-Dorian Invasion or Revolt from Within?-

Excerpts from The Mycenaean Civilization,
Professor Jeremy McInerney, University of Pennsylvania

"But the Mycenaean culture did not disappear with these blows to its fabric. In fact, it seems unlikely that external invasion was the cause of the destruction, since Greek culture remained Mycenaean after the palace burnings had taken place. Natural causes do not seem to have been o blame - there is no evidence of any drought that may have cause the fires; the destruction looks deliberate.

"The most likely explanation is revolt from within. There were rich pickings to be gained, and the success and splendor of the ruling families might well have caused resentment amongst those who did well out of the system but felt that they could do better still. But whoever stimulated the revolt did not take over the redistributive system - or at least did not keep control of it for long. After a brief flowering around the time of the first wave of fires, Mycenaean culture started to decline. Single-mindedness on the part of the rulers and unity amongst the ranks was obviously vital to hold the system together."

A. Case Against Dorian Invasion

1. Linguists doubt that the distribution of the Greek dialects in classical times is a reliable guide to population movements during a much earlier period

2. Material evidence for Dorian invasion is poor

a. Dorian pottery is found in some areas BEFORE Dorians were supposed to have invaded

b. Iron weapons, often associated with Dorians, already used by Mycenaeans by 1200

"The notion that the invasion or migration of the Dorians was responsible for the collapse of Mycenaean civilization does not conform to either archaeological or traditional evidence. Archaeology places the destruction of many Mycenaean settlements in the beginning of the twelfth century, but Greek tradition dated the arrival of the Dorians and the Heraclidae about a hundred years later. A further difficulty is that so far archaeologists have found no material evidence for the presence of the Dorians before the tenth century. Scholars have emphasized how unrealistic it is to believe that the Dorians remained in isolation in the north for the best part of a millennium and then in the twelfth century burst into the Greek world still speaking a language basically the same as that of the other tribes long established in Greece. Faced with this dilemma, several scholars now argue that the 'Dorians' were among those tribes which entered Greece about the beginning of the second millennium.

A. Collapse Scenario

1. Dorians were already present as serfs

2. -- Dorian linguistic elements already found in the Greek of Linear B used by the Mycenaeans

3. Dorian "Invasion" - not an external invasion but an internal collapse of the Mycenaean social order. Dorian servile element in Mycenaean society arose and overthrew the warrior elite

"If the Dorians belonged to the population of the Mycenaean world, how does one explain the collapse of Mycenaean civilization, ordinarily attributed to the Dorian 'invasion'? One must remember that the end of the thirteenth century and probably the entire twelfth century were times of trouble for the whole eastern Mediterranean. If the Trojan War occurred in this chaotic period, the war and its consequences must have contributed to the general confusion. Thucydides (1.12) remarks: 'The late return of the Hellenes from Ilium caused many revolutions, and factions ensued almost everywhere; and it was the citizens thus driven into exile who founded the cities.' If one keeps in mind the absolutism of the Mycenaean rulers, suggested by their palaces and citadels and by the contents of the Linear b. tablets; the contemporary economic troubles, the rivalry and wars between Mycenaean states, such as Argos against Thebes; and possible natural causes like famine or plague, it is easy to imagine that conditions were ripe for an uprising of the downtrodden commoners. It is not necessary to visualize a general simultaneous uprising. The successful overthrow of the hated ruling class in one citadel may have sparked similar attempts elsewhere until the wave of destruction spread all over the Mycenaean world. Certainly the masses who were workers or slaves in and around the massive citadels, were in a better position to wreck the mighty fortresses than new invaders from some backward northwest region."

"In the Dark Age and thereafter the Dorians in Greece were located primarily in the Peloponnesus, which had been the chief center of Mycenaean power. Greek tradition about the early Dorians does not speak of their migration but of the return of the Heraclidae to their rightful home. If one accepts the interpretation that the 'proto-Dorians' were among the 'proto-Greeks who migrated into Greece about the beginning of the second millennium, then the legend about the return of the Heraclidae can be interpreted as a fanciful story of how native Dorians returned themselves to their rightful position by overthrowing a tyrannical ruling class, some of whom, according to legends, may have been aliens from Asia Minor, Phoenicia, and Egypt.

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