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CLCV 205: Introduction to Ancient Greek History
- The Greek "Renaissance" - Colonization and Tyranny (cont.)
In this lecture, Professor Donald Kagan explores the rise of Greek colonies. He argues that the rise of new colonies was primarily due to the need for new farmland, although he acknowledges several other important reasons. He also shows where the Greeks colonized and explains that the process of founding a new colony probably took place within the dynamics of a polis. Finally, he offers a few important outcomes of this colonizing impulse.
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Introduction to Ancient Greek History
CLCV 205 - Lecture 7 - The Greek "Renaissance" - Colonization and Tyranny (cont.)
Chapter 1. The Rise of the Greek Colony [00:00:00]
Professor Donald Kagan: We have been looking at the question of the rise of the polis and the various significant elements that were part of the making of the polis, and of course I’ve emphasized the notion of this new class of people, the farmer hoplite citizen, as being the critical element in shaping the polis and for my money that’s what the polis is about to start with and then it develops characteristics consistent with that, and some that challenge that over the centuries. But now, imagine that we are living in the early years of a polis sometime in the eighth century B.C. Again, I want to emphasize these things that I’ve been describing don’t happen in every place at the same time and they don’t even happen every place in the same way, but over a stretch of time the concepts and the kind of characteristics I’ve been describing appear to spread all over the place. But one of the ways in which we can date the time when the poliscame into being has to do with the Greek traditions about the establishment of colonies throughout the Mediterranean inhabited by Greeks, and the reason that they are a clue is because every time we see a colony, learn anything at all about it, it appears to exist in the form of a polis, which powerfully suggests that that was the typical characteristic style of life that had already been established for Greeks before they sent out the colonies. So, that’s the chronological significance of it.
I should say all of these dates that I will be giving you are some combination of Greek tradition — and the Greeks dated these colonies very specifically. That would be hard to believe, impossible to believe, I guess, if it weren’t that these dates tend to be confirmed in a general way, not in a specific way, by the archaeological discoveries that we find at the sites, the earliest places where these colonies came into being. So it’s that combination, archaeology plus Greek tradition that lies behind the date of any city. But you shouldn’t take the date that I give you, the traditional date, as being firm. It’s a general thing; it’s around that time is the best we can really say. The date that’s sort of typical for the general phenomenon of colonization coming out of the mother cities of Greece is again that date we keep talking about, 750 roughly. But in fact, the earliest date according to Greek tradition, if my memory is correct, was something like 773 where the Greeks date the foundation of what they thought was the earliest colony they ever established — a place that they called Pithaecusa, which is the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples. That’s the very first place where there is a tradition of a Greek colony having been planted. There’s no question that there was a Greek colony there and as I say the archaeological remains confirm the general time for this happening.
Now, the first question I suppose, before I get to describing what a colony was and how it worked, we want to ask the question what was it that led Greeks to sail or walk, mostly to sail very great distances from their mother cities. To leave home and to establish a new city for themselves someplace else is not to be taken for granted. In the first place, by and until the twentieth century, I guess, human beings tended to stay put. They didn’t move, unless they were driven to move. That was the natural thing to do given the character of life, which was based upon farming, if you leave you lose your farm, and based upon the difficulty of transportation. In the Greek world we know — I think I quoted something from Hesiod that confirmed it. The Greeks were, even though they went to sea plenty, they were terrified of the sea for very good reason. Their ships, their boats were not very seaworthy; storms come up in the Mediterranean very suddenly and terribly; you take your life in your hands when you travel. So then there’s the whole idea — we’ve already given you some sense that the Greeks were ancestor worshippers. I mean, they took special care of the dead and they thought that the way you buried people and so on was terribly important. So, what I’m saying is, when you leave the place you were born, you leave your ancestors as well. All of that means we need to explain why these folks do what they end up doing, and we have some hints, but of course we do not know with any certainty or any confidence.
If you ask the question why did many Italians leave their homes, especially south Italians in the late nineteenth century and come — well, go all over the world actually, to South America, Australia, but the largest numbers to the United States. Why did they do that? Well, we don’t have to do a lot of guessing. We have written evidence from the people who went and they say why they did it. We can then supplement that with all sorts of other information that we have, but we don’t have any documents from some settler explaining why he’s going where he’s going. So, we have to reason from the evidence that the establishment gives us. I suppose the most widely cited reason is simply the desire to acquire farmland. Remember, I keep emphasizing this. The vast overwhelming majority of people needed to farm land, in order to stay alive. And why should there be a shortage of farmland?
One answer, and it’s the one that is most widely believed among Greek scholars, is that the growth of population that we have mentioned in connection with the rise of the polis is still working once the polis comes into form. So what this means, if you used to have two children and now you have four, how do you provide for the extra two? Well, sometimes you divide up the land equally, but if that land continues to get smaller and smaller, it will not sustain an additional person, not to mention additional family. If you were to follow the procedure, which the Greeks did not, of primogenitor, that is, of giving the whole plot to the eldest son, but what happens to the others? So that clearly is a problem and the notion that land hunger is a key explanation, I think, is supported by the fact that wherever we find a polis, whatever other characteristics it has, and they vary, some of them are located at wonderful places on the sea for trading purposes, some of them are not, but all of them have a land supply which permits the citizens to farm successfully and thereby to make the polis succeed.
