How did Greece's geography impact social, political, and economic patterns?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In thinking about the impact of geography on Greek life, we must think about three aspects of that geography. The three most important aspects of Greek geography were the mountains that split Greece into a number of relatively small regions, the Mediterranean climate, and the fact that almost all of Greece was near to the sea.  Let us look at how these three aspects of Greek geography impacted Greek social, economic, and political patterns.

The mountains had an impact on Greek politics and economics.  The mountains separated the various regions of Greece and prevented them from forming large polities. Therefore, the basic unit of Greek politics was the city-state.  This was one of the most important facts about Greek political life. The mountains also affected Greek economics.  They made it so that it was very difficult for any overland trade to occur.  This helped to shape the Greek economy.

The proximity of the sea also shaped the Greek economy. Because the sea was so easily accessible and because overland trade was difficult, the Greek economy came to be based on maritime trade.  This also affected the Greek politics and society because it allowed Greece to contact people around the Mediterranean.  These contacts made it so that Greek culture was made up of a variety of influences from around the Mediterranean.  It also allowed the Greeks to spread out, creating colonies around the region.

Finally, the climate had an impact on Greek economics and politics.  The climate was good for growing a variety of crops such as olives and grapes. This gave the Greeks crops that they could trade with people from other regions.  The climate also made it pleasant for Greek people to mingle with one another outdoors.  This is credited with helping the Greek city-states create democratic political systems.

In these ways, Greece’s mountains, climate, and proximity to the sea had important impacts on its social, economic, and political patterns.

thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first important element of Greece's geography is location, including its Mediterranean climate. This means cool, wet, but mild winters, with average temperatures above freezing, and warm dry summers. This climate is well-suited for agriculture. Greece is especially hospitable to grapes, with wine making being well established in antiquity, and olives, with olive oil being another major export, as well as barley and other fruits and vegetables. Goats, chickens, pigs, and sheep thrived in Greece and were used for milk and cheese as well as meat. High quality marble and clay are readily available and form the materials for two areas in which Greece achieved artistic prominence, pottery and sculpture. These relatively accessible natural resources allowed the Greeks to produce a food surplus and develop an advanced civilization.

Greece is extremely mountainous and surrounded by the sea. To get from one Greek city to the next, it was often faster and safer to travel by sea rather than by land. This had two effects. First, it led to "Greece" being a conglomeration of independent city-states rather than a unified nation. Second, many city-states looked to the sea not only for food but trade and colonization.