed within the boundaries of the empire, marked the early period of Byzantine history.

In the first period of the middle Byzantine era (610–867), the empire was attacked both by old enemies (Persians, Lombards, Avars and Slavs) as well as by new ones, appearing for the first time in history (Arabs, Bulgars). The main characteristic of this period was that the enemy attacks were not localized to the border areas of the state but they were extended deep beyond, even threatening the capital itself.

The attacks of the Slavs lost their periodical and temporary character and became permanent settlements that transformed into new states, initially hostile to Constantinople until their christianization. Those states were referred to by the Byzantines as Sclavinias.

From the late 8th century, the Empire began to recover from the devastating impact of successive invasions, and the reconquest of the Greek peninsula began. Greeks from Sicily and Asia Minor were brought in as settlers. The Slavs were either driven out to Asia Minor or assimilated and the Sclavinias were eliminated. By the middle of the 9th century, Greece was Byzantine again, and the cities began to recover due to improved security and the restoration of effective central control.

Latin Empire | ©Angus McBride

Latin Empire

1204 Jan 1 - 1261
, Greece

The Latin Empire was a feudal Crusader state founded by the leaders of the Fourth Crusade on lands captured from the Byzantine Empire. The Latin Empire was intended to replace the Byzantine Empire as the Western-recognized Roman Empire in the east, with a Catholic emperor enthroned in place of the Eastern Orthodox Roman emperors.

The Fourth Crusade had originally been called to retake the Muslim-controlled city of Jerusalem, but a sequence of economic and political events culminated in the Crusader army sacking the city of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Originally, the plan had been to restore the deposed Byzantine Emperor Isaac II Angelos, who had been usurped by Alexios III Angelos, to the throne. The crusaders had been promised financial and military aid by Isaac's son Alexios IV, with which they had planned to continue to Jerusalem. When the crusaders reached Constantinople the situation quickly turned volatile and while Isaac and Alexios briefly ruled, the crusaders did not receive the payment they had hoped for. In April 1204, they captured and plundered the city's enormous wealth.

The crusaders selected their own emperor from among their own ranks, Baldwin of Flanders, and divided the territory of the Byzantine Empire into various new vassal crusader states. The Latin Empire's authority was immediately challenged by Byzantine rump states led by the Laskaris family (connected to the Angelos dynasty of 1185–1204) in Nicaea and the Komnenos family (which had ruled as Byzantine Emperors 1081–1185) in Trebizond. From 1224 to 1242 the Komnenos Doukas family, also connected to the Angeloi, challenged Latin authority from Thessalonica. The Latin Empire failed to attain political or economic dominance over the other Latin powers that had been established in former Byzantine territories in the wake of the Fourth Crusade, especially Republic of Venice, and after a short initial period of military successes it went into a steady decline due to constant war with Bulgaria to the north and the various Byzantine claimants. Eventually, the Nicene Empire recovered Constantinople and restored the Byzantine Empire under Michael VIII Palaiologos in 1261. The last Latin emperor, Baldwin II, went into exile, but the imperial title survived, with several pretenders to it, until the 14th century.

The Battle of Navarino, in October 1827, marked the effective end of Ottoman rule in Greece.

Ottoman Greece

1460 Jan 2 - 1821
, Greece

The Greeks held out in the Peloponnese until 1460, and the Venetians and Genoese clung to some of the islands, but by the early 16th century all of mainland Greece and most of the Aegean islands were colonized by the Ottoman empire, excluding several port cities still held by the Venetians (Nafplio, Monemvasia, Parga and Methone the most important of them). The Cyclades islands, in the middle of the Aegean, were officially annexed by the Ottomans in 1579, although they were under vassal status since the 1530s. Cyprus fell in 1571, and the Venetians retained Crete until 1669. The Ionian Islands were never ruled by the Ottomans, with the exception of Kefalonia (from 1479 to 1481 and from 1485 to 1500), and remained under the rule of the Republic of Venice. It was in the Ionian Islands where modern Greek statehood was born, with the creation of the Republic of the Seven Islands in 1800.

