The Dorians

The Dorians were a group of war-like people that originated in the northern mountainous areas of Greece.

They spoke a different dialect of Greek and their cultural differences set them apart from the people of southern Greece.

Before the Dorian invasion

During the Mycenaean period in Greece from 1600-1100 B.C.E., Greek civilization advanced.

There were numerous cultural items developed such as a writing system and a defined artistic form.

In addition the Mycenaean period brought urban development, trade networks were developed in the Mediterranean as well as military infrastructure like fortifications.

Why did they invade?

The reason why the Dorians invaded is complex and argued between historians.

One side believes they invaded to secure the rich fertile lands for agricultural purposes. The other side is bolstered by Greek legend.

The Dorians believed they were the true descendants of Heracles. They invaded the Peloponnesus to secure their ancestral homeland.

The invasion

The Dorians were from the mountainous areas of north and northwest Greece. They did not have a written language and they did not care for art or music.

The Dorians were interested in one thing only and that was war. They invaded the southern portions of Greece between 1100-1050 B.C.E.

The Dorians made quick work of the declining Mycenaean and Minoan civilizations within the southern mainland of Greece.

Their dominance in war was made easier by the weapons they used. The Dorians used iron swords. Many of the southern villagers still were restricted to stone tools and weapons.

The Dorians were much less developed than the Mycenaean Greeks. Their lack of culture and warrior like spirit threw the area into the Greek Dark Ages. The dark ages lasted for several centuries..


The Dorians would eventually migrate all around the Peloponnesus.

They would settle along the coast of Asia Minor and the southern islands of the Aegean Sea including Crete as well as Sicily.

Sparta was an important Dorian city as well as Corinth, Rhodes and Argos.

There were two distinct types of blending processes that took place with ancient Greek culture.

Dorians who resided in city-states that thrived on business became part of that merchant system as business owners and farmers.

The blending of language dialects, arts and literature could flourish once again in these city-state societies.

The Dorians that resided in Sparta and Crete were different. In Sparta and Crete, the Dorians continued with their cruel and brutal military ruling class.

Societies based on military rule did not enrich cultural aspects such as art and literature. Here the Dorians controlled the land and the people became agricultural slaves to the military ruling class.

Rise of the city-state

The Dorians were the primary rulers of the Peloponnesus for nearly 400 years.

As more and more Dorians integrated into society, they became cultured and less war-like, with one exception being Dorian Sparta.

The people of the Peloponnesus finally were able to muster enough strength to force the Dorians from power.

The rise of the city-state political structure helped in defeating the Dorians in most of ancient Greece, except Sparta and Crete.

The city-state concept was ideal for bringing communities and community members together. Each city-state had a common purpose that citizens worked together to achieve.

Blending of Cultures

The Doric dialect was spoken for centuries and integrated into society but today very little remains in the language.

The most lasting feature of Dorian culture can be found in Greek architecture. The Dorians liked monuments of great size which featured sturdy columns.

Doric Columns are a prominent feature in Greek architecture including buildings like Parthenon.

Facts about the Dorians

  • The Dorians were from the north and northwestern mountainous areas of Greece.
  • The Dorians invented an iron sword used in warfare for slashing.
  • The Dorians did not have a written language.
  • Doric was one of two Greek dialects. The other was Ionian.
  • Dorians believed they were descendants of Heracles.
  • Their invasion of southern Greece ended the Mycenaean period.
  • Sparta and Crete thrived on the Dorian war-like culture while establishing a military ruling class.
  • The 400 years of Dorian dominance was referred to as the Greek Dark Ages.

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