Greece has a rich flora and fauna, with many species peculiar to the country, or to one mountain or island (esp. Crete).
The land comprises six ecological zones: (1) plains; (2) cultivable hillsides on softer rocks; (3) uncultivable hillsides on harder rocks; (4) high mountains; (5) fens; (6) coasts and sea. By classical times Greece looked not very different from Greece today, leaving aside urbanization, road‐making, and bulldozing. One important difference is the disappearance of fens, which provided summer pasture for cattle. There have been changes in the coastline, famously at Thermopylae. In land‐use, the Classical Greeks had much more grain and legume cultivation than today (see cereals; food and drink), and much less olive‐growing; they kept cattle and pigs, as well as the sheep and goats which are the remaining livestock. At least half the land was natural vegetation, consisting as today of dwarf, maquis (shrubs), savannah (scattered trees), or woodland. The first three were valuable pasture‐land. Woodland of oak, pine, fir, beech (in the north), and cypress (in Crete) was mainly in the uncultivable mountains. See timber.
(1) plains; (2) cultivable hillsides on softer rocks; (3) uncultivable hillsides on harder rocks; (4) high mountains; (5) fens; (6) coasts and sea.
Ancient city‐states varied hugely in territory and resources. Athens and Sparta, the two giants, had access to all six ecological zones. But even Athens was not self‐sufficient in timber and not always in corn. It depended on buying imports with silver from Laurium (smelted, presumably, with fuel from the maquis of uncultivable hills). Some tiny ‘cities’ (see polis) had only one or two zones. See agriculture, greek; greece (geography).