The barbarians who overthrew Aegean civilization seem to
have entered Greece from the north, perhaps from the region the Danube River.
They pushed gradually southward, sometimes exterminating or enslaving the
earlier inhabitants of the country, but more often settling peaceably in their
new homes. Conquerors and conquered slowly intermingled and so produced the one
Greek people which is found at the dawn of history. These Greeks, as we shall
call them henceforth, also occupied the islands of the Aegean Sea and the coast
of Asia Minor. The entire basin of the Aegean thus became a Greek world.
THE HOMERIC EPICS
The period between the end of the Aegean Age and the
opening of historic times in Greece is usually called the Homeric Age, because
many features of its civilization are reflected in two epic poems called the Iliad
and the Odyssey. The former deals with the story of a Greek expedition
against Troy; the latter describes the wanderings of the hero Odysseus on his
return from Troy. The two epics were probably composed in Ionia, and by the
Greeks were attributed to a blind bard named Homer. Many modern scholars,
however, consider them the work of several generations of poets. The references
in the Iliad and the Odyssey to industry, social life, law, government,
and religion give us some idea of the culture which the historic Greeks
received as their inheritance.