Maps of Ancient Greece Show How Country Became an Empire

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Mycenean Greece

Perry-Castañeda Library Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/

The Mediterranean country of ancient Greece (Hellas) was composed of many individual city-states (poleis) that were not unified until the Macedonian kings Philip and Alexander the Great incorporated them into their Hellenistic empire. Hellas was centered on the western side of the Aegean Sea with a northern section that was part of the Balkan peninsula and a southern section known as the Peloponnese that is separated from the northern landmass by the Isthmus of Corinth.

The northern section is best known for the polis of Athens; the Peloponnese, for Sparta. There were also thousands of Greek islands in the Aegean sea, and colonies on the eastern side of the Aegean. To the west, the Greeks established colonies in and near Italy. Even the Egyptian city of Alexandria was part of the Hellenistic Empire.

Historical Maps

These historical maps of ancient Greece take Greece from prehistoric times through the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Many are from the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection Historical Maps: Historical Atlas, by William R. Shepherd. Others are from The Atlas of Ancient and Classical Geography, by Samuel Butler (1907).

Roman Maps

The period of Mycenean Greece ran from about 1600-1100 B.C. and ended with the Greek Dark Age. This is the period described in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. At the end of the Mycenean period, the writing was abandoned.

Sea Maps and the Ancient Greek Timeline. Discover maps that cover Greece up to the Peloponnesian War below, along with that of Alexander the Great, his empire and successors.

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Vicinity of Troy

Perry-Castañeda Library Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/

In the Vicinity of Troy map, The Shores of the Propontis and the plan of Olympia are seen. This map shows Troy and Olympia, the Hellespont and the Aegean Sea. Troy is referred to the name of the Bronze Age city included in the Trojan War of Greece. Now, it is known as Anatolia in modern-day Turkey.

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Ephesus Map

Map of Ephesus
Map showing the ancient city of Ephesus. Public Domain. Source: J. Vanderspoel http://www.ucalgary.ca/~vandersp/Courses/maps/basicmap.html

On this map of ancient Greece, Ephesus is a city on the east side of the Aegean Sea. This map comes from J. Vanderspoel's The Roman Empire. It is a section of 1925 reprint of the 1907 Atlas of Ancient and Classical Geography in the Everyman Library, published by J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd.

This ancient Greek city was on the coast of Ionia, close to present-day Turkey. Ephesus was created in the 10th century BC by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists.

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Greece 700-600 B.C.

The Beginnings of Historic Greece 700 BC-600 BC
The Beginnings of Historic Greece 700 BC-600 BC. Perry-Castañeda Library Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/

This map displays the beginnings of historic Greece 700 B.C.-600 B.C. This was the period of Solon and Draco in Athens. The philosopher Thales and the poet Sappho belong to the tail end, as well. You can see areas occupied by tribes, cities, states and more.

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Greek and Phoenician Settlements

Greek and Phoenician Settlements in the Mediterranean Basin about 550 BC
Greek and Phoenician Settlements in the Mediterranean Basin about 550 BC. Perry-Castañeda Library Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/

Greek and Phoenician Settlements in the Mediterranean Basin are displayed in this map, about 550 B.C. During this period, the Phoenicians were colonizing northern Africa, southern Spain, the Greeks and southern Italy. Ancient Greek and Phoenician colonized many places in Europe along the coasts of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

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Black Sea

Black Sea - Greek and Phoenician Settlements in the Mediterranean Basin about 550 BC
Black Sea Greek - and Phoenician Settlements in the Mediterranean Basin about 550 BC Perry-Castañeda Library Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd. Perry-Castañeda Library Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd

This section of the preceding settlement map shows the Black Sea. Towards the North is Chersonese, while Thrace is to the West and Colchis is to the East.

Black Sea Map Details

The Black Sea is to the east of most of Greece. It is also basically to the north of Greece. At the tip of Greece on this map, near the southeastern shore of the Black Sea, you can see Byzantium, which was Constantinople, after Emperor Constantine set up his city there. Colchis, where the mythological Argonauts went to fetch the Golden Fleece and where the witch Medea was born, is along the Black Sea on its eastern side. Almost directly across from Colchis is Tomi, where the Roman poet Ovid lived after he was exiled from Rome under Emperor Augustus.

