Mika Launikari


Storytelling in the ancient and more modern times

Published on Permalink

In the ancient Greek history there is a period called the Greek Dark Ages. These Dark Ages are the interval between the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization (ca. 1200 BCE) and the Greek Archaic Period (ca. 800 BCE). At that time people, who lived scattered across the Greek peninsula, were ruled by the Dorians. Unfortunately not too much is known about this period in the Greek history as the Dorians did not have a written language.

Thanks to storytelling, however, some bits and pieces from these Dark Ages have been kept alive until our times. What is generally known is that the Dorians were skillful warriors, fighters and conquerors, and that they had metal weapons. The Greek tribes of that time, who mostly relied on stone tools and weapons, were not able to defend themselves against the war power of the Dorians, but were easily taken over by their invading enemy with superior strength.

Back then during the Dorian rule, there were gifted storytellers travelling from town to town across the country. They always had some inspiring stories to share with people who came to listen to them and who then spread these fables further to their families, friends and acquaintances. This way oral lore transmitted cultural material and tradition in speech from one generation to another in a society without an established writing system.

Today’s speed of communication

From those days, the world of communications has largely changed. The role of the mass media in the contemporary society is difficult to overestimate. They together with the social media have become a considerable part of our everyday life. Informing people of pressing issues as well as forming and affecting public opinion can effectively be done by means of new digital technologies.

But is there a place left anymore for storytelling in this speedy, hectic and knotty world of today, where people are facing an increasing lack of time and having an ever-growing range of communication tools at their disposal? Overall, communication these days has become almost faster than light allowing instantaneous transfer of information across the planet, but will we this way be able to share tales, long and short, entertaining and didactic, with each other anymore?

Storytelling unites people

We do not want to spend time with messages that interrupt, but rather with ideas that engage us. Storytelling can do this as it is a powerful method of communicating. The true value of storytelling lies in its way of fostering learning and bonding across generations, cultures, professional fields and even academic disciplines. As well known, throughout the human history telling stories has been essential for the survival and development of all the civilizations, as well as for creating individuals a sense of belonging to a wider community.

This was the case as well in the ancient Greece, where many legends were born and told about clever people, who performed heroic and victorious deeds against common enemies. Such legends spiritually united those early Greeks and gave them a shared past, as well as morally helped them to rise against the Dorians. Although the Dorians were hated by the early Greeks, there was something valuable the Dorian invaders left to them. Indeed, the knowhow for making tools and weapons of metal. This way the Greeks were able to defend themselves and their city states, and finally beat the Dorians.

Photo: www.huijskensbickerton.com