Source of Photograph.....
The history of Greece can be traced back to Stone Age hunters. Later came early farmers and thecivilizations of the Minoan and Mycenaean kings. This was followed by a period of wars and invasions, known as the Dark Ages. In about 1100 BC, a people called the Dorians invaded from the north and spread down the west coast. In the period from 500-336 BC Greece was divided into small city states, each of which consisted of a city and its surrounding countryside.
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There were only a few historians in the time of Ancient Greece. Three major ancient historians, were able to record their time of Ancient Greek history, that include Herodotus, known as the 'Father of History' who travelled to many ancient historic sites at the time, Thucydides and Xenophon.
Most other forms of History knowledge and accountability of the ancient Greeks we know is because of temples, sculpture, pottery, artefacts and other archaeological findings.
The most hateful human misfortune is for a wise man to have no influence1.
Herodotus was born in Halicarnassus a Greek city in southwest Asia Minor and lived in the 5th Century. Herodotus was a Greek Historian from Ionia. He is most notably known for his writing of The Histories.
The first six books deals with the growth of the Persian Empire under the rulers of Croesus and later Cyrus the Great .The second book is largely concerned with Egypt and the annexing of it by Cyrus's successor Cambyses. The next four books consist of the expansion of the Persian Empire under Darius, the Ionian revolt and the burning of Sardis. The sixth book details the first Persian attack of Greece and the defeat of the Persians at the battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. The last three books describe Xerxes invasion of Greece and their eventual defeat at Salamis and Plataea in 479 B.C2.
There is not a lot of information about Herodotus and most of our information about him comes from his actual writing itself. It has been debated vigorously by historians that he was born between 500 B.C. and 470 B.C. The reason for this is that in his writing of The Histories he does not actually mention having witnessed the Persian War of 480-479 B.C. The date of his death is also a mystery and has been argued by historians over the years. However, as Thucydides mentions in his book The Peloponnesian Wars (2.67) stating the execution of two Spartan officers in Athens as does Herodotus in Book 7.137 of The Histories it is reasonable to assume that he was alive then. It is believed that Herodotus died in the period of 429-413 B.C. in the plague of Athens which claimed the lives of thousands of Athenians. As Thucydides in 6.93 tells of Deccelea being plundered by Spartans in 413 B.C. something that Herodotus in 9.73 does not mention. Therefore it is fair to assume that he died between 429-413 B.C3.
It is obvious from his writings that he was a seasoned traveller and regularly visited many places and cities. This is evident from his writing where he is describes visiting places such as the Nile(Hdt 2.29.1), Sicily and even interviewing the priests at Babylon(Hdt 1.193.4)It would be fair to say that Herodotus was the first person of his time to actively travel around the world to report his accounts. It is because of this that he has become known as the Father of History.1 Herodotus The Histories 9.16
Bust of Thucydides residing in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.
Thucydides was a Greek historian who was born in Alimos between the years 460 and 455 B.C and died between 411 and 400 B.C. He is known for his book The History of the Peloponnesian War which details the war between Sparta and Athens in the 5th Century. As with many authors of that time much of the information we know about him comes from this, his sole work, where we gain our views of his personality and his thoughts on the leaders of Athens.
Thucydides was an Athenian aristocrat who it is believed was in his late twenties or early thirties when the war first broke out in 431 B.C. Thucydides famously describes to us the plague of Athens in 430 B.C, which killed nearly a third of the Athenian population and also Athens leader Pericles. Thucydides gives us a detailed account of the plague and the hardship it caused the Athenians
Though many lay unburied, birds and beasts would not touch them, or died after tasting them1".
It is also known that he was an Athenian general (Strategos) in 424 B.C and was in command of 7 ships which were stationed at Thasos and was subsequently to blame for the capture of Amphipolis.
This led to him being condemned to death and fleeing to his Thracian estate. Thucydides did not return to Athens for another 20 years. It was because of this that he decided to write The History of the Peloponnesian Wars. Having been exiled from Athens Thucydides was able to travel among Peloponnesian allies, giving detailed accounts from both sides. Using interviews, researching records, providing giving eye witness accounts and his own take on events provides an insightful look at the war from both sides.
