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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Dorians (Greek: Δωριεῖς, Dōrieis, singular Δωριεύς, Dōrieus) were one of the three major tribes into which the ancient Greeks divided themselves. Herodotus gave the earliest historical expression of a three-fold division:[1] "... those who dwell in our land are called Ionians, Aeolians and Dorians." General names inherited from earlier times were considered to be in one of these three groups, from the earliest literature; for example, the Achaeans (also known as Danaans, Δαναοί, and Argives, Ἀργεῖοι) were primarily Ionians and Aeolians.

The Dorians are almost always simply referenced as just "the Dorians", as they are in the earliest literary mention of them in Odyssey,[2] where they already can be found inhabiting the island of Crete. Herodotus does use the word ethnos[3] with regard to them, from which the English word ethnic derives, which appears in the modern concept of ethnic group. It has to be clarified though, that in the ancient Greek language ethnos by no means can be translated as 'nation' alone, but rather as 'tribe', 'race' or 'people'. The Dorians are clearly among the peoples regarded as Hellenes. They were diverse in way of life and social organization, varying from the populous trade center of the city of Corinth, known for its ornate style in art and architecture, to the isolationist, military state of Lacedaemon or Sparta. However, peoples belonging to the same tribe, the Dorians, as well as the Aeolians and the Ionians, were further subdivided in independent groups often hostile to each other, usually named after the location of their state.

And yet all Hellenes knew what localities were Dorian and what not. Dorian states at war could more likely than not (but not always) count on the assistance of other Dorian states. Dorians were distinguished by the Doric Greek dialect and by characteristic social and historical traditions. Accounts vary as to their place of origin. One theory widely believed in ancient times, but never proven beyond doubt, is that they originated in the north, north-eastern mountainous regions of Greece, ancient Macedonia and Epirus, whence obscure circumstances brought them south into the Peloponnese, to certain Aegean islands, Magna Graecia and Crete. Another theory is that they originated from Asia Minor, and that they either immigrated through the northeast of Greece and settled in southern Greece or immigrated from the coast of western Asian Minor into the Aegean islands and into southern Greece. Either way, mythology gave them a Greek origin and eponymous founder, Dorus son of Hellen, the mythological patriarch of the Hellenes.

In the 5th century BC, Dorians and Ionians were the two most politically important Greek ethne, whose ultimate clash resulted in the Peloponnesian War. The degree to which fifth-century Hellenes self-identified as "Ionian" or "Dorian" has itself been disputed.[4] The fifth- and fourth-century literary tradition through which moderns view these ethnic identifications was profoundly influenced by the social politics of the time. Also, according to E.N. Tigerstedt, nineteenth-century European admirers of virtues they considered "Dorian" identified themselves as "Laconophile" and found responsive parallels in the culture of their day as well; their biases contribute to the traditional modern interpretation of "Dorians".[5]


Dorian identity

In Classical Greece, "Dorian" applied to a fairly consistent group of peoples.


Name of the Dorians

Uplands of Greece - the Pindus Mountains

A man's name, Dōrieus, occurs in the Linear B tablets at Pylos, one of the regions invaded and subjected by the Dorians. Pylos tablet Fn867 records it in the dative case as do-ri-je-we, *Dōriēwei, a third or consonant declension noun with stem ending in w. An unattested plural, *Dōriēwes, would have become Dōrieis by loss of the w and contraction, but in the tablet, which is concerned with contribution of grain to a temple, it is simply a man's name.[6] Whether it had the ethnic meaning of "the Dorian" is unknown. In the Linear B tablets the word "do-e-ro" is also found, meaning "slave"[1].

Greek spearman with the long upland spear.

Julius Pokorny derives Dorian from dōris, "woodland" (which can also mean upland).[7] The dōri- segment is from the o-grade (either ō or o) of Proto-Indo-European *deru-, "tree". Dorian might be translated as "the country people", "the mountain people", "the uplanders", "the people of the woods" or some such appellation.

