Mycenaeans



Introduction
Evidence suggests that Mycenaean trading ships looked something like this.

They would have been about fifty feet long and powered by sail. They would have been rounded rather than sleek in shape.

Ships were built rounded and sitting deep in the water because they needed to carry a great deal of cargo. This was more important than speed.

Ships of this kind would have been a common sight in the Mediterranean at the time of the late Bronze Age.

Around 1900 B.C.E., people began settling in mainland Greece. They began to build cities and chose to locate these on hills so that they could keep watch over the surrounding areas and the coastline.

The largest and most powerful of these cities was Mycenae, a city that stood on a hill overlooking the plain of Argos.

Naval Power
The Mycenaeans built a strong fleet of ships and became the dominant naval power in the Aegean.


Overseas Trade

The region around Mycenae had few natural resources and the land was very poor for growing grain. These are things a society needs to survive and so the Mycenaeans had to look elsewhere for the natural resources and grain they needed.

They began to import these from other countries, and so they became traders.

They soon expanded their overseas trade and eventually they became known throughout the region as distributors of the goods and products of other countries. In this way they grew very wealthy.

Craftspeople
The Mycenaeans also became known for producing weapons, jewelry and many other artifacts. These they made from imported raw materials.
The Mycenaeans were famous throughout the Mediterranean for their pottery. It was exported in large quantities to many of the other civilizations around the Mediterranean.
The Mycenaeans produced a huge selection of designs; all of a very high quality. They also invented new shapes, for example the
narrow stemmed drinking goblet.


Two of the main raw materials they imported were copper and tin. From these they made bronze.

A Warlike People
Although they were traders, the Mycenaeans were also warriors and often gained territories through conquest.

You can read more about this aspect of their nature
HERE:

Take a look at the remains of the 13th century B.C.E. Mycenae
HERE. What evidence can you find that this was a city that housed a military people, and a people accustomed to being at war?

The Dorians
Like all great civilizations, the Mycenaean world eventually collapsed.

Some historians believe it was because of unrest within the society such as peasant revolts against the ruling class. Others point to the disruption of trade routes due to invasion and battles in the area of the Aegean. This would have serious consequences for the Mycenaeans who were so dependent on trade.

Other historians suggest the collapse was due to invasion by people from the north, and some have suggested a serious drought in the area, causing crop failures.

However, the historians generally agree that it was not a single cause that brought about the collapse of the Mycenaean world, but a combination of factors.

Some time later their downfall was complete when the Dorians, a people from the northern part of Greece, captured and ruled the area.

The Dorians did not have the skills or the abilities of the Mycenaeans. They were farmers rather than traders and were not able to keep written records.

The written language disappeared and so no records of the time survived. The time of Dorian rule is known as the Dark Age.

Oral Tradition
Fortunately, the oral tradition of the Greeks enabled much of their history and heritage to be passed down from one generation to another.

The Greeks kept alive tales of the Mycenaean period by passing down songs and poems. This happened over many centuries. The songs and poems would be repeated and recited at feasts or religious festivals, usually to the accompaniment of a lyre.

It was these songs that Homer made into his epics the Iliad and the Odyssey.

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