be victorious


[dawr-ee-uhn, dohr-]
The Dorians or Dorian Greeks (Greek: Δωριεῖς, Dōrieis, singular Δωριεύς, Dōrieus) were one of three major tribes into which the ancient Greeks divided themselves. Herodotus gave the earliest historical expression of a three-fold division: "... those who dwell in our land are called Ionians, Aeolians and Dorians." General names inherited from earlier times were considered to be in one of these three groups, from the earliest literature; for example, the Achaeans (also known as Danaans, Δαναοί, and Argives, Ἀργεῖοι) were primarily Ionians and Aeolians.

The Dorians are almost always simply referenced as just "the Dorians," as they are in the earliest literary mention of them in Odyssey, where they already can be found inhabiting the island of Crete. Herodotus does use the word ethnos with regard to them, from which the English word "ethnic" derives, which appears in the modern concept of ethnic group. It has to be clarified though, that in the ancient Greek language "ethnos" by no means can be translated as "nation" alone, but rather as "tribe", "race" or "people." The Dorians are clearly among the peoples regarded as Graecoi or later Hellenes. They were diverse in way of life and social organization, varying from the populous trade center of the city of Corinth known for its ornate style in art and architecture to the isolationist, military state of Lacedaemon or Sparta. Although peoples belonging to the same tribe, the Dorians, as well as the Aeolians and the Ionians were further subdivided in independent groups often hostile to each other, usually named after the location of their state. And yet all Hellenes knew what localities were Dorian and what not. Dorian states at war could more likely than not (but not always) count on the assistance of other Dorian states. Dorians were distinguished by the Doric Greek dialect and by characteristic social and historical traditions. Accounts vary as to their place of origin. One theory that has never been proven is that they originated in the north, north-eastern mountainous regions of Greece, ancient Macedonia and Epirus, whence obscure circumstances brought them south into the Peloponnese, to certain Aegean islands, Magna Graecia and Crete. Another theory is that they originated from Asia Minor, and that they either immigrated through the northeast of Greece and settled in southern Greece or immigrated from the coast of western Asian Minor into the Aegean islands and into southern Greece. Either way, mythology gave them a Greek origin and eponymous founder, Dorus son of Hellen, the mythological patriarch of the Hellenes.

In the fifth century BC, Dorians and Ionians were the two most politically important Greek ethne, whose ultimate clash resulted in the Peloponnesian War. The degree to which fifth-century Hellenes self-identified as "Ionian" or "Dorian" has itself been disputed. The fifth- and fourth-century literary tradition through which moderns view these ethnic identifications was profoundly influenced by the social politics of the time. Also, according to E.N. Tigerstedt, nineteenth-century European admirers of virtues they considered "Dorian" identified themselves as "Laconophile" and found responsive parallels in the culture of their day as well; their biases contribute to the traditional modern interpretation of "Dorians".

When allowances have been made for the sometimes multiple lenses through which history is viewed, modern readers have also to align the literary sources with the archaeological record, if this is possible.

Dorian identity

In Classical Greece, "Dorian" applied to a fairly consistent group of peoples.

Name of the Dorians

A man's name, Dōrieus, occurs in the Linear B tablets at Pylos, one of the regions invaded and subjected by the Dorians. Pylos tablet Fn867 records it in the dative case as do-ri-je-we, *Dōriēwei, a third or consonant declension noun with stem ending in w. An unattested plural, *Dōriēwes, would have become Dōrieis by loss of the w and contraction, but in the tablet, which is concerned with contribution of grain to a temple, it is simply a man's name. Whether it had the ethnic meaning of "the Dorian" is unknown.

Julius Pokorny derives Dorian from dōris, "woodland" (which can also mean upland). The dōri- segment is from the o-grade (either ō or o) of Indo-European *deru-, "tree". Dorian might be translated as "the country people", "the mountain people", "the uplanders", "the people of the woods" or some such appellation.

A second popular derivation was given by the French linguist, Émile Boisacq, from the same root, but from Greek doru, "spear" (which was wood); i.e., "the people of the spear" or "spearmen", emphasizing the warrior ferocity of the Dorians.