Ottoman Greece was a multiethnic society. However, the modern Western notion of multiculturalism, although at first glance appears to correspond to the system of millets, is considered to be incompatible with the Ottoman system. The Greeks with the one hand were given some privileges and freedom; with the other they were exposed to a tyranny deriving from the malpractices of its administrative personnel over which the central government had only remote and incomplete control. When the Ottomans arrived, two Greek migrations occurred. The first migration entailed the Greek intelligentsia migrating to Western Europe and influencing the advent of the Renaissance. The second migration entailed Greeks leaving the plains of the Greek peninsula and resettling in the mountains. The millet system contributed to the ethnic cohesion of Orthodox Greeks by segregating the various peoples within the Ottoman Empire based on religion. The Greeks living in the plains during Ottoman rule were either Christians who dealt with the burdens of foreign rule or crypto-Christians (Greek Muslims who were secret practitioners of the Greek Orthodox faith). Some Greeks became crypto-Christians to avoid heavy taxes and at the same time express their identity by maintaining their ties to the Greek Orthodox Church. However, Greeks who converted to Islam and were not crypto-Christians were deemed "Turks" (Muslims) in the eyes of Orthodox Greeks, even if they did not adopt the Turkish language.

The Ottomans ruled most of Greece until the early 19th century. The first self-governed, since the Middle Ages, Hellenic state was established during the French Revolutionary Wars, in 1800, 21 years before the outbreak of the Greek revolution in mainland Greece. It was the Septinsular Republic with Corfu as capital.

The Battle of Lepanto of 1571, by Andries van Eertvelt. Historian George Finaly stated that the number of the Greek in this conflict "far exceeded that of the combatants of any of the nations engaged".

Anti-Ottoman revolts of 1565–1572

1565 Jan 1 - 1572
, Greece

The anti-Ottoman revolts of 1567-1572 were a series of conflicts between Albanian, Greek and other rebels and the Ottoman Empire during the early period 16th century. Social tensions intensified at this time by the debilitation of the Ottoman administration, the chronic economic crisis, and arbitrary conduct of the Ottoman state authorities. The leaders of the uprisings were initially successful and controlled several strategic locations and fortresses, especially in Epirus, Central Greece, and the Peloponnese. However, the movement lacked the necessary organization. They were instigated and assisted by western powers; mainly by the Republic of Venice, and the victory of the Holy League against the Ottoman fleet in the Battle of Lepanto, in November 1571, triggered further revolutionary activity. However, Venice withdrew its support to the rebels and signed a unilateral peace with the Ottomans. As such the rebellions were doomed to end and the Ottoman forces committed a number of massacres in the aftermath of the revolt during the suppression of the uprising. Throughout the pacification process, various primarily isolated areas were still out of Ottoman control and new rebellions erupted, like that of Dionysios Skylosophos in 1611.

Battle of the Venetian fleet against the Turks at Phocaea (Focchies) in 1649. Painting by Abraham Beerstraten, 1656.

Cretan War

1645 Jan 1 - 1669
, Crete

The Cretan War was a conflict between the Republic of Venice and her allies (chief among them the Knights of Malta, the Papal States and France) against the Ottoman Empire and the Barbary States, because it was largely fought over the island of Crete, Venice's largest and richest overseas possession. The war lasted from 1645 to 1669 and was fought in Crete, especially in the city of Candia, and in numerous naval engagements and raids around the Aegean Sea, with Dalmatia providing a secondary theater of operations.

Although most of Crete was conquered by the Ottomans in the first few years of the war, the fortress of Candia (modern Heraklion), the capital of Crete, resisted successfully. Its prolonged siege, "Troy's rival" as Lord Byron called it, forced both sides to focus their attention on the supply of their respective forces on the island. For the Venetians in particular, their only hope for victory over the larger Ottoman army in Crete lay in successfully starving it of supplies and reinforcements. Hence the war turned into a series of naval encounters between the two navies and their allies. Venice was aided by various Western European nations, who, exhorted by the Pope and in a revival of crusading spirit, sent men, ships and supplies "to defend Christendom". Throughout the war, Venice maintained overall naval superiority, winning most naval engagements, but the efforts to blockade the Dardanelles were only partially successful, and the Republic never had enough ships to fully cut off the flow of supplies and reinforcements to Crete. The Ottomans were hampered in their efforts by domestic turmoil, as well as by the diversion of their forces north towards Transylvania and the Habsburg monarchy.

