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

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Greece's geography impacted social, political, and economic patterns in a variety of ways, such as that its mountains prevented complete unification, led to the establishment of the city states near the sea, led to a reliance on naval powers, hindered overland trade, and encouraged maritime trade around the Mediterranean, which led to the influence of other Mediterranean cultures on Greek society.

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The country now called Greece consists of an arid, mountainous section of the mainland of South-Eastern Europe, surrounded by a great many islands. Most of them are small, but one in particular, Crete, is both large and of great historical significance.

The mountains in the center of Greece had several effects on its development. They prevented Ancient Greece from ever becoming fully unified, despite the efforts of Mycenaean, Athenian, Spartan, and Macedonian rulers to build empires. They also prevented many Greeks from living far inland, ensuring that the Greek city states were close to the sea and that their prosperity and power depended primarily on their navies.

Finally, the relatively poor soil and scarce resources of Greece, together with the lack of unity among the states, meant that that Greek civilizations never became spectacularly wealthy, like Persia, Lydia, and later Rome. When we think of Greek civilization, we tend to consider Athens first, and the fame of Athens rests not on conquest or commerce but on the intellectual achievements of philosophers and writers, together with the foundations of democracy and political institutions, and the arts of sculpture and architecture.

In his landmark documentary series and book Civilization, Lord Clark points out that while surplus wealth is clearly necessary for a society to reach the peaks of artistic and intellectual achievement, immense wealth has seldom been particularly helpful and has often been destructive of advanced civilization. The arid climate, mountainous terrain, poor soil, and lack of natural resources in Greece, therefore, may have been beneficial in the development of civilization.

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Greece is a modern entity. What we call Ancient Greece was more a culture than a polity. The Hellenes, or Greeks, had diverse origins but came to share a common culture. Minoan Greece, centered on the island of Crete, peaked in the years 2000 to 1500 BCE. The Minoans took advantage of calm, accessible seas to establish a vast trade network. They were involved in the trade of Egyptian wheat, Greek olive oil and wine, Palestinian metalwork, Anatolian textiles, and Babylonian spices. This abundance of goods created a thriving economy and society. The civilization likely declined owing to the eruption of Thera in the 1500s BCE and the ensuing destruction caused by tsunamis and flooding. The demise of Minoan civilization coincided more or less with the rise of Myceaenean civilization on the Greek mainland. This civilization thrived from about 1600 to 1000 BCE. The demise of the Myceaeneans is sometimes attributed to an invasion of the Sea Peoples. History shows that oftentimes, access to the seas turned out to be a disadvantage, rather than a benefit, for Greek civilization. Greece had to face future threats from the seas, such as at the well-known Battle of Marathon during the Persian Wars. In any case, proximity to the sea had a major impact on Ancient Greece for the duration of its history. Other geographical factors, some of which are less global, can productively be studied thanks to an abundance of scholarly online sources. The links below can help provide a good start. It is helpful to look for sites with .edu extensions, as these are affiliated with institutions of higher learning and are generally sound and scholarly.

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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.

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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, Greeceā€™s mountains, climate, and proximity to the sea had important impacts on its social, economic, and political patterns.

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How did Greece's geography influence the city-states?

Athens, Thebes, Sparta, and Corinth are some of the most well-known city-states of ancient Greece. Instead of having a centralized administration, Greece developed several powerful city-states between 800 BC and 400 BC. Greece has a mountainous terrain made up of isolated archipelagos. These islands enabled Greece to form numerous powerful city-states instead of just one. It was a defense move meant to protect the Greeks from external attacks. Most city-states had a thriving agricultural sector due to the hilly and fertile terrain of Greece. There was also plenty of water from natural springs. Another reason why city-states developed is because of the rocky terrain that didn't allow people to travel much. Overall, the history of Greece has been shaped by its terrain. Those islands led to the formation of city-states that gave Greece worldwide recognition.

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How did Greece's geography influence the city-states?

Greece's geography did not allow it to be an empire like the Persians or some of the kingdoms of the ancient Near East. Greece was divided by vast bodies of water. For example, on the main land, you had cities like Athens, Thebes, and Sparta. Across the Aegean, you had other cities that were equally impressive, such as Miletus. There were also many islands as well such as Chios, Samos, Lesbos, and many more. So, the sea itself helped the Greeks to form city states. Forming an empire would have been very difficult. 

Another important feature of the geography is the mountainous terrain. In other words, each city was separated by mountains. This natural barrier also kept the Greeks apart (and also protected them from would be invaders). So, once again the geography of the land helped the Greeks create cities instead of a unified empire. 

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How did Greece's geography and location shape the people of Ancient Greece?

Great question. Arguably the greatest factor in shaping a people is the geography and location of land. When we talk of the ancient Greeks, we need to remember three very important points about their geography and location. 

First, Greece is very mountainous. About 70% of Greece is divided by mountains. This means that cities sprouted up that were separated from each other. In this way, the history of Greece is not the story of an empire but individual cities. Just think of these individual cities, such as Athens, Sparta, Thebes and Syracuse. 

Second, Greece was always close to the sea. In fact, almost 90% of all Greek cities were 25 miles from the shore. Hence, the Mediterranean sea was not so much a hinderance but a highway for travel. This is an important point to keep in mind. 

Third, Greece lacked natural resources. So, they were forced to trade and travel. Hence, the Greeks became great seafarers. This enabled them to colonize around the Mediterranean and interact with other cultures. 

In time, the Greeks would spread. This enabled hellenism to be a powerful force. 

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How did Greece's geography influence the development of city-states, and their way of life?

The Greek city-states, most famously Athens and Sparta, developed as individual polis instead of organizing into a centralized empire like rival neighbors Persia. A large reason for this political organization is geography.

The terrain in Greece is very mountainous, which makes it notoriously difficult for a centralized government to govern. The Inca, for example, was able to do this by instituting many social and political policies designed to control the people. For Greece, it was easier to stay as individual city-states that engaged in trade and would come to each other's aid in times of crisis.

Another reason we see city-states in Greece is its location in the Mediterranean. Other civilizations at the time were set up on rivers, such as Persia on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Greek city-states did not have to worry about organizing over river systems and teaming up to work agricultural fields in the way that Persian and other centralized empires did, as each city-state had adequate access to water. Their fields were lush, they had access to fishing, and they had an adequate labor force.

As Greek city-states had these advantages, they never had to develop into a centralized empire. Over time, their cultures differed enough that a cohesive empire would have been difficult, especially after the Persian War when Athens, Sparta, and their allies developed into strong city-states with their own agendas.

Eventually, the city-state model failed when squabbling after the Peloponnesian War weakened Greek city-states to a point where Philip II and Alexander the Great conquered them and incorporated them into the Hellenistic Empire.

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How did Greece's geography influence the development of city-states, and their way of life?

This is a great question. 

First, Greece was mountainous. Mountains cover about 75% of Greece. These mountains are not particularly high but they did a good job of separating the Greeks from each other. This was, undoubtedly, a contributing factor for the vast number of Greek cities and the lack of a formation of a centralized Greek state. 

Second, what also contributed to the rise of the city states was the lack of a great river system. A glance at other ancient civilizations shows that a great river system usually leads to a unified centralized government, such as in Mesopotamia (Euphrates and Tigris rivers), Egypt (Nile river), and China (the Yellow river). 

Third, Greece was divided by a sea. And on this sea are many islands. This point, too, created more independent city states. 

Based on these points, it was only natural for Greece to have city states that were separate from each other. 

As for way of life, Greeks were traders and seafaring. This, too, makes sense, because they lacked natural resources. So, they needed to travel abroad to get what they needed. 

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