Iron Age Greek migrations

Annie Lee | Apr 11, 2024

Table of Content


The first Greek colonization was carried out by an emigrant population in the midst of the displacements and reconstruction that occurred in Greece from the mid-11th century to the end of the 9th century BC (Greek Dark Ages). B.C. (the Greek Dark Ages). These movements resulted in the colonization of the Aegean islands, Cyprus, Crete and the western coast of Anatolia, and the founding of new cities that would later become centers of Greek civilization. Colonization consisted of consecutive waves of tribal groupings known as Aeolian, Ionian, Dorian and Achaean (Arcadian) colonizations. These movements differed from those of the second Greek colonization in that they were more ad hoc movements rather than the result of a planned process of colonization by the city of origin, and are less historically documented, sometimes with mythological or semi-legendary leaders such as Hercules or Orestes recorded as leaders of the colonists.

The settlement of the Dorians in Central Greece

Throughout the 13th century B.C. the Dorians most likely moved from the regions of Epirus and southern Macedonia to the south and exercised strong control over the area of Central Greece, with their center of power in Dorida. The Dorians, who displaced the previous inhabitants of southern Greece, knew iron forging and quickly became a major power in the hills of Central Greece, from which they would later have expanded by necessity southward into the regions that were inhabited in historical times by the Aetolians and the Locrians. In acquiring the region, they displaced the previous inhabitants, the Dryopes, who fled to Euboea, the Cyclades islands and southern Argolid. In Euboea they established a state, with capital at Caristo while in southern Argolid they founded the cities of Hermione, Asine, Heiones and Mases. This movement was the first massive one in southern Greece in the transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age.

The Doria invasion of the Peloponnesus

After their consolidation in the region the Dorians organized a campaign against the rich and powerful kings of Achaia in the Peloponnese. They were accompanied in the campaign by two neighboring tribes, the Aetolians and the Boeotians, who either fought alongside the Dorians or were under their authority at that period. In the middle of the 12th century BC, the Dorians attacked the Peloponnese, crossing the Strait of Rion with their fleet. According to tradition they crossed into the Peloponnese through the Strait of Rion-Antirion, and from that arrival (from naus, "ship") the city of Naupactus (modern pronunciation Nafpaktos) took its name.

After crossing into the Peloponnese, the Dorians divided into four groups and each captured one of the major Achaean kingdoms. One group led by Cresphontes moved to Messenia and captured the kingdom of Pylos. A second group led by Aristodemus moved to Laconia and settled in Sparta, while a third led by Temenos took Argos and Mycenae. It is estimated that the destruction of Mycenae by the invasion of the Dorians occurred around 1150 B.C. Finally, a fourth group led by Aletes, son of Hypotes, moved to the isthmus of Corinth and took the area around the city of the same name.

The rule of the Dorians in the Peloponnese brought new upheavals and changes in the population. The Achaeans from Argolid migrated northward and settled in the region of Achaia. In that region they displaced the Ionians who ruled it, and who therefore moved to the east of the Corinthian region. They first settled in Euboea displacing the previous inhabitants, the Abantes, and continued on to the Aegean and the Anatolian coast. The Ionians of Attica were able to repel the invasion of the Dorians, as evidenced by the continuity of the reign of Codro who passed to the archonate (or reign) of his son Medonte.

Aeolian colonization

In the same period in which the Dorians moved into the Peloponnese, other peoples made their own movements into Greek lands. The Thessalians, from their native region in the area of Thesprotia, moved into the area of Thessaly, displacing the previous Aeolophonian tribe that inhabited the region. Among these tribes that lived in Thessaly prior to the establishment of the Thessalians were the Boeotians, who migrated south and settled in the region of Boeotia. Other peoples of Thessaly and the earlier inhabitants of Boeotia fled to the northern Aegean region after the loss of their territories and settled first on Lesbos and Tenedos and in the Hecatonesos. These inhabitants were later called Aeolians after the name of the Thessalian tribe of which they had been a part in the migration. The Aeolians later colonized the opposite coast of Anatolia, which was called Aeolida. Herodotus relates the foundation of twelve cities in that region of Anatolia. They were the following: Egas, Egiroesa, Grinio, Cila, Cime, Larisa, Mirina, Neontico, Notio, Pitane, Smyrna and Temno. In the 7th century B.C. the Aeolians also expanded into the Troas, founding the cities of Gargara, Aso, Antandro, Cebre, Scepsis, Neandrea and Pythia. The Peloponnesian Achaeans who followed the Aeolian speakers participated in the Aeolian resettlement. Tradition claims that Orestes was an instigator of the Aeolian relocation, and the royal family of the Pentylides in Mytilene claimed to disdain Orestes.