The date of his death is also the subject of much debate as some argue that because of the abrupt ending of his narrative in the middle of 411 B.C., he may have died around that time. However, it is also stated by Pausanias that a law was passed which allowed Thucydides to return to Athens in 404 B.C. but he was murdered on the way home. Therefore as is evident there is room for much debate on when he actually died but it would be fair to assume that he died between 411-404 B.C.
2 Thuc 5.26.5
Xenophon, Greek historian
Xenophon was born an Athenian, the son of Gryllus. Although his birth is not recorded it is agreed by many scholars that he was born in 431 B.C1. Xenophon came from the deme of Erchia of Athens. In his early years he was a pupil of Socrates.
As a young man he participated in the military expedition by Cyrus against Artaxerxes in 401 B.C1. Xenophon recorded the details of the expedition in a book called the Anabasis which means "The Expedition" or "The march up country". In the book, Xenophon recounts how Cyrus recruited ten thousand Greek mercenaries to help his campaign. Although they won against Artaxerxes in the battle of Cunaxa, Cyrus was killed, which meant that they were leaderless. Anabasis records how they appointed new leaders, one of whom was Xenophon. It also tells of the hardships they faced trying to return home confronted by enemy armies, dealing with adverse weather and a lack of food and supplies. The Anabasis was also the first insight for the Athenians of Persian rituals, customs and culture.
Xenophon returned to Athens, although some years later he was exiled from the city. Although there is no certainty as to the cause of this exile, contributing factors would include his participation in battle against Athens at Coronea, fighting for the Spartan King Agesilaus II. The date of his death is not known.
Most other forms of History knowledge and accountability of the ancient Greeks we know is because of temples, sculpture, pottery, artefacts and other archaeological findings.
According to historians and archeological findings, the Neolithic Age in Greece lasted from 6800 to 3200 BC. The most domesticated settlements were in Near East of Greece. They traveled mainly due to overpopulation. These people introduced pottery and animal husbandry in Greece. They may as well have traveled via the route of Black sea into Thrace, which then further leads to Macedonia, Thessaly, Boeotia etc. The second way of traveling into Greece is from one island to another and such type of colonies has been found in Knossos and Kythnos.
The main characteristics of this era are the climate stabilization and the settlements of people. The Neolithic Revolution arrives with these people who traveled from Anatolia, Turkey. The economy of the region became steady with organized and methodical farming, stock rearing and, bartering and sculptures like pottery. People stopped traveling from region to region and permanent settlements in Greece. They domesticated animals like sheep and goats and grew plants and crops. They made their bases around sites where there was ample water supply and in open landscapes. The Neolithic Greece people can be said as the first 'farmers' and their lives were less complex and simple.
Archeological findings show more settlements in Northern Greece, like Thessaly and Sesklo. Villages were found in Thessaly around 6500 BC while settlements in Sesklo started in 5500 BC. The inhabitants of these areas couldn't have been more than a hundred people. The houses were made of stone foundations with a roof made of a thick layer of clay and timber. They were one-room houses measuring 10 to 50 square metres.
A small village was also found at an area called Nea Nikomedia, where people resided around 5800 BC. The houses were made of sticks and mud surrounded by fences.
The villagers made different types of attractive pottery like cups and dishes. Most of them were designed in a red and white pattern. Excellent remains of such pottery can found from sites at Sesklo. The figurines that were created in the Neolithic Era were carved to suggest a female goddess. Offerings in the form of clay animals and birds to the goddess have been found in the caves. Till now, the oldest artifacts of Neolithic Era have been found in the Knossos region dating back to 3500 BC.
The village of Sesklo is supposed to have been destroyed in 4000 BC with people possibly from Northern Greece who were more armed than the villagers. These people made new settlements called Dimini, which is nearby the settlement Thessaly. It covers about 0.8 hectares and distributed in circular enclosures. At first they were thought to be built for defence purposes, but later it was found that they for distribution of land.
