Late Helladic period (XVI - XII centuries BC)

In general, the second millennium for Balkan Greece is the time of the formation of the image of the human personality, when culture is individualized and the ancient principles of collectivism, the unity of the tribal community are pushed into the shadows. The whole culture of Achaean Greece is permeated with a powerful desire for knowledge and creation based on the knowledge gained by experience, when the general religious perception of reality was combined with rational penetration into the surrounding world.

At that time there were cults of sacred plants, trees (oak, sycamore, palm), animals (bull, snake), which were considered as attributes of the deity. This kind of religious practice goes back to fetishism - the deification and spiritualization of the animal and plant world around a person, as well as totemism, that is, the veneration of a plant or animal as the first ancestor. For example, the oak, revered in Dodona in a later era, was considered as the habitat of Zeus. The palm tree was the symbol of Apollo, and the snake (the embodiment of wisdom) was the image of Pallas Athena. In the classical era, the main temple of Athens, the Parthenon, dedicated to this goddess, was inhabited by a sacred snake.

Unlike Crete, there was a developed ritual consisting mainly of sacrifices. Sacrifices were offered in various ways: libations of wine, honey, milk, sometimes blood; incense or fat of the sacrificial animal. Sacrifices were quite an expensive event - individual people could not afford them. Human sacrifices are unknown, although they may have taken place. The appeal to the gods was carried out in the form of prayers. In Mycenaean Greece, they usually prayed with their hands raised, and in Crete, a prayer pose meant a hand placed to the forehead.

At the end of the II millennium, prototypes of deities known from late mythology were already known. The cults of Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Dionysus, Hermes, etc. are recorded. A strictly developed hierarchy of gods has not yet developed. For example, Zeus is not the supreme deity, but only one among equals. In Mycenaean Greece, genotheism was widespread - the veneration of a local deity who was regarded as the patron saint of a given city or area.

Late Helladic period (XVI-XII). The history of the Achaean states is known not only from archaeological material, but also due to a later tradition. The events of the famous Trojan War (1240-1230) and the adventures of the cunning king Odysseus of Ithaca, described in the poems "Iliad" and "Odyssey" by the blind Greek poet Homer, formally belong to this period. However, in general, the Homeric epic reflects the later era of the "dark ages".

In Balkan Greece, a number of independent and hostile states are finally taking shape. Tiryns, Mycenae, Argos, unlike the Cretan palaces, were heavily fortified with the expectation of a long military siege, since they constantly waged internecine wars. For example, in Mycenae, cyclopean masonry walls were built from stone blocks weighing up to 5-6 tons. The royal tombs ("mine graves of circle A", dating back to the XVI century) were also opened here. Golden masks were placed on the faces of the deceased. The most famous of them is called the mask of Agamemnon in honor of the legendary king who led the Achaeans in the Trojan campaign. Who owned the mask is unknown, because Agamemnon lived much later. The poor were buried in dirt graves, where coffins were placed in the form of stone boxes with poor inventory.

The tombs of the aristocracy had an incredibly rich accompanying inventory: swords with handles made of rock crystal and ivory, daggers made of bronze and gold, that is, weapons that testified to the increased militarization of society. In addition to military equipment, there were luxury items: tiaras, earrings, pendants made of faience, ivory and amber of Baltic origin. Many objects were decorated with scenes of hunting, war and images of predatory animals, which expressed the special spirit of Mycenaean society, aggressive and rigidly opposing itself to the surrounding world. These people were far from the cheerfulness and sophistication of the Minoans. Therefore, we can consider the Mycenaean society, on the one hand, as a simplified rough copy of the Minoan, and on the other, as the first not quite successful "draft" of the future Greek civilization of the I millennium BC.

Since the end of the XVI century. Pylos rises in the west of the Peloponnese, where clay tablets with the linear letter B. were found. In the Pylos society there was a developed system of legal norms in relation to agrarian relations. The land was divided into communal fields and fields of individual use. Communal fields and individual fields were considered united under the authority of the state. The palace economy was not formally separated from the national economy and was identified with it: the palace was the supreme owner of the land. Linear letter B has spread from the needs of this palace.

Women's labor played an important role in the Pylos economy: about five hundred women were kept here, divided into detachments on a professional basis. They could be slaves or slaves who had some rights. Women were engaged in sewing, yarn, processing of wool and linen. Perhaps their children were also in the palace. There were no male slaves on Pylos. Slaves were usually military prisoners and it was dangerous to keep them in large numbers, unlike women, so male prisoners were most likely killed immediately.

The life of rich people is well known. The development of urban life contributed to the desire for comfort and well-being. For example, baths appear: for the wealthy - large, stationary, for poorer people - portable, made of baked clay (terracotta). Clean water is very much appreciated, so there is a water supply system in the palaces. Chimneys are laid out over the hearths of baked clay. There was furniture known from the images. Women used paints to decorate their faces - the prototype of cosmetics, combed their hair with ivory combs, creating hairstyles, known from frescoes, from luxuriously whipped curls or braided braids. Men tied their long hair with a ribbon and wore beards, and their moustaches and sideburns were shaved off with bronze razors. The appearance of fashion in clothing testified to a special propensity for refined luxury among rich people who sought to make their lives more colorful and interesting.

Knowledge accumulates in various fields of science. Linear letter B already has symbols denoting numbers. Skull trepanation has been recorded; therapeutic treatment of patients with herbs, such as mint, is known. There is music that had a sacred character. In the Mycenaean era, with the advent of royal palaces, a new kind of secular musical culture was born - the work of rhapsodists, storytellers, songwriters who read epic works at feasts with musical accompaniment. Such a rhapsody was the famous Homer. The simplest instruments were the well-known lyre and flute. There were also dances: some of them were heavily rhythmized and eccentric, in them one can guess the prototype of future Dionysian dances. There were dances and calmer, smoother, when boys and girls led round dances.