The prolonged conflict exhausted the economy of the Republic, which relied on the lucrative trade with the Ottoman Empire. By the 1660s, despite increased aid from other Christian nations, war-weariness had set in. The Ottomans on the other hand, having managed to sustain their forces on Crete and reinvigorated under the capable leadership of the Köprülü family, sent a final great expedition in 1666 under the direct supervision of the Grand Vizier. This began the final and bloodiest stage of the Siege of Candia, which lasted for more than two years. It ended with the negotiated surrender of the fortress, sealing the fate of the island and ending the war in an Ottoman victory. In the final peace treaty, Venice retained a few isolated island fortresses off Crete, and made some territorial gains in Dalmatia. The Venetian desire for a revanche would lead, barely 15 years later, to a renewed war, from which Venice would emerge victorious. Crete, however, would remain under Ottoman control until 1897, when it became an autonomous state; it was finally united with Greece in 1913.

The destruction of the Turkish fleet in the Battle of Chesme, 1770. | ©Jacob Philipp Hackert

Orlov Revolt

1770 Feb 1 - 1771 Jun 17
, Peloponnese

The Orlov revolt was a Greek uprising that broke out in 1770. It was centered in the Peloponnese, southern Greece as well as in parts of Central Greece, Thessaly and on Crete. The revolt broke out at February 1770 following the arrival of Russian Admiral Alexei Orlov, commander of the Imperial Russian Navy during the Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774), at the Mani Peninsula. It became a major precursor to the Greek War of Independence (which erupted in 1821), was part of Catherine the Great's so-called "Greek Plan" and was eventually suppressed by the Ottomans.

The Siege of the Acropolis

Greek War of Independence

1821 Feb 21 - 1829 Sep 12
, Greece

The Greek War of Independence, also known as the Greek Revolution of 1821 or the Greek Revolution, was a successful war of independence by Greek revolutionaries against the Ottoman Empire between 1821 and 1829. The Greeks were later assisted by the British Empire, Kingdom of France, and Russia, while the Ottomans were aided by their North African vassals, particularly the eyalet of Egypt. The war led to the formation of modern Greece. The revolution is celebrated by Greeks around the world as independence day on 25 March.

Prinz Octavius of Bavaria, King of Greece; after Joseph Stieler (1781–1858) | ©Friedrich Dürck

Reign of King Otto

1833 Jan 1 - 1863
, Greece

Otto, a Bavarian prince, ruled as King of Greece from the establishment of the monarchy on 27 May 1832, under the Convention of London, until he was deposed on 23 October 1862. The second son of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, Otto ascended the newly created throne of Greece at age 17. His government was initially run by a three-man regency council made up of Bavarian court officials. Upon reaching his majority, Otto removed the regents when they proved unpopular with the people, and he ruled as an absolute monarch. Eventually his subjects' demands for a constitution proved overwhelming, and in the face of an armed (but bloodless) insurrection, Otto granted a constitution in 1843.

Throughout his reign Otto was unable to resolve Greece's poverty and prevent economic meddling from outside. Greek politics in this era were based on affiliations with the three Great Powers that had guaranteed Greece's independence, Britain, France and Russia, and Otto's ability to maintain the support of the powers was key to his remaining in power. To remain strong, Otto had to play the interests of each of the Great Powers' Greek adherents against the others, while not irritating the Great Powers. When Greece was blockaded by the British Royal Navy in 1850 and again in 1854, to stop Greece from attacking the Ottoman Empire during the Crimean War, Otto's standing amongst Greeks suffered. As a result, there was an assassination attempt on Queen Amalia, and finally in 1862 Otto was deposed while in the countryside. He died in exile in Bavaria in 1867.