Ionian colonization

The Ionians, before the arrival of the Dorians, lived in the northern Peloponnese, in Megarid, and in Attica. After the loss of their territories to the Dorians and the Achaeans of Argolid they moved further east and settled first in Euboea, displacing their previous inhabitants, the Abantes. In the middle of the 11th century BC they colonized the northern Cyclades and, together with the Ionians of Attica, colonized the islands of Samos and Chios and the central section of Anatolia, which is called Ionia after them. The Ionians founded twelve cities that maintained tribal ties and remained united in a common state, the Ionian League. The cities of the league were Miletus, Miunte, Priene, Ephesus, Colophon, Lebedos, Theos, Clazomenes, Erythras, Phocis and the island states Chios and Samos. Their religious center ended up being a temple of Poseidon in the region of Mycale. Other tribes such as the Achaeans of the Peloponnese, the Arcadians, the Abantes, the Minoans of Orkomenus, the Phocians and the Molossians settled separately from the Ionians but in the region of Ionia. The Abantes settled in Chios and preceded the Ionians, who settled later. The settlement of the Achaeans of Pilia is related to that of Colophon, while the Achaeans of Argolid settled in the region of Clazomena. It is believed that the later traditions of the Ionian cities were due to the leader of the migration being a descendant of Codro, and their point of departure seems to have been Attica.

Doria colonization

The Dorians who took Argos and Corinth gradually expanded across the northern Peloponnese. After failing to capture Attica, they retreated back towards the sea. With the Dorian states of Argolid as their starting point they colonized Aegina, the southern Cyclades, Cyprus, Crete, the Dodecanese and the southwest coast of Anatolia. Composed of several groups of Dorians from Trecenae, they colonized Halicarnassus; from Epidaurus, Cos; and, from Argos, Rhodes, Crete and the islands of the Cyclades. In later years the Dorians from Laconia also settled in Crete, in Thera (in modern Santorini), in Milos and in Cnidus. The Dorian settlers of the Dodecanese and southwestern Anatolian regions were united in a common form of government, the Hexapolis, which encompassed the cities of Halicarnassus, Cnidus, Lindos, Ialyssos, Cameria and Cos. The center of the Dorians of Anatolia was the temple of Apollo on the promontory of Triopion at Cnidus. Later the Halicarnassians were forbidden to participate in the ceremonies there because of the sacrilege of a sportsman of the city who did not dedicate his trophy to Apollo.


  1. Iron Age Greek migrations
  2. Primera colonización griega
  3. ^ Herodotus (1920). "43.1". Histories. Vol. 8 (Ourania). Translated by A. D. Godley. ... ἐόντες οὗτοι πλὴν Ἑρμιονέων Δωρικόν τε καὶ Μακεδνὸν ἔθνος, ἐξ Ἐρινεοῦ τε καὶ Πίνδου καὶ τῆς Δρυοπίδος ὕστατα ὁρμηθέντες. οἱ δὲ Ἑρμιονέες εἰσὶ Δρύοπες, ὑπὸ Ἡρακλέος τε καὶ Μηλιέων ἐκ τῆς νῦν Δωρίδος καλεομένης χώρης ἐξαναστάντες. (...All of these except the Hermioneans are Dorian and Macedonian and had last come from Erineus and Pindus and the Dryopian region. The Hermioneans are Dryopians, driven out of the country now called Doris by Herakles and the Malians.)
  4. Βικιθήκη, Ηροδότου ιστορία/Ουρανία οἱ δὲ Ἑρμιονέες εἰσὶ Δρύοπες, ὑπὸ Ἡρακλέος τε καὶ Μηλιέων ἐκ τῆς νῦν Δωρίδος καλεομένης χώρης ἐξαναστάντες
  5. Παυσανία, Ελλάδος περιήγησις, 10.38.10 ἐπεὶ ἐπὶ Ναυπάκτῳ γε οἶδα εἰρημένον ὡς Δωριεῖς οἱ ὁμοῦ τοῖς Ἀριστομάχου παισὶ τὰ πλοῖα αὐτόθι ἐποιήσαντο, οἷς ἐς Πελοπόννησον ἐπεραιώθησαν: καὶ ἀντὶ τούτου γενέσθαι τὸ ὄνομα τῷ χωρίῳ φασί. τὰ δέ μοι Ναυπακτίων,
  6. Ιστορίαι (Ηροδότου)/Πολύμνια, παρ. 176 ἐπεὶ Θεσσαλοὶ ἦλθον ἐκ Θεσπρωτῶν οἰκήσοντες γῆν τὴν Αἰολίδα τήν νῦν ἐκτέαται.

Please Disable Ddblocker

We are sorry, but it looks like you have an dblocker enabled.

Our only way to maintain this website is by serving a minimum ammount of ads

Please disable your adblocker in order to continue.

Dafato needs your help!

Dafato is a non-profit website that aims to record and present historical events without bias.

The continuous and uninterrupted operation of the site relies on donations from generous readers like you.

Your donation, no matter the size will help to continue providing articles to readers like you.

Will you consider making a donation today?