Following the invasion of Crete by Greeks from the mainland, the Minoans were displaced as the leading naval power in the Aegean. They traded with people and goods from all over the world, and they established settlements in Crete, Cyprus, and Cilicia (the south coast of modern-day Turkey). Additionally, the Greeks established trading stations in Syria and Palestine, and they traded with Egypt as well as Italy, Sicily, and Troy, which was located in Asia Minor. Over time, the Greeks had been developing their own civilization, which was more militaristic than that of the Minoans, and this had taken years and years.
A single political unit did not exist, but rather a collection of small kingdoms. Palaces were home to the rulers and lesser lords, while peasants and craftsmen lived in the surrounding villages. Court records were kept on clay tablets in Linear B writing, which was the language of the time (with symbols representing syllables). An example of a typical Greek palace was a fortified stone structure that featured a large room (megaron) with a central hearth and an entrance surrounded by pillars, a design that would later reappear in classic Greek temples.
Aristocratic leaders were entombed in tombs that had entrance corridors that led to burial rooms that were topped by massive squared-masonry domes. The bodies were buried in shafts that contained valuables as well as the bodies. After discovering the ruins of one of these palaces at Mycenae in the northeastern Peloponnesus, German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann gave the entire culture the name "Mycenaean" after the city in which it was discovered. In reality, however, Mycenaean culture was widespread throughout Greece, reaching as far as Thessaly, where a palace associated with the mythical hero Achilles could be found. Schliemann named his first Mycenaean discovery the House of Atreus, associating it with the father of the Greek heroes Agamemnon and Menelaus, who played a prominent role in the Trojan War and were discovered during the expedition.
The tomb, which stood forty feet tall and had a forty-foot dome, was constructed around 1330 BCE. There were gold face masks, daggers and other weapons with intricate inlay, as well as ornate jewellery, among the treasures buried with the king.
DISAPPEARANCE OF THE MYCENAEAN CULTURE
The destruction of the Mycenaean palaces, the disappearance of writing, and the cessation of bronze production occurred shortly after 1200 BCE. Over the next 400 years, little is known about the events that took place on the Greek mainland. At the beginning of the eighth century, writing reemerged in a form of the Phoenician alphabet, which was an early version of the Greek alphabet that is still in use today. There is no conclusive evidence as to what caused that dark period in Greek history, but there are numerous theories.
In one popular theory, Mycenaean warriors supplemented the wealth they accumulated through trading by raiding foreign lands such as Egypt, Cyprus and Troy in order to increase their overall wealth. When the Mycenaeans were forced to fight in Asia Minor as a result of the war with Troy, foreign invaders moved in, and when the Mycenaeans returned home after fighting in Asia Minor, the invaders defeated them. Some Mycenaeans were pushed across the Aegean Sea to the coast of Asia Minor by these foreigners, who were generally referred to as Dorians. In no time, almost all of the Aegean's shores were occupied by people who spoke a dialect of Greek or another language related to it.
Whatever the reasons for the collapse, Mycenaean culture was extinguished by 1150 BCE, or less than a century later. The palaces continued to deteriorate over the following centuries, but their ghostly presence must have fueled the imaginations of those who lived after the palaces' heyday. As a result, legendary tales of mighty heroes from the past began to emerge and spread by word of mouth, eventually culminating in the great epics of the blind poet Homer, who wrote the Odyssey.