Colonization of Greek city-states
The two centuries between 750-550 B.C. were marked by expansion and colonization of the Greek city-states, which in turn were made wealthy and powerful. On the other hand, the fragmentation of Greece was further encouraged, as the colonies remained independent from their metropolis, although they shared the same political and religious image. For Thucydides, the main cause of colonization is the "land-hunger". Herodotus' account of the establishment of Cyrene in Africa reinforces this belief, as he emphasizes a prolonged drought as the main cause of this particular colonization. The agony of the metropolis was so great thay they banned the return of any colonists for a five-year period. Overpopulation was also the cause of emigration to other lands. The political system of aristocracy generated a great gap between the rich and the poor. Hesiod describes these social differences in his "Works and Days". In this poem we read that along with poverty and overpopulation, the continual subdivision of the inherited land among many sons produced numerous small lots unsuitable for farming.
Before relocation, the Delphi Oracle was consulted and the choice of land was based on the proximity to the sea and the fertility of the area. The body of the first settlers was composed of people from different social strata, with the "oikistes", the foundation officials, leading the colony and providing the link with the ruling class of the metropolis. The first attempt of colonization occurred in the Dark Ages, though as an escapist act without any order and organization. But, during this period, the colonization was systematized, pre-planned and executed by well-organized cities, the metropolis. One can differentiate two waves of colonization: The first before 750, with a westward dynamic, towards Sicily, Libya and Southern France. Chalkis, Corinth, Achaia, contributed to the generation of the name "Magna Grecia" for South Italy and Sicily with the introduction of the Greek culture to the region and the construction of more glamorous art than that of the originating city. The second thrust of colonization moved east, to an already overpopulated area, since the sub-Mycenaean period. As a consequence, the cities of Asia Minor along with some from the mainland, moved to the less populous areas of the Black Sea, the Hellespond and Propontis. The new settlements provided the metropolis with much needed raw material (leather, iron, gold).
The colonization of the south was limited, as the two powers, Egypt and Carthage, provided little space for any appreciable Greek expansion. In the beginning, the colonies remained completely independent from the metropolis, as the issue of overpopulation was greater than any notion of imperialism. But when in the late seventh century the problem ceased to exist, several city-states saw in colonization a means of extending their power and sphere of influence. Several cities exercised military dominion and some tyrants sent members of their families as "oikistes". Corinth was successful in this but it was Athens that created hegemony. Athens was not so eager to establish colonies and after the Persian Wars the desire to colonize became synonymous to political expansion. They established the kleruchy system of settlements (Klerous=lot) with settlers who remained citizens of Athens, thus extending the Athenian borders. The colonization brought wealth and power to Greece, encouraged trade and through this, the migration of art and the strengthening of the notion of the superior Greek mind among the "barbarians" of the world.
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