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30 Maps of Ancient Greece Show How a Country Became an Empire

30 Maps of Ancient Greece Show How a Country Became an Empire



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The Mediterranean country of ancient Greece (Hellas) was composed of many individual city-states (poleis) that were not unified until the Macedonian kings Philip and Alexander the Great incorporated them into their Hellenistic empire. Hellas was centered on the western side of the Aegean Sea, with a northern section that was part of the Balkan peninsula and a southern section known as the Peloponnese. This southern part of Greece is separated from the northern landmass by the Isthmus of Corinth.

The period of Mycenean Greece ran from about 1600 to 1100 B.C. and ended with the Greek Dark Age. This is the period described in Homer's "Iliad" and "Odyssey."

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Mycenean Greece

Alexikoua/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 4.0

The northern section of Greece is best-known for the polis of Athens, the Peloponnese, and for Sparta. There were also thousands of Greek islands in the Aegean sea, and colonies on the eastern side of the Aegean. To the west, the Greeks established colonies in and near Italy. Even the Egyptian city of Alexandria was part of the Hellenistic Empire.

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Vicinity of Troy

Alexikoua/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

This map shows Troy and the surrounding area. Troy is referred to in the legend of the Trojan War of Greece. Later, it became Anatolia, Turkey. Knossos was famous for the Minoan labyrinth.

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Ephesus Map

Marsyas after User:Sting/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 4.0

On this map of ancient Greece, Ephesus is a city on the east side of the Aegean Sea. This ancient Greek city was on the coast of Ionia, close to present-day Turkey. Ephesus was created in the 10th century B.C. by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists.

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Greece 700-600 B.C.

The Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd, 1923. University of Texas Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

This map displays the beginnings of historic Greece 700 B.C.-600 B.C. This was the period of Solon and Draco in Athens. The philosopher Thales and the poet Sappho were active during this time as well. You can see areas occupied by tribes, cities, states, and more on this map.

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Greek and Phoenician Settlements

Javierfv1212 (talk)/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Greek and Phoenician settlements in the Mediterranean Basin are displayed in this map, about 550 B.C. During this period, the Phoenicians were colonizing northern Africa, southern Spain, the Greeks, and southern Italy. Ancient Greeks and Phoenicians colonized many places in Europe along the coasts of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

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Black Sea

Thrasis/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0Owner

This map shows the Black Sea. Towards the North is Chersonese, while Thrace is to the West, and Colchis is to the East.

Black Sea Map Details

The Black Sea is to the east of most of Greece. It is also basically to the north of Greece. At the tip of Greece on this map, near the southeastern shore of the Black Sea, you can see Byzantium, or Constantinople, after Emperor Constantine set up his city there. Colchis, where the mythological Argonauts went to fetch the Golden Fleece and where the witch Medea was born, is along the Black Sea on its eastern side. Almost directly across from Colchis is Tomi, where the Roman poet Ovid lived after he was exiled from Rome under Emperor Augustus.

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Persian Empire Map

DHUSMA/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

This map of the Persian Empire shows the direction of Xenophon and the 10,000. Also known as the Achaemenid Empire, the Persian Empire was the largest empire ever to be established. The Xenophon of Athens was a Greek philosopher, historian, and soldier who authored many practical treatises on topics like horsemanship and taxation.

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Greece 500-479 B.C.

User:Bibi Saint-Pol/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0, 2.5

This map shows Greece at the time of the war with Persia in 500-479 B.C. Persia attacked Greece in what is known as the Persian Wars. It was as a result of the devastation by the Persians of Athens that the great building projects were started under Pericles.

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Eastern Aegean

User:Megistias/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.5

This map shows the coast of Asia Minor and islands, including Lesbos. Ancient Aegean civilizations include the European Bronze Age time period.

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Athenian Empire

Internet Archive Book Images/Wikimedia Commons/CCY BY CC0

The Athenian Empire, also known as the Delian League, is shown here at its height (about 450 B.C.). The fifth century B.C. was the time of Aspasia, Euripides, Herodotus, the Presocratics, Protagoras, Pythagoras, Sophocles, and Xenophanes, among others.

