Greek Colonisation in the Archaic Period
Rachel So-Mahng Truong Yr11 Ancient History
The city states of Cyrene and Sicily were founded by the Greeks in ancient times, circa 7th century BC. These colonisations were due to the land hunger, need for trade, overpopulation and political and civil disputes that were prevalent during the time period, making it necessary to colonise other parts of the Mediterranean such as the Italian islands and northern Africa. This colonisation also led to changes in class structure, trade practices, lifestyles, agriculture and the spread of Greek ideas..
Agriculture was always a huge foundation of the ancient Greek economy with nearly 80% of the population being involved with its progression. Therefore, it was no surprise when near the beginning of the Greek age of colonisation; people began to realize the considerable lack of arable land in the Greek Peninsula. In addition to this lack of land, the majority of suitable farmland was owned by rich aristocrats who passed down their lands through primogeniture, leaving poorer peoples and their own younger sons in shortage. The lack of farming area and the rapidly growing population made it urgently necessary to relocate to other lands.
The 7th century BC in Greece was usually rife with political and civil discontent, mostly due to disputes over land, resources and the aristocracy. There was often fierce competition between nobles for government control and often the losing party would either be exiled or leave of their own volition to start a settlement of their own. The method of primogeniture in inheritance also contributed to discontent. The keeping of land, resources, and power securely within a noble family angered the lower class and provoked rebellion against the wealthy upper class. These rebellions were also now even more likely to succeed due to the rise of the hoplite and the middle class. The system of primogeniture also served to create discontent between brothers in the family, causing the eldest brother to be overthrown by jealous siblings. To avoid being toppled, a man in power was given the option to send away fomenters and possible political rivals to colonise, alleviating some of burden on resources while also preventing opposition to his rule.
After re-emerging from the Dark Ages at the end of the 8th century, the Greek culture began to thrive once again. Having forgotten the old writing systems of Minoan and Mycenaean times, the Phoenician alphabet was adapted to for the Greek language and written works began to reappear. At the same time, iron tools became more common and the efficiency of the production of barley, olives and grapes led to a humongous food surplus and massive population growth. Soon after, advances in commerce and manufacture by the new middle class artisans in areas such as jewel craft, masonry, and pottery became more evident and the existence of the middle class meant that wealth was now more evenly spread out between classes, enabling bigger families to be supported. This large boom in economic strength led to greatly improved living standards and family homes became larger and able to more easily accommodate a bigger family size, which had risen by a factor of five. Despite being sustainable at first, populations continued to steadily grow larger and larger. It was only a matter of time before surplus turned to shortage.
Although not as immediately important as the first three reasons, trade and other commercial factors did play a part in motivating a city state to colonise. By sending out a daughter colony, a city state could create a new route of trade to use as an avenue for imports and exports such as pottery, bronze, silver and gold vessels, olives and olive oil, grapes and wine, and textiles as well as gain a valuable trading partner should the colony prove to be fruitful in their own enterprise. Many of these trade post colonies were situated such that they guarded important trade...
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