What Role Did Mountains Play in Ancient Greece?

Mountains have played a significant role in shaping the history and culture of Ancient Greece. The rugged terrain, mountain ranges, and high peaks of Greece have greatly influenced the country’s development and society. From their strategic importance in ancient battles to their impact on the Greek economy, mountains have been an integral part of Greek life.

Geography of Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece was a hilly and mountainous region, with more than 80% of its land covered by mountains. The Pindus Mountains run down the center of mainland Greece, separating it into two regions – Thessaly to the north and the Peloponnese to the south. Mount Olympus, located in Thessaly, is one of the most famous mountains in Greece and was considered sacred by the ancient Greeks.

Strategic Importance

The mountainous terrain provided a natural defense for Greek city-states against invaders. The fortified cities were built on hilltops or near mountains to take advantage of their natural defense. For example, Sparta was located on a plateau surrounded by mountains which made it difficult for enemies to attack them.

Mountains also acted as barriers between different city-states which helped preserve their independence. The rugged terrain made it challenging for armies to move through quickly, making it easier for smaller armies to defend against larger ones.

Economic Impact

The mountains had a significant impact on Ancient Greece’s economy as well. The rocky terrain made it unsuitable for large-scale agriculture, so Greeks turned to other industries such as mining and lumbering. Mountains provided rich sources of minerals such as gold, silver, lead, and iron that were essential for trade with other city-states.

The Greeks also used their forests for timber that was used in shipbuilding and construction. This allowed them to trade with other Mediterranean cultures and develop an extensive trade network.

Religious Significance

Mountains also played a crucial role in Ancient Greece’s religion. Greeks believed that the gods lived on Mount Olympus, which was the tallest mountain in Greece. They believed that the gods could control natural events such as storms and earthquakes, and therefore built temples and shrines at the base of mountains to honor them.

The Oracle of Delphi was located on Mount Parnassus, and it was considered the most important religious site in Ancient Greece. It was believed that the god Apollo spoke through a priestess who would inhale fumes from a crack in the mountain.


In conclusion, mountains were an integral part of Ancient Greece’s history and culture. Their strategic importance, economic impact, and religious significance made them a crucial aspect of Greek life. The rugged terrain provided natural defenses for city-states, allowed for mining and lumbering industries to thrive, and created a rich mythology around the gods who lived on their peaks.