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Archaic Greece

Варнаков М.С.

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The Archaic period in the history of Greece (Greek: древρχαῖος-ancient) is a term that has been used by historians since the 18th century. It originated in the course of the study of Greek art and originally referred to the stage of development of the art of Ancient Greece, mainly fine arts and crafts, 750-480 BC, intermediate between the period of geometric style and the art of classical Greece. Later, the term "archaic period "was extended not only to the history of art, but also to the social life of Greece, because during this period, which came after the" dark ages", there was a significant development of political theory, the rise of democracy, philosophy, theater, poetry, and the revival of the written language (the appearance of the Greek alphabet to replace the Linear B script forgotten during the" dark ages").

At the end of the 20th century, the term "archaic" was criticized: Anthony Snodgrass points out that it is incorrect to consider this period as a "preparation" for the classical era — it was an independent episode of Greek history with its own developed culture, and Michael Grant notes that "archaic" implies a certain primitiveness, while archaic Greece was one of the most fruitful periods in world history.

According to Snodgrass, the beginning of the Archaic period should be considered a sharp increase in population (the population of Greece grew tenfold) and material well-being (the level of material production in Hellas and the Hellenic colonies was definitely the most impressive in terms of artifacts found), which peaked in 750 BC, and the "intellectual revolution" of Greek culture. The end of the archaic period is considered to be the invasion of Xerxes in 480 BC. However, individual cultural events associated with the archaic period may have exceeded both the upper and lower conventional boundaries of the period. For example, the red-figure vase painting characteristic of the classical period of Greece originated in the archaic period.


Image of warriors on an amphora of the Archaic era, 570-565 BC.

Mycenaean Greece was divided into kingdoms, where the population lived in cities and large estates belonging to the nobility. The kingdoms were dominated by kings who claimed to be of divine origin and ruled from the capitals — "polis", where there were palaces or citadels-acropolises ("high cities"), which for the purposes of effective defense were built on the highest hills in the area. During the dark ages, palaces, kings, and manors ceased to exist, populations dwindled, cities were abandoned or turned into villages among ruins, and the tsarist bureaucracy was replaced by more primitive forms of power in the form of tribal structures.

A sharp increase in the population at the beginning of the archaic period led to a return to the urban lifestyle, the foundation of new cities and the expansion of old centers.

Margalit Finkelberg devoted her research to the customs of inheritance of legendary and historical kings in preclassic Greece, where inheritance from father to son was not the norm, but rather a different custom: a new king, usually exiled from some other royal family, won his right to become the" son-in-law "of the former king, which was legalized by marriage with his" daughter " (the term, apparently, is also conditional). This tradition is repeated many times in Greek mythology and is associated with such famous names as Pelops, Bellerophon, Melampo, Peleus, Telamon, Teucer, Andraimon, Diomedes, Menelaus and a number of others. In Greece, up to the Hellenistic period, there is no list of kings that is so characteristic of the Middle East and Anatolia. If the king was succeeded by his" son-in-law", then, as Finkelberg notes, this meant that the queen was succeeded by her daughter, although otherwise the culture remained patriarchal:"This means that in Sparta, obviously, and in other places where the kingdom is attested by right of marriage rather than by right of inheritance, we observe a line of queens from mother to daughter."

By the end of the Archaic period, the kings were deposed by tyrants, and a new type of government appeared-the city-state, also called the polis. The kingdoms finally disappeared, even though royal dynasties continued to exist, the memory of which was preserved by society. Instead, a new organization emerged: many large localities became autonomous, headed by a republican-type government. This process is called the ancient Greek term sinoikism, which refers to the absorption of villages and the incorporation of tribal structures into poleis. The acropolis becomes a typical public building.

Economy of the Archaic period of Ancient Greece

The disintegration of tribal relations and the emergence of early class relations were the result of major changes in the entire socio-economic structure of Greek society.

