Whenever artists , indeed , turned to actual representations or molded three-dimensional figures , which were rare down to 800 B.C. , they tended to reflect reality ( see Plate 6a , 9b ) ; ;
a schematic , abstract treatment of men and animals , by intent , rose only in the late eighth century .
To speak of this underlying view of the world is to embark upon matters of subjective judgment .
At the least , however , one may conclude that Geometric potters sensed a logical order ; ;
their principles of composition stand very close to those which appear in the Homeric epics and the hexameter line .
Their world , again , was a still simple , traditional age which was only slowly beginning to appreciate the complexity of life .
And perhaps an observer of the vases will not go too far in deducing that the outlook of their makers and users was basically stable and secure .
The storms of the past had died away , and the great upheaval which was to mark the following century had not yet begun to disturb men's minds .
Throughout the work of the later ninth century a calm , severe serenity displays itself .
In the vases this spirit may perhaps at times bore or repel one in its internal self-satisfaction , but the best of the Geometric pins have rightly been considered among the most beautiful ever made in the Greek world .
The ninth century was in its artistic work `` the spiritually freest and most self-sufficient between past and future '' , and the loving skill spent by its artists upon their products is a testimonial to their sense that what they were doing was important and was appreciated .
The Aegean in 800 B.C.
Geometric pottery has not yet received the thorough , detailed study which it deserves , partly because the task is a mammoth one and partly because some of its local manifestations , as at Argos , are only now coming to light .
From even a cursory inspection of its many aspects , however , the historian can deduce several fundamental conclusions about the progress of the Aegean world down to 800 B.C.
The general intellectual outlook which had appeared in the eleventh century was now consolidated to a significant degree .
Much which was in embryo in 1000 had become reasonably well developed by 800 .
In this process the Minoan-Mycenaean inheritance had been transmuted or finally rejected ; ;
the Aegean world which had existed before 1000 differed from that which rises more clearly in our vision after 800 .
Those modern scholars who urge that we must keep in mind the fundamental continuity of Aegean development from earliest times -- granted occasional irruptions of peoples and ideas from outside -- are correct ; ;
but all too many observers have been misled by this fact into minimizing the degree of change which took place in the early first millennium .
The focus of novelty in this world now lay in the south-eastern districts of the Greek mainland , and by 800 virtually the entire Aegean , always excepting its northern shores , had accepted the Geometric style of pottery .
While Protogeometric vases usually turn up , especially outside Greece proper , together with as many or more examples of local stamp , these `` non-Greek '' patterns had mostly vanished by the later ninth century .
In their place came local variations within the common style -- tentative , as it were , in Protogeometric products but truly distinct and sharply defined as the Geometric spirit developed .
Attica , though important , was not the only teacher of this age .
One can take a vase of about 800 B.C. and , without any knowledge of its place of origin , venture to assign it to a specific area ; ;
imitation and borrowing of motifs now become ascertainable .
The potters of the Aegean islands thus stood apart from those of the mainland , and in Greece itself Argive , Corinthian , Attic , Boeotian , and other Geometric sequences have each their own hallmarks .
These local variations were to become ever sharper in the next century and a half .
The same conclusions can be drawn from the other physical evidence of the Dark ages , from linguistic distribution , and from the survivals of early social , political , and religious patterns into later ages .
By 800 B.C. the Aegean was an area of common tongue and of common culture .
On these pillars rested that solid basis for life and thought which was soon to be manifested in the remarkably unlimited ken of the Iliad .
Everywhere within the common pattern , however , one finds local diversity ; ;
Greek history and culture were enduringly fertilized , and plagued , by the interplay of these conjoined yet opposed factors .
Further we cannot go , for the Dark ages deserve their name .
Many aspects of civilization were not yet sufficiently crystallized to find expression , nor could the simple economic and social foundations of this world support a lofty structure .
The epic poems , the consolidation of the Greek pantheon , the rise of firm political units , the self-awareness which could permit painted and sculptured representations of men -- all these had to await the progress of following decades .
What we have seen in this chapter , we have seen only dimly , and yet the results , however general , are worth the search .
These are the centuries in which the inhabitants of the Aegean world settled firmly into their minds and into their institutions the foundations of the Hellenic outlook , independent of outside forces .
To interpret , indeed , the era from 1000 to 800 as a period mainly of consolidation may be a necessary but unfortunate defect born of our lack of detailed information ; ;
if we could see more deeply , we probably would find many side issues and wrong turnings which came to an end within the period .
The historian can only point out those lines which were major enough to find reflection in our limited evidence , and must hope that future excavations will enrich our understanding .
Throughout the Dark ages , it is clear , the Greek world had been developing slowly but consistently .
The pace could now be accelerated , for the inhabitants of the Aegean stood on firm ground .
Chapter 5 the early eighth century
the landscape of Greek history broadens widely , and rather abruptly , in the eighth century B.C. , the age of Homer's `` rosy-fingered Dawn '' .
