Mycenaean Greece

Mycenaean Greece

Overview
Mycenaean Greece was a cultural period of 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...

 Greece taking its name from the archaeological site of Mycenae
Mycenae
Mycenae is an archaeological site in Greece, located about 90 km south-west of Athens, in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Argos is 11 km to the south; Corinth, 48 km to the north...

 in northeastern Argolis
Argolis
Argolis is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Peloponnese. It is situated in the eastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula.-Geography:...

, in the Peloponnese
Peloponnese
The Peloponnese, Peloponnesos or Peloponnesus , is a large peninsula , located in a region of southern Greece, forming the part of the country south of the Gulf of Corinth...

 of southern Greece. Athens
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...

, Pylos
Pylos
Pylos , historically known under its Italian name Navarino, is a town and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pylos-Nestoras, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. It was the capital of the former...

, Thebes, and Tiryns
Tiryns
Tiryns is a Mycenaean archaeological site in the prefecture of Argolis in the Peloponnese, some kilometres north of Nauplion.-General information:...

 are also important Mycenaean sites. The last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece
History of Greece
The history of Greece encompasses the history of the territory of the modern state of Greece, as well as that of the Greek people and the areas they ruled historically. The scope of Greek habitation and rule has varied much through the ages, and, as a result, the history of Greece is similarly...

, it is the historical setting of much ancient Greek literature
Greek literature
Greek literature refers to writings composed in areas of Greek influence, typically though not necessarily in one of the Greek dialects, throughout the whole period in which the Greek-speaking people have existed.-Ancient Greek literature :...

 and myth
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...

, including the epics of Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

.


The Mycenaean civilization flourished during the period roughly between 1600 BC, when Helladic culture in mainland Greece was transformed under influences from Minoan Crete
Minoan civilization
The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Crete and flourished from approximately the 27th century BC to the 15th century BC. It was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of the British archaeologist Arthur Evans...

, and 1100 BC, when it perished with the collapse of Bronze-Age civilization
Bronze Age collapse
The Bronze Age collapse is a transition in southwestern Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age that some historians believe was violent, sudden and culturally disruptive...

 in the eastern Mediterranean.
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Encyclopedia
Mycenaean Greece was a cultural period of 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...

 Greece taking its name from the archaeological site of Mycenae
Mycenae
Mycenae is an archaeological site in Greece, located about 90 km south-west of Athens, in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Argos is 11 km to the south; Corinth, 48 km to the north...

 in northeastern Argolis
Argolis
Argolis is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Peloponnese. It is situated in the eastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula.-Geography:...

, in the Peloponnese
Peloponnese
The Peloponnese, Peloponnesos or Peloponnesus , is a large peninsula , located in a region of southern Greece, forming the part of the country south of the Gulf of Corinth...

 of southern Greece. Athens
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...

, Pylos
Pylos
Pylos , historically known under its Italian name Navarino, is a town and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pylos-Nestoras, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. It was the capital of the former...

, Thebes, and Tiryns
Tiryns
Tiryns is a Mycenaean archaeological site in the prefecture of Argolis in the Peloponnese, some kilometres north of Nauplion.-General information:...

 are also important Mycenaean sites. The last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece
History of Greece
The history of Greece encompasses the history of the territory of the modern state of Greece, as well as that of the Greek people and the areas they ruled historically. The scope of Greek habitation and rule has varied much through the ages, and, as a result, the history of Greece is similarly...

, it is the historical setting of much ancient Greek literature
Greek literature
Greek literature refers to writings composed in areas of Greek influence, typically though not necessarily in one of the Greek dialects, throughout the whole period in which the Greek-speaking people have existed.-Ancient Greek literature :...

 and myth
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...

, including the epics of Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

.

Mycenaean civilization



The Mycenaean civilization flourished during the period roughly between 1600 BC, when Helladic culture in mainland Greece was transformed under influences from Minoan Crete
Minoan civilization
The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Crete and flourished from approximately the 27th century BC to the 15th century BC. It was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of the British archaeologist Arthur Evans...

, and 1100 BC, when it perished with the collapse of Bronze-Age civilization
Bronze Age collapse
The Bronze Age collapse is a transition in southwestern Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age that some historians believe was violent, sudden and culturally disruptive...

 in the eastern Mediterranean. The collapse is commonly attributed to the Dorian invasion
Dorian invasion
The Dorian invasion is a concept devised by historians of Ancient Greece to explain the replacement of pre-classical dialects and traditions in southern Greece by the ones that prevailed in Classical Greece...

, although other theories describing natural disasters and climate change have been advanced as well. The major Mycenaean cities were Mycenae
Mycenae
Mycenae is an archaeological site in Greece, located about 90 km south-west of Athens, in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Argos is 11 km to the south; Corinth, 48 km to the north...

 and Tiryns
Tiryns
Tiryns is a Mycenaean archaeological site in the prefecture of Argolis in the Peloponnese, some kilometres north of Nauplion.-General information:...

 in Argolis, Pylos
Pylos
Pylos , historically known under its Italian name Navarino, is a town and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pylos-Nestoras, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. It was the capital of the former...

 in Messenia, Athens
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...

 in Attica, Thebes
Ancient Thebes (Boeotia)
See Thebes, Greece for the modern city built on the ancient ruins.Ancient Thebes was a Boeotian city-state , situated to the north of the Cithaeron range, which divides Boeotia from Attica, and on the southern edge of the Boeotian plain...

 and Orchomenus in Boeotia, and Iolkos in Thessaly. In Crete
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...

, the Mycenaeans occupied Knossos
Knossos
Knossos , also known as Labyrinth, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square...

. Mycenaean settlement sites also appeared in Epirus
Epirus
The name Epirus, from the Greek "Ήπειρος" meaning continent may refer to:-Geographical:* Epirus - a historical and geographical region of the southwestern Balkans, straddling modern Greece and Albania...

, Macedonia
Macedonia (region)
Macedonia is a geographical and historical region of the Balkan peninsula in southeastern Europe. Its boundaries have changed considerably over time, but nowadays the region is considered to include parts of five Balkan countries: Greece, the Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia, as...

, on islands in the Aegean Sea
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...

, on the coast of Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

, the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

, Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

 and Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

. Mycenaean artifacts have been found well outside the limits of the Mycenean world: namely Mycenaean swords are known from as far away as Georgia
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

 in the Caucasus, an amber object inscribed with Linear B symbols has been found in Bavaria
Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

, Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 and Mycenaean bronze double axes and other objects dating from 13th century BC have been found in Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 and in Wessex
Wessex
The Kingdom of Wessex or Kingdom of the West Saxons was an Anglo-Saxon kingdom of the West Saxons, in South West England, from the 6th century, until the emergence of a united English state in the 10th century, under the Wessex dynasty. It was to be an earldom after Canute the Great's conquest...

 and Cornwall
Cornwall
Cornwall is a unitary authority and ceremonial county of England, within the United Kingdom. It is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar. Cornwall has a population of , and covers an area of...

 in England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

.

Quite unlike the Minoans, whose society benefited from trade, the Mycenaeans advanced through conquest. Mycenaean civilization was dominated by a warrior aristocracy
Aristocracy
Aristocracy , is a form of government in which a few elite citizens rule. The term derives from the Greek aristokratia, meaning "rule of the best". In origin in Ancient Greece, it was conceived of as rule by the best qualified citizens, and contrasted with monarchy...

. Around 1400 BC, the Mycenaeans extended their control to Crete, center of the Minoan civilization
Minoan civilization
The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Crete and flourished from approximately the 27th century BC to the 15th century BC. It was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of the British archaeologist Arthur Evans...

, and adopted a form of the Minoan script (called Linear A
Linear A
Linear A is one of two scripts used in ancient Crete before Mycenaean Greek Linear B; Cretan hieroglyphs is the second script. In Minoan times, before the Mycenaean Greek dominion, Linear A was the official script for the palaces and religious activities, and hieroglyphs were mainly used on seals....

) to write their early form of Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 in Linear B
Linear B
Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet by several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization...

.

Not only did the Mycenaeans defeat the Minoans, but according to later Hellenic legend they defeated Troy
Troy
Troy was a city, both factual and legendary, located in northwest Anatolia in what is now Turkey, southeast of the Dardanelles and beside Mount Ida...

, presented in epic as a city-state
City-state
A city-state is an independent or autonomous entity whose territory consists of a city which is not administered as a part of another local government.-Historical city-states:...

 that rivaled Mycenae in power. Because the only evidence for the conquests is Homer's Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

and other texts steeped in mythology, the existence of Troy
Historicity of the Iliad
The extent of the historical basis of the Iliad has been a topic of scholarly debate in classical studies since the 19th century.While the Age of Enlightenment had rejected the story of the Trojan War as fable, the discoveries made by Heinrich Schliemann at Hisarlik reopened the question in modern...

 and the historicity of the Trojan War
Trojan War
In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta. The war is among the most important events in Greek mythology and was narrated in many works of Greek literature, including the Iliad...

 is uncertain. In 1876, the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann
Heinrich Schliemann
Heinrich Schliemann was a German businessman and amateur archaeologist, and an advocate of the historical reality of places mentioned in the works of Homer. Schliemann was an archaeological excavator of Troy, along with the Mycenaean sites Mycenae and Tiryns...

 uncovered ruins at Hissarlik in western Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

) that he claimed were those of Troy. Some sources claim these ruins do not match well with Homer's account of Troy, but others disagree.

