The Greek Dark Ages & The Storytellers Illustration

Ancient Greek Dark Ages

There is a period in ancient Greek history called the Grecian Dark Ages. A dark age is a time period we know little about, but what we know turned out to be very important.

The Greek Dark Ages was a 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 had not yet formed city-states so that villages could work together for the betterment of all. The Dorians had iron weapons. When the Dorians swooped down on the Greek peninsula, they had no trouble taking over. Their rule lasted for about 400 years.

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 idea of 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.

The early Greeks learned from the storytellers: Thanks to the storytellers, the people on the Greek peninsula now had a common language. They had a common history. They had common heroes, presented to them in the stories told by the storytellers. They had a common religion. They began to think of themselves as one people. They always had thought of the hated Dorians as intruders. They knew from the stories they loved that the only way to beat a common enemy was to work together. All this they learned from the storytellers.

The early Greeks learned from the Dorians: From the Dorian invaders, the early Greeks 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 help them defeat the hated Dorians.

During the 400 years of the Dark Ages, the Greeks developed
  • A common language: Before the Dark Ages, several languages were spoken in the Greek peninsula. After the Dark Ages, due in a great part to traveling storytellers, nearly everyone in Greece spoke Greek.
  • A common heritage: Thanks to the traveling storytellers, who told the same stories about heroes and monsters and gods, the Greeks all knew the same stories, which gave them a common history
  • A new system of writing, the same system for all of Greece
  • Greek art began to reappear
  • Greek trade again grew
  • The use of iron for tools and weapons (something the Greeks learned from the hated Dorians, and put to good use.)
  • After the Dark Ages:
    The Ancient Greek City-States

    QUIZ: Early Ancient Greece (Interactive with answers)