M ycenae fell according to the most recent dating about 1100 B.C. and our Iliad and Odyssey were probably written in Ionia during the eighth century. The intervening period is the dark age of Greek history. Towards the end of that period, say for the last century or a little more, the conditions were maturing which made the Iliad and the Odyssey possible: a new certainty of life in Asia Minor and some degree of affluence, changes in the language which made it yet more adaptable to epic verse, a new style in art with something of the complexity of large-scale epic, and the introduction of alphabetic writing. For the present, however, we have to study the dark years between roughly 1100 B.C. and 900 B.C. to see by what routes memories of the Mycenaean age passed to Ionia, and what changes occurred in the subject-matter and form of poetry and art during these two centuries.
The Mycenaean age was a time of great palaces linked in a common system with each other and more loosely with the Near East and Egypt, great palaces enjoying art and poetry, which were international in the senses described in the preceding chapters. These great palaces were with perhaps the single exception of Athens destroyed. Their Eastern counterparts, the Hittite capital and Ugarit, had also been destroyed before the end of the thirteenth century, and Egypt met two great attacks late in the thirteenth century and early in the twelfth. Thus the international civilization of the Mycenaean world was shattered on both sides of the Aegean. Communications between the Greeks and the Near East and Egypt were broken for a very long time, and the Greek world became isolated, poor, and fragmentary. The causes of this wide breakdown of civilization do not concern us, and the discussions about the Dorian invasion and the identification of the