I have finished the majority of my second post of ancient history which will be ancient Europe! Yay! With that being said, please keep in mind most of the countries and city-states listed below existed at the time I’m speaking of and is certainly not all inclusive. I hope you enjoy, maybe learn something you didn’t know, or reminisce on what you did already know and truly find a love and passion for as I do.
Ancient Europe tends to be highly relevant to the direction I’m headed in here so we are most certainly going to list at least a few of the important details of Europe in her ancient times. During the time of Europe’s ancient period there was not nearly as many territories that exist now, and the ones that were are, well, some of my favorite! Anyhoo, Europe at this specific time consisted of Ancient Greece, to include Athens, Sparta, and Macedonia, The Hellenistic States (after the partition of Babylon) to include: Antigonay, Ptolemy(including the Ptolemaic Empire), Seleucidae (to include the Seleucid Empire), Attaly, and finally, but certainly not last The Roman Empire. YAY!!! We will also touch on the Ancient Eurasian Steppe as well.
Ancient Greece consisted of three major City-States, Athens, Sparta, and Macedonia with smaller city-states. Ancient Greece refers to the time period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to 146 BC up until the Battle of Cornith. Classical Greece which was at it’s height from 5th century BC to 4th century BC was under Athenian leadership, and holding back the Persian invaders. The Athenian Golden Age ended when Athens was defeated by Sparta during the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC. After the conquests of Alexander the Great, the Hellenistic civilization appeared throughout Central Asia to the far west of Mediterranean Sea. Due to Classical Greek culture and it’s long lasting effect on the Roman Empire that has been spread throughout Europe, it is thought to be originative culture that provided the very foundation of Western civilization. Athens founded it’s first democracy after over a century and a half of tyranny. The Ecclesia was formed for policies, yet it had existed since reforms of Draco. All citizens were allowed entrance, but the peasants and plebs were not allowed to speak to the Ecclesia or run for an office. All citizens had equal privileges, but non-citizens (foreigners living in Athens and slaves) had no political rights whatsoever. After Athens founded this democracy other City-States followed suit, but some also maintained traditional forms of government. Sparta, as is the case in many things, was an exception to the rule due to the fact that two hereditary monarchs ruled throughout the period, which is known as diarchy. Here will be somewhat brief, but after all of my posts have been published for ancient history I will be going back and doing a more detailed, separate post on Greece during her ancient times.
Ancient Athens, Greece
Athens was founded in the first millennium BC. It boasts one of the longest histories of any city in Europe and the world. It was the leading city of Greece and it’s cultural accomplishments during 5th century BC is said to have paved the way for much of Western civilization. During the Middle Ages, Athens declined, but was revived under the Byzantine Empire. She was very prosperous during the Crusades, due to Italian trade. 5th century Athens is the Greek City-State from around 480 BC-404 BC aka the Golden Age of Athens (or to you philosophers the Age of Perciles). Athens was at the center of philosophy and literature during the end of the 5th century and some of the most renowned figures lived in Athens during this period such as: Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates.
SPARTA! Yes! Oh how I love the histories of Sparta and the stories from it! Back to facts now, Sparta was by far very different from the other territories of Greece and was known for it’s Greek military state. As they were a City-State devoted to military training they were known for the most formidable army in the Greek World. Sparta was victorious over The Athenian Empire, The Persian Empire, and coined itself the “natural protector of Greece”. Laconia or Lacedaemon was the name of the actual city-state that encompassed the center of Sparta. After Sparta won the Messenian Wars in 631 BC, Sparta’s land fighting force was thought of as unequaled. During 480 BC a small Spartan unit under King Leonidas made a historical final stand against the monstrous, invading, Persian army during the Battle of Thermopylae. The next year they battled Persians again at Plataea. This was the end of the Greek-Persian War and Persian’s in Europe. Later, during the latter Classical Greek Era, Sparta with Athens, Thebes, and Persia were the main components of fighting strength against each other. After the Peloponnesian War, Sparta became a naval power. Sparta was the head-figure for military prowess, military state, and militarily ready.
