After the collapse of Mycenae around 1100 B.C., the Greek cities fell into decline and the country entered into a dark age such that the classical Greek alphabet reflects nothing of the Mycenaean syllabary.
Around 800 BC, the Hellenic civilization began to arise and by 600 BC they were using standardized coinage.
Social divisions were rigid in Hellenic society and slavery was common.
The basic unit of Hellenic civilization was the polis, or city-state. Hundreds of these filled Greece, and others, called apoikia, were founded around the Mediterranean, especially in Italy and Asia Minor, but also in North Africa and Sicily. Usually, a polis was ruled by an oligarchy. Towards the end of the seventh century a number of dictatorships were established (see Pisistratus).
In the seventh and sixth centuries many cities came to be ruled as democracies. The best known of these is the Athenian democracy. In these, the ability to vote, hold office, and own property were restricted to citizens, and so excluded slaves and resident foreigners.
By about 650 BC, the military was based around hoplites (heavy infantry), organized into rough phalanxes which usually had 8 or more rows. The hoplites' shields were held nearly touching, each covering its carrier's left side and his neighbor's right side. Because it was important for more than just individual defence, losing one's shield was the ultimate symbol of cowardice and could be considered treason.
Hoplites were provided mainly by the middle class, which usually included most of the citizen population. Wealthier individuals might fight as cavalry, and poorer ones as peltasts[?], archers, or slingers[?], but these were not very important in Hellenic militaries until fairly late. In the few naval powers, poor citizens would row the warships (pentekontors[?] and triremes), and the wealthy might command them.
Hellenic temples were typically oblong pillar-framed buildings decorated with sculpted figures.
Hellenes produced iron in clay-lined stone furnaces[?] with stoppered holes that were positioned on hilltops, in order to make use of winds. Slaves fed the furnace crushed charcoal, limestone, and ore and removed slag from the bottom. They would then cool the furnace and remove the bloom[?] which would be heated and hammered until wrought iron was the final product.
Hellenic civilization reached the peak of its power duing the 5th Century BC. In 478 B.C., following the defeat of the Persian invasion, Athens assumed leadership of an alliance known as the Delian League, which would later come to be known as the Athenian Empire. Sparta, the other great power in Greece, and leader of the Peloponnesian League, fearing the growth of Athenian power, sparred with Athens throughout the middle of the century. Finally, the two sides fought in the Peloponnesian War, from 431-404 B.C., which involved virtually every state in Greece, including colonies in Asia, Italy, and Sicily. The war ended in the decisive defeat of the Athenian Empire.
Sparta made an attempt to assure her own supremacy in the Aegean, but in the end Persia managed to recover the Greek cities on the coast of Asia Minor, and starting with the King's peace[?] in 386 B.C. even began dictating affairs on the mainland. Athens built up a second confederacy and recovered a position equal to Sparta's, and then Thebes became for a moment the supreme power under Epaminondas. After his death, Greece was left weak and exhausted by continual warfare, leading to its conquest by Macedonia.
The usual periodization practiced by modern historians is to see the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. as dividing the Hellenic period from the Hellenistic. The shift from "Hellenic" to "Hellenistic" represents the shift from a culture dominated by ethnic Greeks, however scattered geographically, to a culture dominated by Greek-speakers of whatever ethnicity, and from the political dominance of the city-state to that of larger monarchies.