The Mycenaeans buried their nobles in beehive tomb
Beehive tomb
A beehive tomb, also known as a tholos tomb , is a burial structure characterized by its false dome created by the superposition of successively smaller rings of mudbricks or, more often, stones...

s (tholos tombs), large circular burial chambers with a high vaulted roof and a straight entry passage lined with stone. They often buried daggers or some other form of military equipment with the deceased. The nobility were frequently buried with gold masks, tiaras, armor, and jeweled weapons. Mycenaeans were buried in a sitting position, and some of the nobility underwent mummification
Mummy
A mummy is a body, human or animal, whose skin and organs have been preserved by either intentional or incidental exposure to chemicals, extreme coldness , very low humidity, or lack of air when bodies are submerged in bogs, so that the recovered body will not decay further if kept in cool and dry...

, whereas Homer's Achilles
Achilles
In Greek mythology, Achilles was a Greek hero of the Trojan War, the central character and the greatest warrior of Homer's Iliad.Plato named Achilles the handsomest of the heroes assembled against Troy....

 and Patroclus
Patroclus
In Greek mythology, as recorded in the Iliad by Homer, Patroclus, or Patroklos , was the son of Menoetius, grandson of Actor, King of Opus, and was Achilles' beloved comrade and brother-in-arms....

 were not buried but cremated
Cremation
Cremation is the process of reducing bodies to basic chemical compounds such as gasses and bone fragments. This is accomplished through high-temperature burning, vaporization and oxidation....

, in Iron-Age fashion, and honoured with gold urns instead of gold masks.

No Mycenaean priestly class has yet been identified. Worshiper and worshiped are identified in seals, rings and votive figures through their gestures: worshipers fold their arms, or raise the right arm in greeting, or place a hand on the forehead. Deities lift both arms in the "epiphany gesture" or reach forward to give or receive. The pantheon of Mycenaean deities has been reassembled from inscriptions in Linear B found at Pylos and at post-palatial Mycenaean Knossos in Crete. Some of the deities' names are recognizably present in the Olympic pantheon of written myth. Others are not: Ares, for example, is represented only as "Enyalios" which was retained as an epithet
Epithet
An epithet or byname is a descriptive term accompanying or occurring in place of a name and having entered common usage. It has various shades of meaning when applied to seemingly real or fictitious people, divinities, objects, and binomial nomenclature. It is also a descriptive title...

. Apollo may be recognized at Knossos as PA-JA-WO ("Paian
Paean
A paean is a song or lyric poem expressing triumph or thanksgiving. In classical antiquity, it is usually performed by a chorus, but some examples seem intended for an individual voice...

"). Far more prominent are A-TA-NA PO-TI-NI-JA (Athena Potnia
Athena
In Greek mythology, Athena, Athenê, or Athene , also referred to as Pallas Athena/Athene , is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, justice, and skill. Minerva, Athena's Roman incarnation, embodies similar attributes. Athena is...

, "Athena the Mistress"), E-RE-U-TI-JA (Eileithyia, later merely invoked during childbirth), Dionysus
Dionysus
Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology. His name in Linear B tablets shows he was worshipped from c. 1500—1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks: other traces of Dionysian-type cult have been found in ancient Minoan Crete...

, and Poseidon
Poseidon
Poseidon was the god of the sea, and, as "Earth-Shaker," of the earthquakes in Greek mythology. The name of the sea-god Nethuns in Etruscan was adopted in Latin for Neptune in Roman mythology: both were sea gods analogous to Poseidon...

, already the "Earth-Shaker", either with his consort Poseida, who was not retained in the transition to Classical Greece, or, at Pylos, with the "Two Goddesses", apparently Demeter
Demeter
In Greek mythology, Demeter is the goddess of the harvest, who presided over grains, the fertility of the earth, and the seasons . Her common surnames are Sito as the giver of food or corn/grain and Thesmophoros as a mark of the civilized existence of agricultural society...

 and Persephone
Persephone
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....

. The Erinyes
Erinyes
In Greek mythology the Erinyes from Greek ἐρίνειν " pursue, persecute"--sometimes referred to as "infernal goddesses" -- were female chthonic deities of vengeance. A formulaic oath in the Iliad invokes them as "those who beneath the earth punish whosoever has sworn a false oath"...

 or Furies are already present, as are the Winds.

Mycenaean frescoes have been discovered in palace contexts, notably at Pylos, Mycenae, Orchomenos, Thebes, and Tiryns, and in a few non-palatial, perhaps privately-owned contexts. The earliest fresco decorations are of the LH IIA
Helladic period
Helladic is a modern archaeological term meant to identify a sequence of periods characterizing the culture of mainland ancient Greece during the Bronze Age. The term is commonly used in archaeology and art history...

 period (ca. 1500 BC). The subjects hold tenaciously to Minoan traditions, whether directly derived or through Cycladic
Cyclades
The Cyclades is a Greek island group in the Aegean Sea, south-east of the mainland of Greece; and a former administrative prefecture of Greece. They are one of the island groups which constitute the Aegean archipelago. The name refers to the islands around the sacred island of Delos...

 intervention, and have in some cases been reduced to decorative formulas, embodying themes appropriate to their locations: lions and wingless griffins in audience chambers, processional figures in corridors, etc. In a change from the Minoan delight in the life of animals, the Mycenaean relation to nature is reflected in their depictions of animals which are shown only in relation to man or as victims of the hunt. Bull-jumping fresco panels appear at Mycenae and at Tiryns.

Around 1100 BC, the Mycenaean civilization collapsed. Numerous cities were sacked, and the region entered what historians describe as a dark age
Greek Dark Ages
The Greek Dark Age or Ages also known as Geometric or Homeric Age are terms which have regularly been used to refer to the period of Greek history from the presumed Dorian invasion and end of the Mycenaean Palatial civilization around 1200 BC, to the first signs of the Greek city-states in the 9th...

 for its lack of inscriptions, with some Mycenaeans fleeing to Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

 as well as other Greek islands and coastal parts of Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

. During this period, Greece experienced decreasing population
Population
A population is all the organisms that both belong to the same group or species and live in the same geographical area. The area that is used to define a sexual population is such that inter-breeding is possible between any pair within the area and more probable than cross-breeding with individuals...

 and the limited literacy, connected with bureaucrats of palace culture, disappeared. Historians have traditionally blamed this decline on an invasion or uprising by another wave of Greek people, the Dorians, who may have been a subjugated local people, although Pylos
Pylos
Pylos , historically known under its Italian name Navarino, is a town and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pylos-Nestoras, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. It was the capital of the former...

 was probably destroyed by sea peoples
Sea Peoples
The Sea Peoples were a confederacy of seafaring raiders of the second millennium BC who sailed into the eastern Mediterranean, caused political unrest, and attempted to enter or control Egyptian territory during the late 19th dynasty and especially during year 8 of Ramesses III of the 20th Dynasty...

. Alternate theories for the decline also include natural disasters such as a series of earthquakes or large-scale drought, although these recent theories are more controversial.

Historical correlations


From a chronological perspective, the Late Helladic period
Helladic period
Helladic is a modern archaeological term meant to identify a sequence of periods characterizing the culture of mainland ancient Greece during the Bronze Age. The term is commonly used in archaeology and art history...

 (LH, 1550-1060 BC)– is the time when Mycenaean Greece flourished under new influences from Minoan Crete and the Cyclades. Those who made LH pottery sometimes inscribed their work in Linear B
Linear B
Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet by several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization...

, a syllabic script recognizable as a form of Greek. LH is divided into I, II, and III; of which I and II overlap Late Minoan ware and III overtakes it. LH III is further subdivided into IIIA, IIIB, and IIIC.

LH pottery typically stored such goods as olive oil and wine. LHI ware had reached Santorini just before the Thera eruption
Thera eruption
The Minoan eruption of Thera, also referred to as the Thera eruption or Santorini eruption, was a major catastrophic volcanic eruption with a Volcanic Explosivity Index of 6 or 7 and a Dense-rock equivalent of , which is estimated to have occurred in the mid second millennium BCE. The eruption...

. LHIIB began during LMIB, and has been found in Egypt during the reign of Tuthmosis III. LHIIB spanned the LMIB/LMII destruction on Crete, which is associated with the Greek takeover of the island.

