What Were The Dark Ages Of Ancient Greece?

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The Dark Ages of ancient Greece is the name given to the 300-year period of cultural decline that began when the Dorians, nomads (wandering tribes) from the northwestern part of the Greek mainland, conquered the Mycenaeans on the island of Crete around 1100 B.C. Although the Mycenaeans had developed an advanced civilization (called the Mycenaean Age; 1650–1200 B.C.), their bronze weapons were no match for the Dorians' iron swords. As the Dorians pillaged and burned Mycenaean cities, the Mycenaean survivors fled to remote areas or eastward to Athens; some settled on the coast of Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). The Dorians rejected the life of the great Mycenaean cities in favor of their nomadic shepherding and hunting life. A tribal people, they possessed a harsh sense of justice, and the period was marked by feuds among clans.

There is no evidence of significant advances in Greek civilization during the Dark Ages. For example, the script used by the Mycenaeans disappeared, and art, which had prospered during the Mycenaean Age, went into decline. Nevertheless, the Dorians made contributions in poetry, drama, sculpture, and architecture. For instance, the poet Homer (c. 850 B.C.–?) wrote the epic poem Iliad (the story of the fall of Troy) and the Odyssey (a narrative of the wanderings of the hero Odysseus). In Theogony the poet Hesiod (eighth century) told the story of Zeus (the supreme Greek god) and the eleven other gods who, according to myth, inhabited Mount Olympus. The Dorians also built huge stone buildings that featured fluted columns topped by capitals, thus initiating the Doric style of architecture that was used in Greece until the second century B.C.

Further Information: Boorstin, Daniel J. "The Reign of the Spoken Word." U.S. News & World Report. August 31, 1992, pp. 76–77; Halsall, Paul, ed. Internet Ancient History Sourcebook. [Online] Available http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/asbook.html, October 20, 2000; Moulton, Carroll. Ancient Greece and Rome: An Encyclopedia for Students. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1998; Nardo, Don. Ancient Greece. San Diego: Lucent, 1994; Nardo, Don. Greek and Roman Mythology. San Diego: Lucent, 1998; Simpson, Judith. Ancient Greece. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life, 1997; Sutcliff, Rosemary. Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad. New York: Delacorte, 1993.