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Greece History: Archaic Greece

The period in which the introductions of Greek monumental stone sculpture and other developments in the realistic representation of the human figure are found. By around 1000 BC the Greeks were starting to reconstruct their civilization after the Dark Ages. There seem to have been more people around, and enough gold to pay for building new buildings. The Greeks did not reconstruct the palaces of kings, though, because most Greek towns did not have kings anymore. Most cities were ruled by a group of rich men called aristocrats. This kind of government is called an oligarchy. Instead, the Greeks built temples to the gods where the old palaces had been, mostly on top of mountains.

There got to be so several people in Greece that the Greeks started to sent out groups of men (and sometimes women) to erect new towns in other parts of Europe and Africa. One example is the city of Marseilles in the south of France. Another is a city on the Black Sea called Byzantion, which is now Istanbul, or the city of Cyrene in Libya. These are called colonies. The Greeks (especially Corinth) also began to trade with West Asia again, especially with the Phoenicians. They learned the alphabet from the Phoenicians around 750 BC, and that is how Homer was able to write down the stories about the Trojan War. The Greeks also learned about art from Western Asia. The Greeks also began to take jobs as mercenaries (soldiers working for other people) again, in Egypt and also in Lydia (Turkey).

Some of the Greek towns still had kings (Sparta for instance), but most of them were governed by groups of aristocrats. These aristocrats were often fighting with each other over who would have the most power. Some of them attempted to get other aristocrats on their side. But now one of these aristocrats had the idea to try to get the poor people on his side, too. That was pretty easy to do, because nobody had been paying any attention to these poor people at all. So this aristocrat was able to get more power than his friends and he was in charge of the town. Instead of being called the king, he was called the tyrant. The earliest tyrants were in Corinth. Soon other aristocrats in other Greek towns (and in West Asia) copied this idea. By 550 BC many towns were still ruled by aristocrats, especially the ones where Dorians lived, but many others were ruled by tyrants, especially the ones where Ionians lived, like Athens. Other aristocrats hated the tyrants, but a lot of poor people loved them. Most of the tyrants did a good job. They defended the poor people from the rich aristocrats, they erected a lot of new buildings, and they helped people to trade with West Asia and the other nearby sites.

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