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According to Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 and legend
A legend is a narrative of human actions that are perceived both by teller and listeners to take place within human history and to possess certain qualities that give the tale verisimilitude...

ary prehistory of the Aegean region, the Minyans were an autochthonous group inhabiting the Aegean
Aegean Sea
The Aegean Sea[p] is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between the southern Balkan and Anatolian peninsulas, i.e., between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey. In the north, it is connected to the Marmara Sea and Black Sea by the Dardanelles and Bosporus...

 region. However, the extent to which the prehistory of the Aegean world is reflected in literary accounts of legendary peoples, and the degree to which material culture
Material culture
In the social sciences, material culture is a term that refers to the relationship between artifacts and social relations. Studying a culture's relationship to materiality is a lens through which social and cultural attitudes can be discussed...

 can be securely linked to language-based ethnicity have been subjected to repeated revision.

The Mycenaean Greeks reached Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

 as early as 1450 BCE
1450s BC
-Events and trends:* Battle of Megiddo between Thutmose III and a coalition under the King of Kadesh. It is the first battle to have been recorded in what is accepted as relatively reliable detail. The battle took place in year 23 I Shemsu day 20...

. Greek presence on the mainland, however, dates to 1600 BCE as shown in the latest shaft graves. Other aspects of the "Minyan" period appear to arrive from northern Greece and the Balkans, in particular tumulus
A tumulus is a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. Tumuli are also known as barrows, burial mounds, Hügelgrab or kurgans, and can be found throughout much of the world. A tumulus composed largely or entirely of stones is usually referred to as a cairn...

 graves and perforated stone axes. John L. Caskey's interpretation of his archaeological excavations conducted in the 1950s linked the ethno-linguistic "Proto-Greeks" to the bearers of the "Minyan" (or Middle Helladic) culture. More recent scholars have questioned or emended his dating and doubted the linking of material culture to linguistic ethnicity.

Classical Greek uses of "Minyans"

Greeks did not always clearly distinguish the Minyans from the Pelasgian cultures that had preceded them. Greek mythographers gave the Minyans an eponym
An eponym is the name of a person or thing, whether real or fictitious, after which a particular place, tribe, era, discovery, or other item is named or thought to be named...

ous founder, Minyas
Minyas (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Minyas was the founder of Orchomenus, Boetia. As the ancestor of the Minyans, a number of Boeotian genealogies lead back to him, according to the classicist H.J. Rose...

, perhaps as legendary as Pelasgus
In Greek mythology, Pelasgus was the eponymous ancestor of the Pelasgians, the mythical inhabitants of Greece who established the worship of the Dodonaean Zeus, Hephaestus, the Cabeiri, and other divinities. In the different parts of the country once occupied by Pelasgians, there existed...

 (the founding father of the Pelasgians), which was a broader category of pre-Greek Aegean peoples. These Minyans were associated with Boeotian Orchomenus, as when Pausanias
Pausanias (geographer)
Pausanias was a Greek traveler and geographer of the 2nd century AD, who lived in the times of Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius. He is famous for his Description of Greece , a lengthy work that describes ancient Greece from firsthand observations, and is a crucial link between classical...

 relates that "Teos
Teos or Teo was a maritime city of Ionia, on a peninsula between Chytrium and Myonnesus, colonized by Orchomenian Minyans, Ionians, and Boeotians. The city is situated on a low hilly narrow strip of land connecting two larger areas of land . Teos ranked among twelve cities comprising the Ionian...

 used to be inhabited by Minyans of Orchomenus, who came to it with Athamas
The king of Orchomenus in Greek mythology, Athamas , was married first to the goddess Nephele with whom he had the twins Phrixus or Frixos and Helle. He later divorced Nephele and married Ino, daughter of Cadmus. With Ino, he had two children: Learches and Melicertes...

" and may have represented a ruling dynasty or a tribe later located in Boeotia
Boeotia, also spelled Beotia and Bœotia , is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Central Greece. It was also a region of ancient Greece. Its capital is Livadeia, the second largest city being Thebes.-Geography:...


Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 asserts several times that Pelasgians dwelt in the distant past with the Athenians in Attica, and that those Pelasgians driven from Attica in turn drove the Minyans out of Lemnos. The same historian also states that Minyans from Amyklai settled on the island of Thera in 800 BC.