Crops and plants that were domesticated by the colonies in Neolithic era have been ancestors of plants such as barley and animals such as goats, dogs and pigs. At a settlement in Argissa, findings suggest that domestication of animals took place as early as 8300 BC. Even in the Sesklo area, cattle bone fragments have been found.
During the last two decades, the settlements of Neolithic era found have gone up to one thousand; research is going on how the people of that Era communicated their economy, technology and the environment they lived in.
The Greek Bronze Age or the Early Helladic Era started around 2800 BC and lasted till 1050 BC in Crete while in the Aegean islands it started in 3000 BC. The Bronze Age in Greece is divided into periods such as Helladic I, II. The information that is available today on the Bronze Age in Greece is from the architecture, burial styles and lifestyle. The colonies were made of 300 to 1000 people..
The Bronze Age is known as so because of the invention and introduction of the metal bronze. This metal made its entry into Greece in 3000 BC, but it did not make its impact as soon as it arrived. The people from Dimini from the Neolithic era that had settled in Greece slowly started the use of Bronze. Knives and swords were carved from the metal. This metal was more easy to use than stone, bone or wood. Metals such as gold, silver and lead arrived at the same time as bronze. The class system in society started with the arrival of metal depending on their value and availability. Bronze was expensive and copper was to be brought from other areas. The richer class could afford the metals and this was proved by the excavations found wherein people where buried with metal jewelry.
The class system in society started with the arrival of metal depending on their value and availability. Bronze was expensive and copper was to be brought from other areas. The richer class could afford the metals and this was proved by the excavations found wherein people where buried with metal jewelry.
An excellent example of the Early Bronze Age in Greece is the excavation of the Lerna village. The houses roofs were made with clay tiles and wall with stones. Baskets were sealed with marks pressed on them. This proves that even then people did care for their belongings. Fences of stonewalls were made to protect their houses. But evidence shows that Lerna was attacked by some colonies and burnt the whole town.
The Bronze Age was also characterized by the burial systems. They were simple pits or graves carved into rocks. These graves were either for one person or a complete family. These burial pits and the remains give us important information on the nutrition and diseases of those eras. Also they give us an insight on the people's minds on their beliefs on human behavior and after life.
The settlements of the Early Bronze Age lived on hills or on low plains, which were close to water. Such regions may have been more fertile for agricultural and settling purposes. The houses were made of stone foundations and mud walls. They had the provision of kilns for cooking and stones counters for sleeping, storage or for cooking. Goods were stored in containers made of wood or reed or simply dug into the ground.
The economy of the villages depended on production of tools, weapons, agriculture and art and architecture. In crops they grew cereals and legumes that was there from the Neolithic Era. Also they introduced olive trees and wine. In animal husbandry they reared sheep's and goats. The need for more metals and goods lead to introduction of different colonies and barter creating set-up for trade. Major production that contributed to the economy included pottery, stone carving, textile and metal carving.
Arts and crafts included ceramic pottery, which were painted in earthy colors. Manufacture of tools was from bone, metals and stones using advanced technology. Figurines reflected the social and lifestyle habits. Weaving also constituted an important part, but the remains were lost in time because they were of perishable nature.
The Early Bronze Age paved the way for Minoans and the Mycenaean Greeks, which was characterized by its prosperity and the rich empires.
Minoan Age(2000 - 1400 BC )
Bronze Age civilization, centring on the island of Crete. It was named after the legendary king Minos. It is divided into three periods: the early Minoan period (c.3000-2200 B.C.), the Middle Minoan period (c.2200-1500 B.C.) and the Late Minoan period (c.1500-1000 B.C.).
A thriving seafaring civilization, the Minoans populated the island of Crete between the 27th and the 15th centuries B.C.E. Excavations of Minoan palaces have revealed the rich artistic tradition of these ancient people. Categorized by 20th century archaeologist Arthur Evans into three distinct periods, the Early, Middle and Late Minoan, much of what is known of Minoan culture can be found in their ceramics, frescoes, stone carving and metalwork.
