Greek civilization grew out of a combination of two earlier civilizations, Minoan and Mycenaean. Due to the geography of the land, both became great sea powers. Although their power was eventually destroyed, the Minoans and Mycenaeans left an important legacy to the Greeks.
The geography of Greece - the mountains and the sea - separated communities from each other. Although these communities spoke the same language and shared many of the same customs, no single community had power over the others. Because of this, people developed a loyalty to the community in which they lived. These communities, known as city-states, became a feature of Greek civilization.
The Greeks made many contributions to world civilization. Their accomplishments resulted, in part, because of an important religious belief. The Greeks felt their gods were honored if people tried to imitate them. The greater the skill the Greeks showed in thinking, athletic games, or the arts, the more the gods were honored. Greek effort to do their best produced a "Golden Age" of learning. Many historians call this period the "Classical Age of Greece."
After the Greek city-stats lost their independence, many changes took place. The new rulers of Greece built empires and increased trade. At the same time, they spread Greek culture and customs. Before long, Greek ideas were influencing people from Gibraltar in northwestern Africa to India.
The Greek language came to be spoken by many people. Greek architecture was copied for new buildings. Students studied Greek literature in schools. People used Greek furniture in their homes. Greek plays became a popular form of entertainment. Business people took up Greek ways of banking. The period all this took place has come to be called the Hellenistic Age. The term "Hellenistic" means "like the Hellenes," or the Greeks.