1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dorians

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DORIANS, a name applied by the Greeks to one of the principal groups of Hellenic peoples, in contradistinction to Ionians and Aeolians. In Hellenic times a small district known as Doris in north Greece, between Mount Parnassus and Mount Oeta, counted as “Dorian” in a special sense. Practically all Peloponnese, except Achaea and Elis, was “Dorian,” together with Megara, Aegina, Crete, Melos, Thera, the Sporades Islands and the S.W. coast of Asia Minor, where Rhodes, Cos, Cnidus and (formerly) Halicarnassus formed a “Dorian” confederacy. “Dorian” colonies, from Corinth, Megara, and the Dorian islands, occupied the southern coasts of Sicily from Syracuse to Selinus. Dorian states usually had in common the “Doric” dialect, a peculiar calendar and cycle of festivals of which the Hyacinthia and Carneia were the chief, and certain political and social institutions, such as the threefold “Dorian tribes.” The worships of Apollo and Heracles, though not confined to Dorians, were widely regarded as in some sense “Dorian” in character.

But those common characters are not to be pressed too far. The northern Doris, for example, spoke Aeolic, while Elis, Phocis, and many non-Dorian districts of north-west Greece spoke dialects akin to Doric. Many Dorian states had additional “non-Dorian tribes”; Sparta, which claimed to be of pure and typical Dorian origin, maintained institutions and a mode of life which were without parallel in Peloponnese, in the Parnassian and in the Asiatic Doris, and were partially reflected in Crete only.

Most non-Dorian Greeks, in fact, seem to have accepted much as Dorian which was in fact only Spartan: this was particularly the case in the political, ethical and aesthetic controversies of the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. Much, however, which was common (in art, for example) to Olympia, Argolis and Aegina, and might thus have been regarded as Dorian, was conspicuously absent from the culture of Sparta.

Traditional History.—In the diagrammatic family tree of the Greek people, as it appears in the Hesiodic catalogue (6th century) and in Hellanicus (5th century), the “sons of Hellen” are Dorus, Xuthus (father of Ion and Achaeus) and Aeolus. Dorus’ share of the inheritance of Hellen lay in central Greece, north of the Corinthian Gulf, between Xuthus in north Peloponnese and Aeolus in Thessaly. His descendants, either under Dorus or under a later king Aegimius, occupied Histiaeotis, a district of northern Thessaly, and afterwards conquered from the Dryopes the head-waters of the Boeotian Cephissus between Mount Parnassus and Mount Oeta. This became “Doris” par excellence. Services rendered to Aegimius by Heracles led (1) to the adoption of Hyllus, son of Heracles, by Aegimius, side by side with his own sons Dymas and Pamphylus, and to a threefold grouping of the Dorian clans, as Hylleis, Dymanes and Pamphyli; (2) to the association of the people of Aegimius in the repeated attempts of Hyllus and his family to recover their lost inheritance in Peloponnese (see Heraclidae). The last of these attempts resulted in the “Dorian conquest” of the “Achaeans” and “Ionians” of Peloponnese, and in the assignment of Argolis, Laconia and Messenia to the Heracleid leaders, Temenus, Aristodemus and Cresphontes respectively; of Elis to their Aetolian allies; and of the north coast to the remnants of the conquered Achaeans. The conquest of Corinth and Megara was placed a generation later: Arcadia alone claimed to have escaped invasion. This conquest was dated relatively by Thucydides (i. 12) at eighty years after the Trojan War and twenty years after the conquest of Thessaly and Boeotia by the similar “invaders from Arne”; absolutely by Hellanicus and his school (5th century) at 1149 B.C.; by Isocrates and Ephorus (4th century B.C.) at about 1070 B.C.; and by Sosibius, Eratosthenes (3rd century), and later writers generally, at the generations from 1125 to 1100 B.C.