A second popular derivation was given by the French linguist, Émile Boisacq, from the same root, but from Greek doru, "spear" (which was wood); i.e., "the people of the spear" or "spearmen", emphasizing the warrior ferocity of the Dorians.[8]

Distinctions of language

People who spoke the Doric dialect lived along the coast of the Peloponnese, in Crete, southwest Asia Minor, various cities of Southern Italy and Sicily, all of which adds weight to the theory of Asia Minor as the origin of the Dorians. Numerous historians link Doric, North-Western Greek and Ancient Macedonian. In later periods other dialects predominated, most notably the Attic, upon which the Koine or common Greek language of the Hellenistic period was based. The main characteristic of Doric was the preservation of Indo-European [aː], long <α>, which in Attic-Ionic became [ɛː], <η>. Tsakonian Greek, a descendant of Doric Greek and source of great interest to linguists, is extraordinarily still spoken in some regions of the Southern Argolid coast of the Peloponnese, on the coast of the modern prefecture of Arcadia.

Other cultural distinctions

Culturally, in addition to their Doric dialect of Greek, Doric colonies retained their characteristic Doric calendar revolving round a cycle of festivals of which the Hyacinthia and the Carneia were especially important.[9].

The Dorian mode in music also was attributed to Doric societies and was associated by classical writers with martial qualities.

The Doric order of architecture in the tradition inherited by Vitruvius included the Doric column, noted for its simplicity and strength.

Ancient traditions


At first sight, the Homeric reference to Dorians has been regarded as an anachronism between the supposed 8th century BC writer of the poems and the supposed Dorian Invasion, two generations after the end of the Trojan War (1150 or 1100 BC), widely accepted chronologization in antiquity. The trichaikes Dorians are mentioned in Odyssey 19. 177. The epithet trichaikes, an hapax legomenon, has been translated either as of threefold race (e.g. denoting the three Dorian sub-tribes Hylleis,Dymanes, Pamphyloi)[10] or long-haired from the noun θρίξ (see Spartan hairstyle) .

There is a land called Crete, in the midst of the wine-dark sea, a fair, rich land, begirt with water, and therein are many men, past counting, and ninety cities. They have not all the same speech, but their tongues are mixed. There dwell Achaeans, there great-hearted native Cretans, there Cydonians, and Dorians of waving plumes, and goodly Pelasgians [11]

Strabo[12] , who depends of course on the books available to him, goes on to elaborate:

Of these peoples, according to Staphylus, the Dorians occupy the part toward the east, the Cydonians the western part, the Eteo-Cretans the southern; and to these last belongs the town Praisos, where is the temple of the Dictaean Zeus; whereas the other peoples, since they were more powerful, dwelt in the plains. Now it is reasonable to suppose that the Eteo-Cretans and the Cydonians were autochthonous, and that the others were foreigners ...[13]

Beside this sole reference to Dorians in Crete, the mention of the Iliad] on the Heraclid Tlepolemus, a warrior on the side of Achaeans and colonist of three important Dorian cities in Rhodes has been also regarded as a later interpolation[14]


Fifth century BC hoplite, or "heavy-armed soldier", possibly the Spartan king Leonidas, a Dorian, who died holding the pass at the Battle of Thermopylae.

In Greek historiography, the Dorians are mentioned by many authors. The chief classical authors to relate their origins are Herodotus, Thucydides and Pausanias. The customs of the Spartan state and its illustrious individuals are detailed at great length in such authors as Plutarch.

Herodotus himself was from Halicarnassus, a Dorian colony on the southwest coast of Asia Minor (in modern Turkey); following the literary tradition of the times he wrote in Ionic Greek, being one of the last authors to do so. He described the Persian Wars, giving a thumbnail account of the histories of the antagonists, Greeks and Persians.

Peloponnesus. Sparta was in the valley of the lowermost bay.

Herodotus mentions that the "people now called the Dorians" were neighbors of the Pelasgians.[15] The women had a distinctive dress, he said, a tunic (plain dress) not needing to be pinned with brooches.[16]

Although the one nation nowhere yet went out, the Lacedaemonian was very much wandering. For, in the time of King Deucalion, it was settled in the land of Phthia, and in the time of Dorus, the son of Hellen, in the country under Ossa and Olympus, the so-called Histiaean. From the Histiaean, after it had been expelled by the Cadmeians, it was settled in Pindus called Macedonian. Thence again it changed its place to the Dryopian land, and from the Dryopian thus it came to Peloponnesus, and was called Doric.” (Herodot, Book I, 56.3).

