From roughly 800 BCE, ancient Greek city-states, many of which were naval powers, started to look past Greece for land and resources. As a consequence, they founded colonies across the Mediterranean. Profession was typically the an initial step in the colonization process and then, after regional populations to be subdued or had within the colony, urban were established.

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These might have varying levels of call with the homeland, however most became fully independent city-states, sometimes an extremely Greek in character, in other situations culturally closer come the aboriginal peoples they neighboured and also included within your citizenry. Among the most important results of this process, in broad terms, was the the motion of goods, people, art, and ideas in this duration spread the Greek method of life much and large to Spain, France, Italy, the Adriatic, the black color Sea, and North Africa. In total then, the Greeks established some 500 swarms which associated up come 60,000 Greek citizen colonists, so the by 500 BCE these new territories would ultimately account for 40% of every Greeks in the Hellenic World.

Trade & source Opportunities

The Greeks were an excellent sea-farers, and travelling across the Mediterranean, they were passionate to discover brand-new lands and brand-new opportunities. Even Greek mythology contained such tales of exploration as Jason and also his search for the gold Fleece and also that biggest of hero visitors Odysseus. First the islands around Greece were colonized, for example, the very first colony in the Adriatic was Corcyra (Corfu), founded by Corinth in 733 BCE (traditional date), and then prospectors looked additional afield. The an initial colonists in a general sense were traders and also those small groups of individuals who sought to tap into new resources and also start a brand-new life far from the increasingly competitive and over-crowded homeland.

Trade centres and complimentary markets (emporia) were the forerunners of swarms proper. Then, native the mid-8th come mid-6th century BCE, the Greek city-states (poleis) and individual groups started to expand beyond Greece with more deliberate and longer-term intentions. However, the process of emigration was likely an ext gradual and also organic than old sources would certainly suggest. The is also challenging to determine the exact level of colonization and also integration with regional populations. Some locations of the Mediterranean saw fully-Greek poleis established, when in other locations there were only trading write-ups composed of much more temporary occupants such as merchants and also sailors. The very term "colonization" infers the supremacy of native peoples, a emotion of cultural superiority by the colonizers, and a specific cultural homeland i beg your pardon controls and drives the entirety process. This was not necessarily the instance in the old Greek human being and, therefore, in this sense, Greek colonization was a very different procedure from, for example, the policies of certain European powers in the 19th and also 20th century CE. That is perhaps below then, a process far better described together "culture contact" (De Angelis in Boyes-Stones et al, 51).

The facility of colonies throughout the Mediterranean permitted the fiddle of luxury products such together fine Greek pottery, wine, oil, metalwork, and textiles, and also the exploit of wide range from the soil - timber, metals, and farming (notably grain, dried fish, and also leather), for instance - and they often became profitable trading hubs and also a resource of slaves. A establishing city (metropolis) might also set up a colony in bespeak to create a military presence in a particular an ar and therefore protect profitable sea routes. Also, swarms could administer a an important bridge come inland profession opportunities. Some swarms even controlled to rival the greatest establishing cities; Syracuse, for example, eventually ended up being the biggest polis in the whole Greek world. Finally, it is crucial to note that the Greeks did not have the field to themselves, and rival civilizations also established colonies, particularly the Etruscans and also Phoenicians, and sometimes, inevitably, warfare damaged out in between these great powers.

Magna Graecia

Greek urban were soon attracted by the productive land, organic resources, and good harbours the a "New World" - southerly Italy and Sicily. The Greek homesteaders eventually subdued the local populace and stamped their identity on the region to together an extent that they dubbed it "Greater Greece" or Megalē Hellas, and it would come to be the many "Greek" of all the conquered territories, both in terms of culture and the urban landscape v Doric holy places being the most striking symbol of Hellenization. Several of the most necessary poleis in Italy were:

Cumae (the an initial Italian colony, founded c. 740 BCE through Chalcis & Kyme)Sybaris (c. 720 BCE, Achaean/Troezen)Croton (c. 710 BCE, Achaean)Rhegium (c. 720 BCE, Chalcis)Elea (c. 540 BCE, Phocaea)Heraclea (433 BCE, Tarentum)

On Sicily the main colonies included:

Syracuse (733 BCE, founded by Corinth)Selinous (c. 630 BCE)Himera (c. 630 BCE, Messana)
The geographical place of brand-new colonies in the centre of the Mediterranean supposed they could prosper as trade centres between the major cultures of the time.