I want to touch on Thrace here just because a lot of people don’t really seem to cover Thrace or it’s history, unless it’s due to a partially-fictionally depiction in a TV Show or Movie, and involved the Thracians being enslaved to eventually end up being gladiators in the fighting pits. Thrace consisted of the Balkan Mountains in the north, Aegean Sea and Rhodope Mountains in the south, and the Black Sea and Sea of Marmara in the east. Thrace was made up of southeastern Bulgaria, the European section of Turkey, and northeastern Greece. This is pretty much why I’ve included it in the section of Greece because of the location, due to it’s name. and etymology basically being named by the Greeks. In an ancient Greek source it was said that at the time the earth was split into Asia, Libya, Europa, and Thracia. The Thracians mythology and religion is that of Greek mythology. In this it is said that the Thracians ancestor Thrax was son of the War-God Ares. Thracians are prevalent with Kings as well throughout Homer’s Iliad as Trojan allies. They are also mentioned in Ovid’s Metamorphoses in the very dark, twisted, morbid, aptly Thracian episode of Philomela, Procne, and Tereus.
Macedon was the name of the kingdom in the northernmost part of ancient Greece that bordered Epirus on the west and Thrace to the east. For a time it was the most influential state in the world due to Alexander the Great conquering most of the known world, including the Achaemenid Empire. This is known as the beginning of the Hellenistic period. This Era occurred during the years of 359 BC-336 BC. Phillip II of Macedon is mostly known for the ascendance of Macedon. Thus a legend was born unto Phillip II named Alexander. He was able to entrench Macedonian power over central Greece, The Persian Empire, and lands in Egypt and India. After Alexander’s death Macedonia was split into many Hellenic regimes. However, Alexander the Great will be known throughout time and History. Macedonia was conquered by the Antipatrid dynasty, which only held it for a brief period before being overtaken by the Antgonid dynasty.
Hellenistic States of Greece
The Hellenistic States were made up of the civilizations of Antigony, Ptolemy, Seleucidae, and Attlay. Because Alexander the Great had not made any preparations concerning his death and rightful heirs to his empire, he willed that his generals execute these actions themselves, and they did with the Wars of the Diadochi. This war lasted at least 40 years before the four generals could agree to a compromise. They established four major domains known as: The Antigonid Dynasty in Macedon of Central Greece, The Ptolemaic Dynasty in Alexandria, Egypt, The Seleucid Dynasty in Pergamum, Anatolia. Two more kingdoms later appeared called Greco-Bactria and Indo-Greek kingdoms. Hellenistic culture was profoundly situated and Athens preserved it’s position as the most elite seat of education and philosophy. Alexandria became a center of Greek learning with over 700,000 volumes in their library. Pergamon also became a center for book production with over 200,000 volumes in their library, and the Island of Rhodes had a famous finishing school of the politics and diplomatics. Antioch became a metropolis and center for Greek learning that maintained it’s position in the Era of Christianity. Seleucia replaced Babylon as the metropolis of Tigris. The Seleucid Empire was concentrated near the east and preserved Greek customs and Macedonian elite. Seleucid enlargement was stopped after defeat from the Roman army. Most of the eastern part of the empire was conquered by the Parthians in mid-2nd century BC. The Seleucid kings carried on their rule from Syria until they were overthrown by Armenian king Tigranes the Great. They were in the end unseated by the Roman general Pompey. The Ptolemaic Empire or dynasty aka the Lagids were Greek Royalty that ruled the Ptolemaic Empire in Egypt. Ptolemy was one of the seven somatophylakes aka bodyguards who served as Alexander the. Great’s generals and deputies became satrap of Egypt after Alexander’s death in 323 BC. Around 305 BC Ptolemy made himself King Ptolemy I aka Soter which means saviour. The Egyptians accepted Ptolemy and his heirs as Pharaohs of Egypt. His family ruled until the Roman conquest of 30 BC and ended with the death of Cleopatra VII. Some say it was due to the rebellions faced by the Ptolemies and unwanted civil and foreign wars they involved themselves in that caused their annexation by Rome. Ptolemaic kingdom was a great and powerful one, from Syria to Cyrene, south and to Nubia. Alexandria was declared the capital city and the hub for Greek trade and culture. Hellenistic culture lived on well after the Muslim conquest.