Thus, according to Herodotus, the Dorians did not acquire their name until they had reached Peloponnesus.

The people they displaced gathered at Athens under a leader Ion and became identified as "Ionians".[17] Most conspicuous among the Dorians as related by Herodotus were the people later known as Lacedaemonians, or Spartans, one of whose archaic legendary kings was named Dōrieus. The military Spartans, under another of their kings, Leonidas, included the famous band of 300 soldiers who sacrificed themselves nearly to a man to delay the Persian army at the Battle of Thermopylae.

Herodotus' list of Dorian states is as follows. From northeastern Greece were Phthia, Histiaea and Macedon. In central Greece were Doris (the former Dryopia) and in the south Peloponnesus,[18] specifically the states of Lacedaemon, Corinth, Sicyon, Epidaurus, Troezen and Hermione.[19] Overseas were the islands of Rhodes, Cos, Nisyrus and the Anatolian cities of Cnidus, Halicarnassus, Phaselis and Calydna.[20] Dorians also colonised Crete including founding of such towns as Lato, Dreros and Olous.[21] The Cynurians were originally Ionians but had become Dorian under the influence of their Argive masters.[22]


Thucydides professes little of Greece before the Trojan War except to say that it was full of barbarians and that there was no distinction between barbarians and Greeks. The Hellenes came from Phthiotis.[23] The whole country indulged in and suffered from piracy and was not settled. After the Trojan War, "Hellas was still engaged in removing and settling."[24]

Some 60 years after the Trojan War the Boeotians were driven out of Arne by the Thessalians into Boeotia and 20 years later "the Dorians and the Heraclids became masters of the Peloponnese."[24] So the lines were drawn between the Dorians and the Aeolians (here Boeotians) with the Ionians (former Peloponnesians).

Other than these few brief observations Thucydides names but few Dorians. He does make it clear that some Dorian states aligned or were forced to align with the Athenians while some Ionians went with the Lacedaemonians and that the motives for alignment were not always ethnic but were diverse. Among the Dorians was Lacedaemon of course,[25] Corcyra, Corinth and Epidamnus,[26] Leucadia, Ambracia,[27] Potidaea,[28] Rhodes, Cythera, Argos, Carystus,[29] Syracuse, Gela, Acragas (later Agrigentum), Acrae, Casmenae.[30]

He does explain with considerable dismay what happened to incite ethnic war after the unity during the Battle of Thermopylae. The Congress of Corinth formed prior to it "split into two sections." Athens headed one and Lacedaemon the other.

For a short time the league held together, till the Lacedaemonians and Athenians quarreled, and made war upon each other with their allies, a duel into which all the Hellenes sooner or later were drawn.

He adds: "the real cause I consider to be ... the growth of the power of Athens and the alarm which this inspired in Lacedaemon...."


The Description of Greece by Pausanias relates that the Achaeans of the Peloponnesus were driven from their lands by Dorians coming from Oeta, a mountainous region bordering on Thessaly.[32] They were led by Hyllus, a son of Heracles[33], but were defeated by the Achaeans. Under other leadership they managed to be victorious over the Achaeans and remain in the Peloponnesus, a mythic theme called "the return of the Heracleidae."[34] They had built ships at Naupactus in which to cross the Gulf of Corinth.[35] This invasion is viewed by the tradition of Pausanias as a return of the Dorians to the Peloponnesus, apparently meaning a return of families ruling in Aetolia and northern Greece to a land in which they had once had a share. The return is described in detail: there were "disturbances" throughout the Peloponnesus except in Arcadia, and new Dorian settlers.[36] Pausanias goes on to describe the conquest and resettlement of Laconia, Messenia, Argos and elsewhere, and the emigration from there to Crete and the coast of Asia Minor.

Diodorus Siculus

Scholarly concept of Dorian invasion

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The Dorian invasion is a modern historical concept attempting to account for:

  • at least the replacement of dialects and traditions in southern Greece in pre-classical times
  • more generally, the distribution of the Dorians in Classical Greece
  • the presence of the Dorians in Greece at all

On the whole, none of the objectives were met, but the investigations served to rule out various speculative hypotheses.

