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The Dorians were one of the ancient Hellenic tribes acknowledged by Greek writers. Traditional accounts place their origins in the north, north-eastern regions of Greece, ancient Macedonia and Epirus, whence obscure circumstances drove them south into Attica and the Peloponnesus, to certain Aegean islands, and to the SW coast of Asia Minor. Late mythology gave them an eponymous founder, a certain "Dorus", son of "Hellen", the mythological patriarch of the Hellenes.

Beginning about 1150 BC, the Dorians invaded the Greek mainland, the Peloponnesus, Crete and other places throughout the Mediterranean, disrupting the Bronze Age Mycenaean civilization. Peloponnesian cities that the Dorians invaded include Corinth, Olympia, Sparta and Mycenae. Many archaeologists attribute the destruction of Mycenae, a pivotal Mycenaean city, to these invading Dorians.

Though most of the Doric invaders settled in the Peloponesse, they also settled on Rhodes and in Asia Minor, where in later times the Dorian Hexapolis (the six Dorian cities) would arise: Halicarnassus, Cos, Cnidos (Asia Minor); Lindos, Kameiros (Camiros), and Ialyssos (in 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 thePeloponnesian War in part as "Ionians fighting against Dorians" and reported the tradition that the Syracusans in Sicily were of Dorian descent (Thucydides, 7.57). Other such "Dorian" colonies, originally from Corinth, Megara, and the Dorian islands, dotted the southern coasts of Sicily from Syracuse to Selinus. Culturally, in addition to their Doric dialect of Greek, these colonies retained their characteristic Doric calendar revolving round a cycle of festivals of which the Hyacinthia and the Carneia were especially important (EB 1911).

The Dorian invasion was partly responsible for the subsequent Greek Dark Ages. The written record is nonexistent; the Dorian migration is documented in the mute archaeological record: widespread burning and destruction of Bronze Age sites both in Crete and the mainland of Greece, many of which were reduced to villages or abandoned, and the introduction of iron-working ended the Bronze Age in the Aegean.

The Dorian invasion

The Dorian invasion, more often called the Dorian migration in modern texts, is co-related with ash layers at Mycenaean sites and changes in burial practices, from Mycenaean group burials in tholos tombs to individual burials and the burning of the corpse, previously unknown. Considered as an invasion, the advent of the Dorians is generally advanced to explain the swift collapse of Mycenaean civilization in ancient mainland Greece. Concurrent effects are the disruption of long-distance trade and possibilities of civil war and natural disaster, as well as the colonisation of islands in the Aegean sea and the west coast of Asia Minor.

Mythic origins

According to a myth based on an etymological fantasy, the Dorians were named for the minor district of Doris in northern Greece. Their leaders were mythologized as the Heracleidae, the sons of the legendary hero Heracles, and the Dorian incursion into Greece in the distant past was justified in the mythic theme of the "Return of the Heracleidae". The most famous of Dorian groups were the Spartans, whose austere and martial lifestyle was much admired and feared.

Doric dialect

The Doric dialect was spoken along the coast of the Peloponnese, in Crete and southwest Asia Minor. A close relationship between Doric, North-Western Greek and ancient Macedonian has been postulated. 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 indoeuropean /a/(α) where Attic had /e/(η).

See also

The Doric column in architecture and a Dorian mode in music. The column was noted for its simplicity and strength, the music for its martial qualities. The Doric column is still widely used today, particularly in government buildings and other large edifices. See the Doric order.


  • Die Dorier (The Dorians), Karl Otfried Müller (1824).
  • The History and Antiquities of the Doric Race, Karl Otfried Müller, Eng. trans., Oxford, 1830. 2 vols.
  • The End of the Bronze Age: Changes in Warfare and the Catastrophe CA. 1200 B.C., Robert Drews, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1993.

External links

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