Near the end of the Bronze Age, the Achaeans began to demonstrate increasing cultural sophistication under the influence of the civilisation of Minoan Crete, named after the legendary King Minos. At the same time, they retained their own distinctive ways. The result of this synthesis is known as the Mycenaean civilisation, since the most important city exhibiting this cultural fusion was Mycenae. ┴ syllabic script, Linear ┬, was used to put the Greek language into writing, and this, together with the work of the archaeologists, gives us some insights into their society.
The chief Mycenaean settlements were usually built around a royal palace, maintained by an elaborate bureaucracy working under a king. Around the foot of the eminence on which the palace was built lived the freemen and slaves who worked the land.
It is likely that during this period the kings of Athens had such a palace on the Acropolis. Unfortunately, later building has destroyed most of the evidence dating from this period. It is most likely that this building consisted of a great hall, or megaron, and a forecourt, like the palaces at Mycenae, Tiryns and Pylos. ┴ rich chamber tomb has been found on the northern slopes of the Acropolis containing fine Mycenaean pottery, gold and bronze ornaments and a carved ivory box, making it evident that the burial was that of a woman, probably of royal birth. It is referred to as 'the Đrincess" Tomb. Another family chamber tomb found under the temple of Ares was in use between 1450 and 1200 B.C. Excavations in the area of the later Athenian agora have revealed a cemetery from this period. Mycenaean tholos tombs are found scattered about the countryside of Attica: in ďh´rik´s, Spata, Marathon and Menidi. [Read about the Mycenaean tomb in Menidi in Attica.]
Nothing is known of the Mycenaean kings of Athens except a few names and legends, and what may be inferred from excavations. The traditional date assigned to the founder of the royal line, Kekrops was 1581 B.C. He was said to have selected the goddess Athena as patron of the city and named it after her. It is equally possible that the goddess is named after, and personifies, the city. Other royal names include Kodros, ┼richth´ni´s, Erechtheos, Pandion, Aegeus and Theseus. [Read about the legends of the earliest Athenian kings and their families in Athens.] Theseus was believed to have united many of the settlements of Attica in a single Athenian state.
The port of Mycenaean Athens was in the Bay of Phaleron. Archaeologists have recently uncovered what appear to be traces of this port, which preceded Piraeus.
The memory of the last great event of the Mycenaean age, the Trojan War, was long preserved in the oral traditions of bards. One such survived long enough to be written down in the epic poem the Iliad, in its late form attributed to the blind poet Homer. According to the Iliad, the Athenians were represented at the war of Troy under their king, Menestheus, but they had only a minor role to play in the great affairs of the day. This fits in with the impressions of relative importance of the Mycenaean states gathered by the archaeologists.
ę John L. Tomkinson