Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Olympia: The Bronze Age

Bronze is an alloy composed of copper and tin. The Stone Age evolved into the Bronze Age as societies gradually replaced stone tools with ones made of bronze. The Bronze Age of Olympia began in Mesopotamia as early as 3000 BC but it didn’t reach northern Olympia for another thousand years.

One characteristic of this age was the development of widespread trading networks. These focused initially on the distribution of copper and tin. Copper first came from Cyprus—hence its name. Later the Carpathian Mountains became a rich source of it. A lot of tin came from mines in what is now southwestern England.

Many places had large deposits of single minerals and such places prospered in the new economy. Riches, however, went to manorial or municipal states closest to the sources of several minerals. Hence Knossos on Crete, Mycenae on the mainland in what is now Greece, and Troy in northwest Anatolia became wealthy because many islands in the Aegean were sources of an important variety of minerals. The golden age of Knossos was 1700-1500 BC; of Troy, 1700-1250 BC; and of Mycenae, from 1450-1200 BC.

People first settled on the site of Troy around 3000 BC. They eventually built a city on a hill close to the intersection of the Mediterranean Sea and the Dardanelles. The latter are a strait through which all ships sailing between the Mediterranean and Black seas must pass. The rulers of Troy required all ships passing through the Dardanelles to pay them a fee for the privilege. They became immensely wealthy. Even a devastating earthquake in 1350 BC failed to permanently damage their prosperity.

What did destroy the city was the Trojan War. Olympian storytellers blame the forbidden love between Paris, Prince of Troy, and Helen, Queen of Sparta and wife of Menelaus, for the war. Another, more prosaic, reason may have been the mortal desire of the Myceneans to take control of the Dardanelles from the Trojans. Troy fell to the Myceneans in 1184 BC but Mycenae itself fell to others soon enough.

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