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Minoan and Mycenean













Written by Ty Narada for Dr. Kosso 

The Minoans were a peaceful society that flourished from about 2050 BC to 1470 BC. They lived primarily on the large isle of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea. Their seat of government was located at the town of Knossos and Men and women are interpreted to have been equal without regard for race, sex, gender or age. [http://www.greekciv.pdx.edu/others/atlantis/minoans.htm]

At some point in their cultural development, the Myceneans adopted the Minoan goddesses and associated these goddesses with their sky-god that the Greeks later called Zeus. The Greeks believed that the female chthonic gods were older than their Olympian gods and many speculate that the Greek god-system evolved from the Minoan Earth goddess.

Many believe that the Mycenean religion included offerings and sacrifices to the gods and some have speculated that those offerings included human sacrifice based on textual evidence and bones found outside tombs. [http://ancienthistory.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http://www.wsu.edu:8080/%7Edee/MINOA/WOMEN.HTM]

Urbanization dramatically changed social relationships. Where biological relationships remained paramount in rural areas, urbanized cultures adopted more abstract, unstable and unequal associations. Those associations created a "class" society that prioritized economics over kinship.

Social inequality resulted when administrators, kings and priests controlled the wealth and assumed more influential roles. While there is no evident social nobility in the ancient world, class was an inherently unstable means of social organization. Urban areas were divided into public and domestic spheres but did not affect surrounding smaller tribal societies.

The Minoans on Crete did not conform to the male-dominated norm found elsewhere. Not only was Crete society based on equality, but archaeological evidence suggests that women played an important role in urban public life: Women were priestesses, functionaries, administrators and participated in sports that would otherwise be dominated by males. Boxing and bull-jumping were the two most popular sports in Crete. Bull-jumping was a common theme found in Minoan wall paintings and vase sculptures. The object was to test one’s courage and agility by grabbing the bull's horns and either mounting it or vaulting over it. A successful vaulter landed on her feet behind the bull. Illustrations of the sport emphasize grace, fluidity and gymnastic skill more than bravery and both men and women participated.

Women were equally represented as skilled craftswomen, entrepreneurs, priestesses and were found among the highest echelons of political life. Evidence suggests that the priesthood was dominated by women. Although the palace kings were male, Minoan society was not necessarily patriarchal.

Images retrieved from Cretan settlements (in Asia Minor) reveal that Cretan society determined lineage through the mother. Although it is not fact, the artifacts supported by their goddess religion cause many archeologists to believe that Minoan society was matrilineal.


While Minoan culture contains no writings, music, or religious texts – there does exist an impressive quantity of Minoan art that the Minoans surrounded themselves with. Minoan art was intrinsically connected to the archetypes that rendered it.

We assume that the Minoans were the first ancient culture to create art purely for its beauty rather than its function. That beauty did not contain the religious and symbolic oversaturation found in Middle Eastern and Egyptian art. Minoan art served aesthetic and decorative purposes where Mesopotamian and Persian art were created for religious reasons. Wall-sized paintings decorated every room in Minoan palaces and art was used for enjoyment. Artistic themes included unimportant, trivial details of everyday life, such as a cat hunting, sea creatures or sporting events. In later societies we would expect to find representations of battles, political figures and events; Crete was an exception. The Minoan artist was uninhibited to render everyday details; someone bearing a vase or simply walking down a street. Crete produced for the sake of the art and not for complicated or superstitious reasons.

The Minoan approach can be applied to other developments in Western culture. Mathematics and philosophy were both developed for the sake of advancing knowledge and ‘that knowledge’ remained nameless until the Greeks later invented it. [http://ancienthistory.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm ?site=http://www.wsu.edu:8080/%7Edee/MINOA/WOMEN.HTM]

Without writings to decisively mark the conclusion of Minoan society, we assume that the invasion by the original Greeks/Mycenaeans from the mainland to the north, ended Minoan isolation. Theological evidence suggests that the violent Mycenaeans probably assimilated Minoan culture into their own but the assumption has no factual basis.

