In the formation of art of the peoples who lived in the Mediterranean basin, a huge role was played by the so-called Aegean, or Mycenaean art. The Aegean culture was formed and developed in III—II millennia BC and was created by tribes that lived on the island of Crete, the Peloponnese, the West coast of Asia Minor (Boardman 21). In 1871, the German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann excavated Hissarluka on the hill "pre-Homer" cities that can be dated to the III Millennium BC and which belong to the prehistory of the Aegean culture. Soon Schliemann began excavations in the Peloponnese; and V. Dorpfeld were excavated Mycenae, and in the beginning of the twentieth century the English archaeologist A. Evans opened the world of architecture and painting of the Palace of Knossos in Crete. He was the first who raised the question of the relationship of Cretan art with the art of the Ancient East, especially Egypt. Evans also owned and made the periodization of the Aegean culture. The periods in which Evans proposed to divide the Aegean culture called Minoan (early, middle and late) — named after the legendary king of Crete Minos. It is about Crete and its ancient history wrote the Roman poet Virgil in the first century BC.: "Crete, the great island of Zeus, lies in the midst of the sea, is the cradle of our mankind. One hundred cities inhabited by the great rich Kingdom" (Shear and Glotz)
The city of Crete was built in the beginning of the II Millennium BC since the XVIII century BC among the chief cities of Crete was Knossos. The Palace of Knossos, judging from the excavations, was created by the ancient architects with great skills, taking into account features of the landscape.
The Palace is located on a low hill, the center of the architectural complex is a rectangular yard (60х28 m). Around the yard freely and naturally allocate rooms, in different parts of the Palace it was multi-storied. The Royal apartments were changed into more modest living rooms, sanctuaries, gymnastic halls, swimming pools (the Cretans were known plumbing), outdoor areas (as scientists assume, for theatrical performances and religious ceremonies). Feature construction equipment of the Palace of Knossos are bricks and stone,which it was made of. The walls of the ceremonial hall of the Palace were painted with frescoes (water colors on wet plaster). Black, white, blue, red, yellow are the holiday colors. Image captured reality, flowers, papyrus, palm leaves —palmettes, lilies, birds, cats, monkeys. Very often appears the figure of a bull: games with this animal, apparently, had a special and ritual meaning. In the Throne room of the Palace of Knossos on red background wall is a papyri of fabulous creatures — griffins (lions with eagle heads). On the walls of the Palace of Knossos are pictured a lot of human figures, performing some religious ceremony, which is a tributary of the gifts, the participants of theatrical performances and feasts. All of this is depicted vividly, directly, freely, with the indispensable vivid realities of everyday life. The conventionality of the images of human figures is implied for the face is usually depicted in profile, and the eye (s) in the front. In the scenes with a bull, a disproportionate figure of a bull (always very large) is depicted with people.
Monumental sculpture in Crete was not found. There were not found huge statues of the gods, as well as religious buildings — temples. Apparently, the Cretans worshipped the gods of nature in sacred groves or caves. There is a famous painted sculpture, which is quited large (over 2 m in height), depicting "king-priest". Small figurines, stone carving, artistic products made of bronze, gold and silver, painted pottery have been found on Crete in large quantities and all of high artistic quality.
There were also vases of this style of "Kamares" (the name of the cave where they were found) with a stylized geometric, floral and animal ornaments. The Cretans especially were able to skillfully convey the world of the underwater Kingdom: depicted on one of the vases octopus seems to be moving on its surface, greedily covering the vessel, as his victim.
In the middle of the II Millennium BC Cretan cities were attacked by foreigners (Achaeans) invaded from the mainland. Disaster (volcanic eruption and subsequent flooding) has accelerated the destruction of the Cretan cities. When the Greek ruler Minos, whose name is associated with the famous legend of the Minotaur,was in charge, Crete was a powerful country (XV century BC). The Palace of Knossos could become in the imagination of the Greeks as the legendary Labyrinth, and the frescoes, depicting the game with a bull, gave birth to the image of the bull-half man, the Keeper of the Labyrinth of the Minotaur, devouring the beautiful boys and girls — a tribute paid by Athens to threatening Crete every 9 years, until the king of Athens, the hero Theseus, killed the monster and escaped the Labyrinth using a thread, which was given by Ariadne (Kirk 14).
The Achaeans were shown to be more belligerence than the Cretans. This was reflected in the stories of frescoes, clearly preferred hunting scenes and battles, but the picture itself is drier and sharper, composition is more esthetic and more prone to symmetry, as a more conventional and stylized ornament on vases.
The architecture of the Achaeans can be judged from the surviving Achaean tombs of the kings. They are of two kinds: shaft, i.e., a rectangular tomb in the rock (XVI—XV centuries BC), and dome, the so-called Tolosa (XV—XIV centuries BC). The most famous tomb was discovered by Schliemann at the foot of the Mycenaean Acropolis and named the Treasury of Atreus on behalf of king Atreus, father of Agamemnon, ruler of Mycenae and hero of Homer's "Iliad". It ;eads to the tomb corridor —dromos 36 m length and 6 m width: entrance height of 10 m covered with a monolithic slab weighing 100 tons The diameter of the interior of the tomb, 14,5 m, height of dome -13,2 M.
Homer said that the Mycenae had a lot of gold, and rightly so (Boardman et al. 76). Archaeologists have found many gold masks, which are superimposed on the face of the dead; the whole thin plates of gold leaf adorned the clothing of the deceased Lord, his weapons, utensils that were sent with him to the afterlife. There were a lot of female jewelry: gold diadems, bracelets, rings. Especially loved by the Mycenaeans were golden vessels in the form of any animal and bird or with a sculpturized surface depicting scenes of hunting.
About 1240 BC, the Achaean tribes went to war against the Kingdom of Troy and these events served as a subject for immortal poems of Homer. But the brave Achaeans in the middle of the XII century BC, won the Dorian tribes. The destruction of Mycenae, Tiryns and other cities of the Peloponnesian Peninsula meant the end of the Aegean civilization. However, the Cretan-Mycenaean legacy has played a huge role in the development of art of Greece itself.
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Boardman, John, Jasper Griffin, and Oswyn Murray. The Oxford Illustrated History Of Greece And The Hellenistic World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001. Print.
Kirk, G. S. The Songs Of Homer. Cambridge [Eng]: University Press, 1962. Print.
Pinar O. Yilmaz1, Arthur R. Green1,,. "Geology Of The Aegean And Its Impact On Ancient Civilization". Bulletin 85 (2001): n. pag. Web.
Shear, T. Leslie, and Gustave Glotz. "The Aegean Civilization". The Classical Weekly 20.25 (1927): 201. Web.