The Heroic Age
The Mycenaeans in Early Ancient Greece
As the intriguing Minoan Civilization disappeared due to natural disasters or losses in war, there arose on the Greek mainland a new civilization, the Mycenaeans. The Mycenaeans believed themselves to be great warriors. They fought with everyone with whom they came in contact. They nearly always won. Some people think that they might have been responsible for the disappearance of the Minoan civilization.
They lived in fortified city-states. They did not have one ruler. Each
city-state had its own ruler. Things were just beginning for the great
city-states of Sparta and Athens, but city-states did exist. But they run by the
They lived in fortified city-states. They did not have one ruler. Each city-state had its own ruler. Things were just beginning for the great city-states of Sparta and Athens, but city-states did exist. But they run by the Mycenaeans.
The Mycenaeans did write things down, mostly boasting about their wonderful victories in battle. They did have art, mostly art that showed warriors fighting with each other and with animals (with the Mycenaeans winning, of course.) So scholars do know something about these early people. Scholars learned from their writings and paintings that the Mycenaeans worshiped a great many gods. They built their homes on top of hills, to better defend them. They built beautiful cities for themselves, full of visible wealth.
Unlike the Minoan kings who shared wealth with their people in the form of surplus food, art, and architecture, the Mycenaean kings hoarded wealth. Peasants under the rule of the Mycenaean kings worked the land and lived in huts, clustered together in small farm villages.
The Mycenaean age, or the time period in Greek history when the Mycenaeans were in charge, is sometimes called The Heroic Age. The Mycenaeans were very proud of their military heroes. They had that in common with all the early people who lived on the Greek peninsula. But they were not the only tribe on the peninsula. The Mycenaean spoke Greek. They worshiped the same gods. But other tribes spoke other languages and worshiped other deities. These various tribes did not get along. The Mycenaeans did not even get along with themselves. They were always at war with somebody or fussing about something. Unity was not there when they needed it.
Around 1200 BC, a new group appeared in ancient Greece, a tribe named the Dorians. The Dorians invaded from the north of Greece and fought the Mycenaeans. Historians and archaeologists have found written records left by the Mycenaeans that tell how they tried to save their women and children by moving them from one town to another, and how they stockpiled war material in preparation for the next battle with the Dorians. It did not help them. Each village and each town stood alone.
The Mycenaeans were great warriors, but the Dorians had iron weapons. The Mycenaean warriors really didn't have a chance against such superior equipment. The peasants had no chance at all. Their weapons were stones and sticks.
Soon, all written records stopped. The Dorian had won. The Dorians did not write things down. We have no written records of their civilization. Greece fell into a dark age - an age without written records.