chapter  1
31 Pages

Isolation: The Early Ninth Century

The style of pottery after which this book is named was born in Athens around 900 B.C. In the grave groups of Athenian cemeteries, and nowhere else, we can watch the full course of the transition from the preceding Protogeometric style. The new Athenian fashion was soon followed by Attica’s landward neighbours. Overseas, retarded versions of Protogeometric persisted for fifty years or more, but by the end of the ninth century every major Aegean centre was producing Geometric pottery in some way related to the Athenian archetype. The diffusion of the new style need not surprise us; for the ninth-century painted pottery of Athens is outstanding in Greece for its technical excellence, its elegance of shape, and its harmony of shape and decoration. During its Early and Middle phases it was not only the most influential and sophisticated ware of its time: because of its greater sophistication, one can also observe the development of its style more precisely than that of any other regional school. This development gives us a historical lifeline for the long and obscure period discussed in the first three chapters, on which our literary sources are virtually silent.