What Caused the Dark Ages in Ancient Greece?

The Dark Ages of Ancient Greece is a period in the history of Greece that lasted from 1100 BC to 750 BC. It was a time of great upheaval and instability, marked by the collapse of Mycenaean civilization and the emergence of new city-states. The causes of the Dark Ages are still a matter of debate among historians, but several factors are believed to have contributed to this tumultuous period.

The Collapse of Mycenaean Civilization:

The Mycenaean civilization was a powerful and affluent civilization that dominated Greece from around 1600 BC to 1100 BC. It was characterized by its impressive palaces, intricate artwork, and sophisticated military tactics.

However, around 1200 BC, the Mycenaean civilization began to decline rapidly. Historians believe that several factors contributed to their downfall, including invasions by foreign tribes, internal conflicts, and natural disasters such as earthquakes.

Invasions by Foreign Tribes:

One theory suggests that the Sea Peoples were responsible for the collapse of Mycenaean civilization. The Sea Peoples were a group of seafaring raiders who attacked coastal cities throughout the Mediterranean during the Late Bronze Age. Their origins are unclear, but they were likely comprised of various ethnic groups who banded together for plunder and conquest.

It’s believed that the Sea Peoples played a major role in weakening Mycenaean cities through their frequent raids and attacks. This made them vulnerable to invasions by other tribes such as the Dorians who eventually conquered much of Greece during the Dark Ages.

Internal Conflicts:

Another factor that contributed to the collapse of Mycenaean civilization was internal conflicts among various city-states. The Mycenaeans were not a unified people but rather a collection of independent kingdoms with their own rulers and armies.

These kingdoms often competed with each other for resources and power, leading to frequent conflicts and wars. This weakened the Mycenaean cities and made them more vulnerable to attacks by outside forces.

Natural Disasters:

In addition to invasions and internal conflicts, natural disasters such as earthquakes may have also contributed to the collapse of Mycenaean civilization. Greece is located in a seismically active region, and earthquakes are a common occurrence.

It’s possible that a series of powerful earthquakes destroyed Mycenaean cities, leading to their ultimate downfall. The earthquakes may have also triggered other natural disasters such as floods and landslides, further exacerbating the situation.

The Emergence of New City-States:

After the collapse of Mycenaean civilization, Greece entered a period of great instability as new city-states emerged. These city-states were smaller and more decentralized than their Mycenaean predecessors, but they were also more democratic.

The city-states were characterized by their fierce independence and rivalry with one another. This led to frequent conflicts and wars among them, but it also spurred innovation in fields such as politics, philosophy, and art.


The Dark Ages of Ancient Greece was a tumultuous period marked by the collapse of Mycenaean civilization and the emergence of new city-states. The causes of this period are still debated among historians but are believed to include invasions by foreign tribes, internal conflicts among city-states, natural disasters such as earthquakes, and the emergence of new political structures.

Despite the chaos of this period, it laid the groundwork for many important developments in Greek history. It paved the way for democracy in Athens, inspired great works of literature such as Homer’s epic poems, and laid the foundation for Western philosophy.