The invasion was commonly believed to have proceeded by way of Aetolia and Elis, and the name Naupactus was interpreted as an allusion to the needful “shipbuilding” on the Corinthian Gulf. One legend made Dorus himself originally an Aetolian prince; the participation of Oxylus, and the Aetolian claim to Elis, appear first in Ephorus (4th century). The conquest of Laconia at least is represented in 5th-century tradition as immediate and complete, though one legend admits the previous death of the Heracleid leader Aristodemus, and another describes a protracted struggle in the case of Corinth. Pausanias, however (following Sosibius), interprets a long series of conflicts in Arcadia as stages in a gradual advance southward, ending with the conquest of Amyclae by King Teleclus (c. 800 B.C.) and of Helos by King Alcamenes (c. 770 B.C.).

Of the invasion of Argolis a quite different version was already current in the 4th century. This represents the Argive Dorians as having come by sea (apparently from the Maliac Gulf, the nearest seashore to Parnassian Doris), accompanied by survivors of the Dryopes (former inhabitants of that Doris), whose traces in south Euboea (Styra and Carystus), in Cythnus, and at Eion (Halieis), Hermione and Asine in Argolis, were held to indicate their probable route.

The Homeric Dorians of Crete were also interpreted by Andron and others (3rd century) as an advance-guard of this sea-borne migration, and as having separated from the other Dorians while still in Histiaeotis. The 5th-century tradition that the Heracleid kings of Macedon were Temenid exiles from Argos may belong to the same cycle.

The fate of the Dorian invaders was represented as differing locally. In Messenia (according to a legend dramatized by Euripides in the 5th century, and renovated for political ends in the 4th century) the descendants of Cresphontes quarrelled among themselves and were exterminated by the natives. In Laconia Aristodemus (or his twin sons) effected a rigid military occupation which eventually embraced the whole district, and permitted (a) the colonization of Melos, Thera and parts of Crete (before 800 B.C.), (b) the reconquest and annexation of Messenia (about 750 B.C.), (c) a settlement of half-breed Spartans at Tarentum in south Italy, 700 B.C. In Argos and other cities of Argolis the descendants of the Achaean chiefs were taken into political partnership, but a tradition of race-feud lasted till historic times. Corinth, Sicyon and Megara, with similar political compromises, mark the limits of Dorian conquest; a Dorian invasion of Attica (c. 1066 B.C.) was checked by the self-sacrifice of King Codrus: “Either Athens must perish or her king.” Aegina was reckoned a colony of Epidaurus. Rhodes, and some Cretan towns, traced descent from Argos; Cnidus from Argos and Sparta; the rest of Asiatic Doris from Epidaurus or Troezen in Argolis. The colonies of Corinth, Sicyon and Megara, and the Sicilian offshoots of the Asiatic Dorians, belong to historic times (8th–6th centuries).

Criticism of the Traditional History.—The following are the problems:—(1) Was there a Dorian invasion as described in the legends; and, if not, how did the tradition arise? (2) Who were the Dorian invaders, and in what relation did they stand to the rest of the population of Greece? (3) How far do the Dorian states, or their characteristics, represent the descendants, or the culture, of the original invaders?

The Homeric poems (12th–10th centuries) know of Dorians only in Crete, with the obscure epithet τριχάϊκες, and no hint of their origin. All those parts of Peloponnese and the islands which in historic times were “Dorian” are ruled by recently established dynasties of “Achaean” chiefs; the home of the Asiatic Dorians is simply “Caria”; and the geographical “catalogue” in Iliad ii. ignores the northern Doris altogether.