The Minoans utilized terracotta clay to produce both ceramic pottery and sculpture. Minoan potters produced everything from jars and pots to small figurines depicting female deities. Early Minoan pottery was typically hand-shaped with burnished or incised geometric designs. The introduction of the potter’s wheel gave way to symmetrical vessels during the Middle and Late Minoan periods. These vessels were generally decorated with dark-on-light painted motifs, often depicting freeform marine creatures, such as fish and octopus.
Other vivid examples of Ancient Greek Minoan art are the frescoes found on excavated palace walls. Minoan painters utilized the wet type of fresco painting in which pigments were applied directly to wet plaster, binding the pigments to the wall, rather than simply painted atop dry plaster. Due to the fast drying time of plaster, these frescoes were executed quickly with fluid brushstrokes and graceful curving lines, producing dynamic movement of the figures and landscapes. Pigments used for fresco during this time included saffron, iron ore and indigo.
Discovered at the palace at Knossos, this fresco typifies the bold contrast of colors, fluid brushstrokes and dynamic movement of Minoan painting. Although similar to the side-view and forward-facing-eye figures of Egypt, the graceful, curving lines of the hair, arms and hands distinguishes Minoan artists from their neighbors to the south.
Another form of the Ancient Greek art of the Minoan people was stone carving, utilized for both decorative and practical purposes. The Minoans used soft stones, such as serpentine, steatite and soapstone, to create vases, bowls and stone seals. Used to denote ownership or provenance, stone seals were small discs of stone with carved insignias or other identifying marks, representing a particular person or house in a time in which literacy was not widespread.
Stone Seals photo by Andree Stephan
Articles of jewelryfound in Minoan palatial excavations, as well as depictions of Minoan women in frescoes wearing jewelry, point to the fact that in addition to pottery, stone carving and painting, Minoan artists were also skilled metallurgists. Both gold and jewelry-making techniques were imported from trade outposts, such as Egypt, Syria and mainland Greece. Minoan artists produced small gold pendants, rings and ornaments, often depicting naturalistic figures of birds, insects, lions and bulls.
“Bees of Malia” photo by Wolfgang Sauber
This pendant depicting two hornets carrying a honeycomb shows the naturalistic motifs common to Middle and Late Minoan art. The fine gold beading detail, called granulation, on the hornets’ abdomens and outlining the hanging discs demonstrates the sophistication of Minoan metallurgy.
Period of high cultural achievement, forming the backdrop and basis for subsequent myths of the heroes. It was named for the kingdom of Mycenae and the archaeological site where fabulous works in gold were unearthed. The Mycenaean Age was cut short by widespread destruction ushering in the Greek Dark Age...
The Mycenaean Age dates from around 1600 BC to 1100 BC, during the Bronze Age. Mycenae is an archaeological site in Greece from which the name Mycenaean Age is derived. Mycenae site is located in the Peloponnese, Southern Greece. The remains of a Mycenaean palace were found at this site, accounting for its importance. Other notable sites during the Mycenaean Age include Athens, Thebes, Pylos and Tiryns.
According to Homer, the Mycenaean civilization is dedicated to King Agamemnon who led the Greeks in the Trojan War. The palace found at Mycenae matches Homer's description of Agamemnon's residence. The amount and quality of possessions found at the graves at the site provide an insight to the affluence and prosperity of the Mycenaean civilization. Prior to the Mycenaean's ascendancy in Greece, the Minoan culture was dominant. However, the Mycenaeans defeated the Minoans, acquiring the city of Troy in the process, according to Homer's Illiad (some historians argue this is Myth rather than fact). Mycenaean culture was based around its main cities in Mycenae, Tiryns, Pylos, Athens, Thebes, Orchomenos, and Folksier. The Mycenaeans also inhabited the ruins of Knossos on Crete, which was a major city during the Minoan era. Mycenaean and Minoan art melded, forming a cultural amalgamation that is found on Crete (figurines, sculptures and pottery). During the Mycenaean civilization the class diversification of rich and poor, higher classes and lower became more established, with extreme wealth being mostly reserved for the King, his entourage and other members of the royal circle. Like the Minoans, the Mycenaeans built grand palaces and fortified citadels, with administrative and political powers firmly under royal authority. Mycenaean society was to some extent a warrior culture and their military was ever prepared for battle, be it in defence of a city or to protect its wealth and cultural treasures.