Post-migrational distribution of the Dorians

Though most of the Doric invaders settled in the Peloponnese, they also settled on Rhodes and Sicily, in what is now southern Italy. In Asia Minor existed the Dorian Hexapolis (the six great Dorian cities): Halikarnassos (Halicarnassus) and Knidos (Cnidus) in Asia Minor, Kos, and Lindos, Kameiros, and Ialyssos on the island of Rhodes. These six cities would later become rivals with the Ionian cities of Asia Minor. The Dorians also invaded Crete. These origin traditions remained strong into classical times: Thucydides saw the Peloponnesian War in part as "Ionians fighting against Dorians" and reported the tradition that the Syracusans in Sicily were of Dorian descent.[37] Other such "Dorian" colonies, originally from Corinth, Megara, and the Dorian islands, dotted the southern coasts of Sicily from Syracuse to Selinus. (EB 1911).

Use of "Doric" in reference to Scotland

The term "Doric" came to be used in reference to Lowland Scottish dialects. The Oxford Companion to English Literature explains this phenomenon:

Since the Dorians were regarded as uncivilised by the Athenians, 'Doric' came to mean 'rustic' in English, and was applied particularly to the language of Northumbria and the Lowlands of Scotland and also to the simplest of the three orders in architecture.

The term "Doric" was used to refer to all dialects of Lowland Scots as a jocular reference to the Doric dialect of the Ancient Greek language. Greek Dorians lived in Sparta amongst other places, a more rural area, and were supposed by the ancient Greeks to have spoken laconically and in a language that was thought harsher in tone and more phonetically conservative than the Attic spoken in Athens.

Use of the term "Doric" in this context may also arise out of a contrast with the anglicised speech of the Scottish capital, because at one point, Edinburgh was nicknamed 'Athens of the North'. The upper/middle class speech of Edinburgh would thus be 'Attic', making the rural areas' speech 'Doric'.


  1. ^ Herodotus, Histories, Book VII, Section 9A. online at Perseus.
  2. ^ Homer, Odyssey, Book XIX line 177.
  3. ^ Book VII, Section 73.
  4. ^ The two poles are represented by the following works. Will, Édouard (1956). Doriens et Ioniens: essai sur la valeur du critère ethnique appliqué à l'étude de l'histoire et de la civilisation grecques. Paris: Belles Lettres.   French language. This much-cited study by Will concludes that there was no true ethnic component in fifth-century Greek culture, in spite of anti-Dorian elements in Athenian propaganda. John Alty reinterpreted the sources to conclude that ethnicity did motivate fifth-century actions: Alty, John (1982). "Dorians and Ionians". The Journal of Hellenic Studies 102: 1–14. doi:10.2307/631122. Retrieved 2007-12-27.   First page available no charge.
  5. ^ Tigerstedt, E.N. (1965-1978). The Legend of Sparta in Classical Antiquity. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell. pp. 28–36.   Tigerstedt discusses the development of the story of the Dorian invasion.
  6. ^ The ultimate authority on most Linear B topics, except for the specialized journals, is Ventris and Chadwick, Documents in Mycenaean Greek. This specialized work is generally found only the classics libraries of universities. However, an article by Killen (a Mycenaean linguist) is available on the Internet, RELIGION AT PYLOS: THE EVIDENCE OF THE Fn TABLETS, which concerns itself with Fn867, but does not mention the name of interest here.
  7. ^ "Δωριεύς 'Dorer' (von Δωρίς `Waldland')". To find this derivation, search for page 214 (the material is located on pages 214-217) in Pokorny's section of the INDO-EUROPEAN ETYMOLOGICAL DICTIONARY at Leiden University whenever the server is available. Elementary knowledge of German and a German dictionary should suffice to read it.
  8. ^ Boisacq's magnum opus, Dictionnaire Etymologique de la Langue Grecque in the French language is notoriously difficult to obtain though a standard of university classics departments. The etymology from Boisacq can be found in brief in more accessible works such as Murray, Gilbert (1960). The Rise of the Greek Epic (Fourth Edition). New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 39 note 2. LC 60-13910.  
  9. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica 1911, s.v. "Dorians".
  10. ^ Public organization in ancient Greece: a documentary study By Nicholas F. Jones page 222 ISBN 0-87169-176-0 (1987)
  11. ^ Perseus Translation by A.T. Murray
  12. ^ Strabo. Geographica. Book 10, Section 6.
  13. ^ The Jones translation in the Loeb, which has Greek and English on opposing pages.
  14. ^ Homer: An Introduction to the Iliad and the Odyssey By Richard Claverhous Jebb Page 43 ISBN 0554750600 (2008)
  15. ^ 1.57, online at Perseus.
  16. ^ 5.87, online at Perseus.
  17. ^ 7.94, 8.44. "Some historians believe the inclusion of Athens in the migration story is a fifth-centuryAthenian creation," John Alty noted (Alty 1982:2 note 8, but nuances this with a warning against reading too much into Athenian propaganda.
  18. ^ Book I section 56.
  19. ^ Book VIII section 43.
  20. ^ Book II section 178; Book VII section 99.
  21. ^ C.Michael Hogan, Lato Fieldnotes, The Modern Antiquarian, Jan. 10, 2008
  22. ^ Herodotus viii. 73
  23. ^ Book I chapter 3.
  24. ^ a b Book I chapter 12.
  25. ^ Book II chapter 54.
  26. ^ Book I chapter 24.
  27. ^ Book VII chapter 58.
  28. ^ Book I chapter 124.
  29. ^ Book VII chapter 57.
  30. ^ Book VI chapter 4.
  31. ^ Book I chapter 18.
  32. ^ 5.1.2, online at Perseus.
  33. ^ 4.30.1, online at Perseus; 8.5.1, online at Perseus.
  34. ^ 3.1.6 online, 5.3.5ff online, 7.1.6 online, 7.3.9 online, 8.5.6 online
  35. ^ 10.38.10
  36. ^ 2.13.1
  37. ^ 7.57
  38. ^ Drabble, Margaret (ed.) The Oxford Companion to English Literature (fifth edition, 1985)

