These Maps of Ancient Greece Show the Power of this Once Dominant Region
Without a doubt, ancient Greece was one of the most interesting periods of human history. It gave the western world philosophers, mathematics and scientists that still are relevant today.
The title typically refers to the period between the 12th century B.C. to around 600 A.D. It includes famed sub-periods like classical Greece, the wars with Persia and the reign of Alexander the Great.
See what has changed — and what hasn't — with these amazing maps of ancient Greece.
First: A Map of Ancient Greece
Before delving into some cool detailed maps, here's what ancient Greece looked like. Of course, the political map changed over the centuries, but this gives you a general idea of the territory.
Map of Minoan Crete
Crete is the largest of all the Greek Islands and has always played a major role in the history of the region.
During the Bronze Age, the Aegean Sea was dominated by the Minoan civilization, one of Europe's earliest complex civilizations. Its peak was around 2000 B.C.
If the name sounds familiar, it's because it's tied to King Minos and the mighty Minotaur. Today, you can still visit several of the sites marked on the map, including Knossos, the palace that hid the beast's labyrinth, according to legend.
Map of the Acropolis
This 1911 map seeks to conceptually rebuild the Acropolis of Athens. It was the spiritual and social center of the city, and the complex continues to dominate the city, despite suffering great damage due to war and centuries of being ruled by the Ottoman Empire.
Where to Find Your Favorite Greek Myths
Many ancient Greeks believed myths to be accounts of real events and used them as explanations for natural phenomena. Myths provide a fascinating insight into the history and culture of ancient Greece. Not to mention, they're just good stories!
This math marks the real-life places of some of the most famous Greek myths. And yes, you can actually visit them all.
A Map of Trojan War Heroes
If you're a nerd like us, there's a big chance that you've been obsessed with the Trojan War at some point of your life.
This really cool map makes it easy to get through the endless name-dropping that Homer (or whoever wrote the Epic) loves to do. You'll see where the main characters resided.
Aenea's Journey from Troy to Rome
Another cool map relating to the Trojan War follows the journey of Aeneas, as told in Virgil's "The Aeneid."
This hero's story begins at the siege of Troy, when he is forced to leave his destroyed homeland. Through many perils and adventures, he makes it to Italy, where he founds ancient Rome.
And Odysseus' Journey
Another epic journey that starts at the end of the Trojan War is that of Odysseus. Famously captured in Homer's "The Odyssey," the tale is one of the most important ancient Greece texts.
Odysseus (Ulysses in Roman) was the man behind the infamous Trojan horse. Satisfied with pillaging and destroying an entire civilization, he sets to go back home to Ithaca.
But through a series of misfortunes, missteps and miscalculations, he ends up island hopping in the Mediterranean for 10 years straight before making it home. Hey, that sounds like a dream.
The map illustrates part of his journey, though not his final return home.
A Map of What Homer Thought the World Was Like
This 19th-century map reimagines what Homer thought the world looked like, based on writings left behind.
In 1000 B.C., the world of ancient Greeks was decidedly limited. Giant chunks of Africa and Asia are missing. And the Americas and Oceania are nowhere to be found.
Still, given the time, it's not a terrible map.
And How Herodotus Envisioned the World 550 Years Later
Herodotus is often considered the first historian of the Western world. This map, produced around 450 B.C., shows what he thought the entire world was like.
What's fascinating is that not much has changed since the times of Homer, some 550 years before. To put that into perspective, that's as if we were still using maps from 1472, a full 20 years before Europeans landed in the Americas and realized the world was bigger than they thought.
Did you know before our Dark Ages, there were the Greek Dark Ages? In between that and the famed classical period, there was Archaic Greece. Lasting from about 800 to 480 B.C., this period is when city-states and the Greek alphabet were developed.
Think of it as the Renaissance of ancient times, sandwiched in between the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment.
The map shows which parts of Greece were city-states and which were tribal areas.
Greek and Phoenician Colonies
Like the Greeks, the Phoenicians were great seafarers with a thirst for conquering other people. In this map, estimated to be from around 500 B.C., you can see how both civilizations expanded their influence and built cities as far as the Iberian Peninsula and France.
Despite centuries of power, the Phoenician civilization fizzled out after Alexander the Great conquered the capital of Tyre, located in present-day Lebanon.
Alexander the Great's Empire
Alexander the Great was called this for a reason. Under his rule, the Macedonian Empire expanded far outside of Greece and into much of the Middle East and South Asia.
Most impressively, the majority of the expansion happened between 334 and 323 B.C. That's only 11 years.
Notably, he also conquered Egypt, setting up the Ptolemaic dynasty, whose most famous ruler is Cleopatra.
And What Happened After He Died
The problem with being a self-absorbed megalomaniac is that you set things up for failure after you leave. Alexander the Great's poor leadership and foresight left his empire in fragments once he passed away.
His descendants and generals fought from 322 to 281 B.C. in what is known as the Diadochi Wars. Eventually, they decided to simply split the territory. The main winning factions were the Seleucid, the Antigonid and the Ptolemaic empires.
Sparta During the Classic Period
Besides Athens, Sparta was perhaps the most powerful city-state. Or at least, the one that contended against Athens the most.
This cool 1817 map illustrates what Sparta looked like during the classical period. Though Sparta had a distinct culture and created practices not present in other Hellenistic city-states, the cultural connection is also obvious.
The city is dominated by a citadel. It also has numerous temples, a forum, and, of course, a theater.
Famous Ancient Greek Wine Regions
We're not the only ones who appreciate a good glass of wine at the end of the day. In fact, the Greeks loved wine so much, they had a whole deity dedicated to it.
This fun map shows the regions that were famous for their wine in ancient Greece. You'll find some of the places where Dionysus (the aforementioned god of wine) was born, including Naxos.
Many of these places are still viticulture destinations. Quick, someone make a tour of Greece following ancient wine regions.
Ancient Greek Dialects
Many people assume that all ancient Greeks spoke the same language. In fact, given that the classical period is marked by the rise of independent (and often opposing) city-states, several dialects were spoken in the region.
The Greco-Persian Wars
The Greco-Persian Wars were political conflicts that lasted almost half a century. We won't get into the complicated history. Instead, we'll leave you to look at this cool map for a bit.
You can see the giant Persian Empire in orange fighting with their Greek opponents in blue. If you're a fan of the "300" movie and story, follow the fuchsia line to see where Xerses advances.
See how he didn't make it into Sparta? You can thank Gerald Butler for that.
A Map of the Athenian Empire
Because of the threat that the Persian Empire posed, many Greek city-states formed an alliance called the Delian League.
Athens pretty much ruled it and used its funds however it wanted, which is why this period is sometimes referred to as the Athenian Empire. Unsurprisingly, this unbalance of power caused tension within the group.
On this map, you can see how extensive the league (or the Athenian Empire) was, extending to much of the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, including where Troy was located.
Map of the Peloponnesian War
As you probably guessed, tensions within the Delian League rose until a boiling point. This was part of the reason for the famed Peloponnesian War, which was mostly between Athens (red) and Sparta (blue), and their respective allies.
This map offers a great visualization of the alliances.
And for Good Measure, a Map of Greece Today
Now that you know what Greece looked like during many of its periods in ancient times, you can compare it to its modern-day map.
As you can see, much of its territory is intact, albeit without the colonies of the city-states or the Macedonian Empire. Many of its city-states are now its administrative regions.
And while there may be disagreements, they are now part of a single national and cultural identity. We can say "opa!" to that.