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What caused difficulties in uniting ancient Greeks under one government?

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This is an interesting question, but in asking it, you would need to answer a second question: when you speak of Greece, do you mean the Greek-speaking world, or do you mean the modern-day country of Greece? It's an important distinction when you consider the importance of colonization in Greek history. The Greeks, when faced with the limitations and challenges of their geography, expanded outward and set up colonies throughout the ancient world. From that perspective, uniting the Greeks would have been even harder than we even believe it was, because the challenges go beyond conquering a mountainous peninsula; they include expanding beyond that, across the Mediterranean and its corresponding seas.

Previous Educators have already mentioned the topography of Greece. The mountainous terrain and poor soil contributed greatly to the government's difficulties; they placed severe limitations on population size and would have provided a severe challenge to expansion. However, when asking your question, you should not forget the example of the Athenian Empire. After the Persian Wars, the Athenians created the Delian League, and, later, the Athenian Empire, which drew together city-states and colonies on the mainland, across the Aegean Sea, into Thrace, and even along the coast of Asia Minor. Similarly, you can note the history of Sparta, who attained regional hegemony in the Peloponnese. Neither controlled all of Greece, but each wielded considerable power within it.

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At the height of their influence in the ancient world, Greek culture was organized around the "city-state." Certainly geographic influences would have shaped that development, each area being mostly a self-contained economic and political unit; the concept of a direct democracy kept the "politics" (literally, the affairs of the polis, or city) local.  There was no need for any kind of overarching government; that would have been geographically and politically impossible, and would have been antithetical to democratic principles.  Perhaps the reason Greece never became an Empire until the time of Alexander the Great boils down to the fact of its geography.  These city-states upon which Greece was organized warred between themselves, the most salient conflict being between Athens and Sparta. Only when the whole of Hellenistic culture became threatened by Persia did they unite to fight, and that union eventually led to a brief Empire-like government until all of Greece became Roman.

First Ancient History, Oxford University Press, 2000, chapters 12 & 13.

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I would say that the main obstacle to political unification in ancient Greece was geographical.

Greece is a very rugged country.  There are chains of mountains that divide the land up into isolated valleys and plains.  Greece also has lots of island, many of which are similarly mountainous.

This topography meant that the form of government that naturally sprang up was that of the polis, or city state.  City states were walled off by nature from other city states.  The topography made it hard for any one area to try to control any other.

So, topography and geography made it difficult to unify ancient Greece because it divided up the land and encouraged the development of fiercely independent city states.

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What was the cause of the difficulty in uniting Ancient Greece?    

Geography always plays a very important role in how humans organize their culture.  This was certainly the case with the Ancient Greeks as geography made it nearly impossible for the early Greeks to unify under a single government. The landscape of Greece is very rugged and mountainous and travel between different areas of the peninsula was very difficult in ancient times.  As a result, regionalism was the reality of those living on the mountainous peninsula.  Each region developed into an independent city-state with elements of government that were unique.  Some city-states, like Athens, evolved into governments that allowed their citizens a greater role in governance.  Other city-states instituted oligarchies or retained monarchs.  With the variety of government types that developed as a result of the rugged geography, uniting Greece under a central government was a challenge that would not be met until the conquests of Alexander of Macedon in the Fourth Century BC. 

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