The final emergence from the Dark Ages, the dawning of a Renaissance, the consolidation of the city-state: these are the main historical developments in eighth-century Greece. We have surveyed many of their symptoms in various parts of the Greek world, and in various aspects of daily life. It remains to consider the chief causes, and their interaction with one another.
We begin with the external cause: the revival of frequent exchanges with the eastern Mediterranean, after a long period of comparative isolation. Seen from a Near Eastern point of view, the Greeks were doubly fortunate in that they dwelt far enough away to escape the menace of Assyrian armies, but well within the range of maritime trade with the Levant coast. They could thus evolve their own political and social institutions without fear of foreign interference-even their nearer neighbours in the Anatolian hinterland gave them no trouble before the seventh century. At the same time, their eastward exchanges enabled them to learn from civilizations older than their own, and less seriously disrupted by the commotions at the end of the Bronze Age. Their creative powers were stimulated by the imagery of imported oriental artifacts, and by the recital of oriental myths; skilled techniques, especially in metalwork, were taught by oriental craftsmen who settled in Attica and Crete; and the mastery of the Phoenician alphabet put an end to over four centuries of Greek illiteracy.
Progress out of the Dark Ages was not uniform, but came by fits and starts. Thanks to the resumption of oriental traffic on a small scale, there was an early glimmer of light in the middle of the ninth century; it is visible in the exotic finds from the richer graves at Lefkandi and Athens, and in the traces of Phoenician visitors to Crete and the Dodecanese. But this proved to be a false dawn; the awakening was temporary, and confined to the paths of eastward trade.
The real dawn came in the middle of the eighth century, and gradually illumined the whole of the Greek world. Five of its most striking manifestations are roughly simultaneous: the first outburst of figured art on the Dipylon grave monuments, the beginning of the colonial movement to the west, the rise of the great Panhellenic sanctuaries, the flowering of Ionic epic and its Panhellenic circulation, and the recovery of literacy. Except for the last, these are all local developments arising from within the Greek homeland.
These symptoms of progress were accompanied by a rapid rise in population which must have been a major cause of recovery, just as the Dark Ages were inaugurated by a disastrous fall in numbers; whereas between the thirteenth and eleventh centuries it has been reckoned that Greece was depopulated by three-quarters, 1 during the course of the eighth century the number of inhabitants was