Sunday, February 17, 2008

The late Helladic and Minoic periods

Since 1700 BC the Acheans became more and more influenced by Crete. Out of this interaction between the Cretan and Helladic cultures developed a Mycenaean palace culture, which was initially dependent on Cretan models. This new culture was named after the powerful city of Mycenae, the city of the legendary Agamemnon who was one of the leaders of the expedition against Troy. Soon Mycenae, with its palace on a fortified acrois, surrounded by cyclopean walls and its marvellous Gate of Lions, became the dominating power in the Peloponesse.

This period is different from the middle Helladic one, not only because a sudden explosion of wealth took place, but also because throughout Hellas palaces were built. These palaces had a more logical ground-plan than the ones on Crete, and they were in fact huge fortifications unlike the palaces on Crete. The most famous Greek palace of this period was found at Mycenae, but other palaces were found in Pylos, Thebe, Athens and Iolkos. Another difference with the Minoic culture was that the Acheans developed their own script. It was called Linear-B, and was based on the Cretan Linear-A script, but it eventually became a script on its own. Linear-B is a syllable-script, and the language was Greek. The Linear-B tablets which were found do not tell us much about life in the palaces as it was just like Linear-A only used for accountancy.

Of course there were also resemblances. The Acheans were just like the Cretans excellent tradesmen. Their pottery was found in Sicily, Rhodes, Cyprus, Italy, Asia Minor, northern Syria and Milete. In some of these places their influence seems so strong that it is not unlikely that they had permanent strongholds there. However, they could not enter Asia Minor very far as the Hittities were still too strong. That is the reason why their colonisation, if we can even speak of a colonisation, was very limited. Both nations also shared the same form of government: monarchy. The Cretan and Mycenaea monarchies were based on a wide-spread feudal system of lords with a strongly centralised and bureaucratic palace-economy.

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