CLAS 1000 Chapter 1-2: CLAS 1000 Ancient Greece Chapter 1-2: Chapter 1: The Birth of Philosophy and the Persian Wars, Chapter 2: Iron Age Greece & Chapter 3: The Poems of Hesiod and Homer

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Week #1 – January 5th-9th, 2015
Classical Studies Textbook Reading: Chapters 1-3:
Chapter #1 The Greeks and The Bronze Age:
The bronze age, 3000 to 1200 BC, marks for the beginning of Greek civilization
Cycladic Civilization:
Arose around 3200 BC around the time of the transition from the Neolithic period (the “New
Stone Age) to the Bronze Age
Most impressive achievements represent a stunning advance in terms of their artistic
sophistication it was a widespread practice to create representations of nude females in
clay or stone, often referred to as “fertility figures” or “mother g-ddesses”
Cycladic art did not exercise an influence beyond a very limited geographical area
sculptures were imported only into the island of Crete and parts of the mainland of Greece
Cycladic civilization lived scattered over the surface of the islands in small settlements
Minoan Civilization:
Cyclades fell under the influence of a civilization that developed on the island of Crete and
that came to dominate the Aegean area generally and much of southern mainland Greece
The new force is referred to as the “Minoan” civilization, although it is unknown what the
people of this civilization really called themselves
The name “Minoan” was chosen under the influence of myths that survive from the later,
historical period of Greece
The myths tell of a powerful king, Minos, who ruled the prominent city of Cnossus on the
north coast of Crete and who exercised considerable power in the Aegean
Minoan civilization is characterized by the construction of vast, complex structures that are
referred to as “palaces”
The palaces were the focus of large, centralized communities
The island of Crete was divided up into a small number of regions and each of the regions
was administered from the palace and its immediately surrounding community
The palaces were the center of what has come to be known as a “redistributive economy”
The extensive storage areas of the palace served as a central location where produce and
raw materials, presumably paid to the ruler or rulers in the form of taxes, could be kept,
inventoried, and used in the production of manufactured goods
There is evidence of lively economic activity between Minoan Crete and the Aegean Islands,
mainland Greece, Egypt, and western Asia
Minoans developed a system of writing called Linear A, which is not Greek
Although the idea of using graphic symbols to represent spoken language seems to have
been taken over by the people of Minoan Crete from elsewhere, the specific form of the script
that they developed has no connection with other ancient systems of writing
The Greeks Speak Up:
Historians refer to the period that immediately succeeded the Minoan as the “Mycenaean
Period” or the period in which “Mycenaean” civilization was the dominant in mainland Greece
and the Aegean
Mycenaean civilization was the earliest expression of Greek culture for which we have any
evidence, and it was located primarily in the settlements of mainland Greece, in contrast to
the Cycladic and Minoan civilizations, which were non-Greek or pre-Greek civilizations of the
Aegean Islands
“Linear B” was a script that derived from Linear A, and is, therefore, its lineal descendant
Linear B tablets represent the earliest evidence in written form of the Greek language
The Emergence of Mycenaean Civilization:
Mycenaean civilization developed within the context of, and shows the pervasive influence of,
the Minoan civilization that it supplanted
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Week #1 – January 5th-9th, 2015
It seems that the replacement of Minoan culture with Mycenaean was the result of a gradual
transformation rather than a sudden overthrow, but that’s not say that the transition was
peaceful and without incident
The Minoan civilization that the Greek-speaking newcomers encountered was well organized
and relatively prosperous
The large places on Crete represented the centers of administration, trade, and perhaps
religious activity
The manner of centralized authority, located in a substantial place, was adopted by the
Greek-speaking Mycenaean’s, although there were some differences
Minoan palaces were unfortified and built in an open area that allowed for expansion, while
the mainland palaces constructed by Mycenaean Greeks were heavily fortified and occupied
high ground overlooking a plain
The fortifications were made of massive blocks of stone, and it was common in the mainlands
It’s questionable as to whether the fortifications were intended for protection or for show, but
the Mycenaean Greek’s showed a fondness for impressive display
The people of Crete during the Minoan Period and even during the Mycenaean period, buried
their dead in rather undistinguished communal graves
There was a contrast in the Mycenaean burial practice circular burial plots with many grave
goods (drinking vessels of hold, silver and bronze, ceramic and stoneware vases, jewelry,
and weapons of war
The Character of Mycenaean Civilization:
Mycenaean Greeks were determined to leave little to chance
Rulers of Mycenae began to be buried in a new style of tomb that allowed them to display
their power and influence more so than before tombs shaped like a beehive came to be
used called tholos tombs