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Persian Empire Map

Map of the Persian Empire in 490 B.C.
Map of the Persian Empire in 490 B.C. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia. Created by West Point's History Department.

This map of the Persian Empire shows the direction of Xenophon and the 10,000. Also known as the Achaemenid Empire, the Persian Empire was the largest Empire ever to be established. The Xenophon of Athens was a Greek philosopher, historian, and soldier who authored many practical treatises on topics like horsemanship and taxation.

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Greece 500-479 B.C.

Perry-Castañeda Library Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/

This map shows Greece at the time of the war with Persia in 500-479 B.C. Persia attacked Greece in what are known as the Persian Wars. It was as a result of the devastation by the Persians of Athens that the great building projects were undertaken under Pericles.

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Eastern Aegean

Eastern Aegean from a map of Greek and Phoenician Settlements in the Mediterranean Basin about 550 B
Eastern Aegean from a map of Greek and Phoenician Settlements in the Mediterranean Basin about 550 BC. Perry-Castañeda Library Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/

The cut-out of the previous map shows the coast of Asia Minor and islands, including Lesbos, Chios, Lemnos, Thasos, Paros, Mykonos, the Cyclades and Samos. Ancient Aegean civilizations include the European Bronze Age time period.

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Athenian Empire

Athenian Empire
Athenian Empire. Perry-Castañeda Library Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/

The Athenian Empire, also known as the Delian League, is shown here at its height (about 450 B.C.). The fifth century B.C. was the time of Aspasia, Euripides, Herodotus, the Presocratics, Protagoras, Pythagoras, Sophocles, and Xenophanes, among others.

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Reference Map of Attica

Reference Map of Attica. Thermopylae Plan
Reference Map of Attica. Thermopylae Plan. Perry-Castañeda Library Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/

This reference to the map of Attica shows the plan of Thermopylae is in the time period 480 B.C. This map has insets showing the harbors of Athens.

Persians, under Xerxes, invaded Greece. In August 480 B.C., they attacked the Greeks at the 2-meter wide pass at Thermopylae that controlled the only road between Thessaly and Central Greece. The Spartan general and King Leonidas was in charge of the Greek forces that tried to restrain the vast Persian army and keep them from attacking the rear of the Greek navy. After two days, a traitor led the Persians around the pass behind the Greek army.

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Peloponnesian War

Perry-Castañeda Library Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/

This map shows Greece at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War (431 B.C.).

The war between the allies of Sparta and the allies of Athens began what was known as the Peloponnesian War. The lower area of Greece, the Peloponnese, was made up of poleis allied with Sparta, except for Achaea and Argos. The Delian confederacy, the allies of Athens, are spread around the borders of the Aegean Sea. There were many causes of the Peloponnesian War.

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Greece in 362 B.C.

Perry-Castañeda Library Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/

Greece under Theban Headship (362 B.C.) is shown in this map. The Theban hegemony over Greece lasted from 371 when the Spartans were defeated at the Battle of Leuctra. In 362 Athens took over again.

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Macedonia 336-323 B.C.

Perry-Castañeda Library Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/

The Macedonian Empire of 336-323 B.C. includes insets of The Aetolian and Achaian Leagues. After the Peloponnesian War, the Greek poleis (city-states) were too weak to withstand the Macedonians under Philip and his son, Alexander the Great. Annexing Greece, the Macedonians then went on to conquer most of the world they knew.

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Map of Macedonia, Dacia, Thrace and Moesia

Map of Macedonia, Moesia, Dacia, and Thracia
Map of Moesia, Dacia, and Thracia, from The Atlas of Ancient and Classical Geography, by Samuel Butler and Edited by Ernest Rhys. The Atlas of Ancient and Classical Geography, by Samuel Butler and Edited by Ernest Rhys. 1907.

This map of Macedonia includes Thrace, Dacia and Moesia. The Dacians occupied Dacia, a region north of the Danube known as modern Romania, and were an Indo-European group of people related to the Thracians. The Thracians of the same group inhabited Thrace, a historical area in southeast Europe now consisting of Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. The ancient region and Roman province in the Balkans was known as Moesia. Located along the south bank of the Daube River, it is now known today as Central Serbia.

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Halys River

The Halys River, from a map of Macedonian expansion
The Halys River, from a map of Macedonian expansion. Perry-Castañeda Library Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/

The main river of Anatolia, the Halys River rises in the Anti-Taurus mountain range and flows 734 miles into the Euxine Sea.