But I don’t think that’s the only answer. I think the desire for commerce would have been also — I agree with the traditional view which is that this would have been at a lesser consideration, but still very important, because we so often find that the colony is placed right at a nifty place for trade. They would have had to be damn fools to have settled there without that being in their minds, although some of the places where they settled leave us puzzled, and have left the ancients puzzled. One of my favorite examples is the colony on the south shore of the Bosporus, which is called Chalcedon. It’s right opposite Constantinople — that doesn’t exist, Istanbul. Winston Churchill never, never conceded that it was Istanbul; he called it Constantinople till the day he died. But right opposite that magnificent site, the golden horn is there. How could you possibly settle there, because they settled Chalcedon first and the tradition that the Greeks pass on is the people who settle Chalcedon were blind men, because you would have to be blind to make that choice. Well, we don’t know why they did what they did.
So nonetheless, the desire for a good commercial opportunity might well have been one of the elements that these people who were leaving their home cities sought. Then there are less — what’s the word I want? Certainly things that have nothing to do with economics really — there are politics going on in these states as there always are in any Greekpolis. There are factions that grow up for one reason or another and they come into conflict. One side wins the argument and the battle, and sometimes the ill will is so great that the losing side feels either that it has to flee for its safety, or it chooses to flee rather than to live under their opponents. So, defeated political groups might well — or individuals who were the heads of those groups might decide they have to get out of town. And now that we do have something, namely, this wave of colonization, they join that as well.
Then there are always things that we might call much less rational than that. In any group of people there is a small minority, I want to emphasize small, who just love to do risky things. They just love adventure; they’re never happy if they’re safe, and so off they go seeking adventure and seeking to make a fortune however they’re going to do it, so I think that has to be counted into the picture too, so typically I think it would have been a small part of what’s going on. So, for these reasons and probably for hundred more that I haven’t thought of, we can understand why these people go against the natural instinct of staying put and go adventuring out, seeking a new home someplace in the Mediterranean.
Chapter 2. How Greek Colonies (or Apoikiai) Worked [00:12:01]
Okay, what are these new settlements like? First thing is that they’re like each other in many important ways, although obviously with differences from place to place. But here’s how it worked — by the way, the word I have been using, colony is not a Greek word and really not appropriate for what the Greeks are up to. The Greek word for this is, apoikia, and most literally it would mean a home away, an away home and that’s what they’re making. They are establishing for themselves a household, a home someplace away from where they started, and that’s the name. Colony is a Latin word ultimately for colonia and the Roman colonies were, first of all, garrisons that they planted in land they had conquered to keep the people quiet. So, they would be alien bosses in a different territory. And then later in history, in Roman history, that was the name given to establishments, rural establishments, when the civilization was breaking down and the men who worked on those rural places really were not free men. They were the antecedents of the Serfs, which we will see later on in medieval history in Europe. So, when you see the word colonia in late Roman history, it’s talking about something very, very different from what we’re talking about. So, I use the word colony because that’s what we have for all such establishments of the kind we’re talking about. Remember that these are apoikiai from the Greek point of view.
Okay, how does an apoikia happen? Somebody in one of the old Greek cities has to decide that he wants to go out and establish a colony. He would be an individual of some eminence, because the job of doing this requires that people should accept his leadership. He will have to do the recruiting of people that come with him on the colony; he will have to do the constitutional discussion and a political discussion to gain the sanction from the mother city to allow him to do everything he knows. So, I think we should imagine that these leaders of colonies, these founders of colonies, would be probably noblemen and that they would have a position of eminence, and yet unlikely to be part of the sort of dominant faction in that city, because otherwise why would they leave? Anyway, the Greeks had a name for this individual. He was called an oikistes; he is the found of the colony.
So, now he has decided to do it and he’s gained recognition from the town council, let’s say, and he can go forward. Now, he has to have an idea. He can’t just say, I think I’d like to found a colony. What is more typical, I think, is that he thinks, I would like to take and have found a colony on the southeastern coast of Sicily. Why? Because he knows something about it; either he has somehow traveled out there himself and said, the place I’m thinking about has a wonderful harbor, it has good farmland in the neighborhood, and a critical element to making this judgment is that it is not occupied by hostile natives who will resist vigorously your landing there. Either there will be nobody there or more likely there will be not a very big population, and it’s not very tough, and they could be easily brushed aside. Those would have been some of the considerations, and so what the oikistes does when he has picked out in his own mind where he wanted to go, next he goes to Delphi.
Anybody — raise your hand if you’ve been to Delphi. When you go to Greece do the obvious, go where the tourists go and Delphi is one place not to miss. It’s halfway up Mount Parnassus and it was thought by the Greeks to be theomphalos, the navel of the universe, the center in every way. Why? Because there the god Apollo had established an oracle. There was a place in which from the earth there came — it wasn’t steam, what would it be? Gases would escape through this gap in the earth and there when things got figured out and arranged, there were priests who worshipped Apollo there and who took care of this phenomenon. They would place a young woman there who would sit as these gases came up and she would after a while begin to, I suppose in the biblical languages, she would speak in tongues, which is to say she would rattle off a lot of language which nobody could understand what she was saying. Gibberish, or so it sounded, or Greek but making no sense to anybody, and then the priest would listen to this stuff and he would say, what Apollo said through the priestess here is, and he would give the message.