The Mycenaeans were bold traders and maintained contact with other countries from the Mediterranean and Europe. They were excellent engineers and built outstanding bridges, tombs, residences and palaces. Their tombs known as 'beehive tombs' were circular in shape with a high roof. A single passage made of stone led to the tomb. A variety of possessions, including arms and armour, were buried with the dead, while the more affluent might also be buried with gold and jewellery. Interestingly, rather than being buried in a sleeping position, Mycenaeans were interred in a sitting position, with the richer classes sometimes being mummified.
The Mycenaeans invented there own script known as Linear B, which was an improved derivative of Linear A (a language commonly accepted as Minoan or Eteocretan).
The settlements of Mycenaean civilization are largely known from archaeological remains. The citadels built during the Mycenaean Age were constructed using the Cyclopean stonework style, with huge entrances made with large stones. These citadels were administrative headquarters for the rulers. At the highest peaks of the citadels the palaces of the kings were built. The basic planning of these palaces was similar to Minoan structures, with different rooms for different functions, styled accordingly. The buildings were not complex in structure and were built around a central megaron. The structural design was an earlier element of Helladic architecture.
The common people lived at the foot of the citadels in the countryside or nearby regions. These settlements were generally based at hillocks or plains where land was fertile and water was abundant. Along with plains, port and coastal sites were of equal importance from the viewpoint of economy and trade. Society:
The difference of classes in societal structure can, to some extent, be derived from the goods that were buried in their graves. It is clear that there was a strong, ruling class and a lower group of the common people.
The political hierarchy consisted of the 'The Wanax' (or King), at the top, who was the political and religious leader. Below him were the local chiefs and controllers who looked after administrative duties. The safety of the state was the responsibility of the Lawagetas, the head of the army.
Because of this efficient hierarchy, the Mycenaean Age was economically and culturally affluent, while weapons, arms and armaments found in graves and sites confirm their society as military inclined.
The Mycenaeans followed a bipartite system of working. There were two groups of people. One who worked in the palace for the rulers and another who were self-employed. But even those people who worked in the palace could run their own business if they wished.
The scribes overlooked economic production and transactions. They also organised the distribution of rations and allotted work.
The agricultural economy was well organised and had well distributed storage centres for products and crops. The surplus was kept in palaces as a form of tax. We know this from records kept in the form of clay tablets.
Important goods produced were cereals, olive oil and wine, while herbs, spices and honey were also cultivated. Sheep and goats were grazed for their wool and milk. Goods and produce were also exported to foreign countries, especially olive oil.
The textile industry was one of the most significant industries during the Mycenaean civilization. From the first stage of grazing the sheep, stocking the wool in the palaces to the last stage of the finished product in the form of a cloth, evrything was meticulously organized. The palace of Pylos employed around 550 textile workers while at Knossos there were 900. Wool, fibre and flax were the most important textiles.
Another important industry was the metal industry where metallurgy was practised in an advanced form. At Pylos about 400 workers were employed. At Knossos, tablets suggest, that swords and weapons were manufactured in quantity. Another interesting industry was the perfume industry. Oils of rose, sage, etc. were used to make perfumes and scents. Other skilled craftsmen included goldsmiths, ivory-carvers, stone carvers, and potters.
Little is known about the religious practices of the Mycenaeans. Only a few texts depict the name of Gods. A popular deity was Poseidon, (at the time probably associated with earthquakes). Other important Gods included the Lady of the Labyrinth and Diwia (Sea Goddess). Other members of the pantheon of which evidence has been found include Zeus-Hera, Ares, Hermes, Athena, Artemis, Dionysus and Erinya.
