The Mycenean city-kingdoms were unconscious models for the later Greek city-states. Stories passed on about the Mycenean Greece were foundations of organization of later city-states.
The history of Greece begins with the Minoan civilization. They were based on the island of Crete. Their civilization was unlike any that preceded or followed. The land was very fertile and this produced a very wealthy society that worshipped nature, they also used hedonism. This term refers to the pursuit of happiness. Unlike the Mycenean and the later Greeks, the Minoans saw themselves as blending with the natural world. Their magnificent art and architecture reflected their love for the natural world. The organic quality of Minoan architecture is seen most clearly in the palaces of Crete. The four major palaces at Knossos, Phaestos, Mallia, and Zakros, all followed the same basic plan. The private homes of Minoan Crete ranged from simple peasant dwellings to rich mansions and villas, constructed with the same feature and fine techniques as the palaces. Minoan painting is found in two forms, the vivid frescoes on the palace walls, and the graceful designs that decorated Minoan pottery. The Minoans made a large contribution to the art of landscape painting. Minoan artists represented the terrain with many different colors to represent the life of the earth. The religion of the Minoans gives further evidence of their love for nature in the
bare-breasted priestess and hedonistic scenes in the paintings of religious ceremonies. They prayed to fertility goddesses. Although they were excellent seamen who developed trade and commerce, the Minoans do not seem to have been very aggressive and war-like. They influenced many other civilizations through trade. Their government was a complex bureaucracy administrated the island from a series of palaces, the most notable at Knosses. The most remarkable part of the palaces is their impressive technology. Apartments were equipped with running water and the equivalent of flushing toilets. An advanced system of writing, known only as Linear A, allowed the Minoan bureaucracy to keep records and manage Crete. As the Minoans developed trade relations with the Greek mainland, they came to influence the Myceneans. While the two civilizations were almost opposites culturally, Mycenean and Minoan art showed signs of cultural diffusion. The bond ended when the Myceneans decided to invade Crete . After a brief period of Mycenean control the Minoan civilization disappeared.
The Myceneans were the most direct ancestors to the later Greeks. Speaking an Indo-European language the Myceneans settled on the Greek peninsula and Asia Minor. Mycenean Greece was a collection of independent city-kingdoms governed by local warlords. Unlike Minoan Crete with
its central, in Greece each warrior-king had his own region and sometimes had war with his neigbors. It was this reason that caused the decline of the Myceneans. The
legendary attack on the city of Troy led to the beginning of this decline. The Myceneans developed a strong, flourishing economy based on the phrase trading and raiding. They became expert sailors and built strong navies capable of make trade and war with equal efficiency. As trade increased, their art and craft work showed the influence of other civilizations, most heavily the Minoans. The Myceneans worshipped male sky gods. Their religion is clearly the beginning of later Greek himinocentric concept. The Mycenean warlords were supported by a palace bureaucracy of scribes who kept records, wrote treaties, and sent messages. Their writing is known as Linear B. Its letters are borrowed from the Minoan Linear A. Mycenean culture and power reached its peak around 1300 BC. The cultural diffusion that resulted from trade contacts with the Hittite Empire and Egypt started to deteriorate around 1250 BC. The Fall of Troy, which took place about that time, was probably brought about by an economic crisis that seized the entire area. The loss of Minoan Crete as a trading partner, combined with droughts and overpopulation, had probably created the condition that led to this crisis. The sack of Troy and records of attacks on both the Hittites and Egyptians are further evidence that this economic depression led to pirating on the part of the Myceneans. By 1200 BC wars between Mycenean city-kingdoms had broken out and most were either destroyed or declined into darkness. As these cities disappeared, so did the fundamental patterns of Mycenean culture and society. A wave of northern invaders called the Dorians, possibly led by exiled Mycenean
warlords, moved into the Greek peninsula. The Mycenean civilization came to an end.
After the fall of the Myceneans, a time of poverty and backwardness took place. This period was called the Dark Age. With the disappearance of city-kingdoms and their palace bureaucracies, literacy and art vanished as well. Technical skills declined, and trade was replaced by subsistence farming. A decrease in population led to an abandonment of the remaining Mycenean settlements and return to a more primitive existence. Small farming communities became the basic units of the Dark Age Greek society, but many fundamental skills were carried over from the Mycenean world. the lack of traditional leadership allowed the Greeks to reorganize their society in new and different ways. During the Dark Age, the ancient Greek World was shaped. The mixture of people due to migration formed the ethnic, cultural, and linguistic characteristics that would result in the brilliant Hellenistic civilization. As these people developed common traits, they expanded into the many Aegean islands and Asia Minor. In this way the future foundation of Ancient Greek civilization was established.
By 800 BC, the various people who had mixed together during the Dark Age shared a common language, culture, and religion. This development became known as the Greek Miracle. A new and
revolutionary writing system was created. Using Phoenician letters, the Greek alphabet was on sound value and allowed greater expression in writing than ever before. Art reflected the creativity of the new culture being formed. Pottery with geometric designs and the gradual reappearance of luxury items signaled the revival of a more sophisticated society.
As the Dare Age progressed, the small farming communities developed into petty tribal kingdoms. Unlike the feudal warrior kings of the Mycenean period, chieftains were limited in power by their nobles. The ruler met with his nobility to discuss problems and make decisions. As this period came to a close, the tribal groups grew into larger communities. While sharing a common ethnic identity that would be known as Hellenic or Greek, local tribes maintained rivalries that prevented the creation of a unified Greece nation. These communities would form a new unit, the polis or city-state, which would be the basis of Greek life.
The Minoans were the ones that shaped out the society of the Myceneans. The Myceneans borrowed the Minoan types of art and they would trade with them and they also used the Minoan Linear A writing by revising it fit them, this was called Linear B. The Myceneans settled in the Greek peninsula. The lived in city-kingdoms that usually had feudal relations with its
neighbors. The many civil wars within the city-kingdoms caused the decline of this civilization. The later Greeks would live in similar city-states. They also would have feudal relations with its neighbors. Just like the Myceneans the Greeks downfall was their civil wars that made them vulnerable to outside attacks.