Essay: Colonisation and trade for the Archaic Greeks

Colonisation and trade for the Archaic Greeks between the time of 800 and 500 BC held a large and highly important role due to the lasting impacts it had on society and culture for them. Some of these impacts include, but were not limited to, the opening of new trade factor which ultimately enhanced their culture and knowledge of other places, colonising other lands which meant expansions for the empire, increases in trade and slavery, new trade routes were established which enhanced business and traffic throughout Greece, the different forms of which lands were colonised and taken over, and how the wealthy ultimately mastered the lower class.

The common aspect that the cities had were that of a limited amount of resources. There cities were in a time of crisis, and this sparked the Greek Colonial Expansion. The Greeks were in debt to their previous encounters with foreign traders for they had been given the knowledge of suitable sites for the possibility of resources. For this reason there was a rather large lack of concern towards the commercial factors of establishing colonies. Greek colonies did however decide upon the establishment of trading posts… The earliest of which being Al Mina in Northern Syria. To the Greeks these trading posts were seen as the meeting points for those of Greek and foreign cultures. Vessels and trading areas were under threat of raid, for piracy – according to Thucydides, this had become known as an honourable profession. Along the island Pithecusae, it was rather and ideal placement for raiding or tax vessels. New settlements arose, allowing for more masses to contribute to the trading cause. These settlements were generally lead by disaffected nobles who had been competing for leadership. With administration under control by Aristocracies, any citizens deemed ‘discontent’ with their rule were removes. And so Aristotle wrote; there was a civil strife the nobles and the people for an exceedingly long period of time. These factors all resulted in and were the result of the Greek Colonial Expansion; taking place between 800-500BC.

For one Greek city in particular, colonising was not their preferred choice. Sparta conquered Messenians as a form of expanding. With this Spartans had a different way, they would not colonise, instead they would advance on another city. Due to the way they went about expanding, it lead to long military campaigns with most husbands and men away from their homes for extended periods of time. With this the population of the city was becoming progressively smaller, Sparta, after noticing the drop that was at hand devised a plan to keep the population striving. Taking ’emergency measures’ Sparta set about having the females of his city engage in sexual intimacy with those not of Spartan blood lines. This resulted in many illegitimate children being born. As these children grew, and the population was no longer under threat, it was decided that citizen restrictions would be imposed on those who were not born of pure Spartan blood, this would be unheard off by the now grown children and a revolt against their lack of rights begun. However they were unable to prevail and were forced to leave Sparta, to emigrate. This generation of illegitimate children and all those who were not pure travelled to another land, and unlike the Spartans, they colonised, founding what is known as the colony of Taras or Tarentum in the lands of Italy.

Within Greece there was a limit to the land available, which in turn was becoming largely occupied due to the ever growing population. With this lack of land it became troublesome to feed the population of the mainland. Larger expanses of fertile land however were discovered around the shores of the Black Sea, at Cyrene in North Africa, in Sicily and Southern Italy. Greek nobles and upper class citizens invested in the lands, building upon them, this meant the colonising and expansion of Greek attire to new fertile lands. These expansions allowed for encouraged growth of grain products – wheat and corn – and prospering farms. As the Greeks expanded they seized control of important waterways. This in turn benefitted Greek cities – Potidea, Chalcedon, Syracuse with trading now that the waterways at Hellespoint and Bosphorus were under their control. This respectively meant control of the entrance to the Black Sea and Propontis were all in favour of the Greek colonies. Around the surrounding lands the expansion reached resources were gathered; gold, silver and iron, wool, hides, and timber. Resources as such were extracted from the forests and lands, minerals from the mines of the new colonies. These resources were exchanged with mother cities (located on the homeland) for finished articles. These new colonies and estates gave the benefit of raw minerals and resources to the homeland. The mother cities were gifted with the renaissance of industries – such as pottery, metalwork, and textiles. With new and old trades up and running on course the homeland mother cities were harassed with demands for the royalties they had in possession of coining. Bronze armour, metal utensils, swords, and jewellery kept these cities in the market and thriving. This course had only been enabled by action of colonising new and other lands.

With the colonising of new lands, came the increase in trade and slavery, and also due to the rebirth of the industry, there was a greater need for cheap labour. This had originally been limited form in Greece, but as colonies were formed the colonists captured or subjugated the native populations. Allowing for the number of slaves to grow. Slaves had become a newly and highly profitable trade, and were sought after for work in the mines or on the vast properties now owned by the rich upper class. However, with the increase in slavery the free peasant farmers were no longer capable of standing to the same height the slaves offered. They had become somewhat obsolete, this had brought about the encouragement of luxury growth among those of the upper class. For the increase in trade that came to be, a new form of exchange was needed, as up until the seventh century BC, barter through the use of metal bars had been the main method used for trading and exchanging. A system for trading had now been introduced with the invention of the first known form of coinage, made from a natural compound of both gold and silver, under the name of electrum. These coins were stamped with symbols from the colony they originated, the stamp was to guarantee the weight and quality of the compound coin. Coinage made for a more efficient way of trading and exchanging between colonies and became a widespread notion. These factors that had arisen from colonisation and the new trades at hand had put the wealthy further above the poor freeman then they ever had been, putting them at a level of mastery over the lower class. Thus widening the gap between the two groups that were apart of every Greek colony.

For the Greeks, the colonisation of other lands had introduced new and highly profitable trades, and also introduced coinage which forever changed the way in which trading and exchange exists, which increased their interaction with other nations. They had started as fewer mother cities and became that of an immense nation, spreading across multiple lands and across seas. The Greeks had taken their colonisation into the Propontis and the Black Sea, over the North West Aegean, through the Western Mediterranean, and even into the lands of Africa. Although not every mother city had done so the same way, Sparta being a greater opposition and the strongest Greek force, was able to take another method, they had definitely cultivated what would now in modern times not be thought possible, or considered. This in turn however, created the Ancient Greek history that is now known throughout the globe. With their interactions with other nations they had an impact on near all they met and due to their colonisations they influenced those of foreign lands and cultures, and that today is still seen in most forms of customs, religion and literatures.

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