Let me just take a moment to tell you about this. I say this now with great confidence but ten years ago this story, which all the Greeks agreed too, agreed upon in every respect, that the temple of Apollo was built right on top of this, and underneath the floor of the temple was this little room where the gases came up, where the priestess sat, where all of this came up. Well, archaeologists investigated this carefully, and the French School of Archaeology late in the nineteenth century dug everything up and concluded this was baloney; it was a myth. There were no gases coming up from any of this stuff, and so everybody believed for the next century, and then a young man who once sat in one of the chairs — not in this room maybe, but in which you’re sitting, John Hale of the Yale Class of 1973, who is now an archaeologist at the University of Louisville. Having learned, or having agreed, let’s say, with my prejudice, that the higher naiveté must reign — and if the Greeks said it happened, you got to believe it happened, until you have to believe that it didn’t happen. And so he decided to investigate this and he took with him a fine geologist from Wesleyan just to go to the place there at Delphi and to see whether it could be true that such gases did come out, and what sort of gases they were, and what consequences they would have, and you know I wouldn’t be telling you this story if it hadn’t turned out that they discovered evidence that, in my judgment, but I don’t think really anybody doubts it anymore, that totally confirmed the Greek story. They tell you precisely what the gases were, what the characteristics of those gases were, and it squared beautifully with all details that we heard about the Delphic Oracle. So, here’s just one more case where Yale helped to straighten out the world, but you notice it wasn’t done by a Yale faculty member, we engage in confusing the world, but our alumni do a much better job and that’s what happened here.
So, you go to the oracle and what do you ask the oracle? Well now, before we go any further — in your Herodotus readings and elsewhere, you will come across many a story in which an oracle is consulted and gives an answer. Well, the most famous early on, King Croesus of Lydia, the richest man in the world, you’ve heard all about him, decides it would be a nice thing to conquer the Persian Empire, his neighbor to the east. So, he goes to — he’s a barbarian, but the barbarians came to the Delphic Oracle too, because you want to know what the gods want. So, he came and he asked. He said, “If I cross the Halys River, that’s the boundary between Lydia and Persia, what will happen?” The oracle replied, “A great empire will be destroyed,” and Croesus said, “Terrific that’s what I have in mind.” He invaded and he was clobbered, and then you read the splendid story Herodotus tells of how he was captured. He was up on a pyre, and he was going to be burned when he remembered Solon, the Greek, who had come to him and warned him about the vain glory, and he said, oh Solon, oh Solon. I guess Apollo must have then said, he’s reached wisdom and so he sent a rainstorm to put the fire out and he lived through that.
Well okay, the point is the oracle was wrong. No, of course not. We all know what was wrong with Croesus. He should have asked another question, which empire? But he didn’t think of it; other times all kinds of funny stories are told about the oracle, which would suggest that it wasn’t really a very reliable source of information, that it was filled with mythology and so on and so forth. But here is the hard headed fact. We know for sure Greeks and barbarians, and everybody came to Delphi, and when you came to Delphi and you were going to consult the oracle, it was hard, there were a lot of people, a long line, so there was a waiting issue. But also people used to bribe the priests, in order to get moved up on the front on line, and they would also give great and beautiful gifts to the temple people and to the temple, and to the priest. In other words, people spent a lot of money to consult the oracle. Now, ask yourself this, especially if you’re talking about Greeks, are they going to keep shelling out money for an oracle that gives them answers that turn out to be wrong? No.
Most of the things they asked were questions that really had a yes or no answer, and according to my thinking, there’s no way they could have been wrong very much. I think the oracle probably gained its fame for being very good precisely at answering this question. The question would have been what will happen if I go and try to settle a colony at the place which I will call Syracuse — that’s what I’ve been describing on the southeastern coast of Sicily. The answer would come and the priests would give a response that would be essentially straight. It would either say something like — I’m not going to do the words that they would have come up with, but they would have said, yeah that’s a good place to go or don’t do that, that’s a terrible mistake. Now, why would they be able to do that? Because at some point in here, Delphi really did become the navel of the universe; everybody came.
Now, you can bet when these folks came and consulted the priest and said, could you please put us down on the list, we want to consult the oracle, the priest said sure have a beer, let’s talk about your hometown, what’s going on out there. What I’m suggesting to you is that this was the best information gathering and storing device that existed in the Mediterranean world. These people knew more than anybody else about these things, and so consulting that oracle was a very rational act indeed. Okay, now suppose you are the oikistes, you’ve gotten the permission from your city to go forward, and you go to the Delphic Oracle and the Delphic Oracle says fine, by all means, go where you want to go. Next thing, you got to go home and you have to write up what amounts to a charter of foundation for the city, which lays out how things are going to work in this city — something about the governmental structure, maybe even more fundamentally how the land will be allotted, assigned, divided, and so on so that when you go to recruit settlers, everybody will know what he’s getting and will decide whether it’s a good idea for him or not.
