Greece is a varied country that presents numerous opportunities for subsistence, survival, and livelihood. The terrain changes significantly from one region to the next, imposing limits on the forms of livelihood of individuals of any particular region. Coastal and flood plains provided some poleis with rich fertile lands capable of producing large amounts of barley and wheat. The history of ancient Hellas is in many ways the story of how environment and geography shaped the ways that communities and individuals interacted with each other.

A changing climate could demand the adaptation of any particular region to those changes, either by forging human ties and relations or by encouraging revolutions in technology. The construction of terraces was a way of changing the face of the landscape to increase the amount of arable land for a region. In this regard, there is ample literary evidence that humans recognized the fertilizing value of manure and spread it on their gardens and fields to produce larger crop yields. Technological innovation in metallurgy, agriculture, and milling occurred at various points in antiquity, each time providing humans with a little more control over their environment.

In classical Hellas the natural environment was transformed but not destroyed. People were not conservation-minded but they seem to have known the strengths and weaknesses of their environment. This knowledge probably helped them to also develop an advanced civilization.
The ancient Hellenic landscape included both city and country. The basic political unit of the Hellenic world was the polis that included an urban center (asty) and its surrounding land (chora), often incorporating additional towns and villages. The Greek word polis is usually  translated into English as "city-state". But, whereas we usually think of cities only as urban centers, the Hellenic concept was that of the city plus its surrounding land as an integrated whole.

Τhe individual in ancient Hellas could use the land in a number of other ways. The shepherd could lead flocks from one patch of unused or unclaimed land to the next, following seasonal patterns of migration . Local potters could make use of clay beds to produce pottery and roof tiles; builders could use the same source to construct mudbrick houses. Moreover, the gathering and collecting of a variety of vegetation could supplement local diet, as could the hunting of hares and wild boar and fishing for a wide variety of sea creatures.

But even with the variety of exploitative strategies, nature was always unfair. The geography and the climate preferred some regions to others and provided limited economic opportunities for each city-state. It seems that people in classical Hellas had exploited the environment and used its natural resources or even abused some of them such as forests and game species. 

Overall, however, the practices they employed were not devastating but rather moderate resulting in a heterogeneous landscape. They did not exceed the limits of Mediterranean ecosystems to resilience. As a result, these ecosystems did not collapse but were able to self-regenerate and recover. By clearing, burning, terracing, coppicing, grazing, browsing, hunting and constructing, people in the classical period modified their natural  environment and established an agro-silva-pastoral equilibrium which apparently helped them to live in harmony with nature and create cultural artifacts as well as viable human societies.