The Mycenaeans.


The Mycenaeans were a Bronze Age Indo-European people who spoke a form of the Proto-Greek language . They moved into the Greek mainland somewhere from the Danube region at about 2100 BC.

Mycenaeans
The Mycenaeans.
They were aggressive and war mongering, making wide use of battle chariots. Their leaders were very rich and wore heavy full armour, resembling that of medieval Knights. This type of armour was not to be seen again for centuries in the Greek world.

They subjugated and assimilated local pre-Greek peoples settling down and adopting many aspects of the local Aegean cultures the most important of them being the Minoans.

Mycenaean Bronze Age war chariot.

They waged war and engaged in sea trade, reaching even Cyprus the Levant and Egypt. They flourished between 1600 and 1200 BC until the Bronze Age collapse.

The Myceneans traded oil, wine, wool, tin and copper, metals prized very high among them and timber for ship building.

Some very important Mycenaean cities emerged-like Mycenae, Tyrins and Pylos which had formidable fortifications, giant stone walls known as Cyclopian walls.

The eqetai-followers of the wanax (king).

Their name comes from Mycenae, which was excavated by Heinrich Schliemann, beginning in 1876.

Their kings known as wanax were buried in huge round stone tombs known as circle A tombs by the archaeologists. Many luxury artifacts were found in these tombs ,like golden masks and jewels. Weapons,swords,spears and helmets as well.

Golden Mycenaean funeral mask.

It is not yet known whether there was a unified central power but various Mycenaean kingdoms have being confirmed.

Mycenaean kingdoms

They gradually expanded their influence in all Southern mainland Greece the islands of central Aegean the coasts of south western Asia Minor, Cyprus and Crete where their main rival the Minoans lived.

They had close interactions and were greatly influenced by the powerful Minoan civilization.

Mycenaeans and Minoans.
They were probably clients once to the Minoans forced to pay tribute. According to the myth the Athenians were forced to send 14 young nobles ,seven young men and seven maidens, to king Minos of Crete to be sacrificed to the Minotaur a half human, half bull beast which lived in the Labyrinth underneath Minos's palace. They were to be offered every seven years.

Theseus kills the Minotaur.

Theseus,  the son of king Aegeus of Athens volunteered to become a part of the third mission in order to kill the Minotaur and end the sacrificial offerings.

He slipped into the Labyrinth and killed the Minotaur with the help of princess Ariadne that fell in love with him,the daughter of king Minos.

The Mycenaeans finally shook off Minoan dominance indeed and they even captured Crete subjugating them and ending Minoan thalasocrassy. This word comes from Greek thalassa, sea, and kratos, power. Thus thalassocrassy domination of the seas.

After capturing Crete the Mycenaeans adapted the Minoan Linear A script to their own language creating Linear B the first Greek alphabet.

Linear A and Linear B were inscribed in clay tablets. Thousands of Linear B tablets were found in various palace archives. The Mycenaeans mainly recorded traded goods in these tablets.

Linear B tablet

Michael Ventris, an  architect and skilled cryptographer, first noticed that Linear B had Greek like features .At first this was considered propostrous by Chadwick, a linguist and expert in the Ancient Greek language. Chadwick called Ventris an amateur after hearing an interview of Ventris and his claims on the radio.

But after studying Ventris's claims he became the first one to support him over the Greekness of Linear B. The two of them subsequently joined forces which eventually led to the decipherment of Linear B proving it was a form of early Greek.

The decipheres of Linear B.
Alice Kober,Michael Ventris, John Chadwick.

The real foundation for the decipherment of Linear B was laid by the groundbreaking work of  Alice Kober, an American classisist who undertook an enormous amount of work by comparing and classifying Linear B symbols. She first discovered the script was used for an inflected language not mentioning which one though.

She identified three cases for nouns, the famous 'triplets' as Ventris called them .She noticed that in every case some symbols remained always the same while others changed.

Kober's triplets
Kober A.E. 'The Minoan Scripts:Fact and Theory', American journal of archaeology 52,no 1(1948)

This was clear evidence that the underlying language of Linear B was an inflected one like western languages. Thus the syllabic nature of the script was not fit for the language it represented. 

She didn't have a chance to finish her work. She died of cancer aged 43 in 1950, two years before the decipherment of the script.

Linear A remains undeciphered to this day and it is thought to represent the non-Greek Minoan language.

There are indications that the Mycenaeans interacted and rivaled the powerful Hittite Empire in Western Asia Minor.

The Hittite Tawagalawa letter mentions the Ahhiyawa (Mycenaeans?)

In a Hittite letter of an unknown Hittite king to Tawagalawa the brother of the king of the Ahhiyawa.

In the same letter the Hittite king implies that Milawanda, Miletus, was under his influence. Miletus was eventually captured by the Myceneans putting it under their influence.

Is it believed that the Homeric legends of the Trojan war in the Iliad depict the rivalry of this period. Troy was known as Wilusa to the Hittites.

The name of the Achaeans who are mentioned many times by Homer bears striking resemblance to the Ahhiyawa of the Hittites. The Achaeans and Ahhiyawa are probably one and the same.

The Trojan prince Paris was also known as Alaksandu according to Hittite records. This bears striking resemblance to the Greek name Alexander. This indicates that the Mycenaeans had great influence in the area and the Trojan ruling class was partially Hellenized.

Copper and timber were found abundantly  in the island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean. This lead the Mycenaeans to establish trade colonies in the island at first as early as the 14nth century BCE and eventually taking control of the whole island and hellenizing it.

The Arcado-Cypriot Greek dialect.

The Arcado-Cypriot dialect of Greek was spoken in the island ,the same found in Arcadia in the Peloponnese.

Dominance in Cyprus greately facilitated Mycenaean trade with the near East.

The Mycenaean civilization eventually collapsed during the Bronze Age Collapse along with almost all other great civilizations of the middle East.

The Mycenaean collapse is attributed to the so-called Dorian invasion- another Greek tribe that invaded from the North.

But nowadays this theory is considered controversial. There is no evidence whatsoever in the archaeological record of such an invasion. 

The Dorian invasion seems to be a myth of Classical Greeks.


Read also.

Pelasgians and their language.

Paleo-Balkan languages


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