The Hellenic branch of the Indo-European language family consists of but one member, the Greek language in its various stages, although there may have been more in the ancient past, such as Macedonian. The earliest variety of Greek, Mycenaean Greek, was spoken over 3000 years ago and named after the ancient city of Mycenae, thought to have been the seat of King Agamemnon, featured in the Iliad, the famous epic poem by the illusive Homer, describing a war between various Greek nations on the one hand and the Anatolian Trojans on the other hand. Whilst most, if not all of the contents of the Iliad can be regarded as fiction, a historical conflict could have set the stage for this ancient piece of poetry. In the late 19th century, Heinrich Schliemann, a German businessman, and hobby archaeologist believed to have found the ruins of Troy in modern-day Turkey, a theory which is now considered at least possible if not plausible by scholars. Interestingly, the inhabitants of Troy may have been Indo-European speakers as well and thus distant cousins of the early Greeks. They probably belonged to the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European family, however, and spoke Luwian, a language closely related to Hittite.
Similar to other Indo-European speaking populations, the ancient Greeks were a result of a fusion of “native” or “Old European” (Marija Gimbutas) and Indo-European elements, bin terms of language, culture genetics, as recent studies have confirmed. After a period of cultural and linguistic consolidation, the Greeks expanded throughout the Aegean, including most of its islands, and into Anatolia, which over time and until relatively recently was heavily influenced by Greek culture and language. They even crossed the Adriatic and established colonies in Southern Italy, which became known as Magna Graecia to the Romans. One of the westernmost outliers of Greek civilisation was the city of Massalia, known today as Marseille. Undoubtedly the greatest influence the Greeks ever exerted, however, was under Alexander the Great, who conquered massive areas of Asia, including the Near and the Middle East, and pushed all the way to India.
Since the discovery of Europe’s ancient cultures during the Renaissance 500 years ago, Greek culture and mythology have fascinated and inspired scholars, artists, writers, poets, and pretty much everyone who ever had stories of mighty Zeus and Herakles. On this page, you will find articles concerning the history of the early Greeks, regarding their origins and their relation to their Proto-Indo-European ancestors. More articles, concerning aspects of Greek mythology, language, and culture may be added in the future.
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