Greek civilization was built on solid foundation and led by skillful leaders that created the traditional customs and values that are still observed by modern societies. This is part of why the Greek civilization thrived and has been replicated by much of the world. One of the factors that influenced the developments of Greek civilization is its geography. The geographical features of ancient of Greece had an impact on its political, cultural, economic, and social growth. Three geographical features that affected Greece the most included the mountains, the seas, and the climate. They made the Greeks more independent. There is very limited arable land in Greece. The Ancient Greeks became very proficient sea travelers and developed colonies all over the Mediterranean Sea to increase their food supply. Because of the geography, the Greeks were regional cultures that developed into independent city-states.
Greece is a mountainous country, with almost seventy to eighty percent of the country covered with mountains. Because mountains cut off the Greek, this led to the formation of city-states. There was limited interaction and unity of the city-states. Rivers also made boundaries. Such physical barriers prevented a unified Greece. Because the country was composed of mountains, islands, and small farming valleys, this created natural divides and boundaries of the people into small population centers with their own language, religions, and traditions. The distance between city-states, clothing, trade, and democracy was amongst some of the things that were influenced by the geography of Ancient Greece. A positive that came from the mountainous terrain is that it contributed to the preservation of the Greek culture. Because of the mountains, the people of ancient Greece were isolated to their area resulting in rare interactions with other cultures. Unfortunately, it also obstructed the development of a unified, centralized system of government.
The sea became a vital part of the Greek society. There were hundreds of bays, skilled sailors, and excellent shipbuilders, and trade of olive oil, wine, and marble for grains, metals, and ideas, technology, and philosophies were common trade items. The Greeks were able to adapt the Phoenician alphabet, which later becomes the basis for all western alphabets. It also promoted democracy. During the Persian wars, the Greeks used the seas and their sailing abilities to their advantage. Although the sea encouraged trade, the mountainous terrain enabled absolute rulers to gain power, ultimately leading to the demise of the Ancient Greek democracy and thus creating warmongers.
The Greek lived in a temperate, Mediterranean climate. This allowed them to enjoy outdoor life in their city-states, interact with each other, and organize outdoor activities. They enjoyed athletic competitions, public gatherings, art shows, and meetings which allowed them to cultivate their rich and distinctive Greek culture. Because the climate throughout the Greek area was the same, Greek colonists could spread throughout the countryside without having to significantly change their way of life, resulting in the spread of Hellenistic culture. Colonization also instilled a strong feeling of individualism and humanism, which also led to the rise of democracy in Greece. Winters were mild and wet, and they were able to grow grapes and olives. Summers were warm and dry. Grapes and olives were one of the few plants that could survive droughts. Mountains cover seventy-five percent of Greece. The land was difficult to cultivate, and the sea surrounded Greece. This made them turn to trade to get what they could not grow. They were also able to bring back innovative ideas from other cultures that they traded with.
Essentially, geography affected the Ancient Greeks’ lifestyles in many ways. Greece was settled in a rocky, mountainous area, so it was difficult to grow crops. They could plant olive trees using step farming, so they used olive oil in much of their daily life. Because they didn’t grow much food, many city-states traded with other regions. Some also started colonies in Asia Minor where colonists grew crops and sent them back to their patron city-state. The geography also affected the Greeks’ relationships with other city-states. The mountains were treacherous to travel through, and journeys were hard when carrying supplies. There were inns, but they provided no nourishment, only shelter. In addition, the rocky paths could shatter a cartwheel and leave a party stranded, open to attack from bandits. Journey by sea was equally difficult. There were no methods for navigation, so sailors traveled close to shore, where they risked their boat crashing into rocks or becoming stranded in shallow waters. To keep sight of land, they could only travel by day, making the journeys long and tiring. If they traveled by night, they could lose their way or become shipwrecked during one of the frequently passing storms. Because travel was so difficult, most Greeks stayed in their own city-state, and did not mingle with others. But instead of being all disadvantage, the Greeks used the limitations to create stronger, more well-developed communities. They used what they had, like the seas, to connect with the rest of the world. The seas provided the Greeks with a much wider perspective about other peoples and cultures and encouraged them to properly use their limited resources. Therefore, geography was a major factor in shaping the ancient Greek civilization.