EARLY HISTORY OF THE ANCIENT GREEKS
Toy horse from
the 10th century BC Greek tribes came from northern Greece and conquered and absorbed the Mycenaeans around 1100 B.C. and gradually spread to the Greek islands and Asia Minor. Ancient Greece developed around 1200-1000 B.C. out of the remnants of Mycenae. After a period of decline during the Dorian Greek invasions (1200-1000 B.C.), Greece and the Aegean Sea area developed a unique civilization.
The early Greeks drew upon Mycenae traditions, Mesopotamian learning (weights and measures, lunar-solar calendar, astronomy, musical scales), the Phoenician alphabet (modified for Greek), and Egyptian art. They established city-states and planted the seeds for a rich intellectual life.
No one is sure exactly how the Greeks evolved. Most likely they were a Stone-Age people that began voyaging to Crete, Cyprus, the Aegean islands and the Greek mainland from southern Turkey around 3000 B.C. and mixed with the Stone Age cultures in these lands.
Around a 2500 B.C., during the early Bronze Age, an Indo-European people, speaking a prototypical Greek language, emerged from the north and began mixing with the mainland cultures who eventually adopted their language. These people were divided into fledgling city states from which the Mycenaeans evolved. These Indo European people are believed to have been relatives of the Aryans, who invaded India and Asia Minor. The Hittites, and later the Greeks, Romans, Celts and nearly all Europeans and North Americans descended from Indo-European people.
Greek speakers appeared in the Greek mainland about 1900 B.C. They eventually consolidated themselves into petty chiefdoms that grew into Mycenae. Some time later the mainland "Greeks" began mixing with the Bronze Age people of Asia Minor and island "Greeks" (Ionians) of which the Minoans were the most advanced.
The first Greek are sometimes referred to as the Hellenes, the tribal name of an early mainland Greek people who were initially mostly nomadic animal herders but over time established settled communities and interacted with the cultures around them..
Websites on Ancient Greece: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Hellenistic World sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; BBC Ancient Greeks bbc.co.uk/history/; Canadian Museum of History historymuseum.ca; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org; British Museum ancientgreece.co.uk; Illustrated Greek History, Dr. Janice Siegel, Department of Classics, Hampden–Sydney College, Virginia hsc.edu/drjclassics ; The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization pbs.org/empires/thegreeks ; Oxford Classical Art Research Center: The Beazley Archive beazley.ox.ac.uk ; Ancient-Greek.org ancientgreece.com; Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org/about-the-met/curatorial-departments/greek-and-roman-art; The Ancient City of Athens stoa.org/athens; The Internet Classics Archive kchanson.com ; Cambridge Classics External Gateway to Humanities Resources web.archive.org/web; Ancient Greek Sites on the Web from Medea showgate.com/medea ; Greek History Course from Reed web.archive.org; Classics FAQ MIT rtfm.mit.edu; 11th Brittanica: History of Ancient Greece sourcebooks.fordham.edu ;Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy iep.utm.edu;Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy plato.stanford.edu
Early Cycladic Culture (3200-2300 B.C.)
According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “The Cyclades, a group of islands in the southwestern Aegean, comprises some thirty small islands and numerous islets. The ancient Greeks called them kyklades, imagining them as a circle (kyklos) around the sacred island of Delos, the site of the holiest sanctuary to Apollo. Many of the Cycladic Islands are particularly rich in mineral resources—iron ores, copper, lead ores, gold, silver, emery, obsidian, and marble, the marble of Paros and Naxos among the finest in the world. Archaeological evidence points to sporadic Neolithic settlements on Antiparos, Melos, Mykonos, Naxos, and other Cycladic Islands at least as early as the sixth millennium B.C. These earliest settlers probably cultivated barley and wheat, and most likely fished the Aegean for tunny and other fish. They were also accomplished sculptors in stone, as attested by significant finds of marble figurines on Saliagos (near Paros and Antiparos). [Source: Department of Greek and Roman Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2004, metmuseum.org \^/]