Additional Bibliography

  • Hall, Jonathan M. (2000). Ethnic Identity in Greek Antiquity. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521789990.  
  • Hall, Jonathan M. (2006), "Dorians: Ancient Ethnic Group", in Wilson, Nigel, Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece, New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, pp. 240–242, ISBN 0-415-97334-1  
  • Müller, Karl Otfried, Die Dorier (1824) was translated by Henry Tufnel and Sir George Cornewall Lewis and published as The History and Antiquities of the Doric Race, (London: John Murray), 1830, in two vols.
  • Drews, Robert (1993). The End of the Bronze Age: Changes in Warfare and the Catastrophe CA. 1200 B.C.. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.   Five editions between 1993 and 1995.
  • Pomeroy, Sarah B.; Stanley M. Burstein; Walter Donlan; Jennifer Tolbert Roberts (1999). Ancient Greece: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195097424.  

See also

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

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 " nonDorian 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 (I) 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 VIII. 14 a 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 1 100 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 TpexaiKes, 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, (I) 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 (I) that the poems represent accurately a welldefined 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 7thcentury 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 (I) 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 -UEw -atw -o; ist pers. plur. in -µ€s; ice, for ecv; -ae -art =CI), but differ more among themselves than do the Ionic. Laconia with its colonies (including those in south Italy) form a clear group, in which -e and -o lengthen to -n and -w as in Aeolic. Corinth (with its Sicilian colonies), the Argolid towns, and the Asiatic Doris, form another group, in which -E and -o become -a and -ov as in Ionic. Connected with the latter (e.g. by -a and -ov) 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 (r) 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, -n and -w 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 -a and -ov; (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 s000 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 i soo 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 regime was itself shattered by a second shock or series of shocks somewhat earlier than boo 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 westcentral 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, 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. Milner, Die Dorier (ed. F. W. Schneidewin, Breslau, 1844); G. Gilbert, Studien zur altspartanischen Geschichte (Göttingen, 1872); H. Gelzer, " Die Wanderziige der lakedamonischen Dorier," in Rhein. Museum, xxxii. (1877), p. 259; G. Busolt, Die Lakedaimonier and 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, 18 991905); R. Meister, " Dorier and Achaer" in Abh. d. K. Seichs. Ges. Wiss. (Phil.-hist. Kl.), xxiv. 3 (Leipzig, 1904).

(J. L. M.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Proper noun



Dorians (singular Dorian)

  1. a particular ancient Greek tribe



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