There is a period in ancient Greek history called the Grecian Dark Ages. A dark age is a time period we know little about. Although we know very little about this time, what we do know is very important!
The Greek Dark Ages was time period when the Dorians ruled the people who lived scattered across the Greek peninsula. One reasons we know so little about this period in history is that the Dorians did not have a written language. The Dorians were not into art or music or literature. The Dorians were into war. Their life was spent fighting. The Dorians did not build cities. They destroyed them.
It was easy for the Dorians to conquer the people living on the Greek peninsula. Before Dorian rule, tribes of early people might vaguely know there was a village downstream. They might even trade with them. But they did not work together. They did not speak the same language. They did not have a common history. They used stone tools. They had stone weapons. The Dorians had metal weapons. When the Dorians swooped down on the Greek peninsula, they had no trouble taking over. Their rule lasted for about 400 years.
But we do know a few interesting things that happened during the Grecian Dark Ages thanks to the storytellers.
During the Greek dark ages, some people earned a living with their storytelling skills. The storytellers went from town to town. Because the townspeople did not like the Dorians, the storytellers told stories about other people. Some storytellers told their stories in the Greek language, to further distance themselves from the hated Dorians.
Using the Greek language to tell their stories caught on among the storytellers. It made it easier for them. The storytellers did not need to speak every language spoken on the Greek Peninsula. They only had to speak Greek. The people in the towns and villages quickly learned the Greek language so they could better understand the stories. The Greeks always loved a good story. Soon, the ancient Greeks had a common language.
Storytellers told fables, myths and legends. Different storytellers might give a new twist to a story, but the basic story was told over and over.
A fable is a very short story with a moral. Fables gave these early people a common culture, a way of behaving.
A myth is a story about gods and goddesses and other mythical creatures. Myths gave these early people a common religion.
A legend is a story about an event that happened in the past. To qualify as a legend, the story cannot be proven, although it might be true. The legends told by the storytellers were all about heroes, but the heroes were not Dorian warriors. They were about people who cleverly worked together to defeat a common enemy. One of the most popular legends was the story of the Trojan horse. Legends gave these early people a common past. Legends also gave them a blueprint of what they needed to do to defeat the Dorians - they had to band together. This probably was not intentional by the storytellers, but it was effective just the same.
Thanks to the storytellers, the people now had a common language. They had a common history. They had a common religion. They thought of themselves as one people. They though of the Dorians as intruders. They knew from the stories they loved that the only way to beat a common enemy was to work together.
These early people learned one important thing from the Dorian invaders. They learned to make metal tools and metal weapons. This came in quite handy when the Greeks began to organize themselves into city-states, and work together. City-states could be defended. The Greeks used their new knowledge of metal weapons to defeat the hated Dorians.