After the Dorians and the Ionians succeeded in conquering the Mycenean civilization around 1100 B.C., Greek civilization entered into a dark age that lasted nearly 300 years. Vital trade links were lost, towns and villages were abandoned, and the population dwindled. Architecture, art, and literacy practically ceased. While farming, weaving, metalworking, and pottery did continue during this time, they were restricted to local markets. Some technical advances were still made by the Greeks, but the overall trend was toward simplicity and functionality instead of beauty and art.
In keeping with their desire for simplicity, Greek clothing was nothing more than an assortment of cloth rectangles draped around the body and secured in place with pins and cords. The foundational piece for any Greek wardrobe was the Chiton, a
kind of tunic fashioned from a single rectangular piece of linen or wool cloth. Worn by both men and women, it was wrapped around the body, fastened at the shoulders with simple pins or fancy broaches, and belted at
the waist. Chitons were usually bound at the waist with a double belt between which a section of cloth could be pulled out to create a kind of pocket that was not only decorative but useful. Working men, children, and some younger women wore short, knee length Chitons to allow for more freedom of movement, but full length Chitons were preferred by women and higher ranking men. Chitons could be draped in any number of ways to suit the wearers style. The Chiton would become the signature garment of the Greeks, representing cultural and intellectual refinement. It would later become adopted by the Romans and would continue to be incorporated into fashionable styles throughout the ages – even today – as a nod to Classical Greece. The pattern for this dress will be available soon, but if you would like a chance to win the prototype, be sure to leave a comment below to be included in a random drawing to be announced in next months newsletter!
Around the time that Greece began to emerge from their dark age, King Solomon of Israel died and a civil war erupted in his kingdom that split the nation into the rivaling kingdoms of Israel and Judah. As the two kingdoms fought against one another, the Assyrian Empire began to rise in power at an alarming rate. The Assyrians were a heinous force that compelled Israel and Judah to work together to ensure their survival. The Greeks looked to the Assyrians with keen interest and began adopting elements of their art, religion, and mythology. In 776 B.C., the Greeks held their first Olympic games, and tradition marks that event as the beginning of the Classical Greek period. Interestingly, it was at about this time that God sent the Biblical prophet Jonah to preach to the Assyrians, who responded with a deep, though short lived, repentance. Just as Israel and Judah were a divided nation, so were the two Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta. Though they shared a common language and heritage, in every other respect, they were different. The people of Athens, descended from the Ionians, were situated on a high plain and their outlook on life was as bright and fresh as the sunshine and warm sea breezes that spilled over them from day to day. Athens had become a bustling center of trade and the people loved to bask in the sunshine discussing poetry and listening to philosophers. Descended from the Dorians, the Spartans settled in the bottom of a deep valley where they barricaded themselves from foreign influence and developed a darker view on life. They trained their men to be soldiers – and their women to raise soldiers. Sacrificing their emotions to create hardened soldiers, Spartans had little use for literature or philosophy. The Athenians and Spartans had little love for one another, but like Israel and Judah they could unite to fight outside invaders as easily as it could divide to fight against each other.
When the Greek culture adopted and modified the Phoenecian alphabet, artists, mathematicians, scientists, architects, poets, writers, and philosophers flourished. This was the time of Socrates, Homer, Hippocrates, Plato, and Xenophon. Aesop, a freed slave from Samos, also lived during this time. He had a natural intellect and wit that he used to raise himself up to a position of high renown among the intellectual giants of his time. He lived between 620 and 564 B.C., which made him about the same age as the Biblical Daniel. Desiring to instruct and be instructed, he traveled through many countries, sharing his witty tales of human folly. Aesop lived in a period of tyrannical rule and unrest in Greece, and the Lydian King Croesus employed him to manage various difficult and delicate affairs of state with the narration of his wise fables. On one particular ambassadorial mission to Delphi, Croesus sent a large sum of gold for Aesop to distribute among the citizens. However, Aesop was so provoked by the Delphians greed that he sent the gold back to King Croesus. The Delphians were so enraged by his act that they accused him of impiety and executed him as a public criminal.
Not familiar with Aesop’s Fables? Here is one of my favorites for you to enjoy.
Belling the Cat
The mice once called a meeting to decide on a plan to free themselves of their enemy, the cat. At least they wished to find some way of knowing when she was coming, so they might have time to run away. Indeed, something had to be done, for they lived in such constant fear of her claws that they hardly dared stir from their dens by night or day.
Many plans were discussed, but none of them was thought good enough. At last a very young mouse got up and said: “I have a plan that seems very simple, but I know it will be successful. All we have to do is to hang a bell about the cat’s neck. When we hear the bell ringing we will know immediately that our enemy is coming.”
All the mice were much surprised that they had not thought of such a plan before. But in the midst of the rejoicing over their good fortune, an old mouse arose and said: “I will say that the plan of the young mouse is very good. But let me ask one question: Who will bell the cat?”
Moral Lesson: “It is one thing to say that something should be done, but quite a different matter to do it.”
An insignificant quarrel between two small Greek cities led to a thirty-year war between Athens and Sparta would bring the Classical Age of Greece to an end. During the third year of the war, a plague entered the city of Athens killing more than half of its population, including their great leader Pericles. With no strong leadership, Athens suffered several humiliating defeats until it was was finally forced to surrender to Sparta in 404 B.C. Although Athens ceased to exist as the center of the great colonial empire, it became the home of the first great university and its legacy of learning and teaching spread throughout the western world.