There are very few temples or shrines that have been found where religious practices might have been exercised: So we can assume all rituals took place on open ground or in peak sanctuaries. Some shrines that are found have a tripartite structural design.
Minoans had a strong influence on most of the religious practices and rituals practised by the Mycenaeans.
Pottery work such as stirrup jars, pitchers, kraters and chalices were made during this era. The vessels that were exported were more intricately designed and had beautiful motifs, often depicting warriors and animals. Vessels in the shape of tripods, basins, or lamps were found in large quantities at the archaeological sites.
Terracotta statuettes included anthropomorphic figurines and sometimes zoomorphic figures, most of them being male or female. They were either single or multi-coloured and were often used as statues of worship.
Painting themes included hunting, war scenes, processions, mythology and legend. Several frescoes have also been found in palaces, while similar artictic themes were also used in pottery.
Meanwhile, a variety of materials (wood, leather and metal) were used in the manufacture of armour, shields, helmets, spears, javelins, swords, daggers and arrows..
The Linear B language that was written during the Mycenaean civilization consisted of about 200 syllabic signs and logograms. This language was an improved form of the Linear A, written during the Minoan Age. The language was used mostly in Knossos and in Pylos.
The corpus of the Mycenaean Age consists of 6000 tablets from the Early Helladic to Late Helladic. The Kafkania pebble is the oldest Mycenaean inscription dating back to the 17th century BC.
End of Civilization:
There are two theories about the end of the Mycenaean civilization. One is population movement, the second internal strife and conflict. According to the first theory the Dorians lauched a devastating attack, although this hypothesis has been questioned because the Dorians had always been present in the Greece of that time. Alternatively, it could have been the 'Sea People' who attacked the Mycenaeans. The Sea People are known to have attacked various regions in the Levant and Anatolia, so perhaps this reading of events is more credible.
The second theory suggests an internal societal conflict between the rich and poor, with the lower classes becoming impoverished towards the end of the Late Helladic period and rejecting the system under which they were governed. By end of the LH III C, the Mycenaean civilization had come to an end with the cities of Mycenae and Tirynth completely destroyed. The end of the Mycenaean civilization heralded the start of the Greek Dark Ages.
The Dark Ages (1100 - 750 BC)
- The period between the fall of the Mycenean civilizations and the readoption of writing in the eigth or seventh century BC. After the Trojan Wars the Mycenaeans went through a period of civil war, the country was weak and a tribe called the Dorians took over. Some speculate that Dorian invaders from the north with iron weapons laid waste the Mycenaean culture. Others look to internal dissent, uprising and rebellion, or perhaps some combination.
One of the three main groups of people of ancient Greece, the others being the Aeolians and the Ionians, who invaded from the north in the 12th and 11th centuries BC.
Legends which survived among the Dorians and which have come down to us through Pindar, Herodotus and other ancient writers, say that the earliest ancestors of the Dorians were Makednoi (that is, Macedonians), who migrated to Doris from Pindos, more precisely from the Lakmos region. Since it has already been seen that the Dorians took their name from Doris, where they formed themselves into one ethnic group by the union of the local inhabitants and the newcomers, it can readily be inferred that the name Makednoi and the mention of Pindos as their original homeland do not refer to the whole of the Dorian tribe but just to one of its component groups - not the Hylleis, however, because these had settled in present-day Sterea Hellas earlier.
Ancient texts containing echoes of fragments of a very old lost epic about Aigimios say that the Dorians stood in danger of attack by the Lapiths, that the king of the Dorians, Aigimios, sought the help of Herakles in return for the reward mentioned above, and that Herakles repulsed the Lapiths and established the Dorians in a region from which he had driven out the Dryopians. It follows that the race which was led by Aigimios and helped by Herakles was not yet the Dorians but the Makednians. Herakles here is no more than the representative of a people in central Sterea Hellas. One of the texts mentioned above says that Aigimios people at the time of the Lapith attacks were in Histiaiotis; others imply that they had already reached the northern part of present-day Sterea Hellas. The second version must be the earlier one, because it tallies with the mention of the alliance of the people who are represented by Herakles. The mention of the Lapiths as enemies of the Dorians, i.e. the Makednians, does not conflict with this version since, as we have seen, there are traces of Lapith settlements in the Spercheios Valley.