“In the third millennium B.C., a distinctive civilization, commonly called the Early Cycladic culture (ca. 3200–2300 B.C.), emerged with important settlement sites on Keros and at Halandriani on Syros. At this time in the Early Bronze Age, metallurgy developed at a fast pace in the Mediterranean. It was especially fortuitous for the Early Cycladic culture that their islands were rich in iron ores and copper, and that they offered a favorable route across the Aegean. Inhabitants turned to fishing, shipbuilding, and exporting of their mineral resources, as trade flourished between the Cyclades, Minoan Crete, Helladic Greece, and the coast of Asia Minor. \^/
“Early Cycladic culture can be divided into two main phases, the Grotta-Pelos (Early Cycladic I) culture (ca. 3200?–2700 B.C.), and the Keros-Syros (Early Cycladic II) culture (ca. 2700–2400/2300 B.C.). These names correspond to significant burial sites. Unfortunately, few settlements from the Early Cycladic period have been found, and much of the evidence for the culture comes from assemblages of objects, mostly marble vessels and figurines, that the islanders buried with their dead. Varying qualities and quantities of grave goods point to disparities in wealth, suggesting that some form of social ranking was emerging in the Cyclades at this time.” \^/
“The majority of Cycladic marble vessels and sculptures were produced during the Grotta-Pelos and Keros-Syros periods. Early Cycladic sculpture comprises predominantly female figures that range from simple modification of the stone to developed representations of the human form, some with natural proportions and some more idealized. Many of these figures, especially those of the Spedos type, display a remarkable consistency in form and proportion that suggests they were planned with a compass. Scientific analysis has shown that the surface of the marble was painted with mineral-based pigments—azurite for blue and iron ores, or cinnabar for red. The vessels from this period—bowls, vases, kandelas (collared vases), and bottles—display bold, simple forms that reinforce the Early Cycladic predilection for a harmony of parts and conscious preservation of proportion. \^/
Bronze Age Site in Greece
In 2001, a team led by Greek archaeologist Dr. Dora Katsonopoulou that was excavating the Homeric-era town of Helike in the northern Peloponnesus, found a well-preserved 4500-year-old urban center, one of the few very old Bronze Age sites discovered in Greece. Among the the things they found were stone foundations, cobbled streets, gold and silver clothing ornaments, intact clay jars, cooking pots, tankards and kraters, wide bowls for mixing wine and water, and other pottery---all of a distinctive style---and tall, graceful cylindrical “depas” cups like those found in the same age strata in Troy.
The Bronze Age ruins were found on the Gulf of Corinth among orchards and vineyards 40 kilometers east of the modern port city of Patras. Ceramics enabled archaeologists to date the site to between 2600 and 2300 B.C. Dr. Katsonopoulou told the New York Times, “It was clear from the beginning that we had made a significant discovery.” The site was undisturbed, she said, which “offers the great and rare opportunity to us to study and reconstruct everyday life and economy of one of the most important periods of the Early Bronze Age.”
Dr. John E. Coleman, an archaeologist and professor of classics at Cornell who had visited the site several times, told the New York Times, “It’s not just a little farmstead. It has the look of a settlement that may be planned, with buildings aligned to a system of streets, which is pretty rare for that period. And the depas cup is very important because it suggests international contacts.” Dr. Helmut Bruckner, a geologist at the University of Marburg in Germany said the location of the town suggests it was a coastal town and “at the time had a strategic importance” in shipping. Geologic evidence indicates it was destroyed and partly submerged by a powerful earthquake.
Greek Dark Ages (1100 to 750 B.C.)
The Greek Dark Ages, which began after the collapse of Mycenae, around 1150 B.C., is believed to have resulted after an invasion by another people from the north---the Dorians, who spoke Greek but otherwise were barbarians. A few Mycenaeans held their own in fortresses around Athens and later reorganized on the islands and shores of Asia Minor (the Ionian migrations).
Little is known about Greece during this period, which is sometimes referred to the Greek Dark Ages. City-states broke up into small chiefdoms. Populations crashed. Fine art, monumental architecture and writing practically died out. Greeks migrated to the Aegean islands and Asia Minor.
Artwork from the Dark Ages consisted primarily of pottery with simple, repetitive geometric patterns. Literature was stored like the Iliad. The dead were sometimes cremated and buried under 160-foot-long structures.
During the Greek Dark Ages, Greek migrants established city-states on Asia Minor. Around 800 B.C., the region began to recover and poetry, amphorae and stylized sculptured figures with intricate geometric patterns emerged.
