Geometric Greece: 900-700 BC

By J. N. Coldstream | Go to book overview

4

Athens and Attica

Around 770 B.C. Athens enters a new phase of prosperity and artistic ferment, which also saw the final passing of the Dark Ages. After the obscurity and stagnation of the previous period, there are several signs that the emergence came quite suddenly. In the Levant, we have already noted (p. 93) a burst of Athenian activity towards the end of MG II, and that is also the time when the circulation of Athenian pottery within the Aegean reaches its highest point before the sixth century. 1 Commercial energy abroad was matched by expansion and affluence at home. Like most other regions, Attica affords evidence of a rapidly rising population. In the countryside, there are many sites on the coast and in the Mesogeia plain where the earliest post-Mycenaean finds are Late Geometric (p. 133, fig. 43). In Athens itself, it appears from a count of wells within the Agora area 2 that the population increased threefold in the course of the eighth century, and a similar impression is conveyed by a sharp rise in the aggregate of graves. The further expansion of the polis is indicated by the first use of three new cemeteries, all in outlying areas (fig. 44): one in the modern suburb of Kallithea, the second near the later Kynosarges Gymnasium, and the third well outside the later Dipylon Gate, by the present Odos Peiraios. The Kynosarges graves offer a wealth of gold jewellery, not seen in Athens since the mid-ninth century. From the Odos Peiraios cemetery the finds appear to have been no less rich; yet its chief distinction lies in a superb group of monumental vases which stood over the burials. Current fashion required that these monuments should forsake the large linear compositions of earlier times, and in their stead carry ambitious scenes of mourning, seafaring, and battle. To meet this new challenge, a first-rate artist was at hand; after the name often given to the cemetery since its discovery in 1871, he is known as the Dipylon Master. To him belongs the credit of inventing the rich Late Geometric style of Athens; and, in the long history of Attic figured vase-painting, his is the first hand which can be recognized by a consistent and personal manner of drawing.

As before, we shall begin with the pottery: first, the output of the Dipylon Master and his contemporaries (LG I), and then the work of the later eighth century (LG II) where the best figured drawing becomes increasingly fluent and dynamic, but the quality of Geometric ornament deteriorates to the point of collapse. From the scenes on the funerary vases, coupled with the evidence from the graves themselves, we can form some impression of the current burial practices in an age when inhumation was rapidly replacing cremation as the prevailing rite. Next we shall survey contemporary Attic work in more costly media-gold diadems and other jewellery, bronze, ivory-in which the new urge towards figured imagery also found expression. Finally, some general remarks

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Geometric Greece: 900-700 BC
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Preface to the Second Edition 3
  • Preface to the First Edition 4
  • Contents 5
  • Contents 8
  • Acknowledgements 9
  • Abbreviations 12
  • Introduction 17
  • I - The Passing of the Dark Ages C. 900-770 B.C. 23
  • 1 - Isolation: the Early Ninth Century 25
  • 2 - The Awakening in the Mid-Ninth Century 55
  • 3 - Consolidation: Late Ninth to Early Eighth Century 73
  • II - The Greek Renaissance C. 770-700 B.C. Regional Survey 107
  • 4 - Athens and Attica 109
  • 5 - The Argolid, Arcadia, Laconia, and Messenia 140
  • 6 - Corinth and West Greece 167
  • 7 - Euboea, Boeotia, Thessaly, and the Cyclades 191
  • 8 - Italy and Sicily: Trade and Colonies 221
  • 9 - Eastern Greece and Anatolia 246
  • 10 - Crete 271
  • III - Life in Eighth-Century Greece 293
  • 11 - The Recovery of Literacy 295
  • 12 - Towns and Villages 303
  • 13 - Sanctuaries, Gods, and Votives 317
  • 14 - Recollection of a Heroic Past 341
  • 15 - Oriental Influences 358
  • 16 - Epilogue 367
  • Supplement 371
  • Epilogue 414
  • Glossary 416
  • Bibliography and Site Index 418
  • Index 443
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