15 September 2015
#History of World Civilization, Day Fifteen
Early Mediterranean Civilizations
Who were the Minoans? Who were the Mycenaeans? How were the Mycenaeans influenced by the Minoans?
The Minoans were a civilization that developed on the island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea. Archaeological evidence indicates they arose in the mid-fourth millennium BC, and reached their zenith from the mid-third to mid-second millennia BC. They were named for the mythical Aegean god-king Minos, who was associated with the Cretan city of Knossos. They were known to be builders of great, multi-story palaces. They were amongst the earliest sailors, traders, and colonizers of the Mediterranean Basin.
The Mycenaean culture arose about 1600 BC as the first advanced civilization on the Greek mainland. They are named after their most prominent city, Mycenae, which lay about 50 miles southwest of Athens. It dominated Greek culture on the Peloponnesus for about 500 years from the mid-to-late second millennium BC. Around 1200 BC, the Mycenaeans came into conflict with the Anatolian city of Troy in what became known as the Trojan War. This is the basis for the great epics of Homer, the Odyssey and the Iliad, though modern scholars doubt a single writer named Homer ever existed, and that the events described in the epics were largely mythologized. For a time, scholars doubted the war, or the even the city of Troy ever existed until 19th century German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann’s excavations in the modern day Turkey lent credence to the historicity of the city.
It is thought the Mycenaeans acquired much of their knowledge of building and architecture from the Minoans, with whom they had a thriving trade and cultural intercourse. Evidence of Minoan craftworks has been found on the Greek mainland, indicating that trade between Minoan artisans and Mycenaean olive and grape growers was strong. Mycenaeans borrowed significantly from the Minoan script known as Linear A, an as yet undeciphered form of Minoan glyphs, adapting it to their unique language. Around the mid-fifteenth century BC, the Minoan culture suffered some sort of catastrophic natural event, the specifics of which are not known, likely an earthquake or volcanic eruption. Minoan culture experienced a significant decline, and by 1420 BC, the Mycenaeans controlled the former Minoan sites on Crete. Mycenaeans are thought to have adapted many Minoan cultural, religious, and political ideas, rather than imposing a different order on their newly conquered lands, so the Mycenaean population on Crete bore a distinctive Minoan imprint.