Distinctions of language

The Doric dialect was spoken along the coast of the Peloponnese, in Crete, southwest Asia Minor, various cities of Southern Italy and Sicily, all of which adds weight to the theory of Asia Minor as the origin of the Dorians.Numerous historians link Doric, North-Western Greek and Attic, upon which the Koine or common Greek language of the Hellenistic period was based. The main characteristic of Doric was the preservation of Indoeuropean [aː], long <α>, which in Attic-Ionic became [ɛː], <η>. Tsakonian Greek, a descendant of Doric Greek and source of great interest to linguists, is extraordinarily still spoken in some regions of the Southern Argolid coast of the Peloponnese, on the coast of the modern prefecture of Arcadia.

Other cultural distinctions

Culturally, in addition to their Doric dialect of Greek, Doric colonies retained their characteristic Doric calendar revolving round a cycle of festivals of which the Hyacinthia and the Carneia were especially important.).

The Dorian mode in music also was attributed to Doric societies and was associated by classical writers with martial qualities.

The Doric order of architecture in the tradition inherited by Vitruvius included the Doric column, noted for its simplicity and strength.

Ancient traditions


The Dorians are mentioned by many authors and inscriptions. The chief classical authors to relate their origins are Herodotus, Thucydides and Pausanias. The customs of the Spartan state and its illustrious individuals are detailed at great length in such authors as Plutarch.

Herodotus himself was from Halicarnassus, a Dorian colony on the southwest coast of Asia Minor (in modern Turkey); following the literary tradition of the times he wrote in Ionic Greek, being one of the last authors to do so. He described the Persian Wars, giving a thumbnail account of the histories of the antagonists, Greeks and Persians.

Herodotus mentions that the "people now called the Dorians" were neighbors of the Pelasgians. The women had a distinctive dress, he said, a tunic (plain dress) not needing to be pinned with brooches.

According to Herodotus as to the Dorian migration, “Although the one nation nowhere yet went out, the Lacedaemonian was very much wandering. For, in the time of King Deucalion, it was settled in the land of Phthia, and in the time of Dorus, the son of Hellen, in the country under Ossa and Olympus, the so-called Histiaean. From the Histiaean, after it had been expelled by the Cadmeians, it was settled in Pindus called Macedonian. Thence again it changed its place to the Dryopian land, and from the Dryopian thus it came to Peloponnesus, and was called Doric.” (Herodot, Book I, 56.3). Thus, according to Herodotus, the Dorians did not acquire their name until they had reached Peloponnesus.

The people they displaced gathered at Athens under a leader Ion and became identified as "Ionians". Most conspicuous among the Dorians as related by Herodotus were the people later known as Lacedaemonians, or Spartans, one of whose archaic legendary kings was named Dōrieus. The military Spartans, under another of their kings, Leonidas, included the famous band of 300 soldiers who sacrificed themselves nearly to a man to delay the Persian army at the Battle of Thermopylae.

Herodotus' list of Dorian states is as follows. From northeastern Greece were Phthia, Histiaea and Macedon. In central Greece were Doris (the former Dryopia) and in the south Peloponnesus, specifically the states of Lacedaemon, Corinth, Sicyon, Epidaurus, Troezen and Hermione. Overseas were the islands of Rhodes, Cos, Nisyrus and the Anatolian cities of Cnidus, Halicarnassus, Phaselis and Calydna. Dorians also colonised Crete including founding of such towns as Lato, Dreros and Olous. The Cynurians were originally Ionians but had become Dorian under the influence of their Argive masters.


Thucydides professes little of Greece before the Trojan War except to say that it was full of barbarians and that there was no distinction between barbarians and Greeks. The Hellenes came from Phthiotis. The whole country indulged in and suffered from piracy and was not settled. After the Trojan War, "Hellas was still engaged in removing and settling."

Some 60 years after the Trojan War the Boeotians were driven out of Arne by the Thessalians into Boeotia and 20 years later "the Dorians and the Heraclids became masters of the Peloponnese." So the lines were drawn between the Dorians and the Aeolians (here Boeotians) with the Ionians (former Peloponnesians).

Other than these few brief observations Thucydides names but few Dorians. He does make it clear that some Dorian states aligned or were forced to align with the Athenians while some Ionians went with the Lacedaemonians and that the motives for alignment were not always ethnic but were diverse. Among the Dorians was Lacedaemon of course, Corcyra, Corinth and Epidamnus, Leucadia, Ambracia, Potidaea, Rhodes, Cythera, Argos, Carystus, Syracuse, Gela, Acragas (later Agrigentum), Acrae, Casmenae.

He does explain with considerable dismay what happened to incite ethnic war after the unity during the Battle of Thermopylae. The Congress of Corinth formed prior to it "split into two sections." Athens headed one and Lacedaemon the other.

