Colonisation in Archaic Greece

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Colonization and Maritime Navigation

As Greece is comprised of many islands, the sea has always played an important role in its history. Colonization of surrounding areas began during the Geometric Period (900-700 BCE), and continued throughout Archaic and Classical Greece. Starting around 700-600 BCE the more powerful Greek city states gradually began establishing colonies, first in the Mediterranean, and then all the way from western Asia Minor, to southern Italy, Sicily, North Africa, and even so far as the coasts of southern France and Spain.

The inevitable increase in contact with other civilizations, due both colonization and the development of trade routes for products such as pottery and bronze, enabled the exchange of ideas and practices. For example, Eastern craftsmen from Crete inspired Greek artists ‘to work in techniques as diverse as gem cutting, ivory carving, jewelry making and metalworking’ (Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History). It is important to note, however, that Greek colonization was not for the purpose of ‘subjugating and living among native populations’ (Lumb, Jeffrey), instead the colonies developed a similar type of localized independence and citizenship as their ‘mother’ city states. The Greek word for ‘colony’ was apoikia, literally meaning ‘away from home’, which emphasizes how the customs and institutions of a colony were directly translated from their original city state.

Miletus: many colonies in the Black Sea area, such as Sinope, Abydos, Cyzicus; also Naucratis in Egypt. . Megara, Chalcedon and Byzantium: around the Bosphorus, also Sicilian Megara. Chalcis and Eretria (Euboean cities): many colonies in the North Aegean, especially in the Chalcidice area, and Pydna, Methone; Cumae and Rhegium in Italy; Catana and Leontini in Sicily. Corinth:  Corcyra and parts of Illyrian Coast; Syracuse in Sicily; Potidaea in the North Aegean, also Ambracia. Achaean cities:  mainly in...
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