LHIIIA:1 corresponds with the reign of Amenhotep III, who recorded with the heading ti-n3-y 'Danaans' (Mycenaean *Danawoi) the apparently equal cities d-y-q-e-i-s 'Thebes' (Mycenaean *Thegʷais) and m-w-k-i-n-u 'Mycenae' (Mycenaean *Mukanai). LHIIIA:1 also corresponds with the time of Attarsiya, the Man of Ahhiya, who alternately attacked and aided the rebel Madduwatta
Madduwatta
Madduwatta was a king of Arzawa, in Anatolia, about 14th or 13th century BC.- Life :Perhaps, Madduwatta was first a local king of a Lukka city-state at coast of southwestern Asia Minor.He faced a struggle, in the Lukka Lands , against a "man from Ahhiya" Madduwatta (sometimes given as...

 of Zippasla. Ahhiya and its LHIIIA:2-B derivative, Ahhiyawa, can be linked to Greece only indirectly. The Hittites did not use any term approximating ti-n3-y; and they did not link Ahhiya, with these cities, or any other projected LBA names of known Greek cities. Also, no "Attarsiyas layer" of LHIIIA:1 has yet been found in western Anatolia. Still, Ahhiya must refer to a powerful people off the coast of Miletus, and Greece is the best available option at this time.

LHIIIA:1-period ti-n3-y / "Ahhiya" (and for that matter LHIIIA:1 Greece) did not feature otherwise in the inscriptions of the great kings of the Bronze Age, and certainly not as a coherent state.

LHIIIA:2 ware was in the Uluburun shipwreck
Uluburun shipwreck
The Uluburun Shipwreck is a Late Bronze Age shipwreck dated to the late 14th century BCE, discovered off Uluburun situated about 6 miles southeast of Kaş, in south-western Turkey...

, and was in use at Miletus
Miletus
Miletus was an ancient Greek city on the western coast of Anatolia , near the mouth of the Maeander River in ancient Caria...

 before Mursili II
Mursili II
Mursili II was a king of the Hittite Empire ca. 1321–1295 BC .-Family:Mursili II was the younger son of Suppiluliuma I, one of the most powerful rulers of the Hittite Empire...

 burned it ca 1320 BC. At this time, actual maritime trade was the specialty of the Cypriots and Phoenicians (so the presence of LH ware does not necessarily mean the presence of Mycenaeans).

During the LHIIIA:2 period, kings of "Ahhiyawa" began to come to the attention of the Hittites, possibly as rulers of the "Achaean" states. In LHIIIB, they rose almost to the status of the Great Kings in Egypt and Assyria. LHIIIB is also the period of Linear B script at the mainland palaces; prior to then, Linear B was in use primarily in the Cyclades and Crete. The term "Submycenaean" was introduced in 1934 by T. C. Skeat. but this is now regarded as a pottery style rather than a distinct period. Current opinion sees this style as the final stage of Late Helladic IIIC (and perhaps not even a very significant one). Arne Furumark already termed it LHIIIC:2 in his monumental "Mycenaean Pottery: Analysis and Classification" (Stockholm 1941). This pottery is best known from the cemeteries of Kerameikos in Athens, the island of Salamis
Salamis Island
Salamis , is the largest Greek island in the Saronic Gulf, about 1 nautical mile off-coast from Piraeus and about 16 km west of Athens. The chief city, Salamina , lies in the west-facing core of the crescent on Salamis Bay, which opens into the Saronic Gulf...

 located in the Saronic Gulf off Attica
Attica
Attica is a historical region of Greece, containing Athens, the current capital of Greece. The historical region is centered on the Attic peninsula, which projects into the Aegean Sea...

, Skoubris in Lefkandi
Lefkandi
Lefkandi is a coastal village on the island of Euboea. Archaeological finds attest to a settlement on the promontory locally known as Xeropolis, while several associated cemeteries have been identified nearby. The settlement site is located on a promontory overlooking the Euripos, with small bays...

 (Euboea
Euboea
Euboea is the second largest Greek island in area and population, after Crete. The narrow Euripus Strait separates it from Boeotia in mainland Greece. In general outline it is a long and narrow, seahorse-shaped island; it is about long, and varies in breadth from to...

), and the markets of Athens (Agora), Tiryns, and Mycenae.

Identity


Since the decipherment of the somewhat younger Linear B tablets, it is thought that the people called Mycenaeans might have been Achaeans or later subjected by them. No written source found at a Mycenaean site reveals what they called themselves. Upon a reading of the Iliad, where the residents of the Peloponnesus and adjacent islands are often called Achaeans, and taking into account mention of the Ahhiyawa in Hittite sources from the Late Bronze Age, the theory suggests itself that the Mycenaeans could possibly even be Achaeans. The Tawagalawa Letter
Tawagalawa letter
The Tawagalawa letter was written by a Hittite king to a king of Ahhiyawa around 1250 BC. This letter, of which only the third tablet has been preserved, concerns the activities of an adventurer Piyama-Radu against the Hittites, and requests his extradition to Hatti under assurances of safe conduct...

written by an unnamed Hittite
Hittites
The Hittites were a Bronze Age people of Anatolia.They established a kingdom centered at Hattusa in north-central Anatolia c. the 18th century BC. The Hittite empire reached its height c...

 king of the empire period (14th-13th century BC) to the king of Ahhiyawa, treating him as an equal, suggests that Miletus
Miletus
Miletus was an ancient Greek city on the western coast of Anatolia , near the mouth of the Maeander River in ancient Caria...

 (Millawanda) was under his control and refers to an earlier "Wilusa episode" involving hostility on the part of Ahhiyawa. Ahhiya(wa) has been identified with the Achaeans of the Trojan War
Trojan War
In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta. The war is among the most important events in Greek mythology and was narrated in many works of Greek literature, including the Iliad...

 and the city of Wilusa with the legendary city of Troy
Troy
Troy was a city, both factual and legendary, located in northwest Anatolia in what is now Turkey, southeast of the Dardanelles and beside Mount Ida...

. However the exact relationship of the term Ahhiyawa to the Achaeans beyond a similarity in pronunciation is hotly debated by scholars, even following the discovery that Mycenaean Linear B
Linear B
Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet by several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization...

 is an early form of Greek; the earlier debate was summed up in 1984 by Hans G. Güterbock of the Oriental Institute.

Mycenaean world


In the absence of direct sources, the general political organization of the Mycenaean world cannot be known with certainty. In the tradition recorded centuries later in Homer, there were several states, the cities of the Iliad: Mycenae, Pylos, Orchomenos— which are known to archaeology— and perhaps also unconfirmed Sparta or Ithaca. Only the states of Pylos and Knossos are clearly attested in the Linear B texts. Even so, it is impossible to know which was the dominant political center in Argolis, if there indeed was one. Possible candidates are Mycenae, Tiryns, Argos, Athens, Gla
Gla
Gla was an important fortified site of the Mycenaean civilization, located in Boeotia, mainland Greece.-Location:The site is located on a limestone outcrop or hill that jutted into Lake Kopais or formed an island within it. The flat-topped outcrop rises up to 38m above the surrounding area. It...

, and Iolcos
Iolcos
Iolcos is an ancient city, a modern village and a former municipality in Magnesia, Thessaly, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Volos, of which it is a municipal unit. It is located in central Magnesia, north of the Pagasitic Gulf. Its land area is only...

. In Argolis Mycanae seems to have enjoyed a hegemonial position for some time, while in Boiotia the rulers of the great fortification of Gla
Gla
Gla was an important fortified site of the Mycenaean civilization, located in Boeotia, mainland Greece.-Location:The site is located on a limestone outcrop or hill that jutted into Lake Kopais or formed an island within it. The flat-topped outcrop rises up to 38m above the surrounding area. It...

 probably played a leading role. The existence of a persistent unified state in Greece during the Mycanaean era is unlikely, especially due to lack of some important preconditions, such as an educated bureaucracy. Even the Minoan writing, imported from Crete
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...

, seems not to have been in widespread use in mainland Greece.

Connection of the mention of a King of the Ahhiyawa in Hittite sources with the King of the Achaeans, the Mycenaean king Agamemnon of the Iliad, rests on the insecure foundations of an Ahhiyawa/Achaean identity; the very location of the Ahhiyawa kingdom remains a matter for debate; it has been suggested it may have been in Asia Minor, Rhodes or Peloponesus.

States of Pylos and Knossos


On a smaller scale, some uncertain information about the internal organization of the best-known kingdoms, Pylos
Pylos
Pylos , historically known under its Italian name Navarino, is a town and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pylos-Nestoras, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. It was the capital of the former...

 and Knossos
Knossos
Knossos , also known as Labyrinth, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square...

, can be gleaned from sources in Linear B.

