Climate Change and its Impacts in the Ancient Greek World

Ruben Post

School of Classics

My current project reconstructs the links between climate, agriculture, economic decision-making, and resilience in the Greek world from the 8th-1st c. BCE. The first part analyses the different kinds of evidence for climate change from ancient Greece, scientific, archaeological, and historical. The second part then evaluates the effects of climatic variability on ancient Greek societies and economies as their socio-political organisation changed over time, considering in particular how agricultural economies were affected. Finally, it considers perceptions of and responses to climatic variability, evaluating how these factors impacted the resilience of ancient Greek communities. This interdisciplinary approach situates ancient Greek societies within broader discussions of the survival and collapse of pre-modern civilisations faced with environmental stress.

This is a photograph I took in a small village called Athamania in the mountains of central Greece, one of the highest inhabited settlements in the country. As marginal landscapes in which agriculture is particularly vulnerable to climatic shifts, the mountains of Greece have witnessed considerable fluctuations in habitation over the millennia. Indeed, around 300 BCE the philosopher Theophrastus postulated from the visible ruins of abandoned settlements high in the mountains of Crete that in earlier centuries the climate had been warmer and wetter, among the earliest empirical records of climate change in global history. Because of this vulnerability to climatic shifts, the inhabitants of such mountainous regions have often depended heavily on pastoralism throughout history, as some still do today.

Photographer: Ruben Post