Between the 700's-500's BC/BCE, the Ancient Greeks sailed to and founded many strategically valuable towns and cities in lands across the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions; (the majority of these cities were situated on or in very close proximity to the coast). Cities, such as Nice, in Southern France, as well Naples in Southern Italy, were Magna Graeca cities. However, could the Magna Graeca geography have encompassed greater territories and landmasses beyond the Mediterranean sea region?-(excluding the Black Sea region). Could the Ancient Greeks have sailed beyond The Straits of Gibraltar-(Known in ancient times as, "The Pillars of Hercules") and established cities on the Canary Islands, parts of the West African coast, as well as parts of the West European coast and the Southern portion of the British isles?

  • your question seems a little unclear. Are you asking about whether the Greeks sailed beyond the straits of Gibraltar (in which case i would encourage you to read up on Pytheas). Or are you asking about the territorial definition of Magna Graecia? – Notaras Oct 11 '17 at 5:14
  • I am asking if it is possible or historically plausible to believe that the Ancient Greeks-(during the Magna Graecia period) sailed beyond the Straits of Gibraltar en route to the aforementioned lands. – user26763 Oct 11 '17 at 5:17
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    This is a question about alternate history and out of scope. – Mark C. Wallace Oct 11 '17 at 8:39
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    "Magna Graecia" was the Roman name for the greek-dominated area of the southern Italian peninsula, plus Sicily. – andejons Oct 11 '17 at 8:41
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    @ Alex. I think with rephrasing this could be a valid question - be clearer about what it is you want to know exactly and focus more clearly on what Greek sailors were capable of. Also, do this in the question (not in a comment). – Lars Bosteen Oct 11 '17 at 14:05

They had the technology to navigate outside of the Mediterranean, or at the very least their Phoenician neighbors did:

According to Herodotus, a Phoenician expedition sent down the Red Sea by pharaoh Necho II of Egypt (c. 600 BC) even circumnavigated Africa and returned through the Pillars of Hercules after three years.

But like the Romans, the Greeks valued wine and olives. A place where you can't grow either isn't a prime location to build a new settlement.

With respect to your specific examples, they technically did settle the Western Atlantic, in that it likely is Greeks who introduced wine in the Bordeaux region.

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    That's an interesting reference to the Bordeaux region of Western France. Typically, when one thinks of the Ancient Greek settlements of France, the city of Nice is usually at the top of the list. Marseilles, perhaps, though in all likelihood, it was probably founded by the Phoenicians a few centuries earlier. – user26763 Oct 11 '17 at 5:25
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    To add to this answer, according to this map there was two Greek settlements beyond the straits of Gibraltar known as Kalathoussa and Porthus Menesthei. There is however no evidence for Greek colonisation in the Canary islands – Notaras Oct 11 '17 at 5:28
  • Thank you for the map link. According to this map, it shows Ancient Greek settlements in the Cadiz region of Southwest Spain. It's interesting that you linked to a map of Spain, due to the fact that there is a very well preserved Magna Graecia city on the Costa Brava called, Empuries-("Emporion"). – user26763 Oct 11 '17 at 5:39
  • For the record, when I say "city", I am referring to it from an archaeological and not a contemporary standpoint. – user26763 Oct 11 '17 at 5:41

The Phoenicians barred the strait of Gibraltar from the Greeks. They controlled the Atlantic Sea trade with Western Iberia and Britain. Britain was especially important for tin. This situation was determined by a series of wars with the western Greek colonies around 600 B.C. The westernmost Greeks were the Phocians of Massalia (Marseilles), who were stopped from expanding westward. Massalia did colonize the northeastern coast of Iberia, though. They had a handful of cities which some have equated to the Delian League. In the 4th century, Pytheas of Massalia was the first Greek to take the Atlantic route to Britain and beyond. It wasn't usable, though, because of the Phoenicians. Alternately, the overland trade route to Aquitania was pursued.

  • Thank you for your response and clarification. I knew that there was a type of ancient "balance of power"-(commercially speaking) between the Phoenicians and the Greeks during ancient times within the greater Mediterranean sea region. However, I did not know that the Phoenicians were so powerful that they had the capacity to essentially block or thwart Greek Atlantic ambitions-(centuries before the arrival of Pytheas of Massalia; and as you stated, even in Pytheas' case, the Phoenicians were still the dominant Power overseeing the Atlantic route). – user26763 Oct 12 '17 at 3:24
  • Such a Phoenician led strategy may have directly or indirectly led to the Greeks remaining within the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions. The Phoenicians have often received parenthetical status when discussing Ancient History, especially Ancient Mediterranean History. They truly amassed a great commercial empire which lasted several centuries, until the Punic Wars with Rome, which ultimately destroyed Carthage. – user26763 Oct 12 '17 at 3:29
  • And if my memory is correct, the coastal city of Tangier, in Northern Morocco, was actually founded, by the Phoenician empire 2600-2700 years ago. (I believe there are parts of the city which still have scattered Phoenician ruins). Even in ancient times, Tangier was a commercially strategic prize. – user26763 Oct 12 '17 at 3:41
  • Note that the route to Aquitainia is where the Greeks may have introduced grapes. – John Dee Oct 12 '17 at 23:14