The state appears to have been ruled by a king, the wa-na-ka (ϝάναξ / wánax), whose role was no doubt military, judicial, and religious. He is identifiable in the Homeric anax
Anax
' is an ancient Greek word for " king, lord, leader". It is one of the two Greek titles traditionally translated as "king", the other being basileus....

(ἄναξ) ("divine lord, sovereign, host"). Nine occurrences of the word in texts having to do with offerings suggest that the sovereigns of Pylos and Knossos were worshiped. However, in Homer the word can also designate a deity.

The king was assisted by the ra-wa-ke-ta (lawagetas), no doubt the leader of the army. He and the king each possessed a landed estate, the te-me-no (τέμενος / témenos). Other dignitaries were the te-re-ta (telestai), who appear in the texts as landowners. They perhaps exercised a religious function. The e-qe-ta (equetai), literally, the companions (the knights), formed the entourage of the king. These were the warriors.

Besides the members of the court, there were other dignitaries in charge of local territorial administration. The kingdom of Pylos was divided into two great provinces, the de-we-ra ka-ra-i-ja, the near province, and the pe-ra-ko-ra-i-ja, the far province, around the town of re-u-ko-to-ro. The kingdom was further subdivided into seven districts, then into a number of communes. To manage these districts, the king named a ko-re-te (koreter, governor) and a po-ro-ko-re-te (prokoreter, vice governor). A da-mo-ko-ro (damokoros, one who takes care of a damos), in charge of the commune, the da-mo (literally, people, cf. δῆμος / dễmos), and a qa-si-re-u (cf. βασιλεύς / basileús) shared responsibility at the communal level. Their roles are not precisely known; it seems they chaired a council of elders, the ke-ro-si-ja (cf. γερουσία / gerousía). It is, incidentally, interesting to note that in Classical Greece, the basileus is the king, the monarch, as if between the disintegration of Mycenaean society and the Classical Age no higher authority survived — de facto, and then, over the generations, de jure — than the communal official.

Society


Mycenaean society appears to have been divided into two groups of free men: the king's entourage, who conducted administrative duties at the palace, and the people, da-mo (demos), who lived at the commune level; these last were watched over by royal agents and were obliged to perform duties for and pay taxes to the palace.

Among those who evolved in the palace setting could be found well-to-do high officials who probably lived in the vast residences found in proximity to Mycenaean palaces, but also others, tied by their work to the palace and not necessarily better off than the members of the da-mo: craftsmen, farmers, and perhaps merchants, to name a few. On a lower rung of the social ladder were found the slaves, do-e-ro (masculine) and do-e-ra (feminine) (cf. δούλος / doúlos). These are recorded in the texts as working either for the palace or for specific deities.

Mycenaean contacts


By the close of the Bronze Age (up to Late Helladic IIIC) contacts between the Aegean and its neighbours were well established. Mycenaean connection extended as far as southern Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 while Mycenaean pottery, for example, has been found in Sardinia
Sardinia
Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea . It is an autonomous region of Italy, and the nearest land masses are the French island of Corsica, the Italian Peninsula, Sicily, Tunisia and the Spanish Balearic Islands.The name Sardinia is from the pre-Roman noun *sard[],...

, Southern Italy and Sicily, Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

 (amongst others at the settlement of Milawatta, modern Miletus
Miletus
Miletus was an ancient Greek city on the western coast of Anatolia , near the mouth of the Maeander River in ancient Caria...

, high-quality Palace style and Mycenaean ceramics have been recovered), Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

, the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

 and Egypt (especially Tell el Amarna). The circulation of goods and produce between centres are attested in Linear B records, though evidence of direct exchange is not.

Economy


The economic organization of the Mycenaean kingdoms known from the texts seems to have been bipartite: a first group worked in the orbit of the palace, while another was self-employed. This reflects the societal structure seen above. But there was nothing to prevent a person working for the palace from running his own business.

The economy was supervised by scribes, who made note of incoming and outgoing products, assigned work, and were in charge of the distribution of rations. The du-ma-te seems to have been a sort of supervising quartermaster.

Agriculture


The territory of the Mycenaean kingdoms of Pylos and Knossos was divided into two parts: the ki-ti-me-na, the palace land, and the ke-ke-me-na, the communal land, cultivated by those the texts call ka-ma-na-e-we, undoubtedly the da-mo. The palace lands are those attested in the texts. One part makes up the te-me-no of the wa-ka-na and of the ra-wa-ge-ta, as seen above. The other part was granted as a perquisite to members of the palace administration. These lands might be worked by slaves or by free men to whom the land had been leased.

Agricultural production in these kingdoms reflected the traditional "Mediterranean trilogy": grain, olives, and grapes. The grains cultivated were wheat
Wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...

 and barley
Barley
Barley is a major cereal grain, a member of the grass family. It serves as a major animal fodder, as a base malt for beer and certain distilled beverages, and as a component of various health foods...

. Olive
Olive
The olive , Olea europaea), is a species of a small tree in the family Oleaceae, native to the coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean Basin as well as northern Iran at the south end of the Caspian Sea.Its fruit, also called the olive, is of major agricultural importance in the...

 orchards were planted for the production of olive oil. This was not only a foodstuff, it was much used as a body oil and in perfume
Perfume
Perfume is a mixture of fragrant essential oils and/or aroma compounds, fixatives, and solvents used to give the human body, animals, objects, and living spaces "a pleasant scent"...

. Grapes were also cultivated, and several varieties of wine were produced. Besides these, flax
Flax
Flax is a member of the genus Linum in the family Linaceae. It is native to the region extending from the eastern Mediterranean to India and was probably first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent...

 was grown for linen
Linen
Linen is a textile made from the fibers of the flax plant, Linum usitatissimum. Linen is labor-intensive to manufacture, but when it is made into garments, it is valued for its exceptional coolness and freshness in hot weather....

 clothing and sesame for its oil, and trees were planted, such as the fig
Ficus
Ficus is a genus of about 850 species of woody trees, shrubs, vines, epiphytes, and hemiepiphyte in the family Moraceae. Collectively known as fig trees or figs, they are native throughout the tropics with a few species extending into the semi-warm temperate zone. The Common Fig Ficus is a genus of...

.

Livestock consisted primarily of sheep and goats. Cows and pigs were less common. Horses were kept chiefly for the pulling of chariots in battle.

Industry


The organization of artisanal labor is especially well known in the case of the palace. The archives of Pylos show a specialized workforce, each worker belonging to a precise category and assigned to a specific place in the stages of production, notably in textiles.

The textile industry was one of the principal sectors of the Mycenaean economy. The tablets of Knossos reveal the entire chain of production, from the flocks of sheep to the stocking of the palace storerooms with the finished product, through the shearing and the sorting of the wool in the workshops, as well as working conditions in those workshops. The palace of Pylos employed around 550 textile workers. At Knossos there were some 900. Fifteen different textile specialties have been identified. Next to wool, flax was the fiber most used.

The metallurgical industry is well attested at Pylos, where 400 workers were employed. It is known from the sources that metal was distributed to them, that they might carry out the required work: on average, 3.5 kilogram
Kilogram
The kilogram or kilogramme , also known as the kilo, is the base unit of mass in the International System of Units and is defined as being equal to the mass of the International Prototype Kilogram , which is almost exactly equal to the mass of one liter of water...

s (7.7 lb
Pound (mass)
The pound or pound-mass is a unit of mass used in the Imperial, United States customary and other systems of measurement...

) of bronze per smith. On the other hand, it is not known how they were paid — they are mysteriously absent in the ration distribution lists. At Knossos, several tablets testify to the making of swords, but with no mention of the true industry of metallurgy.

The industry of perfumery is attested as well. Tablets describe the making of perfumed oil. It is known, too, from the archaeology that the workers attached to the palace included other kinds of artisans: goldsmiths, ivory-carvers, stonecarvers, and potters, for example. Olive oil was also made there. Certain areas of endeavor were turned toward export.

Commerce


Commerce remains curiously absent from the written sources. Thus, once the perfumed oil of Pylos has been stored in its little jars, the inscriptions do not reveal what became of it. Large stirrup jars that once contained oil have been found at Thebes, in Boeotia. They carry inscriptions in Linear B indicating their place of origin, western Crete. However, Cretan tablets breathe not a word about the exportation of oil. There is little information about the distribution route of textiles. It is known that the Minoans exported fine fabrics to Egypt; the Mycenaeans no doubt did the same. Indeed, it is probable that they borrowed knowledge of navigational matters from the Minoans, as is evidenced by the fact that their maritime commerce did not take off until after the founding of the Minoan civilization. Despite the lack of sources, it is probable that certain products, notably fabrics and oil, even metal objects, were meant to be sold outside the kingdom, for they were made in quantities too great to be consumed solely at home.

