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Table of Contents:
1 ArchaicAge-Perseus
2 ArchaicGreeceWikipedia
3 ArchaicPeriod-AncientGreeceCom
4 GreekArchaicPeriod-AncientHistoryEncyclopedia
5 Chronology-ArchaicPeriod
6 Chronology-GreekColonization
7 GreekArt-ArchaicPeriod-MetMuseumNY
8a GreekLegendAuthenticity
8b Cleobis and Biton
9 PolisFormation
10 LateArchaicPolis-Perseus
11 Hoplite-PersonalWeapons
12 Draco
13 SolonReforms-Athens
14 ArchaicGreekInModernWorld
15 External Links

1  The Archaic Age

From -- Perseus Digital Library

Thomas R. Martin, An Overview of Classical Greek History from Mycenae to Alexander


The term Archaic Age, meaning the “Old-Fashioned Age” and designating Greek history from approximately 750 to 500 B.C., stems from art history. Modern scholars of Greek art judged the style of works from this period as looking more old fashioned than the more naturalistic art of the following period (the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.), which they saw as producing models of beauty and therefore named the Classical Age. Archaic sculptors, for example, made free-standing figures who stood stiffly, staring straight ahead in imitation of Egyptian statuary. By the Classical Age, sculptors depicted their subjects in more varied and lively poses. During the Archaic Age the Greeks developed the most widespread and influential of their new political forms, the city-state, or polis .


The Characteristics of the City-state (Polis)

Polis, from which we derive our term “politics,” is usually translated as “city-state” to emphasize its difference from what we today normally think of as a city. As in many earlier states in the ancient Near East, the polis included not just an urban center, often protected by stout walls in later centuries, but also countryside for some miles around with its various small settlements. Members of the polis, then, lived both in the town at its center and also in the villages scattered around its territory.1 Presiding over the polis as protector and patron was a particular god, as, for example, Athena at Athens2. Different communities could chose the same deity as their protector; Sparta, Athens' chief rival3 in the Classical period, also had Athena as its patron god4. The members of a polis constituted a religious association obliged to honor the state's patron deity as well as the community's other gods. The community expressed official homage and respect to the gods through its cults, which were regular sets of public religious activities overseen by citizens serving as priests and priestesses and paid for at public expense. The central ritual of a city-state's cults was the sacrifice5 of animals to demonstrate to the gods as divine protectors the respect and piety of the members of the polis.


Citizenship and the City-state

A polis was independent of its neighbors and had political unity among its settlements. Together the members of these settlements made up a community of citizens comprising a political state, and it was this partnership among citizens6 that represented the distinctive political characteristic of the polis. Only men had the rights of political participation, but women still counted as citizens of the community legally, socially, and religiously. The Greeks may have been influenced in the organization of the polis by their contacts with the Near East, where the city-monarchies of Cyprus and the states of Phoenicia, situated on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, provided possible precedents. The distinctiveness of citizenship as an organizing concept was that it assumed in theory certain basic levels of legal equality7, essentially the expectation of equal treatment under the law, with the exception that different regulations could apply to women in certain areas of life such as acceptable sexual behavior and the control of property. But the general legal equality that the polis provided was not dependent on a citizen's wealth. Since pronounced social differentiation between rich and poor had characterized the history of the ancient Near East and Greece of the Mycenaean Age and had once again become common in Greece by the late Dark Age, it is remarkable that a notion of some sort of legal equality, no matter how incomplete it may have been in practice, came to serve as the basis for the reorganization of Greek society in the Archaic Age. The polis based on citizenship remained the preeminent form of political and social organization in Greece from the time of its earliest appearance about 750 B.C. until the beginning of the Roman Empire eight centuries later. The other most common new form of political organization in Greece was the ethnos 8 (“league” or “federation”), a flexible form of association over a broad territory which was itself sometimes composed of city-states.


Geography and the Population of City-states

The geography of Greece greatly influenced the process by which this radically new way of organizing human communities came about. The severely mountainous terrain of the mainland meant that city-states were often physically separated by significant barriers to easy communication, thus reinforcing the tendency of city-states to develop separately and not to cooperate with one another. A single Greek island could be home to multiple city-states maintaining their independence from one another; the large island of Lesbos9, for example, was the home for five different city-states. Since few city-states controlled enough arable land to grow food sufficient to feed a large body of citizens, polis communities no larger than several hundred to a couple of thousand people were normal even after the population of Greece rose dramatically at the end of the Dark Age. By the fifth century Athens had grown to a size of perhaps forty thousand adult male citizens and a total population, including slaves and other non-citizens, of several hundred thousand people, but this was a rare exception to the generally small size of Greek city-states. A population as large as that of classical Athens could be supported only by the regular importation of food10 from abroad, which had to be financed by trade and other revenues.


Aristotle on the City-state

The most famous ancient analyst of Greek politics and society, the philosopher Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), later insisted the emergence of the polis had been the inevitable result of the forces of nature at work.


“Humans,” he said, “are beings who by nature live in a polis.”11 Anyone who existed outside the community of a polis, Aristotle only half-jokingly maintained, must be either a beast or a deity. In referring to nature, Aristotle meant the combined effect of social and economic forces.


Early Colonization

Some Greeks had emigrated from the mainland eastward across the Aegean Sea to settle in Ionia12 as early as the ninth century B.C. Starting around 750 B.C., however, Greeks began to settle even farther outside the Greek homeland. Within two hundred years, Greek colonies were established in areas that are today southern France, Spain, Sicily and southern Italy, and along North Africa and the coast of the Black Sea. Eventually the Greek world had perhaps as many as 1,500 different city-states. A scarcity of arable land certainly gave momentum to emigration from Greece, but the revival of international trade13 in the Mediterranean in this era perhaps provided the original stimulus for Greeks to leave their homeland, whose economy was still struggling. Some Greeks with commercial interests took up residence in foreign settlements, such as those founded in Spain in this period by the Phoenicians from Palestine. The Phoenicians were active in building commercially-motivated settlements throughout the western Mediterranean. Within a century of its foundation sometime before 750 B.C., for example, the Phoenician settlement on the site of modern Cadiz in Spain had become a city thriving on economic and cultural interaction with the indigenous Iberian population.


Economic Motives for Colonization

Like other peoples of the eastern Mediterranean, Greeks also established their own trading posts abroad. Traders from Euboea, for instance, had already established commercial contacts by 800 B.C. with a community located on the Syrian coast at a site now called Al Mina. Men wealthy enough to finance risky expeditions by sea ranged far from home in search of metals. Homeric poetry testifies to the basic strategy of this entrepreneurial commodity trading. In the Odyssey , the goddess Athena once appears disguised as a metal trader to hide her identity from the son of the poem's hero: “I am here at present,” she says to him, “with my ship and crew on our way across the wine-dark sea to foreign lands in search of copper; I am carrying iron now.”14 By about 775 B.C., Euboeans, who seem to have been particularly active explorers, had also established a settlement for purposes of trade on the island of Ischia, in the bay of Naples off southern Italy. There they processed iron ore imported from the Etruscans, who lived in central Italy. Archaeologists have documented the expanding overseas communication of the eighth century by finding Greek pottery at more than eighty sites outside the Greek homeland; for the tenth century, by contrast, only two pots have been found that were carried abroad.


Mother-city and Colony

Learning from overseas traders of likely places to relocate, Greek colonists set out from their “mother city” ( metropolis 15 in Greek), which selected a leader called the “founder” (ktistes ). Even though they were going to establish an independent city-state at their new location, colonists were expected to retain ties with their metropolis. A colony that sided with its metropolis' enemy in a war, for example, was regarded as disloyal.


Sometimes the colonists enjoyed a friendly welcome from the local inhabitants where they settled; sometimes they had to fight to win the land for their new community. The colony's founder was in charge of laying out the settlement properly and parceling out the land, as Homer describes in speaking of the foundation of a fictional colony: “So [the founder] led them away, settling them in [a place called] Scheria, far from the bustle of men. He had a wall constructed around the town center, built houses, erected temples for the gods, and divided the land.”16


Demographic Motives for Colonization

Commercial interests perhaps first induced Greeks to emigrate, but greater numbers of them began to move abroad permanently in the mid-eighth century B.C., probably because the population explosion in the late Dark Age had caused a scarcity of land available for farming. Because arable land represented the most desirable form of wealth for Greek men, tensions caused by competition for good land arose in some city-states. Emigration helped solve this problem by sending men without land to foreign regions, where they could acquire their own fields in the territory of colonies founded as new city-states. Since colonizing expeditions were apparently usually all male, wives17 for the colonists had to be found among the locals, either through peaceful negotiation or by violent kidnappings.


The Tensions of Colonization

The case of the foundation of a Greek colony in Cyrene18 (in what is now Libya in North Africa) in about 630 B.C. reveals how full of tensions the process of colonization could be. The people of the polis of Thera, on an island north of Crete, apparently were unable to support their population. Sending some people out as colonists to Cyrene therefore made sense as a solution to population pressures. A later inscription purports to tells us what happened at the time of colonization and reveals the urgency of the situation at the time: “One adult son [from each family] is to be conscripted....If any man is unwilling to leave when the polis sends him, he shall be subject to the death penalty and his property shall be confiscated.” (M. Crawford and D. Whitehead, Archaic and Classical Greece: A Selection of Ancient Sources in Translation, Cambridge, 1983, no. 16B) Evidently the young men of Thera were reluctant to leave their home for the new colony. This evidence shows, then, that colonization in response to population growth was not always a matter of individual choice of the people feeling the pressure. The possibility of acquiring land in a colony on which a man could perhaps grow wealthy obviously had to be weighed against the terrors of being torn from family and friends to voyage over treacherous seas to regions filled with unknown dangers. Greek colonists had reason to be scared about their future. Moreover, in some cases, colonies were founded to rid the metropolis of undesirables whose presence was causing social unrest. The Spartans, for example, colonized Taras19 (modern Taranto) in southern Italy in 706 B.C. with a group of illegitimate sons whom they could not successfully integrate into their citizen body. These unfortunate outcasts certainly did not go as colonists by their own choice.


Contact with Eastern Mediterranean Civilizations

The participation of Greeks in international trade and in colonization increased their contact with the peoples of Anatolia, Egypt, and the Near East. They admired and envied these older civilizations of the eastern Mediterranean for their wealth, such as the gold of the Phrygian kingdom of Midas20, and their cultural accomplishments, such as the lively pictures of animals on Near Eastern ceramics, the magnificent temples of Egypt, and the alphabets of the Phoenician cities. During the early Dark Age, Greek artists had stopped portraying people or other living creatures in their designs. The pictures they saw on pottery imported from the Near East in the late Dark Age and early Archaic Age influenced them to begin once again to depict figures in their paintings on pots. The style of Near Eastern reliefs and free-standing sculptures also inspired creative imitation in Greek art of the period. When the improving economy of the later Archaic Age allowed Greeks to revive monumental architecture in stone, temples for the worship of the gods emulating Egyptian architectural designs represented the most prominent examples of this new trend in erecting large, expensive buildings. The Greeks began to mint coins in the sixth century B.C., a technology they learned from the Lydians, who invented coinage in the seventh century21. Long after this innovation, however, much economic exchange continued to be made through barter, especially in the Near East. Highly monetized economies took centuries to develop.

Knowledge of writing was the most dramatic contribution of the ancient Near East to Greece as it emerged from its Dark Age. The Greeks probably originally learned the alphabet from the Phoenicians22 to use it for record keeping in business and trade, as the Phoenicians did so well, but they soon started to employ it to record literature such as Homeric poetry. Since the ability to read and write remained unnecessary for most purposes in the predominately agricultural economy of archaic Greece and there were no schools, few people at first learned the new technology of letters.


International Commerce

Success in competing for international markets affected the fortunes of Greek city-states during this period. The city-state of Corinth23, for example, grew prosperous from ship building and its geographical location controlling the narrow isthmus of land connecting northern and southern Greece. Since ships plying the east-west sea lanes of the Mediterranean preferred to avoid the stormy passage around the tip of southern Greece, they commonly off-loaded their cargoes for transshipment on a special roadbed built across the isthmus and subsequent reloading on different ships on the other side. Small ships may even have been dragged over the roadbed from one side of the isthmus to the other. Corinth became a bustling center for shipping and earned a large income from sales and harbor taxes. Taking advantage of its deposits of fine clay and the expertise of a growing number of potters24, Corinth also developed a thriving export trade in fine decorated pottery, which non-Greek peoples such as Etruscans in central Italy seem to have prized as luxury goods25. By the late sixth century B.C., however, Athens began to displace Corinth as the leading Greek exporter of fancy painted pottery, especially after consumers came to prefer designs featuring the red color for which its clay was better suited than Corinth's.


The Oracle at Delphi and Colonization

The Greeks were always careful to solicit approval from their gods before setting out from home, whether for commercial voyages or colonization. The god most frequently consulted about sending out a colony was Apollo in his sanctuary at Delphi26, a hauntingly beautiful spot in the mountains of central Greece. The Delphic sanctuary began to be internationally renowned in the eighth century B.C. because it housed an oracular shrine in which a prophetess, the Pythia27, spoke the will of Apollo in response to questions from visiting petitioners. The Delphic oracle operated for a limited number of days over nine months of the year, and demand for its services was so high that the operators of the sanctuary rewarded generous contributors with the privilege of jumping to the head of the line. The great majority of visitors to Delphi consulted the oracle about personal matters such as marriage and having children. That Greeks hoping to found a colony felt they had to secure the approval of Apollo of Delphi demonstrates the oracle was held in high esteem already as early as the 700s B.C., a reputation that continued to make the oracle a force in Greek international affairs in the centuries to come.


The Emergence of the City-State

The reasons for the change in Greek politics represented by the gradual emergence of the city-state28 in the Archaic Age remain controversial. An insurmountable difficulty to forming a clear interpretation of this complex process is that the surviving evidence for the change mainly concerns Athens, which was not a typical city-state in significant aspects, as in the large size of its population. Much of what we can say about the reasons for the emergence of the city-state therefore applies solely to Athens. Other city-states certainly emerged under varying conditions and with different results. Nevertheless, it seems possible to draw some general conclusions about the slow process through which city-states began to emerge starting around 750 B.C.

The economic revival of the Archaic Age and the growth in the population of Greece evident by the eighth century B.C. certainly gave momentum to the process. Men who managed to acquire substantial property from success in agriculture or commerce could now demand a greater say in political affairs from the hereditary aristocrats, who claimed status based on their family lines. Theognis of Megara, a sixth-century poet whose verses also reflect earlier conditions, gave voice to the distress of aristocrats at the emergence of new avenues to social and political influence: “... men today prize possessions, and noble men marry into “bad” [that is, non-aristocratic] families and “bad” men into noble families.


Riches have mixed up lines of breeding ... and the good breeding of the citizens is becoming obscured.” The increase in population in this era probably came mostly in the ranks of the non-aristocratic poor. Such families raised more children, who could help to farm more land, which had been empty for the taking after the depopulation of the early Dark Age. Like the Zeus of Hesiod's Theogony , who acted in response to the injustice of Kronos29, the growing number of poorer non-aristocrats apparently reacted against what they saw as unacceptable inequity in the leadership of aristocrats, who sometimes acted as if they were petty kings in their local territory and dispensed what seemed “crooked”30 justice to those with less wealth and power. This concern for equity and fairness gave a direction to the social and political pressures created by the growth of the population.


Aristocrats and Non-aristocrats in the City-state

For the city-state to be created as a political institution in which all free men had a share, non-aristocratic men had to insist that they deserved equitable treatment31, even if aristocrats were to remain in leadership positions and carry out the policies agreed on by the group. The invention of the concept of citizenship as the basis for the city-state and the extension of citizen status to non-aristocrats responded to that demand. Citizenship above all carried certain legal rights, such as access to courts to resolve disputes, protection against enslavement by kidnapping, and participation in the religious and cultural life of the city-state. It also implied participation in politics, although the degree of participation open to poor men varied among the different city states. The ability to hold public office, for example, could be limited in some cases to owners of a certain amount of property or wealth. Most prominently, citizen status distinguished free men and women32 from slaves33 and metics (resident aliens)34, foreigners who were officially granted limited legal rights and permission to reside in a city-state that was not their homeland. Thus, even the poor had a distinction setting themselves apart from others.


Inequality and Women in the City-state

Social and economic inequality among citizens persisted as part of life in the polis despite the legal guarantees of citizenship, The incompleteness of the equality that underlay the political structure of the city-state especially revealed itself in the status of citizen women. Women became citizens of the city-states in the crucial sense that they had an identity, social status, and local rights denied metics and slaves. The important difference between citizen and non-citizen women was made clear in the Greek language, which included terms meaning “female citizen”35 (politis), in certain religious cults reserved for citizen women only, and in legal protection against being kidnapped and sold into slavery. Citizen women also had recourse to the courts in disputes over property and other legal wrangles, but they could not represent themselves and had to have men speak for their interests, a requirement that reveals their inequality under the law. The traditional paternalism of Greek society—men acting as “fathers” to regulate the lives of women and safeguard their interests as defined by men—demanded that every woman have an official male guardian ( kurios 36 ) to protect them physically and legally. In line with this assumption about the need of women for regulation and protection by men, women were granted no rights to participate in politics. They never attended political assemblies, nor could they vote. They did hold certain civic priesthoods, however, and they had access along with men to the initiation rights37 of the popular cult of the goddess38 Demeter at Eleusis near Athens. This internationally renowned cult, about which more is said elsewhere in the Overview39, served in some sense as a safety valve for the pressures created by the remaining inequalities of life in Greek city-states because it offered to all regardless of class its promised benefits of protection from evil and a better fate in the afterworld.


