Economic and social development in the Cycladic Islands, 1000-480 BCE

  • Douglas Charles Forsyth

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This thesis seeks to understand how economic and social development occurred in the Cycladic Islands between the end of the Bronze Age and the Persian Wars, 1000 – 480 BCE. The longue durée of the examination sets the remarkable 8th to 6th century Iron Age development of economic and social institutions into a diachronic context. A comprehensive set of archaeologically attested evidence from each island and each site was evaluated. This work fills a gap in scholarship as a synthetic analysis of the Iron Age Cycladic islands has not been done previously. The examination begins with the preceding Late Bronze Age palace- based social and economic systems with specific attention paid to associated trade routes. Following the end of the Bronze Age, an apparently uniformly low level of population across the islands was barely able to scratch out an existence in the 12ᵗʰ and 11ᵗʰ centuries. Beginning in the 10ᵗʰ century, evidence suggests that over the following centuries, on many of the islands, significant economic surpluses and robust social systems were generated. On other islands, evidence of complex development is not apparent. The trade routes and social structures of the Early Iron Age appear to bear little resemblance to those of the Late Bronze Age suggesting something different developed in the aftermath. This examination traces those developments throughout the archipelago on an island by island basis, noting changes in the material culture, social structure, technological innovations, and evidence of entrepreneurial enterprise that, in combination, led to the creation of economic surpluses. An analysis of the contributions of phoros to the Delian League shows that individual islands were assessed at different levels. This suggests that a range of economic strategies were pursued by the islands’ inhabitants, some proving more successful than others. The development of successful economic enterprises is but one of a series of developments during the period and needs to be examined in a broad context that considers coterminous social development. The most successful economic strategies suggest a paradigm that perhaps can be applied to understand other societies’ rocesses of regeneration following societal collapses in other places and periods.
Date of Award2 Dec 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorRebecca Jane Sweetman (Supervisor)

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