The Geography and Migrations During the Dark Age of Ancient Greece

The Dark Age Migrations

Ancient World
Ancient World, from The Atlas of Ancient and Classical Geography by Samuel Butler, Ernest Rhys, editor (Suffolk, 1907, repr. 1908). Public Domain. Courtesy of Maps of Asia Minor, the Caucasus, and Neighboring Lands

We'll never know exactly how Greece came to create colonies in Asia Minor and in southern areas of Italy, Megale Hellas, known better by the Latin name of Magna Graecia. Here is the modern theory followed by what the ancient Greeks thought had happened.

The essence of what we think happened is that a Dark Age invasion of a people known as Dorians swept down from the North, settling first in the Corinthian Gulf and the northwest Peloponnese, then the south and east, and the islands of Crete, Rhodes, and Kos.

These Dorians pushed the native Greeks out of their homelands. Eventually some mainland Greeks migrated to Ionia.

The ancient Greeks had their own explanation of the Dorian Invasion....

Ancient Version of the Dorian Invasion

According to the great Archaic Age poet and mythographer Hesiod, there was a steady decline from an original Age of Gold, to Silver, Bronze, Heroic, and finally, the then current Age of Iron. The Dorian migration occurred during the Heroic Age. The Greeks claimed heroes as founders for all their most important cities. Perseus, for instance, was founder of Mycenae, in the Peloponnesus; Theseus was the heroic founder of Athens. In the ancient version of events, the Dorian Invasion meant the Heraclides, descendants of Hercules of Heracles (and Perseus), swept southward to reclaim land rightfully theirs. They attacked all the areas and cities of the Peloponnesus, except Arcadia.
They accomplished their conquest of the area within 3 generations.

Thucydides on the Greek Colonies

The fifth century historian Thucydides says the Heraclides were not the only invading force in Greece. Before them, the Thessalians had driven the inhabitants of a city called Arne into Boeotia.
Thucydides says the earlier migrations were to Ionia, but the Peloponnesus was too unsettled to send out colonists at the time. By the time Sparta got around to sending out colonists, it had to send them westward.
"Sixty years after the capture of Ilium, the modern Boeotians were driven out of Arne by the Thessalians, and settled in the present Boeotia, the former Cadmeis.... Twenty years later, the Dorians and the Heraclids became masters of Peloponnese; so that much had to be done and many years had to elapse before Hellas could attain to a durable tranquillity undisturbed by removals, and could begin to send out colonies, as Athens did to Ionia and most of the islands, and the Peloponnesians to most of Italy and Sicily and some places in the rest of Hellas."
- Thucydides

Greeks in Asia Minor During the Trojan War

The Trojan War took place during what we (not Hesiod) call the Bronze Age. A few Greek leaders were already present in Asia Minor. Didaskalia founder Sallie Goetsch says "according to Homer there were Aeolians on Lesbos...."

Ionian Settlements

Pushed out of their homeland, Greeks from the mainland and Peloponnese went East to the coast of Asia Minor where they came into contact with the Lydians and Carians. This contact may have been instrumental in the development of what we think of as Greek philosophy.


  • [URL = < >]
  • Carlos Parada Heraclides
  • [] Early Greek Astronomers
    Ionians mingled with Lydians and Persians and sea-faring people.
  • The Question of a Dorian Invasion
    Thomas Martin Overview of Greek History in this section addresses both the question of the invasion and Greek chronology.

Homeric Geography