Now, recruiting is tremendously important because you need to have a certain number of settlers to make the settlement viable. You may not run into an enormously powerful collection of natives, but you’re going to get some kind of trouble. It’s foolish for you to assume you’re not going to have any problem out there. So you need a certain number of people just for defense purposes, but beyond that you need to have a certain number of people to carry out all the functions that need to be carried out for a successful polis. So however many that is, that is what you try to recruit and you recruit typically at a time when it’s easy to get people together so you can tell them the story.
The best time would be at some great festival. There are festivals held in each city just for its own citizens and my guess is that when you could do that, when you felt that you could recruit a full colony from your fellow citizens in Corinth, let us say, that’s what you did. But it would often happen that there were not enough Corinthians who were ready to go with you on your expedition. So, you would try to take your message to one of the Pan-Hellenic festivals which were getting organized about this time. As you know, the Olympic Games are alleged to have started in 776. So, that would be a place where Greeks from all over might come and you could then try to recruit settlers for your new colony there, and then we don’t know precisely when but there were Pan-Hellenic Games near Corinth, the Isthmian Games, there were Pan-Hellenic Games at Delphi and there Pan-Hellenic Games in the northeastern Peloponnesus at a town called Nemea. So, there would always be some opportunity for you to go out and make your pitch. So now you have everything in place, you’ve recruited your settlement, you get on your ships and sail, in this case out to the west central Mediterranean, you find your way to Sicily, work your way into the harbor at Syracuse and things work out, and now we have this apoikia called Syracuse.
So, the next question I think is, what is the relationship between Syracuse which is the apoikia and Corinth, which is the metropolis, the mother city; that’s what metropolis means by the way. First thing to brush from your mind, along with the word colony as we have used it in modern times, is the notion that the city of Syracuse was sent out to be a colony, that Corinth controlled, owned the city of Syracuse which it has sent out. This is not the case — well, before the British gave Hong Kong back, Hong Kong was a crown colony, it was British territory. It was ruled by Britain and so on. No, this is not what an apoikia is. From the first, Syracuse is an independent polis, autonomous, self-governing, whatever regime it wants, etc. It is not a subject of anybody, not Corinth or anybody else. That’s not the end of the story. The question really is, so now we know that, what kind of relations did they have? I would say there are three categories that they fall into.
The most typical, the usual, everything else is an exception is that there are friendly relations between the mother city and the apoikia, but keep in mind that they are always independent, and an example is in the Peloponnesian War. Syracuse finds itself besieged by the Athenians. They go to Corinth asking the Corinthians to please help us. The Corinthians are free; they will be violating no law or sacred bond if they say, sorry we really don’t feel like doing that. It would be thought they were not behaving very well, but they would have been as I say, perfectly within every right you can imagine to do that. But the typical reaction would be that the Corinthians would help, to the extent first of all, that they could and secondly, to the extent that it was consistent with their interests. Well, in fact, the Corinthians send very little, send a couple of ships and a general, which turn out to be tremendously important, but they couldn’t have known that in advance.
From where we sit, it looks like the Corinthians were making a gesture of friendship, of solidarity, the kind of thing you would expect a mother city to do, not to ignore its apoikia when it was in trouble. So that’s all that they did. First of all, it was normal for the apoikia to turn to the mother city for help, and it was normal for the mother city to be inclined to help if they could do it. That’s normal. I think if you can imagine of the many, many, many colonies there were, that would have been the usual arrangement. Now, there are exceptions in both directions, and as it happens the cases I know best have to do with the city of Corinth. Corinth sent out a lot of colonies, which is why we know something about their arrangements. The ones I’m talking about all have to do with the Peloponnesian War which is one of the reasons why we know a little bit about it, because Thucydides tells us the details of it. Well, we know, thanks to Thucydides, that it had become normal for Corinth to send out to its colony Potidaea, located on the Chalcidic peninsula, those three fingers sticking down into the Aegean Sea from the mainland of Greece, this is a town on one of those fingers.
Potidaea every year received magistrates who governed their city from Corinth and this was not imposed, this was not by force, this was by mutual agreement. So, Corinth really had a very great deal to say about what was going on in Potidaea. So, when Potidaea got into trouble with Athens, and found itself besieged, Corinth sent a real army to go in there and fight, and I think that’s because of this very special relationship that they had. At the other end of the spectrum it’s again Corinth and they have a colony up in the northwest called Corcyra, it is the modern Island of Corfu, and this colony was clearly established earlier than 664, because that’s the first time we hear of its taking any action; it’s been around for a while, very early colony. From the earliest times, Corcyra does not get along with the mother city of Corinth. The first relationship between them is a navel battle, and thereafter we hear of them quarrelling and fighting with each other just about at least once a century right on down until we get to the Peloponnesian War when a quarrel over who’s what out in that area between Corinth and Corcyra is, I would say, the first instigating element in bringing on the Peloponnesian War.
