Essay: How Did Geography Shape Greek History?

Greece is known to be the cradle of Western Civilization inasmuch as the cultural, political, economic and social roots of the UK, the USA, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, etc. are found in Ancient Greece.

Every well-educated person who lives in Europe, the USA, Canada and Australia knows about the greatest Greek philosophers and poets whereas they established the background for the development of the entire European Culture. Therefore, everyone should know at least something about the history of Ancient Greece and its contribution into Western Civilization. Why was Ancient Greece so successful? What factors influenced its cultural, philosophical, political and economic growth?

Without question, geography is supposed to be the most influential factor of the original development of Greece. Why is geography important? When you pay attention to the culture and worldview of different nations, you will notice that their values, lifestyle and traditions are determined by their geographical position. For instance, look at such northern countries as Norway, the UK, Sweden, Germany and Russia. These nations have always lived in severe climate conditions.

They know everything about snowy cold winters and short mild summers. Needless to say but such people are trained to survive in dramatic climatic challenges. They are perfect hunters and sailors. As might be expected, their climate influenced their culture, worldview, traditions and art. When you read a German or Swedish poem, you will notice numerous pessimistic and existential elements that emphasize the complicated conditions of life of both nations. Ancient Greeks had completely different climatic conditions. Their country is located in the south of Europe. The climate is supposed to be perfect for life. Greeks do not have cold winters and they are able to enjoy warm weather all the year round. This climate is perfect for such crops as olives and grapes. No wonder, Ancient Greece are associated with the culture of wine. Those people did not have to struggle for their survival. They have always had plenty of food. Hereupon, their character and worldview was completely different. They were sociable, amiable and temperamental. They were satisfied with their life and developed literature, art and philosophy in comparison with the ‘wild northern barbarians’ whose major craft was war.

Greece is known to be divided into separate regions by its mountains. Apparently, people settled down along the banks of rivers and fertile valleys. The mountains influenced political and economic life of the country considerably. On the one hand, the mountains played the role of the natural shield or wall. Nearly every settlement was surrounded by the high hills. These hills helped defend from various enemies. On the other hand, these mountains prevented the holistic development of the single united country. Different cities could not cooperate in the natural way as long as they were separated by the hills. For that reason, Ancient Greece is characterized with its specific political structure. The entire country consisted of the city-states. Every city was like a separate kingdom with its own economy, army and interests. What is more, the mountains made overland trade practically impossible. Hereof, the country traded with other Mediterranean countries by sea.

The sea is another important geographical factor that influenced the development of Ancient Greece.

Nearly every city had the direct access towards the sea; therefore, marine trade was quite solid at that time. No wonder, Greeks were known as the best merchants of the ancient period. Being the best sailors and merchants, Greeks influenced other Mediterranean countries and borrowed numerous elements from other countries. Moreover, the proximity of the sea made fish one of the most notable food products. When you pay attention to the Greek cuisine, you will see that nearly every traditional dish contains seafood.

It is hard to say whether the Greek geographical position was favorable for its agriculture. Because of numerous hills and mountains, there is no place for intensive agriculture. People had to go to the internal regions of the country in order to grow crops. The most widespread and common crops were olives and grapes. Grapes are paramount for the Greek Culture inasmuch as these people enjoyed wine. This drink was very important at that time and people consumed it several times a day.

Ultimately, geography shaped Greek history in different ways. The most notable factors are the mountains, the sea and warm climate that enabled ancient people to grow figs, olives and grapes. This geographical position helped Greece become one of the most influential Mediterranean countries more than 2000 years ago.

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