Having started on a journey that first took us to Mycenae, but then also to Tiryns, Olympia, Pylos and a number of other ancient sites on the mainland of Greece and the Peloponnesos, also on Crete, Cyprus, the Troad and the interior of Asia Minor, we found at all sites one and the same embarrassing problem: close to five hundred years between conflicting evidences or discordant views. The list of archaeological sites discussed could be enlarged to encompass almost every excavated place in the area, with hardly any of them standing a chance of escaping the very same perplexing state of affairs.1
What I call here the perplexing state of affairs often took the form of a disputeto which of the two ages, separated by nearly half a millennium, does a stratum, a building, or a tomb belong? The holders of conflicting views are usually at equal disadvantage in meeting archaeological facts that, with the conventional chronological scheme not questioned, point simultaneously to two widely separated ages. Was Tiryns palace rebuilt in the Mycenaean or in the Ionic Agein other words, in the Bronze Age or in the Iron Age? And if the first alternative is selected, how could it be that for almost five hundred years the building lay abandoned, unoccupied by any of the twenty intermediate generations, since they left nothing of their own, no relic whatsoever? The alternative situation is equally beset with perplexing evidence.
Are the Mycenaean lions, carved in the peculiar position of standing erect on their hind legs facing a pillar that divides them, contemporary with similar Phrygian monumental sculptures, and if not, how does one explain the many centuries gap? How is it that the wall of the Phrygian Gate at Gordion is built like that of Troy VI, if some five hundred years separate them? In what way does one explain the affinity of Mycenaean art of the pre-twelfth century with the art of Scythia, the Danubian region, and Etruria of the eighth and seventh centuries? Was the great strife between Furtwaengler and Doerpfeld ever resolved? Because two timetables are applied simultaneously to the past of Greece, a clash of opinions is almost inevitable.
How is it that Greece and the entire Aegean area of the Mycenaean Age suddenly became depopulated, with scarcely any traces of human activity surviving? And if such was the case, how is it that so many details of Mycenaean life, habits and armaments were well known to Homer who knew equally well the life, habits, and armaments of the eighth and seventh century, though a Dark Age of several centuries duration intervened?
When the decipherment of the Mycenaean Linear B script, to the surprise of many Hellenist scholars proved the language to be Greek, the so-called Homeric problem did not approach a solution but, contrariwise, grew more urgent, more enigmatic, more perplexing. The historians were startled because the Minoan-Mycenaean inscriptions are ascribed by them at the latest to the twelfth century, and the earliest Greek texts were of the eighth century. How could a people that was already literate forfeit its literacy so completely for over four hundred years?
The very fact that none of the Greek philosophers, historians, geographers, statesmen or poets ever referred to a Dark Age preceeding the Ionic Age and separating it from the Mycenaean Age, should have been enough to cast doubt on the soundness of the overall construction.
Wherever we turnpoetry, arms, architecture, artsthe same Nemesis disturbs the excavator, the explorer and the critic, and from all sides the very same problem in various forms mockingly stares in the face of all of them, whatever their persuasion.
Where lies the root of all this confusion, a root hidden from sight and discussion? The Mycenaean Age in Greece and in the Aegean, as well as the Minoan Age on Crete, do not have an absolute chronology of their own, and this is not disputed. As I have already stressed on several occasions on preceding pages, the dating depends on contacts with other countries that have an absolute chronology of their own, and Egypt was selected for that purpose.2
When a cartouche of Queen Tiy was found at Mycenae, that stratum was dated accordingly to ca. -1400. When in the short-lived city of Akhet-Aton, built by Akhnaton and abandoned in the same generation, Mycenaean ware was found in profusion, the ware was regarded as contemporary with Akhnaton, and was dated to the fourteenth century. We have already dwelt on the subject, but it needs repetition in the light of what was brought to discussion all through the foregoing chapters and sections. In an extended examination of the Egyptian chronology its structure was put on a scale and found wanting. Now it is clear that if there is a miscalculation in Egyptian datings, the error must have spread through more than one land and vitiated more than one nationss chronology.
The problem is once more thrown to Egypt. In Ages in Chaos we have seen that, with the fall of the Middle Kingdom and the Exodus synchronized, events in the histories of the peoples of the ancient world coincide all along the centuries.
For a space of over one thousand years records of Egyptian history have been compared with the records of the Hebrews, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and finally with those of the Greeks, with a resulting correspondence which denotes synchronism.
In Volume I of Ages in Chaos it was shown in great detail why Akhnaton of the Eighteenth Dynasty must be placed in the latter part of the ninth century. If Akhnaton flourished in -840 and not in -1380, the ceramics from Mycenae found in the palace of Akhnaton are younger by five or six hundred years than they are presumed to be, and the Late Mycenaean period would accordingly move forward by about half a thousand years on the scale of time. If the ages of Amenhotep III, of Tiy and of Akhnaton, need to be reduced by about five hundred years, classical studies could take a deep breath.
Actually, when in the eighties of the nineteenth century, the Hellenists were coerced, upon the evidence presented by Egyptologists, to introduce those five dark centuries, they did it only after a period of protest and resistance. But now that three generations of historians have lived with those dark centuries as a historical reality, it is even more difficult to part with them. Nevertheless, sooner or later, they will have to part with the phantom centuries, and have the history of Greece and the development of its writing as a normal process without a four-hundred-year gap.
The conclusion at which we have arrived is this: between the Mycenaean and the Ionian Ages there was no Dark Age, but one followed the other, with only a few decades intervening. The natural catastrophes of the eighth century and of the beginning of the seventh brought an end to the civilization that centered at Mycenae in Greece, to cities and citadels and kingdoms; even the profile of the Greek mainland changed and many islands submerged and others emerged. These changes moved entire nations to migrations in the hope that beyond the horizon fertile lands, not damaged by unchained forces of nature, awaited the conquerors. This explains the break in continuitythe change is not due to some intervening dark ages that left no vestige of themselves, but to the paroxysms of nature and the migrations.
Classical studies have been troubled by many unresolved situations, archaeological and cultural. The field has been plagued by the presence of the Dark Agea presence only schematic, never in effect. It engendered and continues to engender an ever-growing scholarly literature. If it can be shown that the Egyptian timetable is off its hinges, the bondage of these studies and their dependence on Egypt may terminate.
The removal of the Dark Age from the historical sequence unshackles what was for centuries shackled and releases the scholarly endeavor from travelling on the same circular paths with no exit from the modern version of the Cretan Labyrinth. Moreover, it rehabilitates scholars accused of ignorance or negligence, their having been guilty only of not perceiving that the problems they dealt with were not problems at all, as soon as unreal centuries are stricken out.