Okay, so this gives you some idea of the range of possible relationships between colony and mother city. I just want to emphasize one more time, that the overwhelming normal situation is the first one I described, friendly relations. Why not? These guys that have gone out, let us say to Syracuse, they are your people, they have relatives back home, they have friends back home, it is natural — oh by the way, they’re accustomed to worship the gods in the same way that the Corinthians do. We do know, again, Thucydides is our source, that it was customary for colonies to send representatives back to the mother city for the religious observations that were common to them all, so that those create good feelings. They feel like their relatives, and what could be more natural. You’re out there in Sicily and you discover, of course, that you don’t have all of the things that you used to have available to you, that used to be made let us say in Corinth. As a matter of fact, in the early days, Corinth was a great center of painted pottery and was the leading producer and exporter of that. So, maybe you wanted a really fine pot of the kind you used to be able to walk to the corner and pick up at a pottery shop, but you can’t get now, so you would want to buy what the Corinthians sell.
Guess what? You’ve got great grain fields out there in Syracuse. Hard to believe today, but Sicily was one of the major granaries of the Mediterranean world at that time, tremendously fruitful, able to grow the best possible crops, very good wheat and so on. Corinth always needs that kind of stuff, so we sell you our wheat, you sell us your pottery, you sell good wine that we can’t grow yet and maybe never will be able to grow in our neighborhood, so on and so forth. So you can see why it would be very natural for all sorts of ties to unite these colony and mother city. Maybe I ought to just give you a chance before I turn to the next question to ask any questions that still are not clear for you about this phenomenon of colonization. Everybody okay? Yes?
Student: In the original city when they had to get permission to form a colony, what group of people was it that they gave permission?
Professor Donald Kagan: The question is who gave permission for a colony to go in the mother city. The best guess and that’s the only thing we have. These would have been aristocratic republics at this stage of the game, and so there would have been a council of nobles that would typically have done it. As you move later in their history, you find you can guess that there would be councils that were not purely of nobles but might be of wealthy people, but they would always be a minority and come from the upper class. I think that would be where they would get their legitimacy. In the back, yeah?
Student: What extent was the primitive form of [inaudible]
Professor Donald Kagan: Primitive form of what [inaudible]
Professor Donald Kagan: I’m not sure that that concept makes — no, the answer is no, because nobody was compelled to do anything. The British practicing mercantilism passed navigation acts, saying what ships could carry what and so on — nothing like that in the Greek world. Everybody — all of this is voluntary on both sides of every agreement.
Chapter 3. Mapping the Colonies [00:37:55]
Okay, now where are these colonies? Let me give you a little run down. Before we get to that, I should say that the Greeks have already, before this period of the polis and the period of colonization which is connected with the rise of thepolis, centuries before that the Greeks had already spread out from their original settlements. Right after the collapse of the Mycenaean world it was a period of tremendous confusion and panic and fear, and so on, so that we know that people fleeing from whoever destroyed the Mycenaean world fled typically eastward into the island, among the islands of the Aegean Sea and continuing on to the coast of Asia Minor beyond them, so that by the tenth century B.C., we see Greek cities lining the coast of Asia Minor on the west, and even around on the bottom and to some degree on the north, and on the islands in the Aegean. So, there has been a Greek — what’s the word I want? There is an expansion of the Greek world already by the tenth century, and these folks are now settled down, so that some of these cities are in fact among the most important cities sending out colonies of their own.
Of these, the most famous, perhaps the most important, was Miletus, an Ionian city located on the west coast of Asia Minor, which sent many a colony into different parts of the world, particularly up towards the straits and the Bosporus and the Sea of Marmara. I might point out that the way the Greeks did their immigration into Asia Minor actually had a pattern so that you can go from north to south and you will find some consistency. Here’s what I mean. The northern most settlements on that coast spoke Greek with an Aeolian dialect; the Aeolian dialect is the one that you see on the mainland in places like Boeotia for instance Thebes and so on. South of the Aeolian section of that was the region of Asia Minor inhabited chiefly by Ionians, the people on the mainland who are the main Ionians are the Athenians. Finally, if you go to the most southern part of the west coast of Asia Minor, you come to the Dorian speaking Greeks and the whole Peloponnesus, as you know, was fundamentally a Dorian speaking place. So that’s the way the world looks when the polis is invented and when colonization begins to become a big thing.
Now, let’s take a look at the world of the Mediterranean and see how Greek expansion worked. Let’s start with the Aegean Sea. Just almost all the islands in that sea are inhabited by Greeks, mostly by the Greeks that came in that first wave of immigrants earlier on, not colonized during the eighth century and afterwards. But if you go to the north shore of the Aegean Sea, into the region that the Greeks called Thrace — sorry, before I even get to Thrace, maybe even a little bit of Thessaly which is off mostly west of the Aegean Sea, a little bit but not Thrace chiefly, which is the northern shore of the Aegean Sea, lots of Greek colonies there; it’s fundamentally part of Greece. Yeah, this is not a bad time for me to remind you that in one of Plato’s dialogues, Socrates says the Greeks sit like frogs around a pond and that pond is the Aegean Sea. It’s a helpful little story to remember, because we tend to think of Greece because of its modern geography as that peninsula of which there is a sub-peninsula at the bottom, which is Peloponnesus. That was not the Greece of antiquity. If you had to pick a central focus of where the Greeks were, it would be in the Aegean Sea so that’s useful to remember.