The almost total absence from Homer not only of “Dorians” but of “Ionians” and even of “Hellenes” leads to the conclusion that the diagrammatic genealogy of the “sons of Hellen” is of post-Homeric date; and that it originated as an attempt to classify the Doric, Ionic and Aeolic groups of Hellenic settlements on the west coast of Asia Minor, for here alone do the three names correspond to territorial, linguistic and political divisions. The addition of an “Achaean” group, and the inclusion of this and the Ionic group under a single generic name, would naturally follow the recognition of the real kinship of the “Achaean” colonies of Magna Graecia with those of Ionia. But the attempt to interpret, in terms of this Asiatic diagram, the actual distribution of dialects and peoples in European Greece, led to difficulties. Here, in the 8th–6th centuries, all the Dorian states were in the hands of exclusive aristocracies, which presented a marked contrast to the subject populations. Since the kinship of the latter with the members of adjacent non-Dorian states was admitted, two different explanations seem to have been made, (1) on behalf of the non-Dorian populations, either that the Dorians were no true sons of Hellen, but were of some other northerly ancestry; or that they were merely Achaean exiles; and in either case that their historic predominance resulted from an act of violence, ill-disguised by their association with the ancient claims of the Peloponnesian Heraclidae; (2) on behalf of the Dorian aristocracies, that they were in some special sense “sons of Hellen,” if not the only genuine Hellenes; the rest of the European Greeks, and in particular the anti-Dorian Athenians (with their marked likeness to Ionians), being regarded as Hellenized barbarians of “Pelasgian” origin (see Pelasgians). This process of Hellenization, or at least its final stage, was further regarded as intimately connected with a movement of peoples which had brought the “Dorians” from the northern highlands into those parts of Greece which they occupied in historic times.

So long as the Homeric poems were believed to represent Hellenic (and mainly Ionian) beliefs of the 9th century or later, the historical value of the traditions of a Dorian invasion was repeatedly questioned; most recently and thoroughly by J. Beloch (Gr. Geschichte, i., Strassburg, 1893), as being simply an attempt to reconcile the political geography of Homer (i.e. of 8th-century Ionians describing 12th-century events) with that of historic Greece, by explaining discrepancies (due to Homeric ignorance) as the result of “migrations” in the interval. Such legends often arise to connect towns bearing identical or similar names (such as are common in Greece) and to justify political events or ambitions by legendary precedents; and this certainly happened during the successive political rivalries of Dorian Sparta with non-Dorian Athens and Thebes. But in proportion as an earlier date has become more probable for Homer, the hypothesis of Ionic origin has become less tenable, and the belief better founded (1) that the poems represent accurately a well-defined phase of culture in prehistoric Greece, and (2) that this “Homeric” or “Achaean” phase was closed by some such general catastrophe as is presumed by the legends.

The legend of a Dorian invasion appears first in Tyrtaeus, a 7th-century poet, in the service of Sparta, who brings the Spartan Heracleids to Peloponnese from Erineon in the northern Doris; and the lost Epic of Aegimius, of about the same date, seems to have presupposed the same story. In the 5th century Pindar ascribes to Aegimius the institutions of the Peloponnesian Dorians, and describes them as the “Dorian folk of Hyllus and Aegimius,” and as “originating from Pindus” (Pyth. v. 75: cf. Fr. 4). Herodotus, also in the 5th century, describes them as the typical (perhaps in contrast to Athenians as the only genuine) Hellenes, and traces their numerous wanderings from (1) an original home “in Deucalion’s time” in Phthiotis (the Homeric “Hellas”) in south Thessaly, to (2) Histiaeotis “below Ossa and Olympus” in north-east Thessaly (note that the historic Histiaeotis is “below Pindus” in north-west Thessaly): this was “in the days of Dorus,” i.e. it is at this stage that the Dorians are regarded as becoming specifically distinct from the generic “Hellene”: thence (3) to a residence “in Pindus,” where they passed as a “Macedonian people.” Hence (4) they moved south to the Parnassian Doris, which had been held by Dryopes: and hence finally (5) to Peloponnese. Elsewhere he assigns the expulsion of the Dryopes to Heracles in co-operation not with Dorians but with Malians. Here clearly two traditions are combined:—one, in which the Dorians originated from Hellas in south Thessaly, and so are “children of Hellen”; another, in which they were a “Macedonian people” intruded from the north, from Pindus, past Histiaeotis to Doris and beyond. It is a noteworthy coincidence that in Macedonia also the royal family claimed Heracleid descent; and that “Pindus” is the name both of the mountains above Histiaeotis and of a stream in Doris. It is noteworthy also that later writers (e.g. Andron in Strabo 475) derived the Cretan Dorians of Homer from those of Histiaeotis, and that other legends connected Cretan peoples and places with certain districts of Macedon.