John Porter of the University of Saskatchewan wrote: “With the fall of the Mycenaean palaces, Greece entered into the period of decline known as the Dark Ages. Greek myth recalls the turbulent nature of these times in its stories of the woes of the Greek heroes on their return from Troy, but the principal cause of the differences between Bronze Age Greece and the Greece of Homer's day, according to tradition, was the so-called Dorian Invasion. [Source:John Porter, “Archaic Age and the Rise of the Polis”, University of Saskatchewan. Last modified November 2009 \*\]
“Although the Mycenaeans had established a network of roads, few existed in this period, for reasons we will get to in a moment. Most travel and trade was conducted by sea. Even under the Roman empire, with its sophisticated network of excellent roads, it was less expensive to ship a load of goods from one end of the Mediterranean to the other than to cart it 75 miles inland. Thus these early communities initially developed in relative isolation from one another. This geographical isolation came to be reinforced by the competitive nature of Greek society. \*\
“It was the Greek outposts in Asia Minor and the islands that witnessed the beginnings of what was to become classical Greek civilization. These areas were relatively peaceful and settled; more important, they had direct contact with the wealthy, more sophisticated cultures of the east. Inspired by these cross-cultural contacts, the Greek settlements of Asia Minor and the islands saw the birth of Greek art, architecture, religious and mythological traditions, law, philosophy, and poetry, all of which received direct inspiration from the Near East and Egypt.” \*\
Thucydides: “On The Early History of the Hellenees”
Thucydides wrote in “On The Early History of the Hellenes (c. 395 B.C.): “The country which is now called Hellas was not regularly settled in ancient times. The people were migratory, and readily left their homes whenever they were overpowered by numbers. There was no commerce, and they could not safely hold intercourse with one another either by land or sea. The several tribes cultivated their own soil just enough to obtain a maintenance from it. But they had no accumulation of wealth, and did not plant the ground; for, being without walls, they were never sure that an invaded might not come and despoil them. Living in this manner and knowing that they could anywhere obtain a bare subsistence, they were always ready to migrate; so that they had neither great cities nor any considerable resources. The richest districts were most constantly changing their inhabitants; for example, the countries which are now called Thessaly and Boeotia, the greater part of the Peloponnesus with the exception of Arcadia, and all the best parts of Hellas. For the productiveness of the land increased the power of individuals; this in turn was a source of quarrels by which communities were ruined, while at the same time they were more exposed to attacks from without. Certainly Attica, of which the soil was poor and thin, enjoyed a long freedom from civil strife, and therefore retained its original inhabitants [the Pelasgians]. [Source: Thucydides, “The History of the Peloponnesian War,” translated by Benjamin Jowett, New York, Duttons, 1884, pp. 11-23, Sections 1.2-17, Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece, Fordham University]
“The feebleness of antiquity is further proved to me by the circumstance that there appears to have been no common action in Hellas before the Trojan War. And I am inclined to think that the very name was not as yet given to the whole country, and in fact did not exist at all before the time of Hellen, the son of Deucalion; the different tribes, of which the Pelasgian was the most widely spread, gave their own names to different districts. But when Hellen and his sons became powerful in Phthiotis, their aid was invoked by other cities, and those who associated with them gradually began to be called Hellenes, though a long time elapsed before the name was prevalent over the whole country. Of this, Homer affords the best evidence; for he, although he lived long after the Trojan War, nowhere uses this name collectively, but confines it to the followers of Achilles from Phthiotis, who were the original Hellenes; when speaking of the entire host, he calls them Danäans, or Argives, or Achaeans.
“And the first person known to us by tradition as having established a navy is Minos. He made himself master of what is now called the Aegean sea, and ruled over the Cyclades, into most of which he sent the first colonies, expelling the Carians and appointing his own sons governors; and thus did his best to put down piracy in those waters, a necessary step to secure the revenues for his own use. For in early times the Hellenes and the barbarians of the coast and islands, as communication by sea became more common, were tempted to turn pirates, under the conduct of their most powerful men; the motives being to serve their own cupidity and to support the needy. They would fall upon the unwalled and straggling towns, or rather villages, which they plundered, and maintained themselves by the plunder of them; for, as yet, such an occupation was held to be honoralbe and not disgraceful. . . .The land, too, was infested by robbers; and there are parts of Hellas in which the old practices continue, as for example among the Ozolian Locrians, Aetolians, Acarnanians, and the adjacent regions of the continent. The fashion of wearing arms among these continental tribes is a relic of their old predatory habits.
“For in ancient times all Hellenes carried weapons because their homes were undefended and intercourse was unsafe; like the barbarians they went armed in their everyday life. . . The Athenians were the first who laid aside arms and adopted an easier and more luxurious way of life. Quite recently the old-fashioned refinement of dress still lingered among the elder men of their richer class, who wore undergarments of linen, and bound back their hair in a knot with golden clasps in the form of grasshoppers; and the same customs long survived among the elders of Ionia, having been derived from their Athenian ancestors. On the other hand, the simple dress which is now common was first worn at Sparta; and there, more than anywhere else, the life of the rich was assimilated to that of the people.