Mt. Ida was sacred to Rhea and held the cave in which she put her son Zeus so he could grow up in safety away from his children-eating father Kronos. Coincidentally, perhaps, Rhea was associated with the Phrygian goddess Cybele, who also had a Mt. Ida sacred to her in Anatolia.

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Thermopylae

The Department of History, United States Military Academy/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

This map shows the battle of Thermopylae. Persians, under Xerxes, invaded Greece. In August 480 B.C., they attacked the Greeks at the two-meter wide pass at Thermopylae that controlled the only road between Thessaly and Central Greece. The Spartan general and King Leonidas were in charge of the Greek forces that tried to restrain the vast Persian army and keep them from attacking the rear of the Greek navy. After two days, a traitor led the Persians around the pass behind the Greek army.

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Peloponnesian War

Translator was Kenmayer/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 1.0

This map shows Greece during the Peloponnesian War (431 B.C.). The war between the allies of Sparta and the allies of Athens began what was known as the Peloponnesian War. The lower area of Greece, the Peloponnese, was made up of poleis allied with Sparta, except for Achaea and Argos. The Delian Confederacy, the allies of Athens, are spread around the borders of the Aegean Sea. There were many causes of the Peloponnesian War.

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Greece in 362 B.C.

Megistias/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Greece under Theban Headship (362 B.C.) is shown in this map. The Theban hegemony over Greece lasted from 371 when the Spartans were defeated at the Battle of Leuctra. In 362, Athens took over again.

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Macedonia 336-323 B.C.

MaryroseB54/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 4.0

The Macedonian Empire of 336-323 B.C. is shown here. After the Peloponnesian War, the Greek poleis (city-states) were too weak to withstand the Macedonians under Philip and his son, Alexander the Great. Annexing Greece, the Macedonians then went on to conquer most of the world they knew.

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Map of Macedonia, Dacia, Thrace, and Moesia

Gustav Droysen (1838 - 1908)/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

This map of Macedonia includes Thrace, Dacia, and Moesia. The Dacians occupied Dacia, a region north of the Danube later known as Romania. They were an Indo-European group of people related to the Thracians. The Thracians of the same group inhabited Thrace, a historical area in southeast Europe now consisting of Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey. This ancient region and Roman province in the Balkans was known as Moesia. Located along the south bank of the Daube River, it later became central Serbia.

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Macedonian Expansion

User:Megistias/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.5

This map shows how the Macedonian Empire expanded throughout the region.

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The Path of Alexander the Great in Europe, Asia, and Africa

Generic Mapping Tools/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

Alexander the Great died in 323 B.C. This map displays the empire from Macedonia in Europe, the Indus River, Syria, and Egypt. Displaying the boundaries of the Persian Empire, the path of Alexander shows his route on the mission to get Egypt and more.

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Kingdoms of the Diadochi

History of Persia/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 4.0

The Diadochi were important rival successors of Alexander the Great, his Macedonian friends and generals. They split up the empire Alexander had conquered among themselves. The major divisions were the sections taken by Ptolemy in Egypt, the Seleucids who acquired Asia, and the Antigonids who controlled Macedonia.

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Reference Map of Asia Minor

Raymond Palmer/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

This reference map displays Asia Minor under the Greeks and Romans. The map shows the boundaries of districts in Roman times.

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Northern Greece

User:Megistias/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

This Northern Greece map displays the districts, cities, and waterways amongst the Grecian peninsula of northern, central, and southern Greece. Ancient districts included Thessaly through the Vale of Tempe and Epirus along the Ionian Sea.

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Southern Greece

Original: Map_greek_sanctuaries-en.svg by Marsyas, Derivative work: MinisterForBadTimes (talk)/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.5

This reference map of ancient Greece includes the southern part of the empire.

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Map of Athens

Singinglemon/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

In the Bronze Age, Athens and Sparta rose as powerful regional cultures. Athens has mountains around it, including Aigaleo (west), Parnes (north), Pentelikon (northeast), and Hymettus (east).

