Modern Greek History

The Decline of the Hittites Marked the Fall of the Mycenaeans

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Old Hittite Capital HattusaThe Mycenaean civilization thrived throughout what is now modern day Greece for over 500 years thanks to their appetite for war and conquest and the strength the gained from taking over already established Minoan settlements and cities. Following the successful overthrow of the Minoans, the Mycenaeans continued to grow and expand their empire. Although the Mycenaeans rose to prominence in the Mediterranean area, they weren’t the only societies of the time. Other cultures were in full swing in Egypt and in Mesopotamia (what is modern day Iraq, Kuwait, and parts of Syria).

One of the civilizations that co-existed around the time of the Mycenaeans was the Hittites. The Hittites were the dominant force in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). Their empire stretched beyond Turkey and included parts of Syria and went as far east as Mesopotamia. Due to the fact that this area was basically the crux of ancient civilization, the Hittites were constantly fighting the Egyptians for control over the area that we now call Syria.

The Hittites spoke a completely different language form the Mycenaeans (whose language was a precursor to Ancient Greek) and their civilization far outweighed the Mycenaeans in terms of size and advancement in the areas of written script, legal codes, and other social advancements. There is little documented evidence of much interaction between the Mycenaeans and the Hittites, but what we do know is that the Mycenaeans were frequent travelers to Egypt, the Hittite’s rivals. The Greeks traveled to Egypt not only for mercantile purposes to exchange ideas as well.

Unfortunately a lot of the happenings around this time were not clearly documented, and so the history of Mycenaean culture tends to get piecemealed together from records from other civilizations. According to Egyptian and Hittite documents recounts, the Hittite empire was attacked by what they referred to as Sea Peoples. While there is no hard evidence proving that the Sea People in question were in fact the Mycenaeans, many theorize that those in conquest of the Hittite empire were in fact Mycenaean or at least they came from similar geographic areas as the Mycenaean people.

Again, while there is little to no documentation that directly tied the Mycenaeans to the downfall of the Hittites, it is known that shortly after the two societies came into contact with each other (around 1300 BC) that the Hittites began to fall. It could have been a combination of Mycenaean conquest along with internal strife among the Hittites. Or it may have been an internal civil war that brought the Hittites down. All we know is that when the Hittites began to crumble, the Mycenaeans weren’t far behind.

The Mycenaeans took over the Minoan empire, established relations with other area societies, took over the city of Troy (a whole other topic), and may or may not have been responsible for the destruction of the Hittites. Yet somehow, the Mycenaean kingdom began to topple. As the Mycenaeans fell, Greece entered what is referred to as it’s “Dark Ages and it took centuries for the country to recover. However when Greece did bounce back, it developed into what we know as Ancient Greece.

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This post was written by GreekBoston.com

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