The so-called Hoplite Revolution

Despite the only limited equality characteristic of the Greek city-state, the creation of this new form of political organization nevertheless represented a significant break with the past, and the extension of at least some political rights to the poor stands as one of the most striking developments in this process of change. Unfortunately we cannot identify with certainty the forces that led to the emergence of the polis as a political institution in which even poor men had a vote on political matters. The explanation long favored by many makes a so-called hoplite revolution responsible for the general widening of political rights in the city-state, but recent research has undermined the plausibility of this theory as a completely satisfactory explanation. Hoplites40 were infantrymen clad in metal body armor41, and they constituted the main strike force of the citizen militias that defended Greek city-states in the period before navies became important. Men armed as hoplites marched into combat shoulder to shoulder in a rectangular formation called a phalanx42. Staying in line and working as part of the group was the secret to successful phalanx tactics. A good hoplite, in the words of the seventh-century B.C. poet Archilochus, was “a short man firmly placed upon his legs, with a courageous heart, not to be uprooted from the spot where he plants his feet.” Greeks had fought in phalanxes for a long time, but until the eighth century B.C., only aristocrats and a relatively small number of their non-aristocratic followers could afford the equipment to serve as hoplites. In the eighth century B.C., however, a growing number of men had become sufficiently prosperous to buy metal weapons, especially since the use of iron had made them more readily available. Presumably these new hoplites, since they paid for their own equipment and trained hard to learn phalanx tactics to defend their community, felt they, too, were entitled to political rights. According to the theory of a hoplite revolution, these new hoplite-level men forced the aristocrats to share political power by threatening to refuse to fight and thereby cripple the community's military defense.


The theory correctly assumes that new hoplites had the power to demand an increased political say for themselves, a development of great significance for the development of the city-state as an institution not solely under the power of a small circle of aristocrats. The theory of a hoplite revolution cannot explain, however, one crucial question: why were poor men as well as hoplites given the political right of voting on policy in the city-state?


Non-hoplites as Citizens

Most men in the new city-states were too poor to qualify as hoplites. It is usually assumed that poor men most likely could contribute little to military defense because they lacked hoplite armor and metal weapons and Greek armies at this date made scant use of light-armed troops43 like skirmishers, slingers, and archers44. Nor had the Greeks developed navies yet, the military service for which poor men would provide the manpower in later times when a fleet was a city-state's most effective weapon. If being able to make a contribution to the city-state's defense as a hoplite45 was the only grounds for meriting the political rights of citizenship, the aristocrats along with the old and new hoplites had no obvious reason to grant poor men the right to vote on important matters. Yet poor men did become politically empowered citizens in many city-states, with some variations on whether a man had to own a certain amount of land to have full political rights or whether eligibility for higher public offices required a certain level of income. In general, however, all male citizens, regardless of their level of wealth, eventually were entitled to attend, speak in, and cast a vote in the communal assemblies46 in which policy decisions for the city-states were made. That poor men gradually came to participate in the assemblies of the city-states means they were citizens possessing the basic component of political equality47. The hoplite revolution fails as a complete explanation of the development of the city-state above all because it cannot account for the extension of this right to the poor. Furthermore, the emergence of large numbers of men wealthy enough to afford hoplite armor seems to belong to the middle of the seventh century B.C., well after the period when the city-state as an innovative form of political organization was first coming into existence.


The Contribution of the Poor

No thoroughly satisfactory alternative or complement to the theory of hoplite revolution has yet emerged to explain the rise of the polis as a political organization that opened citizenship to poor citizens as well as those better off48. The laboring free poor—the workers in agriculture, trade, and crafts—contributed much to the economic strength of the city-state, but it is hard to see how their value as laborers49 could have been translated into political rights. The better-off elements in society certainly did not extend the rights of citizenship to the poor out of any romanticized vision of poverty as spiritually noble. As one contemporary put it, “Money is the man; no poor man ever counts as good or honorable.” One significant boost to extending political rights to the poor perhaps came from the sole rulers, called tyrants50, who seized power for a time in some city-states and whose history will be discussed subsequently. Tyrants could have used grants of citizenship to poor or disenfranchised men as a means of marshaling popular support for their regimes. Another, more speculative possibility is that the aristocrats and hoplites51 had simply become less cohesive as a political group in this period of dramatic change, thereby weakening opposition to the growing idea that it was unjust to exclude the poor from political participation. When the poor agitated for power in the citizen community, on this view, there would have been no united front of aristocrats and hoplites to oppose them, making compromise necessary to prevent destructive civil unrest. Or it may be that we underestimate the significance of lightly-armed combatants in the eighth century, when hoplites were presumably not as numerous as in later times and perhaps the sheer force of the numbers of poor men—wielding staves, throwing rocks, employing farming implements as weapons—could have helped their city-state's contingent of hoplites to sway the tide of battle against an opposing force.


Communal Decision Making

The hallmark of the politics of the developed Greek city-states52 was certainly the practice of the citizen men making decisions communally. Aristocrats continued to be powerfully influential in Greek politics even after city-states had come into existence, but the unprecedented political influence non-aristocratic men came to enjoy in city-states constituted the most remarkable feature of the change in the political organization of Greek society in the Archaic Age. This process was gradual, as city-states certainly did not suddenly emerge fully formed around 750 B.C. Three hundred years after that date, for example, the male citizens of Athens were still making major changes in their political institutions to disperse political power more widely among the male citizen body.


Slavery in Dark-Age Greece

The only evidence for slavery in the Dark Age—the language of the poetry of Homer and Hesiod—reveals complex relationships of dependency among free and unfree people. Some people taken prisoner in war seem to be chattel slaves (slaves53 regarded as property, like cattle—hence the term), wholly under the domination of others, who benefit from the captives' labor. Other dependent people in the poems seem more like inferior members of the owners' households. They live under virtually the same conditions as their superiors and enjoy a family life of their own. If the language of this poetry reflects actual conditions in the Dark Age, chattel slavery was not the primary form of dependency in Greece during that period.


The Synergy between Slavery and Freedom

The creation of citizenship as a category to define membership in the exclusive group of people constituting a polis inevitably highlighted the contrast between those included in the category of citizens and those outside it. Freedom from control by others was a necessary precondition to become a citizen with full political rights, which in the city-states meant being a free-born adult male. The strongest contrast citizenship produced, therefore, was that between free and unfree. In this way, the development of a clear idea of personal freedom in the formation of the city-state as a new political form may ironically have encouraged the complementary development of chattel slavery in the Archaic Age. The rise in economic activity in this period probably also encouraged the importation of slaves by increasing the demand for labor. In any case, slavery as it developed in the Archaic Age reduced unfree persons to a state of absolute dependence; they were the property of their owners. As Aristotle later categorized them, slaves54 were “living tools.”55


Sources of Slaves

Captives taken in war provided an important source of slaves56, and relatively few slaves seem to have been born and raised in the households of those for whom they worked. Slaves were also imported from the regions to the north and east of Greek territory, where non-Greek people would be seized by pirates or foreign raiders. The fierce bands in these areas would also capture each other and sell the captives to slave dealers. The dealers would then sell their purchases in Greece at a profit. Herodotus, a Greek historian of the fifth century B. C., reported that some of the Thracians57, a group of peoples living to the north of mainland Greece, “sold their children for export.” But this report probably meant only that one band of Thracians sold children captured from other bands of Thracians, whom the first group considered different from themselves. The Greeks lumped together all foreigners who did not speak Greek as “barbarians”58—people whose speech sounded to Greeks like the repetition of the meaningless sounds “bar, bar.” Greeks, like Thracians and other slave-holding peoples, found it easier to enslave people whom they considered different from themselves and whose ethnic and cultural otherness made it easier to disregard their shared humanity. Greeks also enslaved fellow Greeks, however, especially those defeated in war, but these Greek slaves were not members of the same polis as their masters. Rich families prized Greek slaves with some education because they could be made to serve as tutors for children, for whom there were no publicly-financed schools in this period.


The Extent of Slavery

Chattel slavery became widespread in Greece only after about 600 B.C. Eventually, slaves became cheap enough that people of moderate means could afford one or two59. Nevertheless, even wealthy Greek landowners never acquired gangs of hundreds of slaves like those who maintained Rome's water system under the Roman Empire or worked large plantations in the southern United States before the American Civil War. Maintaining a large number of slaves year around in ancient Greece would have been uneconomical because the cultivation of the crops grown there called for short periods of intense labor punctuated by long stretches of inactivity, during which slaves would have to be fed even while they had no work to do.


By the fifth century B.C., however, the number of slaves in some city-states had grown to as much as one-third of the total population. This percentage still means that most labor was performed by small land-owners and their families themselves, sometimes hiring free workers. The special system of slavery in Sparta60 provides a rare exception to this situation.


The Occupations of Slaves

Rich Greeks everywhere regarded working for someone else for wages as disgraceful, but their attitude did not correspond to the realities of life for many poor people, who had to earn a living at any work they could find. Like free workers, chattel slaves61 did all kinds of labor. Household slaves62, often women, had the physically least dangerous existence. They cleaned, cooked, fetched water from public fountains63, helped the wife with the weaving64, watched the children65, accompanied the husband as he did the marketing, and performed other domestic chores. Yet they could not refuse if their masters demanded sexual favors. Slaves who worked in small manufacturing businesses, like those of potters66 or metalworkers67, and slaves working on farms often labored alongside their masters. Rich landowners, however, might appoint a slave supervisor to oversee the work of their other slaves in their fields while they remained in town. The worst conditions of life for slaves obtained for those men leased out to work in the narrow, landslide-prone tunnels of Greece's few silver and gold mines68. The conditions of their painful and dangerous job were dark, confined, and backbreaking. Owners could punish their slaves with impunity, even kill them without fear of meaningful sanctions. (A master's murder of a slave69 was regarded as at least improper and perhaps even illegal in Athens of the classical period, but the penalty may have been no more than ritual purification.) Beatings severe enough to cripple a working slave and executions of able-bodied slaves were probably infrequent because destroying such property made no economic sense for an owner.


Public Slaves

Some slaves enjoyed a measure of independence by working as public slaves70 owned by the city-state instead of an individual. They lived on their own and performed specialized tasks. In Athens, for example, public slaves in the classical period had the responsibility for certifying the genuineness of the city-state's coinage as well as many other administrative jobs in city service. Athenian public slaves also formed a corps of assistants to the citizen magistrates responsible for the punishment of criminals, and the city-state's official executioner was a public slave. In this way, citizens were able to maintain an arm's-length distance between themselves and distasteful jobs like the arrest and execution of fellow citizens.

Slaves attached to temples also lived without individual owners because temple slaves belonged to the god of the sanctuary, for which they worked as servants. Some female temple slaves served as sacred prostitutes71 at the temple of Aphrodite in Corinth, and their earnings helped support the sanctuary.


The Lives of Slaves

Under the best conditions, household slaves72 with humane masters might live lives free of violent punishment. They might even be allowed to join their owners' families on excursions and attend religious rituals such as sacrifices. Without the right to a family of their own, however, without property, without legal or political rights, they lived an existence alienated from regular society. In the words of an ancient commentator, chattel slaves lived lives of “work, punishment, and food.”73 Their labor helped maintain the economy of Greek society, but their work rarely benefited themselves. Yet despite the misery of their condition, Greek chattel slaves—outside Sparta74—almost never revolted on a large scale, perhaps because they were of too many different origins and nationalities and too scattered to organize themselves for rebellion. Sometimes owners freed their slaves voluntarily75, and some promised freedom at a future date to encourage their slaves to work hard in the meantime. Freed slaves did not become citizens in Greek city-states but instead mixed into the population of resident foreigners (the metics). They were expected to continue to help out their former masters when called upon.


Women and the Household

The emergence of slavery76 in the city-state on a large scale gave women new and bigger responsibilities for the household (oikos, oikia), especially rich women, whose lives were especially circumscribed by the responsibility of managing their large households. As partners in the maintenance of the family with their husbands77, who spent their time outside farming, participating in politics, and meeting their male friends, wives were entrusted with the management of the household ( oikonomia 78, whence our word “economics”). They were expected to raise the children,79, supervise the preservation and preparation of food, keep the family's financial accounts, weave cloth to make clothing,80, direct the work of the household slaves, and nurse them when they were ill. Households thus depended on women, whose work permitted the family to be economically self-reliant and the male citizens to participate in the public life of the polis .



Women Outside the Home

Poor women worked outside the home, often as small-scale merchants81 in the public market that occupied the center of every settlement. Only at Sparta did women have the freedom to participate in athletic training along with men.82 Women played their major role in the public life of the city-state by participating in funerals, state festivals, and religious rituals. Certain festivals were reserved for women only, especially in the cult of the goddess Demeter, whom the Greeks credited with teaching them the indispensable technology of agriculture83. As priestesses, women also fulfilled public duties in various official cults; for example, women officiated as priestesses84 in more than forty such cults in Athens by the fifth century B.C. Women holding these posts often enjoyed considerable prestige, practical benefits such as a salary paid by the state, and greater freedom of movement in public.



Marriage and Divorce

Upon marriage women became the legal wards of their husbands, as they previously had been of their fathers while still unmarried. Marriages were arranged by men. A woman's guardian85—her father, or if he were dead, her uncle or her brother—would commonly betroth her to another man's son while she was still a child, perhaps as young as five. The betrothal was an important public event conducted in the presence of witnesses. The guardian on this occasion repeated the phrase that expressed the primary aim of marriage: “I give you this woman for the plowing [procreation] of legitimate children.”86 The marriage itself customarily took place when the girl was in her early teens and the groom ten to fifteen years older. Hesiod advised a man to marry a virgin in the fifth year after her puberty, when he himself was “not much younger than thirty and not much older.”87 A legal marriage consisted of the bride's going to live in the house of her husband. The procession to his house served as the ceremony. The woman brought with her a dowry88 of property (perhaps land yielding an income, if she were wealthy) and personal possessions that formed part of the new household's assets and could be inherited by her children. Her husband was legally obliged to preserve the dowry and to return it in case of a divorce89. Procedures for divorce were more concerned with power than law: a husband could expel his wife from his home, while a wife, in theory, could on her own initiative leave her husband to return to the guardianship of her male relatives. Her freedom of action could be constricted, however, if her husband used force to keep her from leaving.90Except in certain cases in Sparta91, monogamy was the rule in ancient Greece, and a nuclear family structure (that is, husband, wife, and children living together without other relatives in the same house) was common, although at different stages of life a married couple might have other relatives living with them. Citizen men could have sexual relations without penalty with slaves, foreign concubines, female prostitutes, or willing preadult citizen males. Citizen women had no such sexual freedom, and adultery carried harsh penalties for wives, as well as the male adulterer, except at Sparta when a woman was childless, the aim of the liaison was to produce children, and the husband gave his consent.


Paternalism and Women

More than anything else, a dual concern to regulate marriage and procreation and to maintain family property underlay the placing of the legal rights of Greek women and the conditions of their citizenship under the guardianship of men. The paternalistic attitude of Greek men toward women was rooted in the desire to control human reproduction92 and, consequently, the distribution of property, a concern that gained special urgency in the reduced economic circumstances of the Dark Age. Hesiod, for instance, makes this point explicitly in relating the myth of the first woman, named Pandora93. According to the legend, Zeus, the king of the gods, created Pandora as a punishment for men when Prometheus, a divine being hostile to Zeus, stole fire from Zeus to give it to Prometheus's human friends, who had hitherto lacked that technology. Pandora subsequently loosed “evils and diseases” into the previously trouble-free world of men by removing the lid from the jar or box the gods had filled for her. Hesiod then refers to Pandora's descendants, the female sex, as a “beautiful evil” for men ever after, comparing them to drones who live off the toil of other bees while devising mischief at home.94 But, he goes on to say, any man who refuses to marry to escape the “troublesome deeds of women” will come to “destructive old age” without any children to care for him. After his death, moreover, his relatives will divide his property among themselves. A man must marry, in other words, so that he can sire children to serve as his support system in his waning years and to preserve his holdings after his death by inheriting them. Women, according to Greek mythology, were for men a necessary evil, but the reality of women's lives in the city-state incorporated social and religious roles of enormous importance.


