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Dorians and Ionians
     Doric and Ionic
     The power of the Peloponnese
     Greek colonies overseas
     Threats from the east

Classical Greece
Philip and Alexander
New empires
Ottoman empire
Kingdom of Greece
To be completed

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Doric and Ionic: from the 12th century BC

In muted form Mycenaean Greece survives this first assault. But it suffers a final blow later in the 12th century at the hands of the Dorians - northern tribesmen, as yet uncivilized, who speak the Doric dialect of Greek. The Dorians move south from Macedonia and roam through the Peloponnese. They have the advantage of iron technology, which helps them to overwhelm the Bronze Age Mycenaeans.

The Dorian incursion plunges Greece into a period usually referred to as a dark age. But Dorian military traditions survive to play a profound part in the heyday of classical Greece. The ruthlessly efficient Spartans will claim the Dorians as their ancestors, and model themselves upon them.


The rival tradition in classical Greece is linked with Athens, an outpost of Mycenaean culture. Athens successfully resists the Dorians and becomes something of a place of refuge for those fleeing the invaders.

With the encouragement of Athens, from about 900 BC, non-Dorian Greeks migrate to form colonies on the west coast of Anatolia. These colonies eventually merge to form Ionia. In subsequent centuries Ionia, with Athens, becomes a cradle of the classical Greek civilization. So there is a genuine continuity from Mycenae. It is reflected in the romantic idea of Mycenaean Greeks expressed by Homer - himself probably a native of Ionia.


The power of the Peloponnese: 13th - 9th century BC

The most famous of the Greek heroes in the Iliad are chieftains of the Peloponnese. They rule either coastal valleys or offshore islands. Progressing clockwise on the map, Ajax brings ships and men to Troy from Samos, Agamemnon from Corinth and Mycenae, Diomedes from Tiryns, Menelaus from Sparta, Nestor from Pylos and Odysseus from Ithaca. Contingents come from other similar regions all over Greece, but they are led by less prominent figures (Menestheus, for example, brings the Athenians).

This is an accurate reflection of two historical facts. Mycenaean power is centred in the Peloponnese. And the geography of Greece favours small self-contained political units.


The rich Peloponnese has been the main target of the Dorian invaders, whose depredations lead to two centuries of anarchy in the peninsula. But by the 9th century the Dorians are establishing their own stable communities.

Foremost among these are Sparta in the south and Corinth in the north. Sparta develops a militaristic slave society of a kind which has made it one of the famous oddities of world history. Corinth, with seafaring advantages from its position astride an isthmus, contributes greatly to an important strand in Greek history - the planting of overseas colonies.


Greek colonies overseas: 8th - 7th century BC

One of several colonies founded by Corinth in the 8th century BC is Syracuse, in Sicily. In the following century Byzantium, the most historic of all Greek colonies, is founded by Corinth's neighbour, the Dorian state of Megara.

But the most energetic Greek colonists are the Ionians, sailing from both the mainland and from Asia Minor. Settlers from Chalcis and Eretria are the first Greeks in Sicily (at Naxos) and in mainland Italy (Cumae and Naples). Greeks from Phocaea, in Asia Minor, establish a colony on the coast of France, at Marseilles, by about 600 BC.


Threats from the east: 7th - 6th century BC

The shores of the Black Sea, a richly fertile region close to the Aegean, are an early focus for Greek settlement. Miletus, the main sea power of Asia Minor, founds some sixty cities on the Hellespont, the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea.

The impulse to establish Greek colonies derives partly from the desire for trade but also from population pressure. In both Greece and Asia Minor the easiest way of expanding from coastal valleys is outwards, by sea. In Asia Minor, from the 7th century, a large and aggressive neighbour, Lydia, gives added reason for restlessness.


Lydia emerges in the 7th century BC as a rich and powerful state in the interior of Anatolia, with its capital at Sardis. The last king of Lydia, Croesus, has survived in popular memory as a man of legendary wealth (he is the first ruler in history to mint coins of gold and silver).

The Lydians raid into Ionia, with increasing success. By the mid-6th century Croesus controls Ephesus and many other Greek cities in Asia Minor. But in 546 he is defeated by a greater conqueror from the east, Cyrus. Within a year or two the Persian empire has engulfed Ionia. Greek civilization is confronted with its defining challenge.


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