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Chapter 2

Chapter 2 - Historical background of Greek mythology


Department
Classics
Course Code
CLA204H1
Professor
Claesson Welsh
Chapter
2

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Chapter 2-Historical background of Greek
mythology
The Bronze Age
-The Stone Age gave away to the Bronze Age in Greece, Crete and
the Islands with a migration from the east. These invaders were
responsible for the building of the great Minoan civilization of Crete.
The Bronze Age is divided into three major periods: Early, Middle
and Late; these periods are also labeled according to geographical
areas. Thus the Bronze Age in Crete is designated as Minoan (from
the tradition of King Minos); for the islands the term is Cycladic (the
Cyclades are the islands that encircle Delos); in Greece it is called
Helladic (Hellas is the Greek name for the country). The late Bronze
Age on the mainland (the late Helladic period) is also identified as the
Mycenaen Age, form the citadel power (Mycenae) dominant in
Greece during this period. This is the Chronology:
3000-2000 B.C ----> Early Bronze Age -----> Early Minoan
Early Cycladic
Early Helladic
2000-1600 B.C ----> Middle Bronze Age ----> Middle Minoan
Middle Cycladic
Middle Helladic
1600-1100 B.C ----> Late Bronze Age -----> Late Minoan
Late Cycladic
Late Helladic
Minoan Civilization
-The Minoan civilization grew into maturity in the Middle Bronze Age
and reached its pinnacle of greatness in the following period (1600-
1400 B.C).
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-Minoan power extended over the islands of the Aegean and even the
mainland of Greece.
-The sophistication of Minoan art and architecture implies much about
the civilization, but more particularly the painting and the artifacts
reflect a highly developed sense of religion . It seems clear that the
worship of a fertility mother-goddess was basic in Minoan religion.
-About 1400 B.C, Cretan power was eclipsed and the focus of
civilization shifted to the mainland of Greece. There are two theories:
those that argue the dominant influence of the Minoans on the
mainland civilization and refuse to attribute the downfall of Crete to a
Mycenaean invasion and those who argue for Mycenaean(Greek)
encroachment and eventual control of the island.
-Excavation on the island of Thera (modern Santorini) have indicated
clear signs of destruction by earthquakes in the Minoan-Mycenaean
period which may be dated 1600 B.C. These same earthquakes may
have been responsible for the disintegration of power on the island of
Crete but they now appear to have been earlier.
The Mycenaean Age
-On the mainland of Greece, the Middle Bronze Age was ushered in
by an invasion from the north and possibly the east. These indo-
europens are the first Greeks to enter the peninsula; gradually they
created a civilization (Mycenaean) that reached its culmination in the
late Helladic period. They learned much from the Minoans but there
are some significant differences.
-Schliemann was the first to excavate at Mycenae and his discoveries
established the certainty of a link between the traditional tales of
Greek saga and the actual places named in the poems.
-In religion, there were important differences between the Minoans
and the Mycenaeans. The northern invaders of 2000 B.C worshiped
in particular a sky god, Zeus, and in general their religious attitudes
were not unlike mirrored in the world of Homer's celestial Olympians.
Linear B
-Clay tablets inscribed with writing have been found on the mainland.
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