The Land of Ancient Greece

View of the Sanctuary of Pythian
Apollo at Delphi (198k)
Photo courtesy of D. White

Greece is the southeasternmost region on the European continent. It is defined by a series of mountains, surrounded on all sides except the north by water, and endowed with countless large and small islands. The Ionian and Aegean seas and the many deep bays and natural harbors along the coastlines allowed the Greeks to prosper in maritime commerce and to develop a culture which drew inspiration from many sources, both foreign and indigenous. The Greek world eventually spread far beyond Greece itself, encompassing many settlements around the Mediterranean and Black seas and, during the Hellenistic period, reaching as far east as India. Map

The mountains, which served as natural barriers and boundaries, dictated the political character of Greece. From early times the Greeks lived in independent communities isolated from one another by the landscape. Later these communities were organized into poleis or city-states. The mountains prevented large-scale farming and impelled the Greeks to look beyond their borders to new lands where fertile soil was more abundant. Natural resources of gold and silver were available in the mountains of Thrace in northern Greece and on the island of Siphnos, while silver was mined from Laurion in Attica. Supplies of iron ores were also available on the mainland and in the Aegean islands.

The Mediterranean Sea moderates Greece´s climate, cooling the air in summer and providing warmth in the winter months. Summers are generally hot and dry. Winters are moderate and rainy in coastal regions and cold and snowy in mountainous areas.

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