Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Greek Highway Essay

Question: The Mediterranean is described as a highway that links Greece with many different regions, states, and empires. Why is this connection significant? How does it contribute to the Greek cultural legacy that is so valued today?

A popular saying among entrepreneurs is “Location, location, location!” Just as a good or bad location can make or break dreams of opening up a successful shop or restaurant, Greece’s central position in the Mediterranean and it’s access to access to the Black, Aegean, Mediterranean, Adriatic, and Tyrrhenean seas made it an ideal center for maritime and land based trade. As Greek merchants traded goods with distant civilizations of the Mediterranean, they brought back unique goods as well as scientific, philosophical, and religious knowledge. Over time, the Greeks adapted new ideas to their culture and expanded on them. Their continued economic success enabled them to export their new ideas throughout the Mediterranean.

Rocky and mountainous Greek soil discouraged the cultivation of grain; however, the landscape was excellent for growing olives and grapes. Because of the unfavorable agricultural conditions, it relied on foreign sources of grain to support a growing population.Because Greece was in the middle of so many different civilizations, it was able to serve as a prominent and crucial center of commercial trade. The Greeks began exporting fine olive oil and wines in exchange for precious food staples and natural resources like fish, grain and lumber. Still, others were able to transport expensive, lightweight items like precious stones and gems over land routes that linked eastern and western regions like Spain and Persia.

As they traded with different colonies, the Greeks learned foreign philosophy, mathematics, science, and religious beliefs. Over time, Greece became a melting pot of ideas. Greek philosophers and scholars combined their knowledge of foreign religion, science, math, and customs with their own. An important name in Greek philosophy is Socrates. He strived to understand human beings and their affairs, his colleagues were more concerned with the natural world. Greeks generally didn’t believe in a supreme deity, rather, they worshiped many. God’s like Demeter, Zeus, and Dionysus commanded the devotion of many Greeks. The myths and fables regarding the origin and affairs of the God’s they worshiped laid the groundwork for Greek literature which explored themes where morals were in conflict with each other.
As wealth and trade expanded and flourished, Greece began setting up colonies in distant regions like Sicily, western Spain, and Egypt. Along with their wine and olive oil, the Greeks were able to export ideas along with their goods. Distant colonies like Saguntum in Spain to Naucratis in Egypt helped to spread and preserve Greek culture, philosophy, and ideas.

As the Greek world developed, its economy became more and more dependent on foreign trade to build and maintain their wealth. They developed greater ability to trade and transport large quantities of goods across the Mediterranean. As they did this, the Greeks assimilated local cultures, customs, and knowledge of religion, science, and philosophy. Prosperous trading ventures encouraged the establishment of Greek colonies throughout the Mediterranean, and in turn, the Greeks were able export new Greek ideas and culture to distant lands.

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