The Elements of Evolution (92-1) Mycenaean Civilization

Mycenaean Civilization

Unlike the predecessor Minoan civilization, which had flourished solely via trade, Mycenaean civilization (1600–1100 BCE) was built by conquest as well as trade: ruled by a warrior aristocracy. The Mycenaean civilization was greatly influenced by the Minoan.

In being on major trade routes of the time, situated on the fertile plain of Argos in southern Greece, the Mycenaean cultural advantage was geographical. The makeup of Mycenaean civilization was of elements from afar, including south Russia via Anatolia, as well as influences filtered from Crete.

Mycenaean literacy was achieved after Minoan. The Mycenaean alphabet (Linear B) was based upon the Minoan.

The epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey, attributed to Homer (~700 bce), were about the warrior kings of Mycenae, presumably expert horsemen and charioteers. The product of folk legends, these classics were written many centuries after the Mycenaean civilization had crumbled.

Mycenaean society was weakened by plutocratic suppression of much of its population, at a time when cheap weapons were readily accessible. Toward the end, Mycenaean cities were plundered by invaders, including the Sea Peoples: a confederacy of seafaring raiders in the Aegean Sea area.

Also besieged by the Sea Peoples, the Hittite empire in Anatolia was disintegrating by 1180 bce. So too Egypt, which was simultaneously in decline. Centralized bureaucracies collapsed as the power of urban elites was shaken.

The heaviest destruction in Mycenae was at fortified sites and palaces, where pillaging was most profitable. Large-scale government – kings, armies, and redistributive economic systems – ceased to exist. Depopulation was extensive.

The destruction ushered in the Greek Dark Ages, which lasted 4 centuries. A much-diminished Athens continued to be occupied, with limited trade and an impoverished culture. In villages and towns across the land, farming, weaving, potting, and metalworking continued, but at a lower level of output, for local consumption only.

By the mid-700s BCE, the Greeks had adopted the Phoenician alphabet system, which had been derived from Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Phoenicians were a maritime trading culture of city-states based in the western, coastal part of the Fertile Crescent. The Egyptians then adapted the Greek alphabet, rendering Coptic. The rise of Greek poleis (city-states) in the 9th century BCE ended that episode of Eurasian diminution.