Mycenaean Greece

Mycenaean Greece (or the Mycenaean civilization) was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece, spanning the period from approximately 1600–1100 BC. It represents the first advanced civilization in mainland Greece, with its palatial states, urban organization, works of art, and writing system.[1] The most prominent site was Mycenae, in the Argolid, after which the culture of this era is named. Other centers of power that emerged included Pylos, Tiryns, Midea in the Peloponnese, Orchomenos, Thebes, Athens in Central Greece and Iolcos in Thessaly. Mycenaean and Mycenaean-influenced settlements also appeared in Epirus,[2][3] Macedonia,[4][5] on islands in the Aegean Sea, on the coast of Asia Minor, the Levant,[6] Cyprus[7] and Italy.[8]

The Mycenaean Greeks introduced several innovations in the fields of engineering, architecture and military infrastructure, while trade over vast areas of the Mediterranean was essential for the Mycenaean economy. Their syllabic script, the Linear B, offers the first written records of the Greek language and their religion already included several deities that can also be found in the Olympic Pantheon. Mycenaean Greece was dominated by a warrior elite society and consisted of a network of palace-centered states that developed rigid hierarchical, political, social and economic systems. At the head of this society was the king, known as wanax.

Mycenaean Greece perished with the collapse of Bronze Age culture in the eastern Mediterranean, to be followed by the so-called Greek Dark Ages, a recordless transitional period leading to Archaic Greece where significant shifts occurred from palace-centralized to de-centralized forms of socio-economic organization (including the extensive use of iron).[9] Various theories have been proposed for the end of this civilization, among them the Dorian invasion or activities connected to the "Sea Peoples". Additional theories such as natural disasters and climatic changes have been also suggested. The Mycenaean period became the historical setting of much ancient Greek literature and mythology, including the Trojan Epic Cycle.[10]

Mycenaean Greece
Mycenaean World en
Alternative namesMycenaean civilization
PeriodBronze Age
Datesc. 1600 – c. 1100 BC
Type siteMycenae
Major sitesPylos, Tiryns, Midea, Orchomenos
Preceded byMinoan civilization
Followed byGreek Dark Ages


The Lion Gate, the main entrance of the citadel of Mycenae, 13th century BC

The Bronze Age in mainland Greece is generally termed as the "Helladic period" by modern archaeologists, after Hellas, the Greek name for Greece. This period is divided into three subperiods: The Early Helladic (EH) period (c. 2900–2000 BC) was a time of prosperity with the use of metals and a growth in technology, economy and social organization. The Middle Helladic (MH) period (c. 2000–1650 BC) faced a slower pace of development, as well as the evolution of megaron-type dwellings and cist grave burials.[1] Finally, the Late Helladic (LH) period (c. 1650–1050 BC) roughly coincides with Mycenaean Greece.[1]

The Late Helladic period is further divided into LHI and LHII, both of which coincide with the early period of Mycenaean Greece (c. 1650–1425 BC), and LHIII (c. 1425–1050 BC), the period of expansion, decline and collapse of the Mycenaean civilization. The transition period from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age in Greece is known as Sub-Mycenaean (c. 1050–1000 BC).[1]

Two Mycenaean chariot warriors on a fresco from Pylos (about 1350 BC; left) and two female charioteers from Tiryns (1200 BC; right)

Two Mycenaean chariot warriors on a fresco from Pylos about 1350 BC
Fresco of two female charioteers from Tiryns 1200 BC


The decipherment of the Mycenaean Linear B script, a writing system adapted for the use of the Greek language of the Late Bronze Age,[11] demonstrated the continuity of Greek speech from the second millennium BC into the eighth century BC when a new script emerged. Moreover, it revealed that the bearers of Mycenaean culture were ethnically connected with the populations that resided in the Greek peninsula after the end of this cultural period.[12] Various collective terms for the inhabitants of Mycenaean Greece were used by Homer in his 8th century BC epic, the Iliad, in reference to the Trojan War. The latter was supposed to have happened in the late 13th – early 12th century BC, when a coalition of small Greek states under the king of Mycenae, besieged the walled city of Troy.

Elephant or Hippopotamus Tooth Warrior Head Wearing Boar Tusk Helmets (3404330867)
Warrior wearing a boar tusk helmet, from a Mycenaean chamber tomb in the Acropolis of Athens, 14th-13th century BC.

Homer used the ethnonyms Achaeans, Danaans and Argives, to refer to the besiegers.[13] These names appear to have passed down from the time they were in use to the time when Homer applied them as collective terms in his Iliad.[14] There is an isolated reference to a-ka-wi-ja-de in the Linear B records in Knossos, Crete dated to c. 1400 BC, which most probably refers to a Mycenaean (Achaean) state on the Greek mainland.[15]

Egyptian records mention a T(D)-n-j or Danaya (Tanaju) land for the first time c. 1437 BC, during the reign of Pharaoh Thutmoses III (r. 1479–1425 BC). This land is geographically defined in an inscription from the reign of Amenhotep III (r. circa 1390–1352 BC), where a number of Danaya cities are mentioned, which cover the largest part of southern mainland Greece.[16] Among them, cities such as Mycenae, Nauplion and Thebes have been identified with certainty. Danaya has been equated with the ethnonym Danaoi (Greek: Δαναοί), the name of the mythical dynasty that ruled in the region of Argos, also used as an ethnonym for the Greek people by Homer.[16][17]

In the official records of another Bronze Age empire, that of the Hittites in Anatolia, various references from c. 1400 BC to 1220 BC mention a country named Ahhiyawa.[18][19] Recent scholarship, based on textual evidence, new interpretations of the Hittite inscriptions, as well as on recent surveys of archaeological evidence about Mycenaean-Anatolian contacts during this period, concludes that the term Ahhiyawa must have been used in reference to the Mycenaean world (land of the Achaeans), or at least to a part of it.[20][21] This term may have also had broader connotations in some texts, possibly referring to all regions settled by Mycenaeans or regions under direct Mycenaean political control.[18] Another similar ethnonym Ekwesh in twelfth century BC Egyptian inscriptions, has been commonly identified with the Ahhiyawans. These Ekwesh were mentioned as a group of the Sea People.[22]


Daily Life

Mycenaean jewelry, 1500 BC
Mycenaean beads used for a necklace.
Armed combat in Mountain Glen
The Mycenaeans were capable of intricate designs on a very small scale: the so-called Armed combat in Mountain Glen signet seal, Mycenaean civilization, Late Bronze Age (drawing).[23][24][25]

By observing Mycenaean wall paintings, scholars have deduced that women during this time often wore long dresses, their hair long, and wore jewelry, most notably beads.[26] Mycenaean beads have long been an aspect of Mycenaean culture that is shrouded in a significant amount of mystery. It is not known for certain why they (men, women, and children) wore them, or why they appear to have been significant to the culture, but beads made of carnelian, lapis lazuli, etc., were known to have been worn by women on bracelets, necklaces, and buttons on cloaks, and were often buried with the deceased.[27]

In later periods of Greek history, seclusion of females from males was common in the household, though scholars have found no evidence of seclusion during Mycenaean times, and believe that males and females worked with and around each other on a regular basis. Not much is known about women’s duties in the home or whether they differed from the duties of men. And though men were involved in warfare and hunting, there is no evidence that suggests women ever took part in either of the two, though whether women took part in hunting has been up for debate amongst some historians. There is evidence that, in this patriarchal society, men and women were, in some respects, viewed equally. Mycenae practiced a system of rationing food to citizens, and evidence shows that women received the same amount of rations as men.[26]

If women were not officials in the cult or married to high ranking male officers, they were likely low-ranking laborers. Linear B details specialized groups of female laborers called “workgroups.” These women labored with other women as well as their children, and usually were located close to the palace. Women who belonged to workgroups did not belong to independent households, but were managed and fed by palace scribes. All of the women in a workgroup would serve the same occupation, such as textiles. Women in work groups are not believed to have been able to acquire land holdings or have had economic independence of any kind, and are believed by some to have been slaves, though there are some conflicting debates among scholars concerning this. Though scholars are unsure if regular women could obtain land and exert economic power, there is evidence that women could obtain positions of power, such as the title of priestess, which allowed them to have land holdings, have elite connections, and high social status. Mycenaean society is believed to have been largely patriarchal, but women could exert social and economic power through titles and positions of power, like that of a priestess, though religion was not the only place that a woman could gain social authority. [28] Women with special talents or skills, such as being a skilled midwife or craftswomen, could gain social authority in their villages, but are not believed to have been able to receive land holdings. Elite women (those who were married to male elites) were afforded benefits fitting their high social standing, but even the wife of elites could not own land and had no economic independence.[29] Some scholars believe that Knossos was probably more equal in relation to gender than Pylos, though the evidence for this is little and is highly disputed.[30]