Notes (Each note is also an Internet link)

·      1 Thuc. 1.16.1

·      2 Aesch. Eum. 288, Athens, Parthenon [Building]

·      3 Thuc. 1.10.2

·      4 Xen. Const. Lac. 13.2

·      5 Hom. Il. 1.447, Perseus Encyclopedia entry for sacrifice, Sacrifice on vases

·      6 Aristot. Pol. 1.1252b 28

·      7 Hdt. 3.80.6, Hdt. 3.142.3, Hdt. 5.37.2, Thuc. 4.78.3

·      8 Thuc. 3.94.4, Greek dictionary entry for ethnos, References to ethnos, Perseus Encyclopedia entry for confederacies, References to leagues

·      9 Photos of Lesbos, Thuc. 8.23.2, Strab. 13.2.1, Perseus Encyclopedia entry for Lesbos

·      10 Lysias 22.1

·      11 Aristot. Pol. 1.1253a 29

·      12 Hdt. 1.146.1, Thuc. 1.12.4, Thuc. 7.57.4, Perseus Encyclopedia entry for Ionia, Ionian Sites

·      13 Thuc. 1.12.4

·      14 Hom. Od. 1.182

·      15 Hdt. 7.51.2, Thuc. 6.82.4

·      16 Hom. Od. 6.7

·      17 Hdt. 1.146.2

·      18 Hdt. 4.150.2, Perseus Encyclopedia entry for Cyrene, Other references to Cyrene

·      19 Aristot. Pol. 5.1306b 22-31, Strab. 6.3.2

·      20 Hdt.1.14.2-3

·      21 Hdt. 1.94.1

·      22 Hdt. 5.58.1

·      23 Thuc. 1.13.5, Corinth [Site], References to Corinth

·      24 Hdt. 2.176.2, Corinthian pottery

·      25 Vases found in Etruria

·      26 Delphi [Site], Paus. 10.5.5, Hdt. 1.19.2

·      27 Hdt. 4.151.1, Aesch. Eum. 1 ff., Other references to Pythia

·      28 Aristot. Pol. 1.1252b 28

·      29 Hes. Th. 501

·      30 Hes. WD 264

·      31 Hdt. 3.80.6, Hdt. 3.142.3, Hdt. 5.37.2, Thuc. 4.78.3

·      32 TRM OV 11.1

·      33 Servants depicted on vases

·      'Living tools'- Aristot. Pol. 1.1253b 32, Hom. Il. 18.28, Hom. Od. 1.398, Aeschin. 1.54, Diod. 13.102.1, Aristot. Econ. 2.1352b 20, Aristot. Pol. 1.1255b 20, Dem. 24.167, Other references to slaves

·      34 Lys. 12.4, Andoc. 1.15, Thuc. 2.13.7

·      35 Politis in Soph. El. 1229, References to politis

·      36 Male guardian in Isaeus 6.32

·      37 Aristoph. Thes. 295, Dem. 59.116

·      38 HH 2.473

·      39 TRM OV 10.1.7

·      40 Hoplites on vases, References to hoplites

·      41 Xen. Mem. 3.10.9

·      42 References to phalanx

·      43 Hdt. 7.158.4, Thuc. 2.13.8

·      44 Archers on vases

·      45 TRM OV 5.16

·      46 Aristoph. Ach. 19

·      47 Hdt. 3.80.6, Hdt. 3.142.3, Hdt. 5.37.2, Thuc. 4.78.3

·      48 TRM OV 5.2, Ps. Xen. Const. Ath. 1.2

·      49 Hdt. 2.167.2

·      50 TRM OV 6.16

·      51 TRM OV 5.16

·      52 TRM OV 5.2

·      53 Servants on vases

·      Aristot. Pol. 1.1253b 32, Aristot. Pol. 1.1255b 20, Hom. Il. 18.28, Hom. Od. 1.398, Hdt. 5.6.1, Plut. Nic. 4.2, Aeschin. 1.54, Diod. 13.102.1, Hes. WD 406, Dem. 24.167, Other references to slaves

·      54 TRM OV 5.20

·      55 Aristot. Pol. 1.1253b 32

·      56 TRM OV 5.20

·      57 Hdt. 5.6.1

·      58 Hom. Il. 2.867, Aesch. Ag. 1051, References to barbarians, Barbarians on vases

·      59 Hes. WD 406

·      60 TRM OV 6.6

·      61 TRM OV 5.20

·      62 Xen. Ec. 10.10

·      63

·      64


·      65 London E 219 [Vase]

·      66 Potters on vases

·      67 Berlin F 2294 [Vase]

·      68 Plut. Nic. 4.2

·      69 Antiphon 6.4, Plat. Euthyph. 4c

·      70 Aristoph. Lys. 436, Aeschines 1.54, Diod. 13.102.1, TRM OV 5.20

·      71 Strabo 8.6.20

·      72 TRM OV 5.20

·      73 Aristot. Econ. 1.1344a 35

·      74 Thuc. 1.101.2

·      75 Dem. 36.47, Dem. 59.2

·      76 TRM OV 5.20

·      77 Xen. Ec. 3.15

·      78 Plat. Laws 694c, Plat. Laws 809c, Hom. Od. 1.356, Eur. Med. 249, Berlin inv. 31426 [Vase]

·      79 London E 219 [Vase]

·      80


·      81 Aristoph. Thes. 446, Olynthus, House A iv 9 [Building], Olynthus, House A v 10 [Building]

·      82 Xen. Const. Lac. 1.4

·      83 Isoc. 4.28, TRM OV 10.1.7

·      84 Women pouring libations on vases, Priestesses on vases


·      85 Isaeus 6.32

·      86 Plat. Crat. 406b, Greek dictionary entry for aroô

·      87 Hes. WD 697

·      88 Lys. 19.9, Aristot. Pol. 2.1270a 20

·      89 Andoc. 4.14, Dem. 30.15

·      90 Plut. Alc. 8.3-4

·      91 Xen. Const. Lac. 1.7

·      92 Aesch. Eum. 658

·      93 References to Pandora, Hes. WD 82

·      94 Hes. Th. 570


2  Archaic Greece

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


The Archaic period in Greece (800 BC – 480 BC) is a period of ancient Greek history that followed the Greek Dark Ages. This period saw the rise of the poleis (singular polis, generally translated as "city-state"), the founding of colonies, the annexation of some of the eastern poleis by the Persian empire, as well as the first inklings of classical philosophy. The newly invented Greek theatre created tragedies that were performed during Dionysia; written poetry appeared alongside the reintroduction of written language, which had been lost during the Greek Dark Ages; and the oral epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey were written down for the first time, ostensibly by Homer himself. The term archaic thus covers cultural developments as well as social, political and economic changes.


The starting point of the Archaic period in 800 BC is defined as the "structural revolution", meaning the sudden upsurge of population and material goods that occurred c. 750 BC, and the "intellectual revolution" of classical Greece.[1] The sharp rise in population at the start of the Archaic period led the settlement of new towns and the expansion of the older population centres within poleis. Increases in the population also led to the establishment of colonies along the Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts that began about 800 BC. The reason for this phenomenon has been described by Greek authors as stenochoria, or "the lack of land", but in practice it was caused by a great number of reasons, such as rivalry between political groups, a desire for adventure, expatriation, the search for trade opportunities, etc.[2] The end of archaism is conventionally marked by Xerxes' invasion of Greece in 480 BC.



         1 Etymology

            2 Crisis and consolidation of the polis

                        2.1 Reorganization and consolidation of Athens

            3 Themes

                        3.1 Colonization

                        3.2 Tyrants

            4 Art

                        4.1 Architecture

                        4.2 Sculpture

                        4.3 Ceramics

            5 Conflicts

            6 Important people

            7 See also

            8 References

            9 Further reading

            10 External links



The term archaic describes things belonging to ancient times and is derived from the Greek word archaikos, which means primitive.[3] This term arose from the study of Greek art, where it mainly refers to styles of surface decoration and sculpture, placing it chronologically between geometric and Classical Greek art. These styles are considered archaic in the sense that they contain the seeds of Classical art. Modern historians think of the term archaic as a misnomer,[4] as the archaic period is considered to be one of the most fruitful periods of Greek history.[5]


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 pressures developed for each stratum of archaic society- the farmers, the aristocracy, and the commoners. By 750 BC these pressures 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.[6]


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.


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.[6]


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.[6]


Reorganization and consolidation of Athens

From the beginning of the 6th century BC, many changes in the social structure and government of Greece were formalized in order to administer to the growing needs of the poleis. Among these changes was the formalization of certain aspects of the Athenian democracy, and as Athens consolidated itself into a formal city-state, political tensions grew within it.


Towards the end of the Archaic period, the power of the basileus, or king, was reduced as aristocratic gatherings, such as the Council of Elders, increased in power. The sharing of power among powerful families occurred in many poleis, which saw oligarchies established. The Archaic Period was also marked by tyrants, or strong rulers who seized power from the aristocracy and ruled as central, dominating figures.[7] A new form of government had evolved, the city-state, which Hellenes termed the polis. The kingdoms were not restored, even though in many cases offshoots of the royal families remained. Instead, each major population center became autonomous and was ruled by a republican form of government. The ancient Greek term is synoikismos, from which comes the term synoecism "conurbation", meaning the absorption of villages and the incorporation of their tribes into the substructure of the polis. The akropoleis became the locations of public buildings, typically temples.[8]




As a reaction to the overpopulation, economic problems, and rising political tension within Greece between 750 and 600 BC, many Greeks left the mainland by ship to establish new colonies. Some went freely to escape tensions, while others were sent as exiles. Any given expedition consisted of about 100-200 people, mostly young men, and was led by a Greek noble, searching to gain more power and wealth outside of Greece. A citizen who left Greece to go to one of these colonies gave up his Greek citizenship in exchange for citizenship in the new colony.


These colonies were widespread, and arose in places including southern Italy, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, the southern French coast, the eastern Spanish coast, the coast of the Black Sea, and Cyprus, among others. These colonies were not provinces of the poleis from which they came but independent cities entirely, who traced their heritage back to a mother polis within Greece proper. Relations between colonial Greeks and the indigenous populations of the countries they governed were mixed - some cultures met in harmony and others were conquered and enslaved by the Greeks. An important consequence of Greek colonization was the spread of Greek culture, religion, and design throughout the Mediterranean, including sites that would come to great importance later in history.[6]



Main article: Eponymous archon

The exceptional success of the move to colonize the rest of the Mediterranean happened in harmony with a consolidation of the Greek poleis into cohesive city-states with social and political order. This process was frequently interrupted between the 6th and 7th centuries BC by numerous aristocrats. These tyrants, a Greek word meaning "ruler of the polis", tended to set up dictatorships within the poleis, raise armies, and attack other poleis to expand their influence. Tyrants were not social reformers, but while ruling they were forced to make laws and arbitrate disputes. A rising Greek distaste for tyrants led to the creation of alternative systems of self-government, which eventually led to the Athenian democracy. Tyrants were never directly followed by pure democracies; however, their behaviour created the political will among the Greeks to develop a more efficient and fair system of governance.[6]



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).



Main article: Architecture of ancient Greece



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. The following three periods have been identified:[9]

·      Early Archaic, 660 BC - 580 BC

·      During the period, the major sculptural forms were the kouros and its female equivalent, the kore.

·      Mid Archaic, 580 BC - 535 BC

·      Late Archaic, 540 BC - 480 BC



In pottery, the Archaic period saw the development of the orientalizing style, which signalled a shift away from the geometric style of the earlier Dark Ages and the accumulation of influences derived from Phoenicia and Syria.


Pottery styles associated with the later part of the Archaic age are black-figure pottery, which originated in Corinth during the 7th century BC, and its successor, the red-figure style, developed by the Andokides painter in about 530 BC.


Some notable distinctions an observer can use to determine if a piece is from the archaic period are the Egyptian-like "left foot forward", the "archaic smile", and the very patterned and conventionalized hair, or "helmet hair".



·      First Messenian War (Approximately 750-730 BC)

·      Lelantine War (End of 8th century BC)

·      Second Messenian War (640-620 BC)

·      Periander's destruction of Epidaurus (approx. 600 BC)

·      First Sacred War (595-585 BC)

·      Thirean War (mid-6th century BC)

·      Spartan invasion of Samos (529 BC)

·      Arcadian Wars

·      Athenian Republic Wars

·      Greco-Persian Wars

·      Greek-Punic wars


Important people


·      Aristomenes

·      Kleisthenes

·      Kleisthenes of Sicyon

·      Kleomenes I

·      Kypselos

·      Drakon (lawgiver)

·      Lykourgos of Sparta

·      Peisistratos (Athens)

·      Periandros

·      Pheidon

·      Polykrates

·      Solon

·      Teleklos

·      Theagenes of Megara

·      Theopompos (king of Sparta)

·      Thrasyboulos (tyrant)

Epic poets

·      Homeros

·      Hesiodos


·      Anaximandros

·      Anaximenes of Miletus

·      Herakleitos

·      Pythagoras

·      Thales

·      Xenophanes

Lyric poets

       Nine lyric poets







       Simonides of Ceos



       Kadmos of Miletos

       Ekataios of Miletos













       Dipoinos and Skyllis


       Hegias of Athens












       Hermogenes[disambiguation needed]













       Andokides Painter












Tragic poets





Comic poets

       Susarion of Megara (~580 BC)

       Epikharmos of Kos (~540-450 BC)

       Cratinus (~520-420 BC), also classical

       Khionides (also classical) 486 BC


See also

       Mykonos vase

       Pitsa panels

       Greeks in pre-Roman Gaul

       The Other Greeks




^ Snodgrass, pp. 13, 23.

^ Robin Lane Fox, Tavelling Heroes in the Epic Age of Homer, 2008.

^ Watson 1976, p. 52

^ Snodgrass, p. 13.

^ Grant, Michael (1988). The Rise of the Greeks. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. xii.

6.    ^ to: 
a b c d e Peter Funke et al. Alte Geschichte, ein Studienbuch. Verlag J.B. Metzler, Weimar. pp. 106–187.

^ A Brief History of Ancient Greece

^ Snodgrass, pp. 28-34.

^ Richter, pp. 47-83. The overlap of dates recognizes transitions.



       Pomeroy, Sarah (2009). A Brief History of Ancient Greece. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-539267-8.

       Richter, Gisela M.A. (1963). A Handbook of Greek Art: Third Edition Newly Revised. Phaidon Publishers Inc.

       Snodgrass, Anthony (1980). Archaic Greece: The Age of Experiment. London Melbourne Toronto: J M Dent & Sons Ltd. ISBN 0-460-04338-2.

       Watson, Owen (1976). Owen Watson, eds. Longman modern English dictionary. Longman. ISBN 978-0-582-55512-9.


Further reading

      George Grote, J. M. Mitchell, Max Cary, Paul Cartledge, A History of Greece: From the Time of Solon to 403 B.C., Routledge, 2001. ISBN 0-415-22369-5


External links

       Archaic period: society, economy, politics, culture — The Foundation of the Hellenic World

       The Archaic Period of Greek Art – Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia

       Ancient Greece: The Archaic Period — by Richard Hookero





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 8th 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 BC. 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 organized. 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 settlements 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. Colonization 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 to 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 into 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 to 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.

4  Greek Archaic Period

From The Ancient History Encyclopedia,

by James Lloyd   published on 08 August 2012



The Greek Archaic Period (c. 800- 479 BCE) started from what can only be termed uncertainty, and ended with the Persians being ejected from Greece for good after the battles of Plataea and Mykale in 479 BCE.


The Archaic Period is preceded by the Greek Dark Age (c.1200- 800 BCE), a period about which little is known for sure, and followed by the Classical Period (c. 510- 323 BCE), which is one of the better documented periods of Greek history, with tragedies, comedies, histories, legal cases and more surviving in the form of literary and epigraphic sources. Each of these periods had its own distinctive cultural identity, yet despite this, there is a certain degree of flexibility with the dates given to the periods. They are modern terms that try to frame various aspects of change in Greek culture which by no means occurred either over one particular year or all together in the same year.


In the Archaic Period there were vast changes in Greek language, society, art, architecture, and politics. These changes occurred due to the increasing population of Greece and its increasing amount trade, which in turn led to colonization and a new age of intellectual ideas, the most important of which (at least to the modern Western World) was Democracy. This would then fuel, in a rather circular way, more cultural changes.





The politics of Athens underwent a series of serious changes during the archaic period, and the first change was quite possibly for the worse, with the laws of Draco, in around 622/621 BCE (the semi-legendary nature of these laws and its namesake should be noted, and secondly the semi-legendary nature of most occurrences during the first couple of hundred years of the period). As Aristotle says of Draco “there is nothing peculiar in his laws that is worthy of mention, except their severity in imposing heavy punishment” (Politics 2.1274b).

The legacy of their infamy (loans could be made on the security of one’s own person), still exists in the modern word ‘draconian’. Most brutal of all however were the death penalties; Plutarch relates that “it is said that Draco himself, when asked why he had fixed the punishment of death for most offences, answered that he considered these lesser crimes to deserve it, and he had no greater punishment for more important ones”. Whilst Aristotle comments that there was nothing particular about the laws, what is important is that the laws, for the first time in Athens, were written down for all to see, and to read (for those who were literate).


The next major changes that came were brought about by Solon (c. 594 BCE), whose historical authenticity is more certain than Draco's due to fragments of his poetry that Plutarch relates as still existing in his time. His changes to Athenian law were the first to give the lower classes a fairer chance -- however, the positions of power were still only available to those of wealth. It was the effects of class inequality that Solon tackled, not the causes of them. The most notable change implemented by Solon was the seisachtheia, the ‘shaking-off-of-burdens’. This decree cancelled debts, banned the use of one’s own person  as security for a loan, and recalled all of those who had been sold as slaves and those who had fled to escape such a fate. 


There were also Solon's reforms of weights and measures, the right of third party appeal was introduced among other developments. In order that he might not be pressured into changing these laws, Solon left Athens for ten years (according to Herodotus) and went to Egypt where he wrote political poems.


It was only after Solon that a sense of self-conscious democracy in Athens began to develop; a development that could be seen as either a social phenomenon or a political and institutional phenomenon. The changes then came thick and fast. The age of tyrants that had started with Draco would soon nearly be over, but not if the Peisistratids had anything to do with it.