The geographical ar of these new colonies in the centre of the Mediterranean supposed they could prosper as profession centres in between the major cultures that the time: the Greek, Etruscan, and Phoenician civilizations. And also prosper lock did, so much so that authors told that the huge riches and extravagant lifestyles to be seen. Empedokles, for example, defined the pampered citizens and fine temples of Akragas (Agrigento) in Sicily together follows; "the Akragantinians revel as if they should die tomorrow, and build together if they would live forever". Nests even created off-shoot colonies and trading articles themselves and, in this way, spread Greek influence more afield, including higher up the Adriatic shore of Italy. Even North Africa saw colonies established, notably Cyrene by Thera in c. 630 BCE, and so it came to be clear the Greek colonists would no restrict themselves to Magna Graecia.

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Greek and also Phoenician Colonization
Kelly Macquire (CC BY-NC-SA)


Greeks produced settlements along the Aegean shore of Ionia (or Asia Minor) from the 8 hours century BCE. Important colonies included Miletos, Ephesos, Smyrna, and also Halikarnassos. Athens traditionally declared to it is in the first colonizer in the an ar which was also of great interest come the Lydians and also Persians. The area ended up being a hotbed of cultural endeavour, particularly in science, mathematics, and also philosophy, and produced some of the greatest of Greek minds. Art and architectural styles too, assimilated indigenous the east, began to affect the homeland; such functions as palmed pillar capitals, sphinxes, and also expressive "orientalising" pottery designs would certainly inspire Greek architects and artists to check out entirely brand-new artistic avenues.

France & Spain

The main colonising polis of southerly France was Phocaea which established the important colonies of Alalia and Massalia (c. 600 BCE). The city likewise established colonies, or at the very least established substantial trade network, in southerly Spain. Notable poleis developed here were Emporion (by Massalia and with a traditional founding date of 575 BCE but more likely several decades later) and also Rhode. Swarms in Spain to be less typically Greek in society than those in other areas of the Mediterranean, competition with the Phoenicians to be fierce, and also the an ar seems always to have been considered, at the very least according come the Greek literary sources, a distant and also remote soil by mainland Greeks.

The black Sea

The black Sea (Euxine Sea come the Greeks) to be the critical area that Greek colonial expansion, and it was whereby Ionian poleis, in particular, search to exploit the well-off fishing grounds and also fertile land roughly the Hellespont and Pontos. The most essential founding city to be Miletos which was credited in classical times with having actually a possibly exaggerated 70 colonies. The most vital of these were:

Kyzikos (founded 675 BCE)Sinope (c. 631 BCE)Pantikapaion (c. 600 BCE)Olbia (c. 550 BCE)

Megara was another important mom city and founded Chalcedon (c. 685 BCE), byzantium (668 BCE), and also Herakleia Pontike (560 BCE). Eventually, nearly the entire Black Sea was enclosed by Greek colonies even if, together elsewhere, warfare, compromises, inter-marriages, and diplomacy had actually to be supplied with aboriginal peoples in order to ensure the colonies" survival. In the late sixth century BCE particularly, the colonies listed tribute and arms to the Persian Empire and received protection in return. After ~ Xerxes" failed invasion of greece in 480 and 479 BCE, the Persians withdrew their attention in the area which permitted the larger poleis choose Herakleia Pontike and Sinope to increase their own power with the conquest of neighborhood populations and smaller adjoining poleis. The resulting prosperity also permitted Herakleia come found nests of her very own in the 420s BCE at together sites as Chersonesos in the Crimea.

