The history of Greece dates back thousands of years and all the key elements of its ancient past that we recognise slowly developed during this time. After the collapse of the Bronze Age Mycenaean civilization, Greece entered a 'Dark Age' and complex social institutions, art and written language disappeared. As trade began to re-emerge, the people of ancient Greece began to develop their culture. What began with the poet Homer writing his epics in the Archaic period and geometric-style poetry evolved into the rich and varied black- and red-figure pottery, symposiums, large theatrical performances, philosophical debates, splendid sculptures and democracy.
Early pottery in the Greek world comes to us by way of the Minoans and Mycenaeans who created various types of vessels and decorated them with depictions of sea creatures and plants. During the following Geometric Period, pottery displayed geometric designs, animals and scenes from everyday life.
By the 7th century BCE, black-figure pottery was popular and is characterised by figures on the pot being painted black while the background remained red, the colour of the clay. Red-figure pottery, which used the opposite colour scheme, eventually replaced it. These styles were dominant from the 7th to the 3rd centuries BCE. Red-figure pottery particularly dominated the ceramics market and most of it was made in Attica and southern Italy.
The scenes and figures that were most popular on pottery included scenes of everyday life, like banquets and weddings; mythological heroes, gods, and monsters; and scenes from stories, like the Odyssey, and plays of the time.
Spoken word was highly valued by the ancient Greeks and it was their main way of storytelling. Early theatre is ancient Greece dates back to around 600 BCE where it began as a part of the Dionysia festival in honour of Dionysos, god of wine, festivity and theatre.
Theatre spread to the other city-states from Athens, and the three dramatic genres: tragedy (early 500s BCE), comedy (490 BCE) and satyr plays, all emerged from there.
Theatrical performances would take place in open-air theatres that were built into hills so that the audience would be able to see the stage at the bottom and hear the actors. If the audience didn't like the actors' performances, they would toss food and rocks at them!
Music in ancient Greece was thought to be a literal gift from the gods and was present in almost every part of life, from funerals and marriages to religious ceremonies, banquets, and theatre.
What we know and understand of ancient Greek music comes from fragments of written musical scores, literary references and the remains of musical instruments. Although surviving musical scores are rare, literary references are numerous and give us a view of musical practise, how it functioned socially and the organisation of professional musicians - training, prizes and fees.
Alongside this, musicians and musical events are depicted on a range of pottery and sculpture, giving us a glimpse into how the instruments would have been played and which ones were preferred.