One of the fascinating things to me about Greece is that it is awash with history.
(Citadel of Mystras - Mystras/Sparti, Frankish/Byzantine era)
Many Americans have likely heard of Sparta and Athens, and most would likely know that someone that Alexander the Great existed, but before and after that remains a large blank until probably the 1990's and the vacation spots of Mikinos and Santorini became a thing. All the items in the middle are largely just "filler".
Humans having been living in Greece for a shockingly long time, perhaps as long as people have actually been around. And some of the earliest and greatest civilizations of Europe that we have ruins and records of started in Greece: The Cycladic civilization (3200 B.C.), the Minoan civilization (2700 B.C. - 1500 B.C.), and the Mycenean Civilization (1600 B.C. to 1200 B.C.).
(The Parthenon - Athens, Classical Era)
At which point everything collapsed in what has been called the Late Bronze Age collapse, when most of the civilizations along the Levant and Eastern Mediterranean collapsed for reasons speculated but not determined. We know little of why the collapse happened or what happened in the intervening years until approximately the 8th century B.C., when The Illiad and The Odyssey emerge and the first Olympic Games occur (776. B.C.).
Into this Archaic period and then the Classical period (776 B.C. to 338 B.C.) small kingdoms and city states - the polis - emerge. Argos, Athens, Thebes, Sparta - names that we learn of in The Illiad - reappear with different parties involved. The polis fight among themselves and embark on a colonization effort that sees them planting colonies as far away as eastern Spain and the Crimean peninsula. The Greeks - upstarts that they were - pushed back the Persian Empire's expansion westward in the 5th century B.C., then involves itself in the civil war known as the Peloponnesian War (431 B.C. to 404 B.C.). After the Spartan victory, the next 60 years or so are consumed with more infighting until Philip the Second, father of Alexander the Great, effectively conquers all of Greece in 338 B.C.
(The Temple of Hephaestion - Athens, Classical Era)
From here, Greece becomes less of a central player and part of other kingdoms: First the Alexander the Great's Empire, then the Macedonian Kingdom, and then the Achaean league - until their conquest by Rome in 146 B.C. and their incorporation into the Roman Republican Empire - where, as a constituent part of the Roman Republican Empire, then the Roman Imperial Empire, then the Eastern Roman Empire that became Byzantium, they remain for over a thousand years.
Until the Fourth Crusade (1204 A.D.), when Constantinople is invaded, the Latin Empire of Constantinople is established, and Greece proper is divided up into Frankish principalities and Italian city-state possessions such as Venice. Suddenly an influx of Western impinged itself on Greece - until the Franks were in turn reconquered by the Byzantines (the Venetians held out far longer).
(The Library of Hadrian - Athens, Roman Era)
The Byzantine Renaissance lasted only for a brief time, relatively speaking. The Ottoman Turks began conquering parts of the Byzantine Empire and Greece both before and after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453; the Despotate of The Morea in the Peloponnese fell in 1460. After this, Greece was largely an Ottoman possession with Venice controlling the Western (Ionian) Islands and some land bases on the continent, which largely fell to the Ottoman's in the 15th and 16th Century.
Venetian rule ended in 1797 with the dissolution of the Venetian Republic by Napoleon and the Ionian islands were (briefly) ruled by France through 1815, when they passed to Britain. The Ottomans continued their rule in the rest of Greece until 1830, where after a series of revolts by the Greeks (1821-1830) and the final intervention of Great Britain and France, Greece was declared an independent country for the first time (arguably) since 146 B.C. (338 B.C. if you want to perhaps be more precisely correct).
(The White Tower - Thessaloniki, Byzantine/Turkish Era)
I will end the history lesson here although that is not the end, of course: add in an imported monarchy that brought in 19th Century European Architectural ideals, a series of wars in the Balkans, invasion of Turkey (and ultimately, defeat in Anatolia), military dictatorship, invasion first by Italy and then by Germany in WW II, a Civil War (1946-1949), and a military coup (1967-1974) and it is clear that even after "Greece" became a thing again, there was still a great deal more history.
(Palace of St. Michael and St. George - Corfu City, British Protectorate)
Why does it matter? Because (I suspect) when we think of "Greece" we often think only of Athens and Sparta (The Classical Period) - but in point of fact every civilization that has been in Greece has left its mark - thus the comment by our tour guide repeatedly that Greece is a Monument state in that there is history and ruins almost wherever one goes. It is makes it challenging on two levels: on the first, the practical fact that in order to preserve some history one has to either destroy or work around other history; the second that there is always a careful balance between preserving the old and allowing the new.
(Gate to the Old City - Corfu City, Venetian period)
And so our journey was not just through "Greece The Classical Age", it was more "Greece Through The Ages". Which I had not really anticipated, but made undoubtedly for a far better tour.