The Dorians, Iron Weapons, Early Greece Illustration

The Dorians for Kids
Early Greece


The Dorians were very important to ancient Greek history.

Here's what happened: Over 3,000 years ago, the Dorians, a tribe of war-like people, swooped down from the north onto the Greek peninsula. The Dorians did not have a written language. They were not into art or music or literature. The Dorians were into war. The Dorians did not build cities. They destroyed them.

It was easy for the Dorians to conquer the many tribes who made their home on the Greek peninsula. Before Dorian rule, the villagers had stone weapons. They lived in small villages. They did not speak the same language. They did not work together. On the other hand, the Dorians were organized, well trained, and armed with far better weapons made of iron. It wasn't even a contest.

There are written records left by the ancient Greeks that tell how they moved their women and children from village to village, to try and save them from Dorian slaughter. They collected stones and made weapons in preparation for the next battle. But all written records soon stopped. The Dorians had taken over. For the next 400 years, the Dorians ruled. This period of time in ancient Greek history is called the Greek Dark Ages.

The various tribes on the Greek peninsula hated the Dorians, with good reason. The Dorians were cruel and brutal. But after 400 years of Dorian rule, it probably never occurred to the Dorians that the villagers might revolt.

Things started to change when a new profession rose on the Greek peninsula - that of storyteller. The storytellers were not Dorians. They were villagers, creative young men who traveled from village to village, telling stories of heroes, monsters and myths, and how people worked together to defeat a common foe. They told these stories with plenty of arm motions and body motions so that everyone understood the story, no matter what language they spoke. Soon, nearly all of the storytellers began telling their stories in the Greek language, to give their stories a common thread. It was a language the Dorians did not understand and did not bother to learn. The early Greek people did learn so they could better understand the stories. So, the Dorians allowed a conquered people to learn a common language that the Dorians did not understand. That was a big mistake. It allowed the villagers on the Greek peninsula, if they chose to do so, to talk of rebellion right under their noses.

Another really big Dorian mistake was to teach the villagers how to make iron weapons, weapons supposedly limited to Dorian use.

Thanks to the Dorians, people all over the Greek peninsula learned to make and hide strong metal weapons. Because the Dorians allowed the traveling storytellers to speak freely in villages all over the peninsula, the early Greeks learned a common language, developed a common history, worshiped the same gods, believed in the same heroes, and were shown through the stories and myths they loved the many advantages of working together to defeat a common foe. Add to this the Dorians' insistence on rule by cruelty and oppression, and you might agree that the Dorians caused their own downfall.

Dorian rule came to an end when the Greeks banded together into city-states, and kicked the Dorians out of Greece. Once free of oppression, these early Greek city-states might have chosen to establish a central government. But the Greeks did not do that. Each Greek city-state remained an individual unit, with it's own government and its own way of doing things. And the ancient Greek civilization was born, a civilization that went on to invent democracy, trial by jury, the alphabet, the Olympics, advances in architecture, literature, art, medicine, math and so much more. Welcome to ancient Greece!

The Greek Dark Ages

The Greek Storytellers

Ancient Greek Myths

Homer's Odyssey

Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age

After the Dark Ages: Greek City-States

QUIZ: Early Ancient Greece (Interactive with answers)