Archaeology can, however, shed some light on the matter of the exportation of Mycenaean products outside of Greece. A number of vases have been found in the Aegean, in Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

, the Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

, Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and farther west in Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

, even in Central Europe and as far away as Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

. In a general way, the circulation of Mycenaean goods is traceable thanks to nodules, ancestors of the modern label. They consisted of small balls of clay, molded with the fingers around a lanyard (probably of leather) with which they were attached to the object. The nodule displayed the imprint of a seal and an ideogram representing the object. Other information was sometimes added: quality, origin, destination, etc.

Fifty-six nodules found at Thebes in 1982 carry an ideogram representing an ox. Thanks to them, the itinerary of these bovines can be reconstructed. From all over Boeotia, even from Euboea, they were taken to Thebes to be sacrificed. The nodules served to prove that they were not stolen animals and to prove their origin. Once the animals arrived at their destination, the nodules were removed and gathered to create a book-keeping tablet. The nodules were used for all sorts of objects and explain how Mycenaean book-keeping could have been so rigorous. The scribe did not have to count the objects themselves, he could base his tables upon the nodules.

Religion


(See also 'figures and figurines' below)
The religious element is difficult to identify in Mycenaean civilization, especially as regards archaeological sites, where it remains problematic to pick out a place of worship with certainty. John Chadwick points out that at least six centuries lie between the earliest settling of proto-Greek speakers in Hellas and the earliest Linear B inscriptions, during which concepts and practices will have fused with indigenous beliefs, and—if cultural influences in material culture reflect influences in religious beliefs—with Minoan religion. As for these texts, the few lists of offerings that give names of gods as recipients of goods reveal nothing about religious practices, and there is no surviving literature. John Chadwick rejected a confusion of Minoan and Mycenaean religion derived from archaeological correlations and cautioned against "the attempt to uncover the prehistory of classical Greek religion by conjecturing its origins and guessing the meaning of its myths" above all through treacherous etymologies. Moses I. Finley detected very few authentic Mycenaean reflections in the eighth-century Homeric world, in spite of its "Mycenaean" setting. However some scholars based not on the uncertain etymologies but on religious elements, on the representations and on the general function of the gods, assert that a lot of Minoan gods and religious conceptions were fused in the Mycenean religion. From the existing evidence it seems that the Mycenean religion was the mother of the Greek religion. The Mycenaean pantheon already included many divinities that can be found in Classical Greece.

Poseidon
Poseidon
Poseidon was the god of the sea, and, as "Earth-Shaker," of the earthquakes in Greek mythology. The name of the sea-god Nethuns in Etruscan was adopted in Latin for Neptune in Roman mythology: both were sea gods analogous to Poseidon...

 (Po-se-da-o) seems to have occupied a place of privilege. He was a chthonic
Chthonic
Chthonic designates, or pertains to, deities or spirits of the underworld, especially in relation to Greek religion. The Greek word khthon is one of several for "earth"; it typically refers to the interior of the soil, rather than the living surface of the land or the land as territory...

 deity, connected with the earthquakes (E-ne-si-da-o-ne: earth shaker), but it seems that he also represented the river spirit of the underworld as it often happens in Northern European folklore. Also to be found are a collection of "Ladies" (po-ti-ni-ja: lady or mistress) like the "mistress of the Labyrinth" (da-pu-ri-to po-ti-ni-ja) at Knossos in Crete, who calls to mind the myth of the Minoan labyrinth. The title was applied to many goddesses. In a Linear B
Linear B
Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet by several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization...

 tablet found at Pylos
Pylos
Pylos , historically known under its Italian name Navarino, is a town and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pylos-Nestoras, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. It was the capital of the former...

 are mentioned the "two mistresses and the king" and John Chadwick identified these as the precursor goddesses of Demeter, Persephone and Poseidon.

Demeter
Demeter
In Greek mythology, Demeter is the goddess of the harvest, who presided over grains, the fertility of the earth, and the seasons . Her common surnames are Sito as the giver of food or corn/grain and Thesmophoros as a mark of the civilized existence of agricultural society...

 and her daughter Persephone
Persephone
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....

,the goddesses of the Eleusinian mysteries
Eleusinian Mysteries
The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiation ceremonies held every year for the cult of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. Of all the mysteries celebrated in ancient times, these were held to be the ones of greatest importance...

  were usually referred to as "the two goddesses" or "the mistresses" in historical times. The mysteries were established during the Mycenean period (1500 BC) at the city Eleusis  and it seems that they were based on a pre-Greek vegetation cult with Minoan
Minoan civilization
The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Crete and flourished from approximately the 27th century BC to the 15th century BC. It was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of the British archaeologist Arthur Evans...

 elements. The cult was originally private and we don't have any information about it, but certain elements suggest that it could have similarities with the cult of Despoina
Despoina
In Greek mythology, Despoina, Despoena or Despoine, was the daughter of Demeter and Poseidon and sister of Arion. She was the goddess of mysteries of Arcadian cults worshipped under the title Despoina,"the mistress" alongside with her mother Demeter,one of the goddesses of the Eleusinian mysteries...

 ("the mistress")-the precursor goddess of Persephone- in isolated Arcadia
Arcadia
Arcadia is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the administrative region of Peloponnese. It is situated in the central and eastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula. It takes its name from the mythological character Arcas. In Greek mythology, it was the home of the god Pan...

 that survived up to classical times. In the primitive Arcadian myth Poseidon, the river spirit of the underworld appears as a horse (Poseidon Hippios). He pursues Demeter who becomes a mare and from the union she bears the fabulous horse Arion
Arion
Arion was a kitharode in ancient Greece, a Dionysiac poet credited with inventing the dithyramb: "As a literary composition for chorus dithyramb was the creation of Arion of Corinth," The islanders of Lesbos claimed him as their native son, but Arion found a patron in Periander, tyrant of Corinth...

 and a daughter, "Despoina", who obviously originally had the shape or the head of a mare. Pausanias mentions animal-headed statues of Demeter and of other gods in Arcadia. At Lycosura
Lycosura
Lycosura was a city of Arcadia said by Pausanias to be the oldest city in the world, though there is no evidence for its existence before the fourth century BCE...

 on a marble relief appear figures of women with the heads of different animals, obviously in a ritual dance. This could explain a Mycenaean fresco from 1400 BC that represents a procession with animal masks and the procession of "daemons" in front of a goddess on a goldring from Tiryns. The Greek myth of the Minotaur
Minotaur
In Greek mythology, the Minotaur , as the Greeks imagined him, was a creature with the head of a bull on the body of a man or, as described by Roman poet Ovid, "part man and part bull"...

 probably originated from a similar "daemon". In the cult of Despoina at Lycosura the two goddesses are closely connected with the springs and the animals, and especially with Poseidon and Artemis, the "mistress of the animals" who was the first nymph
Nymph
A nymph in Greek mythology is a female minor nature deity typically associated with a particular location or landform. Different from gods, nymphs are generally regarded as divine spirits who animate nature, and are usually depicted as beautiful, young nubile maidens who love to dance and sing;...

. The existence of the nymphs was bound to the trees or the waters which they haunted.

Artemis
Artemis
Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman equivalent is Diana. Some scholars believe that the name and indeed the goddess herself was originally pre-Greek. Homer refers to her as Artemis Agrotera, Potnia Theron: "Artemis of the wildland, Mistress of Animals"...

 appears as a daughter of Demeter in the Arcadian cults and she became the most popular goddess in Greece. Her precursor goddess (probably Britomartis
Britomartis
Britomartis , was the Minoan goddess of mountains and hunting. She is among the Minoan goddess figures that passed through the Mycenaeans' culture into classical Greek mythology, with transformations that are unclear in both transferrals...

) is represented between two lions on a Minoan seal and also on some goldrings from Mycenae. The representations are quite similar with these of "Artemis Orthia" at Sparta. In her temple at Sparta have been found wooden masks representing human faces, that were used by dancers during the vegetation-cult. Artemis was also connected with the Minoan "cult of the tree," an ecstatic and orgiastic cult which is represented on Minoan seals and Mycenean goldrings.

Paean
Paean
A paean is a song or lyric poem expressing triumph or thanksgiving. In classical antiquity, it is usually performed by a chorus, but some examples seem intended for an individual voice...

 (Pa-ja-wo) is probably the precursor of the Greek physician of the gods in Iliad
Iliad
The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

. He was the personification of the magic-song which was supposed to "heal" the patient. Later it became also a song of victory (παιάν). The magicians was also called "seer- doctors" (ιατρομάντεις) a function which was also applied later to Apollo
Apollo
Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in Greek and Roman mythology...

.

Dionysos (Di-wo-ni-so) appears in some inscriptions, and his name interpreted as "son of Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

", has probably Thraco-Phrygian origin. Later his cult is related with Boeotia
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:...

 and Phocis
Phocis
Phocis is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the administrative region of Central Greece. It stretches from the western mountainsides of Parnassus on the east to the mountain range of Vardousia on the west, upon the Gulf of Corinth...

