Greek colonization 2.000 bc - 400 bc

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1 Description of the migration movement
2 Causes of migration
3 Consequences of migration
4 Reactions on migration


The Greek area was quicker to develop than the rest of Europe: it was in Greece that fixed settlements, called Polis, arose long before they would do so elsewhere.These cities dominated a large part of South-eastern Europe and were the source of colonies established elsewhere. They also functioned as centers of commerce: trade was conducted with many remote regions, between the Polis and which settlements were established as intermediate stations.

In the Greek economy division of labour took place on a large scale. Many people were merchants, artisans or served in the army. The Greek economy also included many slaves from conquered areas.

Greek politics operated as a 'democratic' system by which the citizens -at least a select group of them- decided on city matters. Under this system people were often banished: they were forced to leave the city and settle elsewhere.


A lot of migration took place to and from Greek cities, due in part to economic reasons: new markets had to be conquered, requiring intermediate stations on trade routes to be founded and populated by Greek citizens. Also, people from conquered areas were brough to the Greek Polis to work as slaves.

Another basis of migration was formed by people who were banished from the Polis for political reasons; they moved elsewhere -often together with a group of people that supported them- and founded colonies.


1.1 Who were they and where did they come from: ethnic origin, geographical background, religion, adults, men or women, special qualities?

* 2000 B.C.: The first cities appeared about 2000 B.C. in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean, on Cyprus, in Greece and on Crete. The people on Crete had connections with Egypt, Sicily and Italy. On the coast of the Greek mainland the Mycenaean civilisation settled. At first the Minoan culture was the most powerful, but afterwards the Mycenaean took over. {Carp}
* 1200 B.C.: The people that lived on Sicily when the Greek expansion began came from Asia Minor, the Iberian and the Italic Peninsula. {Carp}
* 700 B.C.: The Greek polis-system appeared. Parallel to this development ran an enormous emigration. There were two waves of colonisation. Cities that played an important role in this emigration were Chalcis on Euboea, Megara, Korinthe and Sparta. They had connections through the Aegean Sea with Rhodes and the Greek Islands of Asis Minor. In this way, cities were founded in the Western part of the Mediterranean Sea like: Syracuse, Megara Hyblaea, Catania, Gela, Agrigentum, Selinunte, Himera on Sicily, Tarente, Metapontum, Croton, Locri, Rhegium, Cumea and Naples in Southern-Italy. The whole of these cities was called Large Greece/ Magna Graecia.

1.2 How did they travel: transport, circumstances of travelling?

1.3 When?

* 2000 - 1000 B.C.: There was much movement around the Aegean Sea.
* 800-400 B.C.: The first wave of colonisation was from the 8th century B.C. until the halfway the 7th century B.C., the second wave from the 6th century B.C. until in the 5th century B.C.

1.4 How many?

1.5 Permanent or temporary?

1.6 Where did they go to and where did they stay?

* 2000 - 500 B.C.: There was much movement around the Aegean Sea. Nomadic Helleni migrated to the south and settled both in the present-day Greece and at the other side of the Aegean Sea. About 800-600 B.C. they went from there to Italy, Sicily and to the territory up to the Black Sea coast, where colonies were founded.
* 1100 B.C.: The last group of Greeks, the Dorians entered the mainland part of Greek and the Peloponnesus. About 1000 B.C. the Ionians settled at the Eastern part of the Aegean and on the Anatolian coast. {Chal}
* The colonisation reaches as far as Corsica/Alalia and Gaul. Here the city of Marseille was founded in 600 B.C. This colony founded its own colonies in Antibes, Nice and Agde. The Iberian Peninsula was also a Greek colony (Ampurias). The Eastern part of Europe was also involved in this colonisation. The Islands of the Aegean Sea and the coast of Thrace/Abdera were colonised, as were the cities at the mouth of the rivers "Boeg" and "Don".


2.1 Circumstances that favoured migration

* 431 B.C. - 404 B.C.: The Pellopenesian war weakened the Greek city-states, giving way to the appearance of another powerful state: Macedonia. Phillipus II king of Macedonia began a large-scale expansion which his son Alexander the Great continued both to the East and further into Central Europe. This caused Rome to gain importance as a city, taking over the dominant role previously played by the Greek polis.

2.2 Circumstances that hindered migration

2.3 Direct causes of migration

* 1200 B.C.: Mycenae was destroyed in 1200 B.C. People left for Crete, Italy, Cyprus and Sicily. {Carp}
* 700 B.C.: Emigration from the Greek cities. At the heart of this emigration lay both economic reasons such as solving demographical problems or supplying new markets by raising intermediate stations for trade routes, and political reasons such as the banishing of key figures of political conflicts. The leader of a banished group of political dissidents would lead them away from the Polis to found a colony elsewhere.


3.1 Short term consequences
Positive consequences
- for the migrants (first generation)
- for their new environment
- for the country they left

Negative consequences
- for the migrants (first generation)
- for their new environment
- for the country they left

3.2 Long term consequences
Positive consequences
- for the migrants (second and third generation)
- for their new environment

* The influence of the Hellenic culture was noticeable in many places all over Europe, especially in the culture of the Scythians in Southern Russia.
* 334 - 323 B.C.: Alexander from Macedonia conquered a large part of the Middle East and Egypt. The Hellenic civilisation mixed with Buddhism and lasted at least until the 5th century A.C.
- for the country they left

Negative consequences
- for the migrants (second and third generation)
- for their new environment
- for the country they left


4.1 Reactions of the receiving society on the migrants
- official reaction
- reaction of the common people

4.2 Reactions of the immigrants on their new environment
- integration/assimilation
- maintaining their own identity
- differences between first, second and third generation


The Greek Polis were a source of migration both for economic and political reasons, including trade with remote areas, the colonisation of conquered areas and the use of its inhabitants as slaves, as well as the banishing of political enemies. Most emigrants left the Greek area and only slaves entered.


Dr. Marlou Schrover