From the beginning of the Peloponnesian war in 431 BCE, Athens took an interest in the region, sending colonists and establishing garrisons. An Athenian physical visibility was short-lived, yet longer-lasting was an Athenian affect on society (especially sculpture) and also trade (especially of black Sea grain). With the ultimate withdrawal of Athens, the Greek colonies were left to fend for themselves and meet alone the hazard from neighbouring powers such as the royal Scythians and, ultimately, Macedon and also Philip II.


Relationship v the Homeland

Most nests were developed on the political design of the Greek polis, but species of government consisted of those seen throughout Greece chin - oligarchy, tyranny, and even democracy - and also they could be quite various from the system in the founder, parental city. A strong Greek cultural identity was likewise maintained via the adoption of establishing myths and also such wide-spread and quintessentially Greek functions of daily life as language, food, education, religion, sport and the gymnasium, theatre with its distinctive Greek tragedy and also comedy plays, art, architecture, philosophy, and also science. So much so that a Greek city in Italy or Ionia could, at least on the surface, look and also behave an extremely much like any type of other city in Greece. Profession greatly facilitated the facility of a usual "Greek" method of life. Such goods as wine, olives, wood, and pottery to be exported and also imported in between poleis. Even artists and architects us relocated and collection up workshops far from their home polis, so that temples, sculpture, and ceramics came to be recognisably Greek across the Mediterranean.

Colonies did create their own regional identities, of course, particularly as they really often contained indigenous world with their own certain customs, so that each region of swarms had their own idiosyncrasies and variations. In addition, frequent alters in the qualifications to become a citizen and also forced resettlement of populations meant nests were often much more culturally diverse and also politically rough than in greece itself and also civil battles thus had a greater frequency. Nevertheless, some colonies did extremely well, and many eventually outdid the founding Greek superpowers.


Colonies often formed partnerships with like-minded adjoining poleis. Over there were, conversely, also conflicts in between colonies as they created themselves as powerful and fully independent poleis, in no method controlled through their establishing city-state. Syracuse in Sicily was a common example the a larger polis which constantly search to broaden its territory and also create realm of the own. Nests which go on to consequently establish colonies of your own and who minted their own coinage just reinforced their cultural and politics independence.

Although swarms could be fiercely independent, they to be at the same time intended to be active members of the more comprehensive Greek world. This could be materialized in the supply of soldiers, ships, and also money because that Panhellenic conflicts such together those versus Persia and the Peloponnesian War, the sending out of athletes come the good sporting gamings at places like Olympia and also Nemea, the setting up of army victory monuments at Delphi, the guarantee of safe passage to international travellers with their territory, or the export and also import of intellectual and artistic concepts such as the functions of Pythagoras or centres of study favor Plato"s academy which attracted scholar from throughout the Greek world. Then, in time of trouble, colonies could also be helped out by their founding polis and allies, even if this could only it is in a pretext for the imperial ambitions of the bigger Greek states. A classic example of this would certainly be Athens" Sicilian exploration in 415 BCE, officially at least, launched to aid the colony of Segesta.


There was likewise the physical motion of visitors within the Greek civilization which is attested by proof such as literature and drama, dedications left by pilgrims at spiritual sites choose Epidaurus, and participation in necessary annual religious festivals such as the Dionysia of Athens.

Different colonies had obviously various characteristics, but the cumulative effect the these actions just mentioned properly ensured the a huge area the the Mediterranean acquired sufficient common characteristics to it is in aptly defined as the Greek World. Further, the result was long-lasting for, even today, one deserve to still view common aspects of society shared by the citizens of southerly France, Italy, and also Greece.

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Mark is a background writer based in Italy. His distinct interests encompass pottery, architecture, human being mythology and discovering the principles that all people share in common. He holds an MA in political Philosophy and is the publishing Director in ~ WHE.