MINOAN AND MYCENAEAN
The Minoan Religion
The Palace of Knossos
The Palace in Phaistos
The Palace in Malia
The Minoan Residential Buildings
Image - Terracotta model from Arkhanes (today in Heraklion Museum).
The Mycenaean Culture
The Mycenaean Religion
The Mycenaean Citadel
The Mycenaean Lions Gate
Beside the Lions Gate, outside the city walls, were found two tholos tombs of the kings and their families. There were found nine tholos tombs built into the slopes of the hills of Mycenae.
The Treasury of Atreus is an amazing architectural masterpiece for its time. The tomb, which had a dome shape has a base 14.5 meters in diameter and 13 meters in height, an impressive architectural achievement, roofing an unprecedentedly large space in ancient times (until the Roman Pantheon was built, about 1,500 years later).
The history of the Greek house begins in Mycenae. We know very little about the houses of this period. From the few findings revealed, the researchers conclude that the typical house in mainland Greece had a shape of a megaron. Its entrance was shaped as a deep portico with columns leading into the anteroom with a central door that led into the residence.
The Aegean Cities
The Minoan City
Roads that were built of stone blocks cut with saws connected the Minoan cities.
The city of Knossos
Intensive settlement in Knossos, Crete's largest city, was mostly in the Minoan period. At its height, the city probably numbered close to 100,000 residents. The palace was a city in itself. It was built in irregular plan and was surrounded by private residences of the upper class, with only narrow alleys between them. Every house was surrounded by land, no more than 50 square meters in area. Most of the large houses were built on an area of 130 square meters, but there were also those that were built on an area of over 220 square meters. The size of the house testified to its owner's social status.
Knossos was one of the cities where sanitation was of the highest level existing before the 20th century. This city's sanitation situation in the third millennium BCE was much better than that in many of the cities of Europe in the 19th century. The city has also enjoyed peace and security since a powerful navy protected it.
Image - Plan of the city of Gournia
Gournia's prosperity probably originated in its being a center of small industry (spinning, producing clay, casting in bronze, etc.) and trade, and its location at a crossroads. The city was built at the foot of a hill, and was partly surrounded by a circular wide way, paved with rolling stones. Small streets radiating from the center were perpendicular to it. Such additional ring roads formed a complex network of paved roads dividing the city into isolated blocks or apartment buildings.
The impression that Gournia creates is of a city that developed randomly without planning. The houses of the city were laid out without regular plan along pebble-paved streets that did not fit the traffic of carriages. The street patterns defined the residential blocks.
To the North of the palace and apart from it, at the dead end alley, was found a small public temple (3 m x 4 m in area) dedicated to the snake goddess. This temple, where ritual objects and ceramic figurines were found, is the only surviving of its kind. It is a precursor to the later temples dedicated to Athena Polias. The open square in front of the temple apparently served for popular assemblies.
The City of Phaistos
The City of Karphi
Karphi, located 1,100 meters above sea level, was the largest and richest city in Crete after the fall of Knossos. It was built in c.1100 BCE, probably due to the invasion of the Dorians that caused mass flight of residents to the mountains of Crete, where they built outposts. After the year 900 BCE, after the withdrawal of the invaders, the inhabitants abandoned the city and moved to lower sites. All city streets were paved and it was necessary to create terraces.
Image - The city of Karphi - reconstructed
The city's population, which numbered roughly 3,500 people, made a living from raising cattle, hunting, and olive groves. The city is exposed to strong winds in winter, but sheltered from northern winds by the mountains to the north of the town. The buildings of the city were mostly single storey houses with courtyards. In some homes, the access to the house was through the roof of the lower house next to it.
The Mycenaean City
The researchers believe that the Mycenaean cities were city-states with a loose connections among them. These city-states include among other, Pylos, Thebes, Orchemenos, and Mycenae which was the most powerful.
The City-states were centers of Mycenaean settlement located some distance apart, but they all faced the same center of social life - the fortified palace of the king or leader who was supported by military commanders.
While the Minoan city was not fortified (except for the extraordinary case of Malia), Cyclops walls reaching approximately 10 meters in thickness, and 15 meters in height protected the Mycenaean city. Cities prominent in fortifications besides Mycenae and Tiryns, were Midea, Asine and Gla.
Mycenae was the leading city in the Mycenaean period. Until recently it was thought that the city was surrounded by small communities and villages. According to new estimates, Mycenae was one city and the settlements which were perceived in the past as separate communities, were in fact a large area of the city itself including the area in the south west along the ridge of Panagia. Its proximity to the fertile valley surrounding it ensured its food supply.
According to Greek mythology the first fortifications of Mycenae were built by its legendary founder Perseus, son of Zeus and Danae.
The lowest Mycenaean citadel served the population living outside the inner wall in difficult times. Before the Lions' Gate, outside the walls, there were small buildings, pavilions of mercenaries, shops and homes of artisans and merchants, which were a sort of market.
At the southern end of town there are no signs of wall fortifications, but there was a guards' structure to protect the spot where the road leading to Argos entered the city.
In 1100 BCE Mycenae was burned to the ground. Some 100 years later the Dorians invaded the city from the north and replaced the Mycenaean culture by their own. Life in the city continued, but the glory has never returned to it. All that has remained today is the city walls and the foundations of its buildings .
The city of Tiryns, located about 15 km southeast of Mycenae, is situated on the cliff towering above the plane of Argolis, three kilometers from the beach. Its terrain becomes higher from north to south. Artificial construction has created three levels in the city, of which the southern was the highest, where the king's palace was built. The acropolis was fortified with roughly arranged cyclops stones, which were joined together with cement and dried mud.
The city reached its peak during the years 1400-1200 BCE, when the fortifications were built. Is was divided into blocks expanding beyond the wall and around the Acropolis.
Today the ruins of Tiryns cover an area of 300 m x 100 m or so, an area that includes the palace on the upper level and commercial, religious and military buildings on the lower level.
the city of Tiryns survived after the fall of Mycenaean culture, but was destroyed by the inhabitants of Argos in 468 BCE.