lecture 8b: dark ages


Dark age and rise of 8 th century

Ancient Greece

Dark age

• >1100bc – 700bc<

• Devastation at fall of Bronze Age reduced the

Mycenaean civilization and its palatial economy

• The terminus ad quem for the dark age is the

Archaic period, marked by the rise of the citystate (polis)

Dark age

• Some locations continued (e.g. Athens)

• Communities on Aegean recover within a couple generations

• Technological innovation: ~1050

– Pottery (protogeometric period 1050-900)


• Population shifts to the east; Aegean is the

“Greek sea”

Dark age

• Iron age reflection on the Bronze: an age of heroes

– Basileus: the chieftain of a house or village (cf.


– Chieftain’s house (Lefkandi)

• Protogeometric period

(1150-900) gives way to …

• Geometric period


Dark age

Dark age

• Poetry

– Oral: Homer and the cycles

– Instrumental accompaniment

– 16000 lines of Iliad; 12000 lines of Odyssey

• Details of poetics: formulaic orality

• Advent of writing fossilizes formulae

• Plots and major themes

– What the epics can tell us about Bronze Age Greece

– What the epics can tell us about Dark Age Greece

Dark age

• “Homeric” society

– Demos: space and people

• Basileus

• Farm and village

• Demos and polis (=main town of demos)

• Oikos (household): smallest unit of Dark Age society

– Men and women and oikos

• Marriage and paternal anxieties

• Labor

– Thetes

Dark age

• “Homeric” society

– Governmental institutions

• Boule (council that met in megaron)

• Ecclesia (assembly that met in agora)

• Basileus’ role confirmed by Zeus

– Foreign relations

• Xenia

– Social values

• Agathos vs. Kakos

• Time

• Aristos (cf. Hesiod’s Eris – Strife)

Dark age

• “Homeric” society

– Women

• Strong women in Homeric epic

• Nevertheless dependent on males

• Contributed to public opinion, but no political rights

• Enjoy protection as members of oikos

– Gods and mortals

• Pantheon set by Homer and Hesiod

• Theogony; Naturism; Anthropomorphism

• Divine attributes; Belief; Sin and punishment; afterlife

• Cultus

Dark age

• End of the Dark age: 8 th century

– A Greek “renaissance”:

• Rise of landowning aristocracy

• Colonization

• Alphabet and writing

• Art and architecture

• Panhellenism

Dark age

• End of the Dark age: 8 th century

– Rise of landowning aristocracy

• Population growth affects relative size of kleros

• Another option is colonization

– Colonization

• Accompanied by growth of trade abroad

– Alphabet and writing

• Contact with the east: the (Phoenician) phonetic alphabet

• Α Β Γ Δ Ε Ζ Η Θ Ι Κ Λ Μ Ν Ξ Ο Π Ρ Σ Τ Υ Φ Χ Ψ Ω

α β γ δ ε ζ η θ ι κ λ μ ν ξ ο π ρ σ τ υ φ χ ψ ω

• End of the Dark age: 8 th century

– Art and architecture

• Late geometric period (750-700)

• Images burst onto the scene

• Orientalizing elements

• Monumental temples

Dark age

Dark age

• Panhellenism

– Religious sanctuaries = festivals = athletics

– Zeus & Hera at Olympia

– Apollo & Artemis at Delos

– Zeus at Dodona

– Apollo at Delphi

• 776: first Olympic Games

• Greek sense of identity: heritage, language, religion

• Cult heroes

Dark age

• Panhellenic Games

– Olympic: near Elis (Zeus: olive)

– Pythian: near Delphi (Apollo: laurel)

– Nemean: near Nemea (Zeus: celery)

– Isthmian: near Corinth (Poseidon: pine)

• Events

-- Glory for the competitor; glory for the polis

Dark age

• Legacy of the Dark age

– A literature that starts a tradition

– A population that grows a polis

– A world around the Aegean that is common in language and religion

– A civilization about to grow into the Archaic Period