Greek Colonisation

Essay by JakeThaSnakeUniversity, Master'sA-, May 2004

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Beginning towards the middle of the 8th century and ending in the middle of the 6th century BC was the colonisation of the Mediterranean and Black Sea areas by the ancient Greeks. The reasons for this colonisation include: overpopulation and land hunger caused by a shortage of fertile land; trade; political problems such as dissidents, aggrieved peasants and inequity; personal reasons such as banishment or fall from favour; and the spirit of adventure classically associated with Greek culture. Sources for this period include: archaeological evidence, for example coins, pottery and buildings; and literary evidence, for example inscriptions and published writings. Traditional accounts of this period are unreliable since story tellers tended to emphasise mythical characters such as Gods and the Fates, and the importance of individual heroes. The results of Greek colonisation during this period can still be seen today by the widespread presence of Greek culture around the Mediterranean and Black Sea areas.

What we call today mainland Greece, is a mountainous peninsula with few large fertile plains. The many fertile coastal plains are small and incapable of supporting a booming population. As the Greeks grew in number their primarily agricultural communities became too great in size to live off such limited food producing areas. The best land was owned by the nobles and so ordinary people were scraping a living out of rocky and sometimes almost vertical surfaces. Fathers left their land to all of their sons, not just to the eldest, and eventually the plots of land some families lived off of were far to small to feed them. It was because of stonochoria, lack of land, that the cities of Megara, Achaea and Thera began to colonise. The Ionians were forced to colonise because expansion was limited for them by the Persian Empire. Sparta conquered...