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Notebook

Notebook, 1993-

ANCIENT GREEK CULTURE

[From: Kyriazis, Constantine D. Eternal Greece. Translated by Harry T. Hionides. A Chat Publication.]

Birth of Greece - Chronological Tables - Historians - Between History and Legend

Historical Events in
the Greek World - From the
Neolithic Age to the Fall of Constantinople

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The earliest indications of habitation in the Greek world go far back into the mists of prehistoric times. The oldest surviving evidence to come to light is an axe made of greenish trachite measuring 15.3 cm. in length and 10 cm. wide discovered in the village of Paleocastro near Siatista in 1963. In the opinion of experts, the axe is some 100,000 years old.

Other finds near the banks of the Peneus river have convinced scholars that the region was inhabited as early as in the lower Palaeolithic Age, some time between 100,000 and 40,000 B.C.

But the most significant find was made in 1960. A group of visitors on September 16 of that year explored the cave of Kokkines Petres situated near the village of Petralona in the Chalcidice peninsula, and accidentally stumbled upon a skull covered with a layer of calcareous deposit which once removed proved to be that of a woman rather advanced in age for the time, perhaps 25 years old, of the type known as the Neanderthal. She must have lived in what is now Greece some time between 70,000 and 60,000 years B.C. One can be sure that the Neanderthal type of human being who differs substantially from Homo Sapiens had inhabited the country until his complete disappearance from the scene about 40,000 years ago without leaving any traces of former existence in the area or any indications of human artifacts.

With the arrival of Homo Sapiens some 40,000 B.C., a new kind of human makes [p. 7] his appearance. He is the first real ancestor of both Greeks and Europeans in general. Homo Sapiens was not indigenous to the country. He had migrated from distant lands from the East in all likelihood, and more specifically from southeastern Asia.

For a more systematic arrangement of the history of man and for the sake of convenience, archaeologists have divided the Stone Age into different periods in which humans used means other than hands and jaws to forage for food and to defend themselves. The division comprises three great periods: The Palaeolithic, the Mesolithic, and the Neolithic. The Palaeolithic in turn is subdivided into three ages: [Publication error - no text]

Homo Sapiens developed a kind of communal society many traces of which have survived throughout Europe. Villages have been uncovered which would indicate a somewhat advanced state of intercourse of primitive bartering and trade. With the passage of many centuries, manÍs activities multiplied and expanded. One can describe the human being of the Neolithic Age as a social being who led an organized communal life, though in a primitive stage of development.

The oldest Neolithic village to come to light in Greece is in Nea Nicomedia of Macedonia. It dates to about 6,278 B.C., give or take 150 years. On the other hand, the most ancient in Central Greece was uncovered at Elateia and was built in about 5520 B.C., give or take 70 years.

Near Larissa, in the large plain of Thessaly, and in a more or less direct line from the Pagasaean Gulf, there are found a series of mounds or tumuli among which the most significant ones are those of Sesclo and Dimini. These mounds are all that survive of the old Neolithic villages, and certainly the most important of these is Sesclo.

The oldest known civilization in Greece, on the basis of the finds, is the Sesclo settlement. Excavations have brought to light red-tinted almost geometric pottery, of [p. 8] an advanced technique as well as foundations of dwellings arranged one next to the other. The houses consisted of a single square room, an elongated chamber, or in some cases two or three consecutive rooms.

Not far from Sesclo is the mound of Dimini which should date round about the beginning of the 4th millennium B.C. The inhabitants of Dimini did not possess as highly developed a civilization as that of Sesclo. Yet they appear to have had some political and military organization and possessed in their arsenal a frightening weapon of the time, the bow. The most striking innovations in this civilization were the impressive defensive walls and the elongated rectangular dwellings which some scholars maintain were the precursors of the Mycenaean palace [megaron].

The civilization of Dimini is both related to the East--the palace, the walled village, the animal motifs in the arms of the pottery, and the spiral decorations which are all so typical of the peoples of the early bronze age; and with the other peoples of the Neolithic agricultural habitations of Europe who used the pottery patterns known as Band Keramik with geometric designs and spiral motifs.