Men and women alike were involved in cult activity. Some women could be elevated to becoming legally independent by becoming priestesses, which appears to be hereditary through both the male and female line. No woman in Mycenae is believed to have been able to “own” land at this time, but priestesses were women who could legally procure land. Through the cult, land was “leased” to them, rather than given to them in ownership. Along with land holding benefits, priestesses often had ties with the upper-class elites, and were usually wealthy themselves.[28] Only a small number of women could become priestesses in Mycenae, but there were other cultic titles that women could aspire to obtain, such as that of Key bearer. Key bearers appear to be women who had authority over the sacred treasury of a particular deity, and were able to dispense it in times of need. Though scholars do not have enough evidence to suggests that all Key bearers could own land and had high status, there is a written record in Linear B of a Key bearer with elite ties who owned land, so it is possible that they had similar benefits to priestesses. Other religious roles filled by women were the three types of sacred slaves: slave of the God, slave of the priestess, and slave of the Key bearer. Though not as grand a title as that of Priestess of Key-Bearer, the sacred slaves were allotted certain benefits fitting their positions in the cult. One other documented position women filled in the cult was called ki-ri-te-wi-ja. Though documented, scholars are not certain exactly what the duties of this role entailed, or what type of women would have filled it. What they do know, however, is that these religious roles afforded the women who occupied them a certain amount of economic autonomy.[29]


Shaft grave era (c. 1600–1450 BC)

Death mask, known as the Mask of Agamemnon, Grave Circle A, Mycenae, 16th century BC, probably the most famous artifact of Mycenaean Greece.[31]

Mycenaean civilization originated and evolved from the society and culture of the Early and Middle Helladic period in mainland Greece under influences from Minoan Crete.[32] Towards the end of the Middle Bronze Age (c. 1600 BC) a significant increase in the population and the number of settlements occurred.[33] A number of centers of power emerged in southern mainland Greece dominated by a warrior elite society,[1][32] while the typical dwellings of that era were an early type of megaron buildings. Some more complex structures are classified as forerunners of the later palaces. In a number of sites, defensive walls were also erected.[34]

Meanwhile, new types of burials and more imposing ones have been unearthed, which display a great variety of luxurious objects.[33][35] Among the various burial types, the shaft grave became the most common form of elite burial, a feature that gave the name to the early period of Mycenaean Greece.[33] Among the Mycenaean elite, deceased men were usually laid to rest in gold masks and funerary armor, and women in gold crowns and clothes gleaming with gold ornaments.[36] The royal shaft graves next to the acropolis of Mycenae, in particular the Grave Circles A and B signified the elevation of a native Greek-speaking royal dynasty whose economic power depended on long-distance sea trade.[37]

During this period, the Mycenaean centers witnessed increased contacts with the outside world and especially with the Cyclades and the Minoan centers in the island of Crete.[1][33] Mycenaean presence appears to be also depicted in a fresco at Akrotiri, on Thera island, which possibly displays many warriors in boar's tusk helmets, a feature typical of Mycenaean warfare.[38] In the early 15th century BC, commerce intensified with Mycenaean pottery reaching the western coast of Asia Minor, including Miletus and Troy, Cyprus, Lebanon, Palestine and Egypt.[39]

At the end of the Shaft Grave era, a new and more imposing type of elite burial emerged, the tholos: large circular burial chambers with high vaulted roofs and a straight entry passage lined with stone.[40]

Koine era (c. 1450 BC–1250 BC)

La Dame de Mycènes, fresco
Fresco depicting a female figure in the acropolis of Mycenae, 13th century BC

The eruption of Thera, which according to archaeological data occurred in c. 1500 BC, resulted in the decline of the Minoan civilization of Crete.[41] This turn of events gave the opportunity to the Mycenaeans to spread their influence throughout the Aegean. Around c. 1450 BC, they were in control of Crete itself, including Knossos, and colonized several other Aegean islands, reaching as far as Rhodes.[42][43] Thus the Mycenaeans became the dominant power of the region, marking the beginning of the Mycenaean 'Koine' era (from Greek: Κοινή, common), a highly uniform culture that spread in mainland Greece and the Aegean.[44]

From the early 14th century BC, Mycenaean trade began to take advantage of the new trading opportunities in the Mediterranean after the Minoan collapse.[43] The trade routes were expanded further, reaching Cyprus, Amman in the Near East, Apulia in Italy and Spain.[43] From that time period (c. 1400 BC), the palace of Knossos has yielded the earliest records of the Greek Linear B script, based on the previous Linear A of the Minoans. The use of the new script spread in mainland Greece and offers valuable insight into the administrative network of the palatial centers. However, the unearthed records are too fragmentary for a political reconstruction of Bronze Age Greece.[45]

Mycenaean armour 1400BC
Mycenaean panoply, found in Dendra, Argolid, c. 1400 BC

Excavations at Miletus, southwest Asia Minor, indicate the existence of a Mycenaean settlement there already from c. 1450 BC, replacing the previous Minoan installations.[46] This site became a sizable and prosperous Mycenaean center until the 12th century BC.[47] Apart from the archaeological evidence, this is also attested in Hittite records, which indicate that Miletos (Milawata in Hittite) was the most important base for Mycenaean activity in Asia Minor.[48] Mycenaean presence also reached the adjacent sites of Iasus and Ephesus.[49]

Meanwhile, imposing palaces were built in the main Mycenaean centers of the mainland. The earliest palace structures were megaron-type buildings, such as the Menelaion in Sparta, Lakonia.[50] Palaces proper are datable from c. 1400 BC, when Cyclopean fortifications were erected at Mycenae and nearby Tiryns.[1] Additional palaces were built in Midea and Pylos in Peloponnese, Athens, Eleusis, Thebes and Orchomenos in Central Greece and Iolcos, in Thessaly, the latter being the northernmost Mycenaean center. Knossos in Crete also became a Mycenaean center, where the former Minoan complex underwent a number of adjustments, including the addition of a throne room.[51] These centers were based on a rigid network of bureaucracy where administrative competencies were classified into various sections and offices according to specialization of work and trades. At the head of this society was the king, known as wanax (Linear B: wa-na-ka) in Mycenaean Greek terms. All powers were vested in him, as the main landlord and spiritual and military leader. At the same time he was an entrepreneur and trader and was aided by a network of high officials.[52]

Involvement in Asia Minor

The presence of Ahhiyawa in western Anatolia is mentioned in various Hittite accounts from c. 1400 to c. 1220 BC.[48] Ahhiyawa is generally accepted as a Hittite translation of Mycenaean Greece (Achaeans in Homeric Greek), but a precise geographical definition of the term cannot be drawn from the texts.[53] During this time, the kings of Ahhiyawa were evidently capable of dealing with their Hittite counterparts both on a diplomatic and military level.[54] Moreover, Ahhiyawan activity was to interfere in Anatolian affairs, with the support of anti-Hittite uprisings or through local vassal rulers, which the Ahhiyawan king used as agents for the extension of his influence.[55]

14 century BC Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East
Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East during the 14th century BC; Mycenaean Greece in purple

In c. 1400 BC, Hittite records mention the military activities of an Ahhiyawan warlord, Attarsiya, a possible Hittite way of writing the Greek name Atreus, who attacked Hittite vassals in western Anatolia.[56] Later, in c. 1315 BC, an anti-Hittite rebellion headed by Arzawa, a Hittite vassal state, received support from Ahhiyawa.[57] Meanwhile, Ahhiyawa appears to be in control of a number of islands in the Aegean, an impression also supported by archaeological evidence.[58] During the reign of the Hittite king Hattusili III (c. 1267–1237 BC), the king of Ahhiyawa is recognized as a "Great King" and of equal status with the other contemporary great Bronze Age rulers: the kings of Egypt, Babylonia and Assyria.[59] At that time, another anti-Hittite movement, led by Piyama-Radu, broke out and was supported by the king of Ahhiyawa.[60] Piyama-Radu caused major unrest in the region of Wilusa and later invaded the island of Lesbos, which then passed into Ahhiyawan control.[61]

The Hittite-Ahhiyawan confrontation in Wilusa, the Hittite name for Troy, may provide the historical foundation for the Trojan War tradition.[62] As a result of this instability, the Hittite king initiated correspondence in order to convince his Ahhiyawan counterpart to restore peace in the region. The Hittite record mentions a certain Tawagalawa, a possible Hittite translation for Greek Eteocles, as brother of the king of Ahhiyawa.[61][63]

Collapse (c. 1250–1100 BC)

Initial decline and revival

Large Krater with Armored Men Departing for Battle, Mycenae acropolis, 12th century BC (3402016857)
Marching soldiers observed by a female figure, in the Warrior Vase, c. 1200 BC, a krater from Mycenae

In c. 1250 BC, the first wave of destruction apparently occurred in various centers of mainland Greece for reasons that cannot be identified by archaeologists. In Boeotia, Thebes was burned to the ground, around that year or slightly later. Nearby Orchomenos shared the same fate, while the Boeotian fortifications of Gla were deserted.[64] In the Peloponnese, a number of buildings surrounding the citadel of Mycenae were attacked and burned.[65]

These incidents appear to have prompted the massive strengthening and expansion of the fortifications in various sites. In some cases, arrangements were also made for the creation of subterranean passages which led to underground cisterns. Tiryns, Midea and Athens expanded their defences with new cyclopean-style walls.[66] The extension program in Mycenae almost doubled the fortified area of the citadel. To this phase of extension belongs the impressive Lion Gate, the main entrance into the Mycenaean acropolis.[66]

It appears that after this first wave of destruction a short-lived revival of Mycenaean culture followed.[67] Mycenaean Greece continues to be mentioned in international affairs, particularly in Hittite records. In c. 1220 BC, the king of Ahhiyawa is again reported to have been involved in an anti-Hittite uprising in western Anatolia.[68] Another contemporary Hittite account reports that Ahhiyawan ships should avoid Assyrian-controlled harbors, as part of a trade embargo imposed on Assyria.[69] In general, in the second half of 13th century BC, trade was in decline in the Eastern Mediterranean, most probably due to the unstable political environment there.[70]

