Mycenae at the Height of Its Glory
Around 1500BC, the prosperous Minoan civilisation was conquered by a people known as the Mycenaeans, from the Greek mainland. Though the Mycanaeans borrowed many things from their Minoan predecessors, like their government, their writing system and even to some extent their art, the Mycenaeans were also very different from the Minoans. Though Mycenaean art derived its themes from Minoan art, they never reached the technicl mastery and artistic delicacy of the Minoans.
Though the Mycenaeans used the same letters as the Minoan Linear A script, they adapted it to write an early form of Greek, forming their own unique Linear B script. Though the Mycenaeans seem to have practiced a central-palace bureacracy similar to that of the Minoans, the Mycenaeans also seem to have grasped the importance of military power in government, a concept that seems to have eluded the Minoans entirely.
The Mycenaeans were warriors, first and foremost. Within a century, the Mycenaeans had conquered the majority of the former Minoan empire. By 1400 BC, Mycenae controlled the entire Aegean Sea, and around 1250, they famously sacked the city of Troy in Asia Minor. Being conquerors themselves, the Mycenaeans were keenly aware of the threat of military conquest. Unlike the unfortified Minoan palaces, the palace at Mycenae had huge walls for protection. The stones for these walls were so massive that later Greeks assumed that these walls must have been built by the mythical Cyclopes, giving this huge stone style of building its name: Cyclopean.
The Dorian Invasion
Yet neither Mycenae's martial valor, not those Cyclopean walls were able to protect Mycenae from the Dorian Invasion that began between 1200 and 1100 BC. The expensive bronze weapons of the Mycenaeans could not hold up to the cheap but powerful, iron weapons of the Dorians and within a few decades, the Mycanaean civilsation was all but wiped from the earth.
Though the Dorians had superior military technology, the lagged far behind the Mycenaeans in terms of culture and civilisation. With the rise of the Dorians, Greece entered a Dark Age. Cities were abandoned, trade grounded to a halt and literacy all but disappeared. Greece would remain in this Dark Age for nearly 400 years.
The Dorian Invasion was but one part of a worldwide Bronze Age collapse. Between 1200 and 1150 BC, similar collapses were taking place in Asia Minor, Mesopotamia and Egypt. The Hittie Empire vanished without a trace. The mighty Egyptians were conquered by a mysterious group known only as the Seas Peoples. Not one city was left standing in Greece to the Levant. Trade and literacy all but vanished from the West.
Greece in the Dark Ages
Since the Dorians…