Geography of Ancient Greece

by Daniel Ehling

Greece? From a frying pan?

Ancient Greece. Ancient Greece is probably one of the most interesting topics of all time. There religion, their style of living, their politics, their wars, how they traded, etc. What about it's geography, though? Can that be interesting, even though it is always left out?

Welcome to ancient Greece, where you will have mountain sized fun!

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So, what is the geography like?

Greece has quite the interesting geography. To me, it is probably the most difficult place for an ancient civilization to ever live, because of what it is like. is a peninsula, meaning it is an area of land surrounded by water on three sides. They had no other source of water. No rivers, no lakes. So they couldn't have the rich fertile silt that helps them grow crops. Greece has over 1,000 islands bordering it! It has a mountain range that is cutting it almost in half, and almost all of the soil is filled with rocks.

So, what is the problem with these mountains and rocks?

Believe it or not, these "mountains and rocks" actually changed what their world was like completely. Farming was very difficult, because the soil consisted of a lot of rocks. This made the land almost impossible to grow crops on, because the rocks made up almost all of the un-fertile soil. So, they got almost all of their food from the ocean and trade. Also, travel by land was difficult because the elevation of land can change drastically depending on where you are. You could be really low down next to the ocean, but if you walk less than I mile you could be hundreds of feet up on a mountain. Finally, each of the Greek civilizations were separated because of the mountains, so they couldn’t help each other out, and most of the time, they went to war with their other civilizations.

Was any of this geography helpful to the civilization?

The conditions in Greece almost made the people unable to live in it. They couldn't get any food! Except, they could trade... The people of Greece became great sailors and navigators. They stayed close to land because they didn't have technology like a map or the compass. They also set up colonies stretching out over a wide area. This made multiple civilizations that Greece consisted of. They happened to also be protected by large mountains, making all of the civilizations feel like they were almost alone. This made it so little to no war happened, since they couldn't have something to fight over because they were separated by the mountains! Finally, if people tried to invade and take over, they wouldn’t be able to stay very long, because the Greeks are used to the terrain, and the people that would invade wouldn’t be. This would cause them to flee, and the Greeks to regain their land.

So, did the Greeks ever adapt?

The people of Greece did, in fact, adapt to the land. They couldn't just choose where they want to live like we can now, so they couldn't just give up. They actually ended up becoming very skilled and successful because of the unique terrain that had been chosen for them to live in! They became one of the most powerful ancient civilizations, and they had good navigators, shipbuilders, traders, and warriors!

Who were these geographical features useful to?

Almost anyone living in Greece could argue that the unique geography helped them tremendously. That is because it prevents invading civilizations and wars. They have HUGE mountains looming around them, making a large force field. Also, if people tried to invade, they would not be capable of living in Greece very long, as they would not know the certain precautions and skills necessary to live their.

What was the overall impact of this geography?

The impact made by the geography to the people that lived in Greece has been good, and bad. Yes, it was good because it prevented war and invades. It also made them very safe from anything that could be going on at the other side of the mountain range. Though, the terrain was very rocky and unfertile, making little to no crops able to be grown. It was also extremely difficult to travel by land. They were surrounded by water, and closed off by mountains, so there was no way for the different parts of Greece to be able to unite. They could pretty much only travel by boat, and they got almost all of their food through trade.

Can any words be used to describe the geography of Greece to someone who hasn't heard of it before?

Some adjectives that can be used to describe the geographical features of ancient Greece are tough, hard, rocky, unfertile, difficult, detached, smart, advanced, and skillful.

How might I persuade someone to understand the importance of the geography?

I might compare the geographical features to somewhere else that doesn’t obtain those specific things. This will show them what happened to other civilizations that weren’t protected by mountains and water, so they could see the absolute worst and the absolute best. This will really open their eyes to see how important the geography was.