“With respect to their towns, later on, at an era of increased facilities of navigation and a greater supply of capital, we find the shores becoming the site of walled towns, and the isthmuses being occupied for the purposes of commerce and defense against a neighbor. But the old towns, on account of the great prevalence of piracy, were built away from the sea, whether on the islands or the continent, and still remain in their old sites. But as soon as Minos had formed his navy, communication by sea became easier, as he colonized most of the islands, and thus expelled the malefactors. The coast population now began to apply themselves more closely to the acquisition of wealth, and their life became more settled; some even began to build themselves walls on the strength of their newly acquired riches. And it was at a somewhat later stage of this development that they went on the expedition against Troy.”
Archaic Age of Greece (750 B.C. to 500 B.C.)
Beginning in the mid 8th century B.C. there was blossoming of art and culture that coincided with the large-scale movement of people to urban centers called city states. Populations increased, trade flourished and independent cities emerged. As people were able to make a living by trading and selling crafts, a fledgling middle class emerged.
Some say that ancient Greek history began with the first Olympiad in 776 B.C. and the writing of Homer's epic between 750 to 700 B.C.
Many important Archaic Age city states were in Asia Minor and the Greek islands. Samos was the home of a powerful navy and powerful dictator named Polokrates, who oversaw the construction of a 3,400-foot-long water-carrying tunnel through a mountain, a engineering feat associated more with Rome than Greece.
By the 7th century B.C., when Greece was a major maritime culture and the Aegean Sea was primarily a Greek lake, some Greek city states had become large and powerful. Later, when Asia Minor was occupied by the Romans most of the people along the Aegean continued to speak Greek.
John Porter of the University of Saskatchewan wrote: “The Dorians were said to be the descendants of Heracles (known today by his Latin name, Hercules — a hero celebrated by all Greeks but associated in particular with the Peloponnese). The children of Heracles had been driven from Greece by the evil king Eurystheus (king of Mycenae and Tiryns, who compelled Heracles to undertake his famous labors) but eventually returned to reclaim their patrimony by force. (Some scholars regard the myth of the Dorians as a distant memory of historical invaders who overthrew the Mycenaean civilization.) The Dorians were said to have conquered virtually all of Greece, with the exception of Athens and the islands of the Aegean. The pre-Dorian populations from other parts of Greece were said to have fled eastward, many of them relying on the help of Athens. [Source: John Porter, “Archaic Age and the Rise of the Polis”, University of Saskatchewan. Last modified November 2009 \*\]
“If you examine a linguistic map of Greece in the classical period, you can see evidence for just the sort of population shifts recalled by the myth of the Dorians. In the area known as Arcadia (an extremely rugged area in the north-central Peloponnese) and on the island of Cyprus there survived an archaic dialect of Greek very like that on the Linear B tablets. Presumably these isolated backwaters were left undisturbed and so preserved a form of Greek similar to the dialect spoken in the Greece of the Bronze Age. In Northwest Greece (roughly, Phocis, Locris, Aetolia, and Acarnania) and the remainder of the Peloponnese, two very closely related dialects were spoken, known respectively as Northwest Greek and Doric. Here we seem to see evidence of the Dorian invaders, who successfully reduced or drove out the pre-Dorian populations and so left their linguistic imprint on the region. (For a Greek of the 5th century, the term "Doric" or "Dorian" was a virtual synonym for "Peloponnesian" and/or "Spartan.") \*\
“In Boeotia and Thessaly (both of which enjoyed lands quite fertile and easy to work by Greek standards) were found mixed dialects, the result of a Doric admixture being introduced into an older dialect of Greek known as Aeolic. Here, it seems, the invaders met with successful resistance, resulting in a union of the original inhabitants with the Dorian invaders. In Attica and Euboea, however, we find a form of Greek known as Attic, yet another descendant of the Greek of the Bronze Age, which shows no Doric influence. Here the story of Athens' successful resistance of the Dorian invaders seems to be borne out. If you examine the dialects of the Aegean islands and Asia Minor, further confirmation of the myth appears: in northern Asia Minor and the island of Lesbos we find the Aeolic dialect (presumably brought by inhabitants of Thessaly and Boeotia who were fleeing the Dorians); in south-central Asia Minor and the southern islands of the Aegean we find the Ionic dialect, a direct cousin of Attic, presumably brought by people fleeing from Euboea or elsewhere with the help of Athens. (Hence south-central Asia Minor is known as *Ionia: see The World of Athens, map 5.) On Crete, the southernmost islands of the Aegean, and the most southerly part of Asia Minor, however, the Doric dialect predominated. \*\
