Geography of Ancient Greece

Map of the Peloponnese
Map of the Peloponnese.

Greece, a country in southeastern Europe whose peninsula extends from the Balkans into the Mediterranean Sea, is mountainous, with many gulfs and bays. Forests fill some areas of Greece. Much of Greece is stony and suitable only for pasturage, but other areas are suitable for growing wheat, barley, citrus, dates, and olives.

It is convenient to divide ancient Greece into 3 geographical regions (plus islands and colonies):

(1) Northern Greece,
(2) Central Greece
(3) The Peloponnese.​

I. Northern Greece

Northern Greece consists of Epirus and Thessaly, separated by the Pindus mountain range. The chief town in Epirus is Dodona where the Greeks thought Zeus provided oracles. Thessaly is the largest plains area in Greece. It is almost surrounded by mountains. On the north, the Cambunian range has as its highest mountain the home of the gods, Mt. Olympus, and nearby, Mt Ossa. Between these two mountains is a valley called the Vale of Tempe through which runs the Peneius River.

II. Central Greece

Central Greece has more mountains than northern Greece. It contains the countries of Aetolia (famed for the Calydonian boar hunt), Locris (divided into 2 sections by Doris and Phocis), Acarnania (west of Aetolia, bordered by the Achelous River, and north of the gulf of Calydon), Doris, Phocis, Boeotia, Attica, and Megaris. Boeotia and Attica are separated by Mt. Cithaeron.

In northeast Attica is Mt. Pentelicus home of the famous marble. South of Pentelicus is the Hymettus mountain range, which is famous for its honey. Attica had a poor soil, but a long coastline favoring trade. Megaris lies in the Isthmus of Corinth, which separates central Greece from the Peloponnese.

The Megarans raised sheep and made woolen products and pottery.

III. Peloponnesus

South of the Isthmus of Corinth is the Peloponnese (21,549 sq. km), whose central region is Arcadia, which is a plateau over mountain ranges. On the northern slope is Achaea, with Elis and Corinth on either side. On the east of the Peloponnese is the mountainous Argolis area. Laconia was the country in the basin of the Eurotas River, which ran between the Taygetus and Parnon mountain regions. Messenia lies to the west of Mt. Taygetus, the highest point in the Peloponnese.

Source: An Ancient History for Beginners, by George Willis Botsford, New York: Macmillan Company. 1917.