, where it seems that was introduced before the end of the Mycenean age. This may explain why his myths and cult were centered in Thebes
Ancient Thebes (Boeotia)
See Thebes, Greece for the modern city built on the ancient ruins.Ancient Thebes was a Boeotian city-state , situated to the north of the Cithaeron range, which divides Boeotia from Attica, and on the southern edge of the Boeotian plain...

, and why the mountain Parnassos in Phocis was the place of his orgies. However in the Homeric poems he is the consort of the Minoan
Minoan civilization
The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Crete and flourished from approximately the 27th century BC to the 15th century BC. It was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of the British archaeologist Arthur Evans...

 vegetation goddess Ariadne
Ariadne
Ariadne , in Greek mythology, was the daughter of King Minos of Crete, and his queen Pasiphaë, daughter of Helios, the Sun-titan. She aided Theseus in overcoming the Minotaur and was the bride of the god Dionysus.-Minos and Theseus:...

. He is the only Greek god who dies in order to be reborn, as it often appears in the religions of the Orient. His myth is related with the Minoan myth of the "divine child" who was abandoned by his mother and then brought up by the powers of nature. Similar myths appear in the cults of Hyakinthos (Amyklai), Erichthonios (Athens
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 Ploutos (Eleusis).

Other divinities who can be found in later periods have been identified, such as the couple Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

Hera
Hera
Hera was the wife and one of three sisters of Zeus in the Olympian pantheon of Greek mythology and religion. Her chief function was as the goddess of women and marriage. Her counterpart in the religion of ancient Rome was Juno. The cow and the peacock were sacred to her...

, Hermes
Hermes
Hermes is the great messenger of the gods in Greek mythology and a guide to the Underworld. Hermes was born on Mount Kyllini in Arcadia. An Olympian god, he is also the patron of boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, of shepherds and cowherds, of the cunning of thieves, of orators and...

, Athena
Athena
In Greek mythology, Athena, Athenê, or Athene , also referred to as Pallas Athena/Athene , is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, justice, and skill. Minerva, Athena's Roman incarnation, embodies similar attributes. Athena is...

, Eileithyia and Erinya
Erinyes
In Greek mythology the Erinyes from Greek ἐρίνειν " pursue, persecute"--sometimes referred to as "infernal goddesses" -- were female chthonic deities of vengeance. A formulaic oath in the Iliad invokes them as "those who beneath the earth punish whosoever has sworn a false oath"...

. The names of Apollo and Aphrodite are absent.

There were some sites of importance for cults, such as Lerna
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...

, typically in the form of house sanctuaries, for the free-standing temple of the familiar kind, containing a cult image in its cella
Cella
A cella or naos , is the inner chamber of a temple in classical architecture, or a shop facing the street in domestic Roman architecture...

 with an open-air altar before it, was a later development. Certain buildings found in citadels having a central room, the megaron
Megaron
The megaron is the great hall of the Grecian palace complexes. It was a rectangular hall, fronted by an open, two-columned porch, and a more or less central, open hearth vented though an oculus in the roof above it and surrounded by four columns. It is the architectural predecessor of the...

, of oblong shape surrounded by small rooms may have served as places of worship. Aside from that, the existence of a domestic cult may be supposed. Some shrines have been located, as at Phylakopi
Phylakopi
Phylakopi , located at the northern coast of the island of Milos, is one of the most important Bronze Age settlements in the Aegean and especially in the Cyclades. The importance of Phylakopi is in its almost continuous inhabitance throughout the Bronze Age Phylakopi (Greek=Φυλακωπή), located at...

 on Melos, where have been found a considerable number of statuettes undoubtedly fashioned to serve as offerings, and it can be supposed from their archaeological strata that sites such as Delphi
Delphi
Delphi is both an archaeological site and a modern town in Greece on the south-western spur of Mount Parnassus in the valley of Phocis.In Greek mythology, Delphi was the site of the Delphic oracle, the most important oracle in the classical Greek world, and a major site for the worship of the god...

, Dodona, Delos
Delos
The island of Delos , isolated in the centre of the roughly circular ring of islands called the Cyclades, near Mykonos, is one of the most important mythological, historical and archaeological sites in Greece...

, Eleusis, Lerna
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...

 and Abae
Abae
Abae , is an ancient town in the northeastern corner of Phocis, in Greece. It was famous in antiquity for its oracle of Apollo Abaeus, one of those consulted by Croesus, king of Lydia, and Mardonius, among others....

 were already important shrines, and in Crete several Minoan shrines show continuity into LM III, a period of Minoan-Mycenaean culture.

Fortresses



The principal Mycenaean towns were well fortified. The town could be situated on an acropolis
Acropolis
Acropolis means "high city" in Greek, literally city on the extremity and is usually translated into English as Citadel . For purposes of defense, early people naturally chose elevated ground to build a new settlement, frequently a hill with precipitous sides...

 as in Athens
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...

 or Tiryns
Tiryns
Tiryns is a Mycenaean archaeological site in the prefecture of Argolis in the Peloponnese, some kilometres north of Nauplion.-General information:...

, against a large hill as in Mycenae
Mycenae
Mycenae is an archaeological site in Greece, located about 90 km south-west of Athens, in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Argos is 11 km to the south; Corinth, 48 km to the north...

, or on the coastal plain, like Gla
Gla
Gla was an important fortified site of the Mycenaean civilization, located in Boeotia, mainland Greece.-Location:The site is located on a limestone outcrop or hill that jutted into Lake Kopais or formed an island within it. The flat-topped outcrop rises up to 38m above the surrounding area. It...

 or Pylos
Pylos
Pylos , historically known under its Italian name Navarino, is a town and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pylos-Nestoras, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. It was the capital of the former...

. Besides the citadel
Citadel
A citadel is a fortress for protecting a town, sometimes incorporating a castle. The term derives from the same Latin root as the word "city", civis, meaning citizen....

s, there are also isolated forts that undoubtedly served to militarily control territory. Mycenaean walls were often made in a fashion called cyclopean
Cyclopean masonry
Cyclopean masonry is a type of stonework found in Mycenaean architecture, built with huge limestone boulders, roughly fitted together with minimal clearance between adjacent stones and no use of mortar...

, which means that they were constructed of large, unworked boulders up to eight meters (26 ft) thick, loosely fitted without the clay mortar of the day. Different types of entrances or exits can be seen: monumental gates, access ramps, hidden doors, and vaulted galleries for escaping in case of a siege. Fear of attack meant that the chosen site must have a cistern
Cistern
A cistern is a waterproof receptacle for holding liquids, usually water. Cisterns are often built to catch and store rainwater. Cisterns are distinguished from wells by their waterproof linings...

 or well
Water well
A water well is an excavation or structure created in the ground by digging, driving, boring or drilling to access groundwater in underground aquifers. The well water is drawn by an electric submersible pump, a trash pump, a vertical turbine pump, a handpump or a mechanical pump...

 at its disposal.

Habitations


The Mycenaean sites are composed of different types of residences. The smallest are rectangular in form and measure between 5 and 20 metre
Metre
The metre , symbol m, is the base unit of length in the International System of Units . Originally intended to be one ten-millionth of the distance from the Earth's equator to the North Pole , its definition has been periodically refined to reflect growing knowledge of metrology...

s (16–66 ft) on a side. These were the houses of the lowest classes. They could have one or several rooms; the latter become more widespread in more recent periods. On a more developed level are found larger residences, measuring about 20 to 35 meters (66 to 115 ft) on a side, made up of many rooms and central courtyards. Their layout resembles that of a palace. It is not, however, certain that these were indeed the residences of the Mycenaean aristocrats; another theory is that they were palace annexes, being often situated next to them.

Palaces


The best examples of the Mycenaean palace are seen in the excavations at Mycenae
Mycenae
Mycenae is an archaeological site in Greece, located about 90 km south-west of Athens, in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Argos is 11 km to the south; Corinth, 48 km to the north...

, Tiryns
Tiryns
Tiryns is a Mycenaean archaeological site in the prefecture of Argolis in the Peloponnese, some kilometres north of Nauplion.-General information:...

 and Pylos
Pylos
Pylos , historically known under its Italian name Navarino, is a town and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pylos-Nestoras, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. It was the capital of the former...

. That these were administrative centers is shown by the records found there. From an architectural point of view, they were the heirs of the Minoan palaces and also of other palaces built on the Greek mainland during the Middle Age. They were ranged around a group of courtyards each opening upon several rooms of different dimensions, such as storerooms and workshops, as well as reception halls and living quarters. The heart of the palace was the megaron
Megaron
The megaron is the great hall of the Grecian palace complexes. It was a rectangular hall, fronted by an open, two-columned porch, and a more or less central, open hearth vented though an oculus in the roof above it and surrounded by four columns. It is the architectural predecessor of the...