Early Greek Settlements in Asia Minor
John Porter of the University of Saskatchewan wrote: “An alternative explanation would have the Greeks of the 11th to 10th centuries migrating eastward drawn by the abundant resources of Asia Minor and the power vacuum created by the collapse of the Hittite empire and other centers (such as Troy)...This explanation accounts more readily for the Doric settlements in the south Aegean, which seem to have occurred in tandem with the Aeolic and Ionic migrations further north. On this view the Dorians were less invaders than migratory peoples drawn by the vacuum created by the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization. [Source: John Porter, “Archaic Age and the Rise of the Polis”, University of Saskatchewan. Last modified November 2009 \*\]
“It was the Greek outposts in Asia Minor and the islands that witnessed the beginnings of what was to become classical Greek civilization. These areas were relatively peaceful and settled; more important, they had direct contact with the wealthy, more sophisticated cultures of the east. Inspired by these cross-cultural contacts, the Greek settlements of Asia Minor and the islands saw the birth of Greek art, architecture, religious and mythological traditions, law, philosophy, and poetry, all of which received direct inspiration from the Near East and Egypt. (You will find, for example, that the earliest known Greek poets and philosophers are associated with Asia Minor and the islands. Most prominent of all is Homer, whose poetry is composed in a highly artificial mixed dialect but is predominately Ionic.) \*\
“In the classical period, the Greeks themselves acknowledged the split between the highly refined and cultured "Ionic" Greeks of Asia Minor and the less refined, but more disciplined "Dorians" of the Peloponnese. Athens, situated between the two, lay claim to the best of both traditions, boasting that it combined Ionic grace and sophistication with Doric virility. \*\
Rise of the Polis in Ancient Greece
John Porter of the University of Saskatchewan wrote: “It is not until c. the 9th century that mainland Greece begins to recover from the disruptions of the so-called Dark Ages. It is this period (roughly the 9th to 8th centuries) that sees the rise of that quintessentially Greek institution, the city-state or *polis (plural: poleis). The term city-state is intended to capture the unique features of the Greek polis, which combined elements of both the modern city and the modern independent country. The typical polis consisted of a relatively modest urban center (the polis proper, often built around some form of natural citadel), which controlled the neighboring countryside, with its various towns and villages. (Thus, e.g., Athens controlled an area of some 2,500 sq. km., known as Attica. [In 431 B.C., at the height of the Athenian empire, it is estimated that the population of Attica (the territory controlled by Athens, which was the most populous of the city-states) numbered c. 300,000-350,000 people.] [Source: John Porter, “Archaic Age and the Rise of the Polis”, University of Saskatchewan. Last modified November 2009 \*\]
“To the north, the polis of Thebes dominated Boeotia. Sparta controlled the southwest Peloponnese, and so on.) As opposed to the Mycenaean palaces, which were largely administrative centers and political seats, the polis proper was a true urban center, but it was nothing like the modern city. In this early period, most of the inhabitants made their livelihood by farming or raising livestock in the neighboring countryside. There was little in the way of manufacturing or of today's "service industries" to allow one to make a living "in town." Population density was low [FN 2] and buildings modest. Initially, at least, political and economic power rested firmly with a few powerful landed families. \*\
“The two features that most distinguish the Greek polis are its isolation and its fierce independence. Unlike the Romans, the Greeks never mastered the art of political accommodation and union. Although temporary alliances were common, no polis ever succeeded in expanding its power beyond its own relatively meager boundaries for more than a brief period. (Eventually, this leads to the end of Greek independence, since the smaller poleis could not hope to defend themselves against the powerful forces of Macedon and, later, Rome.) Scholars usually attribute this failure to the historical and geographical conditions under which the polis arose. For the most part, Greece is a very rugged country of mountains, dotted here and there with arable plains. It is in these modest plains, isolated from one another by mountain ranges, that the early poleis first arose, usually in areas with access to fresh water (often scarce in Greece, particularly in the summer months) and the sea.
