Dark Age Greece and the Demise of Godlike Kings
This is the second of two seminars on this topic.
Compared to most ancient societies, classical Greeks were strongly opposed to the idea that any humans had a divine right to rule over others. The unusual idea that the gods were largely indifferent to political structures created one of the central political and ideological problems in ancient Greece, and may have played a major part in the Greeks’ invention of male citizen democracy at the end of the sixth century BC.
This seminar asks how, when, and why this rejection of divine kingship happened. It contrasts two broad theories: first, that godlike kings existed in Bronze Age Greece (before 1200 BC) but largely disappeared during the Dark Age/Early Iron Age of c. 1200-700 BC; and second, that godlike kings had already disappeared from Greece by 1200 BC or never flourished there at all.
We will look at some of the earliest Greek writings (the Linear B tablets and the poems of Homer and Hesiod), some classical texts (particularly Herodotus and Thucydides), and some Near Eastern literature (particularly from the Persian Empire), but we will concentrate on the archaeological evidence, paying particular attention to the sites of Phylakopi, Mycenae, Thermon, and Lefkandi, and to Alexander Mazarakis-Ainian’s dataset in From Rulers’ Dwellings to Temples (1997).
This is a graduate seminar. Participants are expected to have backgrounds in Greek archaeology and history. Reading ability in modern Greek will be an advantage.