. This was the throne room, laid out around a circular hearth surrounded by four columns, the throne generally being found on the right-hand side upon entering the room. The staircases found in the palace of Pylos
Pylos
Pylos , historically known under its Italian name Navarino, is a town and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pylos-Nestoras, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. It was the capital of the former...

 indicate palaces had two stories. Located on the top floor were probably the private quarters of the royal family and some storerooms. These palaces have yielded a wealth of artifacts and fragmentary frescoes.

The most recent find is a Mycenaean palace near the village of Xirokambi, in Laconia
Laconia
Laconia , also known as Lacedaemonia, is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the region of Peloponnese. It is situated in the southeastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula. Its administrative capital is Sparti...

. As of early 2009, the excavation is at its first stages and artifacts uncovered so far include clay vessels and figurines, frescoes and three Linear B
Linear B
Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet by several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization...

 tablets. Preliminary findings indicate that one the tablets contains an inventory of about 500 daggers and another is an inventory for textiles. The discovery was announced at the Athens Archaeological Society on April 28, 2009.

Roof tiles


Contrary to an often held view, some Mycenaean representative buildings already featured roofs made of fired tiles, as in Gla
Gla
Gla was an important fortified site of the Mycenaean civilization, located in Boeotia, mainland Greece.-Location:The site is located on a limestone outcrop or hill that jutted into Lake Kopais or formed an island within it. The flat-topped outcrop rises up to 38m above the surrounding area. It...

 and Midea
Midea, Greece
Midea is a village and a former municipality in Argolis, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Nafplio, of which it is a municipal unit. with a population of 6,724...

.

Mycenaean Revival architecture


In 1930, a building for the National Bank was built at Nafplio in Mycenaean Revival
Mycenaean Revival
Mycenaean Revival is a rare revival architectural style developed as part of the 20th century neoclassicist architectural revival in Greece....

 style.

Art and craftwork



Vessels


Mycenaeans made a great deal of pottery. Archaeologists have found a great quantity of pottery from the Mycenaean age, of widely diverse styles—stirrup jars, pitchers, kraters, chalices sometimes called "champagne coupes" after their shape, etc. The vessels vary in size. Their conformations remained quite consistent throughout the Mycenaean period, up through LHIIIB, when production increased considerably, notably in Argolis whence came great numbers exported outside Greece. The products destined for export were generally more luxurious and featured heavily worked painted decorations incorporating mythic, warrior, or animal motifs. Another type of vessel, in metal (normally bronze), has been found in sizeable quantities at Mycenaean sites. The forms of these were rather tripods, basins, or lamps. A few examples of vessels in faience and ivory are also known.

Figures and Figurines


The Mycenaean period has not yielded sculpture of any great size. The statuary of the period consists for the most part of small terracotta figurines found at almost every Mycenaean site in mainland Greece, in tombs, in settlement debris, and occasionally in cult contexts (Tiryns, Agios Konstantinos on Methana). The majority of these figurines are female and anthropomorphic or zoomorphic. The female figurines can be subdivided into three groups which were popular at different periods: the earliest are the Phi-type: these look like the letter phi and their arms give the upper body of the figurine a rounded shape. The Psi-type looks like the letter psi: these have outstretched upraised arms. The latest (12th century BC) are the Tau-type: these figurines look like the Greek letter tau: with folded(?) arms at right angles to the body. Most figurines wear a large 'polos' hat. They are painted with stripes or zigzags in the same manner as the contemporary pottery and presumably made by the same potters. Their purpose is uncertain, but they may have served as both votive objects and toys: some are found in children's graves but the vast majority of fragments are from domestic rubbish deposits. The presence of numbers of these figurines on sites where worship took place in the Archaic and Classical periods (c 200 below the sanctuary of Athena at Delphi, others at the temple of Aphaia on Aegina, at the sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas above Epidauros and at Amyklae near Sparta, for example), suggests both that many were indeed religious in nature, perhaps as votives, but also that later places of worship may well have first been used in the Mycenaean period.

Larger male, female or bovine terracotta wheelmade figures are much rarer. An important group was found in the Temple at Mycenae together with coiled clay snakes, while others have been found at Tiryns and in the East and West Shrines at Phylakopi on the island of Melos.

Frescoes



The painting of the Mycenaean age was much influenced by that of the Minoan age. Fragments of wall paintings have been found in or around the palaces (Pylos, Mycenae, Tiryns) and in domestic contexts (Zygouries) while the largest complete wall painting depicting three female figures, probably goddesses, was found in the so-called Cult Centre at Mycenae. Various themes are represented: hunting, bull leaping (tauromachy), battle scenes, processions etc. Some scenes may be part of mythological narratives, but if so their meaning eludes us. Other frescoes include geometric or stylised motifs, also used on painted pottery (see above).

Arms



Military items have been found among the treasures of the Mycenaean age. The most impressive work is that of the Dendra panoply
Dendra panoply
The Dendra panoply or Dendra armour is an example of Mycenean-era full-body armour made of bronze plates uncovered in the village of Dendra in the Argolid, Greece.- Description :...

, a complete suit of Mycenaean armor and the oldest form of metal armor. The cuirass is made up of bronze plates sewn to a leather garment. The weight of this armor must have hindered the mobility of a warrior, and it is for this reason it is supposed that it was worn by a warrior riding in a chariot.

The typical Mycenaean helmet
Boar's tusk helmet
Helmets using ivory from boars' tusks were known in the Mycenaean world from the 17th century BC to the 10th century BC . The helmet was made through the use of slivers of boars tusks which were attached to a leather base, padded with felt, in rows...

, in use from the 17th to the 10th centuries BC, was made of cut segments of boar's tusk sewn to a leather or cloth backing. This type is illustrated in ivory relief plaques found in the shaft graves
Shaft tomb
A shaft tomb or shaft grave is a type of burial structure formed from a deep and narrow shaft sunk into natural rock. Burials were then placed at the bottom...

 of the 17th and 16th centuries BC and in wall paintings of that era from Akrotiri
Akrotiri (Santorini)
Akrotiri is the name of an excavation site of a Minoan Bronze Age settlement on the Greek island of Santorini, associated with the Minoan civilization due to inscriptions in Linear A, and close similarities in artifact and fresco styles. The excavation is named for a modern Greek village situated...

 on Thera (Santorini
Santorini
Santorini , officially Thira , is an island located in the southern Aegean Sea, about southeast from Greece's mainland. It is the largest island of a small, circular archipelago which bears the same name and is the remnant of a volcanic caldera...

) and of the 13th century BC in the so-called Palace of Nestor
Palace of Nestor
The Palace of Nestor is the central building of a Middle Helladic era settlement surrounded by a fortified wall. The palace was a two-storey building with store rooms, workshops, baths, light wells, reception rooms and a sewage system...

 at Pylos
Pylos
Pylos , historically known under its Italian name Navarino, is a town and a former municipality in Messenia, Peloponnese, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Pylos-Nestoras, of which it is the seat and a municipal unit. It was the capital of the former...

. Groups of boar's tusk plates from the helmets themselves have been found at many sites, including Mycenae
Mycenae
Mycenae is an archaeological site in Greece, located about 90 km south-west of Athens, in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Argos is 11 km to the south; Corinth, 48 km to the north...

, Prosymna, Thermon and Elateia
Elateia
Elateia was an ancient Greek city of Phocis, and the most important place in that region after Delphi. It is also a modern-day town that is a former municipality in the southeastern part of Phthiotis. Since the 2011 local government reform, it is a municipal unit of the municipality...

, as well as in southern Italy. This is the type of helmet which is described by Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

 several hundred years later.

Two types of shields were used: the "figure eight" or "fiddle" shield, and a rectangular type, the "tower" shield, rounded on the top. They were made of wood and leather, and were of such a large size that if he wished to a warrior could crouch behind his shield and have his whole body covered.

Offensive arms were made of bronze. Spears and javelins have been found, and also an assortment of swords of different sizes, designed for striking with the point and with the edge. Daggers and arrows, attesting to the existence of archery, compose the remainder of the armament found from this period.

Funerary practices


The usual form of burial in the Late Helladic was inhumation. The dead were almost always buried in cemeteries outside the residential zones and only exceptionally within the settlements (the most famous burials in Grave Circle A
Grave Circle A, Mycenae
Grave Circle A in Mycenae is a 16th century BC royal cemetery situated on the southeast of the Lion Gate, the main entrance of the Bronze Age citadel of Mycenae, southern Greece...

 originally lay outside the citadel and were only brought within it when the citadel wall was extended c 1250 BC).

The earliest Mycenaean burials were mostly in individual graves in the form of a pit or a stone lined cist and offerings were limited to pottery and occasional items of jewellery. A large cemetery with burials of this kind spread around the northern and western slopes of the citadel at Mycenae. Groups of pit or cist graves containing elite members of the community were sometimes covered by a tumulus (mound) in the manner established since the Middle Helladic period. It has been argued that this form dates back to the oldest periods of Indo-European settlement in Greece, and that its roots are to be found in the Balkan cultures of the third millennium BC, and even the Kurgan culture but an indigenous development is more likely. Pit and cist graves remained in use for single burials throughout the Mycenaean period alongside more elaborate family graves (see below).