Final collapse

None of the defence measures appear to have prevented the final destruction and collapse of the Mycenaean states. A second destruction struck Mycenae in c. 1190 BC or shortly thereafter. This event marked the end of Mycenae as a major power. The site was then reoccupied, but on a smaller scale.[65] The palace of Pylos, in the southwestern Peloponnese, was destroyed in c. 1180 BC.[71][72] The Linear B archives found there, preserved by the heat of the fire that destroyed the palace, mention hasty defence preparations due to an imminent attack without giving any detail about the attacking force.[67]

As a result of this turmoil, specific regions in mainland Greece witnessed a dramatic population decrease, especially Boeotia, Argolis and Messenia.[67] Mycenaean refugees migrated to Cyprus and the Levantine coast.[72] Nevertheless, other regions on the edge of the Mycenaean world prospered, such as the Ionian islands, the northwestern Peloponnese, parts of Attica and a number of Aegean islands.[67] The acropolis of Athens, oddly, appears to have avoided destruction.[67]

Hypotheses for the collapse

Invasions, destructions and possible population movements during the Bronze Age Collapse, ca. 1200 BC
Invasions, destructions and possible population movements during the collapse of the Bronze Age, c. 1200 BC

The reasons for the end of the Mycenaean culture have been hotly debated among scholars. At present, there is no satisfactory explanation for the collapse of the Mycenaean palace systems. The two most common theories are population movement and internal conflict. The first attributes the destruction of Mycenaean sites to invaders.[73]

The hypothesis of a Dorian invasion, known as such in Ancient Greek tradition, that led to the end of Mycenaean Greece, is supported by sporadic archaeological evidence such as new types of burials, in particular cist graves, and the use of a new dialect of Greek, the Doric one. It appears that the Dorians moved southward gradually over a number of years and devastated the territory, until they managed to establish themselves in the Mycenaean centers.[74] A new type of ceramic also appeared, called "Barbarian Ware" because it was attributed to invaders from the north.[67] On the other hand, the collapse of Mycenaean Greece coincides with the activity of the Sea Peoples in the Eastern Mediterranean. They caused widespread destruction in Anatolia and the Levant and were finally defeated by Pharaoh Ramesses III in c. 1175 BC. One of the ethnic groups that comprised these people were the Eqwesh, a name that appears to be linked with the Ahhiyawa of the Hittite inscriptions.[75]

Alternative scenarios propose that the fall of Mycenaean Greece was a result of internal disturbances which led to internecine warfare among the Mycenaean states or civil unrest in a number of states, as a result of the strict hierarchical social system and the ideology of the wanax.[76] In general, due to the obscure archaeological picture in 12th-11th century BC Greece, there is a continuing controversy among scholars over whether the impoverished societies that succeeded the Mycenaean palatial states were newcomers or populations that already resided in Mycenaean Greece. Recent archaeological findings tend to favor the latter scenario.[67] Additional theories, concerning natural factors, such as climate change, droughts or earthquakes have also been proposed.[76] Another theory considers the decline of the Mycenaean civilization as a manifestation of a common pattern for the decline of many ancient civilizations: the Minoan, the Harrapan and the Western Roman Empire; the reason for the decline is migration due to overpopulation.[77] The period following the end of Mycenaean Greece, c. 1100–800 BC, is generally termed the "Greek Dark Ages".[78]

Political organization

Mycenaean Palace States
Reconstruction of the political landscape in c. 1400–1250 BC mainland southern Greece

Palatial states

Mycenaean palatial states, or centrally organized palace-operating polities, are recorded in ancient Greek literature and mythology (e.g., Iliad, Catalogue of Ships) and confirmed by discoveries made by modern archaeologists such as Heinrich Schliemann. Each Mycenaean kingdom was governed from the palace, which exercised control over most, if not all, industries within its realm. The palatial territory was divided into several sub-regions, each headed by its provincial center. Each province was further divided in smaller districts, the da-mo.[79] A number of palaces and fortifications appear to be part of a wider kingdom. For instance, Gla, located in the region of Boeotia, belonged to the state of nearby Orchomenos.[64] Moreover, the palace of Mycenae appeared to have ruled over a territory two to three times the size of the other palatial states in Bronze Age Greece. Its territory would have also included adjacent centers, including Tiryns and Nauplion, which could plausibly be ruled by a member of Mycenae's ruling dynasty.[80]

The unearthed Linear B texts are too fragmentary for the reconstruction of the political landscape in Mycenaean Greece and they do not support the existence of a larger Mycenaean state.[53][81] On the other hand, contemporary Hittite and Egyptian records suggest the presence of a single state under a "Great King".[82] Alternatively, based on archaeological data, some sort of confederation among a number of palatial states appears to be possible.[53] If some kind of united political entity existed, the dominant center was probably located in Thebes or in Mycenae, with the latter state being the most probable center of power.[83]

Society and administration

The Neolithic agrarian village (6000 BC) constituted the foundation of Bronze Age political culture in Greece.[84] The vast majority of the preserved Linear B records deal with administrative issues and give the impression that Mycenaean palatial administration was highly uniform with the use of the same language, terminology, system of taxation and distribution.[45][79] Considering this sense of uniformity, the Pylos archive, which is the best preserved one in the Mycenaean world, is generally taken as a representative one.[45]

The state was ruled by a king, the wanax (ϝάναξ), whose role was religious and perhaps also military and judicial.[85] The wanax oversaw virtually all aspects of palatial life, from religious feasting and offerings to the distribution of goods, craftsmen and troops.[86] Under him was the lāwāgetas ("the leader of the people"), whose role appears mainly religious. His activities possibly overlap with the wanax and is usually seen as the second-in-command.[86] Both wanax and lāwāgetas were at the head of a military aristocracy known as the eqeta ("companions" or "followers").[85][87] The land possessed by the wanax is usually the témenos (te-me-no). There is also at least one instance of a person, Enkhelyawon, at Pylos, who appears titleless in the written record but whom modern scholars regard as probably a king.[88]

A number of local officials positioned by the wanax appear to be in charge of the districts, such as ko-re-te (koreter, '"governor"), po-ro-ko-re-te (prokoreter, "deputy") and the da-mo-ko-ro (damokoros, "one who takes care of a damos"), the latter probably being appointed to take charge of the commune. A council of elders was chaired, the ke-ro-si-ja (cf. γερουσία, gerousía). The basileus, who in latter Greek society was the name of the king, refers to communal officials.[85]

In general, Mycenaean society appears to have been divided into two groups of free men: the king's entourage, who conducted administrative duties at the palace, and the people, da-mo[89] These last were watched over by royal agents and were obliged to perform duties for and pay taxes to the palace.[85] Among those who could be found in the palace were well-to-do high officials, who probably lived in the vast residences found in proximity to Mycenaean palaces, but also others, tied by their work to the palace and not necessarily better off than the members of the da-mo, such as craftsmen, farmers, and perhaps merchants. Occupying a lower rung of the social ladder were the slaves, do-e-ro, (cf. δοῦλος, doúlos).[90] These are recorded in the texts as working either for the palace or for specific deities.[85]


Mycenaean palace amphora, found in the Argolid, in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens
Mycenaean palace amphora, found in the Argolid
Mycenaean stirrup vase Louvre AO19201
Mycenaean stirrup vase found in the acropolis of Ugarit, Eastern Mediterranean (c. 1400–1300 BC)


The Mycenaean economy, given its pre-monetary nature, was focused on the redistribution of goods, commodities and labor by a central administration. The preserved Linear B records in Pylos and Knossos indicate that the palaces were closely monitoring a variety of industries and commodities, the organization of land management and the rations given to the dependent personnel.[91][92] The Mycenaean palaces maintained extensive control of the nondomestic areas of production through careful control and acquisition and distribution in the palace industries, and the tallying of produced goods.[93][94] For instance, the Knossos tablets record c. 80,000-100,000 sheep grazing in central Crete, and the quantity of the expected wool from these sheep and their offspring, as well as how this wool was allocated.[94] The archives of Pylos display a specialized workforce, where each worker belonged to a precise category and was assigned to a specific task in the stages of production, notably in textiles.[95]

Nevertheless, palatial control over resources appears to have been highly selective in spatial terms and in terms of how different industries were managed.[96] Thus, sectors like the production of perfumed oil and bronze materials were directly monitored from the palace, but the production of ceramics was only indirectly monitored.[97] Regional transactions between the palaces are also recorded on a few occasions.[98]

Large-scale infrastructure

The palatial centers organized their workforce and resources for the construction of large scale projects in the fields of agriculture and industry.[92] The magnitude of some projects indicates that this was the result of combined efforts from multiple palatial centers. Most notable of them are the drainage system of the Kopais basin in Boeotia, the building of a large dam outside Tiryns, and the drainage of the swamp in the Nemea valley.[99] Also noticeable is the construction of harbors, such as the harbor of Pylos, that were capable of accommodating large Bronze Age era vessels like the one found at Uluburun.[99] The Mycenaean economy also featured large-scale manufacturing as testified by the extent of workshop complexes that have been discovered, the largest known to date being the recent ceramic and hydraulic installations found in Euonymeia, next to Athens, that produced tableware, textiles, sails, and ropes for export and shipbuilding.[100]