The Peisistratids were a short line of Athenian tyrants that started with Peisistratos, and it should be noted that the term ‘tyrant’ during this period did not have the negative connotations that it has today. In fact, Peisistratos was no draconian ruler, but one who felt a certain amount of sympathy with the poorer classes of Athens. Aristotle gives a good account of the events that follow. After Pesistratos’ death his sons Hippias and Hipparchus held the tyranny until an assassination plot was launched against them by Harmodias and Aristogen.


Cleisthenes came to power in the political gap that was left after the tyrannicides and is famous for introducing isonomia (equal laws) in Athens. He achieved this through various reforms which meant that less importance was given to aristocratic background. The biggest reform that Cleisthenes made was to the tribal system of Athens. Previous to his reform there had been four tribes (based on family ties), Cleisthenes changed this to ten tribes, each formed by a slightly complicated subsystem.


The tribes were formed by a collection of demes (similar to an English Parish; small localities of residence) which were themselves placed into one of thirty trittyes, 'thirds' (three per tribe); a deme would be in either one of three regions depending on its location: the coast, the city, or the inland. The trittyes therefore were an amalgamation of ten demes from each of the three regions; each tribe therefore had three trittyes in it, one composed of demes from the city, one with demes from the coast, and one of demes from inland. Further to this Athenians would no longer take their ‘surname’ from their father, but from their deme. This all meant that the family ties, traditions and allegiances that had caused prior political friction (and had led in some way to the Peisistraid tyrannies) had been broken up. It was also during Cleisthenes’ time that many Athenian official positions began to be selected by lot. Aristotle and Herodotus cover these events in quite good detail.



The art and architecture of the Archaic Period also underwent various overhauls; the earlier geometric style was replaced with an orientalising style, which in turn was replaced by black figure pottery. Black figure pottery was first starting to be used in Corinth c. 700s BCE, but the first signed example dates to c. 570 BCE, when attic black figure pottery was in its heyday (c. 630- 480 BCE) and is of Sophilos. As this technique was further developed and explored, it gave way to Red Figure pottery, which started to develop c. 530 BCE.


It was also during this period that many changes and developments were made to temple building. The first phase of the Heraion at Samos was built in the mid. 8th C. BCE, yet its final, unfinished, reincarnation wasn’t begun until c. 530 BCE. Many changes had occurred by then. The Heraion at Olympia, built c. 600 BCE, was the first temple to have a stone stylobate and lower wall course, but was still built with wooden columns, one of which still survived to Pausanias day. Today the remnants of this development can be seen in the varying sizes and styles of the temple’s Doric stone columns since they were created by different hands in different times in order to replace wooden columns as needed.


The Corcyra Artemision (c. 580/ 70 BCE) was the first Greek temple to have a stone entablature and the Temple of Apollo (c. 580-550 BCE) at Syracuse is now known as the Cathedral of Syracuse, being the longest continually lasting single building to remain consecrated ground, in this case, since its Archaic origins. The age of tyrants can also be witnessed in one particular temple, in this case, not relating to Athens’ tyrants, but to Samos’, namely Polykrates (c.540- 520 BCE) who commissioned  the fourth stage Heraion at Samos. Greece's developing international realtionships can be witnessesed in this was too, with King Croeus dedicating a column of the Temple of Artemis and Ephesus; and it still bears his mark to this day.



It was during the Archaic period that the four major panhellenic games of Greece were founded. In 776 BCE the Olympic games were traditionally begun by Hercules and Pelops (and their influence can be seen in the sculptural decoration of the classical Temple of Zeus there), whilst at Delphi athletic games had taken place from c. 586 BCE, the home of the Pythian games, and the panhellenic Isthmian games were founded at Corinth c. 581 BCE. The last of the ‘big four’ was founded c. 573 BCE, and this was the Nemean games.


However, in the normal Archaic tradition, each of these games was surrounded by its own foundation myth, not just the Olympics. The Pythian games, which had originally been solely a games of music and dance, were supposedly founded by Apollo himself (according to Pindar), the Isthmian games (according to Pausanias) by the legendary King of Corinth, Sisyphus, and the Nemean Games after Hercules had slain the Nemean lion. But when we think of victory at the games, there is one name that jumps out, and it isn’t that of a victor, but of a poet, Pindar, who was composing between c. 500- 446 BCE, writing his Pythian odes and others in honour of the various victors at the games.



From Homer and Hesiod, through to Pindar and Aeschylus, the Archaic Period underwent a vast development in the field of Greek literature, and language too, with the first Greek alphabet being developed. The Greek alphabet developed out of the Phoneician alphabet, and is in itself a tribute to the increase in trade and exploration in the period that made this cultural exchange possible: the earliest Greek writing being dated to c. 750 BCE. However, despite the development of the Greek alphabet, the oral tradition of poetic composition and transmission was still the method used by Hesiod and Homer; it wasn’t until c. 670 BCE and the rule of Peisistratus that a definitive version of the Iliad and Odyssey was attempted. 


The end of the Archaic period also had a literature that is just as influential, less well known perhaps, but it set the stage for the later classical tragedians and comedians. 535 BCE was the year of the first dramatic festival in Athens and in 485 BCE comedy was added, and one year later Aeschylus had won his first dramatic competition in Athens, but it wasn’t until 472 BCE that Aeschylus’ Persians was composed.



The Persian Wars, perhaps the most influential set of events in the Archaic period, which couldn’t possibly be given justice to here, started with the Ionian revolt of Greek colonies and settlements in Asia Minor from the Persian Empire which prompted Darius I’s retaliation to invade Greece, which failed at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BCE. This was later avenged by the second invasion of Greece by Xerxes, who was finally expelled with the combined victories at Plataea and Mykale, though only after the equally as famous battles of Thermopylae and Salamis. Salamis was won by the fleet that Themistocles had persuaded the Athenians to build from the silver mines at Laurium, and this silver would continue to be vitally important into the Classical Period.


However, there were loses in these wars; the sacking of the Athenian acropolis and Agora, the death of Leonidas, and in the end, the freedom of the Ionic tributaries to Athens as the Delian League soon became the Athenian League. The change being that in the Archaic period there was war with Persia, in the Classical period, diplomacy.


The Archaic Period is, therefore, a highly important time period in its own right, but is also highly important in putting the events of the Classical Period into context. However, this definition only covers some of the many events and developments, and covers some of them only briefly: the Archaic Period is perhaps the richest and most complicated in Greek history.


5  Chronological Table for the Archaic Period (page 3)


800 Greeks develop an alphabet

776 first Olympic games

750-500 Greek Renaissance/Archaic Period

(Rise of trade, industry, and colonization)

750-700 City-states emerge; Homers composes Iliad (750) and Odyssey (720)

730-700 First Messenian War; Lelantine War

720 “Orientalizing period” in Greek art

700-650 development of hoplite phalanx warfare; Hesiod composes Theogony; Works and Days

687-652 Gyges of Lydia

675 Archilochus, Greek lyric poet from Paros, active

670-500 Tyrants rule in many city-states

669 Battle of Hysiae; Pheidon of Argos defeats the Spartans with his hoplite phalanx.

664 First naval battle of Greeks on record between Corinth and Corcyra

655 tyrants Pheidon at Argos and Cypselus at Corinth (Pheidon possibly the first to mint coins)

650 Second Messenian War; Tyrtaeus Spartan poet of war

650 Colonization of Black Sea areas begins; “Lycurgan Reforms” at Sparta; the “Great Rhetra”;

earliest known stone inscription of a law; first temples built of marble and stone; Corinthian

black-figure technique; Lydians mint the first electrum coins

632 Cylon’s attempted tyranny at Athens aided by Theagenes, tyrant of Megara

627 Periander tyrant of Corinth

621 Draco’s law code

594 Solon’s archonship

585-546 Milesian (or Ionian) school; the first Greek philosophers/scientists; members include

Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes

585 Thales of Miletus predicts the solar eclipse of 28 May

566 Great Panathenaea first established

560-547/6 Croesus king of Lydia

559-530 Cyrus the Great King of Persia

550 Anaximander draws first map of the world; Theognis, aristocratic poet of Megara, active

546-528/7 Peisistratus tyrant of Athens (unsuccessful attempts in 561/0 and in 557/6)

530-522 Cambyses King of Persia

527-510 Hippias tyrant of Athens

521-486 Darius I King of Persia

508/7 ‘Cleisthenic Revolution’

500-400 Ionian logographers; the predecessors and contemporaries of Herodotus who were the pioneers of history-writing and the earliest Greek prose writers, especially Hecataeus of Miletus who wrote a pioneering work of systematic geography, Periegesis, and a mythographic work, the Genealogies.

500 Hecataeus advises against the Ionian revolt

499 Ionian revolt provokes the Persians

6  Chronological Table for Greek Colonization

·       775-550 Greeks, under population pressure, set forth from the mainland, the Aegean islands and the coast of Asia Minor to establish colonies from the Crimea to the Nile Delta and from the Caucasus to Spain, on the shores of the Mediterranean, Hellespont, Propontis, Bosporus and Black Sea; colonizing activity begins with the emergence of the polis. Colonies are independent city states, free from political connection with and subordination to the mother cities.

·       775 first Greek colony set up at Pithecusae (Ischia), a small island off Naples, by colonists from Chalcis and Eretria in Euboea and from Cyme in Aeolis in search of precious metals–especially copper and iron–from the Etruscans; Euboeans (Ionians) colonize Chalcidice in Thrace.

·       750 Greeks found Cumae; first Greek community with which Etruscans and then Romans have contact; Homer’s Odyssey provides evidence for a revival of knowledge of the West; Odysseus’ wanderings in Books 9-12 reflect tales told by adventurers and traders (i.e., Scylla and Charybdis associated with the straits of Messina and the Cyclopes with Mt. Etna).

·       734 Naxos established off the east coast of Sicily

·       733 Corinthians found Syracuse; they also establish a colony on the island of Corcyra, driving out the earlier settlement of the Eretrians; acquire a dominant position on the route to Sicily, opening up trading possibilities for the Bacchiad oligarchy of Corinth; increasing numbers of wares, pottery and bronzes, come to Syracuse and the Sicilian cities; Syracuse soon becomes the greatest city in Sicily.

·       731 Megara establishes colony, Megara Hyblaea, north of Syracuse (Hybla was a native

·       community in Sicily).

·       730 the first evidence of Chalcidic alphabet found on cup, the drinking cup of Nestor; Chalcidians of Euboea the most active early Greek colonizers.

·       728 Sicilian Naxians colonize Leontini and Catana to the south of their city.

·       725 Chalcidians found Zancle on the Sicilian side and Rhegiumon the Italian side of the straits of Messina for commercial and political reasons.

·       730-720 First Messenian War; Chalcidians, suffering from overpopulation, found Rhegium; Messenians driven out of Messenia because unwilling to come to terms with Sparta join the Chalcidians in settling Rhegium.

·       720 Achaeans establish Sybaris in south Italy, which rapidly grows rich from its fertile lands and commerce; whereas the Chalcidians and Corinthians were the most active participants in colonizing Sicily, the Achaean states on the south shore of the Corinthian Gulf took the lead in migration to south Italy.

·       710 Achaeans found Posidonia (Paestum).

·       708 Achaean colonists establish Croton in south Italy; the city flourishes with its fertile lands and becomes famous for its athletes, doctors and its school of Pythagoras.

·       706 Partheniai from Sparta found Taras (Roman Tarentum); dissatisfied with their political position, the Partheniai had organized a rebellion, but were finally persuaded to depart for Taras, a Doric city in its dialect and institutions; the only colony in the west of the Spartans, who solved their land hunger problem through the conquest of Messenia.

·       700 Lelantine War; Chalcis and Eretria in one of the earliest recorded wars in Greece battle for the Lelantine plain which lay between the two cities. Ionians of the Aegean island of Paros send colonists, including the poet Archilochus, to Thasos and the adjacent Thracian coast.

·       688 Gela founded (45 years after Syracuse) by colonists from Rhodes and Crete.

·      675-650 king Gyges of Lydia gives consent to Miletus to establish Abydos on the Asiatic side of the Hellespont.

·      673 Locrians establish Locri Epizephyrii (Italy); Zaleucus, known as the earliest of the Greek law givers, drew up a code of laws for Locri.

·      663-609 Psammetichus I, pharaoh of Egypt, grants Ionian and Carian pirates land known as the Camps, on either side of the Pelusian mouth of the Nile.

·      650 Clazomenae found Abdera, home of two of the most important fifth-century philosophers or sophists–Democritus and Protagoras; Achaeans establish Metapontumon the instep of Italy; prosperous in agriculture.

·      648 settlers from Zancle establish town ofHimera which brings Greeks into close contact with the Phoenicians in the western part of Sicily.

·      631 Dorian settlers from Thera, an island in the southern Aegean, found Cyrene on the north coast of Africa.

·      628 Megara sets up a colony, Selinus, in the fertile land on the south west coast of Sicily.

·      630-600 Megara, neighbor of Corinth, founds colonies Chalcedon and Byzantium on the Asiatic and European sides, respectively, of the Bosporus; Chalcedon with its fertile land was established 17 years before Byzantium, which, with its excellent harbor, could dominate the shipping up and down the Bosporus due to the nature of the currents.

·      625-600 colonization of the Black Sea region begins; area rich in metals, timber, grain, fish and many other products; Milesians found Sinope on the shore of the Black Sea, a flourishing trading city and home of the fourth-century Cynic philosopher Diogenes and the fourth- and thirdcentury comic poet Diphilus; Sinope sent out many small trading colonies, including Trapezus (Trebizond), famous as the place where Xenophon and the remnants of the Ten Thousand first sighted the sea after their march back from the interior of Babylonia.

·      600 The Phoenicians colonizeMessalia (Marseilles) and several smaller out posts on the east coast of Spain; Corinth settles Potidaea, Corinth’s only settlement in the north Aegean; Corcyra founds Epidamnus at the end of the seventh century. Rhodians found Rhode on the north-east coast of Spain and give their name to the river Rhone; subsequently Phocaeans change name Rhode to Emporiae (market).

·      600-550 Heraclea in Bithynia founded; rich in tunny fish and timber

·      580 Having expanded, Gela establishes the agricultural colony of Acragas, which soon outstripped the mother city in size and prosperity.

·      570-526 Egyptian pharaoh Amasis, a philhellene, grants Naucratis as a city to live in for Greeks who come to Egypt; a great temple precinct (temenos) called the Hellenion is later built by Greek merchants granted land by Amasis (i.e., Ionians from Chios, Teos, Phocaea and Clazomenae, Dorians from Rhodes, Cnidos, Halicarnassus and Phaselis, and Aeolians from Mytilene (in Lesbos).

·      546 Phocaeans found Elea, the last of the Greek settlements in Italy during this period of colonization; important school of philosophy develops in Elea (Eleatic philosophers include Parmenides, Zeno and Melissus).

·      511/10 Croton destroys its rival city Sybaris.

7  Greek Art in the Archaic Period


(Where you can also find links to all of the Metropolitan Museum’s Greek Archaic Art Holdings)


A striking change appears in Greek art of the seventh century B.C., the beginning of the Archaic period. The abstract geometric patterning that was dominant between about 1050 and 700 B.C. is supplanted in the seventh century by a more naturalistic style reflecting significant influence from the Near East and Egypt. Trading stations in the Levant and the Nile Delta, continuing Greek colonization in the east and west, as well as contact with eastern craftsmen, notably on Crete and Cyprus, inspired Greek artists to work in techniques as diverse as gem cutting, ivory carving, jewelry making, and metalworking (1989.281.49-.50). Eastern pictorial motifs were introduced—palmette and lotus compositions, animal hunts, and such composite beasts as griffins (part bird, part lion), sphinxes (part woman, part winged lion), and sirens (part woman, part bird). Greek artists rapidly assimilated foreign styles and motifs into new portrayals of their own myths and customs, thereby forging the foundations of Archaic and Classical Greek art.


Greek artists rapidly assimilated foreign styles and motifs into new portrayals of their own myths and customs, thereby forging the foundations of Archaic and Classical Greek art art.


The Greek world of the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. consisted of numerous autonomous city-states, or poleis, separated one from the other by mountains and the sea. Greek settlements stretched all the way from the coast of Asia Minor and the Aegean islands, to mainland Greece, Sicily, North Africa, and even Spain. As they grew in wealth and power, the poleis on the coast of Asia Minor and neighboring islands competed with one another in the construction of sanctuaries with huge stone temples. Lyric poetry, the primary literary medium of the day, attained new heights in the work of such notable poets as Archilochos of Paros and Sappho of Lesbos. Contact with prosperous centers like Sardis in Lydia, which was ruled in the sixth century B.C. by the legendary king Croesus, influenced eastern Greek art. Sculptors in the Aegean islands, notably on Naxos and Samos, carved large-scale statues in marble. Goldsmiths on Rhodes specialized in fine jewelry, and bronzeworkers on Crete fashioned armor and plaques decorated with superb reliefs (1989.281.49-.50).


