Get to Know the Greek Dark Ages

When we think of the heroes of Ancient Greece, chances are pretty good that most of those stories originated during the Mycenaean Age, which is considered to be a high time during Ancient Greek History. However, we do know that the civilization didn’t last and when it collapsed, what followed was a period in history known as the Greek Dark Ages. Here’s more information about this time period:

Characteristics of the Dark Ages

During the Dark Ages of Greek history, many significant settlements were abandoned, and the population continued to decline at a drastic rate. The Dark Ages lasted for about 300 years, and many people of Greece lived in small communities that moved accordingly. The people lived a more pastoral lifestyle and based their lives around their livestock needs.

During this time, the Greeks didn’t leave behind any written records, and because of that, many historians believed them to be illiterate. However, later on in the Dark Ages, the Greeks appeared to have relearned how to write and adopted a new alphabet by the Phoenicians. This version of the alphabet and the language formed the basis for the modern Greek language.

Collapse of the Mycenaean Economic Structure

Before the Dark Ages, the Greeks followed the Mycenaean economic and social structure, which is filled with a strict class hierarchy and rule. The Dark Ages are the interval between the collapse of the old Mycenaean civilization, which was around 1200 B.C., and the Archaic, which happened circa 800 B.C. Almost all dominant Mycenaean settlements except for Athens, collapsed, and this led to many Greek people suffering. The oldest writing system of the Mycenaeans, the Linear B script, was lost around 1200 B.C. This is why it is tough for historians to have first-hand accounts of what happened during the Dark Ages.

Evidence of the Dark Ages

If there are no written records, how do historians know that the Dark Ages existed? Well, our understanding of the Dark Ages relies heavily on archaeological research. One of the significant features of this period is the iron working that is found on many sites. This gives the Dark Ages another, the Early Iron Age. Iron working seems to have been imported into Greece and appears to have come from the Near East. The metalworking methods during the Dark Age were not as impressive when compared to the previous Bronze Age practices.

Hard Times Ahead

After the collapse of Mycenaean culture and life, most of the buildings were left unoccupied. However, some of the sites were occupied, but they were not rebuilt. It is thought that the collapse was likely due to instability with the Aegean. Different wars, fights, and raids have led to the destruction of a vast civilization. Even though life became harder and things did change, some aspects of Mycenaean culture, such as pottery, did survive throughout the Dark Ages.

Settlement placement also became very interesting as people began to centralize themselves on remote and defensible areas. These areas were not occupied before 1200 B.C.. This showed that there was still turmoil during the Dark Ages, and people had to find defensive and strategic ways to live.

Restoration of Greek Culture

Around 800 B.C., the number of settlements did begin to rise again. Transitioning into the Archaic period, the Greeks were able to regain their ability to write by obtaining the Phoenician alphabet. They were able to restore contact with outsiders, and there was a new form of political institution, what we know today as the early poleis. This was a society leaving their dark times and going into a new way of life of a booming population and a higher level of social complexity.


Wikipedia – Mycenaean Greece

Wikipedia – Dark Ages