Heracles ,born Alcaeus or Alcides , was a divine hero in Greek mythology, the son of Zeus and Alcmene, foster son of Amphitryon and great-grandson of Perseus...

, the hero whose exploits always celebrate the new Olympian order over the old traditions, came to Thebes
Thebes, Greece
Thebes is a city in Greece, situated to the north of the Cithaeron range, which divides Boeotia from Attica, and on the southern edge of the Boeotian plain. It played an important role in Greek myth, as the site of the stories of Cadmus, Oedipus, Dionysus and others...

, one of the ancient Mycenaean cities of Greece, and found that the Greeks were paying tribute of 100 cattle (a hecatomb
In Ancient Greece, a Hecatomb was a sacrifice to the gods of 100 cattle . Hecatombs were offered to Greek gods Apollo, Athena, and Hera, during special religious ceremonies....

) each year to Erginus
In Greek mythology, Erginus was king of Minyan Orchomenus in Boeotia. He was the son of Clymenus, his predecessor, and Buzyge . Erginus avenged his father's death at the hands of the Thebans; he made war against Thebes, inflicting a heavy defeat. The Thebans were compelled to pay King Erginus a...

, king of the Minyans. Heracles attacked a group of emissaries from the Minyans, and cut off their ears, noses and hands. He then tied them around their necks and told them to take those for tribute to Erginus. Erginus made war on Thebes, but Heracles defeated the Minyans with his fellow Thebans after arming them with weapons that had been dedicated in temples. Erginus was killed and the Minyans were forced to pay double the previous tribute to the Thebans. Heracles was also credited with the burning of the palace at Orchomenus: "Then appearing unawares before the city of the Orchomenians and slipping in at their gates he burned the palace of the Minyans and razed the city to the ground."

The Argonauts
The Argonauts ) were a band of heroes in Greek mythology who, in the years before the Trojan War, accompanied Jason to Colchis in his quest to find the Golden Fleece. Their name comes from their ship, the Argo, which was named after its builder, Argus. "Argonauts", therefore, literally means...

 were sometimes referred to as "Minyans" because Jason
Jason was a late ancient Greek mythological hero from the late 10th Century BC, famous as the leader of the Argonauts and their quest for the Golden Fleece. He was the son of Aeson, the rightful king of Iolcus...

's mother came from that line, and several of his cousins joined in the adventure.


Before World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, archaeologists sometimes applied the term "Minyans" differently, to indicate the very first wave of Proto-Greek
Proto-Greek language
The Proto-Greek language is the assumed last common ancestor of all known varieties of Greek, including Mycenaean, the classical Greek dialects , and ultimately Koine, Byzantine and modern Greek...

 speakers in the 2nd millennium BCE, among the early Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 cultures sometimes identified with the beginning of Middle Helladic culture. Gray "Minyan ware
Minyan ware
Minyan ware is a broad archaeological term describing varieties of a particular style of Aegean pottery associated with the Middle Helladic period.-Term:...

" is an archaeologist's term for a particular style of Aegean pottery associated with the Middle Helladic period (ca. 2100–1550 BCE). Thus the beginning of the Middle Helladic period would be marked by the immigration of these "Minyans". According to Emily Vermeule
Emily Vermeule
Emily Dickinson Townsend Vermeule was an American classical scholar and archaeologist.-Biography:She was born on August 11, 1928 in New York City. She earned an undergraduate degree at Bryn Mawr College in 1950, and earned a master's degree from Radcliffe College in 1954, and a Ph.D. from Bryn...

, this was the first wave of true Hellenes in Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

. More recently, however, archaeologists and paleoethnologists
Ethnology is the branch of anthropology that compares and analyzes the origins, distribution, technology, religion, language, and social structure of the ethnic, racial, and/or national divisions of humanity.-Scientific discipline:Compared to ethnography, the study of single groups through direct...

 find the term "Minyan" to be questionable: "To call the makers of Minyan ware themselves 'Minyans' is reprehensible", remarked F. H. Stubbings. "Deriving ethnic names from pottery styles is one of the most deplorable habits in archaeology," F. J. Tritsch asserted in 1974. "We cheerfully speak of the 'Minyans' when we mean a population that uses pottery we call 'Minyan'," although he was mistaken in saying that the Greeks themselves never mention the 'Minyans' as a tribe or as a people.


