Skip to main content

Archaic Greece

Archaic Greece

Brian Lavelle

ISBN: 978-1-119-36994-3

Dec 2018, Wiley-Blackwell

296 pages


Product not available for purchase


An introductory guide to the Archaic period in ancient Greece—the people, their society, and their culture.  Excerpts from literary and other texts give voice to the interests, concerns, and emotions of the Archaic Greeks themselves.

This book provides a brief but comprehensive introduction to the society and culture of the Archaic period in the Greek world from c. 750 to c. 480 BCE. It focuses on the persistent and often-conflicting themes, topics, and controversies of the Archaic Age (e.g., elite and non-elite, religion and science, tradition and humanism). It seeks to lead the reader to a broader and deeper understanding of the period by placing themes and topics in a mutually supportive contextual network that will underscore their significance. 

Archaic Greece: The Age of New Reckonings begins with a chapter on how sources for the period are evaluated and deployed, and goes on to offer a concise yet thorough historical overview of the Archaic period. Subsequent chapters cover polis and politics; war and violence; religion; science; philosophy; art; literature; festivals and games; social forces, values, and behaviors; and gender and sex.

The book:

  • Offers a novel approach to a very significant period that foregrounds literary evidence and the words voiced by Archaic Greeks, combining scholarship with readability;
  • Conceptualizes Archaic Greek culture and society by focusing substantially on topics that supplement the history of the period;
  • Combines diverse elements of society and culture, including religion, art, literature, games and festivals, gender, sexuality, and politics in order to develop a unique picture of Greece during the Archaic period;
  • Includes a summarizing essay that draws chapters together, emphasizing the implications of their topics and themes.

Archaic Greece: The Age of New Reckonings should appeal to college-level instructors as a book to assign to students enrolled in courses involving Archaic Greece and to others interested in this intriguing and pivotal period in ancient Greece.      

Related Resources


Request an Evaluation Copy for this title

Images and Acknowledgments



Abbreviations and Citations


1 Sources for the Archaic Period

1.1 Introduction

1.2 Archaeology and the Material Remains

1.2.1 Pottery

1.2.2 Burials

1.2.3 Inscriptions

1.2.4 Other Types of Material Evidence

1.2.5 Problems of Interpretation

1.3 Literary Sources

1.3.1 Archaic Greek Poets

1.3.2 Prose Writers

1.4 Managing the Muses

1.4.1 Evaluating and Deploying the Evidence


Further Reading

2 A Brief Overview of the Archaic Period

2.1 Introduction

2.2 The Environment and Greek Life

2.2.1 The Land and the Sea

2.2.2 The Greeks and Others

2.3 The Early Archaic Period

2.4 The Seventh Century BCE: Expansion and Change

2.4.1 Colonies

2.4.2 Law Codes

2.4.3 Tyranny

2.5 The Sixth Century BCE: Conflict and Creation

2.5.1 The Kingdom of Lydia

2.5.2 The Empire of the Persians

2.5.3 Greek Culture in the Sixth Century BCE

2.6 The Early Fifth Century BCE: The Defeat of Persia

2.7 Sparta and Lakonia

2.8 Athens and Attika


Further Reading

Brief Timeline for the Archaic Period

3 Polis and Politics in Archaic Greece

3.1 Introduction

3.2 Origins and Nature of the Early Polis

3.3 Transformations of Leadership and Governance in the Archaic Polis

3.3.1 Basileis and Aristoi

3.3.2 Archaic Greek Tyrants and Tyranny

3.3.3 Lawgivers and Law Codes

3.4 Demokratia

3.4.1 Background

3.4.2 Kleisthenes and His Reforms

3.5 The Evolution of Politics and Government in Archaic Greece: A Summary

3.6 Politics and the Archaic Greek Farmer


Further Reading

4 War and Violence in Archaic Greece

4.1 Introduction

4.1.1 “Homeric” Warfare

4.2 Land Warfare in the Early Archaic Period

4.2.1 “Servant of the War-God”

4.2.2 Hoplites and the Phalanx

4.3 Land Warfare in the Later Archaic Period

4.3.1 Sparta, the Polis of War

4.4 Epilogue: The Causes of War

4.5 Summary

4.5.1 The Land War Experience in the Archaic Period

4.6 Conflict at Sea

4.6.1 Early Sea Travel and Piracy

4.6.2 Archaic Greek Ship-Guilds

4.6.3 Archaic Greek Ships

4.6.4 The Archaic Greeks and the Sea: A Summary


Further Reading

5 Archaic Greek Myth and Religion

5.1 Introduction

5.2 The Gods of Hesiod and Homer

5.2.1 Hesiod

5.2.2 Homer

5.2.3 Xenophanes’ Complaint

5.3 Sanctuaries and Seers

5.3.1 Sacred Space

5.3.2 Seers, Prophets, and Sibyls

5.3.3 Dodona and Delphi

5.4 Gods and Poleis

5.4.1 Cult and Identity

5.5 The Archaic Greeks and Their Gods

5.5.1 Law, Order, and Justice in the Kosmos

5.6 The Olympians


Further Reading

6 Early Greek Science

6.1 Darkness and Lumination

6.2 A Farmer’s Handbook: Hesiod’s Works and Days

6.3 The Near East, Miletos, and Science

6.3.1 Thales, Physikos kai Astronomikos

6.3.2 Anaximandros, Hekataios, and the World Imagined

6.3.3 Milesian Science: A Summary

6.4 “Wonders”

