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Natural conditions

The territory of continental Greece occupies about 107 thousand square kilometers, to which more than 25 thousand square kilometers of island land should be added. However, the difficult terrain of the country, covered with steep mountain ranges, leads to the fact that the field land occupies less than a fifth of the total area here. Such scarcity of arable land greatly affected the economic opportunities of society, especially during the period when cereals were the main agricultural crops.

A comparison of the south of the Balkan Peninsula with the completely flat expanses of the Nile or Tigris and Euphrates valleys shows how much less favorable the working conditions of the farmer in Greece were compared to the arable farming in Egypt or Mesopotamia. Deep valleys squeezed by mountain ranges could feed a limited population, especially since the steep slopes of the mountains were mostly inconvenient for gardening and cattle breeding.

Frequent and destructive earthquakes also caused great damage to agriculture. Vertical land movements, which once led to the separation of the Balkan Peninsula and Asia Minor, continued later. At the end of the XVIII century BC volcanic eruptions destroyed the island of Feru; tectonic processes of greater or lesser strength occurred in later times. Occasionally, heavy rains passing in the summer, in turn, harmed the farmer, washing away a thin layer of fertile land from the sloping slopes.

Thus, if the peasant of Egypt or Babylonia, the annual floods of rivers brought regular renewal of the soil and restored its fertility, then the Achaean farmer not only did not receive such help from nature, but had to find ways to fertilize and retain soil in his field himself. The difference in the conditions of agricultural production also affected the size of harvests, data on which date back to the middle of the first millennium BC, i.e. to the era relatively close to the Achaeans: Herodotus considered Babylonia to be the most fertile country and gave harvest figures of two hundred or even three hundred himself, while he singled out Egypt as a country where a peasant spent minimal effort on flooded lands.

The climate of Greece is subject to significant fluctuations due to the mountainous terrain. If in the low-lying coastal parts of the country, the area of which is not so large, a warm, mild and humid climate prevails, then in the interior it becomes harsh, continental. The most unfavorable conditions are in the eastern regions, where winters are quite cool, especially in the mountains, and the hot and dry summer months lead to the burning out of almost the entire grass cover. However, the high humidity of the climate in North Africa in the Neolithic era allows us to assume at that time less aridity in the south of the Balkan Peninsula. However, since the end of the IV millennium, there has been a decrease in the amount of rain over African territories. Perhaps the same process took place in Greece in the III-II millennia. The northwestern outskirts of the country are the most favorable in terms of precipitation. But in the mountainous Epirus located here, rains do not bring much benefit to agriculture. The rivers of Greece, mostly drying up in summer, also cannot help the farmer, since their regime is very unstable.

The natural vegetation of Greece in the III-II millennia was diverse. The mountains were covered with dense forests of beech, oak, chestnut, pine, fir. In the valleys they were replaced by fruit trees and shrubs.

The wealth of natural flora allowed the population of the Balkan peninsula to start breeding useful agricultural crops very early. N. I. Vavilov, who studied the centers where cultivated plants arose, pointed out that Greece is part of the Mediterranean center of origin of the main field, garden and garden plants. The Mediterranean focus covers the entire coast of the Mediterranean Sea (including North Africa, Spain, Italy, Greece with islands, Palestine, Syria and partly the western and south-western regions of Asia Minor). Already in the most ancient settlements on the territory of Greece, the remains of some of these plants have been found. This suggests that man began to adapt flora to his needs several millennia before the heyday of Achaean society.

The fauna of the south of the Balkan Peninsula is very diverse, and the fauna was transitional between European, African and Near Asian. The inhabitants of Greece in ancient times had to fight with lions, brown bears, and wolves. A large group of rodents included a porcupine. Wild roe deer, fallow deer, chamois and deer were in large numbers, as well as wild bulls, hunting of which was probably one of the most common crafts. But the Achaeans had to fight especially hard against wild boars: the attacks of voracious boars on crops brought enormous damage to fields and vegetable gardens.

The coastline of Greece far exceeds the length of the coasts of other Mediterranean states, therefore, marine fishing has been developed here. Indeed, in the cultural strata of the III and II millennia, traces of constant communication of the inhabitants of the country with the sea are extremely numerous. And although prolonged bad weather and strong winds prevented sailors from going to the open sea for almost two-thirds of the year, fishermen could still fish for many months, especially near the coast.

The natural conditions in which the Achaeans lived undoubtedly had an impact not only on the material basis of this society, but also on the formation of the psychology of various groups of the population. Tribes living in valleys surrounded by mountains, communication between which was sometimes interrupted for several months, led an isolated and sedentary lifestyle. Residents of primorsky districts, on the contrary, were distinguished by entrepreneurship and greater mobility. All this has led to some differences in the character and psychology of the inhabitants of mountain valleys and coastal lowlands.