King George I of the Hellenes in Hellenic Navy uniform.

Reign of George I

1863 Mar 30 - 1913 Mar 18
, Greece

George I was King of Greece from 30 March 1863 until his assassination in 1913. Originally a Danish prince, he was born in Copenhagen, and seemed destined for a career in the Royal Danish Navy. He was only 17 years old when he was elected king by the Greek National Assembly, which had deposed the unpopular Otto. His nomination was both suggested and supported by the Great Powers: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the Second French Empire and the Russian Empire. He married Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia in 1867, and became the first monarch of a new Greek dynasty. Two of his sisters, Alexandra and Dagmar, married into the British and Russian royal families. King Edward VII of the United Kingdom and Emperor Alexander III of Russia were his brothers-in-law, and George V of the United Kingdom, Christian X of Denmark, Haakon VII of Norway, and Nicholas II of Russia were his nephews.

George's reign of almost 50 years (the longest in modern Greek history) was characterized by territorial gains as Greece established its place in pre-World War I Europe. Britain ceded the Ionian Islands peacefully in 1864, while Thessaly was annexed from the Ottoman Empire after the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878). Greece was not always successful in its territorial ambitions; it was defeated in the Greco-Turkish War (1897).

Revolutionaries at Theriso

Cretan State

1898 Jan 1 - 1913
, Crete

The Cretan State was established in 1898, following the intervention by the Great Powers (United Kingdom, France, Italy, Austria-Hungary, Germany and Russia) on the island of Crete. In 1897, the Cretan Revolt led the Ottoman Empire to declare war on Greece, which led the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Russia to intervene on the grounds that the Ottoman Empire could no longer maintain control. It was the prelude to the island's final annexation to the Kingdom of Greece, which occurred de facto in 1908 and de jure in 1913 after the First Balkan War.

A Bulgarian postcard depicting the Battle of Lule Burgas.

Balkan Wars

1912 Oct 8 - 1913 Aug 10
, Balkans

The Balkan Wars refers to a series of two conflicts that took place in the Balkan States in 1912 and 1913. In the First Balkan War, the four Balkan States of Greece, Serbia, Montenegro and Bulgaria declared war upon the Ottoman Empire and defeated it, in the process stripping the Ottomans of its European provinces, leaving only Eastern Thrace under the Ottoman Empire's control. In the Second Balkan War, Bulgaria fought against all four original combatants of the first war. It also faced an attack from Romania from the north. The Ottoman Empire lost the bulk of its territory in Europe. Although not involved as a combatant, Austria-Hungary became relatively weaker as a much enlarged Serbia pushed for union of the South Slavic peoples. The war set the stage for the Balkan crisis of 1914 and thus served as a "prelude to the First World War".

By the early 20th century, Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro and Serbia had achieved independence from the Ottoman Empire, but large elements of their ethnic populations remained under Ottoman rule. In 1912, these countries formed the Balkan League. The First Balkan War began on 8 October 1912, when the League member states attacked the Ottoman Empire, and ended eight months later with the signing of the Treaty of London on 30 May 1913. The Second Balkan War began on 16 June 1913, when Bulgaria, dissatisfied with its loss of Macedonia, attacked its former Balkan League allies. The combined forces of Serbian and Greek armies, with their superior numbers repelled the Bulgarian offensive and counter-attacked Bulgaria by invading it from the west and the south. Romania, having taken no part in the conflict, had intact armies to strike with and invaded Bulgaria from the north in violation of a peace treaty between the two states. The Ottoman Empire also attacked Bulgaria and advanced in Thrace regaining Adrianople. In the resulting Treaty of Bucharest, Bulgaria managed to regain most of the territories it had gained in the First Balkan War. However, it was forced to cede the ex-Ottoman south part of Dobruja province to Romania.

The Balkan Wars were marked by ethnic cleansing with all parties being responsible for grave atrocities against civilians and helped inspire later atrocities including war crimes during the 1990s Yugoslav Wars.