The prominent artistic centers of mainland Greece—notably Sparta, Corinth, and Athens—also exhibited significant regional variation. Sparta and its neighbors in Laconia produced remarkable ivory carvings and distinctive bronzes (38.11.3). Corinthian artisans invented a style of silhouetted forms (1997.36) that focused on tapestry-like patterns of small animals and plant motifs. By contrast, the vase painters of Athens were more inclined to illustrate mythological scenes. Despite variance in dialect—even the way the alphabet was written varied from region to region at this time—the Greek language was a major unifying factor in Greece. Furthermore, Greek-speaking people came together for festivals and the games that were held at the major Panhellenic sanctuaries on mainland Greece, such as Olympia and Delphi. Dedications at these sanctuaries included many works from the eastern and western regions of Greece.


Throughout the sixth century B.C., Greek artists made increasingly naturalistic representations of the human figure. During this period, two types of freestanding, large-scale sculptures predominated: the male kouros, or standing nude youth, and the female kore, or standing draped maiden. Among the earliest examples of the type, the kouros in the Metropolitan Museum (32.11.1) reveals Egyptian influence in both its pose and proportions. Erected in sanctuaries and in cemeteries outside the city walls, these large stone statues served as dedications to the gods or as grave markers. Athenian aristocrats frequently erected expensive funerary monuments in the city and its environs, especially for members of their family who had died young. Such monuments also took the form of stelai, often decorated in relief.


Sanctuaries were a focus of artistic achievement at this time and served as major repositories of works of art. The two main orders of Greek architecture—the Doric order of mainland Greece and the western colonies, and the Ionic order of the Greek cities on the coast of Asia Minor and the Ionian islands—were well established by the beginning of the sixth century B.C. Temple architecture continued to be refined throughout the century by a process of vibrant experimentation, often through building projects initiated by rulers such as Peisistratos of Athens and Polykrates of Samos. These buildings were often embellished with sculptural figures of stone or terracotta (26.60.73), paintings (now mostly lost), and elaborate moldings. True narrative scenes in relief sculpture appeared in the latter part of the sixth century B.C., as artists became increasingly interested in showing figures, especially the human figure, in motion. About 566 B.C., Athens established the Panathenaic games. Statues of victorious athletes were erected as dedications in Greek sanctuaries, and trophy amphorai were decorated with the event in which the athlete had triumphed.


Creativity and innovation took many forms during the sixth century B.C. The earliest known Greek scientist, Thales of Miletos, demonstrated the cycles of nature and successfully predicted a solar eclipse and the solstices. Pythagoras of Samos, famous today for the theorem in geometry that bears his name, was an influential and forward-thinking mathematician. In Athens, the lawgiver and poet Solon instituted groundbreaking reforms and established a written code of laws. Meanwhile, potters (both native and foreign-born) mastered Corinthian techniques in Athens and by 550 B.C., Athenian—also called "Attic" for the region around Athens—black-figure pottery dominated the export market throughout the Mediterranean region. Athenian vases of the second half of the sixth century B.C. provide a wealth of iconography illuminating numerous aspects of Greek culture, including funerary rites, daily life, symposia, athletics, warfare, religion, and mythology. Among the great painters of Attic black-figure vases, Sophilos, Kleitias, Nearchos, Lydos, Exekias, and the Amasis Painter experimented with a variety of techniques to overcome the limitations of black-figure painting with its emphasis on silhouette and incised detail. The consequent invention of the red-figure technique, which offered greater opportunities for drawing and eventually superseded black-figure, is conventionally dated about 530 B.C. and attributed to the workshop of the potter Andokides.



·      Department of Greek and Roman Art. "Greek Art in the Archaic Period". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2003)


Further Reading

·      Cook, R. M. Greek Painted Pottery. 3d ed. New York: Routledge, 1996.

·      Grant, Michael, and John Hazel. Who's Who in Classical Mythology. London: Dent, 1993.

·      Hornblower, Simon, and Antony Spawforth, eds. The Oxford Classical Dictionary. 3d ed., rev. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

·      Langdon, Susan, ed. From Pasture to Polis: Art in the Age of Homer. Exhibition catalogue. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1993.

·      Lawrence, A. W. Greek Architecture. 4th ed., rev. by R. A. Tomlinson. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983.

·      The World of Athens: An Introduction to Classical Athenian Culture: Background Book. Joint Association of Classical Teachers' Greek Course. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

·      Padgett, J. Michael, ed. The Centaur's Smile: The Human Animal in Early Greek Art. Exhibition catalogue. Princeton: Princeton University Art Museum, 2003.

·      Pomeroy, Sarah B., et al. Ancient Greece: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.




8a  Greek Legend Authenticity --

How many Greek legends were really true?
By Armand d'Angour University of Oxford

BBC News – Business    22 July 2014 Last updated at 19:00 ET

The culture and legends of ancient Greece have a remarkably long legacy in the modern language of education, politics, philosophy, art and science. Classical references from thousands of years ago continue to appear. But what was the origin of some of these ideas?


1. Was there ever really a Trojan Horse?

The story of the Trojan Horse is first mentioned in Homer's Odyssey, an epic song committed to writing around 750BC, describing the aftermath of a war at Troy that purportedly took place around 500 years earlier.


After besieging Troy (modern-day Hisarlik in Turkey) for 10 years without success, the Greek army encamped outside the city walls made as if to sail home, leaving behind them a giant wooden horse as an offering to the goddess Athena.


The Trojans triumphantly dragged the horse within Troy, and when night fell the Greek warriors concealed inside it climbed out and destroyed the city. Archaeological evidence shows that Troy was indeed burned down; but the wooden horse is an imaginative fable, perhaps inspired by the way ancient siege-engines were clothed with damp horse-hides to stop them being set alight by fire-arrows.


2. Homer is one of the great poets of ancient Greek legends. Did he actually exist?

Not only is the Trojan Horse a colourful fiction, the existence of Homer himself has sometimes been doubted. It's generally supposed that the great epics which go under Homer's name, the Iliad and Odyssey, were composed orally, without the aid of writing, some time in the 8th Century BC, the fruit of a tradition of oral minstrelsy stretching back for centuries.


While the ancients had no doubt that Homer was a real bard who composed the monumental epics, nothing certain is known about him. All we do know is that, even if the poems were composed without writing and orally transmitted, at some stage they were written down in Greek, because that is how they have survived.


3. Was there an individual inventor of the alphabet?

The date attributed to the writing down of the Homeric epics is connected to the earliest evidence for the existence of Greek script in the 8th Century BC.


The Greeks knew that their alphabet (later borrowed by the Romans to become the western alphabet) was adapted from that of the Phoenicians, a near-eastern nation whose letter-sequence began "aleph bet".



The fact that the adaptation was uniform throughout Greece has suggested that there was a single adapter rather than many. Greek tradition named the adapter Palamedes, which may just mean "clever man of old". Palamedes was also said to have invented counting, currency, and board games.


The Greek letter-shapes came to differ visually from their Phoenician progenitors - with the current geometrical letter-shapes credited to the 6th Century mathematician Pythagoras.


4. Did Pythagoras invent Pythagoras' theorem? Or did he copy his homework from someone else?

It is doubtful whether Pythagoras (c. 570-495BC) was really a mathematician as we understand the word. Schoolchildren still learn his so-called theorem about the square on the hypotenuse (a2+b2 =c2). But the Babylonians knew this equation centuries earlier, and there is no evidence that Pythagoras either discovered or proved it.


In fact, although genuine mathematical investigations were undertaken by later Pythagoreans, the evidence suggests that Pythagoras was a mystic who believed that numbers underlie everything. He worked out, for instance, that perfect musical intervals could be expressed by simple ratios.


5. What made the Greeks begin using money? Was it trade or their "psyche"?

It may seem obvious to us that commercial imperatives would have driven the invention of money. But human beings conducted trade for millennia without coinage, and it's not certain that the first monetised economy in the world arose in ancient Greece simply in order to facilitate such transactions.


The classicist Richard Seaford has argued that the invention of money emerged from deep in the Greek psyche. It is tied to notions of reciprocal exchange and obligation which pervaded their societies; it reflects philosophical distinctions between face-value and intrinsic value; and it is a political instrument, since the state is required to act as guarantor of monetary value.


Financial instruments and institutions - coinage, mints, contracts, banking, credit and debt - were being developed in many Greek cities by the 5th Century BC, with Athens at the forefront. But one ancient state held the notion of money in deep suspicion and resisted its introduction: Sparta.


6. How spartan were the Spartans?

The legendary Spartan lawgiver Lycurgus decreed that the Spartans should use only iron as currency, making it so cumbersome that even a small amount would have to be carried by a yoke of oxen.


This story may be part of the idealisation of the ancient Spartans as a warrior society dedicated to military pre-eminence. While classical Sparta did not mint its own coins, it used foreign silver, and some Spartan leaders were notoriously prone to bribery.



However, laws may have been passed to prevent Spartans importing luxuries that might threaten to undermine their hardiness. When the Athenian playboy general Alcibiades defected to Sparta during its war with Athens in the late 5th Century, he adopted their meagre diet, tough training routines, coarse clothing, and Laconic expressions.


But eventually his passion for all things Spartan extended to the king's wife Timaea, who became pregnant. Alcibiades returned to Athens, whence he had fled eight years earlier to avoid charges of shocking sacrilege, one of which was that he had subjected Athens' holy Mysteries to mockery.


7. What were the secrets of the Greek Mystery Cults?

If I told you, I'd have to kill you. The secrets were fiercely guarded, and severe penalties were prescribed for anyone who divulged them or who, like Alcibiades, were thought to have profaned them. Initiates were required to undergo initiation rites which may have included transvestism and centred on secret objects (perhaps phalluses) and passwords being revealed.


The aim was to give devotees a glimpse of the "other side", so that they could return to their lives blessed in the knowledge that when their turn came to die they could ensure the survival of their soul in the Underworld.


Excavations have uncovered tombs containing passwords and instructions written on thin gold sheets as an aide-memoire for deceased devotees. The principal Greek Mystery Cults were those of Demeter, goddess of agriculture, and of Dionysus (also known as Bacchus), god of wine, ecstasy - and of theatre.


8. Who first made a drama out of a crisis? How did theatres begin?

In 5th Century Athens, theatre was closely connected to the cult of Dionysus, in whose theatre on the southern slopes of the Acropolis tragedies and comedies were staged at an annual festival.


But the origin of theatre is a much-debated issue. One tradition tells of the actor Thespis (hence "thespian") standing on a cart and playing a dramatic role for the first time around 532BC; another claims that drama began with ritual choruses and gradually introduced actors' parts.


Aristotle (384-322BC) supposed that the choruses of tragedy were originally ritual songs (dithyrambs) sung and danced in Dionysus' honour, while comedy emerged out of ribald performances involving model phalluses.


As a god associated with shifting roles and appearances, Dionysus seems an apt choice of god to give rise to drama. But from the earliest extant tragedy, Aeschylus' Persians of 472BC, few surviving tragedies have anything to do with Dionysus.


Comic drama was largely devoted to making fun of contemporary figures - including in several plays (most famously in Aristophanes' Clouds) the philosopher Socrates.



9. What made Socrates think about becoming a philosopher?

Socrates (469-399BC) may have had his head in the clouds, and was portrayed in Aristophanes' comedy as entertaining ideas ranging from the scientifically absurd ("How do you measure a flea's jump?") to the socially subversive ("I can teach anyone to win any argument, even if they're in the wrong").


This picture is at odds with the main sources of biographical data on Socrates, the writings of his pupils Plato and Xenophon. Both the latter treat him with great respect as a moral questioner and guide, but they say almost nothing of Socrates' earlier activities.


In fact our first description of Socrates, dating to his thirties, show him as a man of action. He served in a military campaign in northern Greece in 432BC, and during a brutal battle he saved the life of his beloved young friend Alcibiades. Subsequently he never left Athens, and spent his time trying to get his fellow Athenians to examine their own lives and thoughts.

We might speculate that Socrates had toyed with science and politics in his youth, until a life-and-death experience in battle turned him to devoting the remainder of his life to the search for wisdom and truth.


As he wrote nothing himself, our strongest image of Socrates as a philosopher comes from the dialogues of his devoted pupil Plato, whose own pupil Aristotle was tutor of Alexander, prince of Macedon.


10. Was Alexander the Great really that great?

Alexander (356-323BC) was to become one the greatest soldier-generals the world had ever seen.


According to ancient sources, however, he was physically unprepossessing. Short and stocky, he was a hard drinker with a ruddy complexion, a rasping voice, and an impulsive temper which on one occasion led him to kill his companion Cleitus in a violent rage.


As his years progressed he became paranoid and megalomaniacal. However, in 10 short years from the age of 20 he forged a vast empire stretching from Egypt to India. Never defeated in battle, he made use of innovative siege engines every bit as as effective as the fabled Trojan Horse, and founded 20 cities that bore his name, including Alexandria in Egypt.

His military success was little short of miraculous, and in the eyes of an ancient world

devoted to warfare and conquest it was only right to accord him the title of "Great".


Dr Armand D'Angour is associate professor of classics at the University of Oxford



8b  Cleobis and Biton

From Herodotus, with an English translation by A. D. Godley. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1920. and   where you also can find the rest of Herodotus’ Histories


The myth of Cleobis and Biton is told in Herodotus, 1.31. The two sons pulled their priestess mother by cart in place of oxen. They travelled from Argos to the Argive Heraion, some 45 stadia.

At their arrival they collapse, and their mother prays to Hera that they may die in their sleep - the easiest death for mortals. Herodotus tells this story as part of Solon’s answer to Croesus’ questioning as to who the happiest man is.


Herodotus Histories 1.31

When Solon had provoked him by saying that the affairs of Tellus were so fortunate, Croesus asked who he thought was next, fully expecting to win second prize. Solon answered, “Cleobis and Biton. [2] They were of Argive stock, had enough to live on, and on top of this had great bodily strength.  Both had won prizes in the athletic contests, and this story is told about them: there was a festival of Hera in Argos, and their mother absolutely had to be conveyed to the temple by a team of oxen.  But their oxen had not come back from the fields in time, so the youths took the yoke upon their own shoulders under constraint of time.  They drew the wagon, with their mother riding atop it, traveling five miles until they arrived at the temple.  [3] When they had done this and had been seen by the entire gathering, their lives came to an excellent end, and in their case the god made clear that for human beings it is a better thing to die than to live.  The Argive men stood around the youths and congratulated them on their strength; the Argive women congratulated their mother for having borne such children.  [4] She was overjoyed at the feat and at the praise, so she stood before the image and prayed that the goddess might grant the best thing for man to her children Cleobis and Biton, who had given great honor to the goddess.  [5] After this prayer they sacrificed and feasted. The youths then lay down in the temple and went to sleep and never rose again; death held them there.  The Argives made and dedicated at Delphi statues of them as being the best of men.”




9  The Formation of the Polis

Updated on November 25, 2009


Transformation from Prestate to State

In my previous hub Oikos and Basileus, we encountered the small communities of early Greece, which from a sociological perspective are categorized as "prestate" societies. The term "prestate" is used for political units that do not have enforceable state authority and that rely on traditions rather than formally enacted laws as principles of community life. We saw that the basileus, as a man of influence, did not dominate decision-making and dispute resolution by top-down decrees, but rather lead through consensus building. Early Greek communities did not act without the assent of its citzens.


In this hub, we will discuss the development of these early Greek communities from prestate to states, or "poleis" to use the ancient Greek term (polis sg., poleis pl.). We will also see how the self-made basilees (pl. of basileus) of the earlier periods evolved into a hereditary aristocracy.


The period between 725 B.C. and 675 B.C. saw a rapid transformation from "basileutic prestates" into the aristocratic poleis. Evidence of this transformation is derived from archaeologists who document both a rapid rise in the general population and a rapid increase in wealth among the elites. Archaeologists interpret these two trends as evidence of a shift in the social and political configuration of ancient Greek society--specifically, a transition from prestate to state with increased social stratification and political/institutional formality.


A. Population Increase

Between 780 and 720 B.C., archaeologists estimate that the population of Greece increased by 300% to 600%. Evidence includes the number and size of settlements, increased burials, new well-digging, internal colonization and emigration abroad to Sicily, Italy and to regions around the Black Sea. In 800 B.C., land was plentiful in mainland Greece and social status was fluid as the land was still being settled. As land become increasingly scarce, greater disparities in wealth began to arise within the poleis, since ultimately the ownership of land was the source of most wealth in antiquity.


The scarcity of land also caused poleis to compete for interjacent land with border wars becoming more frequent. As conflicting claims for land were resolved, the borders of each polis became more defined. The informal military hierarchy of earlier periods was transformed into more organized hoplite militias with a more unified command. The rise of increasingly formal political and military structures were key elements in the transformation from prestate to state--both in terms of the creation of institutions with official authority and the development of a patriotic consciousness.


In addition to external competition for increasingly scarce land, internal competition arose among the citizens of individual poleis as well. Citizens begin to colonize and claim less desirable land around the polis. Agriculture become more labor intensive as populations found themselves increasingly investing their energy in developing irrigation and cultivating the slopes of hills and mountains for orchard crops such as olives and grapes. As the demand for agricultural output increased, the need for plowing and manure also increased, thereby making agriculture even more labor intensive. At this point, slave labor become increasingly prevalent to satisfy the ever increasing demands for labor. Unlike modern society, unemployment was rarely an issue in antiquity; rather manpower shortages were a perennial problem where many of the labor saving devices we take for granted today were unknown.


