Where Were the Colonies in Ancient Greece?
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Although history often portrays Greece, particularly the Athenian city-state, as being idyllic, people often left their city-states for various reasons. Those who left had their own reasons. For instance, many escaped persecution, others left to spread the Hellenic influence further in the world. In other instances, the colonies sprang up after the inhabitants in a certain area were conquered. Either way, colonization was very much an active part of Ancient Greece. Here’s a look at some of the most notable of these colonies:
There were several Ancient Greek colonies located in what is now Italy. Referred to as Magna Graecia, settlers began to arrive from Greece around the 8th Century B.C. and with them, aspects of the Greek culture. The main regions where they settled included areas in Campania, Basilicata, Apulia, Sicily, and Calabria. Greek settlers could also be found in Croton, which was settled by the Achaeans, Sybaris, Cumae, and Neopolis, which is now modern-day Napoli.
Historians have pinpointed several reasons as to why they may have left Greece including economic problems, famine, overcrowding, and simply being expelled from the homeland. These settlers actively created new lives for themselves. Over time, so many people had settled in this part of the Western Mediterranean that these areas were considered colonies. Also as a result of this colonization, this transplanted the Greek culture from Greece to Italy, and Greek influences can be found scattered throughout Italy even today. The Greeks also had Western Mediterranean colonies outside of Magna Graecia in the areas that are now part of France and Spain.
The Ancient Greeks also maintained several colonies in Ionia, which is located in the Eastern Aegean Sea. At one time, this was also referred to as Asia Minor but is now mostly a part of modern Turkey. Like in the Western Mediterranean, colonization began here around the 8th Century B.C. Areas where there were colonies in Ionia include Ephesus, Miletos, Smyrna, and Halikarnassos. There is some debate as to which city-state first colonized here. Athens claimed they were the first, but others began settling here, as well, such as the Lydians.
Another common place where several Greek colonies could be found was in the Black Sea. Many of these colonies came about because the Greeks wanted to take advantage of their waters, which tended to produce a lot of fish. At one point, it was estimated that there were around 70 colonies, but some have criticized this number saying that it was exagerated. Colonies include Kyzikos, Pantikapaion, Olbia, Megara, Byzantium, Herakleia Pontike, and Sinope. At one point, this whole area was taken up with Greek colonies.
There was a time when Ancient Greece was so influential that the Greeks not only maintained a large number of city-states, but colonies as well. In this way, the Ancient Greek people were able to spread their culture further into the world. Although colonization from antiquity has long since passed, the Greek influence in these areas can still be felt.
Categorized in: Ancient Greek History
This post was written by Greek Boston