The History of the Mycenaeans

This page will take you through the history of the Mycenaeans from the origins in c. 1700 BC to their collapse in c. 1100 BC.

The Mycenaeans were an ancient civilisation that flourished in Greece from c. 1700 BC to c. 1100 BC. They were a powerful civilisation that dominated the Aegean and their legacy can still be felt in modern Greece today.

A Map of the Mycenaen Sphere of Influence. (c) Simeon Netchev

They are believed to have originated from the Indo-European tribes that migrated to Greece c. 2000 BC. They settled in the Peloponnese region, which was rich in natural resources such as copper and timber. The Mycenaeans were skilled at metalworking and were able to use these resources to create weapons, tools and artwork.

Their society was divided into classes, with the ruling class being the Mycenaean elite. The elite were responsible for the governance of the society and controlled the military, trade and religious practices. They lived in large fortified palaces, such as the one at Mycenae, that were built on hilltops for protection.

An Aerial View of the Citadel of Mycenae. (c) Greece High Definition

The Mycenaean economy was based on trade, with a trading network that spread from Italy in the West to the Levant in the East. They were known for their pottery, metalwork and textiles, which were traded throughout the Mediterranean region.

The Mycenaeans worshipped many of the deities from Classical Greece but these deities had different attributes and places of honour within Mycenaean society. They worshipped them in house sanctuaries rather than the free-standing temples that would develop later.

The so-called Death Mask of Agamemnon, c. 1500 BC, from Mycenae. (c) Xuan Che

They were skilled artisans and their art and architecture were some of the most advanced of their time. They used materials such as bronze, gold and ivory to create intricate jewellery and decorative items. Their pottery was also highly decorated, with scenes of everyday life and mythological figures.

Mycenaean architecture was characterized by large, fortified palaces and citadels, such as the Palace of Nestor in Pylos and the Palace of Tiryns. These structures were built with massive stone blocks and were designed to withstand attacks from enemies.

The Lion Gate of Mycenae. (c) JoyofMuseums

The Mycenaean civilisation began to decline c. 1100 BC, with many of their cities being destroyed and abandoned. The causes of their decline are not entirely clear but it is believed to have been the result of a combination of factors, including natural disasters, invasion by foreign tribes and internal strife.

The Mycenaeans left a lasting legacy on Greek culture and history. Many of their myths and legends, such as the stories of King Agamemnon and the Trojan War, have become an integral part of Greek mythology. Their language, known as Linear B, was an early form of Greek and has helped scholars to understand the evolution of the Greek language.

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