One of the distinguishing characteristics of the ancient Greek population as compared to their neighbors in the Near East (Anatolia, Persia, Egypt) is that they were "citizens" of their local community rather than subjects of some distant and perhaps foreign monarch. Citizens of the Greek polis had three defining characteristic: landownership, militia participation and religious participation. Foreigners ("xenoi") and slaves ("douloi") were excluded from citizenship; and therefore were not permitted to own land or participate in the civic and religious activities of polis.


B. Elite Wealth

The second body of evidence that indicates a transformation from prestate to state pertains to elite wealth. "Wealth" in ancient Greek society should not be equated with a post-industrial conceptualizations of wealth (i.e. capital or other income producing assets). Wealth in ancient Greek society signifies the possession of scarce personal property (gold, silver, horses, objects of art) which was used primarily as a display of social status.


Increasingly, wealth and social worth came to be inherited by limited segments of the population. Because the elites likely had more labor (slaves) at their disposal, it meant they had enough of an agricultural surplus to exchange for metalware and display goods. The elite became increasingly conscious of itself as "superior" calling itself "aristoi" (the best) whence we derive our word aristocracy. This class ideology was played-out with flaunting displays of wealth including extravagant weddings, funerals and festivals. Another sign of social consciousness is endogamy, or the exclusive intermarrying among members of the aristocracy.


Increasingly, we find textual evidence from this period of class ideology and consciousness where personal excellence and social worth are described as being biological or inherited from divine ancestry. In addition, we find a conflation of social and moral worth where the lowly are now spoken of as "poneroi" ("wicked, despicable") and "kakoi" ("bad, mean"); the elite are "kaloskagathos ("the virtuous and good"). This is a stark contrast to the later Christian equation of virtue with humility and poverty. Famous aristocratic clans included inter alia: the Bakchiadai of Corinth, the Aiakiadai of Aigina, the Basilidai of Ephesus, the Neleidai of Miletos, the Medontidai of Athens.

10  The Late Archaic City-State
From -- Perseus Digital Library
Thomas R. Martin, An Overview of Classical Greek History from Mycenae to Alexander

Although the Greek city-states differed among themselves in size and natural resources, over the course of the Archaic age they came to share certain fundamental political institutions and social traditions: citizenship, slavery, the legal disadvantages and political exclusion of women, and the continuing influence of aristocrats in society and politics. During this time, however, different city-states developed these shared characteristics in strikingly different ways. Monarchy had died out in Greece with the end of Mycenaean civilization, except for the dual kingship that existed in Sparta as part of its complex oligarchic system rather than as a monarchy in the ordinary sense. In Sparta and some other Greek city-states, only a rather restricted number of men exercised meaningful political power (thus creating a political system called an oligarchy, meaning “rule by the few.”) Other city-states experienced periods of domination by the kind of sole ruler who seized power in unconstitutional fashion and whom the Greeks called a tyrant. Tyranny, passed down from father to son, existed at various times across the breadth of the Greek world from city-states on the island of Sicily in the west to Samos off the coast of Ionia in the east. Still other city-states created early forms of democracy (“rule by the people”) by giving all male citizens the power to participate in governing. Assemblies of men with some influence on the king had existed in certain early states in the ancient Near East, but Greek democracy broke new ground with the amount of political power that it invested in its male citizen body. The Athenians established Greece's most renowned democracy, in which the individual freedom of citizens flourished to a degree unprecedented in the ancient world. By examining these different paths of political and social development, we can grasp the great challenge faced by the Greeks as they struggled to construct a new way of life during the Archaic Age. In the course of this struggle, they also began to formulate new ways of understanding the physical world, their relations to it, and their relationships with each other.

The Power of Sparta
The Spartans made oligarchy the political base for a society devoted to military readiness, and the resulting Spartan way of life1 became famous for its discipline, which showed most prominently in the Spartan infantry, the most powerful military force in Greece during the Archaic Age. Sparta's easily defended location2—nestled on a narrow north-south plain between rugged mountain ranges in the southeastern Peloponnese, in a region called Laconia (hence the designation of Spartans as Laconians)—gave it a secure base for developing its might. Sparta had access to the sea through a harbor3 situated some twenty-five miles south of its urban center, but this harbor opened onto a dangerous stretch of the Mediterranean whipped by treacherous currents and winds. As a consequence, enemies could not threaten the Spartans by sea, but their relative isolation from the sea also kept the Spartans from becoming adept sailors. Their interests and their strength4 lay on the land.

The Early History of Sparta
The Greeks believed the ancestors of the Spartans were Dorians5 who had invaded the Peloponnese from central Greece and defeated the original inhabitants of Laconia around 950 B.C., but no archaeological evidence supports the notion that a “Dorian invasion” actually took place. From wherever the original Spartans came, they conquered the inhabitants of Laconia and settled in at least four small villages, two of which apparently dominated the others. These early settlements later cooperated to form the core of what would in the Archaic Age6 become the polis of the Spartans. The Greeks gave the name “synoecism”7 (“union of households”) to this process of political unification, in which most people continued to live in their original villages even after one village began to serve as the center of the new city-state. One apparent result of the compromises required to forge Spartan unity was that the Spartans retained not one but two hereditary military leaders of high prestige, whom they called kings. These kings8, perhaps originally the leaders of the two dominant villages, served as the religious heads of Sparta and commanders of its army. The kings did not enjoy unfettered power to make decisions or set policy, however, because they operated not as pure monarchs but as leaders of the oligarchic institutions that governed the Spartan city-state. Rivalry between the two royal families periodically led to fierce disputes, and the initial custom of having two supreme military commanders also paralyzed the Spartan army when the kings disagreed on strategy in the middle of a military campaign. The Spartans therefore eventually decided that the army on campaign would be commanded by only one king at a time.

Spartan Oligarchy
The “few” (oligoi ) who made policy in the oligarchy ruling Sparta were a group of twenty-eight men over sixty years old, joined by the two kings. This group of thirty, called the “council of elders” ( gerousia 9), formulated proposals that were submitted to an assembly of all free adult males. This assembly had only limited power to amend the proposals put before it; mostly it was expected to approve the council's plans. Rejections were rare because the council retained the right to withdraw a proposal when the reaction to it by the crowd in the assembly presaged a negative vote. “If the people speak crookedly,” according to Spartan tradition, “the elders and the leaders of the people shall be withdrawers [of the proposal].” The council could then bring the proposal back on another occasion after there had been time to marshal support for its passage.

A board of five annually elected “overseers” ( ephors 10) counterbalanced the influence of the kings and the gerousia. Chosen from the adult male citizens at large, the ephors convened the gerousia and the assembly, and they exercised considerable judicial powers of judgment and punishment. They could even bring charges against a king and imprison him until his trial. The creation of the board of ephors diluted the political power of the oligarchic gerousia and the kings because the job of the ephors was to ensure the supremacy of law. The Athenian Xenophon later reported11: “All men rise from their seats in the presence of the king, except for the ephors. The ephors on behalf of the polis and the king on his own behalf swear an oath to each other every month: the king swears that he will exercise his office according to the established laws of the polis , and the polis swears that it will preserve his kingship undisturbed if he abides by his oath.”

The Laws of Sparta
The Spartans were sticklers for obedience to the law (nomos ) as the guide to proper behavior on matters large and small. When the ephors entered office, for example, they issued an official proclamation to the men of Sparta: “Shave your moustache and obey the laws.” The depth of Spartan respect for their system of government under law was symbolized by their tradition that Apollo of Delphi had sanctioned it with an oracle called the Rhetra12. A Spartan leader named Lycurgus, they said, had instituted the reforms that the Rhetra institutionalized. Even in antiquity historians had no firm information about the dates of Lycurgus's leadership or precisely how he changed Spartan laws. All we can say today is that the Spartans evolved their law-based political system during the period from about 800 to 600 B.C. Unlike other Greeks, the Spartans never had their laws written down. Instead, they preserved their system from generation to generation with a distinctive, highly structured way of life based on a special economic foundation.

The Dangerous Situation of Sparta
The distinctiveness of the Spartan way of life13 was fundamentally a reaction to their living in the midst of people whom they had conquered in war and enslaved to exploit economically but who outnumbered them greatly. To maintain their position of superiority over their conquered neighbors, from whom they derived their subsistence, Spartan men had to turn themselves into a society of soldiers constantly on guard. They accomplished this transformation by a radical restructuring of traditional family life enforced by strict adherence to the laws and customs governing practically all aspects of behavior. Through constant, daily reinforcement of their strict code of values, the Spartans ensured their survival against the enemies they had created by subjugating their neighbors. The seventh-century poet Tyrtaeus, whose verses exemplify the high quality of the poetry produced in early Sparta before its military culture began to exclude such accomplishments, expressed that code in his ranking of martial courage as the supreme male value: “I would never remember or mention in my work any man for his speed afoot or wrestling skill, not if he was as huge and strong as a Cyclops or could run faster than the North Wind, nor more handsome than Tithonus or richer than Midas or Cinyras, nor more kingly than Pelops, or had speech more honeyed than Adrastus, not even if he possessed every glory—not unless he had the strength of a warrior in full rush.”

Spartan Neighbors and Slaves
Some of the conquered inhabitants of Laconia, the territory of Sparta, continued to live in self-governing communities. Called “those who live round about” (perioikoi ), these neighbors were required to serve in the Spartan army and pay taxes but lacked citizen rights. Perhaps because they retained their personal freedom and property, however, the perioikoi 14 never rebelled against Spartan control. Far different was the fate of the conquered people who ended up as helots 15, a word derived from the Greek term for “capture.” Later ancient commentators described the helots as “between slave and free” because they were not the personal property of individual Spartans but rather slaves belonging to the whole community, which alone could free them. Helots had a semblance of family life because they were expected to produce children to maintain their population, which was compelled to labor as farmers and household slaves as a way of freeing Spartan citizens from any need to do such work. Spartan men in fact wore their hair very long to show they were “gentlemen” rather than laborers, for whom long hair was an inconvenience.

In their private lives, helots could keep some personal possessions and practice their religion, as could slaves generally in Greece. Publicly, however, helots lived under the threat of officially sanctioned violence.16lived under the threat of officially sanctioned violence. Every year the ephors formally declared a state of war to exist between Sparta and the helots, thereby allowing any Spartan to kill a helot without any civil penalty or fear of offending the gods by unsanctioned murder. By beating the helots frequently, forcing them to get drunk in public as an object lesson to young Spartans, marking them out by having them wear dogskin caps, and generally treating them with scorn, the Spartans consistently emphasized the otherness of the helots compared to themselves. In this way, the Spartans erected a moral barrier between themselves and the helots to justify their harsh treatment of fellow Greeks.

The Helots of Messenia
When the arable land of Laconia, which was predominately held by aristocrats, proved too small to support the full citizen population of Sparta, the Spartans attacked their Greek neighbors to the west in the Peloponnese, the Messenians17. In the First Messenian War18 (c. 730-710 B.C.) and then in the Second (c. 640-630 B.C.), the Spartan army captured the territory of Messenia, which amounted to forty percent of the Peloponnese, and reduced the Messenians to the status of helots. With the addition of the tens of thousands of people in Messenia, the total helot population now more than outnumbered that of Sparta, whose male citizens at this time amounted to perhaps between 8,000 and 10,000. The terrible loss felt by the Messenians at their fate is well portrayed by their legend of King Aristodemus19, whom the Messenians remembered as having sacrificed his beloved daughter to the gods of the underworld in an attempt to enlist their aid against the invading Spartans. When his campaign of guerrilla warfare at last failed, Aristodemus is said to have slain himself in despair on her grave. Deprived of their freedom and their polis , the Messenian helots were ever after on the lookout for a chance to revolt against their Spartan overlords.

The Contribution of Helots
Their labor made helots valuable to the Spartans. Laconian and Messenian helots alike primarily farmed plots of land that the state had originally allotted to individual Spartan households for their sustenance. Some helots also worked as household servants. By the fifth century, helots would also accompany Spartan hoplite warriors on the march to carry their heavy gear and armor. In the words of the seventh-century B.C. poet Tyrtaeus, helots worked “like donkeys exhausted under heavy loads; they lived under the painful necessity of having to give their masters half the food their ploughed land bore.”20 This compulsory rent of fifty percent of everything produced by the helots working on each free family's assigned plot was supposed to amount to seventy measures of barley each year to the male master of the household and twelve to his wife, along with an equivalent amount of fruit and other produce. In all, this food was enough to support six or seven people. The labor of the helots allowed Spartan men to devote themselves to full-time training for hoplite warfare in order to protect themselves from external enemies and to suppress helot rebellions, especially in Messenia. Contrasting the freedom of Spartan citizens from ordinary work with the lot of the helots , the later Athenian Critias commented “Laconia is the home of the freest of the Greeks, and of the most enslaved.”

The Existence of Spartan Boys
The entire Spartan way of life was directed toward keeping the Spartan army at tip-top strength. Boys lived at home only until their seventh year, when they were taken away to live in communal barracks with other males until they were thirty. They spent most of their time exercising, hunting, training with weapons, and being acculturated to Spartan values by listening to tales of bravery and heroism at the common meals presided over by older men21. The standard of discipline was strict, to prepare young males for the hard life of a soldier on campaign. For example, they were not allowed to speak at will. (Our word “laconic” meaning “of few words” comes from the Greek word “Laconian,” one of the terms for a Spartan; another is Lacedaimonian, from the name Lacedaimon applied to Sparta). Boys were also purposely underfed so that they would have to develop the skills of stealth by stealing food. Yet if they were caught, punishment and disgrace followed immediately. One famous Spartan tale taught how seriously boys were supposed to fear such failure: having successfully stolen a fox, which he was hiding under his clothing, a Spartan youth died because he let the panicked animal rip out his insides rather than be detected in the theft. By the Classical period, older boys would be dispatched to live in the wilds for a period as members of the “secret band”22 whose job it was to murder any helots who seemed likely to foment rebellion.

The Equals
Spartan boys who could not survive the tough conditions of their childhood training fell into social disgrace and were not certified as Equals23 (homoioi), the official name for adult males entitled to full citizen rights of participation in politics and the respect of the community. Only the sons of the royal family were exempted from this training, perhaps to avoid a potential social crisis if a king's son failed to stay the course.

The Spartan Common Messes
Each Spartan Equal had to gain entry to a group that dined together at common meals, in a “common mess”24 (sussition), each of which had about fifteen members. If not blackballed when he applied, the new member was admitted on the condition that he contribute a regular amount of barley, cheese, figs, condiments, and wine to the mess from the produce provided by the helots working on his family plot. Some meat was apparently contributed, too, because Spartan cuisine was infamous for a black, bloody broth of pork condemned as practically inedible by other Greeks. Perhaps it was made from the wild boars Spartan men loved to hunt, an activity for which messmates were formally excused from the compulsory communal meals. If any member failed to keep up his contributions, he was expelled from the mess and lost his full citizen rights. The experience of spending so much time in these common messes schooled Sparta's young men in the values of their society. There they learned to call all older men “father”25 to emphasize that their primary loyalty was to the group and not to their genetic families. There they were chosen to be the special favorites of males older than themselves to build bonds of affection, including physical love, for others at whose side they would have to march into deadly battle. There they learned to take the rough joking of army life for which Sparta was well known. In short, the common mess took the place of a boy's family and school when he was growing up and remained his main social environment once he had reached adulthood. Its function was to mold and maintain his values consistent with the demands of the one honorable occupation for Spartan men: a soldier obedient to orders. Tyrtaeus enshrined the Spartan male ideal in his poetry: “Know that it is good for the polis and the whole people when a man takes his place in the front row of warriors and stands his ground without flinching.”

Women at Sparta
Spartan women26 were renowned throughout the Greek world for their relative freedom. Other Greeks regarded it as scandalous that Spartan girls exercised with boys and did so wearing minimal clothing. Women at Sparta were supposed to use the freedom from labor provided by the helot system to keep themselves physically fit to bear healthy children and raise them to be strict upholders of Spartan values. A metaphorical formulation of the male ideal for Spartan women appears, for example, in the poetry of Alcman in the late seventh century, who wrote songs for the performances of female and male choruses that were common on Spartan civic and religious occasions. The dazzling leader of a women's chorus, he writes, “stands out as if among a herd of cows someone placed a firmly-built horse with ringing hooves, a prize winner from winged dreams.”

Land Ownership at Sparta
Spartan women, like men, could own land27 privately. Ordinary coined money28 was deliberately banned to try to discourage the accumulation of material goods, but the ownership of land remained extremely important in Spartan society. More and more land came into the hands of women in later Spartan history because the male population declined29 through losses in war, especially during the Classical Age. Moreover, Spartan women with property enjoyed special status as a result of the Spartan law forbidding the division of the portion of land originally allotted to a family. This law meant that, in a family with more than one son, all the land went to the eldest son. Fathers with multiple sons therefore needed to seek out brides for their younger sons who had inherited land and property from their fathers because they had no brother surviving. Otherwise, younger sons, inheriting no land from their own family, might fall into dire poverty.