Then as you move east along that coast, you come to the Gallipoli Peninsula, all of which is now Turkey and for the rest of what I’m going to be saying for awhile, it’ll be Turkey as well, but through the straits, the Dardanelles, Sea of Marmara, Bosporus, Greek cities all over on both sides. If you keep going east you hit the Black Sea. If you move northwards along the Black Sea and southwards as well, Greek cities, not in the same number, they’re fewer than they are in the places I’ve mentioned so far, but important ones. For instance, when you get up to Crimea, the chief city we call, Seastapole that comes from Greek words, it means sebastos polis, the sacred city, so named after Augustus by Greeks who lived there after the Emperor Augustus had achieved power, but it was always inhabited by Greeks.
Similarly, Odessa, the chief city of Ukraine, apart from Kiev, was a Greek city and likewise on the northern shore of Turkey there are Greek cities to be found. One that leaps to mind is — how do they pronounce it in Turkish? Is it Trebzond? But it was Trapezos — what was it called in Greek? Trapezos wasn’t it? Anyway, the Black Sea is not a Greek lake, but there are Greek cities that are spotted along the coast. Now not on the east coast, when you get to the Caucuses you are in barbarian territory. So when the mythical mission of Jason and his Argonauts go sailing out to that territory, he is out there in Tarzan country, or as far as the Greeks were concerned, it was just the wild out in that territory and remember he marries and brings home a wife, Media, and she, of course, is like no Greek woman who ever lived; she is a witch. She can perform magic and she can do monstrous things that you can’t imagine a Greek woman doing, at least the Greeks can’t imagine, so that’s not Greek territory out there.
Well, let’s get back out into the Aegean Sea and we just crossed Asia Minor. Now, if you turn the bend at the southern end of Asia Minor and begin moving east, there are some Greek cities along in there, but when you get to what is now Lebanon, Syria, the coastal places there, Palestine, there are no Greek cities there and that is because during the period we’re talking about those regions were occupied by civilized powerful people who simply would not be pushed aside, and nobody would even dream of trying to take them on and building cities that would challenge their control of that area. So there are no Greek cities as you keep coming down and pass Palestine. You reach Egypt, and of course, Egypt is one of the great empires of antiquity going back into, perhaps, certainly into the fourth millennium, possibly into the fifth, by no means as powerful as it used to be, far from it. It has been conquered by now by other peoples. If you’re talking about the year 750 or something like that it’s — I think it’s in the hands, well, it is in the hands of the Assyrians and it will ultimately fall into the hands of the Persians. So that is not territory that you can build colonies; you’ve got powerful empires to deal with.
There is one exception. In the sixth century, I think it’s around — imagine around 550 or something like that, the Greeks settle a single colony in the Delta of the Nile of Egypt at a place called Naucratis, and the root of that word is ship. It is a completely different thing from the apoikia that I’ve been talking about. It is a trading post and it’s there by permission of and under the protection of the King of Egypt, and that’s because he wants — it’s handy for him to have a merchant settlement of Greeks for him to do business with. So, that’s a great exception to everything I’ve been saying. Going west, would you believe, when you get into what is now Libya, there was a very important Greek colony of Cyrene and that whole region was called Cyrenaica and it was a Greek. You can actually go, now that I realize that Libya is now open; it’s no longer a closed territory. You can see Greek and Roman temples there to prove it.
When you go west, however, it stops in the coast of North Africa — the reason being the rest of North Africa is dominated by Carthage. Carthage is a colony of Phoenician cities. Phoenicia was located where Lebanon is now, and it goes back to maybe the tenth century, maybe the ninth, and it was powerful. It tried to control not only North Africa, but the waters of the Mediterranean in the west entirely. The Carthaginians, in fact, have a powerful pied à terre in the western part of Sicily and the Greeks will have to fight the Carthaginians over the years for control of the island of Sicily. So, that’s how far east they get and in time the Carthaginians also cross over into Spain and they control some portion of the Spanish coast closest to Africa. So, there are no Greeks there. They’re shut out for the same reasons. However, once you get beyond the Carthaginians advance into Spain, there are now Greek cities on the coast of Spain and there continue to be Greek cities, not everywhere, but in a spotty way into France of which the most important and famous is the one that the Romans called Masillia, Marseille, a Greek town.
So is Nice a Greek town. Nice was Nikea, victory town and there are several others. So, they know where to go, the Riviera, places like that. Now, what about the Italian Riviera? That’s pretty nifty. Were the Greek colonies near Portofino where you could put in? No. And the reason was in the northern part of Italy, there were Etruscans, another powerful ancient people who control their own area and were not about to have anybody colonizing their territory. However, when you keep going south in Italy, past Rome, Roman tradition says the city was founded in 754 or 753? 753. So, everybody agrees about that. Certainly not before that. So, in the period we’re talking about there are no Romans that you have to worry about. So, south of Rome there is a tremendous colonizing of southern Italy. Greek cities are all over the place. So Greek was that area that when the Romans do come to dominate most of Italy and sort of move up against the southern region they refer to the whole southern portion of that peninsula as Magna Graecia, great Greece because they’re all Greeks down there. Then finally, down we go to Sicily and there you have the east coast. I would say two-thirds of the coast of the island of Sicily is filled with Greek towns. The third to the west is under Carthaginian control. The inland, the Greeks don’t move in there. The natives Sicilians inhabit that territory and the Greeks are not interested. You will find very rare of the case of a Greek city, which is founded away from the sea; they always wanted to be close to the sea for varieties of reasons.
