The Greek Archaic Period (800-500 BCE) is known predominately for the establishment and development of individual city-states (poleis) within the country, as well as the colonisation movement which lead to an expansion in Greek land ownership throughout the Mediterranean region. This essay will discuss the reasons for and changes caused by colonisation, as well as the impact it had on militia warfare and how it aided the rise of tyranny.
Firstly, after the collapse of the Mycenaean civilisation, the people of Greece formed small tribes which slowly developed into individual city-states, that is, poleis. Although each polis was separate and distinct from one another, the problem of overpopulation was inevitability encountered by the nation as a whole as it caused a shortage of land, familial disputes and social unrest. Leaders of each polis therefore decided to establish colonies in unclaimed or unoccupied land throughout the Mediterranean.
Additional reasons for colonisations include rivalry between political groups, a desire for adventure, banishment of citizens and the search for trading ventures. Moreover, colonisation resulted in cultural integration, and at times amalgamation, between Greek and native culture. Local artistic characteristic were used in conjunction with traditional Greek style in the creation of pottery, jewellery and armour.
Colonisation also resulted in inharmonious relations between local inhabitants however, with many natives being enslaved after their land was conquered. Another consequence of colonisation was the introduction of coinage as a means of exchange between different colonies and countries. Although this invention helped advance trading activities, it had profusely negative effects on the lower-class of Greek society who were exploited through their rich counterparts as a result of hoarding, high credit rates and the severity of the law in regards to debt repayment.
Furthermore, as an effect of increased trade and economic prosperity, richer poleis’ replaced traditional methods of hand-to-hand combat with a new form of warfare – a mass phalanx of heavily armed soldiers or hoplites. Middle-class citizens could afford to provide or sell better quality armour and weaponry for their armies who depended on discipline and effective cooperation to win battles. An additional impact on military warfare through colonisation was an improvement in military strategies through the use of slaves.
For examples, atives that had been captured and subjugated by the Greeks could be used in warfare as “light-armed men” (Tyrataeus, “Fragment 10”, l 67) to aid in battle. Finally, colonisation aided in the rise of tyranny in several ways. After the introduction of coinage, economic changes within the polis took place with rich merchants and traders forming the new wealthy commercial and industrial class. However, despite their financial status, these citizens were being kept out of political power by the eupatridae (well-born aristocrats).
Widespread public dissatisfaction with the existing aristocratic elites resulted in their power being challenged and eventually overthrown by a tyrant – a popular member of the middle class with military support who then ruled over the polis. In conclusion, colonisation during the Greek archaic period resulted in many political, social and economic changes, enabling Greece to transform from a primitive agricultural economy to one of extreme power and influence based on trade, industry and money.