|Most attempts at reconstructing the Greek society of the Dark Age are predominantly based
and partly on Hesiod.
However, the society delineated in the Homeric poems is, in all probability,
a fusion of very different (even if they belonged to the same period) social
forms and their dating has been the subject of widespread speculation. The two
poems are supposed to refer to events during the Mycenaean Age,
that is, before the end of the 12th century BC. Yet, through their thorough
study, experts of the 20th century have reached different conclusions.
The poems themselves, composed between the mid-8th and mid-7th centuries BC,
derive from the oral poetry tradition. They must not be related either to
the data of the Mycenaean Age, as formulated from archaeological finds
and the texts of Linear B script, or the society of the Archaic period.
On the contrary, they probably concern the conditions prevailing during
the Late Dark Age. They seem to reflect the social actuality of that era, and
in particular they focus on the world of the aristocrats, their way of life and ideas.
The works of Hesiod, and especially Works and Days, provide information about the life
of the peasants towards the end of the 8th century BC.
to the vagueness of the above sources, the data allowing us to approach the
Dark Age are mostly based on the interpretation of archaeological finds:
the analysis and study of rare buildings, burial customs and artistic
achievements, for example. Archaeology provides richer, more informative (even though
at times more obscure) evidence than written sources. Since
archaeological information is not sufficient in itself, however, it is possible
to resort to ethnographic comparisons, and an attempt has been made
to define the Homeric society with the assistance of ethnographic parallels.
The theory of a society of 'chiefs' during the Dark Age -the term derives
from the observations of anthropologists about archaic societies in modern
Burma and Melanesia and refers to the dominant place of the few powerful-
would match archaeological finds, on the basis of instability and competition
between the leaders of various groups.
aspects of Homeric society are interwoven with the concept of a society of the Early
Dark Age where 'chiefs' dominate. It is a local society, on a small scale,
patriarchal and rural, characterized by competition between individuals and groups over
honour and acknowledgment. Honour was acquired through valour in battle
and the provision of lavish feasts in combination with power for
negotiation. There was a strong segregation between the class of aristocrats
and the common people. This picture is in accordance with the archaeological
finds, mostly the wealth of offerings in certain graves, at least
in certain regions of Greece in the 11th and 10th centuries BC. In the Early Dark
Age, societies of 'chiefs' were common, which seem to be
related to a number of non-permanent settlements. These societies,
however, cease to be the rule and lose their significance after the 10th
century BC. It is difficult to relate them to the finds from larger and more
permanent societies, such as those of Athens, Argos and Knossos.
|The societies of the Dark Age and Geometric period are, as a rule, characterized
by diversity. Even the most permanent societies of the period developed
along very different lines and cannot be classed under the same social
model. The Renaissance of the 8th century BC was the culmination
of a long period of social development which created the conditions
for the formation of city-states in Greece during the Archaic period.