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Map of Syracuse

Augusta 89/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 4.0

Corinthian immigrants, led by Archias, founded Syracuse before the end of the eighth century B.C. Syracuse was on the southeastern cape and the southern part of the east coast of Sicily. It was the most powerful of the Greek cities in Sicily.

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Mycenae

User:Alexikoua, User:Panthera tigris tigris, TL User:Reedside/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

The last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece, Mycenae, represented the first civilization in Greece that included states, art, writing, and additional studies. Between 1600 and 1100 B.C, Mycenaean civilization contributed innovations to engineering, architecture, the military, and more.

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Delphi

Map_Macedonia_336_BC-es.svg: Marsyas (French original); Kordas (Spanish translation), derivative work: MinisterForBadTimes (talk)/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.5

An ancient sanctuary, Delphi is a town in Greece that includes the Oracle where key decisions in the ancient classical world were made. Known as "the navel of the world," the Greeks used the Oracle as a place of worship, consulting, and influence throughout the Greek world.

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Plan of the Acropolis Over Time

Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

The Acropolis was a fortified citadel from prehistoric times. After the Persian Wars, it was rebuilt to become a precinct sacred to Athena.

Prehistoric Wall

The prehistoric wall around the Acropolis of Athens followed the contours of the rock and was referred to as the Pelargikon. The name Pelargikon was also applied to the Nine Gates on the west end of the Acropolis wall. Pisistratus and sons used the Acropolis as their citadel. When the wall was destroyed, it was not replaced, but sections probably survived into Roman times and remnants remain.

Greek Theater

The map shows, to the southeast, the most famous Greek theater, the Theatre of Dionysus, the site of which was in use until late Roman times from the 6th century B.C., when it was used as an orchestra. The first permanent theater was erected at the start of the 5th century B.C., following an accidental collapse of the spectators' wooden benches.

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Tiryns

Goodspeed, George Stephen, 1860-1905/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

In ancient times, Tiryns was located between Nafplion and Argos of eastern Peloponnese. It became of large importance as a destination for culture in the 13th century B.C. The Acropolis was known as a strong example of architecture due to its structure, but it was ultimately destroyed in an earthquake. Regardless, it was a place of worship for Greek Gods like Hera, ​Athena, and Hercules.

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Thebes on Map of Greece in the Peloponnesian War

Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

Thebes was the main city in the area of Greece called Boeotia. Greek mythology says it was destroyed by the Epigoni before the Trojan War, but then it recovered by the 6th century B.C.

Role in the Main Wars

Thebes doesn't appear in the lists of Greek ships and cities sending troops to Troy. During the Persian War, it supported Persia. During the Peloponnesian War, it supported Sparta against Athens. After the Peloponnesian War, Thebes became the most powerful city temporarily.

It allied itself (including the Sacred Band) with Athens to fight the Macedonians at Chaeronea, which the Greeks lost, in 338. When Thebes revolted against Macedonian rule under Alexander the Great, the city was punished. Thebes was destroyed, although Alexander spared the house that had been Pindar's, according to ​Theban Stories.

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Map of Ancient Greece

Ningyou/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Note that you can see Byzantium (Constantinople) on this map. It's in the east, by the Hellespont.

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Aulis

Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Aulis was a port town in Boeotia that was used en route to Asia. Now known as the modern Avlida, the Greeks often got together in this area to set sail to Troy and bring back Helen.

Sources

Butler, Samuel. "The Atlas of Ancient and Classical Geography." Ernest Rhys (Editor), Kindle Edition, Amazon Digital Services LLC, March 30, 2011.

"Historical Maps." Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, The University of Texas at Austin, 2019.

Howatson, M. C. "The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature." 3rd Edition, Kindle Edition, OUP Oxford, August 22, 2013.

Pausanias. "The Attica of Pausanias." Paperback, University of California Libraries, January 1, 1907.

Vanderspoel, J. "The Roman Empire at its Greatest Extent." Department of Greek, Latin and Ancient History, University of Calgary, March 31, 1997.