So, now I hope you have in your mind a picture of the way the Greek world had expanded by the time this wave of colonization was complete — pretty complete, sometime in the seventh century B.C. Just a word about the leading colonizers, because I think there’s something to be learned from that. One of the things you kind of speculate about, and wonder about, why did some cities send out lots of colonies, some cities send out only a few, and others none at all for quite a while. Well, if you see who does then you may have a clue. Well, here is a list of the early extensive colonizers. Miletus, I mentioned to you from Asia Minor; Corinth on the isthmus; Megara right next door to Corinth, also more or less on the isthmus. Then we turn to the island of Euboea, that long island that’s right next to the east coast of Attica, Euboea. There were two important cities in the northern part of that island. One was Calkis and the other one was Eretria and we hear about them relatively early in the eighth century, already being very important, very strong and fighting each other in a famous war that they fought. But these cities were very active in colonizing in a variety of directions. Lots of these towns sent colonists up north into the Dardanelles and so on and beyond and some of the same cities send out colonies to Sicily, so that for the real colonizing states there was no limit to where they would send people who wanted to go in those areas.
It is also interesting to notice who does not colonize at this early period and the answer is all the most famous cities of Greece in the Classical Period. Athens doesn’t send out a colony until sometime in the sixth century. Sparta starts at an early point, sends out a colony to southern Italy at some time, probably early, they sent out a colony to an island in the Aegean Sea, Melos, and then they stopped and never sent out another colony. Finally, Thebes, the greatest city in Boeotia, also does not colonize. So what can we speculate is the meaning of that? What we find is that the states who are doing most of the colonizing are located where most of the trade was going on at this point in history, and also most of the manufacturing. When I say manufacturing, you understand everything is done by hand, but you see things like shops that contain a number of slaves working for a master. In some cases, especially the later on you go, some shops that have quite a few slaves that worked to produce these things. It’s the handy craft industry but it’s an industry nonetheless. Well, these places are the ones that have the trade, the industry, and also engage in colonization. Moreover, as we will see, there will be internal trouble in the form of political quarreling, economic conflict, and finally warfare, civil wars occur in some of these cities leading to the emergence, and in the next topic I’ll turn to, of the establishment of tyrannies, as the way of resolving for a time these terribly tumultuous conditions in those cities.
All of these things are true of places like Corinth, Megara and possibly Chalcis and Eretria. So, it is easy to see that where there is that kind of conflict and trouble, there would be people who would want to flee that and to go elsewhere. It might well be that the people who won those wars, internal wars, would have been glad to send them away rather than to have these discontented people and these folks who were their enemies hanging around town and making trouble. It is only speculation, but it seems to make sense and we know we don’t hear of such troubles within Athens and Thebes, and Sparta. It also is possible, again it’s just speculation, that population pressure might well be greater in the cities that did the colonizing. They tended, in general, not to have as much farmland as the places that I have described as not being colonizers, who may not have felt the pressures of land hunger, which was so important in motivating colonization. So, that may explain why some of the states did and others did not.
Chapter 4. Consequences of Colonization to Greek Life [00:57:27]
Finally, what are the consequences to the Greek experience of this phenomenon of this outburst of colonization? Several things come to mind. First of all, the Greeks now live in places where they never lived before and their presence has a real impact of a different degree in every place. I would say that typically their impact was greater in the west and the north than it was in the east and the south. The reason for that was that in the east and in south, the Greeks lived among people who were more civilized than they, who were more advanced. They had very little to teach or to impose upon those people rather than vice versa. I think that I would imagine the Greeks sopping up all sorts of useful and interesting information from their neighbors in the east and the south and there’s no question about it. If you look at Greece in this period, I don’t know if I’ve used this term before, but some scholars refer to this general period we’re talking about as the Greek renaissance by analogy to the renaissance in Italy.
There’s something to it, because things happened in this period that are revolutionary in the arts, in the thinking of people, philosophy is going to be invented in Miletus probably in this sixth century B.C. Well, Miletus was on the main routes to all of the places where advanced knowledge could be found, Mesopotamia, Egypt. Anybody who looks at Greek mythology and Greek poetry, and Greek stories sees there is a powerful influence coming into Greek thought from mainly the Mesopotamian direction. Anybody who looks at the earliest Greek art for quite some time, I’m talking about sculpture and temple building, will see the influence of Egypt enormously powerfully. So, the Greeks are sopping up tremendously useful information and talent, and skills, and all sorts of things that help explain what’s going to be coming.
It is inconceivable the Greeks could have developed a civilization that they did without contact with these eastern civilizations and learned a great deal from them. Now, people — some people make an enormous jump from that and wrongly suggest that what the Greeks basically did was — well, if you want to take the most extreme statement of it, stole their civilization from the other folks. Well, if you take a look at the Greek civilization let us say in the classical period, those other cultures wouldn’t have had a clue what the Greeks were doing, so different was the Greek experience from theirs. But what is undeniably true is that the Greeks learned very important and valuable things, and adapted what they learned through their own way of life and produced something really quite new, and in many fundamental ways, not only new but the opposite of the places from which these things had come.
