chapter
Part I
Pages 8

The traditional picture of the early Iron Age in Greece (c. 1100-800 BC) as a Dark Age of primitive technology, poverty, political chaos and cultural isolation is becoming ever less gloomy in the light of archaeological discovery. Even so, it remains true that the character of Greek political organization underwent a transformation from the eighth century BC onwards. Settlements became larger and more numerous, the first fortifications and monumental buildings – mostly sanctuaries – appeared, and Greeks began to trade and settle all over the Mediterranean (and soon afterwards around the Black Sea as well). This is when the characteristic Greek form of political organization, the city-state (polis), began to emerge. The process was slow and uneven, and, on a strict definition, the polis perhaps never quite reached the point where it was worthy of the name ‘state’; yet by the beginning of the classical period (c. 500 BC) at the latest, most Greek communities had enough of a centralized and formalized form of government to warrant loosely calling them ‘states’.