Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
The Dark Ages of Greece is a deceptive phrase as many things developed in this period. What came out of this period would later explode and be described as the driving force of what would become the Archaic and Classical Greece. The Dark Ages laid the foundation of the city-states, the formation of the basileus, art, diplomacy, migration, and even the use of iron.
Within this period, the beginnings of the renowned and unique city-states took form. Population and food decreased during the Dark Ages which prompted the remaining inhabitants to look to the larger cities for support. It evolved where the cities helped govern the surrounding areas, and the surrounding area became one with the capital city. This led to the formation of the city-states that were so prominent in the Archaic and Classical periods.
In the Dark Ages, the basileus was a position very similar to a king. This title continued into the Archaic period, but the form it took was different. Instead of being used to describe a king, it was used for a “magistrate with a one-year term” or a board of magistrates. The power was decreased as the governmental form was shifting in the new periods.
Art was not absent in this “dark” period. In fact, in the Late Geometric period of the Dark Ages art took on a whole new form that Greece had never seen before. Images of animals and plants began to appear on vases. Artists experimented with styles and materials. This explosion in artistic style would be the spark to ignite an even bigger art advancement in the Archaic and Classical periods. The well known art that we see from these later periods have the Dark Ages to thank for their beauty.
Diplomacy was usually conducted as a form of networking. The Dark Ages had leaders making relationships with other leaders that entailed hospitality in one’s own palace and exchanges of gifts. This version of hospitality and diplomacy continued into the Archaic period. It was from that that it would eventually fade away.
Migration was also developing in the Dark Ages and continued into the Archaic period. Theories have been given on migration being part of the decrease in population, but it has not been confirmed. The migration in the Dark Ages was nothing compared to what would occur in the Archaic period. Colonies would appear throughout the Mediterranean area and expand the Greek civilization.
For being the Dark Ages, surprising advancements were made. It was during this time that the use of iron was perfected and began to show up in all aspects of life. Obviously, the use of iron continued into the following periods and changed domestic life, military life, and the entire civilization.
The Dark Ages was not a time of desolation and deprivation. It was a time to create things and start initiatives that would go far beyond anyone’s imagination in the following centuries. It was due to the achievements of the Dark Ages that much of the Classical and Archaic Greece became so advanced and dominated their part of the world.
- Sarah B. Pomeroy et al., Ancient Greece: A Political, Social, and Cultural History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).
- Robert Morkot, The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Greece (New York: Penguin Group, 1996).
- Jackson J. Spielvogel, Western Civilization (Boston: Wadsworth, 2009).
*** Sign up for our weekly newsletter to learn of the latest articles, forum discussions, book clubs, and other history activities.***