The most famous project of the Mycenaean era was the network of roads in the Peloponnese.[99] This appears to have facilitated the speedy deployment of troops—for example, the remnants of a Mycenaean road, along with what appears to have been a Mycenaean defensive wall on the Isthmus of Corinth. The Mycenaean era saw the zenith of infrastructure engineering in Greece, and this appears not to have been limited to the Argive plain.[101]


Earring Mycenae Louvre Bj135
Gold earring, c. 1600 BC, Louvre Museum
Megiste-Bronze Reconstruction of a Mycenaean ship
Reconstruction of a Mycenaean ship

Trade over vast areas of the Mediterranean was essential for the economy of Mycenaean Greece. The Mycenaean palaces imported raw materials, such as metals, ivory and glass, and exported processed commodities and objects made from these materials, in addition to local products: oil, perfume, wine, wool and pottery.[92] International trade of that time was not only conducted by palatial emissaries but also by independent merchants.[102]

Based on archaeological findings in the Middle East, in particular physical artifacts, textual references, inscriptions and wall paintings, it appears that Mycenaean Greeks achieved strong commercial and cultural interaction with most of the Bronze Age people living in this region: Canaanites, Kassites, Mitanni, Assyrians, and Egyptians.[102][103][104] The 14th century Uluburun shipwreck, off the coast of southern Anatolia, displays the established trade routes that supplied the Mycenaeans with all the raw materials and items that the economy of Mycenaean Greece needed, such as copper and tin for the production of bronze products.[105] A chief export of the Mycenaeans was olive oil, which was a multi-purpose product.[106]

Cyprus appears to be the principal intermediary station between Mycenaean Greece and the Middle East, based on the considerable greater quantities of Mycenaean goods found there.[107] On the other hand, trade with the Hittite lands in central Anatolia appears to have been limited.[102][108] Trade with Troy is also well attested, while Mycenaean trade routes expanded further to the Bosphorus and the shores of the Black Sea.[109] Mycenaean swords have been found as far away as Georgia in the eastern Black Sea coast.[110]

Commercial interaction was also intense with the Italian peninsula and the western Mediterranean. Mycenaean products, especially pottery, were exported to southern Italy, Sicily and the Aeolian islands. Mycenaean products also penetrated further into Sardinia,[111][112] as well as southern Spain.[113]

Sporadic objects of Mycenaean manufacture were found in various distant locations, like in Central Europe,[114] such as in Bavaria, Germany, where an amber object inscribed with Linear B symbols has been unearthed.[115] Mycenaean bronze double axes and other objects dating from the 13th century BC have been found in Ireland and in Wessex and Cornwall in England.[116][117]


Lady of Phylakopi, 14th c BC, AM Milos, B 655, 152499
The Lady of Phylakopi; wheel-made pottery figurine of a goddess or priestess from the West Shrine in Phylakopi; late Helladic III A period, 14th century BC, Archaeological Museum of Milos

Temples and shrines are strangely rare in the Mycenaean archaeological sites. Monumental cultic structures are absent at all the palatial centers, with the exception of Mycenae. However, the cultic center of Mycenae seems to have been a later (13th century BC) development.[118] Small shrines have been identified in Asine, Berbati, Malthi and Pylos,[119] while a number of sacred enclosures have been located near Mycenae, Delphi and Amyklae.[120] Linear B records mention a number of sanctuaries dedicated to a variety of deities, at least in Pylos and Knossos. They also indicate that there were various religious festivities including offerings.[121] Written Mycenaean records mention various priests and priestesses who were responsible for specific shrines and temples.[122] The latter were prominent figures in society, and the role of Mycenaean women in religious festivities was also important, just as in Minoan Crete.[123]

The Mycenaean pantheon already included many divinities that were subsequently encountered in Classical Greece,[124] although it is difficult to determine whether these deities had the characteristics and responsibilities that would be attributed to them in later periods.[125] In general, the same divinities were worshipped throughout the Mycenaean palatial world. There may be some indications for local deities at various sites, in particular in Crete. The uniformity of Mycenaean religion is also reflected in archaeological evidence with the phi- and psi-figurines that have been found all over Late Bronze Age Greece.[118]

Poseidon (Linear B: Po-se-da-o) seems to have occupied a place of privilege. He was a chthonic deity, connected with earthquakes (E-ne-si-da-o-ne: Earth-shaker), but it seems that he also represented the river spirit of the underworld.[126] Paean (Pa-ja-wo) is probably the precursor of the Greek physician of the gods in Homer's Iliad. He was the personification of the magic-song which was supposed to "heal" the patient.[127] A number of divinities have been identified in the Mycenaean scripts only by their epithets used during later antiquity. For example, Qo-wi-ja ("cow-eyed") is a standard Homeric ephithet of Hera.[128] Ares appeared under the name Enyalios (assuming that Enyalios is not a separate god).[129] Additional divinities that can be also found in later periods include Hephaestus, Erinya, Artemis (a-te-mi-to and a-ti-mi-te) and Dionysos (Di-wo-nu-so).[130][131][132][133] Zeus also appears in the Mycenaean pantheon, but he was certainly not the chief deity.[125]

A collection of "ladies" or "mistresses", Po-ti-ni-ja (Potnia) are named in the Mycenaean scripts. As such, Athena (A-ta-na) appears in an inscription at Knossos as mistress Athena, similar to a later Homeric expression, but in the Pylos tablets she is mentioned without any accompanying word.[134] Si-to po-ti-ni-ja appears to be an agricultural goddess, possibly related to Demeter of later antiquity,[128] while in Knossos there is the "mistress of the Labyrinth".[135] The "two queens and the king" (wa-na-ssoi, wa-na-ka-te) are mentioned in Pylos.[136][137] Goddess Pe-re-swa mentioned may be related to Persephone.[128][134] A number of Mycenaean divinities seem to have no later equivalents, such as Marineus, Diwia and Komawenteia.[125]



Tiryns, map of the palace and the surrounding fortifications
Tiryns, map of the palace and the surrounding fortifications

The palatial structures at Mycenae, Tiryns and Pylos were erected on the summits of hills or rocky outcrops, dominating the immediate surroundings.[138] The best preserved are found in Pylos and Tiryns, while Mycenae and the Menelaion are only partially preserved. In Central Greece, Thebes and Orchomenos have been only partially exposed. On the other hand, the palace built at the acropolis of Athens has been almost completely destroyed. A substantial building at Dimini in Thessaly, possibly ancient Iolcos,[139] is believed by a number of archaeologists to be a palace.[138] A Mycenaean palace has been also unearthed in Laconia, near the modern village of Xirokambi.[140]

Hearth of the megaron of Pylos
The hearth of the megaron of Pylos

The palatial structures of mainland Greece share a number of common features.[141] The focal point of the socio-political aspect of a Mycenaean palace was the megaron, the throne room.[138] It was laid out around a circular hearth surrounded by four columns. The throne was generally found on the right-hand side upon entering the room, while the interior of the megaron was lavishly decorated, flaunting images designed intentionally to demonstrate the political and religious power of the ruler.[142] Access to the megaron was provided through a court, which was reached from a propylon.[141] The iconography of the palatial chambers is remarkably uniform throughout Greece. For instance, in Pylos and Tiryns the paintings are focused on marine motifs, providing depictions of octopodes, fish and dolphins.[143] Around the megaron a group of courtyards each opened upon several rooms of different dimensions, such as storerooms and workshops, as well as reception halls and living quarters.[141] In general Mycenaean palaces have yielded a wealth of artifacts and fragmentary frescoes.[141]

Additional common features are shared by the palaces of Pylos, Mycenae and Tiryns;[141] a large court with colonnades lies directly in front of the central megaron,[144] while a second, but smaller, megaron is also found inside these structures.[141] The staircases in the palace of Pylos indicate that the palaces had two stories.[145] The private quarters of the members of the royal family were presumably located on the second floor.[146]


Cyclopean masonry in the southern walls of Mycenae

The construction of defensive structures was closely linked to the establishment of the palaces in mainland Greece. The principal Mycenaean centers were well-fortified and usually situated on an elevated terrain, like on the acropolis of Athens, Tiryns and Mycenae or on coastal plains, in the case of Gla.[147] Mycenaean Greeks in general appreciated the symbolism of war as expressed in defensive architecture, reflected by the visual impressiveness of their fortifications.[147]

Passageway of the galleries within the walls of Tiryns
Part of the galleries within the walls of Tiryns

Cyclopean is the term normally applied to the masonry characteristics of Mycenaean fortification systems and describes walls built of large, unworked boulders more than 8 m (26 ft) thick and weighing several metric tonnes.[148] They were roughly fitted together without the use of mortar or clay to bind them, though smaller hunks of limestone fill the interstices. Their placement formed a polygonal pattern giving the curtain wall an irregular but imposing appearance. At the top it would have been wide enough for a walkway with a narrow protective parapet on the outer edge and with hoop-like crenellations.[149] The term Cyclopean was derived by the latter Greeks of the Classical era who believed that only the mythical giants, the Cyclopes, could have constructed such megalithic structures.[147] On the other hand, cut stone masonry is used only in and around gateways. Another typical feature of Mycenaean megalithic construction was the use of a relieving triangle above a lintel block—an opening, often triangular, designed to reduce the weight over the lintel. The space was filled with some lighter stone.[149]