In the field of agriculture - the most important branch of the ancient economy-there is a gradual restructuring of the very structure of production. This was reflected in the rapid development of such industries as viticulture and oilseeds, whose culture required careful care, investment of funds and greater human costs than tilling grain. The hilly terrain of Greece with stony soil in many areas, which is not suitable for widespread grain cultivation, turned out to be favorable for the cultivation of vines, oil and fruit trees, and a variety of vegetables. This contributed not only to the enrichment of the overall structure of Greek agricultural production, but also to its intensification. The investment of additional funds and labor creates the possibility of obtaining surplus grapes and olives (usually converted into wine and olive oil), which were not consumed entirely in the given farm and could be sold on the market. In turn, the possibility of market relations pushed farmers to make additional investments, expand the scale and volume of production.

The main units of agricultural production in the VIII-VI centuries BC were small peasant farms and larger estates of the ancestral nobility, which were cultivated by impoverished relatives who became dependent on them. Often, the aristocrat's land was leased to poor tribesmen, who paid the landowner up to half of the crop as rent (they worked half-time), barely making ends meet. Agrarian relations in Greece of the VIII-VI centuries BC. They are characterized by the strengthening of large-scale land ownership of the aristocracy (descendants of the ancestral nobility) and the ruin of small landowners, who made up the bulk of the population, which contributed to the growth of property stratification and increased social tension in the emerging Greek polis.

Important changes are taking place in the area of handicraft production, which is being separated from agriculture. If in the previous period handicraft and agriculture coexisted within each settlement, then in the VIII-VI centuries BC handicraft production is concentrated in cities, and farmers living in villages must buy handicrafts from city craftsmen.

The separation of handicrafts from agriculture became an important factor and condition for the development of both agriculture and handicraft production, determined the growth of specialization and professionalism of employees. In the field of handicrafts, this contributed to technological progress and the organization of well-established industries: metallurgy and metal processing, ceramic production and shipbuilding. Major achievements were made in metallurgy and metal processing. Greek craftsmen have well mastered the so-called cheese-making method of producing iron. In the VIII-VI centuries BC. Greek metallurgists developed a technology for processing iron, began to widely use it for making weapons (swords, daggers, spear tips) and tools (ploughshares, various types of knives, hammers, hoes, shovels, blacksmith tools). The Greeks learned to give special hardness to iron (tempering) through forging on a blacksmith's anvil or through carburizing iron, i.e. they could get some types of steel (Laconian steel was famous). Of great importance for the widespread use of iron in various industries was the development of a technology for joining various pieces of iron by welding and soldering, discovered by the master Glavk from the island of Chios.

The technology of processing the already well - known, widespread metal-bronze-is also being improved, and the quality of bronze products is improving. Masters Roic and Theodore from the island of Samoe mastered new types of bronze casting, which allowed casting statues on a wax model, obtaining strong and thin sheets of bronze, widely used for the manufacture of a number of weapons (armor, helmets, shields, etc.), ceremonial dishes (especially famous for bronze vessels made in Corinth - the so-called Corinthian bronze), bronze sheets for covering the sides and making many metal parts of ships, etc.

The development of iron and steel technology and the production of large amounts of metal led to the emergence of tools that could more effectively uproot forests and shrubs (with the help of an iron axe), expand arable land and cultivate the land (with iron ploughshares, picks, hoes and sickles); using iron hammers, anvils, saws and other tools, it was possible to process hard rocks and perform operations that were impossible or difficult The widespread introduction of iron weapons led to a revolution in military affairs, in particular to the decline of the role of aristocratic cavalry and the increase in the role of heavy-armed infantry (hoplites), completed from the middle ranks of the civilian population of the Greek poleis. A flourishing branch of production is the production of a variety of ceramic products: ceremonial and everyday dishes, lamps, roof tiles for houses and public buildings, special vessels (amphorae and pythos) for transporting and storing liquid products and grain, facing plates used for finishing the external walls of buildings, ceramic pipes, weights for looms and other products.

