Greece’s Early Civilizations
Minoan Civilization
• Minoans civilization was the first to develop in
the Aegean Sea region
– they were not Greeks
– lasted from c. 2500 BCE – c. 1450 BCE
– trade was an important economic activity
– civilization collapsed c. 1450 BCE
• Theories: earthquakes caused tsunamis; Mycenaean's
from the Greek mainland invaded Crete
• c. 2000 BCE – left Asia moved to Greece and
set up several kingdoms
• Mycenaean Kingdom: palace for king on a hill
surrounded by thick stone walls; palaces were
centers of government
• c. 1450 BCE the Mycenaeans conquered the
Minoans and controlled the area
– expanded their military strength; successful during
the Trojan War
Dark Age
• Mycenaean civilization declined over time
– kingdoms fought one another
– earthquakes destroyed palace fortresses
– c. 1100 BCE the Mycenaean civilization had crumbled
• Greek-speaking people known as the Dorians
invaded the Greek mainland from the north and
took control of the region
– thousands fled the mainland and ended up on the
Aegean islands and western Anatolia
• By 750 BCE many descendants of those who
ran away returned bringing new ideas, crafts,
and skills
• Farmers grew more than they needed; surplus
food was traded; a need for writing developed
• Greek alphabet had 24 letters; record keeping
became easier; people wrote down stories
Colonies and Trade
• By 700 BCE farmers couldn’t produce enough
food for the growing population
• To solve this problem, communities began to
send people outside the region to establish
• Greek culture spread into new areas
• Greeks began to make coins, affecting trade
– trade expanded because merchants traded money
for goods rather than barter
Greek City-State
• Mountains and seas separated Greek
communities from each other
• Communities became fiercely independent
• Across Greece, nobles ruled numerous citystates
• Like Mesopotamia, the Greek city-state was
made up of a town and the surrounding area
• Each city-state or polis was like an
independent country
• Polis was the basic political unit of Greek
– at the center was a fort built on a hilltop
– the hilltop was called an acropolis
– outside the acropolis was an open area called an
– the agora was a marketplace where people could:
• gather and debate issues; choose officials; pass laws and
carry out business
• neighborhoods surrounded the agora; beyond the city
were villages and farmland (all a part of the polis
Greek Citizenship
• We owe many of our ideas about citizenship to
the ancient Greeks
• Greek citizens were members of a political
community with rights and responsibilities
• Male citizens had:
– the right to vote, hold public office, own property,
and defend themselves in court
• Male citizens had the responsibility to:
– serve in government and fight for their polis as
citizen soldiers
Greek Citizenship cont.
• In most Greek city-states only free, landowning men born in the polis could be citizens
• They believed the responsibility to run the
city-state was theirs because the polis was
made up of their property
• Women and children might qualify for
citizenship, but they had none of the rights
Citizen Soldiers
• Wars were fought by wealthy nobles riding horses
and driving chariots
• Additionally, citizens called hoplites made up the
city-state armies – hoplites fought on foot
• The success of the hoplites came from their pride
in fighting as brave warriors
• Polis gave Greek citizens a sense of belonging
• Strong loyalty to their own city-state divided the
Greeks – they were not unified as a whole country
• This lack of unity weakened Greece, making it
easier to conquer

Greece*s Early Civilizations