The Mycenaeans The Real Civilization who fought the Trojan War

The Trojan War. The myths and legends of classical Greece told of a Golden Age of heroes, mighty kings and glorious palaces and warriors who fought in fierce battles. This age, that inspired the classical world, was believed fanciful by intellectuals for millennia. For almost 3,000 years the Mycenaeans, ancestors of the classical Greeks that lay lost and forgotten beneath the soil of the land they once ruled, were discovered. In the Homeric epics they are collectively referred to as the Achæans (Ἀχαιοί), Danaans (Δαναοί) or Argives (Ἀργεῖοι). To the Hittites they’re the Ahhiyawa or Ahhiya. Today their civilization is referred to as Mycenaean after the palace citadel complex of Mycenae. They were not the first civilization to dominate the Aegean however. They were preceded by the Minoans who ruled over a maritime thalassocracy. Based on the island of Crete, the Minoans dominated culture and trade throughout the Aegean possibly extracting tribute from the islands and coastal cities. The degree this civilization was imperialistic is still under debate. On Crete a coalition of kingdoms appears to have been led by a leader called a ‘minos’, the title later being condensed into a mythological tyrant of the same name (Μίνως). Their civilizations collapse has been attributed to a series of natural disasters or hostile invasions – likely a combination of both. In any case the surgent Mycenaean mainland Greeks took advantage of the recovery in Crete to eclipse their former rival and dominate the Aegean. Throughout the 16th and 15th centuries
BCE architecture, pottery, art, language,
religion and weapons took on a distinctive mainland style that eventually spread throughout the entire Aegean While Crete was relegated to a collection of largely depopulated second-rate Mycenaean States Mycenaean Greece does not seem to have been as much of a cohesive single state as their Near Eastern contemporaries were, but rather a loose confederation of several largely independent kingdoms with related dynasties centered around a fortified palace complex. Other powerful states included Pylos to the south Tyrins with massive walls reminiscent of a formidable medieval castle Gla, Orchomenos, Iolkos as well as Thebes, Athens and Argos which would later be prominent in classical times also had significant palace complexes during the Mycenaean period. At the top of the central Mycenaean hierarchy of each of these states was the ‘wanax’ (ϝάναξ). His role was that of a priest-king-CEO whose role obliged him to be involved in religious matters, the micromanagement of the economy and war. He also owned as much as three quarters of the land his second-in-command was the ‘lawagetas’ or ‘leader of the people’ who was also a religious leader and head of the military. And as with their Near Eastern Bronze Age contemporaries an entourage of chariot warrior nobility was at the heart of the military and state economy known as the ‘eqeta’: ‘companions’ or ‘followers,’ although some seem to have had a purely bureaucratic role. The majority of the army was composed of the ‘lawos’ (λαός, people) who were equipped by state-run armories and marshalled by the lawagetas. The bulk of the kingdom’s eqeta and bureaucratic personnel would have lived within the palace complex with the wanax, where key industries such as weapons manufacturing, perfume, olive oil and textiles were managed in extreme detail. Records were stored on clay tablets in an archaic form of Greek, called ‘Linear B’. Before the scripts decipherment hopes ran high that first-hand accounts of the Trojan War history and philosophies of the heroic age would be inscribed on these tablets. To everyone’s colossal disappointment when largely deciphered, the subject matter was ubiquitously bureaucratic and not narrative. Instead of the pontifications of Agamemnon researchers have been treated to tax receipts and ledgers. Over time and careful study Linear B tablets have proved valuable in reconstructing a realistic view of Mycenaean civilization. In international diplomacy it is likely they would have used Akkadian or Hittite in conversing with foreign powers of their day. After the subjugation of the Minoans was completed in around 1400 BCE the Mycenaeans traded extensively with the Aegean. The Egyptians, Syrians, Mitanni and the Hittites all send royal emissaries to each other’s courts. Although the numerous Mycenaean states appear to have been largely independent and fought among each other, to the Hittites and Egyptians they referred to them as a single entity – possibly evidence of a single hegemonic ruler for international affairs which may have been the wanax of Mycenae at times, as described in the Iliad. By the 15th century, BC the southeast coast of Anatolia was settled by the Mycenaeans establishing palace culture there and as far east to Cyprus. This brought Mycenaean civilization into direct contact with the Hittite Empire that had sacked Babylon, proven themselves equals to the Pharaohs of Egypt on the field of battle and controlled much of what is now Turkey in Syria. From surviving Hittite records we know that the Ahiyyawa (Myceneans) encouraged rebellion in the Hittite vassal state of Arzawa and, intriguingly, the Hittite King spoke to the king of the Ahiyyawa as an equal as he only did with other great Kings and spoke of a hostility between the two passingly referring to a Wilusa episode, which most modern scholars now associate with the ruins of Troy which was a wealthy state and Hittite vassal at times that controlled trade through the Hellespont as Constantinople would do in Roman times. Theories range from whether the basis for the Iliad’s Trojan War was a memory of a mere raiding expedition or a clash of empires. with vast coalitions of Hittite and Ahiyyawa vazal Kings waging a series of campaigns for control of trade from the Black Sea to the Aegean, with Troy as their battleground. The latter is more appealing to the romantic and the truth probably lies somewhere in between. Either way both of these mighty empires would not last long after the destruction of Troy. Beginning around 1200 BC a bewildering series of unfortunate events throughout the Near East and eastern Mediterranean caused great states that had stood for centuries to collapse or contract What are the causes or symptoms of this violent era was a mysterious group known as The Sea People, which some of the Mycenaeans seem to have been victims of as well as joined and many believe may have been the ancestors of the biblical Philistines. This has been Epimetheus. Thanks for watching

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