chapter  2
10 Pages

THE CAUSES OF COLONIZATION IN ARCHAIC GREECE

The great age of Greek colonization is associated with the period of time that stretched from the second half of the eighth century to the first half of the sixth. Greek colonies were sent out westwards to Sicily and southern Italy, even as far as the south coast of France and the east coast of Spain; eastwards to the Thracian coast, the Hellespont and all around the shores of the Black Sea; and southwards to Cyrenaica in modern Libya on the north coast of Africa. There had been an earlier period of Greek colonization during the Dark Ages (1200-900) after the fall of the Mycenaean civilization in the twelfth century: the so-called Ionian and Dorian migrations. According to tradition, the Dorians under the leadership of the sons of Heracles, who had been exiled from Mycenae, returned to Greece in order to regain their inheritance by force, which resulted in the Ionians seeking refuge from them by crossing the Aegean Sea and settling in Asia Minor; but it was not on the same scale nor as well-organized as this later expansion. The end of the Dark Ages ushered in an era, which witnessed the rediscovery of long-range travel by sea, widespread trade around the Mediterranean, the re-introduction of writing and the rise of the Greek ‘polis’ or city-state. The eighth century (799-700) was a time of remarkable economic growth, with agricultural development bringing about a general increase in the level of prosperity, especially for the aristocracy, whose political control over their own polis was based on their tenure of the best and the largest amount of land, as well as their ability to defend the state from external threats. Land, especially in a pre-coinage age, was the most valuable of all possessions because it was the sole guarantee of permanent wealth. However, the eighth century also saw the rise of serious social problems in Greece, which were linked directly or indirectly with the land.