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The Greek Dark Ages (ca. 1200 BC–800 BC) refers to the period of Greek prehistory from the presumed Dorian invasion and end of the Mycenaean civilization in the 11th century BC to the rise of the first Greek city-states in the 9th century BC and the epics of Homer and earliest writings in alphabetic Greek in the 8th century BC.

It is thought that the epics composed by Homer, a blind lonian poet, were passed down from generation to generation in the form of folk lore until the use of writing came back into style.

The collapse of the Mycenaean cordinated with the fall of several other large empires in the near east, most notabley the Hittite and the Egyptian. The cause may be attributed do an invasion of the sea people wielding iron weapons. When the Dorians came down into Greece they also were equiped with superior iron weapson, easily dispersing the already weakened Mycenaeans. The period that follows these events is collectively known as the Greek Dark Ages.

Archaeology shows a collapse of civilization in the Greek world in this period. The great palaces and cities of the Myceneans were destroyed or abandoned. The Greek language ceased to be written. Greek dark age pottery has simple geometric designs and lacks the figurative decoration of Mycenean ware. The Greeks of the dark age lived in fewer and smaller settlements, suggesting famine and depopulation, and foreign goods are not found, suggesting little international trade. Contact was also lost between foreign powers during this period, yeilding little cultural progress or growth of any sort.

Kings are said to rule over this period of time. However, eventually they were replaced with an aristocracy, and later, in some areas, an aristocracy in a aristocracy; the elites of the elite. The weight of war changed from cavalry to infantry called hoplites. Iron became into use due to its cheapness to produce and mine. Slowly equality grew amoung the different sects of people, leading to the dethronement of the various Kings and the rise of the family.

Families began to reconstruct their past in the attempt at linking their blood line with heroes from the Trojan War, but most precisly Heracles. Most of this was a jumble of lengend and hubris, but some were sorted by poets of the school of Hesiod. Most of these poems are lost, though, but some famous "storywriters", as they were called, were Hecataeus of Miletus and Acusilaus of Argos.

At the end of this period of stagnation the Greek civilization was engulfed in a renaissance that spread the Greek world as far as the Black Sea and Spain. Writing was relearned from the Phoenicians, eventually spreading north into Italy and the Gauls.


Latacz, J. Between Troy and Homer. The so-called Dark Ages in Greece, in: Storia, Poesia e Pensiero nel Mondo antico. Studi in Onore di M. Gigante, Rome, 1994.

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