“Although the Mycenaeans had established a network of roads, few existed in this period, for reasons we will get to in a moment. Most travel and trade was conducted by sea. [Even under the Roman empire, with its sophisticated network of excellent roads, it was less expensive to ship a load of goods from one end of the Mediterranean to the other than to cart it 75 miles inland.] Thus these early communities initially developed in relative isolation from one another. This geographical isolation came to be reinforced by the competitive nature of Greek society. The early poleis, in effect, operated according to the same set of competitive values that drive Homer's heroes. Their constant quest for timê placed them in continual opposition to one another. In fact, Greek history can be viewed as a series of temporary, continually shifting alliances between the various poleis in a constant effort to prevent any one polis from rising to prominence: Sparta, Corinth, and Thebes unite to topple Athens; Athens and Thebes then unite to topple Sparta; then Sparta and Athens unite against Thebes, and so forth. In such a volatile political climate, the last thing that anyone wants is an easy system of land communication, since the same road that gives you easy access to your neighbor will give your neighbor's armies easy access to you.” \*\
Socio-Economic Strains That Occurred During the Rise of the Polis
John Porter of the University of Saskatchewan wrote: “As the eastern Mediterranean began to recover from the collapse of the Bronze Age, trade began to grow, contacts were reestablished between the various cultures of the region, and the various poleis flourished. As their populations grew and their economies became more diverse, however, the established political, social, and legal mechanisms of the poleis became inadequate: traditions that had sufficed for the simple, relatively small agrarian communities of the Dark Ages simply could not cope with the increasing complexities of the emergent polis. [Source: John Porter, “Archaic Age and the Rise of the Polis”, University of Saskatchewan. Last modified November 2009 \*\]
“The first problem was increased population (although this theory has been challenged of late). The modest farms of the typical polis could not support a significant "urban" population; moreover, the increased population left many younger sons with no property to inherit (and therefore no means of earning a traditional livelihood), since the family farm was usually passed down to the eldest son and good land was scarce in any case. The second factor to consider is changes in the economy and resultant changes in society. Originally, the economy of the polis was primarily agrarian, as we have seen, and it was to remain so, to a large extent, throughout the Classical period. This meant that, early on, economic and political power was confined to a relatively small number of wealthy landowners who would have served as powerful advisors to the king (in poleis governed by a monarchy) or, elsewhere, as members of the ruling aristocratic oligarchy. In the course of the 8th century, however, various factors began to undermine the authority of these traditional aristocracies. \*\
“The rise of trade provided an alternate route to wealth and influence. Concomitant with this was the introduction of coinage (c. the mid-7th century) and the transition from the older barter economies to a money economy. Trade also led to the rise (on a very modest scale, by modern standards) of manufacture. Thus individuals could accrue wealth and influence that was not based on land or birth. Moreover, the rise of urban centers undermined the influence of the traditional nobility by severing the local bonds that had tied smaller farmers to the local lord or baron: the polis provided a context in which non-aristocrats could gather to speak with a unified voice.This voice was given added authority by changes in military tactics: in the 7th century armies came to rely more and more on a formation known as the phalanx — a dense formation of heavily-armored soldiers (known as hoplites) who would advance in close-packed ranks, each soldier holding a round shield on his left arm (designed to protect both him and the soldier to his immediate left) and a long thrusting spear in his right hand. Unlike the older tactics, which had involved individuals battling on foot or on horseback, this style of fighting relied upon large numbers of well-drilled citizen-soldiers. The defense of the polis came to rest more on the willing participation of its propertied citizens (known, collectively, as the *demos or "common people") and less on the whim of its traditional aristocracy. \*\
“All of these changes led to a loosening of the control wielded by the traditional aristocracies and the rise of various challenges to their authority, both from the demos and from those individuals who had newly risen to prominence through untraditional means. As we will see when we turn to Athens, the radical economic and social changes outlined above meant difficult times for all, but particularly for the poorer classes, and discontent was rampant. A power struggle ensued, with various prominent individuals striving to win political advancement and personal timê. In many poleis, the losers in these struggles incited revolutions, posing as the friends of the demos in the latter's struggles against the traditional political and economic order. When successful, these individuals overthrew the traditional governments and established personal dictatorships. Such a ruler is known as a *tyrannos (plural: tyrannoi). The word gives us the English "tyrant," but the connection is largely misleading. A tyrannos is a ruler who rises to power by posing as a champion of the demos and maintains his position by a combination of popular measures (designed to placate the demos) and various degrees of force (e.g., the banishment of political rivals, the use of hostages kept under house arrest, the maintenance of a personal body guard — all designed, mainly, to keep his aristocratic rivals in line). These tyrannoi were not themselves commoners but quite wealthy men, usually of noble birth, who had resorted to "popular" measures as a means of overcoming their political foes. In 5th and 4th century Athens, with its strongly democratic traditions, it became common to portray the tyrannoi as vicious autocrats ("tyrants" in the modern English sense), but in fact many of them were relatively benign rulers who promoted needed political and economic reforms. \*\
The Greeks traded all over the Mediterranean with metal coinage (introduced by the Lydians in Asia Minor before 700 B.C.); colonies were founded around the Mediterranean and Black Sea shores (Cumae in Italy 760 B.C., Massalia in France 600 B.C.) Metropleis (mother cities) founded colonies abroad to provide food and resources for their rising populations. In this way Greek culture was spread to a fairly wide area. ↕
Beginning in the 8th century B.C., the Greeks set up colonies in Sicily and southern Italy that endured for 500 years, and, many historians argue, provided the spark that ignited Greek golden age. The most intensive colonization took place in Italy although outposts were set up as far west as France and Spain and as far east as the Black Sea, where the established cities as Socrates noted like "frogs around a pond." On the European mainland, Greek warriors encountered the Gauls who the Greeks said "knew how to die, barbarians though they were." [Source: Rick Gore, National Geographic, November 1994]
During this period in history the Mediterranean Sea was frontier as challenging to the Greeks as the Atlantic was to 15th century European explorers like Columbus. Why did the Greeks head west? "They were driven in part by curiosity," a British historian told National Geographic. "Real curiosity. They wanted to know what lay on the other side of the sea." They also expanded abroad to get rich and ease tensions at home where rival city-states fought with one another over land and resources. Some Greeks became quite wealthy trading things like Etruscan metals and Black Sea grain.