6.4.1 The Evolution of Archaic Greek Temples

6.4.2 Tunnels, Moles, and Bridges

6.5 Medicine

6.6 “Civilians,” Science, and Technology


Further Reading

7 Archaic Greek Philosophy

7.1 Introduction

7.2 Hesiod and Zeus

7.3 Ionian Philosophy

7.3.1 The Milesians and the Kosmos

7.4 Skepticism, Critics, and Epistemology

7.4.1 Xenophanes

7.4.2 Herakleitos

7.5 Mathematics and the Mystical

7.5.1 Pythagoras

7.6 Summary

7.6.1 Early Philosophers and the Archaic Greeks


Further Reading

8 The Art of the Archaic Greeks

8.1 Introduction

8.2 Archaic Pottery-Painting

8.2.1 Later Geometric Pottery

8.2.2 Early Archaic Pottery: Orientalizing, Proto-Corinthian, and Proto-Attic

8.2.3 Later Archaic Pottery: Black-Figure and Red-Figure Ware

8.3 Archaic Greek Sculpture

8.3.1 Introduction

8.3.2 Later Geometric Sculpture

8.3.3 Archaic Architectural Sculpture

8.3.4 Kouroi

8.3.5 Korai

8.4 Summary

8.4.1 Archaic Greek Art and Archaic Greeks


Further Reading

9 Archaic Greek Literature

9.1 Introduction

9.2 Homer

9.2.1 Iliad

9.2.2 Odyssey

9.3 Hesiod

9.4 Early Greek Lyric and Elegaic Poets

9.4.1 Archilochos

9.4.2 Semonides

9.4.3 Tyrtaios

9.4.4 Mimnermos

9.5 Later Lyric and Elegaic Poets

9.5.1 Sappho

9.5.2 Solon

9.5.3 Anakreon

9.5.4 Simonides

9.5.5 Pindar

9.6 Summary


Further Reading

10 Festivals and Games of the Archaic Greeks

10.1 Introduction

10.1.1 Pre-Olympic Festivals and Games

10.2 The Olympic Festival and Games

10.2.1 Origins and Arrangements

10.2.2 Agones

10.2.3 Nike (“Victory”)

10.2.4 The Panhellenic Ideal

10.3 Other Games and Festivals

10.3.1 Pythian, Nemean, and Isthmian Games

10.4 Local and Regional Festivals

10.4.1 Panathenaia

10.4.2 Other Local and Regional Festivals

10.5 Festivals and Culture

10.5.1 Dionysia and Drama at Athens

10.5.2 The Dithyramb, Thespis, and Attic Tragedy

10.6 Summary


Further Reading

11 Cultural Identity, Social Forces, Values, and Behaviors

11.1 Introduction

11.1.1 Philochoria

11.2 Honor, Fame, and Good Repute

11.2.1 Kleos and Arete: Old Standards and New Benchmarks

11.2.2 Adjustments and Modifications to Standards and Expectations

11.2.3 Right Conduct: Constructive and Destructive

11.2.4 Philia

11.3 Excess and Moderation

11.3.1 The Seven Sages and the Delphic Maxims

11.4 Competition

11.4.1 The Pursuit of Wealth

11.4.2 The Agon of Politics and Display

11.5 Old Allegiances and New Realities

11.5.1 Aristos and Demos

11.6 Summary


Further Reading

12 Gender and Sexuality in Archaic Greece

12.1 Introduction

12.2 Archaic Greek Females

12.2.1 The Problem of Male Sources: Pandora, Helen, Clytemnestra, Penelope

12.2.2 Voices of Archaic Greek Women

12.2.3 Childhood and Maidenhood

12.2.4 Marriage and Family

12.2.5 Ritual and Religion

12.2.6 Summary

12.3 Archaic Greek Males

12.3.1 Childhood and Youth

12.3.2 Marriage and Family

12.3.3 Ritual and Religion

12.3.4 Social Life: Philia and Symposia

12.3.5 Summary

12.4 Sex, Gender, and Archaic Greek Society

12.4.1Introduction: “Secret Sex” and Open Encounters

12.4.2 Eros

12.4.3 Same-Sex Relationships

12.5 Summary


Further Reading

13 Epilogue: The Common and the Extraordinary


Glossary of Greek Terms