Greek Dark Ages

(c. 1200 – c. 800 BC)

The Greek Dark Age or Ages and Geometric or Homeric Age refer to the period of Greek history from the presumed Dorian invasion and end of the Mycenaean palatial civilization around 1200 BC, to the first signs of the Greek poleis in the 9th century BC. These terms are gradually going out of use (“dark” was because there was little evidence from this period, but more has been found).

Fall of the Myceaneans

Mediterranean warfare and the Sea Peoples

Dark Age Culture

Post-Mycenaean Cyprus

Cyprus was inhabited by a mix of “Pelasgians” and Phoenicians, joined during this period by the first Greek settlements. Potters in Cyprus initiated the most elegant new pottery style of the 10th and 9th centuries, the ‘Cypro-Phoenician’ ‘black on red’ style[11] of small flasks and jugs which held precious contents, probably scented oil. Together with distinctively Greek Euboean ceramic wares it was widely exported and is found in Levantine sites, including Tyre and far inland in the late 11th and 10th centuries. Cypriote metalwork was exchanged in Crete.

Archaic Greece

(800 BC – 480 BC)

The Archaic period in Greece was a period that followed the Greek Dark Ages, which saw the rise of the polis (city-states) and the founding of colonies, as well as the first inklings of classical philosophy, theatre in the form of tragedies performed during Dionysia, and written poetry, which appeared with the reintroduction of the written language, lost during the Greek Dark Ages.

Crisis and consolidation of the polis

Mycenaean Greece of the Bronze Age had been divided into kingdoms, each containing a territory and a population distributed into both small towns and large estates owned by the nobility. Each kingdom was ruled by a king claiming authority under divine right by descent from a heroic ancestor who ruled from a palace situated within a citadel, or acropolis. During the Greek Dark Ages, the palaces, kings, and estates vanished, the population declined, towns were abandoned or became villages in ruins, and government devolved into authority being held by minor officials on a tribal structure.

By the middle of the 8th century the societal structure of Greece had come under immense pressure and the polis was at risk of collapse. Three distinct stressors developed for each stratum of archaic society. By 750 BC these stressors became impossible to reconcile due to an explosive growth of population of about 4% per year. These three factors were in many ways connected and tended to reinforce one another.

Land & Overpopulation

Greek farmers lived under a subsistence lifestyle and were frequently subject to crop failures. Hesiod wrote of many different circumstances that could befall an archaic Greek farmer, all of which would force him to borrow goods from his neighbours. Failure to pay back these goods could lead to loss of the farm, debt, or enslavement. Due to the sharp increase in population, arable farmland, which had always been scarce, became insufficient to support all the people in Greece. 750-600 BC in Greece was marked by widespread famines, and by 600 BC almost all of the farmers in Athens had been dispossessed of their property and worked as slaves on the same.

Aristocratic competition

The aristoi, aristocratic families, were constantly competing against one another to gain territory, money, or status. The elegant clothes, jewellery, pottery, artworks etc. from the archaic period were by and large made to the tastes of this part of Greek society. Aristoi in the archaic period existed in a closed community of symposion, festivals, lavish meals, and athletic games that had nothing to do with the commoners or farmers of Greece. However an aristoi’s status was predicated on his wealth - if he were to lose it, he would also lose his nobility. The advent of sea trade routes placed the aristoi at risk of losing everything through failed overseas investments.


The commoners the aristoi governed were repeatedly drawn into the conflicts of the aristoi as soldiers, disrupting their lives with every new power struggle between nobles. They levied much criticism at the aristoi for neglecting the farmers and for living very extravagant lifestyles. As overseas trade became more common in Greece, some commoners found themselves very wealthy, and increasingly began to challenge the authority of the aristoi, posing a political threat to regional monarchies.


The period takes its name from what, in art history, was considered the archaic or old-fashioned style of sculpture and other forms of art and craft that were characteristic of that time, as opposed to the more natural look of work made in the following Classical period (see Classical sculpture).


Sculptures in limestone and marble, terra cotta, bronze, wood, and rarer metals, both free-standing and in relief, were used to adorn temples and funerary monuments. They mostly had mythical or daily life themes. The creation of life-sized statues began suddenly at about 650 BC.



Classical Greece

(5th through 4th century BC)

Classical Greece was a 200 year period in Greek culture lasting from the 5th through 4th centuries BC.[1] This classical period had a powerful influence on the Roman Empire and greatly influenced the foundations of the Western Civilization. Much of modern Western politics, artistic thought, such as architecture, scientific thought, literature, and philosophy derives from this period of Greek history. In the context of the art, architecture, and culture of Ancient Greece, the Classical period, sometimes called the Hellenic period, corresponds to most of the 5th and 4th centuries BC (the most common dates being the fall of the last Athenian tyrant in 510 BC to the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC). The Classical period in this sense follows the Archaic period and is in turn succeeded by the Hellenistic period.