Cyclopean fortifications were typical of Mycenaean walls, especially at the citadels of Mycenae, Tiryns, Argos, Crisa and Athens, while smaller boulders are found in Midea and large limestone slabs are found at Gla.[149] In the Mycenaean settlements found in Epirus and Cyprus, Cyclopean-style walls are also present,[150][151] as well as in western Anatolia.[152] Besides the citadels, isolated forts were also erected on various strategic locations. The fortification systems also incorporated technical refinements such as secret cisterns, galleries, sally ports and projecting bastions for the protection of gateways.[147] On the other hand, the palace of Pylos, although a major center of power, paradoxically appears to have been left without any defensive walls.[153]

Other architectural features

Mycenaean domestic architecture originates mainly from earlier Middle Helladic traditions (c. 2000–1650 BC) both in shape, as well as in location of settlement. The observed uniformity in domestic architecture came probably as a result of a shared past among the communities of the Greek mainland rather than as a consequence of cultural expansion of the Mycenaean Koine.[50] Moreover, varying sizes of mudbricks were used in the construction of buildings.[141]

Contrary to popular belief, some Mycenaean representative buildings already featured roofs made of fired tiles, as in Gla and Midea.[154]


The military nature of the Mycenaean Greeks is evident from the numerous weapons unearthed, the use of warrior and combat representations in contemporary art, and the preserved Greek Linear B records.[155][156] The Mycenaeans invested in the development of military infrastructure, with military production and logistics being supervised directly from the palatial centers.[156][157] According to the Linear B records in the palace of Pylos, every rural community (the damos) was obliged to supply a certain number of men who had to serve in the army. Similar service was also performed by the aristocracy.[158]

Replicas of Mycenaean swords and cups
Replicas of Mycenaean swords and cups

Mycenaean armies were initially based on heavy infantry, equipped with spears, large shields and in some occasion armor.[159] Later in the 13th century BC, Mycenaean warfare underwent major changes both in tactics and weaponry and armed units became more uniform and flexible, while weapons became smaller and lighter.[156] The spear remained the main weapon among Mycenaean warriors, while the sword played a secondary role in combat.[160] Other offensive weapons used were bows, maces, axes, slings and javelins.[160][161] The precise role and contribution of chariots on the battlefield is a matter of dispute due to the lack of sufficient evidence.[162] It appears that chariots were initially used as fighting vehicles during the 16th to 14th centuries BC, while later, in the 13th century BC, their role was limited to battlefield transport.[163]

The boar's tusk helmet was the most identifiable piece of Mycenaean armor in use from the beginning to the collapse of Mycenaean culture. It is also known from several depictions in contemporary art in Greece and the Mediterranean.[164][165] A representative piece of Mycenaean armor is the Dendra panoply (c. 1450–1400 BC) which consisted of a cuirass of a complete set of armor made up of several elements of bronze.[166] In general, most features of the later hoplite panoply of classical Greek antiquity, were already known to Mycenaean Greece.[167] "Figure-of-eight" shields were the most common type of Mycenaean shields.[168] During the Late Mycenaean period, smaller types of shields were adopted, either of completely circular shape, or almost circular with a part cut out from their lower edge.[169]

Art and pottery


Several important pieces in gold and other metals come from the Gold grave goods at Grave Circles A and B at Mycenae, including the Mask of Agamemnon, Silver Siege Rhyton, Bulls-head rhyton, and gold Nestor's Cup. The Theseus Ring, found in Athens, is one of the finest of a number of gold signet rings with tiny multi-figure scenes of high quality, many from the princely Grave Circles A and B at Mycenae.


Bull head rhyton Mycenae Grave IV, from Grave Circle A at Mycenae, 16th century BC (Archaeological Museum, Athens)
Silver repoussé rhyton with gold horns, from Grave Circle A at Mycenae, 16th century BC (Archaeological Museum, Athens)

During the Late Mycenaean period (1400–1200 BC), Mycenaean vessels/pottery exhibited similarities spanning a significant area of the Eastern Mediterranean (i.e., from the Levant to Sicily) and possibly reflecting a form of economic and political union centered at Mycenae.[170] However, the pottery of Crete during this time remained distinct indicating a degree of autonomy on the island.[170] The Mycenaean Greeks produced in large quantities a variety of diversely-styled vessels such as stirrup jars, large bowls, alabastron, krater and stemmed cups (or kylikes) resembling champagne glasses.[170]

Stirrup jars (Linear B: ka-ra-re-u, khlareus; "oil vessel"), specifically, were first invented on the island of Crete during the 16th century BC and used widely by the Mycenaeans from 1400 BC onward for transporting and storing wine and oil; the jars were usually pear-shaped or globular. As for stemmed cups (or kylikes), they evolved from Ephyraean goblets and a large quantity was discovered at a site called the "Potter's Shop" located in Zygouries. Mycenaean drinking vessels such as the stemmed cups contained single decorative motifs such as a shell, an octopus or a flower painted on the side facing away from the drinker.[170] The Mycenaean Greeks also painted entire scenes (called "Pictorial Style") on their vessels depicting warriors, chariots, horses and deities reminiscent of events described in Homer's Iliad.[171] Other items developed by the Mycenaeans include clay lamps,[172] as well as metallic vessels such as bronze tripod cauldrons (or basins).[173] A few examples of vessels in faience and ivory are also known.[174]

Figures and figurines

The Mycenaean period has not yielded sculpture of any great size. The statuary of the period consists for the most part of small terracotta figurines found at almost every Mycenaean site in mainland Greece—in tombs, in settlement debris, and occasionally in cult contexts (Tiryns, Agios Konstantinos on Methana). The majority of these figurines are female and anthropomorphic or zoomorphic. The female figurines can be subdivided into three groups which were popular at different periods, as Psi and phi type figurines, the Tau-type. The earliest are the Phi-type, which look like the Greek letter phi and their arms give the upper body of the figurine a rounded shape. The Psi-type looks like the letter Greek psi: these have outstretched upraised arms. The latest (12th century BC) are the Tau-type: these figurines look like the Greek letter tau with folded(?) arms at right angles to the body. Most figurines wear a large 'polos' hat.[175] They are painted with stripes or zigzags in the same manner as the contemporary pottery and presumably made by the same potters. Their purpose is uncertain, but they may have served as both votive objects and toys: some are found in children's graves but the vast majority of fragments are from domestic rubbish deposits.[176]

The presence of many of these figurines on sites where worship took place in the Archaic and Classical periods (approximately 200 below the sanctuary of Athena at Delphi, others at the temple of Aphaea on Aegina, at the sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas above Epidauros and at Amyklae near Sparta), suggests both that many were indeed religious in nature, perhaps as votives, but also that later places of worship may well have first been used in the Mycenaean period.[177]

Larger male, female or bovine terracotta wheelmade figures are much rarer. An important group was found in the Temple at Mycenae together with coiled clay snakes,[178] while others have been found at Tiryns and in the East and West Shrines at Phylakopi on the island of Melos.[179]


Fresco of a Mycenaean woman, circa 1300 BC
Fresco of a Mycenaean woman

The painting of the Mycenaean age was much influenced by that of the Minoan age. Fragments of wall paintings have been found in or around the palaces (Pylos, Mycenae, Tiryns) and in domestic contexts (Zygouries).[180] The largest complete wall painting depicting three female figures, probably goddesses, was found in the so-called "cult center" at Mycenae.[181] Various themes are represented: hunting, bull leaping (tauromachy), battle scenes, processions, etc. Some scenes may be part of mythological narratives, but if so their meaning eludes us. Other frescoes include geometric or stylised motifs, also used on painted pottery (see above).

Burial practices

The usual form of burial during this period was inhumation.[182] The earliest Mycenaean burials were mostly in individual graves in the form of a pit or a stone-lined cist and offerings were limited to pottery and occasional items of jewellery.[183] Groups of pit or cist graves containing elite members of the community were sometimes covered by a tumulus (mound) in the manner established since the Middle Helladic.[184] It has been argued that this form dates back to the Kurgan culture;[185] however, Mycenaean burials are in actuality an indigenous development of mainland Greece with the Shaft Graves housing native rulers.[186] Pit and cist graves remained in use for single burials throughout the Mycenaean period alongside more elaborate family graves.[187] The shaft graves at Mycenae within Grave Circles A and B belonging to the same period represent an alternative manner of grouping elite burials. Next to the deceased were found full sets of weapons, ornate staffs as well as gold and silver cups and other valuable objects which point to their social rank.[188]

Treasury of Atreus, 13th century BC royal tholos tomb near Mycenae: exterior (left) and interior (right) view.