When John L. Caskey of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens
American School of Classical Studies at Athens
The American School of Classical Studies at Athens is one of 17 foreign archaeological institutes in Athens, Greece.-General information:...

 outlined the results of his excavations at Lerna
In classical Greece, Lerna was a region of springs and a former lake near the east coast of the Peloponnesus, south of Argos. Its site near the village Mili at the Argolic Gulf is most famous as the lair of the Lernaean Hydra, the chthonic many-headed water snake, a creature of great antiquity...

 from 1952 up until 1958, he stated that the hallmarks of Middle Helladic culture (i.e. Gray Minyan ware
Minyan ware
Minyan ware is a broad archaeological term describing varieties of a particular style of Aegean pottery associated with the Middle Helladic period.-Term:...

 and the fast potter's wheel
Potter's wheel
In pottery, a potter's wheel is a machine used in asma of round ceramic ware. The wheel may also be used during process of trimming the excess body from dried ware and for applying incised decoration or rings of color...

) may have originated from Early Helladic III. Caskey also stated that Lerna (along with settlements at Tiryns
Tiryns is a Mycenaean archaeological site in the prefecture of Argolis in the Peloponnese, some kilometres north of Nauplion.-General information:...

, Asine
Asine was an ancient Greek city of Argolis, which was the first city mentioned by Homer as part of the kingdom of Diomedes, king of Argos.In 740 BC, the Argives destroyed the city because its citizens had helped the Spartans in their war against Argos...

 in the Argolid, Agios Kosmas near Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

, and perhaps Corinth
Corinth is a city and former municipality in Corinthia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Corinth, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit...

) was destroyed at the end of Early Helladic II. He suggested that the invaders of Early Helladic II settlements may have been Greeks speaking a prototype of the later Greek language. However, there is evidence of destruction at the end of the Early Helladic III period at Korakou (near Corinth) and Eutresis in Boeotia
Boeotia, also spelled Beotia and Bœotia , is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Central Greece. It was also a region of ancient Greece. Its capital is Livadeia, the second largest city being Thebes.-Geography:...

. Nevertheless, Caskey found the Middle Helladic people to be the direct ancestors of the Myceneans and later Greeks.

Although scholars today agree that the Mycenean Greeks descend from the "Minyans" of the Middle Helladic period, they question Caskey's suggestion that (proto-Greek) Indo-European invaders destroyed Early Helladic II settlements throughout Greece. In fact, the layers of destruction Caskey found at Lerna and Tiryns were ultimately attributed to fire. Moreover, there are indications of Early Helladic II culture being directly succeeded by Early Helladic III culture. Overall, this indicates that the progenitors and founders of "Minyan culture" were an autochthonous group.

See also

  • Minyas
    Minyas may refer to:*Minyas , a moth genus*Minyas , the founder of Orchomenus*Minyas , a Greek epic poem*according to Nicolas of Damascus, a region of Armenia, see Minyans...

  • Boeotia
    Boeotia, also spelled Beotia and Bœotia , is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Central Greece. It was also a region of ancient Greece. Its capital is Livadeia, the second largest city being Thebes.-Geography:...

  • Graiki
    Graiki was the name given by some ancient sources to the area out of ancient Attica including ancient Boeotia. The word seems to be derived from the Greek word "graia" meaning "old lady" , and the region is related with the Ogygian deluge, the first mentioned worldwide deluge in Greek...

  • Graia
  • Ogyges
    Ogyges, Ogygus or Ogygos is a primeval mythological ruler in ancient Greece, generally of Boeotia, but an alternative tradition makes him the first king of Attica.-Etymology:...

  • Pelasgians
    The name Pelasgians was used by some ancient Greek writers to refer to populations that were either the ancestors of the Greeks or who preceded the Greeks in Greece, "a hold-all term for any ancient, primitive and presumably indigenous people in the Greek world." In general, "Pelasgian" has come...

  • Pre-Greek substrate
  • Chloris
    thumb|250px|right| "As she talks, her lips breathe spring roses:I was Chloris, who am now called Flora." [[Ovid]]There are many stories in Greek mythology about figures named Chloris...

  • Persephione
    In Greek mythology, Persephone , also called Kore , is the daughter of Zeus and the harvest-goddess Demeter, and queen of the underworld; she was abducted by Hades, the god-king of the underworld....

External links