Mycenaean Greece

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Mycenaean Greece, the last phase of the Bronze Age in ancient Greece, is the historical setting of the epics of Homer and much other Greek mythology. The Mycenaean period takes its name from the archaeological site Mycenae in the northeastern Argolid, in the Peloponnesos of southern Greece. Athens, Pylos, Thebes, and Tiryns are also important Mycenaean sites.


[edit] Mycenaean civilization

A Mycenaean funeral mask known as the "Mask of Agamemnon" (named so by Heinrich Schliemann)

The Mycenaean period flourished between 1600 BC and the collapse of their Bronze-Age civilization around 1100 BC. The collapse is commonly attributed to the Dorian invasion, although many archaeologists and historians now doubt that any such invasion took place. The major Mycenaean city-sites were Mycenae and Tiryns in the Argolid, Pylos in Messenia, Athens in Attica, Thebes and Orchomenos in Boeotia, and Iolkos in Thessaly. In Crete, Mycenaeans occupied the ruins of Knossos. In addition there were some sites of importance for cult, such as Lerna, typically in the form of house sanctuaries. Mycenaean settlement sites also appeared on islands in the Aegean, on the coast of Asia Minor, and then in Cyprus.

Mycenaean civilization was dominated by a warrior aristocracy. Around 1400 BC, the Mycenaeans extended their control to Crete, center of the Minoan civilization, and adopted a form of the Minoan script called Linear A to write their early form of Greek. The Mycenaean era script is called Linear B.

Not only did the Mycenaeans defeat the Minoans, but according to legend, they defeated Troy, a powerful city-state that rivaled Mycenae's power. Because its only evidence is the Iliad of Homer and other texts replete with mythology, the existence of Troy and the Trojan War is uncertain. In 1876, the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann uncovered ruins in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) that he claimed was Troy, yet these ruins do not match well with Homer's account of Troy (See Burkert Greek Religion pg 121 and E. Meyer, RE Suppl. XIV 813–15.)

The Mycenaeans buried their nobles in beehive tombs (tholoi), large circular burial chambers with a high vaulted roof and 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, armour, and jeweled weapons. Mycenaeans were buried in a sitting position, and some of the nobility underwent mummification, whereas Homer's Achilles and Patroclus were not buried but cremated and honoured with gold urns, instead of gold masks.

No priestly class has yet been identified. Worshipper and worshipped are identified in seals, rings and votives figures through their gestures: worshippers 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 are familiar—or at least their 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. Apollo may be recognized at Knossos as PA-JA-WO, ("Paian"). Far more prominent are A-TA-NA PO-TI-NI-JA ("Athena Potnia", "Athena the Mistress"), E-RE-U-TI-JA (Eileithyia, later merely invoked during childbirth), Dionysus, 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 and Persephone. The Erinyes or Furies are already present, as are the Winds.

Image:NAMA Dame de Mycènes.jpg
The "Lady of Mycenae" accepts a gift of a necklace.

Mycenaean frescoes<ref>For a fuller synopsis of Mycenaean frescoes see the relevant section of Dartmouth College, "Prehistoric Archaeology of the Aegean"</ref> have been discovered in palace contexts, notably at Pylos, Mycenae, Orchomenos, Thebes, and Tiryns, and a few non-palatial, perhaps privately-owned contexts. The earliest fresco decorations are of the LH IIA period (ca. 1500 BCE). The subjects hold tenaciously to Minoan traditions, whether directly derived or through Cycladic 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 the depiction 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 see as a dark age. During this period Greece experienced decreasing population and they lost their literacy. Historians have traditionally blamed this decline on an invasion by another wave of Greek people, the Dorians, with some Mycenaeans fleeing to Cyprus as well as other Greek islands and parts of Anatolia.

[edit] Historical Overview

From a chronological perspective, the Late Helladic 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 with 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. 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 as part of tj-n3-jj the apparently-equal cities d-y-q-e-i-s (*Thegwas, Thebes) and m-w-k-i-n-u (*Mukana, Mycenae). LHIIIA:1 also corresponds with the time of Attarsiyas the Man of Ahhiya, who alternately attacked and aided the rebel Madduwattas of Zippasla. LHIIIA:1-period tj-n3-jj / "Ahhiya" (and for that matter LHIIIA:1 Greece) did not feature otherwise in the calculus of the great kings of the Bronze Age, and certainly not as a coherent state.

("Ahhiya" and its LHIIIA:2-B derivative, "Ahhiyawa", can be linked to Greece only indirectly. The Hittites did not use any term approximating tj-n3-jj; and they did not link "Ahhiya[wa]" to *Thegwas, *Mukana, 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:2 ware was in the Uluburun shipwreck, and was in use at Miletus before Mursili II burned it c. 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 arise to the attention of the Hittites and 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.

[edit] Submycenean

The submycenean pottery (called LHIIIC:2 by Furumark) already belongs to the early Iron age. It is best known from the cemeteries of Kerameikos in Athens, Salamis in Attica and Skoubris in Lefkandi (Euboea) and the settlements of Athens (Agora), Tiryns and Mycenae. The term was introduced in 1934 by T. C. Skeat.

[edit] See also

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[edit] Notes


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Mycenaean Greece

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