John Porter of the University of Saskatchewan wrote: “In order to head off revolution and the rise of a tyrannos, various poleis began to adopt measures designed to ease the social and economic hardships exploited by the tyrannoi in their bid for power. One measure that became increasingly popular, beginning c. 750-725, was the use of colonization. A polis (or a group of poleis) would send out colonists to found a new polis. The colony thus founded would have strong religious and emotional ties to its mother city, but was an independent political entity. This practice served a variety of purposes. First, it eased the pressure of overpopulation. Second, it provided a means of removing the politically or financially disaffected, who could hope for a better lot in their new home. It also provided useful trading outposts, securing important sources of raw materials and various economic opportunities. Finally, colonization opened up the world to the Greeks, introducing them to other peoples and cultures and giving them a new sense of those traditions that bound them to one another, for all of their apparent differences. [Source: John Porter, “Archaic Age and the Rise of the Polis”, University of Saskatchewan. Last modified November 2009 \*\]
“The principal areas of colonization were: (1) southern Italy and Sicily; (2) the Black Sea region. Many of the poleis involved in these early efforts at colonization were cities that, in the classical period, were relatively obscure — an indication of just how drastically the economic and political changes entailed in the transition from Dark Age to Archaic Greece affected the fortunes of the various poleis. \*\
“The Black Sea Region. Numerous colonies were established as well along the shores of the Sea of Marmara (where colonization was particularly dense) and the southern and western shores of the Black Sea. The main colonizers were Megara, Miletus, and Chalcis. The most important colony (and one of the earliest) was that of Byzantium (modern Istanbul, founded in 660). Greek myth preserves a number of tales concerning this region (perhaps the distant echoes of stories told by the earliest Greeks to explore the area) in the legend of Jason and the Argonauts, who sail to Colchis (on the far eastern shores of the Black Sea) in search of the Golden Fleece. The adventures of Jason came to be celebrated in epic quite early: several of Odysseus' adventures in the Odyssey seem to be based on tales originally told of Jason.” \*\
Alcaeus and Theognis and Their Insights Into the Greek Dark Ages.
John Porter of the University of Saskatchewan wrote: “We get interesting glimpses of the turmoil that beset the various city-states in the fragments of the lyric poets Alcaeus and Theognis. (For a general introduction to the lyric poets, see next unit.) Alcaeus is a poet of the late 7th-early 6th century from the city of Mytilene, on the island of Lesbos (see Map 2 in The World of Athens). He was an aristocrat whose family got caught up in the political turmoil of Mytilene when the traditional rulers, the unpopular Penthilidae, were toppled. The Penthilidae were replaced by a series of tyrannoi. The first of these, Melanchrus, was overthrown in c. 612-609 B.C. by a coalition of nobles led by Pittacus and supported by Alcaeus' brothers. (Alcaeus himself seems to have been too young to join them at the time.) A war with Athens over the city of Sigeum (near Troy) followed (c. 607 B.C.), in which Alcaeus played a part. At about this time, a new tyrannos, Myrsilus, came to power and ruled for about fifteen years (c. 605-590 B.C.). [Source: John Porter, “Archaic Age and the Rise of the Polis”, University of Saskatchewan. Last modified November 2009 \*\]
“Alcaeus and his brothers joined with Pittacus once again, only to see the latter desert their cause and go over to the side of Myrsilus, perhaps even ruling jointly with him for a time. Myrsilus' death in 590 is celebrated by Alcaeus in frg. 332; unfortunately for Alcaeus, Myrsilus' rule was followed by that of Pittacus (c. 590-580), who is said to have introduced a period of peace and prosperity but who won no thanks from Alcaeus for doing so. In the course of these various struggles, Alcaeus and his brothers were exiled on more than one occasion: we get a glimpse of his distress in frg. 130B. Other fragments employ the ship of state metaphor (perhaps original to Alcaeus) to express the confused and uncertain state of affairs in Mytilene: here we can perhaps detect a particular reference to the constantly shifting political alliances among the upper classes and the attendant shifts in the balance of power. In general, Alcaeus' career reveals something of the intense competition among the nobility to gain power amid the political and social chaos that attended the rise of the city state. \*\
