II. Ancient and Classical Periods, 3500 B.C.E.–500 C.E. > D. Classical Greece and the Hellenistic World
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  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
 
 
D. Classical Greece and the Hellenistic World
1. The Bronze Age, 3000–1200 B.C.E.
a. Geography
 
Greece (ancient Hellas) is the extension of the mountain ranges of the Balkan Peninsula, with the Ionian Sea to the west and the Aegean Sea to the east. In antiquity, northern Greece comprised Epirus, Amphilochia, and Acarnania in the west, and Macedonia, the Chalcidice (whose three peninsulas jutted into the Aegean Sea), and Thessaly in the east. Central Greece began at the Thermopylae Pass and contained Aetolia, Locris, and Phocis in the west; Boeotia in the center; and Attica to the east, with the large island of Euboea lying off its eastern coast. After the narrow Isthmus of Corinth lay the Peloponnese or “Island of Pelops.” It had six main regions: the Argolis, just south of the Isthmus, Achaea along the Gulf of Corinth in the north, Elis in the west, Messene in the southwest, Laconia (or Lacedaimon) along the eastern coast, and Arcadia in its mountainous center. Off the west coast of Greece lay the Ionian Islands: Corcyra (Corfu), Cephalonia, and Zacynthos. The Aegean Sea was dotted with islands: in the north Scyros, Lemnos, and Imbros (between the Hellespont and Euboea), and Thasos and Samothrace off the Thracian coast; a string of islands along the coast of Asia Minor, of which the most important were Lesbos, Chios, Samos, and Rhodes; and the Cyclades, stretching southeast from Attica and Euboea and including Melos, Delos, Paros, Naxos, and Thera. Some fifty miles southeast of the Peloponnese lay Crete, the largest of the Aegean islands and its southern boundary.  1
The climate of Greece is temperate. Rainfall sometimes exceeds forty inches per year in the west but is only about sixteen inches in the east, making drought a constant menace. It rarely freezes, and in the summer the midday heat can exceed 100° F. Only 18 percent of the land surface is arable, and over large areas of the country, the soil is thin and rocky, making the cultivation of grain difficult, though olives and grapes ripen well in the rainless summers. Ancient Greece was more heavily wooded and more fertile than today, as the country has suffered from severe deforestation and erosion of the topsoil. The mountainous terrain in Greece promoted the development of numerous small city-states. There were some large cities, but most Greeks lived in towns and big villages, walking out to their fields, rather than staying in small isolated hamlets. Since many areas had to import grain, seaborne commerce developed at an early stage. But the civilization of ancient Greece at no time depended primarily on manufacture or trade and was always basically agrarian.  2
 
 
 
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

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