Greek Colonies in Turkey and their development

Introduction to Greek Colonies in Turkey

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To  have a thorough understanding of how the Greeks expanded and established in Minor Asia, it is vital to be able to separate and clearly distinguish the two major waves that characterized the Greeks expansion to the East: the Doric invasion and the colonization. The Doric invasions started approximately in 1200  BC and continued until 850-800 BC.

 With Doric invasions not only the Greek peoples found definite bases, but also they created a real ‘polis’, which gives to those future entities a strong social and political configuration. The civilization of the Dorians was so strong in terms of military power that even the Achaeans weren’t able to subdue them.

A very common mistake amongst students that study the Greek expansion in Minor Asia is to think that the population who established colonies in the west coasts of Minor Asia was the Dorians. In fact, it was the Ionians who found the first Greek ‘polis’ in Minor Asia around 1000 BC. The Ionians are those people which escaped from the Doric invasion and established in new lands. So basically the Dori invaded another Greek civilization, the Ionians, which weren’t fighters; for this reason some of those Ionians, not to be subdued by the Dorians, decided to escape from the Doric invasion. And, as most modern refugees who escape from their motherland try to settle in the closest country, in the same way the fugitive Ionians, settled in the west coasts of Minor Asia: this is how ancient cities such as Ephesus and Miletos were found.

There are many possible reasons that might have pushed Greek populations to expand: the main one being the need to escape from military enemies which invaded their land, but also overpopulation, plague, common earthquakes, non-fertile lands, will to find new trade routes. Establishing new polis had a huge value for Greeks, so that Thucydides (great Greek historian) used to say: ‘Wherever I conduct you, you will become cities’. The great Greek historian really captures the essence of the meaning of settling new polis for ancient Greeks.

The Greeks differed in many ways to Carthage (a Phoenician city), which was, at that time, the other great military power of the Mediterranean Sea. What made Greeks such a successful and great civilization is perfectly reflected in how they settled in their colonies (and in perfect contrast to what the Carthaginians did). Since many Greeks were looking for liberty themselves (they were in fact escaping from the Dori) it seemed unreasonable to oppress the local population: thus, unlike Carthage, whose only aim was to enlarge the Empire, the Greeks did not impose their laws and hence there was no reason for the colonized civilization to feel hatred towards the colonizing motherland. Basically each city was a State, and that is why many Greek cities were referred to as citystates, because, as there was no Greek Empire, no one had to refer to certain rules or restrictions: in this way each polis enjoyed of great freedom of trade. Thus each polis could develop in its own autonomy manner.


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