Modern Greek History

City-States Make Ancient Greece Vulnerable to Attack

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Unlike Modern Greece, Ancient Greece was made up of several city-states, which ruled themselves. While they weren’t united politically, they did have some things in common such as a language, same religion, and they all considered themselves Greeks.

The fact that they identified with being Greek, despite being governed differently, shows how strong the cultural connection between the city-states really was. It is this strong connection that ultimately helped Ancient Greece win its war against the Persian Empire.

How the City-States Began

In many ways, the forming of the city-states was part of a natural progression. As the Hellenic-speaking people settled, they began to form communities. As these communities expanded, they started to organize into what we now know as city-states.

There were several reasons why the Ancient Greeks organized in this way. These include for protection, economic reasons, and so they could have their own government.   At one point, there were hundreds of city-states of varying sizes. Sparta, for example, was one of the largest city-states in Ancient Greece.

Ancient Greece Under Attack by Persia

Another thing they shared is that being grouped into city-states made them vulnerable to attack from outsiders, particularly the Persians. At the time, the Persian Empire was the largest in the world and they wanted to expand their territories. So, they attacked parts of Ancient Greece, starting with the Ionian Peninsula.

One of their major motivators for launching an attack against Greece was that the Persians saw Greece as vulnerable because it was divided. However, that thinking proved incorrect. Because the city-states were unified culturally, they formed an alliance that eventually helped them defeat the Persians.

Philip II of Macedon and Alexander the Great

Many people credit Philip II of Macedon as unifying Greece. Yes, that is the end result of what he accomplished. However, he achieved it by using brute force. As the King of Macedon, he decided that he wanted to be the sovereign ruler of all of Ancient Greece.

To achieve his goal, he attacked the individual city-states until most fell under his control.

In this case, it was Macedon, a city-state, which placed the rest of Greece under attack. So, the city-states left Greece susceptible against themselves. Once Philip was assassinated, his son, Alexander, finished what his father started. After he was done with that, he conquered neighboring kingdoms to form one of the largest empires the world has ever seen.

City-States – Vulnerable to Outsiders and Themselves

Ancient Greece had a turbulent history. When the city-states weren’t fighting each other, they were making alliances to help ward off a common enemy. For example, Sparta and Athens were the two largest city-states and were often in conflict with one another.

However, when the Persians invaded, they unified to fight this common enemy. Eventually, it was the Greek city-state of Macedon that conquered the rest of Greece. Though they feared outside influence, it was the city-states themselves who posed the biggest threat to each other.

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