Ancient Eurasian Steppe
Scythia, Sarmatia, Xiongu, and the Hunnic Empire compromised the Anicent Eurasian Steppe. I will briefly cover these territories as is needed, although I may go into a bit more detail with Scythia just because I love their history and myths so very much!
Scythia was named by the Ancient Greeks for all lands northeast of Europe and to the northern coast of The Black Sea. It is said that Scythia encompassed about 2,924,096km2 (1,129,000 miles sq) during it’s time. The Scythians were the nomadic people of Scythia which inhabited their land from 11 BC to 2nd Century AD. It’s location and actual size varied over time but tended to stay farther to the west than is actually indicated on particular maps.
Sarmatia was an Iranian land compromised of Iranian people known as Sarmatians during the classiccal times of 5th century BC to 4th century AD. Their language was also Scythian, although they originated in Central Asia. They ended up in the middle east around 6th century BC to dominate their closely related Scythians by sometime in the 2nd century BC. They were different by their religion and the God’s they worshiped. Whereas the Scythians had a God of Fire and women had a prominent role in warfare. Many historians believe that this is where the inspiration for the Amazonian women originated from. The Sarmatians worshiped a God of Nature and their tribes spread from the Vistula River to Danube, to Volga, to the shores of the Black and Caspian seas. For your modern day translation think Ukraine and Southern Russia, maybe even a bit of the Baltic near Moldova.
Xiongu was also a nomadic empire that flourished in Central Asia. Their origin among historians is debatable but they tend to agree that they either spoke an Iranian language, Proto Turkic, Proto Mongolic, or a Yeniseian language The Xiongu people conquered most of Mongolia under their leader Tourmen in early 200 BC. Around 174 BC they began to threaten Han China. Hence, fun fact for ya, The Great Wall of China was constructed to protect her people from the Xiongnu attacks. Eventually the Xiongnu fell during the Han-Xiongnu War
The Hunnic Empire consisted of the Huns. The Huns were also nomadic peoples who were known for their hordes of mounted archers, for you Game of Thrones fans think Asian Wildlings. Their language was thought to be Turkic, but Mongolic, Yeniseian, and Uralic were prominent as well. After 370 AD they founded an empire in Eastern Europe defeating the Alans and Goths. Thus started the great migration, which lead to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Rugila was the leader of the Hun tribes and when he died in 434 AD, the sons of his brother were left in control of the united Hun tribes. Attila the Hun ruled from 434 until his death in 453. Under Attila the Hunnic Empire spread to Germany, the Ural river, Danube river, and the Baltic Sea. Their rise and invasion was vastly overwhelming for the Gothic kingdoms where many Goths retreated and sought out Roman territory in the Balkans, yet others stayed under Hunnic rule. Attila the Hun is known as one of the most fearsome rivals and enemies of the Roman Empire. Attila invaded the Balkans twice, marched through Gaul, and was thus defeated at the Battle of Chalons. Although he was defeated by the Gauls he did appear in Northern Italy the next year. After his death the Hunnic Empire collapsed.
I also wanna do a really brief timeline and layout of ancient Europe just to make things a bit more easy and less complicated. So whether a particular Empire or civilization has been talked about yet or not this is again just to simply layout the order.
- Minoan Civilization-2700ish BC
- Phoenicians-1300-1200ish BC
- Carthage-1100 BC
- Etruscans-1000ish BC
- Celts-1000ish BC
- Ancient Greeks-1000-900ish BC
- Ancient Rome-800 BC
- Byzantine Empire-500 AD
- Medieval Europe-500 AD
So that’s about the gist of what I have for ancient history minus The Roman Empire, which will be next in it’s own dedicated post…..due to the absolute magnitude of information, the timeline, and the vast regions it conquered. Not to mention how the Republic became the Roman Empire, and how the Roman Empire fell and what happened shortly thereafter. As always until next time,
Peace and Love,