The longest river in Turkey, the Halys River (also known as the Kizilirmak River meaning "Red River") is a core source of hydroelectric power. Located at the mouth of the Black Sea, this river is not used for navigation purposes.

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The Path of Alexander the Great in Europe, Asia, and Africa

Itinerary of Alexander the Great
Itinerary of Alexander the Great from World as Known to the Ancients, in The Atlas of Ancient and Classical Geography by Samuel Butler (1907). Public Domain. Courtesy of Maps of Asia Minor, the Caucasus, and Neighboring Lands

Alexander the Great died in 323 B.C. This map displays the empire from Macedonia in Europe, the Indus River, Syria and Egypt. Displaying the boundaries of the Persian Empire, the path of Alexander shows his route on the mission to get Egypt and more.

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Kingdoms of the Diadochi

Kingdoms of the Diadochi
After the Battle of Ipsus (301 B.C.); at the Start of Greece's Roman Struggles Kingdoms of the Diadochi. Perry-Castañeda Library Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/

The Diadochi were the successor kingdoms following Alexander the Great. The Diadochi were important rival successors of Alexander the Great, his Macedonian friends and generals. They split up the empire Alexander had conquered among themselves. The major divisions were the sections taken by Ptolemy in Egypt, the Seleucids who acquired Asia, and the Antigonids who controlled Macedonia.

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Reference Map of Asia Minor

Perry-Castañeda Library Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/

This reference map displays Asia Minor under the Greeks and Romans. The map shows the boundaries of districts in Roman times, as well as the march of Cyrus and the retreat of the Ten Thousand. The map also marks the Persian royal highway.

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Northern Greece

Reference Map of Ancient Greece - Northern Part
Reference Map of Ancient Greece - Northern Part Reference Map of Ancient Greece - Northern Part. Perry-Castañeda Library Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/

Referred to as the northern parts of Greece, this Northern Greece map displays the districts, cities and waterways amongst the Grecian peninsula of Northern, Central and Southern Greece. Ancient districts included Thessaly through the Vale of Tempe and Epirus along the Ionian Sea.

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Southern Greece

Reference Map of Ancient Greece - Southern Part
Reference Map of Ancient Greece - Southern Part. Perry-Castañeda Library Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/

This reference map of Ancient Greece includes the southern part including the inset map of Crete. If you enlarge the map of Crete, you'll see Mt. Ida and Cnossos (Knossos), among other geographic locations.

Knossos was famous for the Minoan labyrinth. Mt. Ida was sacred to Rhea and held the cave in which she put her son Zeus so he could grow up in safety away from his children-eating father Kronos. Coincidentally, perhaps, Rhea was associated with the Phrygian goddess Cybele who also had a Mt. Ida sacred to her, in Anatolia.

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Map of Athens

Map of Athens
Map of Athens, from The Atlas of Ancient and Classical Geography, by Samuel Butler (1907/8). From The Atlas of Ancient and Classical Geography, by Samuel Butler (1907/8).

This map of Athens includes a cutout of the Acropolis and shows the walls to Piraeus. In the Bronze Age, Athens and Sparta rose as powerful regional cultures. Athens has mountains around it, including Aigaleo (west), Parnes (north), Pentelikon (northeast) and Hymettus (east).

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Map of Syracuse

Map of Syracuse
Syraces, Sicily, Magna Graecia Map of Syracuse, From The Atlas of Ancient and Classical Geography, by Samuel Butler (1907/8). From The Atlas of Ancient and Classical Geography, by Samuel Butler (1907/8).

Corinthian emigrants, led by Archias, founded Syracuse before the end of the eighth century B.C. Syracuse was on the southeastern cape and the southern part of the east coast of Sicily. It was the most powerful of the Greek cities in Sicily.

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Mycenae

Mycenae
Mycenae. From The Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd, 1911.

The last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece, Mycenae, represented the first civilization in Greece that included states, art, writing and additional studies. Between 1600 and 1100 B.C, Mycenaean civilization contributed innovations to engineering, architecture, the military and more.

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Eleusis

Eleusis
Eleusis. From The Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd, 1911.

