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Before the Greek Dark Age
Around 1200 B.C., the Dark Age of Greece covered the once thriving Mycenaean civilization making them just a memory in songs and stories. This period, that lasted over three hundred years and left virtually no records behind, left us in the dark as to what happened during these years. Hence, the name “Dark Age”. What we do know about the time is sketchy and determined by archeological digs throughout the area around the Aegean Sea. The Greek population drastically decreased. Cities and palaces were destroyed and abandoned, with few able to recover. Palaces no longer governed. Writing became non-existent. Greece had entered a period that many would think was a dark and empty time. Called the Dark Age because of the lack of information about the period, it was actually a time of transition and growth, preparing the Greeks for dramatic contributions to the world that would last thousands of years. Without the Dark Age, Classical Greece as we know it could not have existed.
Throughout history, eras exited to usher in new eras with new advancements. Bronze was the material used to make war implements and tools of society. The discovery of iron closed the Bronze Age. A new and stronger era had risen. Though each civilization had a slightly different time attributed to their Bronze Age, for Greece it ended around 1200 B. C. The collapse of the Bronze Age came with the end of the mighty Mycenaean civilization. The Mycenaeans that took over where the grand Minoans left off in trade, architecture, and influence, built a civilization that was one of legends. They were major players in the Mediterranean with trading contact as far as Egypt. This civilization was majestic and strong.
The glory of the Mycenaean civilization was amazing. Extensive roadworks connected the regions. Elaborate palaces were built in similar styles as the Minoans they replaced, though smaller and more fortified. The palace was the center of the economic and governmental aspects of the Mycenaeans. All trade was funneled through the palaces which were the heartbeat of the Empire. Trade was extensive reaching every part of the Mediterranean and bringing in luxurious products into their world. Sitting in the palace overlooking the workings of it all was the king, or wanax. Organized into miniature versions of the overall civilization, each little kingdom had its own palace and king to rule. The military might of the Mycenaeans was outstanding. Archeological digs discovered graves which revealed many bronze weapons which attest to their military activity. This was no insignificant civilization. The Mycenaeans were leaders.
The sudden and seemingly unexplainable collapse of the Mycenaean Empire has been a mystery over the years. Theories have come and gone throughout the academic world over the causes which have included natural disasters and economic collapse. Most scholars agree that the end of the Minoans was from a volcanic eruption on Thera. The possibility of similar events occurring to the Mycenaean civilization is not far-fetched. The destruction of the palaces was wide-spread. No records or definitive explanations have been found by archeologists yet what we do know is the fall of the Mycenaeans was not a solitary event. The Hittites, along with other cultures, also found their civilizations falling about the same time and disappearing into the annals of history. Nothing seems conclusive in explaining such wide-spread and complete destruction. Theories abound; yet, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the Trojan War played a large part in the end of the Myceaneans and of the Bronze Age.
With the Trojan War traditionally lasting ten years, a lot was invested by the Mycenaeans in the sack of Troy. Many resources were expended including a vast number of the Mycenaean men who perished in the war. Thought for years to be a myth, archeological evidence has shown that Troy existed and collapsed from a major war. Though originating due to the abduction/seduction of Helen by Prince Paris of Troy is highly questionable, the war occurred with dire consequences for Troy. The length of ten years that Homer gives us has not been proven by any archeological findings or records, but the evidence supports the war story and that it was rather lengthy. This was a large scale expedition. According to Homer, 1000 ships left Greece to attack Troy. Current estimates put the Greek fleet closer to 150 boats and 7,000 fighting men on board. If Homer’s numbers were right, that would be about 47,000 men to attack fortified Troy. Though the 7,000 seems so small compared to Homer’s numbers, it would still be a significant number of the time and would leave the Empire’s defenses weakened. All that would be left to defend the Mycenaean cities would be old men, women, and children. The “overly ambitious and long Trojan War” siphoned men and resources from all the palaces in the Mycenaean Empire. The damage the Trojan War inflicted on the Empire most likely caused their economic systems to weaken and collapse as well as depleted their defenses. Their entire focus would have been on Troy and being victorious. This was an open invitation for attacks from marauders to decimate the Mycenaean palaces and bring down the Empire. Other civilizations would not have been able to resist plundering such wealth with all the men away or weakened. Despite their fortifications, the Mycenaean cities would have been easy to take. They were ripe for the picking. Theories and records from other civilizations mention the “Sea Peoples” who came and caused much trouble throughout the Mediterranean. Nothing is known about them or if they even existed. Whatever the reason was for the end of the Mycenaean civilization, it ushered in the Dark Age.
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