Did Ancient Greece Have a Small Population?

Ancient Greece is widely known for its rich history, architecture, and culture. However, some scholars have debated whether the population of ancient Greece was small, especially when compared to other civilizations of the time. In this article, we will explore this topic in detail.

What do the historical records say?

According to available historical records, the population of ancient Greece was relatively small compared to other civilizations of that time period. The most populous city-states were Athens and Sparta, with populations ranging between 40,000 and 100,000 people.

Factors affecting population size

Several factors contributed to the relatively small population of ancient Greece. One major factor was the lack of advanced agricultural techniques. Ancient Greeks relied heavily on subsistence farming which could only support a limited number of people.

Another factor that contributed to the small population was the high infant mortality rate. It is estimated that up to 40% of infants did not survive past their first year due to poor living conditions and lack of medical care.

Furthermore, frequent wars and conflicts among city-states also contributed to a decrease in population size. These wars resulted in significant losses on both sides which could take decades for populations to recover from.


Despite these challenges, there were some periods in ancient Greek history where urbanization led to an increase in population size. For example, during the Hellenistic period (323 BCE – 31 BCE), many Greeks migrated to cities like Alexandria in Egypt which had more advanced infrastructure and better living conditions than their hometowns.


In conclusion, while ancient Greece may have had a smaller population than other civilizations at that time period due to various factors such as limited agriculture and high infant mortality rates, it is important to note that urbanization did lead to an increase in population at certain times throughout their history. Overall, the relatively small population of ancient Greece did not stop them from making significant contributions to the fields of philosophy, art, and literature that continue to influence the world today.