Greece, Ancient, independent cities and states of classical times occupying the Balkan peninsula and the surrounding islands. The earliest major civilization in this area was the Minoan culture centered on the island of Crete (c.2200–1500 B.C.). In the next few centuries the Mycenaean civilization (named after the city of Mycenae on the mainland) flourished (1600–1200 B.C.). The period between 1200 and 750 B.C. is known as the Dark Ages of Greek history. Dorian invaders overwhelmed the culture of Mycenae, but the Greek iron age was introduced. In the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. the first Greek city-states emerged, along with a culture based on the Greek language. Homer's epics date from this time. Trade with Egypt, Syria, and Phoenicia grew, and the city-states formed colonies throughout the Mediterranean area. From the 6th century, Athens and Sparta became the most powerful city-states. The 5th century B.C. began with a thwarted Persian invasion. The Persians were defeated on land at the Battles of Marathon (490 B.C.) and Plataea (479 B.C.) and at sea near Salamis. Athens emerged as the undisputed leader of Greece and led a number of Ionian cities in the formation of the Delian League, whose purpose was to protect commerce and resist further Persian invasions.
The latter half of the 5th century B.C., especially the reign of Pericles, was the Golden Age of Athens, a period of unparalleled cultural activity ranging from the building of the Parthenon to the ideas of Socrates. But resentment against Athenian power led eventually to Athens' defeat by Sparta in the Peloponnesian War (431–404 B.C.).
In the 4th century B.C. Athens' artistic and intellectual achievements continued to flourish. This was the century of Plato, Aristotle, the sculptor Praxiteles, and many others. In 338 B.C. Philip of Macedon became the ruler of Greece. Philip's son, Alexander the Great (356–323 B.C.), expanded Greek power into an empire that extended eastward to the Iudus River, and south to Egypt. In the period that followed his death, called the Hellenistic Age, Greek culture and civilization spread throughout the western world.
Rome first became involved in Greek affairs in 220 B.C. and in 197 B.C. Greek opponents of Macedonia helped the Romans defeat the Hellenistic rulers. From 146 B.C., Greece fell under Roman domination and in 27 B.C. it became the Roman province of Achaea. From A.D. 395, when the Roman Empire was divided into a Western and an Eastern Empire, Greece was incorporated into the Byzantine Empire, which lasted until 1453. After the fall of Constantinople (1453), it became part of the Ottoman Empire.