The Bronze Age beginnings are dated between 2000 BC to 1000 BC and are associated with the rise of the Mycenaean culture. With this transformation appears evidence of skillfully crafted gold jewelry, bronze ornaments and weapons. Wealth propelled early Greek lifestyles into venues that afforded magnificent palaces fit for kings. Early Bronze Age Greece was composed of many independent nation-states that archeologists theorize resulted in a confederated Greek kingdom.


Sometime between 3000 BC and 2000 BC, Greece was settled by a metal-literate and agrarian people who spoke a non-Indo-European language. The Greeks preserved some of the original villages with names ending in "-ssos." Almost nothing is known about their religion, history, etymology or daily life. The "Early Helladic" period was relatively peaceful until around 2000 BC when their villages were either destroyed by fire or abandoned. That demise was a result of Greek conquerors.

Greek settlement composes the Middle Helladic period between 2000 BC and 1550 BC. In areas where the Greeks could not peacefully cohabitate with the previous inhabitants – they annihilated them. The Greek’s spoke Greek -- their native Indo-European language. Middle Helladic society was based on warfare and their leaders were war-chiefs. The harshness of the terrain had a direct influence on Greek social organization; the hot, dry and rocky mainland was not easy to settle. Agriculture was limited to grapes and olives and coastal areas relied principally upon fishing for both food and trade. The Greeks began trading with the Minoans to the south and continued to develop into a bona fide civilization.

The transition between the Middle and Late Helladic periods is indeterminable since rudimentary construction had occurred earlier in the millenium. After 1550 BC the Greek settlers entered their first major period of cultural creativity in urbanized areas. Their cities grew larger, graves more opulent, art more common, agriculture more efficient which impacted the surrounding Aegean areas. This period is the Mycenean period called Mycenean proper. Greek culture thrived for 400 years before it crumbled abruptly into oblivion in 1150 BC, leaving a 2,000 year legacy of literature and mythology. The most notable Mycenean spokesman was Homer whose poetry described the Greek war against Troy.

Ruins suggest that the Myceneans derived from the Minoans, but with marked differences. Mycenean society was monarchical, ruled by a Wanax who governed a large administration. Unlike the Minoans, the Mycenean kings accumulated a vast concentration of wealth that the rest of society did not share. The king was also a warlord which meant that he was in a constant state of war readiness; he lived in a fortress surrounded by thick perimeter walls. Where Minoans art was carefree, apolitical and unreligious, Mycenean art was about warfare and hunting: If there was not a local war in-progress, they were prone to attack Asia Minor, the Middle East and Egypt.

When Minoan civilization weakened through a series of earthquakes, the Myceneans conquered them along with the rest of the Aegean civilizations which established them as Masters over the very culture(s) that had inherently influenced their own.

The Myceneans engaged commercial shipping: Trading animal skins and oil for jewelry and products from Crete, Asia Minor, and Egypt. Their practices were notorious in that piracy was covertly engaged on the side. Both activities accumulated vast amounts of wealth for each warlord and his pet officials. State revenue was appropriated for defense with generous amounts spent on jewelry, crafts and expensive burials. Wealthy kings were buried in deep-shaft graves until around 1500 BC when tombs became extravagant statements of power.

The epoch of Mycenean power surrounds the destruction of Troy, after which, they disappeared. Around 1200 BC, the economy collapsed and the population radically decreased until the cities were completely abandoned by 1100 BC. The Greeks believed that another Greek-speaking people, the Dorians, overran the Myceneans. The Dorians
did not like cities and preferred to live in small tribal/agrarian groups. The debate on whether a literal invasion occurred has not been resolved. Evidence suggests that Mycenean city dwellers were forced to relocate because of the economic collapse and that Greece reverted to a non-urbanized, tribal culture. The writing stopped and the period that followed is known as the "Greek Dark Ages." [Hooker]

The assimilation of the Mycenean religion appears in classical Greek pantheons but was transgendered and separated into Greek gods. To what extent Mycenean religious beliefs were assimilated is unknown because Mycenean ruins and fragments of writing are insufficient for a complete theological diegesis.


All sources are cited where they appear and Hooker was a principal author.