Thucydides agrees in regarding the Parnassian Doris as the “mother-state” of the Dorians (i. 107) and dates the invasion (as above) eighty years after the Trojan War; this agrees approximately with the pedigree of the kings of Sparta, as given by Herodotus, and with that of Hecataeus of Miletus (considered as evidence for the foundation date of an Ionian refugee-colony). Thucydides also accepts the story of Heracleid leadership.

The legend of an organized apportionment of Peloponnese amongst the Heracleid leaders appears first in the 5th-century tragedians,—not earlier, that is, than the rise of the Peloponnesian League,—and was amplified in the 4th century; the Aetolians’ aid, and claim to Elis, appear first in Ephorus. The numerous details and variant legends preserved by later writers, particularly Strabo and Pausanias, may go back to early sources (e.g. Herodotus distinguished the “local” from the “poetic” versions of events in early Spartan history); but much seems to be referable to Ephorus and the 4th-century political and rhetorical historians:—e.g. the enlarged version of the Heracleid claims in Isocrates (Archidamus, 120) and the theory that the Dorians were mere disowned Achaeans (Plato, Laws, 3). Moreover, many independent considerations suggest that in its main outlines the Dorian invasion is historical.

The Doric Dialects.—These dialects have strongly marked features in common (future in -σεω -σιω -σῶ; 1st pers. plur. in -μες; κά for ἄν; -αε -αη=ῆ), but differ more among themselves than do the Ionic. Laconia with its colonies (including those in south Italy) form a clear group, in which and -ο lengthen to and as in Aeolic. Corinth (with its Sicilian colonies), the Argolid towns, and the Asiatic Doris, form another group, in which and -ο become -ει and -ου as in Ionic. Connected with the latter (e.g. by -ει and -ου) are the “northern” group:—Phocis, including Delphi, with Aetolia, Acarnania, Epirus and Phthiotis in south Thessaly. But these have also some forms in common with the “Aeolic” dialect of Boeotia and Thessaly, which in historic times was spoken also in Doris; Locris and Elis present similar northern “Achaean-Doric” dialects. Arcadia, on the other hand, in the heart of Peloponnese, retained till a late date a quite different dialect, akin to the ancient dialect of Cyprus, and more remotely to Aeolic. This distribution makes it clear (1) that the Doric dialects of Peloponnese represent a superstratum, more recent than the speech of Arcadia; (2) that Laconia and its colonies preserve features alike, and which are common to southern Doric and Aeolic; (3) that those parts of “Dorian” Greece in which tradition makes the pre-Dorian population “Ionic,” and in which the political structure shows that the conquered were less completely subjugated, exhibit the Ionic -ει and -ου; (4) that as we go north, similar though more barbaric dialects extend far up the western side of central-northern Greece, and survive also locally in the highlands of south Thessaly; (5) that east of the watershed Aeolic has prevailed over the area which has legends of a Boeotian and Thessalian migration, and replaces Doric in the northern Doris. All this points on the one hand to an intrusion of Doric dialect into an Arcadian-and-Ionic-speaking area; on the other hand to a subsequent expansion of Aeolic over the north-eastern edge of an area which once was Dorian. But this distribution does not by itself prove that Doric speech was the language of the Dorian invaders. Its area coincides also approximately with that of the previous Achaean conquests; and if the Dorians were as backward culturally as traditions and archaeology suggest, it is not improbable that they soon adopted the language of the conquered, as the Norman conquerors did in England. As evidence of an intrusion of northerly folk, however, the distribution of dialects remains important. See Greek Language.

The common calendar and cycle of festivals, observed by all Dorians (of which the Carneia was chief), and the distribution in Greece of the worships of Apollo and Heracles, which attained pre-eminence mainly in or near districts historically “Dorian,” suggest that these cults, or an important element in them, were introduced comparatively late, and represent the beliefs of a fresh ethnic superstratum. The steady dependence of Sparta on the Delphic oracle, for example, is best explained as an observance inherited from Parnassian ancestors.

