Aetos on Ithaka and the "Greek Renaissance"


The archaeological evidence from the 8th c. BC is the material imprint of the Homeric Society. Polis (City State) constitutes the establishment of a new social order and gradually evolves into a synonym of the Greek way of life and culture for the centuries to come.

But what do we know about this society? What are the main characteristics of the Polis? How the Polis redefines the past and creates the future? The king, not an absolute monarch, is the head of a ruling elite, but it is not the point of reference as it functions in parallel and in connection with the vouli and the assembly of the people with civil rights (then the aristocrats). A Homeric king can be the head of more than one city.

Oikos, the House, forms the core of the society and its essential economic base. It is inextricably linked with the land, agricultural and livestock capital. It is the nucleus of production, economic development, concentration of power and formation of power relations. Agriculture and animal husbandry determine the economic and social power. The landowners, owing also great flocks of sheep and cattle, control the economy, finance (overseas) trade as well as form and control the expanding networks of communication and contacts. They are the ruling class, which as a dynamic social subject is constantly transformed in a context of a competition process, material evidence of which is testified archaeologically in the preeminent places of people?s gathering and forging relations, this is the Sanctuaries. The control of the sacred space, the connection with the divine and heroic, the forging of a social genealogy, going back to gods and heroes, ensure power and social control.

Taking place at the sanctuaries (mainly the rural ones), these processes lead to the emergence of the Polis (City State), whose gradual development in conjunction with the phenomenon of "colonization" results in the emergence of new social power groups and the development of contact networks.

This is the era of the "Greek Renaissance".


The mid 8th c. BC is the turning point in the development of the sanctuary at the foothills of Aetos. The sacred place acquires a symbolic landmark quality, whose fame expands far beyond the island of Ithaka, as the unique offerings testify.

The sanctuary is complementary linked to the sanctuary in the cave of Polis in northern Ithaca, as is evident from the kind and type of the votive offerings.

Archaeologically, the deposits of the sanctuary in Aetos can be distinguished stratigraphically in two phases, one covering the period from 760 to 730 BC and another, which covers the rest of the 8th century and continues into the 7th century.

The Corinthian influence is obvious. The first imports date as early as 780 BC. Euboean or Attica specimens are nearly absent. However, this is not the case as far as Corinth, Argos, Eastern Greece and Crete are concerned.


At the same time, the local pottery Workshop experiences an unprecedented dynamism, referring both to productivity and creativity.

It assimilates the Corinthian dominant trends and expands its sphere of influence.

The conventionally named "Kandyliotis Workshop" is considered ?trademark? of the Ithakan temperament. Its products have been found even at such important sanctuaries of the Era as the one of Hera Akraia in Perachora (near Corinth).

The 8th c. BC, is the period of gradual networking through the development of trade contacts. At the end of the century the so-called Greek Colonization begins. An immense network of Greek Poleis (city states) is created from the Black Sea, Minor Asia, Eastern Mediterranean, orth Africa, South Italy and Sicily to modern Marseilles.


The evolution from the austere, arranged zonally geometric decoration to the depiction of the human, animal and bird forms and the full of life and vitality curvilinear plant stems dated in the beginning of the Early Archaic Period (7th c. BC) can be traced step by step.

It? s indicative of the creative assimilation of the artistic trends introduced mainly by the Corinthian Workshop.

The spirit of the period of the so called "Greek Renaissance", as an era of transition, thus as a dynamic era of experimentation, is reflected in the equally dynamic, restless forms of a special morphological class of vessels, the so called ?libation vessels?. The potter now becomes an artist and shows his skills. He masters his art.


The Greek alphabet was formed in such a dynamic context and allowed ? among other - the recording of the Epic Cycles.

In Ithaca, specifically in the sanctuary of the Aetos, two of the earliest - although not the earliest- inscriptions in the Greek language have been unearthed. In the conical Oenochoe no. 490, bearing on the circular surface of its base a figurative representation of itself (a conical oenochoe), we read in hexameter a verse with obvious influences from the archaic Epic poems:

?Stranger, friend and faithfull partner...?
Dr Grigorios Grigorakakis, rchaeologist, Director of Ephorate of Antiquities of Cephalonia and Ithaca
Eleni Papafloratou, rchaeologist, Head of the Department