This book deals with Greek civilization from c. 900 to c.700 B.C., and is named after the Geometric style of pottery which flourished in Greek lands during these two centuries. The preceding and following periods are covered by two recent volumes in this series, V.R.d'A. Desborough's The Greek Dark Ages (1972) and L.H. Jeffery's Archaic Greece (1976). Within our period, darkness gives way to dawn: useful figurative terms, drawing attention to the changing nature of the evidence.
The Dark Ages in Greece had been a time of poverty, isolation, and illiteracy, when representational art was virtually unknown. Many memories were handed down orally, to be preserved in later literature; but these refer to the heroic splendours and downfall of the Mycenaean civilization, and tell us virtually nothing about the impoverished life of the eleventh and tenth centuries. Until the rise of archaeological research, very little could be known about this long and obscure period; Mr Desborough's recent analysis is based almost wholly on the material remains recovered from excavation, which offer the only evidence at first hand.
By contrast, Miss Jeffery's account of the Archaic period draws upon a rich variety of literary sources, supplemented by contemporary inscriptions; in reconstructing the history of those times, archaeology performs only an ancillary function. Although no systematic records were kept before the fifth century, the main course of events in Archaic Greece has been saved from oblivion in the central narrative and long digressions of Herodotus, and in the more disjointed memories recorded by other ancient historiains.
The Geometric period began in darkness, but the eighth century witnessed remarkable advances. With the renewal of eastward commerce and the foundation of colonies in the west, Greece emerged from her isolation. Exchanges with the Near East brought the beginning of prosperity, the mastery of some skilled techniques, and knowledge of alphabetic writing; thus the darkness of illiteracy was finally dispelled. Figured art, almost forgotten during the Dark Ages, flourished once again; and an Ionic school of epic poetry reached its culmination with the composition of the Homeric poems. As communications improved, so the prestige of the great sanctuaries attracted visitors from all quarters of he Greek world. A fifth-century scholar, Hippias of Elis, calculated that the quadrennial Games at Olympia were first celebrated in 776 B.C. This date was to become the fixed point for the measurement of time; it also marks the approximate limit of later memory-apart from the memory of the heroic age. The intervening epoch, which we know as the Dark Ages, was largely forgotten; but from the later eighth century some record survives of early wars in the