He adds: "the real cause I consider to be ... the growth of the power of Athens and the alarm which this inspired in Lacedaemon...."


The Description of Greece by Pausanias relates that the Achaeans of the Peloponnesus were driven from their lands by Dorians coming from Oeta, a mountainous region bordering on Thessaly. They were led by Hyllus, a son of Heracles, but were defeated by the Achaeans. Under other leadership they managed to be victorious over the Achaeans and remain in the Peloponnesus, a mythic theme called "the return of the Heracleidae. They had built ships at Naupactus in which to cross the Gulf of Corinth. This invasion is viewed by the tradition of Pausanias as a return of the Dorians to the Peloponnesus, apparently meaning a return of families ruling in Aetolia and northern Greece to a land in which they had once had a share. The return is described in detail: there were "disturbances" throughout the Peloponnesus except in Arcadia, and new Dorian settlers. Pausanias goes on to describe the conquest and resettlement of Laconia, Messenia, Argos and elsewhere, and the emigration from there to Crete and the coast of Asia Minor.

Diodorus Siculus

Scholarly concept of Dorian invasion

The Dorian invasion is a modern historical concept attempting to account for:

  • at least the replacement of dialects and traditions in southern Greece in pre-classical times
  • more generally, the distribution of the Dorians in Classical Greece
  • the presence of the Dorians in Greece at all

On the whole, none of the objectives were met, but the investigations served to rule out various speculative hypotheses.

Post-migrational distribution of the Dorians

Though most of the Doric invaders settled in the Peloponnese, they also settled on Rhodes and Sicily, in what is now southern Italy. In Asia Minor existed the Dorian Hexapolis (the six great Dorian cities): Halikarnassos (Halicarnassus) and Knidos (Cnidus) in Asia Minor, Kos, and Lindos, Kameiros, and Ialyssos on the island of Rhodes. These six cities would later become rivals with the Ionian cities of Asia Minor. The Dorians also invaded Crete. These origin traditions remained strong into classical times: Thucydides saw the Peloponnesian War in part as "Ionians fighting against Dorians" and reported the tradition that the Syracusans in Sicily were of Dorian descent. Other such "Dorian" colonies, originally from Corinth, Megara, and the Dorian islands, dotted the southern coasts of Sicily from Syracuse to Selinus. (EB 1911).

Use of "Doric" in reference to Scotland

The term "Doric" came to be used in reference to Lowland Scottish dialects. The Oxford Companion to English Literature explains this phenomenon:

The term "Doric" was used to refer to all dialects of Lowland Scots as a jocular reference to the Doric dialect of the Ancient Greek language. Greek Dorians lived in Sparta amongst other places, a more rural area, and were supposed by the ancient Greeks to have spoken laconically and in a language that was thought harsher in tone and more phonetically conservative than the Attic spoken in Athens.

Use of the term "Doric" in this context may also arise out of a contrast with the anglicised speech of the Scottish capital, because at one point, Edinburgh was nicknamed 'Athens of the North'. The upper/middle class speech of Edinburgh would thus be 'Attic', making the rural areas' speech 'Doric'.


Additional Bibliography

  • Hall, Jonathan M. (2000). Ethnic Identity in Greek Antiquity. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521789990.
  • Müller, Karl Otfried, Die Dorier (1824) was translated by Henry Tufnel and Sir George Cornewall Lewis and published as The History and Antiquities of the Doric Race, (London: John Murray), 1830, in two vols.
  • Drews, Robert (1993). The End of the Bronze Age: Changes in Warfare and the Catastrophe CA. 1200 B.C.. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Five editions between 1993 and 1995.
  • Pomeroy, Sarah B.; Stanley M. Burstein; Walter Donlan; Jennifer Tolbert Roberts (1999). Ancient Greece: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195097424.

See also

External links

  • The Dorians, University of Minnesota Ancient Greek Civilizations site
  • Dorians. In The Encyclopedia Britannica: a Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information (8, Pages 425-428). Cambridge University Press, Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved on 2008-01-04.. Note that the online edition omits the critical bibliography, which features works only in German, and includes Müller but not Kretschmer. Also the online version runs paragraphs and section headings together. The paragraph division is not the one of the article.
  • George Hinge, Scythian and Spartan Analogies in Herodotos’ Representation
  • Makedonia. Pan-Macedonian Network. Pan-Macedonian Association. Retrieved on 2007-12-29..

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