A Quick Timeline of Ancient Greece for KS2 Students
Updated: Oct 5
Minoan Era – 2200BC-1450BC
The Minoans were the first great Greek civilisation.
They didn’t live on mainland Greece but were based on the Greek islands nearby – particularly Crete.
The Minoans were known for building palaces (these were both traditional royal palaces and also non-royal palaces containing storerooms and work places). The largest palace the Minoans constructed was in the city of Knossos in Crete.
The city of Knossos was once ruled over by King Minos. According to Greek Mythology, Minos built a huge maze under the palace called a Labyrinth to contain a bull headed monster called the Minotaur. The Minoan Era (and the Minotaur monster too!) was named after King Minos.
The Minoans developed their own early form of writing known to historians as “Linear A”.
Mycenaean Era – 1600BC – 1100BC
The Mycenaeans were an early civilisation based on mainland Greece.
They are considered to be the first “true” Greeks because they were the first to speak the Greek language.
The era was named after Mycenae, the largest city that existed at this time with a population of 30,000 people at its peak. Other famous Greek cities such as Athens and Thebes were first established in this era.
The Mycenaeans were famous for being great builders and engineers. They constructed large ships to both trade and conquer with.
Unlike the Minoans before them, the Mycenaeans were a warrior culture. They had a strong military and lots of soldiers. The famous battle of Troy was fought during this time.
Homer wrote stories about this age in his famous poems The Iliad and The Odyssey.
The Mycenaeans developed the early Minoan form of writing into their own script that historians refer to as “Linear B”.
Dark Age – 1100BC – 800BC
Nobody knows much of what happened in this time as all written language and art disappeared – meaning there is no written record for historians to study.
The major settlements from the Mycenaean era were abandoned and the population of Greece dropped in numbers.
It was a time of famine and people mostly lived as farmers that moved from place to place following the needs of their animals.
This era saw many different cultures decline or disappear, historians are still debating the reasons as to how and why this happened.
Archaic Period – 800BC – 480BC
The Greeks finally emerged from the Dark Age when City-States began to be established. These were often ruled by Kings at this early stage.
The Greeks started trading with other countries again and began an early exploration of philosophy, art and theatre (which they would later become famous for).
The first Olympic Games were held in 776BC in honour of the Greek God Zeus.
During this time they also fought, and were ultimately victorious against, the invading Persian Army.
The legendary battle of Thermopylae was fought in 480 BC. In which King Leonidas led ‘300’ Spartans to defend the Thermopylae pass against a vast Persian Army.
Classical Period – 480BC – 323BC
This was the Golden Age of Ancient Greek history.
Advances were made in architecture with many stunning temples constructed. The Parthenon was completed on the Acropolis in Athens (the most famous Greek temple that still stands today).
Major discoveries and advances were made in science, mathematics and philosophy. Famous figures of the time included Aristotle, Plato and Socrates (who became known as the “Fathers of Western Philosophy”)
Greek Theatre had it’s heyday during the Classical Period. Outdoor amphitheatres for performance were constructed and performances of plays written by playwrights like Sophocles and Euripides became popular.
The first democracy was established in Athens by Cleisthenes. It wasn’t much like the democracy we know today; as only rich men could vote. Still, it was a start.
Athens & Sparta fought the Peloponnesian Wars against each other during this period. The wars lasted for approximately 27 years, concluding with victory for Sparta.
Alexander the Great rose to power in the final years of the Classical Period and began his conquests across the world, conquering Egypt, Persia, most of Europe and more. His empire has humongous but didn’t last for long.
Hellenistic Period – 323BC – 31BC
The Hellenistic Period began as Alexander the Great died in 323BC.
Alexander the Great’s Empire was split into three powerful dynasties and ruled over by his surviving generals – the Seleucids of Syria and Persia, the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Antigonids of Greece and Macedonia.
Greece’s strength slowly faded and the Romans began to gain power, conquering the islands of Greece in stages.
The first major blow was struck in 146BC when the Romans defeated the Greeks at the battle of Corinth. Finally, the Romans took complete control of Greece in 31BC with a victory against Mark Anthony and Cleopatra VII (the final Pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt) at the battle of Actium off the west coast of Greece.
This marked the end of the Hellenistic Period but Greek influence didn’t just disappear. The Romans copied a lot of Greek culture and beliefs and united them with their own. Greek gods became Roman gods: Zeus became Jupiter, Ares took on the name Mars and Hades turned into Pluto. Many Greek philosophies also retained their popularity, with ‘Stoicism’ becoming a favourite of the Romans in particular.
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