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The Dorians (Greek: Δωριεῖς, Dōrieis, singular Δωριεύς, Dōrieus) were one of the four major tribes into which the Ancient Greeks of the Classical period divided themselves.[1]

The Dorians are almost always simply referenced as just "the Dorians", as they are in the earliest literary mention of them in Odyssey,[2] where they already can be found inhabiting the island of Crete. Herodotus does use the word ethnos[3] 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 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. However, 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 widely believed in ancient times, but never proven beyond doubt, 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, Lapithos 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 5th 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.[4] 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".[5]

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