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Greece is a country in southeastern Europe with thousands of islands throughout the Aegean and Ionian seas. Greece has the longest coastline on the Mediterranean basin and the eleventh longest coastline in the world at13,676 km (8,498 mi) in length, featuring a large number of islands, of which 227 are inhabited. Greece is filled with many islands including Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes and many more. Although known for its highly developed tourism and amazing landscapes, Greece offers rich history dating all the way back from the Stone and Bronze age to the twentieth century, captivating social and political events, and interesting literature. Shown through architecture and landscapes, Greece contains a vast history many know today. The island of Santorini, or Thira, was one of Crete’s primary outposts. Much of this civilization we know from the ruins of Akrotiri as well as the ruined palaces in Knossos and around Crete. These were supposedly destroyed by the eruption of the volcano in Santorini at around 1600 BC which created a massive tidal wave.
Some believe it was this wave which destroyed the Minoan civilization, however, advances in technology, such as carbon-dating, show that the Minoan civilization did not collapse until around 1450 BC, one hundred and fifty years after the eruption of Thira. So while the calamity may have led to a decline in the fortunes of the Minoans (there was certainly plenty of damage and they did lose a trading partner) this was not what destroyed them. In Crete, people from Anatolia came to the island sometime around 6500 BC and settled in the area around Knossos. These people were mostly farmers and lived in small communities. This changed in about 2400 to 1500 BCwhen the Minoan civilization, named for the legendary King Minos, flourished. Life in Bronze Age Crete revolved around a series of palaces, scattered throughout the island, whose design and complexity is unlike anything that preceded it in Greece. During the same time period of the Minoansanother group known as the Achaean or Mycenaean Civilization centered in the Argolis of Peloponessos.
During the bronze age between 2100 and 1900, this area was invaded by people from the east who introduced an advanced culture to the primitive local people who had been there since Neolithic times. These ancient Hellenes had fortresses as far west as Pylos and as far north asIolcus in Thessaly. The Mycenaean princes used the Linear B script to keep track of possessions and their enterprises throughout the Mediterranean. The walls of their fortresses were made of stones so large that it was difficult to imagine a mortal man lifting them and were therefore dubbed Cyclopean walls, named after the race of one-eyed giants of Homer’s Odyssey. the Mycenaeans and the Minoans were probably economic competitors in the Mediterranean. It was the Hellenic people from this period where the Achaean heroes of Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey. The Illiad is the epic poem about the abduction by Paris, a Trojan prince, of Helen, wife of King Menelaus of Sparta, and the alliance of Greeks, led by King Agamemnon who traveled to the city of Troy(Illium) in Asia Minor and fought for 10 years, eventually destroying the city,just to get her back. The Odyssey is the story of King Odysseus of the island of Ithaki, and his journey home from the war. For many years these stories were thought to have been a myth but in 1870 Henrich Schliemann found the ruins of the ancient city and evidence of its destruction during the time period thatHomer’s epic would have taken place. Greek literature is well known throughout the world. Among the earliest Greek literature was Homer’s epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey.
The Iliad is a detailed telling of the Trojan War while the Odyssey recounts Odysseus’ 20-year journey home following the Trojan War. Created as early as 900 B.C.E., Homer’s poems were not written down since Greek civilization lacked a written language at that time. Instead, these massive poems were passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. Here is an excerpt from the Iliad: “Old King Priam was the first to see Achilles rushing towards the Trojans over the fields. As Achilles ran, the bronze on his breast flashed out like the star that comes to us in autumn, outshining all its fellows in the evening sky — they call it Orion’sDog, and though it is the brightest of all the stars it bodes no good, bringing much fever, as it does, to us poor wretches. The old man gave a groan. He lifted up his hands and beat his head with them. In a voice full of terror he shouted entreaties to his beloved son, who had taken his stand in front of the gates in the fixed resolve to fight it out with Achilles.” The Greeks created poetry before making use of writing for literary purposes.
Poems created in the pre-classical period were meant to be sung or recited (writing was little known before the 7th century BC). Most poems focused on myths, legends that were a part folk tale and part religion. Tragedies and comedies emerged around 600 BC. At the beginning of Greek literature stand the two monumental works ofHomer, the ‘Iliad’ and the ‘Odyssey’. The figure of Homer is shrouded in mystery. Although the works as they now stand are credited to him, it is certain that their roots reach far back before his time. The ‘Iliad’ is the famous story about the Trojan War. It centers on the person of Achilles, who embodied the Greek heroic ideal. While the ‘Iliad’ is pure tragedy, the Odyssey’ is a mixture of tragedy and comedy. It is the story of Odysseus, one of the warriors at Troy. After ten years of fighting the war, he spends another ten years sailing back home to his wife and family.
During his ten-year voyage, he loses all of his comrades and ships and makes his way home to Ithaca disguised as a beggar. Both of these works were based on ancient legends. The stories are told in language that is simple, direct, and eloquent. Both are fascinatingly readable today as they were in ancient Greece. The other great poet of the pre-classical period was Hesiod. He is more definitely recorded in history that is Homer, though very little is known about him. He was a native of Boeotia in central Greece, and he lived and worked in about 800 BC. His two works were ‘Works and Days’ and ‘Theogony’.
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