By taking a look at the world map today you would never believe that Greece, which is nothing but a small country, currently known as a beautiful tourist destination in southern Europe, had once dominated and colonized most parts of the then-known world. For those who love history though, Greece is without a doubt one of the most significant and influential nations of all time with amazing contributions to human culture including philosophy, various sciences, architecture, the Olympic Games, and democracy just to name the most prominent few.
The culture and spirit of Greece had once conquered major parts of modern Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa through the empires and colonies built by different Greek city-states notably Athens, Miletus, Ionia, Knossos, Corinth, and the kingdom of Macedon (not to be confused with the recently formed Slavic country in the Balkans). Here are 25 ancient Greek cities that occupied an astonishing 19 countries of the modern world.
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Naucratis, Modern Egypt
The discovery of the ancient Greek city of Naucratis proved many historians wrong who were claiming that the first time the Greeks visited Egypt was during Alexander’s reign. Around the seventh century BCE, almost four hundred years before the Greek king would conquer the area, some Greek mercenaries from Miletus had already landed in Egypt, and according to Herodotus, with the help of other Greek pirates and explorers from Caria and other places on the Greek mainland, they established the city of Naucratis around 550 BCE, which is considered to be the first and oldest Greek colony in Egypt.
Kumai, Modern Italy
Cumae or Cuma as modern Italians call it today was another ancient Greek city of the many in Magna Graecia. Cumae was named Kumai in antiquity and is considered to be the very first Greek colony on the Italian mainland. Euboean Greeks established the city and brought with them their variant of the Greek alphabet that would later develop into the Latin alphabet, after it was adopted and modified first by the Etruscans and then the Romans.
Istros, Modern Romania
Istros or Histria was an ancient Greek city near the mouth of the Danube River, which the ancient Greeks called Ister, and is today the European Union’s longest river and the second-longest in all Europe after the Volga. The city was founded by Greek settlers from Miletus who wanted to make trade easier with the natives of Getae, Thracian tribes inhabiting the regions to either side of the Lower Danube, in what is today northern Bulgaria and southern Romania. Even though sources vary greatly about the founding of the city, the date is estimated to be around 630 BCE. A silver drachma from 480 BCE was also found in the area, which is considered to be the earliest documented currency for a Romanian territory.
Laodicea ad Libanum, Modern Syria
Unfortunately there are not many significant historical records about this city and for that reason we don’t know all that much about this Hellenistic town’s traditions, ethics, and society. However, the few ancient Greek ruins and remains that were found a few miles outside Homs, Syria, was proof enough for archaeologists and historians to verify the ancient historian and geographer Strabo’s claims that the Greeks had not only visited modern-day Syria in antiquity, but also colonized it and established a few cities there, among them Laodicea ad Libanum.
Smyrna, Modern Turkey
Smyrna was not only a Greek city, but also one of the oldest cities and ports on the Mediterranean, located at a central strategic point on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor. It was established around 3000 BCE and survives today under the name Izmir, in modern-day Turkey. It was continuously inhabited by the Greeks for nearly five thousand years, from antiquity until the Great Fire of Smyrna in 1922, when large parts of the city burned, mostly the Greek and Armenian sections, and the population became largely Turkish following the Treaty of Lausanne.