The social and political structure of the Dorian states of Peloponnese presupposes likewise a conquest of an older highly civilized population by small bands of comparatively barbarous raiders. Sparta in particular remained, even after the reforms of Lycurgus, and on into historic times, simply the isolated camp of a compact army of occupation, of some 5000 families, bearing traces still of the fusion of several bands of invaders, and maintained as an exclusive political aristocracy of professional soldiers by the labour of a whole population of agricultural and industrial serfs. The serfs were rigidly debarred from intermixture or social advancement, and were watched by their masters with a suspicion fully justified by recurrent ineffectual revolts. The other states, such as Argos and Corinth, exhibited just such compromises between conquerors and conquered as the legends described, conceding to the older population, or to sections of it, political incorporation more or less incomplete. The Cretan cities, irrespective of origin, exhibit serfage, militant aristocracy, rigid martial discipline of all citizens, and other marked analogies with Sparta; but the Asiatic Dorians and the other Dorian colonies do not differ appreciably in their social and political history from their Ionian and Aeolic neighbours. Tarentum alone, partly from Spartan origin, partly through stress of local conditions, shows traces of militant asceticism for a while.

Archaeological evidence points clearly now to the conclusion that the splendid but overgrown civilization of the Mycenaean or “late Minoan” period of the Aegean Bronze Age collapsed rather suddenly before a rapid succession of assaults by comparatively barbarous invaders from the European mainland north of the Aegean; that these invaders passed partly by way of Thrace and the Hellespont into Asia Minor, partly by Macedon and Thessaly into peninsular Greece and the Aegean islands; that in east Peloponnese and Crete, at all events, a first shock (somewhat later than 1500 B.C.) led to the establishment of a cultural, social and political situation which in many respects resembles what is depicted in Homer as the “Achaean” age, with principal centres in Rhodes, Crete, Laconia, Argolis, Attica, Orchomenus and south-east Thessaly; and that this régime was itself shattered by a second shock or series of shocks somewhat earlier than 1000 B.C. These latter events correspond in character and date with the traditional irruption of the Dorians and their associates.

The nationality of these invaders is disputed. Survival of fair hair and complexion and light eyes among the upper classes in Thebes and some other localities shows that the blonde type of mankind which is characteristic of north-western Europe had already penetrated into Greek lands before classical times; but the ascription of the same physical traits to the Achaeans of Homer forbids us to regard them as peculiar to that latest wave of pre-classical immigrants to which the Dorians belong; and there is no satisfactory evidence as to the coloration of the Spartans, who alone were reputed to be pure-blooded Dorians in historic times.

Language is no better guide, for it is not clear that the Dorian dialect is that of the most recent conquerors, and not rather that of the conquered Achaean inhabitants of southern Greece; in any case it presents no such affinities with any non-Hellenic speech as would serve to trace its origin. Even in northern and west-central Greece, all vestige of any former prevalence has been obliterated by the spread of “Aeolic” dialects akin to those of Thessaly and Boeotia; even the northern Doris, for example, spoke “Aeolic” in historic times.

The doubt already suggested as to language applies still more to such characteristics as Dorian music and other forms of art, and to Dorian customs generally. It is clear from the traditions about Lycurgus (q.v.), for example, that even the Spartans had been a long while in Laconia before their state was rescued from disorder by his reforms; and if there be truth in the legend that the new institutions were borrowed from Crete, we perhaps have here too a late echo of the legislative fame of the land of Minos. Certainly the Spartans adopted, together with the political traditions of the Heracleids, many old Laconian cults and observances such as those connected with the Tyndaridae.

Bibliography.—K. O. Müller, Die Dorier (ed. F. W. Schneidewin, Breslau, 1844); G. Gilbert, Studien zur altspartanischen Geschichte (Göttingen, 1872); H. Gelzer, “Die Wanderzüge der lakedämonischen Dorier,” in Rhein. Museum, xxxii. (1877), p. 259; G. Busolt, Die Lakedaimonier und ihre Bundesgenossen, i. (Leipzig, 1878); S. Beloch, “Die dorische Wanderung,” in Rhein. Mus. xlv. (1890). 555 ff.; H. Collitz, Sammlung der gr. Dialekt-Inschriften, iii. (Göttingen, 1899–1905); R. Meister, “Dorier und Achaer” in Abh. d. K. Sachs. Ges. Wiss. (Phil.-hist. Kl.), xxiv. 3 (Leipzig, 1904).  (J. L. M.)