Mycenae History

Mycenae History
About the history of Mycenae, Greece

The Mycenaean period extends for over four centuries, after which Mycenae disappeared and fell into oblivion, to the point that many people even thought it had never existed. Throughout the ages, the only testimony which confirm the existence of the Mycenaean empire is the myths and the literature sources. For example, the Mycenaean war against Troy was poetically told by Homer, although this was taken as fiction. The history of Mycenae was an important period for Greece and influenced the course of the country.

The amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann discovered the city of Troy by basing his investigation on the information given by Homer. Then, he discovered the legendary city of Mycenae in north eastern Peloponnese. These two excavations confirmed that the epics of Homer were not just fiction but contained a large amount of truth.

The monarchic organisation of the Mycenaean society was characterised by the concentration of power to the kings. Unlike Minoan Crete, in Mycenae this wealth was not shared with the rest of the society. The Mycenaean kings were constantly at war, as this civilisation had an important warrior profile, characterised by promoting battles and invading territories. According to the remaining records found in Asia Minor and the Middle East, the Mycenaean army was included in the raider lists of the Egyptians. Their war character was also shown when the Minoan civilization got weaker due to a series of earthquakes. Apparently, the Mycenaean warriors took advantage of this situation to conquer Crete.

The war profile of the Mycenaean culture is also depicted in the Cyclopean Walls, the huge walls made of gigantic stones that surrounded the Mycenaean towns for protection. The legend says that human were impossible to build these walls with the technology of that era, so the walls must have been constructed by Cyclops. This war environment had a deep influence in the art of Mycenae, which in this case was obviously characterised by warfare and hunting themes. This contrasts to the Minoan style and way of life, more dedicated to the every day life.

On the other hand, after the invasions over the Aegean populations, the Mycenaeans finally imposed their culture over them. Another activity, apart from war and invasions, was trading. The Mycenaean people developed trade, although not at the level of the Minoans. They usually traded oil, animal skins and other raw articles in exchange for fine objects like jewellery from Crete, Egypt and Asia Minor, all of which used to stand out in the productions of such objects. However, as it was mentioned at first, the opulence provided by this activity was just enjoyed by the kings and a few well-off officials.

Such expensive and fine objects have been frequently discovered in the tomb of kings and other members of the royal family as offerings to the dead. The Mycenaean tombs, also known as tholos, had vaulted roofs and two rooms: one room for the dead and another larger room for the offerings. The most famous vaulted tomb is the Treasury of Atreus, located in a walking distance from the archaeological site of Mycenae, that is believed to be the tomb of king Agamemnon. It is quite interesting that the tombs of unwanted people or criminals were constructed outside the city gates.

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