“Theognis reveals a different feature of the lot of the traditional nobility. Theognis comes from Megara, between Athens and Corinth, at the northern end of the Saronic Gulf. Theognis' date is subject to dispute: the traditional dates would place his poetic activity in the late 6th and early 5th century; the current tendency is to assign him a date some 50 to 75 years earlier, making him a younger contemporary of Solon. We know relatively little of Theognis' life other than what he tells us, but are fortunate to have a significant amount of his poetry. He is the only one of the lyric poets we will read who is represented by a proper manuscript tradition (see next unit on the lyric poets): what we possess is a lengthy anthology of short poems making up some 1,400 lines, a good number of which are not, however, by Theognis. The genuine poems are clearly marked by the author's aristocratic outlook. Most of them are addressed to a boy named Cyrnus, to whom Theognis holds a relationship that is partially that of mentor, partially that of lover. This relationship was common among the aristocracies of many Greek cities and comprised a form of paideia or education: the older lover was expected to pass along to his younger companion the traditional attitudes and values of the nobility or "good men".” \*\
Theognis' poems reflect the “despair and resentment at the changes that are occurring around him. He sees a society in which financial worth has replaced birth as the qualification for membership among the agathoi, to the detriment of his own standing. He maintains the aristocrat's firm conviction that the traditional nobility are innately superior to the common mob (the kakoi), whom he portrays as nearly sub-human — the prey of mindless passions, incapable of rational thought or reasoned political discourse.” \*\
Celts and Greeks
The Celts were a group of related tribes, linked by language, religion and culture, that gave rise to the first civilization north of the Alps. They emerged as a distinct people around the 8th century B.C. and were known for their fearlessness in battle. Pronouncing Celts with a hard "C" or soft "C" are both okay. American archeologist Brad Bartel called the Celts "the most important and wide-ranging of all European Iron Age people." English speakers tend to say KELTS. The French say SELTS. The Italian say CHELTS. [Source: Merle Severy, National Geographic, May 1977]
The Celts were a mysterious, warlike and artistic people with a highly developed society, incorporating iron weapon and horses. The origin of the Celts remains a mystery. Some scholars believe they originated in the steppes beyond the Caspian Sea. They first appeared in central Europe east of the Rhine in the seventh century B.C. and inhabited much of northeast France, southwest Germany by 500 B.C. They crossed the Alps and expanded into the Balkans, north Italy and France around the third century B.C. and later they reached the British isles. They occupied most of western Europe by 300 B.C.
The Celts are regarded by some scholars as the "first true Europeans". They created the first civilization north of the Alps and are believed to have evolved from tribes that originally lived in Bohemia, Switzerland, Austria, southern Germany and northern France. They were contemporaries of the Mycenaeans in Greece who lived around the time of Trojan War (1200 B.C.) and may have evolved from the Corded Ware Battle Ax People of 2300 B.C. The Celts founded a kingdom of Galatia in Asia Minor that received an Epistle from St. Paul in the New Testament.
At their height in the 3rd century B.C. Celts confronted enemies as far east as Asia Minor and as far west as the British Isles. They ventured to the Iberian Peninsula, to the Baltic, to Poland and Hungary, Scholars believe that Celtic tribes migrated over such a large area for economic and social reasons. They suggest that many of the migrants were men who hoped to claim some land so they could claim a bride.
King Attalus I of Pergamon defeated the Celts in 230 B.C. in what is now western Turkey. To honor the victory, Attalus commissioned a series of sculptures including a sculpture that was copied by the Romans and later called The Dying Gaul.
The Celts were known as the "Caltha" or "Gelatins" to the Greeks and attacked the sacred shrine of Delphi in the 3rd century B.C. (Some sources give date of 279 B.C.). Greek warriors who encountered the Gauls said they "knew how to die, barbarians though they were." Alexander the Great once asked what the Celts feared more than anything else. They said "the sky falling down on their head." Alexander sacked a Celtic city on the Danube before heading off on his march of conquest across Asia.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Greece sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Hellenistic World sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; BBC Ancient Greeks bbc.co.uk/history/ ; Canadian Museum of History historymuseum.ca ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; perseus.tufts.edu ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, oll.libertyfund.org ; Gutenberg.org gutenberg.org Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated October 2018