Greece before 1000 B.C. was the site of several sophisticated cultures, including the Cycladic civilization on the Cyclades islands, the Minoan culture on the island of Crete and the Mycenaean culture on the mainland. Over time, other peoples migrated into the area, including a group called the Dorians.

Starting in about 1000 B.C., these peoples began to form city-states, with their own rulers, armies and governments. Between 800 and 500 B.C., Athens and Sparta emerged as the most powerful city-states.

The period between 500 and 300 B.C. was a time of great discoveries in science, mathematics and medicine and is known as the Classical Age in Greece. It produced many famous politicians, architects, sculptors, philosophers, dramatists and historians. This was also a violent time because the city-states fought amongst themselves. In the 4th century B.C., Macedonia arose as a new power within Greece. Philip of Macedonia conquered several of the city-states. His son, Alexander the Great, extended his father's conquests and carried Greek culture to places as far away as Egypt, Persia and India.

Did you know?

Alexander the Great, one of the greatest military leaders of all time, accomplished his extraordinary conquests as a young man. He died at the age of 33.

After the death of Alexander, the Romans conquered Greece. In the 4th century A.D., the Christianized Roman Empire split into eastern and western parts. Greece became the centre of the eastern (or Byzantine) Empire and Greek became the official language of the Empire. The capital of the Byzantine Empire was Constantinople (now the city of Istanbul in Turkey). It became the centre of art, education, commerce and religion.

In 1453 the Byzantine Empire collapsed with the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks, who were Islamic. The Ottomans ruled Greece for almost 400 years. The Greek struggle for independence ended in 1830, when the London Protocol recognized an independent Greek state.

After independence, Greece was ruled by a king, but in 1924 the country became a republic. Wars with Turkey and the Balkan states on the Adriatic altered its borders in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Greece entered the First World War on the side of the Allies. In the peace treaty following the war, its territories were expanded.

In the Second World War, Greece was invaded by Italy and then occupied by Germany. Resistance fighters helped the Allies expel the Germans in 1944-45. After the war, the monarchy was re-established, but was eventually abolished in 1974. In 1981 Greece joined the European Economic Community, now known as the European Union.