Greek military formation in the World War I Victory Parade in Arc de Triomphe, Paris. July 1919.

World War I and Greco-Turkish War

1914 Oct 1
, Greece

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 produced a split in Greek politics, with King Constantine I, an admirer of Germany, calling for neutrality while Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos pushed for Greece to join the Allies. The conflict between the monarchists and the Venizelists sometimes resulted in open warfare and became known as the National Schism. In 1917, the Allies forced Constantine to abdicate in favor of his son Alexander and Venizelos returned as premier. At the end of the war, the Great Powers agreed that the Ottoman city of Smyrna (Izmir) and its hinterland, both of which had large Greek populations, be handed over to Greece.

Greek troops occupied Smyrna in 1919, and in 1920 the Treaty of Sèvres was signed by the Ottoman government; the treaty stipulated that in five years time a plebiscite would be held in Smyrna on whether the region would join Greece. However, Turkish nationalists, led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, overthrew the Ottoman government and organised a military campaign against the Greek troops, resulting in the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922). A major Greek offensive ground to a halt in 1921, and by 1922 Greek troops were in retreat. The Turkish forces recaptured Smyrna on 9 September 1922, and setting the city ablaze and killing many Greeks and Armenians.

The war was concluded by the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), according to which there was to be a population exchange between Greece and Turkey on the basis of religion. Over one million Orthodox Christians left Turkey in exchange for 400,000 Muslims from Greece. The events of 1919–1922 are regarded in Greece as a particularly calamitous period of history. Between 1914 and 1923, an estimated 750,000 to 900,000 Greeks died at the hands of the Ottoman Turks, in what many scholars have termed a genocide.

General Nikolaos Plastiras, leader of the 1922 Revolution, gives the power to the politicians (1924)

Second Hellenic Republic

1924 Jan 1 - 1935
, Greece

The Second Hellenic Republic is a modern historiographical term used to refer to the Greek state during a period of republican governance between 1924 and 1935. It occupied virtually the coterminous territory of modern Greece (with the exception of the Dodecanese) and bordered Albania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey and the Italian Aegean Islands. The term Second Republic is used to differentiate it from the First and Third republics.

The fall of the monarchy was proclaimed by the country's parliament on 25 March 1924. A relatively small country with a population of 6.2 million in 1928, it covered a total area of 130,199 km2 (50,270 sq mi). Over its eleven-year history, the Second Republic saw some of the most important historical events in modern Greek history emerge; from Greece's first military dictatorship, to the short-lived democratic form of governance that followed, the normalisation of Greco-Turkish relations which lasted until the 1950s, and to the first successful efforts to significantly industrialise the nation.

The Second Hellenic Republic was abolished on 10 October 1935, and its abolition was confirmed by referendum on 3 November of the same year which is widely accepted as having been mired with electoral fraud. The fall of the Republic eventually paved the way for Greece to become a totalitarian single-party state, when Ioannis Metaxas established the 4th of August Regime in 1936, lasting until the Axis occupation of Greece in 1941.

The symbolic beginning of the occupation: German soldiers raising the German War Flag over the Acropolis of Athens. It was taken down in one of the first acts of resistance by Apostolos Santas and Manolis Glezos.

Greece during World War II

1940 Oct 28 - 1944 Oct
, Greece

The military history of Greece during World War II began on 28 October 1940, when the Italian Army invaded Greece from Albania, beginning the Greco-Italian War. The Greek Army temporarily halted the invasion and pushed the Italians back into Albania. The Greek successes forced Nazi Germany to intervene. The Germans invaded Greece and Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941, and overran both countries within a month, despite British aid to Greece in the form of an expeditionary corps. The conquest of Greece was completed in May with the capture of Crete from the air, although the Fallschirmjäger (German paratroopers) suffered such extensive casualties in this operation that the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (German High Command) abandoned large-scale airborne operations for the remainder of the war. The German diversion of resources in the Balkans is also considered by some historians to have delayed the launch of the invasion of the Soviet Union by a critical month, which proved disastrous when the German Army failed to take Moscow.

