The Greek Civilisation Mainly The Archaic Period

1016 words - 4 pages

During the Greek Dark Ages, the Greeks lived in small tribal units; some of these small tribes were sedentary and agricultural and some were certainly nomadic. They had abandoned their cities between 1200 and 1100 BC for reasons that remain shrouded in mystery; the Greeks believed that a cataclysmic and ferocious invasion of northern Greek barbarians, the Dorians, had wiped out the Mycenean civilization. In reality, the decline and abandonment of urbanization in Greece was probably due to a combination of economic collapse and pressure from northern migrations. Greek life during the "Dark Ages" wasn't dark; it was, in fact, a culturally creative period. This period gave the Greeks the religion their religion, mythology, and foundational history in their final forms; the close of the Dark Ages would also gave the Greeks the rudiments of their greatest political achievement: the polis , or "city-state."The tribal or clan units of the dark ages slowly grew into larger political units; beginning around 800 BC, trade began to dramatically accelerate between the peoples of Greece. Marketplaces grew up in Greek villages and communities began to gather together into defensive units, building fortifications to use in common. On this foundation, the Greek-speaking people on the Greek peninsula, the mainland, and the coast of Asia Minor, developed political units that were centrally based on a single city. These city states were independent states that controlled a limited amount of territory surrounding the state. The largest of these city-states, for instance, was Sparta, which controlled more than 3000 square miles of surrounding territory.The period in which the city-states evolved is called the Archaic Period; while the separate states had close interaction with one another during this time and certainly learned political organization from one another, in many ways, however, each city-state developed fairly unique and independent cultures and political organizations (notice that the word "political" is derived from the word polis ).Politically, all the Greek city-states began as monarchies. In their earliest stages, they were ruled by a basileus , or hereditary king. The Greeks living in those city-states, however, soon tired of the kings, many of which were overthrown in the eighth century BC. A variety of political alternatives were put in place of the basileus : the most common was an oligarchy, or "rule by a few." The oligarchs were almost always drawn from the wealthiest citizens of the state ("rule by the wealthy" is called a timocracy), but a variety of oligarchic forms were invented in the eighth century. The oligarchs most often ruled absolutely; they had many of the powers granted to a king. Even though these powers were diffused among a group (which could be surprisingly large), the power of the oligarchy could be remarkably totalitarian. Most of the early oligarchic governments and a few of the kings were overthrown by "tyrants" (in Greek,...

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