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The term archaic refers to an era in the political and cultural development in ancient Greece . The archaic period begins around 800  BC. Chr. (In the history of art by 700 v. Chr.) And ends about 500 v. In general Greek history it followed the so-called Dark Centuries (around 1200–800 BC) and in art history it followed the Geometric Period (around 900–700 BC) and followed the Classical era (around 500 / 480–336 BC).

Word origin (etymology)

The adjective “archaic” (from ancient Greek ἀρχαῖος archaíos ) means “ ancient ” or “coming from the prehistory of mankind”. The Periodisierungs terminus "archaic" (as Artistic period) originates from the archeology or art history , but has been early as historical era name (see. Age ) taken.

Common usage

In common parlance , the term “archaic” is also used in the sense of “ancient” - nowadays, however, it is usually not (no longer) neutrally descriptive, but in a negative way, primarily as a symbol of inhumane brutality . The expression “archaic punishment ” can be cited as an example. It serves as a negative evaluation of a punishment that is perceived as anachronistic , e.g. B. Whipping .

Historical developments

The Greek community was marked by two fundamental problems. They occurred - albeit in different degrees - in all Greek states: firstly it was the competing mentality of the noble houses and secondly the plight of the small farmers. The solution to these problems was accelerated by the gradual emergence of a sense of community as Greeks. This phenomenon is known as panhellenism .

Two different approaches were developed: Either a nobleman with the help of the people could prevail in the competition between the noble houses and set up a tyranny . The tyrant had to be careful to alleviate the plight of the peasants in order to maintain his popularity and to bind or eliminate his aristocratic competitors. Or a community developed with written law and institutionalized rule that bore rudimentary democratic features and is known as a polis . The development processes can best be illustrated using the example of Sparta and Athens . A militarized community developed in Sparta, headed by two kings who were controlled by ephors and a popular assembly. In Athens, on the other hand, the process of equalization that Solon's reforms were supposed to initiate was initially interrupted by the tyranny of Peisistratos . After the end of his successors, the conflicts reappeared; the reforms of Kleisthenes resulted in the emergence of Attic democracy . From a historical perspective, this solution marks the end of the archaic and the beginning of the classical epoch .

Cultural aspects

The term “archaic”, however, carries the stigma of the “primitive”. This judgment is undifferentiated and not always factually justified. This particularly affects the visual arts. The archaic kore and the kouros of the early and middle archaic era with the characteristic upright posture and symmetry both in the face with the so-called archaic smile differ significantly from the late archaic and early classical ones, which are usually assigned to the so-called strict style . Archaic signs and representations are generally understandable and cross-cultural.

The first half of the archaic period is also known as the orientalizing phase , because in the 7th century - sometimes even before that - elements from the Middle East are increasingly being adopted. This affects both art and customs and probably even social aspects.

Many laws have come down to us from the archaic period. Solon's reforms fall e.g. B. in this time.


  • Klaus Bringmann : In the shadow of the palaces. History of Early Greece. Beck, Munich 2016.
  • Jonathan Hall: A History of the Archaic Greek World. London 2014.
  • Oswyn Murray : Early Greece . Munich 1980.
  • Robin Osborne : Greece in the Making . London 2009.
  • Kurt Raaflaub , Hans van Wees (Ed.): A Companion to Archaic Greece . Malden 2009.
  • Anthony Snodgrass : Archaic Greece. The Age of Experiment . London 1980.
  • Elke Stein-Hölkeskamp : Archaic Greece . Munich 2015.

Web links

Wiktionary: archaic  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
  • Archaic - overview of topics related to archaic