Minoans and Mycenaeans of Ancient Greece


Minoans and Mycenaeans of

Ancient Greece

A Land Called Hellas

 Peninsula and series of island in the Aegean Sea

 Rocky, mountainous peninsula with little natural running water

 Cyclades – Greek islands in the


 Crete – largest island in the


 Geographical fragmentation led to political fragmentation

 Communication weak b/c of rough travel between settlements

First Peoples of Greece

Neolithic villages and farming sites on Crete and mainland – but did not establish contact with each until 2000 B.C.E.

Adoption of metallurgy increased prosperity – bronze tools and weapons

Central location of Crete allowed for trade and contact with other civilizations – development of Aegean economy

Center of Mediterranean trade

These factors led to the rise of Minoan culture on Crete

The Minoans

 The name “Minoan” comes from the mythical King Minos (of

Minotaur fame…)

Understanding of Minoan culture is limited b/c their literature has not been deciphered – Linear A

Instead, we examine the art and archeology!

Minoan culture centered around the palace

– political and economic center of society

 Ex: Palace at Knossos

Ruled by a king and his nobles

 Farmers, shepherds, artisans, merchants

 Slaves

The Minoan Frescoes

Most prevalent form of Minoan art

 Depict a variety of scenes…

 Women and men leading religious activities

 Entertainment (i.e. bull jumping)

 Sea life and natural world

 People hunting, in court, daily activities

Crete was possibly more egalitarian than other ancient cultures

Here come the Mycenaeans!

Arrival of Greek speaking peoples around 2000 B.C.E.

Three main groups

– all considered themselves Greek

 Aeolians – Thessaly and Boetia

 Ionians – Attica and Euboea

 Dorians – Argos and Laconia (Sparta)

Founded powerful kingdom at Mycenae – became the


 Also founded kingdoms at Thebes, Athens, and other sites

 Center of economic and political life was the king and palace

Extensive division of labor controlled by the palace

 Written language known as

Linear B

Used to record economic activity

 Recorded offerings to familiar deities – Zeus, Apollo, Athena

Linear B deciphered in 1950s

 Study of Linear B tablets shows that Greeks brought their religion and deities with them when they migrated to


Mycenaeans vs. Minoans

 Contact between the two groups initially peaceful

 1450 B.C.E. Mycenaeans attacked Crete

Destroyed many palaces – including Knossos

 Mycenaneans benefitted from the collapse of the Minoans

Access to more Mediterranean trade – more money!

Imported luxury goods

Mycenaean ceramics widely distributed across Mediterranean

 Mycenaeans adopted many aspects of Minoan culture (ex:


Frescoes suggest more militaristic society

– lots of warriors and hunters

Fall of the Mycenaeans and Dark

Age Greece

 Between 1300 and 1000 B.C.E. Mycenaeans experienced attacks from outside invaders – Sea Peoples or Dorians?

Discord between kingdoms led to weak defense

Part of larger collapse of societies at end of Bronze Age

 Fall of Mycenaeans ushered in Dark Age, 1100-800 B.C.E.

Society was localized, poor, illiterate

Widespread depopulation and migration

Greek people spread to outlying parts of Greece, Asia Minor, and


 However, the Greek people and culture survived when other empires collapsed

Greek religious cults and small scale social organization

Ways of Interpreting Myth

As a belief system

As disguised history

As disguised philosophy or allegory

As fables illustrating moral truths

As allegories of natural events

As pre-scientific explanation

As charters for customs, institutions, or beliefs

As religious power, or metaphors for the unknown

As expressions of religious rituals

As examples of psychological archetypes

As stories

As embodying irreconcilable structural conflicts in social systems