251 GreekHistory1

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Early Greek History:

Early Greek History Steve Wood TCCC


Overview "[I]n a part of the world that had for centuries been civilized, and quite highly civilized, there gradually emerged a people, not very numerous, not very powerful, not very well-organized, who had a totally new conception of what human life was for, and showed for the first time what the human mind was for." H.D.F. Kitto, The Greeks Image of the Acropolis in Athens is ©1995-2000 from Kevin T. Glowacki and Nancy L. Klein of the Department of Classical Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Helladic Greece 3000-1100 BC:

Helladic Greece 3000-1100 BC This age of Greek history was dominated by two cultures: The Minoans (who dominated the eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean from 1900-1400 BC) and the Mycenaeans (who dominated the Aegean from 1400-1100 BC). Minoan bull statue

The Minoans:

The Minoans 4000 BC Neolithic civilization on Crete 2800 BC Bronze Age civilization on Crete 2200 BC Palaces being constructed on Crete 1900 BC Minoans in full power The throne room excavated by Arthur Evans at Knossos, Crete.

The Minoans:

The Minoans This civilization is called the Minoans, after the legendary king of Crete, Minos. They were of slight, dark-haired Mediterranean stock from North Africa They were a sea power, based on the lack of fortifications in their cities. They dominated the Aegean and the eastern end of the Mediterranean. Their art and architecture is left, but not their ideas. The bull was an important symbol in their art and architecture. Their civilization was unknown until the excavations of Arthur Evans began in 1900.

The Minoans:

The Minoans Current evidence suggests that the Minoans were organized very much like the Bronze Age cultures that dominated the Middle East (the Sumerians, the Babylonians, etc.)

The Minoans:

The Minoans All of their palaces were built following a common plan, with a throne room and other administrative rooms, private quarters, storage magazines with huge storage jars, and religious rooms organized around a central courtyard. Aerial view of the palace at Knossos, from the Interkiti site.

The Minoans:

The Minoans “The Minoans attained their greatest power about 1600BC, when they controlled the entire Aegean area and traded extensively with Egypt. The destruction of Knossos and the collapse of Minoan culture coincided with the beginning of the most flourishing period of Mycenaean civilization in Greece; this coincidence suggests that the warlike Mycenaeans attacked and destroyed the Minoan civilization. Scholars long thought the Minoans were not related to the Greeks, but the most recent research indicates they were.” "Minoan Culture," Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2000. © 1993-1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

The Minoans:

The Minoans Because no one has yet deciphered their writing, referred to as Linear A, their ideas, religious and cultural, are unknown. They are often referred to as a “silent culture.” Their art does express a love of human and natural beauty.

Minoan Wall Fresco:

Minoan Wall Fresco

The Mycenaeans:

The Mycenaeans 2100 The Mycenaeans appear in the area and quickly replace the indigenous people of the Peloponesse. 1700 Family histories from Argos and Athens trace their lineage back to this time. 1600 Mycenaean citadels begin to rival the Minoans in terms of power and influence.

The Mycenaeans:

The Mycenaeans Previously unknown before the excavations of Heinrich Schliemann at Troy and Mycenae (starting in the 1870s), the Mycenaeans were the historical reality behind Greek mythology.

Lion Gate at Mycenae:

Lion Gate at Mycenae

The Mycenaeans:

The Mycenaeans This civilization was named after the legendary citadel, where a Greek king named Agamemnon ruled. Since the decipherment of Linear B, a later form of Minoan writing which proved to be a form of Greek, there is a direct connection between Minoan and Mycenaean cultures. Their society was a world dominated by a ruling class of warrior-princes. They also were a sea power, akin to later Celtic pirates in their tactics. Their massive fortifications as well as art that depicts warriors in battle or hunting shows the importance of martial skills.

Thera and the Minoans:

Thera and the Minoans Many believe that the Minoan civilization was greatly weakened by a volcanic explosion on the island of Thera, now known as Santorini, around 1640 BC. This date does coincide with the rise of Mycenaean influence in the Aegean as well as the destruction of many Minoan citadels. Aerial view of Santorini

Thera and the Minoans:

Thera and the Minoans Charles Pellegrino and others have made the case that this explosion and the decline of the Minoans was the basis for the myth of Atlantis. The cliffs at Santorini

Thera and the Minoans:

Thera and the Minoans

The Rise of the Mycenaeans:

The Rise of the Mycenaeans As a result of the Minoan collapse, the Mycenaeans came to dominate the Aegean region. From Tony Belmonte’s Historical Atlas

The Fall of the Mycenaeans:

The Fall of the Mycenaeans Sometime around 1200-1100 BC, the Minoan civilization fell, probably due to a combination of factors. Natural disasters like those that helped hasten the end of the Minoans Internal warfare, as one Mycenaean city made war on another (as in Homer’s Iliad ) Invasion by a group known as the Dorians, who entered Mycenaean territory from the northwest Revolt by slaves. Some believe the Dorians were slaves in the Mycenaean world who rose up against their masters

The Sea Peoples:

The Sea Peoples Several other Bronze Age civilizations were destroyed at this same time, including the Hittites. Egyptian records speak of an invasion by the “Sea Peoples” around 1200. These Sea Peoples could have threatened Mycenaean dominance, or the Mycenaeans may have actually been a part of the Sea Peoples and may have left Greece at this time.

The Sea Peoples:

The Sea Peoples From the University of Oregon

The Greek Dark Ages 1100-800 BC:

The Greek Dark Ages 1100-800 BC After the Mycenaean culture collapsed, the Aegean entered a period of decline. The population declined to perhaps as low as one-tenth of its previous levels. Most Mycenaean cities disappeared or were destroyed. The Bronze Age social structure was replaced by smaller, clan-like structures. Literacy almost completely disappeared. Spoken Greek can be traced from the Bronze Age through Dark Ages to the Iron Age, but the writing systems of the Bronze and Dark Ages were completely different.

Greek Dark Ages:

Greek Dark Ages “Greeks had lost the distinguishing marks of civilization: cities, great palaces and temples, a vibrant economy, and knowledge of writing. The Mycenaean kings were replaced by petty chiefs, who had limited power and wealth. Artists stopped drawing people and animals on pots, restricting their decoration to geometric designs. Archaeology shows that during the early Dark Age, Greeks cultivated much less land, had many fewer settlements, and did much less international trade than they had during the period of Aegean civilization. Settlements shrank to as few as 20 people.” "Ancient Greece," Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2000. © 1993-1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved

Archaic Greece (800-500) Rebirth:

Archaic Greece (800-500) Rebirth The resurgence of Greek culture is marked by: The first recorded date in Greek history, 776, the first Olympics. The epic poems of the oral tradition, such as the Iliad and the Odyssey . These epics looked back across the Dark Ages to Mycenaean times. The writing down of these epics (c. 725 BC). The rise of the city-states (the polis).

Rise of the Polis:

Rise of the Polis Archaic Greece also saw the development of the polis – the city state. This social institution would dominate Greek culture for centuries as the city states of Sparta, Athens, Corinth, and others developed.


Homer The traditional view is that Homer was a blind bard from Chios, in Asia Minor, who was responsible for creating both the Iliad and the Odyssey . If so, Homer lived in the transitional period between the Dark Ages and the return of Greek literacy.

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