Saturday, November 3, 2012

Mycenean Civilization (2000-1100 BC)

The Minoans of Crete enjoyed their golden age between 1700 and 1500 BC. During this time people in southern Greece adopted Minoan culture. These included the Myceneans who migrated to that area around 2000 BC.

Like the Minoans, the Myceneans organized themselves into small manorial states. A ruler called king exercised control over local landowners from his fortified hilltop mansion. These landowners provided the ruler with the weaponry, food, and raw materials he needed. He, in turn, didn’t steal more from them and protected them from others who might. The landowners controlled the tenants and slaves who worked on their estates and farmed their land.

The most important manor in southern Greece was Mycenae. It was located about 56 miles (90 km) southwest of Athens and 30 miles (48 km) south of Corinth in the area of Greece known as the Peloponnese. For a time it had walls 40 feet (12 m) high and 26 feet (8 m) thick. Access to the manor was limited to one gate which had two female lions carved in stone above it.

Like the Egyptians, Myceneans loaded the tombs of their rulers with valuable objects. In a tomb at Mycenae in 1869, the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann found a death mask of hammered gold which he claimed belonged to the Mycenean conqueror of Troy named Agamemnon.

Minoans taught Myceneans two important lessons. One was how to write. The other was how to build strong fast ships and to navigate on the open sea. Myceneans grew olive trees, processed olive oil, and made great profits by trading it.

They used these profits to organize raids and steal valuables from others at sea or on land. Around 1450 BC, after learning from the Minoans, envying their wealth, and surpassing them in power, the Myceneans conquered Crete. The Minoans then lost their creativity and their civilization eventually died.

Across the Aegean Sea from Mycenae lived the Trojans. They had strategically located their city on the west coast of Anatolia near the Dardanelles. By doing so, they were able to control ships sailing between the Mediterranean and Black seas. They grew rich by taxing them.

According to Eratosthenes, a justly famous librarian in Alexandria, the Myceneans warred against the Trojans for ten long years and finally defeated them in 1184 BC. A Greek named Homer wrote two masterpieces about this conflict: the Iliad and Odyssey.

Within a century, however, stronger Dorians fought and defeated the Myceneans. The Dorians reduced the high thick walls of Mycenae to rubble.

This conquest had two enduring effects. One, it became Mycenean civilization’s turn to die. People lost the ability to write and read. Craftsmen forgot how to build strong fast ships. Artisans stopped painting frescoes and making jewelry. Two, by 1100 BC thousands of Myceneans had crossed the Aegean to start new lives on the west coast of Anatolia south of ruined Troy.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.