Greek Bronze Age Civilization refers to Aegean civilization that developed around the Aegean Sea in ca. 3000-1200 BC. The civilization is divided into three main periods including Crete, the Greek mainland and Cyclades. The Crete period was referred as the Minoan civilization, the Greek mainland was called the Helladic period, and the Cyclades period merged with the Greek mainland during the early Helladic and with Crete during the Middle Minoan period. Aegean Civilization had two main cultures; the Minoan and the Mycenaean. The Mycenaean era is known as the "Age of Heroes" because it provided the source of the mythological and epical heroes like the Iliad, Hercules, and the Odyssey. This paper would discuss the features of Greek Bronze Age Civilization, its collapse and the features of the subsequent civilizations that followed.
Features of Greek Bronze Age Civilization
The Minoans, considered as the first advanced civilization of Europe, introduced the Bronze Age technology. The Minoans used weapons and tools made of bronze. They built large palaces, which were not fortified and had large storage areas all around. The palaces built at Knossos and Mallia were magnificent in structure decorated with bright murals. There was a palace-based economy in place with the kings having full control over the trade, maritime distribution, production and storage. Cretan artists had mastery over creating colorfully decorated vases of various shapes. Minoan pottery was famous throughout the Aegean, and the designs were often copied on the Greek mainland too.
After the fall of Minoan civilization, due to volcanic eruptions and the invasions of the Mycenaeans, the Mycenaean culture settled in the region. The Mycenaean culture was clan-based and dominated by warrior bands. The Mycenaeans introduced the use of horses. Unlike the Minoans, the Mycenaeans had their palaces fully fortified with huge walls made of gigantic irregular blocks. The Mycenaens were dependent on trade. Especially, commercial sea trading was the main source of their sustenance. The Cretans used circular stone tombs for burial, but the Mycenaeans initially used shaft graves for burial. However, later they adapted to the tomb structure of the Cretans.
The Fall of Greek Bronze Age Civilization
The collapse of the Mycenaean civilization around 1200 BC marked the end of Aegean civilization. The most traditional explanation points towards the invasion of Dorians from the north as the main cause of the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization. According to Ancient Greek legends, immediately after the Trojan War was over, the exiled descendants of Hercules came back to claim the Peloponnese, and these people were referred as the Dorians. However, the 19th and 20th century scholars described the Dorians as a new ethnic group who invaded Greece, ravaged the great palaces and ended the palace-based economic culture. However, there is very little evidence to prove that such an invasion by the Dorians took place because the earliest evidence of post Mycenaean civilization indicates that the new arrivals took place after the Mycenaean civilization had already collapsed. Recent scholars have suggested that the sea people, responsible for destroying Egypt and Anatolia, might have brought the Mycenaean civilization down. Some scholars hold natural calamities like earthquake responsible for the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization.
The Sub-Mycenaean Period and Dark Ages
After the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization, the period that witnessed the maximum depths of severe cultural and economic depression between ca. 1100 and 1050 was known as the Sub-Mycenaean period. At this time, crude versions of the Minoan and Mycenaean pottery were produced. The next few centuries starting from ca. 1050 to 750 BC was known as the Dark Ages because around this time, Greece fell into a period of no development with significant drop in populations. The people of Greece began to roam in groups moving from one place to another to fulfill the livestock needs and maintain their pastoral lifestyle. They abandoned the use of the Mycenaean Linear B script and started using alphabets. Eventually, this Greek version of alphabet served as the model of the alphabet in use in English today.
The two main cultures of Aegean civilization shared some common characteristics of the use of pottery, construction of large palaces and palace-based economy. The Mycenaeans were distinguished by their use of horses and clan-based warrior societal structure whereas the Minoans were distinguished by their introduction of bronze technology. The invasion of the Dorians from the north has been cited as the main reason for the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization. The periods that followed the collapse of Mycenaean civilization did not see much development culturally. However, during the Dark Ages, the use of alphabets, which served as the base for the English alphabets in use today, came into existence.