II. Ancient and Classical Periods, 3500 B.C.E.–500 C.E. > D. Classical Greece and the Hellenistic World > 1. The Bronze Age, 3000–1200 B.C.E. > d. The Late Helladic Period: The Mycenaean Age
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  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
 
 
d. The Late Helladic Period: The Mycenaean Age
c. 1600–1500
 
Late Helladic I: The Rise of Mycenaean culture. The shaft-grave culture continued but became wealthier. The shaft graves in Circle A (found earlier but dating later than Circle B) contained a remarkable 80 pounds of gold objects. Mycenaean architecture, called Cyclopean, is characterized by use of enormous stones. The rectangular megaron was now the typical private building, consisting of a portico (aithousa), vestibule (prodomos),and main room (domos). The largest and most important settlements were Mycenae and Tiryns. Major centers existed at Orchomenos and Thebes in Boeotia. Lake Copais, which covered a large area of western Boeotia, was drained during the Mycenaean period, providing fertile land. The fortress at Gla was built to protect the region. Athens was an important city and Cyclopean fortifications were built on the Acropolis. Pylos was one of the few early Mycenaean sites in western Greece.  1
 
c. 1500–1400
 
Late Helladic II: The “Tholos-Tomb” Dynasty. Around 1500 the Mycenaean burial style changed from the shaft grave to circular rock-lined chambers cut out of hillsides: so-called tholoi or “beehive” tombs. After c. 1450, the Mycenaeans conquered Crete and established themselves at Knossos. Evidence of Mycenaean presence is found in the Cyclades, Rhodes, Sicily, and Italy, although where political control ended and trade began is unknown. The prosperity of Mycenaean Greece was due largely to an expansion of trade: Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria, and the Hittite Empire were all ruled by wealthy palace-based governments, which fostered international exchange.  2
 
c. 1400–1200
 
Late Helladic III: The Height of the Mycenaean Age. After 1400, the Mycenaean culture spread throughout Greece, eventually penetrating virtually the entire mainland. The fine pottery found even in nonroyal tombs suggests a general prosperity, and the most impressive Mycenaean architecture dates to the 14th century. Around 1350, the citadel at Mycenae was enlarged, and an immense 23-foot-thick wall was constructed of Cyclopean blocks, which included the famous Lion Gate. The royal palace at the summit of the acropolis contained a throne room, living apartments, and a shrine. Its walls were covered with painted frescoes showing military scenes. Similar large palaces from this period were found at Tiryns and Pylos. The largest beehive tombs date to after 1300: the so-called “Treasuries” of Atreus at Mycenae and Minyas at Orchomenos. (The buildings have no connection to these mythical characters.) Linear B tablets have been found at Pylos, Mycenae, and Thebes on the mainland, as well as at Knossos in Crete. While limited to accounts and inventories, they give important information on Mycenaean language, government, economy, and religion. The king, or wanax, exercised supreme authority, followed by the lawagetas, or Leader of the People (or Army). There were a series of lower officials, including the basileus, later the Greek word for king. A special class of priests existed (unlike in the Classical period), as well as a palace economy with a complex division of labor, with numerous slaves. The names of later Greek gods, such as Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Hermes, and Athena, were already present. After 1300 Mycenaean trade with Egypt and Syria declined, although the reasons for this are unclear.  3
 
c. 1200–1100
 
Late Helladic C: The Decline of Mycenae. Around 1230 most of the large Mycenaean cities, with the exception of Athens and Mycenae itself, were destroyed. Texts from Pylos, written just before the city's destruction, discuss military dispositions against an apparent invasion. Around the same time, the export of Mycenaean pottery to Syria and Egypt ceased completely. A number of factors probably brought Mycenaean culture to an end, but a major one was probably the movement of the Sea Peoples, which affected the Middle East at the same time (See c. 1200).  4
 
 
 
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

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