Greece was occupied and divided between Germany, Italy, and Bulgaria, while the King and the government fled into exile in Egypt. First attempts at armed resistance in summer 1941 were crushed by the Axis powers, but the Resistance movement began again in 1942 and grew enormously in 1943 and 1944, liberating large parts of the country's mountainous interior and tying down considerable Axis forces. Political tensions between the Resistance groups broke out in a civil conflict among them in late 1943, which continued until the spring of 1944. The exiled Greek government also formed armed forces of its own, which served and fought alongside the British in the Middle East, North Africa, and Italy. The contribution of the Greek Navy and merchant marine, in particular, was of special importance to the Allied cause.

Mainland Greece was liberated in October 1944 with the German withdrawal in the face of the advancing Red Army, while German garrisons held out in the Aegean Islands until after the war's end. The country was devastated by war and occupation, and its economy and infrastructure lay in ruins. By 1946, a civil war erupted between the foreign-sponsored conservative government and leftist guerrillas, which lasted until 1949.

ELAS guerillas

Greek Civil War

1943 Jan 1 - 1949
, Greece

The Greek Civil War was the first major confrontation of the Cold War. It was fought between 1944 and 1949 in Greece between the nationalist/non-Marxist forces of Greece (financially supported by Great Britain at first, and later by the United States) and the Democratic Army of Greece (ELAS), which was the military branch of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE).

The conflict resulted in a victory for the British — and later U.S.-supported government forces, which led to Greece receiving American funds through the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, as well as becoming a member of NATO, which helped to define the ideological balance of power in the Aegean for the entire Cold War.

The first phase of the civil war occurred in 1943–1944. Marxist and non-Marxist resistance groups fought each other in a fratricidal conflict to establish the leadership of the Greek resistance movement. In the second phase (December 1944), the ascendant communists, in military control of most of Greece, confronted the returning Greek government in exile, which had been formed under the auspices of the Western Allies in Cairo and originally included six KKE-affiliated ministers. In the third phase (called by some the "Third Round"), guerrilla forces controlled by the KKE fought against the internationally recognized Greek government which was formed after elections were boycotted by the KKE. Although the involvement of the KKE in the uprisings was universally known, the party remained legal until 1948, continuing to coordinate attacks from its Athens offices until proscription.

The war, which lasted from 1946 to 1949, was characterized by guerilla warfare between the KKE forces and Greek governmental forces mainly in the mountain ranges of northern Greece. The war ended with the NATO bombing of Mount Grammos and the final defeat of the KKE forces. The civil war left Greece with a legacy of political polarization. As a result, Greece also entered into an alliance with the United States and joined NATO, while relationships with its communist northern neighbours, both pro-Soviet and neutral, became strained.

Omonia Square, Athens, Greece 1950s

Western Bloc

1949 Jan 1 - 1967
, Greece

In the 1950s and 1960s, Greece developed rapidly, initially with the help of the Marshall Plan's grants and loans, also to decrease the communist influence. In 1952, by joining NATO, Greece clearly became part of the Western Bloc of the Cold War. But in Greek society, the deep divide between the leftist and rightist sections continued.

Greece economy advanced further through growth in the tourism sector. New attention was given to women's rights, and in 1952 suffrage for women was guaranteed in the Constitution, full Constitutional equality following, and Lina Tsaldari becoming the first female minister that decade.

The Greek economic miracle is the period of sustained economic growth, generally from 1950 to 1973. During this period, the Greek economy grew by an average of 7.7%, second in the world only to Japan.

The leaders of the 1967 coup d'état: Brigadier Stylianos Pattakos, Colonel Georgios Papadopoulos and Colonel Nikolaos Makarezos

Greek junta

1967 Jan 1 - 1974
, Athens

The Greek junta or Regime of the Colonels was a right-wing military dictatorship that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974. On 21 April 1967, a group of colonels overthrew the caretaker government a month before scheduled elections which Georgios Papandreou's Centre Union was favoured to win. The dictatorship was characterised by right-wing cultural policies, anti-communism, restrictions on civil liberties, and the imprisonment, torture, and exile of political opponents. It was ruled by Georgios Papadopoulos from 1967 to 1973, but an attempt to renew its support in a 1973 referendum on the monarchy and gradual democratisation was ended by another coup by the hardliner Dimitrios Ioannidis, who ruled it until it fell on 24 July 1974 under the pressure of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, leading to the Metapolitefsi ("regime change") to democracy and the establishment of the Third Hellenic Republic.

