Ancient Greece expanded to include much more than modern Greece. It included much of modern coastal Turkey, southern Italy, Sicily, and Libya. While Athens may be the most famous and impressive Ancient Greek city to see today, many of the best ancient cities are outside of Greece.
Here are ten of the most important ancient Greek cities around the Mediterranean worth exploring today.
10. Athens, Greece
Athens is the most famous ancient city of the Hellenic world and is the capital of Greece today. It is regarded as the birthplace of democracy, and its Acropolis is arguably the most impressive ancient Greek acropolis today.
Visitors can see many ancient Greek ruins, from the Pantheon to the reconstructed Agora of Athens.
Remarkable For: Acropolis, Center Of The Hellenic World
9. Syracuse, Sicily
Syracuse was a Greek city in Sicily that was founded as a colony of Corinth. It grew to become the most important city of Magna Grecia (the part of Greece in Italy and Sicily), and at its height, it rivaled Athens itself.
Syracuse found itself caught between the powers of Carthage and Rome and eventually fell under Roman control, but it continued as an important city throughout the Roman period.
Remarkable For: Most Important Magna Grecia City & Archimedes
8. Cyrene, Libya
Cyrene was founded by Greek colonists around the 7th century BC and was one of the most important Greek cities in the region. It was from here that Simon of Cyrene, who is recorded to have borne the cross of Christ, hailed (Cyrene was also an important Jewish center at the time).
The ruins of Cyrene are among the most impressive but difficult to visit as they are in Libya.
Remarkable For: Extensive Ruins
The major southern Italian city of Naples was founded by the ancient Greeks as Neapolis (or New City). It was founded by Greeks from the nearby city of Cumae around the 8th century BC.
Then, when the Romans took over Naples, they respected it as a center of Greek culture, and the people there continued to speak Greek.
Remarkable For: Important Greek Center In Italy
6. Mycenae, Greece
While most of the Greek cities on this list date from the Classic Greek period, the ancient city of Mycenae is much older.
Mycenae was one of the largest and most important Greek cities of the later Bronze Age (called the Mycenae period after this city). According to the Iliad, King Agamemnon ruled Mycenae and attacked Troy.
Remarkable For: Largest City of Bronze Age Greece
5. Cumae, Italy
Cumae was the first of the ancient Greek colonies on the mainland of Italy. It was founded in the 8th century BC by settlers from Euboea in Greece.
It grew to become a strong colony and had an important role in influencing the development of the Etruscans and Romans - including by diffusing the Greek alphabet on which the Latin alphabet is based.
Remarkable For: Oldest Greek City In Italy
4. Ephesus, Turkey
Ephesus is one of the most famous Greco-Roman cities in Turkey. It was once a very important center of the Hellenic world and was home to the Temple of Artemis - one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
After the harbor was silted up, the city was abandoned, and now it is one of the top Greco-Roman cities to see today.
Remarkable For: Exceptional Ruins
3. Corinth, Greece
Corinth was one of the most powerful ancient Greek city-states and sat on the Isthmus of Corinth (the modern Corthinian Canal is one of the most eye-catching attractions in Greece).
It was midway between Athens and Sparta and is easy to visit from Athens today. At its peak, it may have had a population of around 90,000 people.
Remarkable For: Impressive Ruins & Easy Excursion From Athens
2. Sparta, Greece
Sparta is located on the Peloponnese Peninsula and is famous for being the most militarized of the Greek city-states.
300 Spartans famously fought the Persians at Thermopylae, and later, they fought a protracted war with Athens (and eventually won). Today, there is not much to see, and little of the city is excavated.
Remarkable For: Warrior Culture
1. Olympia, Greece
Also located on the Peloponnese Peninsula is the ancient sacred site of Olympia (not to be confused with Mount Olympus).
This was one of the most sacred Greek sites where fighting was forbidden, and the Olympic Games were held there once every four years. Visitors can see the impressive ruins of the temple's stadiums and the ceremonial lighting of the Olympia torch today.