Geometric Greece: 900-700 BC

By J. N. Coldstream | Go to book overview
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The Argolid, Arcadia, Laconia, and Messenia

The next two chapters will be devoted to the Peloponnese, following the expanding influence of Argive and Corinthian Geometric pottery. By 750 B.C. these schools had ceased to depend on Athenian fashions, and were developing individual styles which, in their turn, soon found imitators among their Peloponnesian neighbours. Such influences will enable us to trace some main lines of communication. Thus knowledge of the Argive style spread by land through Arcadia into Laconia, and eventually as far as Messenia; these four regions will be treated together within this chapter. In the next we shall consider the diffusion of Corinthian LG ideas, which travelled by sea down the Gulf, then southward along the west coast of the Peloponnese and also northward as far as Ithaca and Acarnania.

Of the four areas included in this chapter, only the Argolid can boast a sound chronological framework within this period. This is based on a series of at least forty grave groups, illustrating the entire development of the local LG style. With the Argive pottery sequence, then, we shall begin, adding a few remarks on the current burial customs, and the scanty traces of architecture. Next we shall review the outstanding Argive achievements in metalwork - notably, a suit of bronze armour from a warrior's grave, and a fine school of bronze figurines, some made as attachments for tripod cauldrons. Then we pass to the earliest Argive seals, before considering the historical background of the Argolid as a whole during this period.

In the other three regions the material is less abundant, less well stratified, and more fragmentary. The chief Arcadian site is the sanctuary of Athena Alea at Tegea, where the local LG pottery draws on Argive inspiration, but the bronzes are more individual. Laconia, likewise, is represented chiefly by votives from Sparta and Amyclae; from their sanctuaries one can form some impression of a local LG pottery style and a local school of bronzework, both of which display local traits, yet owe something to Argive influence. Finally, after a brief glance at the very scarce material as yet available from Messenia, we shall conclude with some general observations about the rise of Sparta, and any archaeological evidence which could conceivably bear upon the First Messenian War, remembered in later tradition as the conflict after which the people of Messenia first came under Spartan rule some time in the late eighth century.


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Geometric Greece: 900-700 BC


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