Reproduction at Sparta
The freedom of Spartan women from some of the restrictions imposed on them in other Greek city-states had the same purpose as the men's common messes30: the production of manpower for the Spartan army. By the Classical Age, the ongoing problem of producing enough children to keep the Spartan citizen population from shrinking had grown acute.31 Men were legally required to get married32, with bachelors subjected to fines and public ridicule. Women who died in childbirth were apparently the only Spartans allowed to have their names placed on their tombstones, a mark of honor for their sacrifice to the state.
With their husbands so rarely at home, women directed the households, which included servants, daughters, and sons until they left for their communal training. As a result, Spartan women exercised more power in the household than did women elsewhere in Greece. Until he was thirty, a Spartan husband was not allowed to live with his family, and even newly-wed men were expected to pay only short visits to their brides by sneaking into their own houses at night. This tradition was only one of the Spartan customs of heterosexual behavior that other Greeks found bizarre. If all parties agreed, a woman could have children by a man other than her husband, so pressing was the need to reproduce in this strictly ordered society.

The Obligations of Spartans
All Spartan citizens were expected to put service to their city-state before personal concerns because Sparta's survival was continually threatened by its own economic foundation, the great mass of helots33. Since Sparta's well-being depended on the systematic exploitation of these enslaved Greeks, its entire political and social system by necessity had as its aim a staunch militarism and a conservatism in values. Change meant danger at Sparta. As part of its population policy, however, Spartan conservatism encompassed sexual behavior34 seen as overly permissive by other Greeks. The Spartans simultaneously institutionalized a form of equality as the basis for their male social unit, the common mess35, while denying true social and political equality to ordinary male citizens by making their government an oligarchy. Whatever other Greeks may have thought of the particulars of the Spartan system, they admired the Spartans' unswerving respect for their laws 36 as a guide to life in hostile surroundings, albeit of their own making.

Tyranny in the City-States
Opposition to oligarchic domination brought the first Greek tyrants37 to power in numerous city-states, although Sparta never experienced a tyranny. Greek tyranny represented a distinctive type of rule for several reasons. For one, although tyrants were by definition rulers who usurped power by force rather than inheriting it like legitimate kings, they then established family dynasties to maintain their tyranny, with sons inheriting their fathers' position as the head of state. Also, the men who became tyrants were usually aristocrats, or at least near-aristocrats, who nevertheless rallied support from non-aristocrats for their coups. In places where propertyless men may have lacked citizenship or at least felt substantially disenfranchised in the political life of the city-state, tyrants perhaps won adherents by extending citizenship and other privileges to these groups. Tyrants moreover sometimespreserved the existing laws and political institutions38 of their city-states as part of their rule, thus promoting social stability.

Tyranny at Corinth
The most famous early tyranny arose at Corinth39, a large city-state in the northeastern Peloponnese, around 657 B.C. in opposition to the rule of the aristocratic family called the Bacchiads. Under Bacchiad rule in the eighth and early seventh centuries B.C., Corinth had blossomed into the most economically advanced city40 in Archaic Greece. The Corinthians had forged so far ahead in naval engineering41, for instance, that other Greeks contracted with them to have ships built. Corinth's strong fleet helped the Bacchiads42 in founding overseas colonies at Corcyra43 in northwest Greece and Syracuse44 on Sicily, city-states which would themselves become major naval powers.

The Bacchiads became unpopular despite the city's prosperity because they ruled violently. Cypselus45, himself an aristocrat whose mother was a Bacchiad, readied himself to take over by becoming popular with the masses: “he became one of the most admired of Corinth's citizens because he was courageous, prudent, and helpful to the people, unlike the oligarchs in power, who were insolent and violent,” according to a later historian. Cypselus engineered the overthrow of Bacchiad rule with popular support and a favorable oracle from Delphi. He then ruthlessly suppressed rival aristocrats, but his popularity with the people remained so high that he could govern without the protection of a bodyguard. Corinth added to its economic strength during Cypselus' rule by exporting large quantities of fine pottery, especially to markets in Italy and Sicily. Cypselus founded additional colonies along the sailing route to the western Mediterranean to promote Corinthian trade in that direction.
When Cypselus died in 625 B.C., his son Periander46 succeeded him. Periander aggressively continued Corinth's economic expansion by founding colonies on the coasts both northwest and northeast of Greek territory to increase trade with the interior regions there, which were rich in timber and precious metals. He also pursued commercial contacts with Egypt, an interest commemorated in the Egyptian name Psammetichus he gave to one of his sons. The city's prosperity encouraged flourishing development in crafts, art, and architecture. The foundations of the great stone temple to Apollo begun in this period can still be seen today. Unlike his father, however, Periander lost the support of Corinth's people by ruling harshly. He kept his power until his death in 585 B.C., but the hostile feelings that persisted against his rule led to the overthrow of his successor, Psamettichus, within a short time. The opponents of tyranny thereupon installed a government based on a board of eight magistrates and a council of eighty men.

Tyrants and Popular Support
As in the case of the Cypselid tyranny at Corinth, most tyrannies needed to cultivate support among the masses of their city-states to remain in power because their armies were composed primarily of non-aristocrats. The dynasty of tyrants47 on the island of Samos48 in the eastern Aegean Sea, for example, who came to power about 540 B.C., built enormous public works to benefit their city-state and provide employment. They began construction of a temple to Hera49 meant to be the largest in the Greek world, and they dramatically improved the water supply of their urban center by excavating a great tunnel connected to a distant spring. This marvel of engineering with a channel eight feet high ran for nearly a mile through a 900-foot high mountain. The later tyrannies that emerged in city-states on Sicily50 similarly graced their cities with beautiful temples and public buildings.
By working in the interests of their peoples, some tyrannies, like that founded by Cypselus at Corinth, maintained their popularity for decades. Other tyrants experienced bitter opposition from aristocrats jealous of the tyrant's power or provoked civil war by ruling brutally and inequitably. The poet Alcaeus of the city-state of Mytilene on the island of Lesbos in the northeastern Aegean, himself a rebellious aristocrat, described such strife around 600 B.C.: “Let's forget our anger; let's quit our heart-devouring strife and civil war, which some god has stirred up among us, ruining the people but bestowing the glory on our tyrant for which he prays.” In short, the title tyrant in Archaic Greece did not automatically label a ruler as brutal or unwelcome, as the use of the same word in English implies. Greeks evaluated tyrants as good or bad depending on their behavior as rulers.

Theseus and Democracy at Athens
It was a traditional Greek practice to explain significant historical changes such as the founding of communities or the codification of law as the work of an individual “inventor” from the distant past. Just like the Spartans, for whom the legendary Lycurgus51 was remembered as the founder of their city-state, the Athenians also believed their polis owed its start to a single man in the distant past. Athenian legends made Theseus52 responsible for founding the polis of Athens at a remote date by the synoecism of villages in Attica, the name given to the peninsula at the southeastern corner of the mainland of Greece that formed the territory of the Athenian polis. Since Attica had several fine ports along its coast, the Athenians were much more oriented to seafaring and communication with other peoples than were the almost-landlocked Spartans. Theseus made an appropriate mythical founder because he was described as a traveling adventurer, sailing, for example, to the island of Crete to defeat the Minotaur53, a cannibalistic monster, half-human and half-bull. This exploit, like his other legendary adventures, or “labors” as they are called in imitation of those of Heracles, became favorite subject matter for vase painters. There can be no historical reality to the story of Theseus as the founder of Athenian democracy, but the civilizing nature of his legendary labors—he defeated many monsters who threatened travelers and polis residents alike—made his story appropriate to the aspirations of Athenian civic life.

The Athenian Population in the Dark Age
Unlike most other important sites inhabited in the Mycenaean period, Athens had apparently not suffered any catastrophic destruction at the end of the Mycenaean period. Nevertheless, it is difficult to believe that Athens wholly escaped the troubles of this period, and its population shrank in the early Dark Age. By around 850 B.C., however, archaeological evidence such as the model granary from a woman's burial54 mentioned elsewhere in the Overview shows that the Athenian agricultural economy was reviving. When the population of Attica apparently expanded at a phenomenal rate during the century from about 800 to 700 B.C., the free peasants constituted the fastest-growing segment of the population as economic conditions improved in the early Archaic Age. These small agricultural producers apparently began to insist on having a say in making Athenian policies because they felt justice demanded at least a limited form of political equality. Some of these modest land owners became wealthy enough afford to afford hoplite55 armor, and these men probably made strong demands on the aristocrats who had previously ruled Athens as what amounted to a relatively broad oligarchy56. Rivalries among the aristocrats for status and material wealth prevented them from presenting a united front, and they had to respond to these pressures to insure the allegiance of the hoplites, on whom depended Athenian military strength.

The Beginnings of Athenian Democracy
By the late seventh century B.C., Athens' male citizens rich, middle-class, and poor had established the first beginnings of a limited form of democratic government57. Determining why they moved toward democracy instead of, for example, toward a narrow oligarchy like that of Sparta remains a difficult problem. Two factors perhaps encouraging the emergence of the Athenian polis as an incipient democracy were rapid population growth and a rough sense of egalitarianism among male citizens that survived from the frontier-like conditions of the early Dark Age, when most people had shared the same meager existence. These same factors, however, do not necessarily differentiate Athens from other city-states that did not evolve into democracies because the same conditions pertained across the Greek world in the Archaic Age. Perhaps population growth was so rapid among Athenian peasants that they had greater power than at other places to demand a share in governing. Their power and political coherence was evident, for example, in about 632 B.C. when they rallied “from the fields in a body” to foil the attempted coup of an Athenian nobleman named Cylon58. A former champion in the Olympics and married to a daughter of Theagenes, tyrant of Megara, Cylon and some of his aristocratic friends had planned to install a tyranny. Athens also had some influential aristocrats like Solon and Cleisthenes who worked to strengthen Athenian democracy for differing reasons.

The Institutions of Incipient Democracy
The scanty evidence seems to indicate that by the seventh century all free-born adult male citizens of Athens had the right to attend open meetings, in a body called the assembly59 (ekklesia ), which elected nine magistrates called archons (rulers) each year. The archons, still all aristocrats in this early period, headed the government60 and rendered verdicts in disputes and criminal accusations. As they had earlier, aristocrats at this time still dominated Athenian political life by using their influence to secure election as archons , perhaps by marshaling their traditional bands of followers as supporters and by making alliances with other aristocrats. The right of middle-class and poor men to serve as members of the assembly as yet had only limited value because little business besides the election of archons was conducted in its gatherings, which probably met rarely in this period and then only when the current archons decided the time was right.

The Laws of Draco
Aristocratic political alliances often proved temporary in Athenian politics, as elsewhere, and rivalries among aristocrats jealous of each other's status continued under early Athenian democracy. In the aftermath of Cylon's attempted tyranny, an Athenian named Draco was appointed in 621 B.C., perhaps after pressure by the hoplites, to establish a code of laws promoting stability and equity. Unfortunately, Draco's laws61 somehow further destabilized the political situation; the Athenians later remembered them as having been as harsh as the meaning of his name (drakon, “dragon, serpent”), and our word Draconian, meaning excessively severe, reflects this view. A deterioration in the well-being of Athens's free peasants, which had been slowly building for a long time, also further undermined social peace. Later Athenians did not know what had caused this economic crisis, only that it pitted the rich against the middle-class and the poor.62

Economic Crisis and Subsistence Agriculture
One cause of the economic crisis that plagued Athens in the later seventh century around the time of Draco63 may have been that the precariousness of agriculture in this period could sometimes lead to the gradual accumulation of the available farm land in the hands of fewer and fewer people. In subsistence agriculture, the level at which many Athenian farmers operated, a lean year could mean starvation. Moreover, farmers lacked any easy method to convert the surplus of a good year into imperishable capital, such as coined money, which could be then be stored up to offset bad years in the future, because coinage was not even invented until late in the seventh-century B.C.64 in Lydia in Anatolia and took a long time to become common in Greece. Failed farmers had to borrow food and seed to survive. When they could borrow no more, they had to leave their land to find a job to support their families, most likely by laboring for successful farmers. Under these conditions, farmers who became more effective than others, or simply more fortunate, could acquire the use and even the ownership of the land of failed farmers. In any case, many poor Athenians had apparently lost control of their land to wealthier proprietors by the late seventh century. The crisis became so acute that impoverished peasants were even being sold into slavery to pay off debts65. Finally, twenty-five years after Draco's legislation, conditions had become so acute that a civil war threatened to break out.

The Reforms of Solon
In desperation, the Athenians in 594 B.C. gave Solon special authority to revise their laws66 to deal with the economic crisis and its dire social consequences that had brought their society to the brink of internecine war. As he explains in his autobiographical poetry, Solon tried to steer a middle course67 between the demands of the rich to preserve their financial advantages and the call of the poor for a redistribution of land to themselves from the holdings of the large landowners. His famous “shaking off of obligations”68 somehow freed those farms whose ownership had become formally encumbered without, however, actually redistributing any land. He also forbade the selling of Athenians into slavery for debt and secured the liberation of citizens who had become slaves69 in this way, commemorating his success in the verses he wrote about his reforms: “To Athens, their home established by the gods, I brought back many who had been sold into slavery, some justly, some not ...”70
Attempting to balance political power between rich and poor, , Solon ranked male citizens into four classes according to their income71: “five-hundred-measure men” (pentakosiomedimnoi , those with an annual income equivalent to that much agricultural produce), “horsemen” (hippeis , income of three hundred measures), “yoked men” (zeugitai , two hundred measures), and “laborers” (thetes, less than two hundred measures). The higher a man's class, the higher the governmental office for which he was eligible, with the laborer class barred from all posts. Solon did reaffirm the right of this class to participate in the assembly (ekklesia ), however. Solon probably created a council (boule) of four hundred72 men to prepare an agenda for the discussions in the assembly, although some scholars place this innovation later than Solon's time. Aristocrats could not dominate the council's deliberations because its members were chosen by lot, probably only from the top three income classes. Solon may also have initiated a schedule of regular meetings for the assembly. These reforms gave added impetus to the assembly's legislative role and thus indirectly laid a foundation for the political influence that the “laborer” (thete ) class would gradually acquire over the next century and a half.

Solon and Democracy
Despite the restriction on office holding by the lowest income class, Solon's classification scheme supported further development of conditions leading to democracy because it allowed for upward social mobility: if a man managed to increase his income, he could move up the scale of eligibility for office. The absence of direct taxes on income made it easier for entrepreneurial citizens to better their lot. From Solon's reforms, Athenian male citizens gained a political and social system far more open to individual initiative and change than that of Sparta.

Equally important to restoring stability in a time of acute crisis was Solon's ruling that any male citizen could bring charges on a wide variety of offenses against wrongdoers on behalf of any victim of a crime.73 Furthermore, he provided for the right of appeal74 to the assembly by persons who believed a magistrate had rendered unjust judgments against them. With these two measures, Solon made the administration of justice the concern of ordinary citizens and not just of still predominately aristocratic magistrates. He balanced these judicial reforms favoring the people, however, by granting broader powers to the “Council which meets on the Hill of the god of war Ares,” the Areopagus (meaning “Ares' hill”). Archons became members of the Areopagus75 after their year in office. This body of ex-archons could, if the members chose, exercise great power because at this period it judged the most serious judicial cases, in particular accusations against archons themselves. Solon probably also expected the Areopagus to use its power to protect his reforms.

Opposition to Democracy
For its place and time, Athens' emerging democracy was remarkable, even at this early stage in its development, because it granted all male citizens the possibility of participating meaningfully in the making of laws and the administration of justice. But not everyone found the system admirable. A visiting foreign king is reputed to have expressed the scornful opinion that he found Athenian democracy ludicrous.76 Observing the procedure in the Athenian assembly, he expressed his amazement that leading aristocratic politicians could only recommend policy in their speeches, while the male citizens as a whole voted on what to do: “I find it astonishing,” he remarked, “that here wise men speak on public affairs, while fools decide them.” Some Athenians who agreed with the king that aristocrats were wise and the poor foolish did their best to undermine Solon's reforms77 after their creation in 594 B.C., and such oligarchic sympathizers continued to challenge Athenian democracy at intervals throughout its history.

Tyranny at Athens
Strife among aristocrats, combined with the continuing discontent of the poorest Athenians, lay behind the period of strife in the mid-sixth century following Solon's reforms that led to Athens' first tyranny. At this time an Athenian aristocrat named Pisistratus78 began a violent effort to make himself sole ruler with the help of his upper-class friends and the poor, whose interests he championed. He finally established himself securely as tyrant at Athens in 546 B.C. Pisistratus made funds available to help peasants acquire needed farm equipment and provided employment for poorer men while benefiting Athens by building roads and initiating major public works, such as a great temple to Zeus and fountains to increase the supply of drinking water. The tax that he imposed on agricultural production79, one of the rare instances of direct taxation in Athenian history, financed the loans to farmers and the building projects. He also arranged for judicial officials to go on circuits through the outlying villages of Attica to hear cases, thus saving farmers the trouble of having to leave their fields to seek justice in Athens, the urban center of the polis. Like the earlier tyrants of Corinth, he promoted the economic, cultural, and architectural development of Athens. Athenian pottery, for example, now began to crowd out Corinthian in the export trade.
Hippias80, the eldest son of Pisistratus, continued the tyranny after his father's death in 527 B.C. He governed by making certain that his relatives and friends occupied magistracies, but for a time he also allowed his aristocratic rivals to hold office, thereby defusing some of the tension created by their jealousy of his superior status. Eventually, however, the aristocratic family of the Alcmaeonids arranged to have the Spartans send an army to expel Hippias.81

The Struggle between Isagoras and Cleisthenes
In the ensuing vacuum of power at Athens after the expulsion of the tyrant Hippias, the leading member of the aristocratic Alcmaeonid family, a man named Cleisthenes, sought support among the masses by promising dramatic democratic reforms. The promise of such reforms seems to have been a response to the success of Cleisthenes' bitterest rival, Isagoras, an aristocrat from a different family, in becoming archon in 508 B.C. Cleisthenes had apparently despaired of winning political success other than by appealing to the non-aristocratic masses at Athens. When Isagoras tried to block Cleisthenes' reforms82 by calling in the Spartans again, the Athenian people united to force Isagoras and his Laconian allies out83. The ensuing conflict between Athens and Sparta ended quickly but sowed the seeds of mutual distrust between the two city-states.

