Greek Cultural Periods > Archaic Period

# Archaic Period

## Background

Archaic Greece was the period in Greek history lasting from the eighth century BC to the second Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC,[1] following the Greek Dark Ages and succeeded by the Classical period. The period began with a massive increase in the Greek population[2] and a series of significant changes which rendered the Greek world at the end of the eighth century as entirely unrecognisable as compared to its beginning.[3] According to Anthony Snodgrass, the Archaic period in ancient Greece was bounded by two revolutions in the Greek world. It began with a "structural revolution" which "drew the political map of the Greek world" and established the poleis, the distinctively Greek city-states, and ended with the intellectual revolution of the Classical period.[4]The Archaic period saw developments in Greek politics, economics, international relations, warfare, and culture. It laid the groundwork for the Classical period, both politically and culturally. It was in the Archaic period that the Greek alphabet developed, that the earliest surviving Greek literature was composed, that monumental sculpture and red-figure pottery began in Greece, and that the hoplite became the core of Greek armies. In Athens, the earliest institutions of the democracy were implemented under Solon, and the reforms of Cleisthenes at the end of the Archaic period brought in Athenian democracy as it was during the Classical period. In Sparta, many of the institutions credited to the reforms of Lycurgus were introduced during the period, the region of Messenia was brought under Spartan control, helotage was introduced, and the Peloponnesian League was founded, making Sparta the dominant power in the region.HistoriographyPhotograph of ancient ruins.The gymnasium and palaestra at Olympia, the site of the ancient Olympic games. The Archaic period conventionally dates from the first Olympiad.The word "archaic" derives from the Greek word archaios, which means "old". It refers to the period in ancient Greek history before the classical. The period is generally considered to have lasted from the beginning of the eighth century BC until the beginning of the fifth century BC,[5] with the foundation of the Olympic Games in 776 BC and the Second Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC forming notional start and end dates.[6] The Archaic period was long considered to have been less important and historically interesting than the classical period, and was primarily studied as a precursor to it.[7] More recently, however, Archaic Greece has come to be studied for its own achievements.[4] With this reassessment of the significance of the Archaic period, some scholars have objected to the term "archaic", due to its connotations in English of being primitive and outdated. No term which has been suggested to replace it has gained widespread currency, however, and the term is still in use.[5]Much of our evidence about the classical period of ancient Greece comes from written histories, such as Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War. By contrast, we have no such evidence from the Archaic period. We have written accounts of life in the period in the form of poetry, and epigraphical evidence, including parts of law codes, inscriptions on votive offerings, and epigrams inscribed on tombs. However, none of this evidence is in the quantity for which we have it in the classical period.[8] What is lacking in written evidence, however, is made up for in the rich archaeological evidence from the Archaic Greek world. Indeed, where much of our knowledge of classical Greek art comes from later Roman copies, all of the surviving Archaic Greek art is original.[9]Other sources for the period are the traditions recorded by later Greek writers such as Herodotus.[8] However, these traditions are not part of any form of history as we would recognise it today; those transmitted by Herodotus he recorded whether or not he believed them to be accurate.[10] Indeed, Herodotus does not even record any dates before 480 BC.[11]

## Polis (City-State)

Politically, the Archaic period saw the development of the polis (or city-state) as the predominant unit of political organisation. Many cities throughout Greece came under the rule of autocratic leaders, called "tyrants." The period also saw the development of law and systems of communal decision-making, with the earliest evidence for law codes and constitutional structures dating to the period. By the end of the Archaic period, both the Athenian and Spartan constitutions seem to have developed into their classical forms.The Archaic period saw significant urbanisation, and the development of the concept of the polis as it was used in classical Greece. By Solon's time, if not before, the word "polis" had acquired its classical meaning,[12] and though the emergence of the polis as a political community was still in progress at this point,[13] the polis as an urban centre was a product of the eighth century.[14] However, the polis did not become the dominant form of socio-political organisation throughout Greece in the Archaic period, and in the north and west of the country it did not become dominant until some way into the classical period.[15]The urbanisation process in Archaic Greece known as "synoecism" – the amalgamation of several small settlements into a single urban centre – took place in much of Greece in the eighth century BC. Both Athens and Argos, for instance, began to coalesce into single settlements around the end of that century.[14] In some settlements, this physical unification was marked by the construction of defensive city walls, as was the case in Smyrna by the middle of the eighth century, and Corinth by the middle of the seventh.[14]It seems that the evolution of the polis as a socio-political structure, rather than a simply geographical one, can be attributed to this urbanisation, as well as a significant population increase in the eighth century. These two factors created a need for a new form of political organisation, as the political systems in place at the beginning of the Archaic period quickly became unworkable.[14]

See Athens

### Sparta

See Sparta

Sparta's constitution took on the form it would have in the classical period during the eighth century BC.[30] The First Messenian War, probably taking place from approximately 740 to 720 BC,[31] saw the strengthening of the powers of the Gerousia against the assembly,[32] and the enslavement of the Messenian population as Helots.[33] Around the same time, the ephors gained the powers to restrict the actions of the kings of Sparta.[30]