The shaft graves at Mycenae within the two grave circles (A+B) belong to the same period and seem to represent an alternative manner of grouping elite or royal burials - and isolating them from those of the majority. Circle B is the earlier of the two groups, already in use in the MH period, and contains lavish grave goods - gold and silver, jewellery, weapons and pottery. Circle A, excavated by Heinrich Schliemann
Heinrich Schliemann
Heinrich Schliemann was a German businessman and amateur archaeologist, and an advocate of the historical reality of places mentioned in the works of Homer. Schliemann was an archaeological excavator of Troy, along with the Mycenaean sites Mycenae and Tiryns...

 enclosed fewer but extraordinarily well provided graves.

Beginning also in the Late Helladic are to be seen communal tombs of rectangular form. It is difficult to establish whether the different forms of burial represent a social hierarchization, as was formerly thought, with the tholoi being the tombs of the elite rulers, the individual tombs those of the leisure class, and the communal tombs those of the people. Cremations increased in number over the course of the period, becoming quite numerous in LH III C. This is perhaps proof of the arrival of a new population in Greece. The most impressive tombs of the Mycenaean era are the monumental royal tombs of Mycenae, undoubtedly intended for the royal family of the city. The most famous is the Tomb of Agamemnon (the Treasury of Atreus), which is in the form of a tholos
Beehive tomb
A beehive tomb, also known as a tholos tomb , is a burial structure characterized by its false dome created by the superposition of successively smaller rings of mudbricks or, more often, stones...

. Nearby are other tombs (known as "Circle A"), popularly identified with Clytemnestra and Aigisthos. All contained impressive treasures, exhumed by Schliemann during the excavation of Mycenae. It has been argued that different dynasties or factions may have competed through conspicuous burial, whereby grave circle A represents a new faction in the ascendancy (at this time, LH I, the relative wealth and consistency of 'B' burials declines). The Mycenaean "tholoi" may, again, represent another factional grouping, or a further formalization in burial practices by the faction previously buried in A. Nevertheless, there is a demonstrably apparent expansion in relative size, wealth/cost expenditure, and visibility in the construction of these graves over this period, coinciding with increased foreign/trading contacts and the further entrenchment of the palatial economy.

Destruction



The timing and interpretation of the end Mycenaean period poses an array of questions that have yet to be answered. The end of LH III B1 was marked by some destruction, in particular at Mycenae. By LH III B2, an augmentation of the Mycenaean systems of defense can be seen, a sign of increasing insecurity. But this does not seem to have been a period of crisis, because these levels have yielded archaeological material that bespeaks a degree of wealth in no way inferior to that of previous periods. The end of this period is nevertheless marked by a number of destructions in the greater part of the Mycenaean sites on mainland Greece.

LH III C saw a decrease in the number of sites in Greece, which might have been considerable in certain regions (nine-tenths of the sites in Boeotia disappeared, and twot Mycenaean traits, such that LH III C is considered to be a level of Mycenaean civilization. However, a new type of ceramic appeared, called "barbarian" because it was formerly attributed to foreign invaders, and there was also a continuing increase in the practice of cremation.

Several explanations have been advanced for the causes of the decline of Mycenaean civilization in this period. Those concerning natural factors (climate change, earthquakes) are considered more controversial. The two most common theories are population movement and internal conflict. The first attributes the destruction of Mycenaean sites to invaders. Sometimes the Dorians
Dorian invasion
The Dorian invasion is a concept devised by historians of Ancient Greece to explain the replacement of pre-classical dialects and traditions in southern Greece by the ones that prevailed in Classical Greece...

 are invoked, sometimes the Sea People.

The movements of people occurring from the Balkans to the Middle East at this period, mentioned in Egyptian inscriptions calling the invaders by the name of the "Sea People", are quite real. It is known that these people were responsible for numerous destructions in Anatolia and the Levant. Mention of a people called Eqwesh (which recalls the term Achaean) in an Egyptian text of the 12th century BC has caused specialists to suppose that the Mycenaeans had taken part in these invasions (this is not certain). There is little else to tell us what happened in the Greek world.

There is the second theory, which has the Mycenaean civilization falling in the course of internal societal conflicts brought on by a rejection of the palatial system by the most underprivileged strata of society, who were impoverished at the end of the Late Helladic. This hypothesis is sometimes joined with the preceding one, mingling social divisions with ethnic divisions.

In this context it has to be stressed, that the beginning Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 made large numbers of comparatively cheap weapons accessible. An economic factor, that is also seen as a root cause of the apparition of the "sea peoples" in Egypt and the destruction of Ugarit
Ugarit
Ugarit was an ancient port city in the eastern Mediterranean at the Ras Shamra headland near Latakia, Syria. It is located near Minet el-Beida in northern Syria. It is some seven miles north of Laodicea ad Mare and approximately fifty miles east of Cyprus...

 and the Hittite Empire.

Whatever were the causes, the Mycenaean civilization had definitely disappeared after LH III C, when the sites of Mycenae and Tirynth were again destroyed and lost their importance. This end, during the last years of the 12th century BC, occurs after a slow decline of the Mycenaean civilization, which lasted many years before dying out. The beginning of the 11th century BC opens a new context, that of the protogeometric, the beginning of the geometric period, the Greek Dark Ages
Greek Dark Ages
The Greek Dark Age or Ages also known as Geometric or Homeric Age are terms which have regularly been used to refer to the period of Greek history from the presumed Dorian invasion and end of the Mycenaean Palatial civilization around 1200 BC, to the first signs of the Greek city-states in the 9th...

of traditional historiography.

See also

  • Mycenae
    Mycenae
    Mycenae is an archaeological site in Greece, located about 90 km south-west of Athens, in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Argos is 11 km to the south; Corinth, 48 km to the north...

  • Mycenaean language
    Mycenaean language
    Mycenaean Greek is the most ancient attested form of the Greek language, spoken on the Greek mainland, Crete and Cyprus in the 16th to 12th centuries BC, before the hypothesised Dorian invasion which was often cited as the terminus post quem for the coming of the Greek language to Greece...

  • Linear B
    Linear B
    Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet by several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization...

  • Achaeans (Homer)
  • Helladic
  • 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...

  • Aegean civilization
    Aegean civilization
    Aegean civilization is a general term for the Bronze Age civilizations of Greece around the Aegean Sea. There are three distinct but communicating and interacting geographic regions covered by this term: Crete, the Cyclades and the Greek mainland. Crete is associated with the Minoan civilization...

  • Greek Dark Ages
    Greek Dark Ages
    The Greek Dark Age or Ages also known as Geometric or Homeric Age are terms which have regularly been used to refer to the period of Greek history from the presumed Dorian invasion and end of the Mycenaean Palatial civilization around 1200 BC, to the first signs of the Greek city-states in the 9th...


Sources

  • Castleden, Rodney. The Mycenaeans. Routledge, 2005. ISBN 0-415-36336-5\
  • Shear, Ione Mylonas. "Excavations on the Acropolis of Midea: Results of the Greek–Swedish Excavations under the Direction of Katie Demakopoulou and Paul Åström". American Journal of Archaeology
    American Journal of Archaeology
    The American Journal of Archaeology , the peer-reviewed journal of the Archaeological Institute of America, has been published since 1897...

    , January 2000, 104(1):133–134.
  • Tandy, David W. Prehistory and History: Ethnicity, Class and Political Economy. Black Rose Books Ltd., 2001. ISBN 1-55164-188-7
  • Wikander, Orjan. "Archaic Roof Tiles the First Generations". Hesperia, 59(1):285–290, January–March, 1990.

Further reading

  • Podzuweit, Christian (1982). "Die mykenische Welt und Troja
    Troy
    Troy was a city, both factual and legendary, located in northwest Anatolia in what is now Turkey, southeast of the Dardanelles and beside Mount Ida...

    ". In: B. Hänsel (ed.), Südosteuropa zwischen 1600 und 1000 v. Chr., 65–88.
  • Nur, Amos and Cline, Eric; (2000) "Poseidon's Horses: Plate Tectonics and Earthquake Storms in the Late Bronze Age Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean". Journ. of Archaeol. Sc., No. 27, pp. 43–63. http://srb.stanford.edu/nur/EndBronzeage.pdf
  • Robbins, Manuel (2001) Collapse of the Bronze Age: the story of Greece, Troy, Israel, Egypt and Peoples of the Sea" (Authors Choice Press)
  • Weiss, Barry: (1982) "The decline of Late Bronze Age civilization as a possible response to climatic change" in Climatic Change ISSN 0165-0009 (Paper) 1573-1480 (Online), Volume 4, Number 2, June 1982, pp. 173–198.

External links