Modern Greek History

The Mycenaean Fall and the Beginning of the Dark Ages

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Ruins of the Acropolis of Lindos, a city founded by the Dorians

As Chaucer wrote, “All good things must come to an end.” His words couldn’t be truer for the Mycenaeans. After having been the as the reigning civilization in the Mediterranean for over half a millennia, the Mycenaeans much like the other greats, met a very bitter end. Having dominated both the Hittites and the Trojans, the Mycenaeans were poised to take over all of Asia Minor and the areas surrounding the Aegean Sea. However, in 1200 BC the Mycenaean empire began to fall, and within 50 year, was destroyed completely.

This period of Greek history is known as Greece’s Dark Ages. Its name is derived from the fact that there is little to no recorded history of the events that caused the Mycenaean collapse, leaving us “in the dark” as to what actually happened. Historians and archeologists have had to piece together information from archeological digs, the history of other civilizations, and even stories and legends that were a part of Greek Mythology. Not being able to uncover in written detail what exactly happened, historians, scientists, and archeologists have one of two theories of who or what crushed Mycenae.

The Dorian Invasion

On the opposite side of Greece, in the northwest part of the country, another civilization came into power. Collectively we refer to these people as the Dorians. While not fully understood if the Dorians were of true Greek origin, they were given a Greek origin in Greek Mythology by being named after Dorus, the son of Hellen. Mythology aside, we do know that the Dorians eventually made their way down to Mycenae as they brought with them a different version of Greek known as Doric. Slowly Mycenaean Greek based on Linear B was phased out and the Doric version became more widespread.

There is speculation that the Dorians came down with an army, even more powerful than the Mycenaeans and wiped out the ancient Mycenae cities and fortresses. This is only speculation though as there is a major gap in records between 1200 BC and 950 BC. Art and other artifacts from around 950 BC began to reference the Dorian empire. Unfortunately there is little evidence as to what happened over the 250 years in between. Some historians suggest that the Dorians slowly migrated into Mycenaean territory. Unlike the Mycenaean tactic of a massive attack and conquest, the Dorians could have slowly over time inched their way into Mycenae and push the Mycenaeans out.

Internal Discourse Among the Mycenaeans

Another commonly held belief as to why the Mycenaean empire crashed and burned was civil war within the society. Having taken over the Minoan sites and then expanded by acquiring the Hittite and Trojan settlements, the Mycenaeans could have easily become too big for themselves. Instead of having established city centers, and an economy and class system centered on a central palace, the Mycenaeans spread themselves too thin.

As more and more Mycenae people migrated to the newly acquired land, their home cities became subject to internal struggles for power. The overexpansion disrupted the idea of Mycenaean cities or states and it became battle royal for power. With a healthy appetite for war and conquest, the Mycenaeans may have themselves destroyed their own cities by fighting amongst one and another for power and control.



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