### Greek Colonization

Greek population doubled during the eighth century, resulting in more and larger settlements than previously. This was part of a wider phenomenon of population growth across the Mediterranean region at this time, which may have been caused by a climatic shift that took place between 850 and 750, which made the region cooler and wetter. This led to the expansion of population into uncultivated areas of Greece and was probably also a driver for colonisation abroad.[53]Evidence from human remains shows that average age at death increased over the Archaic period, but there is no clear trend for other measures of health.[54] The size of houses gives some evidence for prosperity within society; in the eighth and seventh centuries, the average house size remained constant around 45-50 m², but the number of very large and very small houses increased, indicating increasing economic inequality. From the end of the seventh century, this trend reversed, with houses clustering closely around a growing average.[55]

## Sources

### Secondary Sources

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"Before Turannoi Were Tyrants: Rethinking a Chapter of Early Greek History". Classical Antiquity. 24 (2).Andrewes, A. (1982). "The Growth of the Athenian State". In Boardman, John; Hammond, N.G.L. The Cambridge Ancient History. III.iii (2 ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Antonaccio, Carla M. (2007). "Colonization: Greece on the Move 900–480". In Shapiro, H.A. The Cambridge Companion to Archaic Greece. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Boardman, John (1982). "The Material Culture of Archaic Greece". In Boardman, John; Hammond, N.G.L. The Cambridge Ancient History. III.iii (2 ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Boardman, John; Hammond, N.G.L. (1982). "Preface". In Boardman, John; Hammond, N.G.L. The Cambridge Ancient History. III.iii (2 ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Cantarella, Eva (2005). "Gender, Sexuality, and Law". In Gagarin, Michael; Cohen, David. The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Greek Law. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Cook, R.M. (1979). "Archaic Greek Trade: Three Conjectures". The Journal of Hellenic Studies. 99.Davies, John K. (2009). "The Historiography of Archaic Greece". In Raaflaub, Kurt A.; van Wees, Hans. A Companion to Archaic Greece. Blackwell Publishing. pp. 3–21. ISBN 9781118451380.Drews, Robert (1972). "The First Tyrants in Greece". Historia: Zeitschrift fur Alte Geschichte. 21 (2).Fischer-Bossert, Wolfgang (2012). "The Coinage of Sicily". In Metcalfe, William E. The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage. Oxford University Press. pp. 142–156. ISBN 9780195305746.Grant, Michael (1988). The Rise of the Greeks. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.Hall, Jonathan M. (2007). "Polis, Community, and Ethnic Identity". In Shapiro, H.A. The Cambridge Companion to Archaic Greece. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Hammond, N.G.L (1982). "The Peloponnese". In Boardman, John; Hammond, N.G.L. The Cambridge Ancient History. III.iii (2 ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Hunt, Peter (2007). "Military Forces". In Sabin, Philip; van Wees, Hans; Whitby, Michael. The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Warfare. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Hurwit, Jeffrey M. (2007). "The Human Figure in Early Greek Sculpture and Vase Painting". In Shapiro, H.A. The Cambridge Companion to Archaic Greece. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Jeffery, L.H. (1982). "Greek Alphabetic Writing". In Boardman, John; Edwards, I.E.S.; Hammond, N.G.L.; Sollberger, E. The Cambridge Ancient History. III.i (2 ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Konuk, Koray (2012). "Asia Minor to the Ionian Revolt". In Metcalfe, William E. The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage. Oxford University Press. pp. 43–60. ISBN 9780195305746.Kroll, John E. (2012). "The Monetary Background of Early Coinage". In Metcalfe, William E. The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage. Oxford University Press. pp. 33–42. ISBN 9780195305746.Markoe, Glenn (1996). 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"Greece and the Balkans to 360 B.C.". In Metcalfe, William E. The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage. Oxford University Press. pp. 157–172. ISBN 9780195305746.Rutter, N.K. (2012). "The Coinage of Italy". In Metcalfe, William E. The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage. Oxford University Press. pp. 128–140. ISBN 9780195305746.Shapiro, H.A. (2007). "Introduction". In Shapiro, H.A. The Cambridge Companion to Archaic Greece. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Sheedy, Kenneth (2012). "Aegina, the Cyclades, and Crete". In Metcalfe, William E. The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage. Oxford University Press. pp. 105–127. ISBN 9780195305746.Snodgrass, Anthony (1965). "The Hoplite Reform and History". The Journal for Hellenic Studies. 85.Snodgrass, Anthony (1980). Archaic Greece: The Age of Experiment. London Melbourne Toronto: J M Dent & Sons Ltd. ISBN 0-460-04338-2.Spier, J. (1990). "Emblems in Archaic Greece". Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies. 37: 107–130.Van Alfen, Peter G. (2012). "The Coinage of Athens, Sixth to First Century B.C.". In Metcalfe, William E. The Oxford Handbook of Greek and Roman Coinage. Oxford University Press. pp. 88–104. ISBN 9780195305746.Van Wees, Hans. (2009). "The Economy". In Raaflaub, Kurt A.; van Wees, Hans. A Companion to Archaic Greece. Blackwell Publishing. pp. 444–467. ISBN 9781118451380.Watson, Owen (1976). Owen Watson, eds. Longman modern English dictionary. Longman. ISBN 978-0-582-55512-9.Further readingGeorge Grote, J. M. Mitchell, Max Cary, Paul Cartledge, A History of Greece: From the Time of Solon to 403 B.C., Routledge, 2001. ISBN 0-415-22369-5External linksArchaic period: society, economy, politics, culture — The Foundation of the Hellenic World