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Archaic Greece

With the decline of the ancient civilizations of Greece - the Minoan, Cycladic, and Mycenaean Civilizations - the land was plunged into what historians call the Dark Ages. The language of the Mycenaeans, Linear B, was lost and the sociopolitical system disintegrated. Around 800 BC, the Greeks set out to rebuild their country, initiating the Archaic Period in Greece. This lasted until around 500 BC.
Archaic Greece saw the rise of the powerful Greek city, called a polis (plural: poleis). The birth of Classical Greek philosophy and performing arts, such as theater, music and dance, characterized this era. Written language was reborn and Greek poetry took shape.

Rise of the Polis
The decline of the ancient civilizations had left a trail of destruction and the erstwhile city-states were deserted and destroyed. The reemergence of population and urbanization led to the rise of the Greek polis. Over a hundred such city-states sprang up all over Greece. Athens, Sparta, Thebes, Corinth, Miletus, Syracuse, and Halicarnassus were among the important poleis that emerged.

Colonization and Spread of Greek Culture
A sharp rise in population made it necessary to acquire more land, and colonization was the natural outcome. Greek historians described the phenomenon as stenochoria - a narrowing of the land.

Adventure and exploration was the order of the day. Greek philosophers and poets became authorities on the world outside Greece. Greek colonies spread across Sicily, southern France, southern Italy, Cyprus, eastern Spain, and Sardinia.

Some of the colonies were governed well with much fortitude but some were conquered by force. As a consequence, Greek culture spread throughout the Mediterranean, and the religion and language found a much wider audience than would have been possible in mainland Greece alone.

Fall of the Tyrants and Rise of Democracy
Before the emergence of democracy, the poleis, or city-states, were ruled by individual rulers called Tyrants by the Greeks. Among the more popular tyrants of Greece was Polycrates of Samos (reign 538 BC - 522 BC). Polycrates allied himself with the Persians and the Egyptians. Samos became the maritime leader of the Greek city-states. However, most tyrants like Polycrates were infamous among rivals and their own subjects. The birth of democratic ideals in the Greek city-states was the end to the rule of the tyrants.

Adapting the Phoenician Alphabet
In Archaic Greece, trade routes that had declined started to prosper again. Corinth started to trade with Phoenicia. This led to the adoption of the Phoenician alphabet in around 750 BC. With the emergence of the written script, poetry, philosophy, and academics surged. Homer organized the myths and legends of the Mycenaean Civilization and wove them into his two great epics: the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Panhellenic Games and Olympics
With over a hundred poleis emerging in Greece, the previously isolated city-states saw increased communication and cooperation. The people of the Greece started getting together to celebrate the Panhellenic Games. This seems to have been the origin of the ancient Olympic Games. Surrounded by myths and legends, the first Olympic Games were probably held in 776 AD.

Art Forms in Archaic Greece
Pottery, sculpture, and architecture saw a period of revival in Archaic Greece. Temples were built on the site of the Mycenaean palaces. Theater saw resurgence in the Dionysia, the cultural festival of Athens. Initially the Greek tragedies and later the comedies were enacted in honor of the god Dionysus. Metal works were in vogue. The manufacture of armor, jewelry, shields, and bronze household objects boosted the exports of Archaic Greece. The ceramics of Greece were in demand.

End of an Era
Historians agree that the end of Archaic Greece may be dated around 500 BC. By the time Xerxes invaded Greece in the year 480 BC, Greece was well into the Classical Period.