Archaic Period

The Archaic period is conventionally divided into two phases: Early (700-600 BC) and Late (600-480 BC). City-states were organised and the Koinon of the Boeotians was set up. Hesiod, who originated in from Boeotian Askri, wrote his famous poems. Competition with neighbouring Attica became stronger. The end of the Persian wars found the greater part of Boeotia among the defeated.

Early in the Archaic period, a new wave of colonization spread throughout the Mediterranean Basin and up to the Euxinos Pontos (Black Sea), bringing to the fore a class of affluent merchants who demanded a share of power. At the same time, small farmers and artisans claimed protection from the highhandedness of the ruling aristocratic class and in some cases succeeded in formulating the first written laws.

In the early 7th c. BC a new military formation appeared, the hoplite phalanx, which changed the tactics of military confrontations and undermined the aristocratic ideal of the independent warrior.

The early Archaic period concluded with the transformation of the old small settlements into citystates that had begun in the previous period, and the introduction of new political regimes.

Boeotia did not participate actively in colonization, perhaps because the social upsets in its own dominion were not of high intensity. However, dispute of the lords’ power was expressed here too, as can be seen from the work of the Boeotian poet Hesiod.

There were many imported products, initially from Corinth and then from Attica. Around 520 BC, the Koinon (league) of the Boeotians was established, a federation of Boeotian cities. The cities that were members of the Koinon used a common numismatic type with the Boeotian shield on one side, whereas independent cities minted their own coinage.

The invasion of the Persians several decades later was, however, to differentiate the stance of the Koinon members, most of whom were in the enemy camp, while the Thespians and Plataians sided with the Greeks.

The end of the period is marked by the Persian wars, the last battle in which (the battle of Plataia, 479 BC) was fought on Boeotian soil, and signaled the temporary political downgrading of Thebes.

Section 7 begins with showcase 104, in which is exhibited a typical archaic figurine of a seated woman on which the colours have been well preserved. In showcases 105-106 and on stand 27, objects are exhibited that are related to writing, the minting of coins and the public archive of Thebes, while in showcase 108, the visitor will see the reconstruction of an impressive shield from Akraiphnio.

In showcases 109-111 battle scenes are presented with hoplites and horsemen in accordance with the art of the period. Then the thematic unit of sanctuaries is examined (stands 28-41 and showcases 107-117). One striking exhibit is the row of Kouroi (statues of young men) from the temple of Apollo Ptoos at Akraiphnio (stands 28-32) and the bronze votive offerings in showcases 107-116.

A significant find from the same sanctuary is the capital - a kouros base - dedicated in c. 550-540 BC by a member of the aristocratic Athenian family of the Alkmaionids, from which Pericles was descended (stand 34).

A little later, Hipparchos, son of Peisistratos, dedicated his own work, proof that the powerful competition between the two Athenian families spilled over the borders of Attica.

According to Herodotos, even the Persian Mardonios sought an oracle from the prophet. Exhibited on stand 41 is an inscribed column that commemorates the wonderful recovery of the gold shield that had been dedicated by Croisos, king of Lydia, to the hero Amphiaraos and was seen by Herodotos in the sanctuary of Apollo Ismenios in Thebes.

In showcase 115, athletic games are presented, which are always associated with religious feasts. In showcase 117 are dedications found in the cave of the Leivithrid Nymphs in Koroneia, and on stands 35-36 statues of a kouros and a seated goddess from temples in Eutresis. On stands 37-40 and in showcases 112-114, sculptures and votive offerings are exhibited from the sanctuary of Herakles in Thebes. In showcase 113, a Boeotian artistˈs krater stands out, bearing a scene of the abduction of Deianeira, together with part of a krater bearing the image of a ship, which may have been decorated by an Athenian pottery-painter who worked in Boeotia in the second quarter of the 7th c. BC.

Showcase 118 is dedicated to the depiction of musical, theatrical and dance events. A unique work is the blackfigure skyphos no. 1 from Tanagra depicting the dance of disguised elderly people, perhaps a scene from some theatrical work that is unknown to us.

Then (showcase 119-120) the visitor becomes acquainted with the daily routine of people in archaic Boeotia; noteworthy is the statuette from Ritsona of a man grating cheese into a bowl and that of a women kneading dough. Boeotian statuary workshops are characterized by the frequent and original depiction of people in scenes from daily life.

Showcase 123 presents pottery and figurines from Boeotian workshops. Outstanding is the black-figure kantharos that bears the signature of the Athenian potter Teisias, who worked in Tanagra in the late 6th c. BC, as are the vessels made by local workshops in the style of “Boeotian birds”. In showcase 124 the vases provide a picture of Boeotia’s trade with other regions.

Showcases 125-127 and stands 42-47 contain typical funeral gifts from archaic graves, such as pottery, figurines, coins, clay and bronze objects, as well as grave monuments from Boeotia. Noteworthy exhibits in showcase 126 include the multi-coloured polos, the replica of a ritual head covering from Ritsona, and charming statuettes of dogs. The section on funeral customs ends with the grave stele of young Mnasitheos from Akraiphnio, a work by the Athenian sculptor Philergos or Philourgos (stand 47).