The Democratic Reforms of Cleisthenes
His popular support gave Cleisthenes the authority to begin to install the democratic system for which Athens has become famous, and the importance of his reforms84 led later Athenians to think of him as a principal founder of their democracy. First, he made the pre-existing villages of the countryside and the neighborhoods of the city of Athens (both called “demes85,” demoi ) the constituent units of Athenian political organization. Organized in their demes, the male citizens participated directly in the running of their government: they kept track in deme registers of which males were citizens and therefore eligible at eighteen to attend the assembly to vote on laws and public policies. The demes in turn were grouped for other administrative functions into ten so-called tribes (phylai ), replacing an earlier division into four tribes. Cleisthenic democracy used its ten tribes for purposes such as choosing fifty representatives by lot from each tribe to serve for one year on the council (boule ) of five hundred, which replaced Solon's council of four hundred. The number of representatives from each deme was proportional to its population. Athenian men were also called up for service in the citizen militia by tribal affiliation. Most importantly, the ten men who served each year as “generals” (strategoi ), the officials with the highest civil and military authority, were elected one from each tribe. Cleisthenes' reorganization was complex, but its general aim seems to have been to undermine existing political alliances among aristocrats in the interests of greater democracy.

Persuasion and Cleisthenic Democracy
By about 500 B.C. Cleisthenes had succeeded in devising an Athenian democracy based on direct participation by as many adult male citizens as possible. That he could put such a system in place successfully in a time of turmoil and have it endure, as it did, means that he must have been building on pre-existing conditions favorable to democracy. Certainly, as an aristocrat looking for popular support, Cleisthenes had reason to invent the kind of system he thought ordinary people wanted. That he based his system on the demes, the great majority of which were country villages, suggests that some conditions favoring democracy may have stemmed from the traditions of village life. Possibly, the notion of wide-spread participation in government gained support from the custom village residents often have of dealing with each other on relatively egalitarian terms. That is, each man in a village is entitled to his say in running local affairs and must persuade, not compel, others of the wisdom of his recommendations. Since many aristocrats increasingly seem to have preferred to reside in the city, their ability to dominate discussion in the demes was reduced. In any case, the idea that persuasion86, rather than force or status, should constitute the mechanism for political decision-making in the emerging Athenian democracy fit well with the spirit of the intellectual changes which were taking place during the late Archaic Age. That is, the idea that people had to present plausible reasons for their recommendations corresponded to one of the period's new ways of thought. This development has proved one of the most influential legacies of Greek civilization.

Lyric poetry
Poetry represented the only form of Greek literature until the late Archaic Age. The earliest Greek poetry, that of Homer and Hesiod, had been confined to a single rhythm. A much greater rhythmic diversity characterized the new form of poetry, called lyric, that emerged during the Archaic Age. (These texts are not yet available to Perseus.) Lyric poems were far shorter than the narrative poetry of Homer or the didactic poetry of Hesiod, and they encompassed many forms and subjects, but they were always performed with the accompaniment of the lyre87 (a kind of harp that gives its name to the poetry). Choral poets like Alcman88 of Sparta wrote songs to be performed by groups on public occasions to honor the gods, to celebrate famous events in a city-state's history, for wedding processions, and to praise victors in athletic contests. Lyric poets writing songs for solo performance on social occasions stressed a personal level of expression on a variety of topics. Solon and Alcaeus89, for example, wrote poems focused on contemporary politics. Others self-consciously adopted a critical attitude toward traditional values such as strength in war. For instance, Sappho90, a lyric poet from Lesbos born about 630 B.C. and famous for her poems on love, wrote, “Some would say the most beautiful thing on our dark earth is an army of cavalry, others of infantry, others of ships, but I say it's whatever a person loves.” In this poem Sappho was expressing her longing for a woman she loved, who was now far away. Archilochus91 of Paros, whose lifetime probably fell in the early seventh century, became famous for his range of poems on themes as diverse as friends lost at sea, mockery of martial valor, and love gone astray. The bitter power of his poetic invective reportedly caused a father and his two daughters to commit suicide when Archilochus ridiculed them in anger after the father had put an end to Archilochus's affair with his daughter Neobule. Some modern literary critics think the poems about Neobule and her family are fictional, not autobiographical, and were meant to display Archilochus's dazzling talent for “blame poetry,” the mirror image of lyric as the poetry of praise. Mimnermus of Colophon92, another seventh century lyric poet, rhapsodized about the glory of youth and lamented its brevity, “no longer than the time the sun shines on the plain.” Lyric poetry's focus on the individual's feelings represented a new stage in Greek literary sensibilities, one that continues to inspire poets.

The Ionian Thinkers
Thinkers usually referred to today as philosophers, but who could equally well be described as theoretical scientists studying the physical world, gave impetus to new ways of thinking in the late Archaic age. These thinkers, who came from the city-states of Ionia93 along the eastern Aegean coast, were developing radically new explanations of the world of human beings and its relation to the world of the gods. In this way began the study of philosophy in Greece. Ionia's geographical location next to the non-Greek civilizations of Anatolia, which were in contact with the older civilizations of Egypt and the Near East, meant Ionian thinkers were in a position to acquire knowledge and intellectual inspiration from their neighbors94 in the eastern Mediterranean area. Since Greece in this period had no formal schools at any level, thinkers like those from Ionia had to make their ideas known by teaching pupils privately and giving public lectures. They also used writing to record their doctrines, and some of them developed prose in Greek to express their new ways of thought. Some Ionian thinkers composed poetry as well to explain their theories and gave public recitations of their works. People who studied with these thinkers or heard their presentations would then help to spread knowledge of the new ideas.

Near Eastern Influence on the Ionian Thinkers
Knowledge from the ancient Near East influenced the Ionian thinkers, just as it had influenced Greek artists of the Archaic Age. Greek vase painters and specialists in decorating metal vessels imitated Near Eastern designs depicting animals and luxuriant plants; Greek sculptors produced narrative reliefs like those of Assyria and statues with the stiff, frontal poses familiar from Egyptian precedents; Egypt also gave inspiration to Greek architects to employ stone for columns, ornamental details, and, eventually, entire buildings. In a similar process of the transfer of knowledge from east to west, information about the regular movements of the stars and planets developed by astronomers in Babylonia proved especially important in helping Ionian thinkers reach their conclusions about the nature of the physical world. The first of the Ionian theorists, Thales95 (c. 625 - 545 B.C.) from the city-state of Miletus96, was said to have predicted a solar eclipse in 585 B.C., an accomplishment implying he had been influenced by Babylonian learning. Modern astronomers doubt Thales actually could have predicted an eclipse, but the story shows how influential eastern scientific and mathematical knowledge was to the thinkers of Ionia. Working from knowledge such as the observed fact that celestial bodies moved in a regular pattern, scientific thinkers like Thales and Anaximander97 (c. 610- 540 B.C.), also from Miletus, drew the revolutionary conclusion that the physical world was regulated by a set of laws of nature rather than by the arbitrary intervention of divine beings. Pythagoras98, who emigrated from Samos to south Italy about 530 B.C., taught that the entire world was explicable through numbers. His doctrines inspired systematic study of mathematics and the numerical aspects of musical harmony.

The Cosmos and Logos
The Ionian thinkers insisted that the workings of the universe could be explained because the phenomena of nature were neither random nor arbitrary. The universe, the totality of things, they named cosmos 99 because this word meant an orderly arrangement that is beautiful (hence our word “cosmetic”). The order characteristic of the cosmos, perceived as lovely because it was ordered, encompassed not only the motions of the heavenly bodies but also everything else: the weather, the growth of plants and animals, human health and psychology, and so on. Since the universe was ordered, it was intelligible; since it was intelligible, explanations of events could be discovered by thought and research. The thinkers who conceived this view believed it necessary to give reasons for their conclusions and to persuade others by arguments based on evidence. They believed, in other words, in logic (a word derived from the Greek term logos 100 meaning, among other things, a reasoned explanation). This way of thought based on reason represented a crucial first step toward science and philosophy as these disciplines endure today. The rule-based view of the causes of events and physical phenomena developed by these thinkers contrasted sharply with the traditional mythological view of causation. Naturally, many people had difficulty accepting such a startling change in their understanding of the world, and the older tradition explaining events as the work of gods lived on alongside the new ideas.

The ideas of the Ionian thinkers probably spread slowly because no means of mass communication existed, and few men could afford to spend the time to become followers of these thinkers and then return home to explain these new ways of thought to others. Magic101 remained an important preoccupation in the lives of the majority of ordinary people, who retained their notions that gods and demons frequently and directly affected their fortunes and health as well as the events of nature. Despite their perhaps limited immediate effect on the ancient world at large, the Ionian thinkers had initiated a tremendously important development in intellectual history: the separation of scientific thinking from myth and religion. Some modern scholars call this development the birth of rationalism, but it would be unfair to label myths and religious ways of thought as irrational if that term is taken to mean “unthinking” or “silly.” Ancient people realized that their lives were constantly subject to forces beyond their control and understanding, and it was not unreasonable to attribute supernatural origins to the powers of nature or the ravages of disease. The new scientific ways of thought insisted, however, that observable evidence had to be sought and theories of explanation had to be logical. Just being old or popular no longer bestowed veracity on a story purporting to explain natural phenomena. In this way, the Ionian thinkers parted company with the traditional ways of thinking of the ancient Near East as found in its rich mythology and repeated in the myths of early Greece.

Rational Thinking
Developing the view that people must give reasons to explain what they believe to be true, rather than just make assertions that they expect others to believe without evidence, was the most important achievement of the early Ionian thinkers. Along with the invention of democracy based on citizenship, their achievement gave real distinction to the Greek Archaic Age. The insistence of the Ionian thinkers on rationality, coupled with the belief that the world could be understood as something other than the plaything of divine whim, gave human beings hope that they could improve their lives through their own efforts. As Xenophanes102 from Colophon103 (c. 580 - 480 B.C.), put it, “The gods have not revealed all things from the beginning to mortals, but, by seeking, human beings find out, in time, what is better.” Xenophanes, like other Ionian thinkers, believed in the existence of gods, but he nevertheless assigned the opportunity and the responsibility for improving human life squarely to human beings themselves. Human beings themselves were to “find what is better.”

1 Xen. Const. Lac. 1.1
2 Sparta [Site], Perseus Encyclopedia entry for Laconia, Perseus Encyclopedia entry for Spartans,
3 Paus. 3.21.6, References to Gythium
4 Thuc. 1.10.2
5 Paus. 3.2.6, TRM OV 3.2
6 Paus. 3.1.1 ff on Sparta's early history
7 Thuc. 2.15.1
8 Hdt. 6.52, Xen. Const. Lac. 13.1
9 Dem. 20.107, Aristot. Pol. 2.1270b 24
10 Xen. Const. Lac. 8.3-4
11 Xen. Const. Lac. 15.6-7
12 Hdt. 1.65.2, Xen. Const. Lac. 1.2
13 Xen. Const. Lac. 1.2
14 Hdt. 6.58.2, Strab. 8.5.4
15 References to helots
16 Thuc. 4.80.2
17 Perseus Encyclopedia entry for Messenia
18 Paus. 4.4.4, References to Messenians
19 Paus. 4.9.6, References to Aristodemus
20 Paus. 4.14.4
21 Xen. Const. Lac. 2.1
22 Plat. Laws 633b
23 Xen. Hell. 3.3.5, Xen. Const. Lac. 13.1
24 Hdt. 1.65.5, Xen. Const. Lac. 5.2
25 Xen. Const. Lac. 6.1-2
26 Xen. Const. Lac. 1.4
27 Aristot. Pol. 2.1270a
28 Xen. Const. Lac. 7.5
29 Plat. Laws 780b
30 TRM OV 6.11
31 Plat. Laws 780b, Aristot. Pol. 2.1270a
32 Xen. Const. Lac. 1.5
33 Aristot. Pol. 2.1269b 7
34 Xen. Const. Lac. 1.7
35 TRM OV 6.11
36 Hdt. 7.104.4
37 TRM OV 5.18, Hdt. 3.53.3 on Periander's dynasty, Hdt. 5.92B.1 ff on rise of Cypselus of Corinth, Thuc. 1.13 on rise of tyrannies, Thuc. 1.17 on his view of tyrants
38 Hdt. 1.59.6, Thuc. 6.54.5, Aristot. Ath. Pol. 16.2
39 Corinth [Site], Corinthian pottery, Corinthian coins, Paus. 2.2.6, Thuc. 1.13.5 on Corinth, Perseus Encyclopedia entry for Corinth, References to Corinth
40 TRM OV 5.11, Strab. 8.6.20
41 Thuc. 1.13.2
42 Hdt. 5.92
43 Corcyra [Site], Hdt. 3.49.1, References to Corcyra
44 Syracuse [Site], Syracusan coins, Paus. 5.7.2, Strab. 8.6.22, References to Syracuse
45 Perseus Encyclopedia entry for Cypselus
46 Hdt. 5.92f.1
47 Hdt. 3.39.1
48 Thuc. 1.115.2, revolt of Samos in Plut. Per. 24.1, Photos of Samos
49 Samos, Great Hera Temple [Building], Hdt. 3.60.1
50 Hdt. 7.153.1
51 Hdt. 1.65.2
52 Thuc. 2.15.2, Plut. Thes. 3.1
53 Apollod. 3.1.4, Plut. Thes. 15.2-16, References to the Minotaur, Minotaur on Vases
 RISD 25.083 [Vase], [Vase], Delphi, Athenian Treasury Metopes [Sculpture]
54 TRM OV 4.3
55 TRM OV 5.16
56 Aristot. Ath. Pol. 3, Plut. Thes. 32.1
57 Aristot. Ath. Pol. 3-4, Plut. Thes. 24.2
58 Hdt. 5.71, Thuc. 1.126.3
59 Aristoph. Ach. 19
60 Aristot. Ath. Pol. 3, Plut. Thes. 24.2
61 Aristot. Pol. 2.1274b, Aristot. Ath. Pol. 4, Plut. Sol. 17.1
62 Plut. Sol. 13.2
63 TRM OV 6.22
64 Hdt. 1.94.1
65 Aristot. Ath. Pol. 5-6, Plut. Sol. 13.2
66 Aristot. Ath. Pol. 5-12, Plut. Sol. 15-25
67 Plut. Sol. 15.1
68 Aristot. Ath. Pol. 6.1, Plut. Sol. 15.3
69 Plut. Sol. 15.5
70 Aristot. Ath. Pol. 12.4
71 Aristot. Ath. Pol. .3-4, Plut. Sol. 18.1-2
72 Aristot. Ath. Pol. 8.4, Plut. Sol. 19.1
73 Aristot. Ath. Pol. 9.1, Plut. Sol. 18.5
74 Aristot. Ath. Pol. 9.1, Plut. Sol. 18.2
75 Aristot. Ath. Pol. 3.6, Plut. Sol. 19.1
 76 Plut. Sol. 5.3
77 Aristot. Ath. Pol. 12.5-13.1, Plut. Sol. 29.1
78 Hdt. 1.59-1.64, Aristot. Ath. Pol. 14-16, Perseus Encyclopedia entry for Pisistratus, Other references to Pisistratus
79 Thuc. 6.54.5-6
80 Thuc. 6.55.1, Other references to Hippias
81 Hdt. 5.62, Thuc. 6.59.4
82 Hdt. 5.66.1, Aristot. Ath. Pol. 20
83 Hdt. 5.72
84 Hdt. 5.66.2, Aristot. Ath. Pol. 21-22.2
85 Hdt. 5.69.2
86 Plat. Gorg. 454b, Plat. Apol. 17a, Aesch. Eum. 970
87 Hdt. 1.24.5, Perseus Encyclopedia entry for lyres, Boston 13.194 [Vase], Lyres on vases
88 Paus. 3.15.2
89 Hdt. 5.95
90 Hdt. 2.135.1, Strab. 10.2.9 C 452
91 Hdt. 1.12.2
92 Strab. 14.1.28 C 643
93 TRM OV 3.1
94 Hdt. 2.109.3, Plat. Laws 819a
95 Hdt. 1.170.3, Hdt. 1.74.2, Hdt. 1.75.3, Strab. 14.1.7 C 635
96 Miletus [Site]
97 References to Anaximander
98 Hdt. 4.95.1, Plat. Rep. 600b
99 Plat. Gorg. 508a, Greek dictionary entry for cosmos
100 Plat. Crito 46b, Plat. Laws 714d, Greek dictionary entry for logos
101 Hom. Od. 10.210, Hes. Th. 418, Aristoph. Cl. 749, Plat. Laws 933b
102 Plat. Soph. 242d
103 References to Colophon

11  Hoplite

From:  Ancient History Encyclopedia