The Dark Ages in Ancient Greece

greek-dark-agesThe beginning of the Dark Ages in ancient Greece is essentially placed in the 11th and 10th c. BC, when the large centers decline and some areas or coastal and lowland areas are almost abandoned. The collapse of the commercial networks intensified the developments and Greece presented a strong picture of poverty and isolation compared to the previous era.

Traces of life in most locations in Greece are rare, settlements are almost non-existent and the demographic thinning that seems to plague the Aegean world in particular, is unthinkable.

At the beginning of the 12th c. e.g. A multitude of disasters struck the great Mediterranean states, leading Egypt and the city-states of the Syrian-Palestinian coast into decline.

This was followed by a period of radical change in social, cultural and economic organization, which marked the definitive end of the Bronze Age and the early Iron Age.

In Greece, this period is placed between the collapse of the Mycenaean palaces and the emergence of city-states in the 8th century. e.g. and is characterized by the loss of writing, the simplified culture, the use of iron versus brass, and its introversion.

These elements, in combination with the absence of written sources, other than the Homeric epics, and the meager relics that survived, give the period from the 11th to the 8th century BC. the name “Dark Ages”.

The collapse of the palace regime marked the beginning of a long period of social unrest and various fermentations, but it did not lead directly to the Dark Ages. Even in the 12th c. e.g.
There are still some centers of Mycenaean tradition, in Asini of Argolida, in Nichoria of Messinia and in Iolkos of Thessaly.

At the same time, Athens is not only not being destroyed, but seems to be developing contacts with the world of the East, while cultural flourishing is also present in the Dodecanese and Cyprus.

dark-ages-greeceLarge centers are found, therefore, in this century as well, however the rich and imposing culture of the previous period was greatly simplified. It seems, therefore, that the 12th c. e.g. functioned as a transitional period, as opposing tendencies coexisted and many of the characteristics of the next period emerged.

Many theories have been put forward about the causes of the fall of the Mycenaean world, but it is impossible to draw definite conclusions about the period that followed the Mycenaean era, due to the absence of written sources.
The invasion of new populations (eg the Descent of the Dorians), the internal conflicts between Mycenaean rulers and the destruction caused by natural phenomena, seem to be the main causes that led to the final result.

According to archeological data, the transition to the new era of the Dark Ages was a slow process and was accompanied by extremely drastic changes. Most important of these was the clear decline of the standard of living in comparison with that of the Mycenaean times; the impressive architecture and with it the palace arts disappear.

The buildings are now made of cheap materials and therefore have left little material residue. The imposing palaces have been replaced by “curved huts” of a room, also made of perishable materials. At the same time, the use of brass, which prevailed in previous centuries, is declining and is being replaced by the use of iron.

The general lack of expensive metals and luxury items such as ivory, amber and expensive gems, testify to the absence of trade or other relations with distant peoples and the isolation of Greece.
It is also characteristic to abandon the writing system, since the latter (Linear B ‘), served the extensive bureaucratic system of the Mycenaean palaces.
The cultural regression is intensified, finally, by the complete lack of luxurious vaulted and chambered tombs and the adoption of the practice of cremation.

Precisely because of these changes, the lack of historical evidence and the few archaeological finds, the period of about 3 centuries extending from 1150 BC. until 850 BC. has become known in history with the terms “Dark Ages” and “Greek Middle Ages”. These descriptions, however, do not seem to correspond entirely to reality.

During the Dark Ages, the Greek space presented a picture of poverty and regression compared to the previous era, but at the same time, those factors that played a decisive role in the further historical course of Greece, began to form gradually and steadily.

During the transitional centuries, the historical population of the Greek area was largely formed with the merging of Mycenaean population groups and sections of the peoples that invaded Greece, the memories from the glorious Mycenaean past were preserved, as they were later created in the Greek alphabet, the geometric culture and the arts emerged, Hellenism spread to many parts of the Mediterranean and the Greeks acquired a unified national, religious and moral consciousness, based on the institutions of the city-state.

In this way, the “Dark Ages” will leave the next generation the most beautiful heritage. A heritage that the Greeks of the Archaic period will manage to make it bear fruit. A “renaissance”, which will bring to the fore Homer and his masterpieces.