This map is part of a series of 16 animated maps showing the history of Ancient Greece.
The main geographical features of Greece are the sea and mountains.
It is almost entirely surrounded by the Mediterranean and its ‘little seas’ and this gives it a sense of unity: the Ionian Sea, the Aegean Sea, the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea.
With its very ragged coastline, the Greeks turned to ships and navigation for inter-city travel. In summer, however, strong winds could prevent ships from sailing, thus cutting off communications between the various Greek communities.
Greece has two main geographical sections: the peninsula and the islands.
- The peninsula, including the Peloponnese, which is linked to the continent by the Isthmus of Corinth, is dominated by the mountains of Olympus and Parnassus.
Significant mountainous ranges are found in the centre of Greece. Sweeping down to the coast, they create isolated inlets and define the coastal plains.
The largest plains are found to the north: in Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly and Boeotia.
The narrowest plains lie to the south: Attica, Laconia, Messenia.
- The many islands constitute approximately one-fifth of the Greek landmass. From North to South, these include the islands of Thasos and Lemnos, then the Sporades archipelago. Further south lies the large island of Euboea which is also the closest to central Greece.
The islands in the Aegean Sea have sheltered harbours, which facilitate navigation between Europe and Asia. In the centre of the Aegean Sea, the Cyclades encircle the island of Delos. To the east, the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos and Rhodes lie along the edge of the Asian shore where the Greeks settled in very early centuries.
To the south lies Crete, dominated by Mount Ida, standing 2,456 meters above sea level.
The Greek climate is sunny and dry from the end of spring until the beginning of autumn, with heavy storms in winter. Of course there are many variations on the peninsula:
-the west along the Ionian coast is well watered and temperate,
-a more continental climate prevails in the centre and east: Thessaly, Macedonia, Thrace,
-while the southeastern regions are hotter and drier: Attica, Argolis.
Thanks to the climate, the Greek farms concentrated on developing three products that are now typical of the Mediterranean region: cereals, vines, and olive trees; they also cultivated almonds, pears, apples and figs. These agricultural products form the base of the Greek diet: cereal porridge, olive oil and wine.