The first major civilization in the region begins on the island of Crete. Its people, known as Minoans, live peacefully in big cities, trade with other countries and develop Europe's first system of writing.
The Mycenaean culture develops on the Greek mainland. Its people are the first known Greek speakers.
A volcanic explosion on the island of Santorini creates tidal waves and earthquakes that destroy the Minoan civilization.
The first Olympic Games are held at Olympia. The winning athletes receive an olive-branch crown, a symbol of honor. The Games begin as part of a religious festival dedicated to Zeus, king of the gods.
Independent urban areas called city-states flourish and develop different systems of government. Democracy, or government by popular vote, is first practiced here, and science, culture and fine arts thrive.
The Persian Empire, a large and powerful Asian kingdom, conquers much of Greece.
Greek cities defeat Persians at sea. The city-state of Athens becomes the head of a group of city-states known as the Delian League. It is formed to protect Greece's mainland from overseas invaders.