The Dorians of the historical period were divided into three tribes: Hylleis, Dymanes, and Pamphyloi. The eponymous heroes of the Dymanes and the Pamphyloi were believed to be the sons of Aigimios who had led the Dorians to Doris. The eponymous hero of the Hylleis was said to be the son of Herakles who had acquired one third of Aigimios kingdom for helping him against the Lapiths.
The Archaic Period in Greece refers to the years between 750 and 480 B.C., more particularly from 620 to 480 B.C. The age is defined through the development of art at this time, specifically through the style of pottery and sculpture, showing the specific characteristics that would later be developed into the more naturalistic style of the Classical period. The Archaic is one of five periods that Ancient Greek history can be divided into; it was preceded by the Dark Ages and followed by the Classical period. The Archaic period saw advancements in political theory, especially the beginnings of democracy, as well as in culture and art. The knowledge and use of written language which was lost in the Dark Ages was re-established.
The Dark Ages were as unenlightening as they may sound. They brought about the solidification of the Greeks' religion, mythology and founding history. The Greek people no longer lived in cities, after the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization (known as the "fall of the palaces"), but instead they formed small tribes. Some of these tribes were sedentary and agricultural, whereas others were nomadic and traveled Greece throughout the seasons. However these small tribes began to form one of Greece's greatest political achievements: the 'polis', meaning the city-state, which is what the word 'politics' is derived from. From around 800 B.C. trade flourished between the communities as market places were built up in the villages, and they began working together to form defensive units and fortifications.
In this way the Greek people developed to have strong city-states as their political centers. Cities on the Greek mainland, peninsula and the coast of Asia Minor had close interaction with one another, however each city still established its own unique culture and political structure. Originally they were all ruled by a 'basileus', meaning a hereditary king. However most monarchies were overthrown in the 8^th century B.C. and replaced by a variety of political arrangements. The most common of these systems was the oligarchy, meaning "ruled by a few". The oligarchs were formed from a select group of the wealthiest citizens of the state, who had most of the powers usually given to a monarch. Although these powers were dispersed amongst them, the oligarchic power was notably totalitarian. These early oligarchies, as well as the few remaining kings, were mostly overthrown by tyrants who took total control of the city. These tyrannies are generally looked on disapprovingly
However some did manage successful rules. This form of governing was always unstable, with the tyrant's power relying on their control of armies and holding the citizens in fear. Tyrannies most often began when a city was faced with a crisis, and this opportunity was seized by a political figure to take control of the city, frequently with the support of the people. Once their tyranny was established though, they lost their popularity with the citizens who saw them as illegitimately commandeering political power. Many tyrants attempted, and some succeeded to make their tyranny hereditary, and gave themselves the power of a monarch. Due to the instability of this system though, tyrants would only rule for short lengths of time before they would be replaced. Despite this, tyranny existed as a widespread political arrangement for much of Greece, Asia Minor and even reaching as far as Sicily.
Oligarchies and tyrannies ruled in this way until a new alternative emerged around the 6'th century B. C. Ancient Greek democracy, meaning "ruled by the /demos/ (people)", was unlike what we would associate with modern day democracy. The cities were not represented by governments, but actually by the citizens. However not all citizens had a say in the running of the city; this was the privilege held by the free, male citizens, excluding all women, slaves and foreigners from democracy. So, in a way, democracy began as an expanded version of the original oligarchy, with the city-state being ruled by an exclusive group of people, although the size of this group had increased dramatically. This new political system required a complex set of laws in order to keep this complicated social structure organised. These advanced legalities enforced a certain amount of equality between the citizens, despite their varying economic statuses, and ensured an easier coexistence between the classes. This laid the groundwork for the further Democratic principles that were to be developed in Athens in two hundred years time.