Eleusis is a town near Athens in Greece known in ancient times for its sanctuary of Demeter and the Eleusinian Mysteries. Located 18 kilometers northwest of Athens, it can be found in the Thriasian Plain of the Saronic Gulf.

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Delphi

Delphi
Delphi. From The Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd, 1911.

An ancient sanctuary, Delphi is a town in Greece that includes the Oracle where key decisions in the ancient classical world were made. Known as "the navel of the world", the Greeks used the Oracle as a place of worship, consulting and influence throughout the Greek world.

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Plan of the Acropolis Over Time

Plan of the Acropolis Over Time
Plan of the Acropolis Over Time. Shepherd, William. Historical Atlas. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1911.

The Acropolis was a fortified citadel from prehistoric times. After the Persian Wars it was rebuilt becoming a precinct sacred to Athena.

Prehistoric Wall

The prehistoric wall around the Acropolis of Athens followed the contours of the rock and was referred to as the Pelargikon. The name Pelargikon was also applied to the Nine Gates on the west end of the Acropolis wall. Pisistratus and sons used the Acropolis as their citadel. When the wall was destroyed, it was not replaced, but sections probably survived into Roman times and remnants remain.

Greek Theater

The accompanying map shows, to the southeast, the most famous Greek theater, the Theatre of Dionysus, the site of which was in use until late Roman times from the 6th century B.C., when it was used as an orchestra. The first permanent theater was erected at the start of the 5th century B.C., following an accidental collapse of the spectators' wooden benches.

Source: The Attica of Pausanias, by Pausanias, Mitchell Carroll. Boston: Ginn and Company 1907.

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Tiryns

Tiryns
Tiryns. From The Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd, 1911.

In ancient times, Tiryns was located between Nafplion and Argos of eastern Peloponnese. It became of large importance as a destination for culture in the 13th century BCE. The Acropolis was known as a strong example of architecture due to its structure but was ultimately destroyed in an earthquake. Regardless, it was a place of worship for Greek Gods like Hera, ​Athena and Hercules.

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Thebes on Map of Greece in the Peloponnesian War

Thebes located with respect to Athens and the Gulf of Corinth
Thebes located with respect to Athens and the Gulf of Corinth. Perry-Castañeda Library Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/

Thebes was the main city in the area of Greece called Boeotia. Greek mythology says it was destroyed by the Epigoni before the Trojan War, but then it recovered by the 6th century B.C.

Role in the Main Wars

It does not appear to have recovered in the Trojan War, which is in the legendary period, and so doesn't appear in the lists of Greek ships and cities sending troops to Troy. During the Persian War, it supported Persia. During the Peloponnesian War, it supported Sparta against Athens. After the Peloponnesian War, Thebes became the most powerful city temporarily.

It allied itself (including the Sacred Band) with Athens to fight the Macedonians at Chaeronea, which the Greeks lost, in 338. When Thebes revolted against Macedonian rule under Alexander the Great, the city was punished: the city was destroyed, although Alexander spared the house that had been Pindar's according to ​Theban Stories.

Source: "Thebes" The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature. Edited by M. C. Howatson. Oxford University Press Inc.

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Map of Ancient Greece

Map of ancient Greece
Map of ancient Greece. Public Domain

This map, from an Ancient Greece site, is in the public domain and comes from the 1886 Ginn & Company Classical Atlas by Keith Johnston. Note that you can see Byzantium (Constantinople) on this map. It's in the pink area to the east, by the Hellespont.

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Aulis

Aulis Highlighted on Map of Northern Greece
Aulis Highlighted on Map of Northern Greece. Reference Map of Ancient Greece. Northern Part. (980K) [p.10-11] [1926 ed.]. PD "Historical Atlas" by William R. Shepherd, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 1923

Aulis was a port town in Boeotia that was used en route to Asia. Now known as the modern Avlida, the Greeks often got together in this area to set sail to Troy and bring back Helen.

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Gill, N.S. "Maps of Ancient Greece Show How Country Became an Empire." ThoughtCo, Jun. 29, 2017, thoughtco.com/maps-of-ancient-greece-4122979. Gill, N.S. (2017, June 29). Maps of Ancient Greece Show How Country Became an Empire. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/maps-of-ancient-greece-4122979 Gill, N.S. "Maps of Ancient Greece Show How Country Became an Empire." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/maps-of-ancient-greece-4122979 (accessed October 23, 2017).