Greek potters achieved great skill in the manufacture of ceramic products: the fine firing, variety and elegance of vessels provided Greek ceramics with a demand throughout the Mediterranean. In an effort to make their ceremonial products more elegant, Greek craftsmen began to cover the outer walls of vessels with beautiful black glaze - the famous black varnish, applied images of mythological or everyday scenes, and used decorative subjects. Pottery workshops were available in most Greek cities, but the masters of Corinth and Athens were especially famous, whose products, covered with black lacquer and pattern, became famous far beyond the Aegean basin.

In the VIII-VI centuries BC, shipbuilding became vitally important. There were no large military fleets in Greece at this time, since the Greeks had not yet waged naval wars, but to conduct trade, create numerous colonies in different areas of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, a significant passenger and merchant fleet was required. The Greeks built different types of ships: pentekonters with 50 rowers and more complex triremes with 180 rowers, which could reach speeds of up to 10 nautical miles per hour. Shipbuilding is a complex industry that requires the participation of many specialists: carpenters, carpenters, metalworkers, rigging, sail installation, etc. Therefore, the success of Greek shipbuilding is an indicator of the overall high level of Greek craft. If in the Homeric period Greek communities lived rather isolated and isolated, then in the VIII-VI centuries BC intensive links were established between various poleis, often located in remote areas of the Mediterranean, for example in Sicily or in the Black Sea region, with the cities of the Aegean basin. In the system of these active relations, trade, the exchange of various goods and raw materials played an important role. Wine, olive oil, ceramics, metal products, weapons were brought to the newly founded colonies, and in exchange they received metals, timber, leather, bread, and slaves. In order to facilitate payments in the exchange of goods, a coin was invented. The first coins appeared in the 7th century BC in Lydia and in Greece on the island of Aegina, and soon many Greek cities began to mint them. In Greece, coins were a piece of silver of a certain weight, usually round in shape, on both sides of which were stamped images of a particular deity and related symbols (an owl for the goddess Athena, an eagle, a scepter or lightning for Zeus, a tripod, a lyre, a swan for Apollo, a trident for Poseidon, etc.).

The gradual spread of coins and the growing trade links between the various poleis, as well as with the surrounding barbarian periphery, indicated the penetration of commodity production into the Greek economy.

The development of handicrafts and their concentration in the main center of the polis, the gradually expanding production to the market, the establishment of active trade relations-all this contributed to the foundation and rapid development of cities not only as administrative and religious, but also as trade and craft centers. In the VIII-VI centuries BC, a real urban revolution took place in Greece. There are craft workshops in the cities, an active trade is taking place in the central market - the agora, and ships from remote areas are stationed in the harbor. Among the population, the number of artisans, merchants, sailors, rowers, owners of workshops and ships is increasing, i.e. the trade and craft stratum. But at the same time, the city is inhabited by landowners from among the ancestral nobility, modest farmers who go to their plots to cultivate them. Farmers living in rural settlements are closely connected with the city, they hold meetings here, take part in public festivals, buy handicrafts (ploughshares, hoes, picks, lamps, dishes, etc.) and sell their surplus products. In other words, the city becomes the most important factor in the socio-economic, political and cultural development of the entire polis, and to a certain extent, the focus of this development.

In general, the economy of the Greek poleis in the VIII-VI centuries BC differed from the economy of the ancient Eastern and Achaean states of the II millennium BC in its structure, greater dynamism, a large volume of handicraft production and the scope of trade operations, the increasing role of commodity production, the predominance of private farms and weak state intervention in economic life. The nature and structure of the emerging polis economy determined a large role in the social relations of those segments of the population that were associated with crafts and trade operations. At the same time, there is another type of polis economy, in which agriculture is predominant, and the role of crafts and trade was small. These are the agrarian poleis of the inner regions of Balkan Greece (for example, Sparta in the Peloponnese), Boeotia, many cities of Thessaly, etc.

Related topics

Ancient Greece, Great Greek Colonization