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Greek Dark Ages

From Academic Kids

History of Greece series
Aegean Civilization before 1600 BC
Mycenaean Greece ca. 16001200 BC
Greek Dark Ages ca. 1200800 BC
Ancient Greece 776323 BC
Hellenistic Greece 323 BC146 BC
Roman and Byzantine Greece 146 BC1453 AD
Ottoman Greece 14531832
Modern Greece after 1832

The Greek Dark Ages (ca. 1200 BC800 BC) refers to the period of Greek prehistory from the presumed Dorian invasion and end of the Mycenaean civilization in the 11th century BC to the rise of the first Greek city-states in the 9th century BC and the epics of Homer and earliest writings in alphabetic Greek in the 8th century BC.

The collapse of the Mycenaean coordinated with the fall of several other large empires in the near east, most notably the Hittite and the Egyptian. The cause may be attributed to an invasion of the sea people wielding iron weapons. When the Dorians came down into Greece they also were equipped with superior iron weapons, easily dispersing the already weakened Mycenaeans. The period that follows these events is collectively known as the Greek Dark Ages.

Archaeology shows a collapse of civilization in the Greek world in this period. The great palaces and cities of the Myceneans were destroyed or abandoned. The Greek language ceased to be written. Greek dark age pottery has simple geometric designs and lacks the figurative decoration of Mycenean ware. The Greeks of the dark age lived in fewer and smaller settlements, suggesting famine and depopulation, and foreign goods are not found, suggesting little international trade. Contact was also lost between foreign powers during this period, yielding little cultural progress or growth of any sort.

Kings are said to rule over this period of time. However, eventually they were replaced with an aristocracy, and later, in some areas, an aristocracy in a aristocracy; the elites of the elite. The weight of war changed from cavalry to infantry called hoplites. Iron became into use due to its cheapness to produce and mine. Slowly equality grew among the different sects of people, leading to the dethronement of the various Kings and the rise of the family.

Families began to reconstruct their past in the attempt at linking their blood line with heroes from the Trojan War, but most precisely Heracles. Most of this was a jumble of legend and hubris, but some were sorted by poets of the school of Hesiod. Most of these poems are lost, though, but some famous "storywriters", as they were called, were Hecataeus of Miletus and Acusilaus of Argos.


It is thought that the epics by Homer contain a certain amount of tradition preserved orally during the Dark Ages period. Exavtly how much of Homer can be considered historical is vigorously disputed; see the article on Troy for a discussion.

At the end of this period of stagnation the Greek civilization was engulfed in a renaissance that spread the Greek world as far as the Black Sea and Spain. Writing was relearned from the Phoenicians, eventually spreading north into Italy and the Gauls.

Literature

Latacz, J. Between Troy and Homer. The so-called Dark Ages in Greece, in: Storia, Poesia e Pensiero nel Mondo antico. Studi in Onore di M. Gigante, Rome, 1994.

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