Treasury of Atreus, 13th century BC royal tholos tomb near Mycenae-exterior
Treasury of Atreus, 13th century BC royal tholos tomb near Mycenae-interior

Beginning also in the Late Helladic period are to be seen communal tombs of rectangular form. Nevertheless, it is difficult to establish whether the different forms of burial represent a social hierarchization, as was formerly thought, with the "tholos" being the tombs of the elite rulers, the individual tombs those of the leisure class, and the communal tombs those of the people. Cremations increased in number over the course of the period, becoming quite numerous in the last phase of the Mycenaean era.[189] The tholos was introduced during the early 15th century as the new and more imposing form of elite burial.[190] The most impressive tombs of the Mycenaean era are the monumental royal tombs of Mycenae, undoubtedly intended for the royal family of the city. The most famous is the Treasury of Atreus, a tholos. A total of nine of such tholos tombs are found in the region of Mycenae, while six of them belong to a single period (Late Helladic IIa, c. 1400–1300 BC).[191] It has been argued that different dynasties or factions may have competed through conspicuous burial.[192]


Linear B (Mycenaean Greek) NAMA Tablette 7671
Linear B tablets (Mycenaean Greek)

In circa 1600 BC, the Mycenaean Greeks borrowed from the Minoan civilization its syllabic writing system (i.e., Linear A) and developed their own syllabic script known as Linear B.[193] The Linear B script was utilized by the Mycenaean palaces in Greece for administrative purposes where economic transactions were recorded on clay tablets and some pottery in the Mycenaean dialect of the Greek language.[193] The Linear B tablets were first discovered in Crete by English archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans c. 1900 and later deciphered by English architect and cryptographer Michael Ventris in 1952.[194][195] Ventris's discovery of an archaic Greek dialect in the Linear B tablets demonstrated that Mycenaean Greek was "the oldest known Greek dialect, elements of which survived in Homer’s language as a result of a long oral tradition of epic poetry."[193]


In the 8th century BC, after the end of the so-called Greek Dark Ages, Greece emerged with a network of myths and legends, the greatest of all being that of the Trojan Epic Cycle.[196] In general, the Greeks of classical antiquity idealized the Mycenaean period as a glorious period of heroes, closeness of the gods and material wealth.[197] The legends of Homer's Epics were especially and generally accepted as part of the Greek past and it was not until the 19th century that scholars began to question Homer's historicity.[196] At this time, German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann undertook the first modern archaeological excavations in Greece at the site of Mycenae in 1876.[198] Thus, Schliemann set out to prove the historical accuracy of the Iliad by identifying the places described by Homer.[196]

As part of the Mycenaean heritage that survived, the names of the gods and goddesses of Mycenaean Greece became major figures of the Olympian Pantheon of later antiquity.[199] Moreover, the language of the Mycenaeans offers the first written evidence of Greek,[200] while a significant part of the Mycenaean vocabulary can also be found in modern English.[201]

The Mycenaean Greeks were also pioneers in the field of engineering, launching large-scale projects unmatched in Europe until the Roman period, such as fortifications, bridges, culverts, aqueducts, dams and roads suitable for wheeled traffic. They also made several architectural innovations, such as the relieving triangle.[202] They were also responsible for transmitting a wide range of arts and crafts, especially of Minoan origin. The Mycenaean civilization was in general more advanced compared to the Late Bronze Age cultures of the rest of Europe.[203] Several Mycenaean attributes and achievements were borrowed or held in high regard in later periods; so, it would be no exaggeration to consider Mycenaean Greece as a cradle of civilization.[202]

See also



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  3. ^ Tandy 2001, p. xii (Fig. 1); p. 2: "The strongest evidence for Mycenaean presence in Epirus is found in the coastal zone of the lower Acheron River, which in antiquity emptied into a bay on the Ionian coast known from ancient sources as Glykys Limin (Figure 2-A)."
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  94. ^ a b Budin 2009, p. 94.
  95. ^ Chadwick 1976, p. 152.
  96. ^ Olsen 2014, p. 6.
  97. ^ Budin 2009, p. 96.
  98. ^ Tartaron 2013, p. 24.
  99. ^ a b c Kelder 2010, p. 116.
  100. ^ Gilstrap, William; Day, Peter; Kaza, Konstantina; Kardamaki, Elina (9 May 2013). Pottery Production at the Late Mycenaean site of Alimos, Attica. Materials and Industries in the Mycenaean World: Current Approaches to the Study of Materials and Industries in Prehistoric Greece, University of Nottingham, 9–10 May 2013 (PDF). Nottingham, UK. pp. 13–14.
  101. ^ Kelder 2010, p. 117.
  102. ^ a b c Cline 2007, p. 200.
  103. ^ Stubbings 1951, IV: Mycenaean II Pottery in Syria and Palestine; V: Mycenaean III Pottery in Syria and Palestine.
  104. ^ Petrie 1894.
  105. ^ Cline 2012, pp. 300, 387, 787.
  106. ^ Castleden 2005, p. 107: "Huge quantities of olive oil were produced and it must have been a major source of wealth. The simple fact that southern Greece is far more suitable climatically for olive production may explain why the Mycenaean civilization made far greater advances in the south than in the north. The oil had a variety of uses, in cooking, as a dressing, as soap, as lamp oil, and as a base for manufacturing unguents."
  107. ^ Tartaron 2013, p. 29; Kling 1989; Nikolaou 1973; International Archaeological Symposium 1973.
  108. ^ Cline 2007, p. 197.
  109. ^ Cline 2007, p. 196.
  110. ^ Boston University – The Historical Society.
  111. ^ Tartaron 2013, p. 22; Feuer 2004, pp. 155–157; Balmuth & Tykot 1998, "The Mycenaeans in Sardinia", p. 400; Runnels & Murray 2001, p. 15.
  112. ^ Ridgway 1992, p. 4; Taylour 1958; Fisher 1998; Runnels & Murray 2001, p. 15; Vianello 2005, "Eastern Sicily and the Aeolian Islands", p. 51; Feuer 2004, pp. 155–157; van Wijngaarden 2002, Part IV: The Central Mediterranean, pp. 203-260.
  113. ^ de la Cruz 1988, pp. 77–92; Ridgway 1992, p. 3; Runnels & Murray 2001, p. 15.
  114. ^ Castleden 2005.
  115. ^ "Amber object bearing Linear B symbols" (in German). Freising. 1999. Archived from the original on 30 August 2016. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  116. ^ Budin 2009, p. 53: "One of the most extraordinary examples of the extent of Mycenaean influence was the Pelynt Dagger, a fragment of a Late Helladic III sword, which has come to light in the tomb of a Wessex chieftain in southern England!"
  117. ^ Feuer 2004, p. 259.
  118. ^ a b Kelder 2010, p. 115.
  119. ^ Castleden 2005, p. 146.
  120. ^ Castleden 2005, p. 157.
  121. ^ Kelder 2010, p. 114.
  122. ^ Castleden 2005, p. 144.
  123. ^ Castleden 2005, p. 160.
  124. ^ Paul, Adams John (10 January 2010). "Mycenaean Divinities". Northridge, CA: California State University. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
  125. ^ a b c Castleden 2005, p. 143.
  126. ^ Nilsson 1940.
  127. ^ Nilsson 1967, Volume I, pp. 500–504; Chadwick 1976, p. 88: "Pa-ja-wo suggested Homeric Paieon, which earlier would have been Paiawon, later Paidn, an alternative name of Apollo, if not again a separate god."
  128. ^ a b c Chadwick 1976, p. 95
  129. ^ Chadwick 1976, pp. 95, 99.
  130. ^ Nilsson 1967, Volume I, pp. 565–568.
  131. ^ Chadwick 1976, p. 99.
  132. ^ Chadwick & Baumbach 1963, p. 176f.
  133. ^ Kn V 52 (text 208 in Ventris and Chadwick); Chadwick 1976, p. 88.
  134. ^ a b Mylonas 1966, p. 159.
  135. ^ Chadwick 1976, pp. 92–93.
  136. ^ Mylonas 1966, p. 159: "Wa-na-ssoi, wa-na-ka-te, (to the two queens and the king). Wanax is best suited to Poseidon, the special divinity of Pylos. The identity of the two divinities addressed as wanassoi, is uncertain."
  137. ^ Chadwick 1976, p. 76.
  138. ^ a b c Fields 2004, p. 19
  139. ^ Cline 2012, p. 485
  140. ^ Ταράντου, Σοφία (28 April 2009). "Βρήκαν μυκηναϊκό ανάκτορο". Retrieved 25 September 2013.
  141. ^ a b c d e f g Kelder 2010, p. 109
  142. ^ Fields 2004, p. 21
  143. ^ Kelder 2010, p. 110
  144. ^ Fields 2004, p. 20.
  145. ^ Fields 2004, p. 45
  146. ^ Fields 2004, p. 46
  147. ^ a b c d Fields 2004, p. 10.
  148. ^ Schofield 2006, p. 78.
  149. ^ a b c Fields 2004, p. 11.
  150. ^ Tandy 2001, p. 20: "In LH IBBB (ca. 1310-1190), Mycenaean material culture spread widely throughout coastal and inland Epirus; in this period Mycenaean engagement in Epirus was strongest, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Though the Kiperi tholos may have gone out of use early in LH IIIB, the Cyclopean wall found there, as well as those at Ephyra, Kastriza, and Ayia Eleni, cannot have been built (and probably after) LH IIIB."
  151. ^ Iacovou 2013, p. 610. Iacovou quotes Vassos Karageorghis who states that "The introduction of 'Cyclopean'-type walls at the very beginning of the LC IIIA period at Enkomi, Kition, Sinda and Maa-Palaeokastron was due to the arrival of Mycenaean settlers in Cyprus."
  152. ^ Kelder 2010, p. 127.
  153. ^ Fields 2004, p. 44.
  154. ^ Wikander 1990, p. 288; Shear 2000, p. 134.
  155. ^ Cline 2012, p. 305.
  156. ^ a b c Cline 2012, p. 313.
  157. ^ Palaima 1999, pp. 367–368.
  158. ^ D'Amato & Salimbeti 2011, p. 10.
  159. ^ Howard 2011, p. 7.
  160. ^ a b Howard 2011, p. 50.
  161. ^ Schofield 2006, p. 306; D'Amato & Salimbeti 2011, p. 13.
  162. ^ Howard 2011, p. 63.
  163. ^ Fields 2004, p. 22.
  164. ^ Schofield 2006, p. 119.
  165. ^ D'Amato & Salimbeti 2011, p. 23.
  166. ^ D'Amato & Salimbeti 2011, p. 27.
  167. ^ Kagan & Viggiano 2013, p. 36: "In fact, most of the essential items of the "hoplite panoply" were known to Mycenaean Greece, including the metallic helmet and the single thrusting spear."
  168. ^ D'Amato & Salimbeti 2011, p. 20.
  169. ^ Cline 2012, p. 312; Schofield 2006, p. 123.
  170. ^ a b c d Castleden 2005, p. 135.
  171. ^ Castleden 2005, pp. 135–137: "Large kraters decorated in Pictorial Style are found almost exclusively in Cyprus, and for a long time it was naturally assumed that they were manufactured there, but a few examples have been found on the Greek mainland, mostly near Mycenae, and it has now been established that they were all manufactured at workshops close to Mycenae, probably at Berbati just to the east of the city, where there are the right clay sources. The ware was probably specifically made for export to Cyprus, where they were used as centerpieces for drinking ceremonies. The decoration appears to have been painted on at high speed and the effect is sometimes crude; Reynold Higgins calls it 'barbarous', which is a fair description, but the scenes showing warriors, horses and chariots can still tell us much about everyday life in Mycenaean Greece, and as much again about Mycenaean religious beliefs and mythology. One krater from Enkomi in Cyprus shows a charioteer with his groom riding along, perhaps into battle, while a long-robed god, Zeus perhaps, stands in his way holding the scales of destiny that will decide his fate. It is an archetypal scene reminiscent of several in the Iliad, where the gods are shown intervening in battle and deciding the outcome."
  172. ^ Furumark 1941, p. 78: "There are two types of Mycenaean lamps. One of these (type 321) has a broad horizontal lip with two opposite depressions for wicks. This type is the clay version of a Minoan stone lamp, known in many examples both from Crete and from the Mainland. The other (type 321 a) has one wick-spout and a handle at the opposite side."
  173. ^ Castleden 2005, pp. 56, 166.
  174. ^ Schofield 2006, p. 107.
  175. ^ French 1971, pp. 101–187.
  176. ^ See account of their use in K.A. and Diana Wardle "The Child's Cache at Assiros, Macedonia", in Sally Crawford and Gillian Shepherd (eds): Children, Childhood and Society: Institute for Archaeology and Antiquity Interdisciplinary Studies (Volume I) Oxford: Archaeopress, 2007.
  177. ^ Hägg & Marinatos 1981, Robin Hägg, "Official and Popular Cults in Mycenaean Greece", pp. 35–39
  178. ^ Moore, Taylour & French 1999
  179. ^ Renfrew, Mountjoy & Macfarlane 1985
  180. ^ Immerwahr 1990.
  181. ^ Taylour 1969, pp. 91–97; Taylour 1970, pp. 270–280.
  182. ^ Cavanagh & Mee 1998.
  183. ^ Taylour, French & Wardle 2007; Alden 2000.
  184. ^ Pelon 1976.
  185. ^ Hammond 1967, p. 90.
  186. ^ Dickinson 1977, pp. 33–34, 53, 59–60.
  187. ^ Lewartowski 2000.
  188. ^ Dickinson 1977, pp. 53, 107; Anthony 2007, p. 48.
  189. ^ Papadimitriou 2001.
  190. ^ Castleden 2005, p. 97.
  191. ^ Kelder 2010, p. 95.
  192. ^ Graziado 1991, pp. 403–440.
  193. ^ a b c "Linear A and Linear B". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  194. ^ "Sir Arthur Evans". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  195. ^ "Michael Ventris". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  196. ^ a b c Castleden 2005, p. 2.
  197. ^ Hansen 2004, p. 7.
  198. ^ Sansone 2004, "Greece in the Bronze Age", pp. 7–8.
  199. ^ Castleden 2005, p. 235.
  200. ^ Castleden 2005, p. 228.
  201. ^ Vallance, Richard (2015). "Did you Know you Speak Mycenaean Greek? You do!". Retrieved 30 March 2016. Whether we realize it or not, not only are tens of thousands of English words direct derivatives of ancient Greek, but some are derived even from Mycenaean Greek, which makes them very ancient indeed!
  202. ^ a b Castleden 2005, p. 231
  203. ^ Castleden 2005, p. 230.


