Greece was the birt ce of Western Civilization because its culture became the embodiment for the other western civilizations. The tale of the ancient Greek civilization showed an immense painful history of foreign supremacy. But their civilization was built on solid foundation and led by powerful leaders that created values, norms and customs that are still being practiced and observed by many modern societies. This is the reason why the Greek civilization continued to flourish, remembered, celebrated throughout the entire world.
One of the factors that can be considered as an important part of the Greek civilization development is the geography. The geography of Greece had a very overwhelming impact on every aspect like its political, cultural, economic and social growth. The geographical features of ancient Greece contributed to both its development and destruction. When thinking about the impact of geography on Greek life, there are three aspects of that geography that must be considered.
The three most important aspects of Greek geography were the mountains that split Greece into a number of relatively small regions, the Mediterranean climate, and the fact that most part of Greece was near to the sea. A close peek at how these three aspects of the geography impacted Greek social, economic, and political patterns. Ancient Greece consisted of hundreds of small islands and mainland regions that covered across the Aegean, Mediterranean and lonian seas. As the climate during the ancient times was arid and difficult to work with, whereas the coastal climate was mild, many communities formed and shaped the coastal regions.
Due to Greece’s land being rocky, most of the cities were scattered and became provincial. Ancient Greece can be found at the tip of Balcan peninsula in Southwestern Europe. It is basically surrounded by three seas: in the south is the Mediterranean Sea; lonian Sea in the west; and the Aegean Sea in the east. The Corint Gulf is the connection between the separate region of the Peloponnesus, which is the southern tip of Greece, and Africa. The Greek mainland is a peninsula which extends into the Mediterranean Sea. The core of ancient Greece is consisted of mountainous and rocky lands.
The Pindus Mountain, runs down the Middle of the Balkan Peninsula and is considered as the dominant range. Greece is a tactical location for empire building because it served as the crossroads between three different locations of the world, namely, Africa, Asia and Europe. Three geographical features that affected Greece the most included the climate, the mountains and the seas. Ancient Greece’s climate is temperate, making it comfortable to the people to be outside of their homes almost every year. This allowed them to engage in outdoor life within their city-states.
They were able to interact with each other which enabled them to organize outdoor activities such as athletic competitions, public gatherings, entertainment and art shows, and meetings, which facilitate to the development of a rich and distinct Greek culture. 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. The second geographical feature is the mountains. Greece is a mountainous society. Almost 70 to 80 percent of Greece is covered and dominated with mountains. The advantage of the mountains is that they contributed to the preservation of the purity of Greek culture. Because of the mountains, inhabitants of ancient Greek civilization were secluded to their area resulting to rare interactions with other cultures.
One bad effect of this geographical feature is that it served as a natural barrier which acted like walls separating different communities. It hindered communication among communities and slowed down the introduction of new ideas and technology. It also obstructed the development of a unified system of government. The Greeks ingenious solution to this problem is to developed the polis or the city-state. The creation of the city-states indicates the start of Greek’s classical age because the emergence of the polis started the numerous great achievements of the civilization.
It also proved that democratic government works better in smaller states. Every polis has its own government and laws and it helped promote people’s participation in political affairs. It also provided protection and security to the inhabitants. Because states are smaller, the demands and needs of the people were easily reflected in the laws and policies that the government established. Another disadvantage of this geographical feature is that only few lands were dedicated to farming. Few small valleys and plains of ancient Greece provided farm land for the people.
Adding to the disadvantage is the rocky lands and poor soil which are not suitable for the domestication of plants. Although they experienced such disadvantages in farming, they still tried to cultivate olives and grapes. They also domesticated sheep and cattle as an alternative to farming. The development of the polis also helped in their dilemma because it allowed them to supply enough food for the smaller population. The mountains had an impact on Greek politics and economics. The mountains separated the various regions of Greece and prevented them from forming large polities.
Therefore, the basic unit of Greek politics was the city-state. This was one of the most important facts about Greek political life. The mountains also affected Greek economics. They made it so that it was very difficult for any overland trade to occur. This helped to shape the Greek economy. The last and probably the most important geographical feature is the sea. Having been surrounded by three major bodies of water served as an advantage because it allowed early Greeks to travel and trade.
The nearness of Greece to major trade routes allowed the prosperity in maritime commerce. The sea also made the people became fishers, sailors and merchants. They excelled in ship buildings and voyaging because of their knowledge about seas around them. In the Greco-Persian wars, the Greeks used the seas to their advantage. They build smaller more efficient ships to pass through narrow routes and they exhibited their skills as naval armies. Also, the seas allowed the Greeks to depend heavily on trade. The Greeks get what they could not grow through trading.
The exchanged olive oil, wine, wool and pottery with grains and other natural resources, which had a limited supply during that time. Because of their proximity to the seas, fish became the Greeks’ staple food. Moreover, trade encouraged cultural diffusion. It enabled the exchange of ideas with other culture and the spread of Hellenistic culture. It also encouraged them to have further knowledge about different existing civilizations at that time. The Aegean Sea is actually divided into three parts, north central and south.
In the old days, the Greek seamen gave the different parts of the Aegean Sea different names. The Ionian Sea stretches between the west coast of Greece and the coast of Southern Italy. The lonian Sea has some of the deepest waters of the Mediterranean and in some parts, can reach a depth of 5,000 meters. The seas around Greece cut in and out of the shoreline creating an interesting lacework coastline with many large and small peninsulas, gulfs and caves. Because of this geographical morphology, Greece has the longest coastline in the Mediterranean.
The proximity of the sea also shaped the Greek economy. Because the sea was so easily accessible and because overland trade was difficult, the Greek economy came to be based on maritime trade. This also affected the Greek politics and society because it allowed Greece to contact people around the Mediterranean. These contacts made it so that Greek culture was made up of a variety of influences from around the Mediterranean. It also allowed the Greeks to spread out, creating colonies around the region.
To sum it all up, the mountains of Greece limited the civilization’s agricultural progress and political unity. But, instead of being a disadvantage, the limitations provided ancient Greece with a stronger and well-developed communities. Adding to that are the seas that connect Greece with each other and the whole world. The seas provided Greeks with wider perspectives about other cultures and encouraged them to find ways on how to properly utilize their limited resources. It just affirms that geography, in one way or another, shaped and affected the ancient Greek civilization.