The Impact of Geography on Ancient Greece for Kids & Teachers Illustration

Ancient Greece, Geography


Geography had an enormous impact on the ancient Greek civilization.

Saltwater and Harbors: Ancient Greece was made up of hundreds of city-states, grouped together at the southern end of a very large peninsula that jutted out into the Mediterranean Sea. (A peninsula is a piece of land surrounded by water on three sides.) Smaller peninsulas stuck out from the main Greek peninsula, forming a great deal of natural coastline and many natural harbors. There were hundreds of small islands nearby in the Ionian and Aegean Seas. The people of ancient Greece took advantage of all this saltwater and coastline and became outstanding fishermen and sailors. There was some farmland for crops, but the Greeks could always count on seafood and waterfowl to eat.

Fresh Water and Mountains: The ancient Greeks needed a source of fresh water to settle down. Greece has lots of mountains. They are not huge mountains like the Alps. But they are big enough to provide two important things - a source of fresh water, running down the mountains in creeks and streams, and a system of natural defense barriers.

No Central Government: In part because of the geography of the area, there was no central government in ancient Greece. There were no roads interconnecting the many city-states. The mountains and the winding coastlines made travel by land quite difficult. Travel was mostly by sea. The Greek city-states did know each other. They fought with each other, and teamed up against a common enemy with each other. They challenged each other to competitions.  But each city-state was independent. Each developed its own government. Some were ruled by kings. Others were ruled by councils. Ancient Athens, a very large and important city-state, even experimented with an early form of democracy. The Greek people were free to visit or even move to a different city-state if they wished.

Loyalty to their city-state: If you were to ask an ancient Greek man where he was from, he would not say I'm from Greece. He would say: "I am a man of Sparta." Or: "I am a man of Athens." He would name his home city-state. The ancient Greeks were very loyal to their city-state. But, whatever their city-state, the ancient Greeks spoke the same language. They worshiped the same gods and goddesses. They shared the same culture. They were a civilization.

What do you need to call a group of people a civilization?

What is the definition of a city-state?

Geography of Ancient Greece for Kids and Teachers  (British Museum)

Maps of Ancient Greece for Kids and Teachers

Timelines of Ancient Greece for Kids and Teachers (interactive)

QUIZ: TEST YOURSELF Ancient Greece Geography (Interactive with answers)