Further reading

External links

Achaeans (Homer)

The Achaeans (; Ancient Greek: Ἀχαιοί Akhaioí, "the Achaeans" or "of Achaea") constitute one of the collective names for the Greeks in Homer's Iliad (used 598 times) and Odyssey. The other common names are Danaans (; Δαναοί Danaoi; used 138 times in the Iliad) and Argives (; Ἀργεῖοι Argeioi; used 182 times in the Iliad) while Panhellenes (Πανέλληνες Panhellenes, "All of the Greeks") and Hellenes (; Ἕλληνες Hellenes) both appear only once; all of the aforementioned terms were used synonymously to denote a common Greek civilizational identity. In the historical period, the Achaeans were the inhabitants of the region of Achaea, a region in the north-central part of the Peloponnese. The city-states of this region later formed a confederation known as the Achaean League, which was influential during the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC.


Arzawa was the name of a region and a political entity (a "kingdom" or a federation of local powers) in Western Anatolia in the second half of the 2nd millennium BC (roughly from late 15th century BC until the beginning of the 12th century BC). The core of Arzawa is believed to be along the Kestros River (Küçük Menderes), with its capital at Apasa, later known as Ephesus. When the Hittites conquered Arzawa it was divided into three Hittite provinces: a southern province called Mira along the Maeander River, which would later become known as Caria; a northern province called the Seha River Land, along the Gediz River, which would later become known as Lydia; and an eastern province called Hapalla.A successor of the Assuwa league, which also included parts of western Anatolia, but was conquered by the Hittites in c. 1400 BC. Arzawa was the western neighbour and rival of the Middle and New Hittite Kingdoms. On the other hand, it was in close contact with the Ahhiyawa of the Hittite texts, which corresponds to the Achaeans of Mycenaean Greece. Moreover, Achaeans and Arzawa formed a coalition against the Hittites, in various periods.

Boar's tusk helmet

Helmets using ivory from boar's tusks were known in the Mycenaean world from the 17th century BC (Shaft Graves, Mycenae) to the 10th century BC (Elateia, Central Greece). The helmet was made through the use of slivers of boar tusks which were attached to a leather base, padded with felt, in rows. A description of a boar's tusk helmet appears in book ten of Homer's Iliad, as Odysseus is armed for a night raid to be conducted against the Trojans.

Meriones gave Odysseus a bow, a quiver and a sword, and put a cleverly made leather helmet on his head. On the inside there was a strong lining on interwoven straps, onto which a felt cap had been sewn in. The outside was cleverly adorned all around with rows of white tusks from a shiny-toothed boar, the tusks running in alternate directions in each row.

Μηριόνης δ' Ὀδυσῆϊ δίδου βιὸν ἠδὲ φαρέτρην

καὶ ξίφος, ἀμφὶ δέ οἱ κυνέην κεφαλῆφιν ἔθηκε

ῥινοῦ ποιητήν: πολέσιν δ' ἔντοσθεν ἱμᾶσιν

ἐντέτατο στερεῶς: ἔκτοσθε δὲ λευκοὶ ὀδόντες

ἀργιόδοντος ὑὸς θαμέες ἔχον ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα

εὖ καὶ ἐπισταμένως: μέσσῃ δ' ἐνὶ πῖλος ἀρήρει.

Fragments of ivory which might have come from helmets of this kind have been discovered on Mycenaean sites (at Dendra, for instance, fragments were found alongside the bronze panoply excavated in 1960) and an ivory plaque, also from a Mycenaean site, represents a helmet of this kind. Although they would not provide as good protection as a metal helmet, they may have been worn by some leaders as a status symbol, or a means of identification.

Homer specifies that the helmet given by Meriones to Odysseus was an heirloom, passed down through the generations, a detail which perhaps suggests its value. Although the number of plates required to make an entire helmet varies - anything from 40 to 140 can be required - it has been estimated that forty to fifty boars would have to be killed to make just one helmet.

Dendra panoply

The Dendra panoply or Dendra armour is an example of Mycenaean-era panoply (full-body armor) made of bronze plates uncovered in the village of Dendra in the Argolid, Greece.


The Denyen is purported to be one of the groups constituting the Sea Peoples.

Greek Dark Ages

The Greek Dark Ages, Homeric Age (named for the fabled poet, Homer) or Geometric period (so called after the characteristic Geometric art of the time),

is the period of Greek history from the end of the Mycenaean palatial civilization around 1100 BC to the first signs of the Greek poleis (city states) in the 9th century BC.

The archaeological evidence shows a widespread collapse of Bronze Age civilization in the Eastern Mediterranean world at the outset of the period, as the great palaces and cities of the Mycenaeans were destroyed or abandoned. At about the same time, the Hittite civilization suffered serious disruption and cities from Troy to Gaza were destroyed and in Egypt the New Kingdom fell into disarray that led to the Third Intermediate Period.

