The Dark Ages of Greece, spanning roughly from 1200- 750 BCE, is a period defined by dramatic societal and cultural shifts. In fact, it was one of its most famous periods. Here is a top ten of things that happened at that time.

#10 Collapse of Mycenaean Civilization 
The start of the Greek Dark Ages is marked by the fall of the Mycenaean civilization around 1200 BCE. The exact cause of this collapse is not known, though evidence of widespread destruction between 1250-1200 BCE led to the theory of a catastrophic invasion of outsiders, the “Doric Invasion”. More recent evidence has generated arguments that instead climate change or an economic crisis triggered the collapse. Whatever the cause, the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization marked the start of a dramatic societal shift in Greece that led scholars to name the following period as the “Dark Age”.

#9 Settlements Abandoned - Migration and Decentralization
The Mycenaeans had established a thriving, highly centralized early Greek society, with palatial centers across Greece. Following their collapse, centers of power were abandoned and political states vanished. The period was defined by the redistributed of the population to small scattered settlements, and a lack of centralized power. Subsistence farming and sheep herding became the primary modes of life. Beginning around 1050 mainland Greeks moved in large numbers to Athens, perhaps fleeing a northern Dorian invasion, and settled on the Anatolian coast. With no central rule villages became fiercely independent, laying the foundations for the Greek city-states that would define Greece in the following centuries.

#8 A Silent Period – Writing Lost  
It may come as no surprise that one feature of the Dark Age is the loss of writing, which vanished with the Mycenaean civilization. There are no written records to illuminate the period, leaving scholars in the dark, left with the archaeological records alone to piece together the events of the period. The complete lack of written sources from this period has contributed to the sense that there was a dramatic loss of culture following the collapse of the Mycenaean Civilization.

#7 An Impoverished Age?  
Along with the loss of writing, the Dark Age is defined by the disappearance of specialized crafts, luxury goods, and monumental buildings, creating the impression of an “impoverished culture”. In addition, the period saw a marked decrease in population, along with a decline in agricultural production and an apparent loss of trade networks with the outside world.

#6 Protogeometric Art
Thoughts of Ancient Greek pottery typically conjure up images of black vases with painted images depicting gods, heroes, or mystical beasts from Greek mythology. These images disappear from Greek pottery after 1200 BCE, replaced by protogeometric motifs, with zigzags, triangles, and cross-hatching covering the surfaces. Not until the eighth century BCE do motifs of living creatures start to reappear. The Lefkandi centaur (thought to date around 950 BCE) is a fine example of this, and is seen as an indication of the Dark Age in Greece coming to an end, signaling the “rebirth” of Greek culture. 

#5 An Age of Iron  
The Dark Age saw the transition from bronze to iron in Greece, and some prefer to refer to the period as the “Early Iron Age”. While iron ore was plentiful throughout the Mediterranean, and archaeologists have identified iron artifacts dating back as early as 2000 BCE, iron was a rare commodity until the late eleventh and tenth centuries BCE. The techniques for smelting and working iron, which required far higher temperatures than bronze but produced far stronger tools and weapons, were not mastered until the late eleventh century BCE. By 950 BCE, iron objects were no longer a commodity; iron had become the metal of choice.

#4 Diversity
The lack of centralization led to greater cultural diversity. While generalizations are made about the material culture, settlement structures, and burial practices of the time, regions developed their own unique styles and identities. Lefkandi is the best example of this, as it appears to have prospered during the Dark Age, contradicting many of the common conceptions of the period. The unique “Heroon of Eritrea” burial indicates a rich hierarchical society, and alphabetic graffiti suggests that some semblance of literacy remained. There is also evidence that Lefkandi never lost contact with the outside world.

#3 Homer
The famous blind poet Homer, credited as the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, Greek epic poems which tell of the Trojan War and Odysseus’ tumultuous voyage home in the aftermath, has shaped what many know of the Ancient Greek world. He is thought to have lived around 800-700 BCE. Often described as a travelling bard, it is widely believed that his poems represent a tradition of oral composition; that he was one of many poets who travelled reciting poems composed and passed down without writing. (The composition of the Illiad and the Odyssey is dated to the mid-eighth century BCE, but they were not written down until the sixth or seventh centuries). These travelling bards are thought to have contributed to the spread of Greek language throughout the Mediterranean.

#2 The Trojan War 
Homer’s epic tales of the Trojan War are thought to have some grounding in actual historical events. Scholars point the period of apparent destruction around 1200-1185 BCE, the beginning of the Dark Age, as the source of the legends which bards retold and embellished over the following centuries. Typically associated with the earlier, “heroic” Bronze Age, the “Trojan War” defined the age that followed it.

#1 Nostalgia 
A feature prevalent in the art and culture of the Dark Age, exemplified in Homer’s poems, is a sense of nostalgia, a yearning for an earlier “heroic” past. This is also evident in the continuation of “hero cults” and the emergence of cremation burials in the style of Homeric epics. Surrounded by the massive palatial ruins of their predecessors, the Greeks of this period imagined the lives of larger than life figures and worshipped them.