Ancient Greek Geography



WE begin to pass from the Heroic Age to a period of much clearer vision and more definite knowledge, though we can not yet account this knowledge as positive history. Let us pause, therefore, for a moment's clearer picturing of this land of Greece in which great deeds were to be done. Geographically you will understand Greece if you compare it to your own right hand, outspread back uppermost. So spread it resembles the peninsula of Greece extending southward into the sea. Only, to complete the picture, you must imagine a deep narrow cut slashed straight across the middle of the hand, severing it almost in two and reaching from beneath the little finger across toward the thumb. That cut is the Gulf of Corinth, and south of it the well-nigh severed end of the hand is the Peloponnesus, the most ancient world of Greece.

Those four fingers stretching right out into the sea are four rocky mountain ranges, and between them, watered by fair rivers, are three valleys extending well up into the land. Each of these valleys was the site of a celebrated city. The easternmost, near the forefinger, held two, Argos, the earliest of all Greek cities, and Mycenae, which for a time under the Achaeans usurped the supremacy of the valley from Argos, but lost it again in later days. The middle valley was the land of Lacedemonia, the country of Sparta. In the western valley lay Messene, Sparta's chief rival during several centuries.

The short thumb of this outstretched hand is the peninsula of Attica, and between it and the forefinger lie the Salonican Gulf and the famous island of Salamis. Facing this gulf, near the base of the thumb, stands Athens; and on the muscle joining thumb and forefinger stood Corinth, with its back to that deep slashing cut which we have called the Gulf of Corinth. North of this gulf there were other little Grecian states. Boeotia, with its capital of Thebes, occupied the root of the thumb. Beyond it, extending to the wrist, lay Thessaly, with Mount Olympus at its border to serve as the wrist bone. Between Thebes and the Gulf of Corinth rose the ridge of Mount Parnassus, with the little city of Delphi and its oracle. Further east, north of the Corinthian Gulf, lay other states, Doris, AEtolia, and Acharnania, which at first were a forest-covered wilderness barely recognized as Greek. While up above the wrist lay Macedonia, which had fairly to fight its way into the Grecian family.








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