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This phrase, that can be (very) loosely translated as "(home) away from home", is the tern used by the ancient Greeks to describe the cities built by them beyond the boundaries of Greece (A term that at the time included mainland Greece minus Thrace and Macedonia as well as the Aegean islands and the western shores of Asia Minor - namely Ionia and Aeolis).

However the modern concept of colonization is quite different from the ancient Greek concept. The apoikiai (plural from apoikia) were not colonies in the sense that India was a British colony, nor even in the sense that Canada was. This term differs even from the concepts used in the expansion of the Roman Empire. The process of Greek colonization had different reasons, outcome and structure than any of the above.

The process of colonization started in the 7th century BCE. At that time Greece found itself in a rather harsh condition, it was just coming out of the Greek Dark Age, and beginning to develop the institutes of the polis, while the population grew beyond the quantities that could be supported by the country, this overpopulation caused poverty and hunger and many people found themselves losing all their property as well as their freedom and being sold as slaves. This difficult economic condition (that was described in Hesiod's epic poem, "Works and Days"), instigated civil strife (or even downright war) in many places, causing the rise of tyrants in almost all of the Greek cities. This processes creates large groups of oppressed people within the Greek poleis: Those who lost their property and were reduced to extreme poverty, Those who didn't even get the chance to lose their property, because of dwindling inheritances divided between too many sons, those who opposed the tyranny (mainly the people within the aristocracy), and those who were on the losing side in the various civil wars.

As things began to get out of hand, the oracle at Delphi was asked to settle the problem. The oracle always kept an open eye on what happened throughout Greece so as to improve the chances of its prophecies being right,and the Pythia advised those who approached her to send settling expeditions outside Greece. This way Apollo became the god-patron of the Greek colonization.

We do not know what polis was the first to send out colonists (though some believe it was Miletus), but soon almost every major city in Greece started sending colonizing expeditions, some cities, like Miletus and Corinth, were even used as stations to which one could go from any part of Greece to participate in all-Greek colonizing expeditions.

These expeditions were quite often composed of the 'unhappy' elements in society, those who were the victims of the economic crisis and overpopulation, and those who disapproved of the political conditions in their homelands. They were always headed by an aristocrat, who was quite often an oppositioner, whom the governemt was happy to see go away. This leader was usually called 'Oikistes' or 'home founder' (not to be confused with Synoikistes)

The colonizing expeditions sailed throughout the Mediteranean sea and the Black Sea to Thrace, Southern and Northern Asia Minor, Cyprus, the Danube delta, The Caucasian mountains, The Crimean peninsula, Albania, North Africa, Sicily, Southern Italy, Southern France, Corsica and Eastern Spain.

The settlement method was different from one place to another: In some the local inhabitants were enslaved or annihilated (as in Sicily), in others the Greeks just kept away from them, forming an uneasy truce (as in Cyrene), in others mixed with the locals completely (as in Halicarnassus), and in yet other places were completely driven off (as in Etruria).

The new cities were completely independent of their 'Mother-Polis' and usually retained only cultural, religious and ceremonial ties with them, but there were some cities, for instance, Corinth who relying on her economical might and the founding of common economical and religious institutes to her apoikiai and herself always kept close ties with them. In some apoikiai, the regard for the Mother-Polis was shown, for instance in the right of any citizen of the Mother-Polis to acquire citizenship in the apoikia. In later times some apoikiai (like Curcyra and Mesellia) sent out colonizing expeditions of their own, becoming Mother-Poleis themselves

The Oikistes usually won god-like worship in the apoikiai.

The wave of colonization reached its peak in the 6th century and dwindled and finally disappeared in the 5th century BCE.

It is interesting to mention that the two poleis who were to become the most important and influential in Greek history, namely Sparta and Athens, took practically no part in the colonization.

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