Minoans and Mycenaeans
The Minoans built a large civilization on the island of Crete that flourished from around 2600 BC to 1400 BC. They built a powerful and long lasting civilization based on a strong navy and trade throughout the Mediterranean Sea. The Minoans had their own written language which archeologists call "Linear A."
City of Knossos
At the center of the Minoan civilization was the city of Knossos. Knossos had a huge palace and a population of over 10,000 people at its peak. Many beautiful pieces of art and pottery have been found within the palace. According to Greek Mythology, the city was once ruled by King Minos. In the myth, King Minos built a large labyrinth under the palace where a monster called the Minotaur lived.
The Mycenaeans developed on mainland Greece and ruled the region from around 1600 BC to 1100 BC. They are sometimes called the first Greeks because they were the first to speak the Greek language. Their largest city was called Mycenae, which gives the culture its name. Mycenae was a large city that had a population of around 30,000 people at its peak. There were other Mycenaean cities that grew into major city-states during the height of Ancient Greece such as Thebes and Athens.
The Mycenaeans developed trade throughout the Mediterranean. They built large trade ships and traveled to places like Egypt where they traded goods like olive oil and wine for metals and ivory.
Mycenaeans Conquer the Minoans
The Minoan civilization began to weaken around 1450 BC. Archeologists think this might have been due to a natural disaster such as an earthquake. The Mycenaeans took over the islands of the Minoans and adopted much of the Minoan culture. They adapted the writing of the Minoans to their own language. Today this writing is called "Linear B."
Collapse of the Mycenaeans
The Mycenaean civilization began to collapse around 1250 BC when many of their cities were burnt to the ground. After this, they continued to decline and were not a major power in the region. Archeologists are unsure of what caused the collapse. It might have been foreign invaders such as the Sea Peoples or the Dorians. It may also have been a natural disaster such as an earthquake or drought.
Dark Ages of Greece
After the fall of the Mycenaeans, Greece entered into a dark age. The Greek Dark Age was a period of decline, famine, and lower population throughout the region. This period lasted from around 1100 BC to 800 BC.
Start of the Greek Archaic Period
The civilization that is often referred to as "Ancient Greece" began around 800 BC. The first part of this period is called the Greek Archaic Period. During this time, many Greek city-states began to form and gain power. Early Greek culture began to take shape including the development of Greek philosophy and theater.
Interesting Facts About Early Greek History and Origins
- The Minoans were unknown to the modern world until archaeologist Arthur Evans uncovered the city of Knossos in the early 1900s.
- The Minoans were named after King Minos of Crete from Greek Mythology.
- An important symbol to the Minoans was the two-headed axe.
- Mycenaean warriors wore helmets armored with boar tusks.
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