An important part of Ancient Greece, Megara was an economically independent city-state. It was highly respected for its wealth and philosophy. Even Athens felt insecure in the face of Ancient Greek Megara City’s commercial success. It was a coastal city in which its economy depended greatly on trade and became very prosperous.
They had great respect in the Greek world and even issued their coinage. They established beautiful statues and even were famous for their open-air arenas for drama and theatre. Their sailors were adept at voyages and they sailed across the Mediterranean trading with the Greek cities. They also founded many new colonies like the town of Byzantium on the coast of modern-day Turkey.
Ancient Greece Megara City was celebrated for its philosophy after Euclid founded the Megarian school of philosophy there. The school was hugely successful for about a century. It became famous for its use of logic and dialect.
Megara in ancient Greece was and still is located in the northern part of Isthmus of Corinth. The island and of Salamis lies opposite to it. Its location between the Corinthian gulf on the north and Saronic Gulf in the south made it an important harbor, which it had two. It was a plain which laid about a mile from the Saronic gulf and was about 6 to 7 miles in length and breadth. It was bounded by the Geraenian mountains to the west by the range known as Kerata or Horns to the east, and by the sea in the south.
In ancient Greece, Megara was a district of Attica. Initially dependent on Corinth, it formed the Byzantium after fighting a war of independence. Chalcedon was another colony founded by settlers from this state.
History of Ancient Megara
The city of Megara was probably important in the bronze age but it was decimated by the Dorians and remained under them through the Dark ages.
Megara was also colonized by the Corinthians and it was with many wars and struggles that they gained their independence by the year 685 BC.
After their independence they came under the tyrants, Theagenes won over the poor by slaughtering the cattle of the rich. Theagenes was a great administrator and had established many water tanks for their continuous supply of water. He also improved the drainage system of the city and made great developments.
But by the 5th century BC, a democracy was established but its oligarchs were powerful making it more or less an oligarchic state.
After their independence, they made great progress with their main focus on trade. They had great trading networks and could be said to be just after Athens. They reached great prosperity in which trade played a great role along with their wealth from the colonies.
Megara City State Economy
Megara was a prosperous state, famous for its wealth. The main reason behind this was that it was an important port and center of commerce. It had two harbors, Pegae and Nisaea. Both these harbors were strategically located with Pegae to the west of Corinthian Gulf and Nisaea to the east of Saronic Gulf.
Megara played an important role in the First Peloponnesian War. It is said that Megaras defection from the Peloponnesian League was the main reason that led to this war. The Megarian decree stated by the Athenians was one of the many reasons that led to this war.
Megara also exported wool and other animal products. It was famous for its white shell marble and white clay. This clay was in demand for its use in pottery. Byzas was a very famous Megarian. His founding of Byzantium in 7th century BC brought him fame. Another famous Megarian was Theognis, a poet from the 6th century.
Megara gave a stiff competition to Athens, Corinth, and Corcyra in the field of commerce. When Megara killed an Athenian garrison stationed there, Athens retaliated with the Megara decree.
The Megarian decree by the Athenians prohibited a Megarian from doing any kind of business in territory occupied by Athens. This was done purposely by Athens in order to cause adverse effects on the Megarian economy.
What is the city state of Megara known for?
The ancient city of Megara was known for its wealth and prosperity which even rivalled that of Athens. They traded mainly in wool and textiles which came with their wide spread livestock like horses which were traded from two harbors; Pagae on the west of Corinthian gold and Nisar on the Saronic gulf along the Aegean sea.
Life in Ancient Greek Megara City
People in ancient Megara had a prosperous life due to the states economic stability. There were schools, temples, and gymnasiums for entertainment. These buildings had magnificent architecture.Famous for their generosity in construction work, one report from ancient Greece famously quotes, ..they (Megarians) build as if they are to live forever, they live as if they are to die tomorrow…
Then came the Peloponnesian war after which Megara was added to the Achaean League. This was in 455 BC.Ancient Greece city-state Megara regained prosperity and economic stability after that and went on to become one of the best-remembered cities of ancient Greece.
Democracy in Ancient Megara
Inspired by the egalitarian government in Athens, Megara also made uprisings for a democratic government in 427 BC. They managed to establish a sort of democratic government which can also be said to be a narrow oligarchy.
They also arose around the year 370 BC, when they feared anti-democratic conspirators making it clear their democratic affinities.
Wars of Ancient State of Megara
The city-state of Megara had a prospering economy which enabled them to build a strong army. They were not the best like Sparta but still, their army was formidable and knew how to fight.
They had fought against the Persians in some important battles like the battle of Salamis and the battle of Marathon and played a crucial role in the battles.
Their land disputes with Corinth led them to defect from the Peloponnesian league to the Dalian league under Athens which was one of the major reasons for the first Peloponnesian war. The war ended with the thirty years peace treaty which forced Megara to return to the Peloponnesian league under the hegemony of Sparta.
Just before the Peloponnesian war, Athens had put an embargo on Megara, which could be said to be the first of its kind in the ancient world which strangled their economy as they were banned from the ports of Athens and their allies. This became one of the many reasons for the Peloponnesian war.
Megara City-state flag / Megara city-state Symbol