Minoans and Mycenaeans

The Minoans and the Mycenaeans were the two groups of people that lived in Greece before the ancient Greeks themselves.

The Minoans lived on the smaller islands and had a center on Crete. Crete was the largest island that was part of Greece.

The Mycenaeans lived on mainland Greece and eventually defeated the Minoans and took over their land.

The Minoans


The Minoans came first. Historians believe they lived from 2,600 BCE to 1,400 BCE.

They had a strong navy and traded with nearby peoples on the Mediterranean Sea.

Their main city was Knossos. Knossos was on Crete and had a massive palace and artwork and pottery that still exists today.

At least 10,000 people lived around the palace, which was a large number in such an early time.

The ancient Greeks knew a little about the Minoans because they found the palace.

They believed that one of their legendary figures called King Minos lived there and that there was a huge labyrinth under the palace.

A creature called the Minotaur wandered the labyrinth and was a half-human, half-bull.

The Minoans also had a written language that can be found on artifacts from Crete.

The language has a unique script, or its own letters, and is called Linear A.

The Mycenaeans

The Mycenaeans appeared after the Minoans and lived on the mainland of Greece from 1,600 BCE to 1,100 BCE. The Mycenaeans traded on the Mediterranean Sea and had a powerful navy that was larger than that of the Minoans.

Historians call them the “first Greeks” because they spoke and perfected the Greek language.

Most of the Mycenaeans lived in a large city called Mycenae that was home to 30,000 people. They also started the Greek cities of Athens and Thebes.

The Mycenaeans started to take over the Minoan civilization around 1,450 BCE.

Archaeologists think that a natural disaster weakened the Minoans and made it easy for enemies to conquer their cities.

The Mycenaeans copied the Minoan written language and started to use it to write their Greek language. This is called Linear B.

The Mycenaean civilization fell during something called the Bronze Age Collapse.

This was when many societies in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East collapsed at the same time.

Historians believe the Mycenaeans fell to mysterious invaders called the Sea Peoples.

The Sea Peoples would have come from the Mediterranean and burned all of the Mycenaean cities to the ground.

Effect on Greece

The end of the Mycenaean civilization left Greece in something called a dark age. People struggled to live and survive.

There were no developments and the population was small.

The Greek Dark Age lasted from 1,100 BCE to 800 BCE, when the ancient Greeks appeared.

Starting in 800 BCE, the Greeks built their city-states and gained power.

The first Greek culture started to come out of places like Athens.

This culture wouldn’t have been possible without the Minoans and Mycenaeans creating a base of ideas, language, and culture that the new ancient Greeks to build off of.

Facts about the Minoans and Mycenaeans

  • The Minoans were named after the mythical King Minos, who constructed a giant maze to hide a Minotaur
  • Women controlled the Minoan religion and their symbol was the bull
  • Some Minoan artwork still exists and always paints men red and women white
  • Historians aren’t sure why the Minoans disappeared
  • Old Mycenaean palaces were surrounded by walls so heavy they were called Cyclopean because people believed only a cyclops was strong enough to move the stones
  • The Mycenaeans used shields shaped like the number 8 with a smaller rounded top and a full bottom
  • The Mycenaeans buried people sitting up rather than lying down
  • The Mycenaeans worshipped a god called Poseidon who controlled earthquakes instead of the seas
  • The Mycenaeans wore helmets with boar tusks on the front

Questions and Answers

What was the Bronze Age Collapse?

When civilizations throughout Europe, Africa, and the Middle East all struggled and fell at the same time at the end of the Bronze Age.

What were Linear A and Linear B?

Linear A was the Minoan form of writing and Linear B was the Mycenaean language written with Minoan letters.

What was the Greek Dark Age?

The Greek Dark Age was a time when Greece struggled and there were no cultural developments.

Who attacked the Mycenaeans?

The Mycenaeans were attacked by the mysterious Sea Peoples.

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