One of the features of Mycenaean society, which is most clearly visible in its burial customs,
is the competitive, almost obsessive, display of wealth in the form of material goods,
especially metal objects these goods are a mark of status
It’s been made clear that those at the upper levels of Mycenaean society went to
extraordinary lengths to distinguish themselves from the rest
In the civilization of Mycenaean Greece is a culture that shares a number of features (social,
linguistic, and religious) with that of Classical Greece but which is also heavily influenced by
the non-Greek civilization of Minoan Crete
Mycenaean Greeks moved into an area that already had a flourishing and advanced culture,
which they absorbed and eventually superseded
Power in Minoan Greece had been concentrated on the island of Crete, but as Mycenaean
influence increased, the focus of power and wealth gradually shifted to the cities of the
In the area of visual arts, the Mycenaean’s were the borrowers, and the story of their art is
one of a gradual decline
Architecture was something that the Mycenaean’s developed independently from Minoan
culture in the direction of monumental construction
The End of Mycenaean Civilization:
The time around 1200 BC is considered the end of the Mycenaean period, although there is
no way of knowing why the Mycenaean civilization came to an end
There is evidence of physical destruction and fire at many of the centers of Mycenaean life
around this time period
There is also evidence that the inhabitants of Mycenae, Tiryns, and Athens were engaged in
strengthening their fortifications and improving the means of supplying fresh water, as though
they were expecting an invasion and were preparing for a siege no one knows who the
invaders were
Some of the Mycenaean palaces were immediately reoccupied after the destruction and
some rebuilding was undertaken and some palaces weren’t rebuilt at all
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Many theories have been developed to account for the darkness that fell upon the
Mycenaean Greeks, mainly based on social, technological, economic, and climatological
The character of Greek civilization was transformed in the period following the start of the 12th
century BC
It doesn’t appear that Mycenaean Greece was invaded by people who introduced a new
culture; rather we find a continuation of Mycenaean cultural forms, but in a greatly attenuated
Chapter #2 Iron Age Greece:
The collapse of Mycenaean civilization was followed by a slow period of recovery during what
is known as the “Dark Age” (1200 BC 8th Century BC)
Dark Age Ceramic Ware:
The Dark Age that followed the collapse of the Mycenaean administrative structure presented
the Greeks with an opportunity to reinvent themselves
This period was somehow decisive for the formation of Archaic and Classical Greek Culture
The sharp decrease in population in this period throughout mainland Greece and the Aegean
islands resulted in a population that lived in generally small, isolated settlements
One of the results of decreased prosperity and diminished trade was a reduction in the supply
of tin, a metal not found in the Aegean area
The technology of smelting iron was gradually introduced from the island of Cyprus to
mainland Greece
Iron is much more plentiful in Greece than copper, but its potential couldn’t be exploited until
the inhabitants learned how to temper iron once tempered, iron is harder and a more
satisfactory material for making tools and weapons than bronze is
This new technology, combined with the availability of iron in Greece, contributed to the
gradual recovery that eventually enabled the Greeks to emerge from the depths of the Dark
One of the effects of this recovery would be the re-establishment of contacts, in the form of
trade and commerce between Greece and the wider world
Iron was now the preferred material for making weapons, and its associations with death and
destruction, combined with its dark appearance, inspired the 7th Century poet Hesiod to make
iron the emblem of the age in which he lived
o Hesiod depicts a steady degeneration from the original age of gold, through ages
of silver and bronze to the present age of iron, characterized by warfare,
injustice, and miserable living conditions
The introduction of iron technology altered the character of Greek civilization
The analysis of pottery enables us to follow cultural and economic changes through the Dark
The earliest period of the Dark Age, around the middle of the 11th century BC, is referred to
as the Submycenaean Period, characterized by the repetition of a limited number of vase
shapes dependent upon Mycenaean models, but executed at a much lower level of artistic
and technical competence
This period also sees the abandonment of figural scenes, with the decoration consisting
merely of bands of colour or other simple shapes
It is also characterized by a number of local or regional styles, in contrast to the relative
uniformity of technique in evidence throughout the Mycenaean world
This proliferation of regional styles provides part of the evidence for the increased isolation
characteristic of the years immediately following the Mycenaean period
With the collapse of the palace-based central organization of the Mycenaean period, there
was a reduction in the circulation of skilled artisans and of prestige goods, whose movement
depended upon the connections established among powerful and wealthy individuals in
various regions of Greece
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