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The Classical Age – the Mycenaeans
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  2/16/12
By: Yona Williams

After the Minoan civilization kicked off the Classical Age, the Mycenaean Age followed. The Mycenaeans, who lived on the mainland, either conquered the Minoans or simply took over the region as the Minoans grew weaker. In this article, you will learn more about the Mycenaeans and what they accomplished during their time period.

Around 1450 BC, a tsunami (or seismic wave) measuring 200 feet hit Crete. Researchers believe that the event either completely destroyed the island or weakened it to the point that other groups could make a move to overpower the current inhabitants. The Mycenaeans capitalized off of this natural disaster. When they were prospering the most, the Mycenaeans were prominent from around 1650 BC to 1200 BC – a time period that is referred to as the Mycenaean Age.

The Mycenaeans learned a lot from their neighbors (the Minoans), and with this knowledge of skills and culture – they flourished. In their day, the Mycenaeans were known for being skilled horsemen, charioteers, and successful sailors who were a great influence in the Aegean. The culture of the Mycenaeans was tied into the fortified palaces of the region, which were called acropolises (or main cities). At the time, Argos, Corinth, and Sparta were home to larger communities, while Athens and Thebes were just smaller cities.

In around 1200 BC, the Mycenaeans attacked the city of Troy, which was considered an important move. It not only helped solidify their role in Black Sea trade, but also jumpstarted the infamous Trojan War. The fighting lasted for 10 years. This period of time was retold by the Greek poet Homer, who wrote the Iliad. In the end, the Mycenaeans were the victors. Unfortunately, they didn’t get a real chance to enjoy the triumph. The Dorian peoples came in from the northwestern part of the Greek mainland. They overtook most of the Peloponnesus region – the southern peninsula of Greece.

The Dorians were superior over their opponents because they had the iron sword on their side. They continued to move southward until they sacked and burned all of the best Mycenaean cities. They conquered all of the wealthy sea traders, and tosses Greece into a period that was called the Dark Ages – also known as the Archaic Period. This depressing stretch of time lasted from 1100 to 800 BC.

Highlights of the Mycenaean Age include:

The most influential of Mycenaean cities included Mycenae and Tiryns in Argolis, Pylos in Messenia, Athens in Attica, Iolkos in Thessaly, as well as Thebes and Orchomenus in Boeotia. The Mycenaeans had also taken over Knossos in Crete, which was once associated with the great Minoans.

While the Minoans were known for building their civilization using the benefits of trade, the Mycenaeans were able to prosper through conquest. A warrior aristocracy figured highly into the structure of the Mycenaean civilization.

When Mycenaen nobles died, they were buried in large circular burial chambers with a high vaulted roof that were called beehive tombs. To get in, you have to pass through a straight entry passage lined with stone. Archeologists who have uncovered some of these tombs have found daggers and other military equipment buried with the deceased. Nobility were buried with gold masks, tiaras, armor, and jeweled weapons. Another interesting fact about Mycenaean burials was that they were placed in a sitting position.


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