A Brief History of Ancient Greece Politics, Society and Culture
Chapter Two – The “Dark Age” of Greece and the Eight- Century “Renaissance”
Decline and Recovery
• The Dark Age was a period of steep decline and slow recovery that lasted from
the middle of the twelfth century until the eighth century.
• New social and political patterns were formed – it was a new type of political
organization. The city-state (polis)
• Monumental stone buildings were no longer standing and fine furniture were no
longer commissions and even the art of writing was lost. They lost all sense of
• Exports such as Bronze, gold and other luxury imports vanish.
• Towns were left inhabited – dead or gone
• Centuries that laid hidden between the fall of the Mycenae and the birth of the
city-state was a period of darkness along with poverty.
• Some regions in Greece recovered much sooner then others and they took
different forms for example areas around the Aegean Sea came out of the Dark
Age quicker than regions in western Greece.
• Those who remained in Greece life was simpler that it had been during the
Mycenaean-Minoan Palace period.
• Farmers continues to farm, growing some crops, herders tended their flocks and
women spun and wove their wool and flax like before. SO not much changed.
There was still potters, metal workers and carpenters that still practiced crafts.
They still worshiped their gods and performed religious rituals.
• There was a great inventions in technology that would help pottery. For example
potters were using compasses to make perfect arcs, half-circles, and concentric
circles. Lines were drawn with rulers instead of by freehand.
• Around this time (1050 BC) Greeks learned how to work with Ion. Iron weapons
and tools were better then bronze.
Society in the Early Dark Age
• When there was a steep decline in Greek society during the Dark Age, the
Grecians lost many ties to the palace and was found governing themselves and
dealing with their own finances .
• They were transforming into the heroic age
• Qa-si-re-u was like the government during the Dark Age. They were mayors or
head of a town/village within a Mycenaean Kingdom who were called Basileus.
Greeks suggest that after the disappearance of the great Bronze age, the local
officials like the old qa-si-re-u became the leaders of the new Greek communities
in the Dark Age.
• Basileus was later translated to “king” Revival (C. 900-750 BC)
• As the protogeometric style evolved into the geometric style. The protogeometric
style is a pottery type associated with the Greek Dark Ages after the collapse of
the Mycenaean-Minoan Palace culture. It was the first step towards reviving
• This created a new artistic movement – vases were filled with zigzags triangles,
crosshatches, alternating them with solid bands, lines and every other geometric
Homer and Oral Poetry
o Oral poet was a skilled storyteller who sang or chanted in verse before an
o Homer – composer of the Iliad and the Odyssey was the greatest poet
although they knew nothing about his life besid es the fact that he was
blind and from Ionia.
o These poems were dated to between the later eight and early seventh
century BC about the time writing reappeared in Greece. It’s possible that
Homer, could have been illiterate and dictated his long epics to person
who could write.
o Both these epics are set in the age of heroes.
o Archaeology could not prove that the Trojan War as Homer described it
• Homer’s Greece was divided geographically into independent regions of different
sizes, each one consisting of demos – which is a place where people live /
Community and Household
o Social and economic life at the end of the ninth century was centered in
the local communities which were still small.
o They lived clustered together in small quarters and had strong bonds from
generations to generations.
o Many disputes were resolved by the elders and local chief of the villages.
But homicide was solved privately between the families involves either by
material compensation or the exile of the offender.
o Even if individuals in the village fought they would united against threats
o Polis was the main town in which demos lived.
o A families main source of income in a village/ towns was the farmland it
inherited that was passed down from generation to generation. If they did
not have any farmland (also called Kleros) they could not get married. o During the Dark Age , wealthy families had more land and more animals.
Mainly because they were feeding more mouths but even with that, they
still managed to produce a surplus. Where as the average family, if it was
a good year, they would have a little extra money to spend on something
they wish for like gold earrings or another mule.
Chiefs and People
o In Homer, become a basileus (king) was passed down from father to son.
But that’s not enough to secure the new kings spot. In Homers poems, he
stresses the point that they need to be able to lead their people in time of
war and peace.
o Because the risks his life fighting on the front line in battle, his people
must repay him with gifts and honours.
o But there is a mutual and fair exchange. Once everything is collected from
a raid, the chief takes his shares and more (as his prize) then and only then
is it distributed to the men so everyone can get an equal share. If a chief
keeps more then his share, he can lose the respect of his followers.
o If a successor isn’t meeting his requirements as head chiefs rivals will try