The growth of the /polis, /the traditional Greek city state, coupled with a relative population explosion, forced the city states to look abroad for places to settle. This led to a period of frenetic colonization. A variety of settlement began appearing across the Mediterranean, including Ionia (the coast of Asia Minor) southern Italy Sicily and North Africa. The nature of these settlements varied, from the basic trading posts that began to emerge in Italy and Sicily, such as Syracuse, and the more advanced mini city-states that broke away from the mother city, such as Cyrene in Libya and Carthage in modern Tunisia. Colonisation was significantly aided by the cultural exchange than began around 800 BC. Dialogue between the Greek states and Phoenicia, for example, broadened the horizons of both nations and encourage the exploration of the Mediterranean.
By the beginning of the Classical period, these states, settlements, and trading posts numbered in the hundreds, and became part of an extensive commercial network that involved all the advanced civilizations of the time. It is important to note that colonization in the Archaic Greek period was very different to how we understand colonization today. While the cities that sent out settlers to found new settlements may have held on to some of their trading posts, such as the Athenian trading posts in the Black Sea, the majority swiftly became independent, breaking from the mother cities. A example of this is Cyrene, which was founded by settlers from the island of Thera. Yet within a century of their founding, the colony had become fully independent of the metropolis, to the point where the Therans were coming to Cyrene for help. See Book 3 in Herodotus' /The Histories/ for more on this. Thus, unlike the British Empire, where colonies were firmly under the control of the mother nation, Archaic Greek colonies were much more independent.
The current theory on colonization is more revisionist than its predecessor outlined above. This is due new sources that have become available to us, such as an Assyrian letter from the governor of Samsimuruna (close to city Sidon, today Lebanon), found in Nimrud/Kalhu (the Assyrian capital) to Assyrian king Tiglat-Pileser III (744-727 BC), that indicate an early age of colonization that was not Greek-based, as has been previously thought. Another problem that has been raised recently by scholars is the motivation behind colonization. Many now believe that the colonies set up took many years to evolve in to what we would call settlements, going through many aborted attempts and years of immigration to the colony. This rethink has come about due to archaeological finds in the Bay of Naples, at a settlement called Pithekoussai.
This settlement was rebuilt around a century after its foundation, with a new street layout being apparent from the excavation. The new theory essential says that, rather than colonization being a deliberate and concerted policy of the emerging Greek city states, it was far more haphazard and scattered, and tries grant more credit to the Near Eastern civilizations of Assyria and Phoenicia. The difference between the initial trading post and the later colony is well demonstrated by the settlement at Pithekoussai, taking over a century to be developed to what we call a colony.
In the Archaic period, the growth of culture was not coherent, but fragmented across the peninsula, depending on the city-state, they developed separate cultures. Thanks to increasing international trade and relations however, culture spread across the Greek world. The key early developments in culture in the Archaic period happened in Ionia (Asia Minor), such as the islands of Miletus and Samos. The birth of Western philosophy occurred in Miletus with the philosopher and thinker Thales, and early literary output, such as the Homeric epics and the poetry of Hesiod, began in Ionia. Sculpture almost began to emerge in the Archaic period.
Sculptural forms such as the /kouros, /a statue of a male youth , and its female equivalent the /kore/, originated in this period.
These /kouroi/ were inspired by Egyptian sculpture of the time, following a set pattern of artistic devices, the figures were formulaic and although admirable, they were unrealistic and severe. It was development of these original statues that lead to the artistic peak of classical sculpture. Elsewhere, pottery from this period advanced the simple Geometric Style to a more Oriental style, another example of the benefits in increasing trade and international contact, thanks to accumulating influences from Phoenicia and Syria. Black figure painting of the later Archaic, and the red figure painting of the 6^th century found in Corinth and Argos, shows the development of a culture becoming more and more advanced at at ease with itself.