What Is a Colony in Ancient Greece?

In ancient Greece, a colony referred to a settlement that was established by Greeks in areas outside Greece. These colonies played a significant role in spreading Greek culture, religion, and language throughout the Mediterranean world. In fact, the Greek colonies were instrumental in the development of Western civilization.

Reasons for Colonization

There were several reasons why Greeks established colonies outside their homeland. One primary reason was overpopulation. The population of Greece increased rapidly during the eighth and seventh centuries BCE, which led to a shortage of land for farming and living.

Another reason was trade. The Greeks were a seafaring people and established colonies along trade routes to facilitate commerce. They traded goods such as pottery, wine, olive oil, and textiles with other countries.

Colonization Process

The colonization process began with the establishment of a new settlement by Greek emigrants. They typically chose an uninhabited area near the coast or on an island. The settlers then built houses, temples, markets, and other necessary infrastructure.

The colony was usually ruled by an oligarchy or aristocracy composed of wealthy landowners who divided up the land among themselves. They would then lease out this land to tenant farmers who would work it for them.

Impact of Colonization

The Greek colonies had a significant impact on the Mediterranean world. They spread Greek culture and language throughout the region and helped to develop Western civilization.

Greek colonists brought with them their religion, which included worshiping gods such as Zeus, Athena, Apollo, and Dionysus. They also introduced their art styles such as pottery painting and sculpture.

Furthermore, the Greeks brought with them their political systems such as democracy. The most famous example is Athens which became one of the most powerful city-states in Greece due to its democratic system of government.


In conclusion, colonies were an essential part of ancient Greek society. They played a significant role in spreading Greek culture, religion, and language throughout the Mediterranean world. The colonies also helped to develop Western civilization and contributed to the growth of trade and commerce in the region.