Monday, July 22, 2019

Classical Civilisation Essay Example for Free

Classical Civilisation Essay To what extent can we reconstruct the palace civilisation of Mycenae? What does the evidence tell us about their society and how they lived?  This Golden Age, kept alive by Homers poetry, tells the story of an advanced society during a period in history adorned by wealth and legends, believed to have been circa 1450 to 1100 BC. Assembling the limited evidence reveals the art and architecture of the Mycenaean World. The remains of the palaces show evidence of a rich civilisation. The later Greeks referred to this period as a Golden Age when men were bigger and stronger than they are now (Homers Iliad). This is a fascinating era glorified with heroes and victory, which almost three millenniums later, still captures the curiosity of so many. The evidence used to reconstruct this period is questionable. There are archaeological finds, which include the sites and the artefacts. It is difficult to draw accurate conclusions from these due to their age. Then there are literary sources such as Homers Iliad and Odyssey. The problem with using these sources is that many people believe that Homer lived around 700BC, which means the stories he tells will have been greatly adapted to his period. Additionally, others argue that there is little evidence proving that the books are not purely fictional. Architecture and construction proves wealth and culture. Increasingly influenced by Crete, the Mycenaeans began to build palaces of their own. Initially they modelled them on Minoan architecture. This implies that they sailed across the sea. Later they began to develop huge fortifications. Palaces were built throughout Hellas. The most famous Greek palace of the Mycenaean period was found at Mycenae, the city of the legendary Agamemnon who was anax of the expedition against Troy. Others were found in Pylos, Thebes, Athens and Iolkos. They were logically constructed and shared the same features, which proves there was a link between them. They were obviously not isolated from one another. One may assume Mycenae was the main palace and possibly had a primitive infrastructure connecting it to the other sites.  The centre of the palace was a columned porch called a megaron (figure 1). A throne would have also been found on one side. This implies they had a King who held an important role in society. The first floor appeared to have been used for storage and the second floor was where the women lived. The materials used to construct these buildings include stone blocks, mud brick, bonding timber and plaster, which proves the Mycenaeans were a resourceful, organised society. Their building technique is known as corbelling, where each successive row of stones in a wall is laid further out than the previous one below it. The palace of Pylos was the only one not to be fortified by huge walls, one of the main features of Mycenaean palaces. There were three types of citadels: polygonal (various shaped blocks neatly fitted together), ashlar (squared blocks neatly fitted  Cyclopean walls 2 The Lions Gate   together) and finally the famous cyclopean walls (huge, irregular stones yielding massive walls) called so because they were so large that it was believed only a Cyclops could have built them (figure 3). The walls at the palace of Mycenae, where The Lions Gate was uncovered in 1841, are 1100 meters long, protecting the dominating power of the Peloponnese (figure 4).  These massive defences also show that the Mycenaeans felt the need to protect themselves from external threats. Houses were built below the citadel, which implies a close community. They were generally self-sufficient homes with a kitchen, altar and hearth. Their furniture was varied and frequently included a plaster bench, tables, foot-stoles and even bathtubs. Their homes appear to have been comfortable.  More isolated homes were also uncovered in the hills (i.e. Mouriatada, on the west coast). The constructions were smaller and did not use such high quality masonry but did include a megaron and private houses. One may deduce from this that wealth peaked in and around the palaces. Water supplies were an equally important construction to ensure survival and well-being. The palace of Athens had a well, built within the walls, making it accessible, even if they were threatened by a siege.  The cistern built at Mycenae at the end of the 13th century, extended underground beyond the walls, making it more vulnerable (figure 5).  The Mycenaeans learned from the Minoans, in crafts, in efficient organisation and in writing. This is concluded from the similar architecture, tablets and pottery found. The wave of palace destructions on Crete around 1450 and the eventual fall of Knossos around1375 marked the start of the most flourishing period for the Mycenaeans. New pottery shapes and styles began. They produced three handled jars, kraters (large bowls) and kylikes (goblets with long stems). Backgrounds were being painted red or black as opposed to light, matt tones. Forms appeared more natural, like the Minoan art. They began to use floral decorations.  Next, the Mycenaean Age adopted geometric patterns and abstract forms on its pottery. They made stirrup jars, yet another indication of Minoan influence. As the civilisation reached its height, so did the art. Vases were mass-produced for export as well as for use on the main land. Evidence of objects from afar were found at the Palace of Knossos, in Crete, which shows signs of huge wealth, probably due to the position of the island, the cross road of the Mediterranean in circa 1400 BC. The Mycenaeans were equally as good tradesmen as the Minoans. Their pottery was found in Sicily, Rhodes, Cyprus, Italy, Asia Minor, Northern Syria and Miletus, which suggests they were good sailors and traded with the east Mediterranean and Europe. In some places their influence seems so strong that one could think that they had permanent strongholds there, what we may consider today a colonisation. However, they were not able to enter Asia Minor because of the Hittites, described as a strong, troublesome civilisation.

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