There was also, of course, some influence of the Greeks on the people they went to. Obviously, I started out by saying this would probably have been felt most strongly in the west and in the north, where the people, who lived there, before the Greeks came, were not civilized or were not highly civilized. They did not have great urban cultures and civilizations, long traditions of learning and so on. No, they weren’t like that, the Greeks were ahead of them and it’s evident that they borrowed stuff from the Greeks in every element of life, although it didn’t shape their lives in a potent, fundamental way. But that’s the way influence ran in that part of the world.
Of course, another tremendously important consequence of colonization was the growth of commerce, of trade for the reasons I’ve already given you, but beyond that the Greeks of course, now had access to food stuffs and other things out in where they settled, which gave them a basis for trading with the mother city, which meant there were markets for the mother city, which they hadn’t existed before. But also, the Greeks were in touch with people beyond where they settled, so they could obtain raw materials that were not available before, and also manufactured things that they might not have had access to before. All of which they would have used some for themselves and then engaged in trade with the old Greek cities. In other words, you don’t need a very great imagination to see how this would be a terrific boom to commerce. Think about it for a second, what will this be and how will this effect what’s happening in the cities, the polis?
More and more people, and again I want to remind you, never anything approaching a majority, but more and more people would be making their living in a way that was not agricultural. They would be in commerce and they would be in industry in this small sense and doing all the various things that are not farming and so you now have classes or groups of people who have interests rather different from those of the most primitive polis you could imagine. Some scholars early on in the century, moved by Marxist theories, suggested that you had a capitalist class growing up, there’s just no evidence of that; it’s just wrong. My guess is that the earliest traders of any scope were probably noblemen who also had land and estates back home, but who had the opportunity, the know-how, the connections to make it possible to make a lot of living in trade. Even so, while you don’t have a class of separate people who are just in the business of making things and making money, you do have people who are engaged in those activities and who have some interests that are different from those of the rest of their people who are only hoplites.
It is, I think, part of a conglomerate of activities you want to keep in your mind that is going on here and this is what I’m really trying to get at, socially and economically, and politically. You have to imagine, on the one hand, the hoplite revolution, which I do not shrink from saying, but it’s a very debatable term, is going on. More and more farmers are becoming independent, self-sustaining, hoplite farmers of the kind that I’ve described. You can’t expect them to continue to live in the same way as they did before, deferential to their betters, that is to say, tugging their forelocks before the aristocrats and just leaving all the decisions to the aristocrats. They’re not going to feel the same way about it, there’s going to be pressure from them for a better participation in the decisions that are made in the state. And also there will be some rich people, very rich people, rich in a different way from the way people used to be rich; rich meant the best land. Now, there will be people who will have wealth in the form of precious things and I would use the word money. I’m not going to use the word coinage because that’s very debated, and anyway there certainly weren’t any coins in Greece as early as say 750. But that doesn’t mean there was no money.
You could have weighed out precious metal, which would be money. Shekels, as in the Bible, are originally not coins; they are quantities, weights of something and come to mean weights of silver or gold. So now you have a change in fundamental economic things. Well, all of this is tied up with this colonial story I’ve been telling you. Finally, I think, it works in both directions at the same time in terms of the impact all of these changes have on the political situation. On the one hand the changes, that is (A) the rise of the hoplite class; (B) the development of lots of commerce and industry and wealth in a new kind and people who don’t fit into the old traditional society; new way has to be found to fit them in because, as I say, they don’t fit. That creates trouble. As we shall see very shortly, that trouble often takes the form of first of factional struggles within the aristocracy, which then after awhile come to involve people outside the aristocracy, which ultimately come to civil war in which certainly the people who have become the most important fighting men, the hoplites, become engaged on one side or the other or perhaps sometimes on both.
So that’s the, what you might say, is the negative side of the story. But colonization, especially, some scholars have pointed out, I think persuasively, also for some considerable time provided an answer to that problem in the form of an escape valve, where you had these people who were losers and angry and troubled, or people who had in any case were not happy with the way things were going in their mother city. Well, they didn’t have to stay and fight it out. They could go away and they did, in very considerable numbers, and so one is easily reminded of the American experience, as it has often been interpreted, in which the frontier is seen to be a tremendously valuable safety valve to the Americans, first as colonists, and then as independent people.
Americans didn’t have the kind of terrible class warfare and the terrible warfare within cities that the Europeans had experienced throughout most of their history, because really unhappy and angry people could always go west, get new places. I mean, fundamentally, Kansas is a colony in a certain Greek sense, all of these places are. So, that’s part of the story of why America had the very lucky early history that it had. So, I think we have to understand that colonization provided something analogous to that for the Greek people. So now, here we are somewhere in the seventh century, most of these places I’ve been talking about have been settled, the currents that I have been describing are flowing and the kinds of problems they have give rise to what will be felt in most of the towns and that is the proper introduction to the next topic, which I’ll discuss next year. No not — it seems like a year, but it’s next Tuesday actually.
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