Thursday, January 10, 2008

The History of Civilization

Chapter Eight: Mycenaean Civilization

From 1400-1200 BC, the focus of political strength and culture shifted from Crete to mainland Greece. Forbidding mountain ranges prevented political unification, so the area was ruled as dozens of small, independent countries called city-states. Mycenaean kings were fierce warlords who lived in lavish palaces, while most of the population continued to live in purely agricultural villages, and most took no direct share in the advancing culture.

In order to accurately assess and control their vast and complex resources, these warlords began to find writing an invaluable tool. This period also experienced improved methods of agriculture, roads with bridges, and safer sea travel. Athens became a great and influential city.

The Mycenaeans soon gained mastery of the Aegean Sea, and expanded their commercial influence to distant lands. Greek colonies could be found as far away as Spain and Ethiopia. This expansion quickly brought them into conflict with Troy, a powerful city built on the Hellespont and controlling access to the Black Sea. The war between the two mighty empires ended with the destruction of Troy, and was immortalized in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. These epic poems, composed in the 8th century BC, are the very oldest known example of western literature. Nothing is known of Homer as an individual, and in fact the question of whether a single person can be said to be responsible for the creation of the two epics is highly controversial. Real or not, in a direct way Homer was the parent of all succeeding literature, drama, history, and even philosophy; which all show the issues, comic and tragic, raised in the epics and the techniques Homer used to approach them.

Even if it was the Mycenaeans who took Troy, very soon afterwards their own centers collapsed on the mainland as well as overseas. By 1200 BC their supremacy comes to an end. A hundred years later, the Dorian Invasions began, and Greece and the Mediterranean are again reborn. Although the Mycenaean culture lasted barely more than 200 years, its great cities such as Athens, Thebes, and Corinth would thrive for millennia; and its legacy would pass to the great democarcies of the the Classical Age.

To be continued...

For the earlier chapters in our story, click here.


steve said...

A smart little history of Mycenaean civilization, smack-dab between two bunches of beautiful boys!

Truly, there is no other blog quite like Hans is Great!

Hansisgreat said...

Why, Steve, you're going to make me blush!
Seriously, dude, thanks for the support. Whenever one does something creative, like a blog, hearing a nice compliment like yours makes it even more rewarding. You're the best!