Archaic Period

The earliest period discussed in this encyclopædia, typified by the year 4600 AED (see date).

The Archaic Period is distinguished by the profusion of city-states. Each city constitutes, with the land around it (perhaps the whole island on which it stands), an independent country, often at war with its neighbours, though some have joined leagues and hegemonies.

The battlefield is dominated by dense masses of heavily-armoured shieldmen with spears (see hoplite and phalanx), which are a relatively new thing, having been made possible by the invention of affordable laminate armour. This supremacy of the hoplites has swung the balance of military power from the wealthy aristocrats to the middle rank of citizens, and democracies and popular tyrants are replacing aristocratic and royal governments in large numbers. The greatest military power is Samariopolis, whose tyrant dominates a large hegemony in central Gehennum, but Thekla, largest city on the western island of Thelmond, is gaining is power, mostly at the expense of backward states and outright savages to its west.

The staple food is sorghum, although rice is making ground. Food is not so cheap as it will be later, and the population is growing at only a moderate rate.

Raiding and piracy are common (captives are enslaved) and all settlements have some fortifications to protect their populace. Around the largest cities cyclopean walls, up to thirty metres tall, are being built. Many of the better-organised states have fleets of longships (see triakonter and pentekonter) to protect them from raiders and to conduct large raids of their own.

Fine art is flourishing—painted figures are replacing geometrical designs on pottery, and very good murals are starting to be painted. Sculpture is improving, though the poses are still a little rigid, and the features and expressions not quite lifelike, and is emerging from the temple. The earlier non-representational art is having a last spectacular fling in jewellery.

Science and philosophy are nascent, with early steps being taken in rhetoric, logic, and mathematics. Human communities are starting to deal with, rather than tremble before, daimons. Human sacrifice is declining in frequency and acceptability, and profound doubts about the origins of the universe and the purpose of life are bringing forth new philosophical religions.

The Archaic Period is an age of heroes, a time for men to take on monarchs, monsters, and gods, answering only to their own legends.

Copyright © 1991 by Brett Evill. All rights reserved.