The first slanting rays of the new day cannot yet dispel all the dark shadows which lie across the Aegean world ; ;
but our evidence grows considerably in variety and shows more unmistakably some of the lines of change .
For this period , as for earlier centuries , pottery remains the most secure source ; ;
the ceramic material of the age is more abundant , more diversified , and more indicative of the hopes and fears of its makers , who begin to show scenes of human life and death .
Figurines and simple chapels presage the emergence of sculpture and architecture in Greece ; ;
objects in gold , ivory , and bronze grow more numerous .
Since writing was practiced in the Aegean before the end of the century , we may hope that the details of tradition will now be occasionally useful .
Though it is not easy to apply the evidence of the Iliad to any specific era , this marvelous product of the epic tradition had certainly taken definitive shape by 750 .
The Dipylon Geometric pottery of Athens and the Iliad are amazing manifestations of the inherent potentialities of Greek civilization ; ;
but both were among the last products of a phase which was ending .
Greek civilization was swirling toward its great revolution , in which the developed qualities of the Hellenic outlook were suddenly to break forth .
The revolution was well under way before 700 B.C. , and premonitory signs go back virtually across the century .
The era , however , is Janus-faced .
While many tokens point forward , the main achievements stand as a culmination of the simple patterns of the Dark ages .
The dominant pottery of the century was Geometric ; ;
political organization revolved about the basileis ; ;
trade was just beginning to expand ; ;
the gods who protected the Greek countryside were only now putting on their sharply anthropomorphic dress .
The modern student , who knows what was to come next , is likely to place first the factors of change which are visible in the eighth century .
Not all men of the period would have accepted this emphasis .
Many potters clung to the past the more determinedly as they were confronted with radically new ideas ; ;
the poet of the Iliad deliberately archaized .
Although it is not possible to sunder old and new in this era , I shall consider in the present chapter primarily the first decades of the eighth century and shall interpret them as an apogee of the first stage of Greek civilization .
On this principle of division I must postpone the evolution of sculpture , architecture , society , and politics ; ;
for the developments in these areas make sense only if they are connected to the age of revolution itself .
The growing contacts between Aegean and Orient are also a phase which should be linked primarily to the remarkable broadening of Hellenic culture after 750 .
We shall not be able entirely to pass over these connections to the East as we consider Ripe Geometric pottery , the epic and the myth , and the religious evolution of early Greece ; ;
the important point , however , is that these magnificent achievements , unlike those of later decades , were only incidentally influenced by Oriental models .
The antecedents of Dipylon vases and of the Iliad lie in the Aegean past .
the pottery of the first half of the eighth century is commonly called Ripe Geometric .
The severe yet harmonious vases of the previous fifty years , the Strong Geometric style of the late ninth century , display as firm a mastery of the principles underlying Geometric pottery ; ;
but artists now were ready to refine and elaborate their inheritance .
The vases which resulted had different shapes , far more complex decoration , and a larger sense of style .
Beyond the aesthetic and technical aspects of this expansion we must consider the change in pottery style on broader lines .
In earlier centuries men had had enough to do in rebuilding a fundamental sense of order after chaos .
They had had to work on very simple foundations and had not dared to give rein to impulses .
The potters , in particular , had virtually eschewed freehand drawing , elaborate motifs , and the curving lines of nature , while yet expressing a belief that there was order in the universe .
In their vases were embodied the basic aesthetic and logical characteristics of Greek civilization , at first hesitantly in Protogeometric work , and then more confidently in the initial stages of the Geometric style .
By 800 social and cultural security had been achieved , at least on a simple plane ; ;
it was time to take bigger steps , to venture on experiments .
Ripe Geometric potters continued to employ the old syntax of ornaments and shapes and made use of the well-defined though limited range of motifs which they had inherited .
In these respects the vases of the early eighth century represent a culmination of earlier lines of progress .
To the ancestral lore , however , new materials were added .
Painters left less and less of a vase in a plain dark color ; ;
instead they divided the surface into many bands or covered it by all-over patterns into which freehand drawing began to creep .
Wavy lines , feather-like patterns , rosettes of indefinitely floral nature , birds either singly or in stylized rows , animals in solemn frieze bands ( see Plates 11 - 12 ) -- all these turned up in the more developed fabrics as preliminary signs that the potters were broadening their gaze .
The rows of animals and birds , in particular , suggest awareness of Oriental animal friezes , transmitted perhaps via Syrian silver bowls and textiles , but the specific forms of these rows on local vases and metal products are nonetheless Greek .
Though the spread of this type of decoration in the Aegean has not yet been precisely determined , it seems to appear first in the Cyclades , which were among the leading exporters of pottery throughout the century .
As the material at the command of the potters grew and the volume of their production increased , the local variations within a common style became more evident .
Plate 12 illustrates four examples , which are Ripe or Late Geometric work of common spirit but of different schools .