This video is part of a series of 16 animated maps.

View series: Ancient Greece

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The evolving Greek world

This map is part of a series of 16 animated maps showing the history of Ancient Greece.

The first Greeks, often called Mynians, were Indo-Europeans who probably migrated from regions just south of what is now Russia towards the end of the 4th millennium.

The first civilizations appeared in the Cyclades and then in Crete.

The 16th century BC saw the emergence of the Mycenaean civilization, named after the strongest state during this period: Mycenae.

By the time this civilization disappeared, around 1200 BC, it had spread throughout the Peloponnese, central Greece and Crete.  

In the centuries that followed, often known as the “Dark Ages”, the Greeks created settlements on all the islands in the Aegean Sea and along the coast of Asia Minor.


During the 7th and 6th centuries BC, some Greek cities began to establish colonies and trading posts along the Mediterranean coastline, because they lacked sufficient arable land to feed their inhabitants and were keen to control maritime trade routes.

The principal areas were:

- Southern Italy and Sicily;

- The straits and coast of the Black Sea;

- The far western Mediterranean coast: Provence, Iberian peninsula, Corsica; 

- And a few places on the African coast.  

In the 4th century, Macedonia was the most powerful Greek state. Its young and ambitious king, Alexander the Great, conquered the entire Persian Empire which spread from the Mediterranean shore to the Indus River.  He added substantial territory to the world dominated by the Greeks, henceforth known as the “Hellenistic World”.  

After the death of Alexander, his heirs or “diadochi” divided his empire between themselves.

This division of the Hellenistic World into several regions later facilitated the expansion of the Roman Empire.

- Southern Italy and Sicily were conquered by the mid 3rd century;

- Continental Greece became a Roman province in 146 BC;

- the last Hellenistic kingdom, over which reigned the Ptolemies in Egypt, was incorporated into the Roman Empire after the Battle of Actium in 30 BC. 

Nevertheless, despite the dominance of the Roman Empire, Hellenistic culture continued to spread throughout the Mediterranean Basin.