Makarios (centre), the deposed president, and Sampson (on the right), the leader installed.

1974 Cypriot coup d'état

1974 Jul 15
, Cyprus

The 1974 coup d'état in Cyprus was a military coup d'état by the Greek Army in Cyprus, the Cypriot National Guard and the Greek military junta of 1967–1974. On 15 July 1974 the coup plotters removed the sitting President of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios III from office and replaced him with the pro-Enosis (Greek irredentist) nationalist Nikos Sampson. The Sampson regime was described as a puppet state, whose ultimate aim was the annexation of the island by Greece; in the short term, the coupists proclaimed the establishment of the "Hellenic Republic of Cyprus". The coup was viewed as illegal by the United Nations.

Third Hellenic Republic

Third Hellenic Republic

1974 Dec 1
, Greece

The Third Hellenic Republic is the period in modern Greek history that stretches from 1974, with the fall of the Greek military junta and the final abolition of the Greek monarchy, to the present day.

It is considered the third period of republican rule in Greece, following the First Republic during the Greek War of Independence (1821–1832) and the Second Republic during the temporary abolition of the monarchy in 1924–1935.

The term "Metapolitefsi" is commonly used for the entire period, but this term is properly restricted to the early part of the period, beginning with the fall of the junta and culminating in the democratic transformation of the country. While the First and Second Hellenic Republics are not in common use except in a historiographic context, the term Third Hellenic Republic is used frequently.

The Third Hellenic Republic has been characterised by the development of social freedoms, the European orientation of Greece and the political dominance of the parties ND and PASOK. On the negative side the period has included high corruption, deterioration of certain economic indexes such as public debt, and nepotism, mostly in the political scene and the state offices.

Stability& Economic Prosperity

1980 Jan 1
, Greece

After the restoration of democracy, Greece's stability and economic prosperity improved significantly. Greece rejoined NATO in 1980, joined the European Union (EU) in 1981 and adopted the euro as its currency in 2001. New infrastructure funds from the EU and growing revenues from tourism, shipping, services, light industry and the telecommunications industry have brought Greeks an unprecedented standard of living. Tensions continue to exist between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus and the delimitation of borders in the Aegean Sea but relations have considerably thawed following successive earthquakes, first in Turkey and then in Greece, and an outpouring of sympathy and generous assistance by ordinary Greeks and Turks (see Earthquake Diplomacy).

Protests in Athens on 25 May 2011

The Crisis

2009 Jan 1 - 2018
, Greece

The 2008 global economic recession impacted Greece, as well as the rest of the countries in the eurozone. From late 2009, fears developed in investment markets of a sovereign debt crisis concerning Greece's ability to pay its debts, in view of the large increase in the country's government debt. This crisis of confidence was indicated by a widening of bond yield spreads and risk insurance on credit default swaps compared to other countries, most importantly Germany. Downgrading of Greek government debt to junk bond status created alarm in financial markets. On 2 May 2010, the Eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund agreed on a €110 billion loan for Greece, conditional on the implementation of harsh austerity measures.

In October 2011, Eurozone leaders also agreed on a proposal to write off 50% of Greek debt owed to private creditors, increasing the European Financial Stability Facility amount to about €1 trillion, and requiring European banks to achieve 9% capitalization to reduce the risk of contagion to other countries. These austerity measures were extremely unpopular with the Greek public, precipitating demonstrations and civil unrest.

In all, the Greek economy suffered the longest recession of any advanced mixed economy to date. As a result, the Greek political system has been upended, social exclusion increased, and hundreds of thousands of well-educated Greeks have left the country.


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