Following the collapse, fewer and smaller settlements suggest famine and depopulation. In Greece, the Linear B writing of the Greek language used by Mycenaean bureaucrats ceased. The decoration on Greek pottery after about 1100 BC lacks the figurative decoration of Mycenaean ware and is restricted to simpler, generally geometric styles (1000–700 BC).

It was previously thought that all contact was lost between mainland Hellenes and foreign powers during this period, yielding little cultural progress or growth, but artifacts from excavations at Lefkandi on the Lelantine Plain in Euboea show that significant cultural and trade links with the east, particularly the Levant coast, developed from c. 900 BC onwards. Additionally, evidence has emerged of the new presence of Hellenes in sub-Mycenaean Cyprus and on the Syrian coast at Al-Mina.

Greek gardens

A distinction is made between Greek gardens, made in ancient Greece, and Hellenistic gardens, made under the influence of Greek culture in late classical times. Little is known about either.


In Greek mythology, the Heracleidae (; Ancient Greek: Ἡρακλεῖδαι) or Heraclids were the numerous descendants of Heracles (Hercules), especially applied in a narrower sense to the descendants of Hyllus, the eldest of his four sons by Deianira (Hyllus was also sometimes thought of as Heracles' son by Melite). Other Heracleidae included Macaria, Lamos, Manto, Bianor, Tlepolemus, and Telephus. These Heraclids were a group of Dorian kings who conquered the Peloponnesian kingdoms of Mycenae, Sparta and Argos; according to the literary tradition in Greek mythology, they claimed a right to rule through their ancestor. Since Karl Otfried Müller's Die Dorier (1830, English translation 1839), I. ch. 3, their rise to dominance has been associated with a "Dorian invasion".

Though details of genealogy differ from one ancient author to another, the cultural significance of the mythic theme, that the descendants of Heracles, exiled after his death, returned some generations later to reclaim land that their ancestors had held in Mycenaean Greece, was to assert the primal legitimacy of a traditional ruling clan that traced its origin, thus its legitimacy, to Heracles.

List of kings of Argos

Before the establishment of a democracy, the Ancient Greek city-state of Argos was ruled by kings. Most of them are probably mythical or only semi-historical. This list is based on that given by Eusebius of Caesarea.

An alternative version supplied by Tatian of the original 17 consecutive kings of Argos includes Apis and Argios between Argos and Triopas.

List of kings of Athens

Before the Athenian democracy, the tyrants, and the Archons, the city-state of Athens was ruled by kings. Most of these are probably mythical or only semi-historical.


The megaron (; Ancient Greek: μέγαρον), plural megara , was the great hall in ancient Greek palace complexes. It was a rectangular hall, surrounded by four columns, that was fronted by an open, two-columned porch, and had a central, open hearth that vented though an oculus in the roof. It is believed that the ruler of the area, called a wanax, had his throne placed in room containing the hearth. Because of this, the main room is sometimes referred to as the "throne room". It was particularly Aegean, due to the open porch which was usually supported by columns. The entrance was the feature that helps to distinguish the megaron, due to its position, which was along the shorter wall so that the depth was larger than the width. There were often many rooms around the central megaron, such as archive rooms, offices, oil-press rooms, workshops, potteries, shrines, corridors, armories, and storerooms for such goods as wine, oil and wheat.

Military of Mycenaean Greece

The military nature of Mycenaean Greece (c. 1600–1100 BC) in the Late Bronze Age is evident by the numerous weapons unearthed, warrior and combat representations in contemporary art, as well as by the preserved Greek Linear B records. The Mycenaeans invested in the development of military infrastructure with military production and logistics being supervised directly from the palatial centres. This militaristic ethos inspired later Ancient Greek tradition, and especially Homer's epics, which are focused on the heroic nature of the Mycenaean-era warrior élite.Late Bronze Age Greece was divided into a series of warrior kingdoms, the most important being centered in Mycenae, to which the culture of this era owes its name, Tiryns, Pylos and Thebes. From the 15th century BC, Mycenaean power stoed expanding towards the Aegean, the Anatolian coast and Cyprus. Mycenaean armies shared several common features with other contemporary Late Bronze Age powers: they were initially based on heavy infantry, with spears, large shields and in some occasions armor. In the 13th century BC, Mycenaean units underwent a transformation in tactics and weaponry and became more uniform and flexible and their weapons became smaller and lighter. Some representative types of Mycenaean armor/weapons were the boar's tusk helmet and the "Figure-of-eight" shield. Moreover, most features of the later hoplite panoply of Classical Greece were already known at this time.

Mycenaean Greek

Mycenaean Greek is the most ancient attested form of the Greek language, on the Greek mainland, Crete and Cyprus in Mycenaean Greece (16th to 12th centuries BC), before the hypothesised Dorian invasion, often cited as the terminus post quem for the coming of the Greek language to Greece. The language is preserved in inscriptions in Linear B, a script first attested on Crete before the 14th century. Most inscriptions are on clay tablets found in Knossos, in central Crete, as well as in Pylos, in the southwest of the Peloponnese. Other tablets have been found at Mycenae itself, Tiryns and Thebes and at Chania, in Western Crete. The language is named after Mycenae, one of the major centres of Mycenaean Greece.

The tablets long remained undeciphered, and many languages were suggested for them, until Michael Ventris deciphered the script in 1952.

The texts on the tablets are mostly lists and inventories. No prose narrative survives, much less myth or poetry. Still, much may be glimpsed from these records about the people who produced them and about Mycenaean Greece, the period before the so-called Greek Dark Ages.

Mycenaean religion

The religious element is difficult to identify in Mycenaean Greece (c. 1600-1100 BC), especially as regards archaeological sites, where it remains problematic to pick out a place of worship with certainty. John Chadwick points out that at least six centuries lie between the earliest presence of Proto-Greek speakers in Hellas and the earliest inscriptions in the Mycenaean script known as Linear B, during which concepts and practices will have fused with indigenous Pre-Greek beliefs, and—if cultural influences in material culture reflect influences in religious beliefs—with Minoan religion. As for these texts, the few lists of offerings that give names of gods as recipients of goods reveal nothing about religious practices, and there is no surviving literature. John Chadwick rejected a confusion of Minoan and Mycenaean religion derived from archaeological correlations and cautioned against "the attempt to uncover the prehistory of classical Greek religion by conjecturing its origins and guessing the meaning of its myths" above all through treacherous etymologies. Moses I. Finley detected very few authentic Mycenaean reflections in the eighth-century Homeric world, in spite of its "Mycenaean" setting. However, Nilsson asserts, based not on uncertain etymologies but on religious elements and on the representations and general function of the gods, that a lot of Minoan gods and religious conceptions were fused in the Mycenaean religion. From the existing evidence, it appears that the Mycenaean religion was the mother of the Greek religion. The Mycenaean pantheon already included many divinities that can be found in classical Greece.

Paean (god)

In Greek mythology, Paean (Ancient Greek: Παιάν), Paeëon or Paieon (Παιήων), or Paeon or Paion (Παιών) was the physician of the gods.

Polis, Cyprus

Polis (or Polis Chrysochous; Greek: Πόλη Χρυσοχούς or Πόλις Χρυσοχούς) is a small town at the north-west end of the island of Cyprus, at the centre of Chrysochous Bay, and on the edge of the Akamas peninsula nature reserve. It is a quiet tourist resort, the inhabitants' income being supplemented by agriculture and fishing.

Polis is served by the fishing port of Latchi. Polis is close to the beautiful Akamas peninsula, a nature reserve.

Protogeometric style

The Protogeometric style (or "Proto-Geometric") is a style of Ancient Greek pottery led by Athens produced between roughly 1050 and 900 BC, the period of the Greek Dark Ages and the beginning of the Archaic period. After the collapse of the Mycenaean-Minoan Palace culture and the ensuing Greek Dark Ages, the Protogeometric style emerged around the mid 11th century BCE as the first expression of a reviving civilization. Following on from the development of a faster potter's wheel, vases of this period are markedly more technically accomplished than earlier Dark Age examples. The decoration of these pots is restricted to purely abstract elements and very often includes broad horizontal bands about the neck and belly and concentric circles applied with compass and multiple brush. Many other simple motifs can be found, but unlike many pieces in the following Geometric style, typically much of the surface is left plain.Like many pieces, the example illustrated includes a colour change in the main band, arising from a firing fault. Both the red and black colour use the same clay, differently levigated and fired. As the Greeks learnt to control this variation, the path to their distinctive three-phase firing technique opened.

Some of the innovations included some new Mycenean influenced shapes, such as the belly-handled amphora, the neck handled amphora, the krater, and the lekythos. Attic artists redesigned these vessels using the fast wheel to increase the height and therefore the area available for decoration.

From Athens the style spread to several other centres.

Shaft tomb

A shaft tomb or shaft grave is a type of deep rectangular burial structure, similar in shape to the much shallower cist grave, containing a floor of pebbles, walls of rubble masonry, and a roof constructed of wooden planks.

Theseus Ring

The Theseus Ring is a gold signet ring that dates back to the 15th-century BC, in the Mycenaean period, though the subject is typical of Minoan art. The ring is gold and measures 2.7 x 1.8 cm. On the ring is a depiction of a bull-leaping scene, which includes a lion to the left and what may be a tree on the right. It comes from the area of Anafiotika in the Plaka, the ancient city center of Athens, where it was found in a pile of earth during building operations. It now belongs to the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

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