The Neolithic Age did not survive much past the 3rd millennium [2,800 B.C.], nevertheless it was the longest enduring [3000 years] period of history in the Greek peninsula. It was tenfold as long as the Classical period of Greece, and lasted three times longer in time than the actual historical period.

The Neolithic Age was followed by the age of bronze beginning in about 2800 B.C. and ending in 1200 or 1100 B.C. The Bronze Age is divided into the following three periods: [Publication error - no text]

The distinguishing features of the towns of the early Bronze Age in Greece are the site which is usually on a low elevation near the sea, and more rarely, near wells [p. 9] of sources of drinking water as in the Neolithic period, two roomed dwellings with path or street in front strewn with pebbles or stone, walls in most cases encircling the settlement, pits or vats for the storage of food. [Vothroi], some larger buildings that stand out above the rest, mud building bricks and some times tiled roofing, a very active trade with neighboring peoples inhabiting the coastal areas, the importation of goods and items from other regions, and lastly, ornaments of tin and silver.

Of the three divisions of the Bronze Age each in turn has its own subdivisions to which are given special names depending upon the area in which the archaeologist's spade brought the particular civilization to light. Thus one finds the Helladic which is given to continental or mainland Greece, Minoan to Crete, and Cycladic to the islands of the Central Aegean sea. Even these civilizations are subdivided conveniently into stages by the Roman numerals I, II, and III. Thus the 2000 years span of the Bronze Age is broken up into nine stages or phases.

The early Helladic period dates from the 3rd millenium B .C. and is identified chronologically with the kingdom and the first division of Egypt, with the early dynastic [Ur I] of the Akkadian and the Neosumerian of Mesopotamia, with Troy I-II in its first phase, and IV-V in its second. Troy I was in all probability built round about 2900 B.C., the town of Poliochni in Lemnos one or two centuries earlier, and Lerna in the Argolid one or two centuries later.

Each early Helladic city in Greece had its own history which was influenced by external factors that varied from one city to the next. Thus one finds that mainland Greece relates to Thessaly and the regions round Troy, the Northern Peloponnese is associated with Crete, and Attica with the Cyclades.

One of the most representative cites of the early Helladic period is Lerna which is located at the other extremity of the gulf of Nauplia [the Argolic Gulf]. Lerna was inhabited from as early as the Neolithic age but it appears that it had not been a village in being for many centuries until it was rebuilt in the Bronze Age on the ruins of the older foundations.

The newly arrived inhabitants leveled and cleared the remains and built over these on a broader elevation their new village or rather, city. The houses were now much larger, better planned and constructed, facing a street, and in the center of the town there was erected a monumental building with numerous hallways leading into large central rooms. The city was surrounded by a wall which to judge by the excavations had been altered in structure many times. From a plain terraced wall retaining the soil, it developed into a rampart which was eventually strengthened by a tower that rose near the central gate. Subsequently, other defensive works were added until it reached its final configuration as found in Lerna IV.

Beginning with the Bronze Age one cannot date events and archaeological evidence with any modicum of accuracy up to 2000 B.C., and there is uncertainty in the dating up to 1600 B.C., this uncertainty continuing until as late as 1400 B.C. On the other hand, the period between 1600 and 776 B.C. is considered obscurest of all since historical evidence is very scant and the chronology consequently very doubtful.

In the long stretch of years from 3000 to 1100 B.C. there flourished in the Greek [p. 10] world two remarkable civilizations, the Minoan and the Mycenaean. The civilization brought to Orchomenos and to the plain of Lake Copais by the people whom Schliemann called the Minyes, will not be dealt with here, nor will the Cycladic civilization be covered since it runs more or less parallel with the Minoan in the early stages and with the Mycenaean in the subsequent period.

[Kyriazis, Constantine D. Eternal Greece. Translated by Harry T. Hionides. A Chat Publication.]




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