Are there any scientific estimates for the population of Mycenaean Greece?

Are there any scientific estimates for the population of Mycenaean Greece?

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There are a lot of population estimates for Greece of antiquity (from the Archaic period circa VIII century B.C. to the late Roman times of Theodosius 395 A.D.) in academic publications. Also, I found a few estimates for Homeric Greece, the so-called Hellenic Dark Ages but I found nothing at all for Mycenaean Greece.

Can you provide your own reasonable estimates? Thank you.

P.S. Sorry for my English. My native language is Russian and I have only been learning English for several months.

There are no really reliable estimates for the population of Mycenaean Greece, although scholars have supplied some (more or less educated) guesses. On the more conservative end of the scale, Stanford's Mitsotakis professor Josiah Ober has written that:

The population of Hellas in the Mycenaen period (including Thessaly and Crete) was somewhere in the range of 600,000 people.1

At the opposite end, the British historian and Stanford classics professor Ian Morris says:

Mycenaean material culture dominated about 100,000 square kilometers, covering the modern nation-state of Greece (except its northern part) with enclaves on the west coast of Turkey. The population of this area was perhaps a million.2

This uncertainty is because our knowledge of the period is too piecemeal to support reliable, precise estimates. A significant corpus of contemporary written records do exist, but it is fragmentary and specific to regional polities. Population estimates thus necessarily rely upon extrapolations from archaeological surveys of settlement sites. Yet not all of these has been, or can be, found.

Nonetheless, relatively rigorous estimates have been created for specific regions where surviving records or archaeological attention have been comparatively more concentrated.

Perhaps the best studied case is in Messenia, where the palatial state of Pylos thrived. Between 1962 and 1968, the Queen's professor Richard Hope Simpson and Minnesota historian William Andrew MacDonald led an interdisciplinary effort to survey the region. Their pioneering effort is known as the University of Minnesota Messenia Expedition.

Based on the results of their survey, McDonald and Hope Smith cautiously estimated the Mycenaean population of Pylos to be at least 50,000 based on the 250 settlements discovered from the period.3 This figure has since been generally accepted. More recently in 2001, Todd Whitelaw, Professor of Aegean Archaeology at University College London, made the same estimate.4

In addition, Messenia's Palace of Nestor housed a large trove of Linear B tablets. These reported administrative inventories from the Pylian polity's final year, attesting to some 4,000 people. As a sidenote, the distinguished British Linear B scholar, John Chadwick estimated the Mycenaean Messenian population might have been about 100,000,5 though this is not supported by existing archaeological evidence.

By far the largest collection of Linear B texts are found at Knossos, on the island of Crete. Using a multifactored approach that combined the written records and archaeological surveys, Richard Firth in 1995 proposed a total of 110,000 residents on the island in the Post Palatial period (LM IIIB).6 For comparison, the Sheffield archaeologist Keith Branigan estimates that Neo-Palatial Crete (MM IIIB) a few centuries earlier had a population of 140,000 to 160,000.7


1. Ober, Josiah. The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece. Princeton University Press, 2015.
2. Morris, Ian. "The collapse and regeneration of complex society in Greece, 1500-500 BC." After Collapse: the Regeneration of Complex Societies. Schwartz, Glenn M., and John J. Nichols, eds. University of Arizona press, 2010.
3. McDonald, W. A., and Hope Simpson, R. "Archaeological exploration." McDonald and Rapp, eds. The Minnesota Messenia Expedition: Reconstructing a Bronze Age Regional Environment. University of Minnesota Press, 1972.
4. Whitelaw, Todd. "Reading between the tablets: assessing Mycenaean palatial involvement in ceramic production and consumption." Sofia Voutsaki and John T. Killen (eds.), Economy and Politics in the Mycenaean Palace State. Cambridge Philological Society, 2001.
5. Chadwick, John. "The Mycenaean Documents."McDonald and Rapp, eds. The Minnesota Messenia Expedition: Reconstructing a Bronze Age Regional Environment. University of Minnesota Press, 1972.
6. Firth, R. "Estimating the population of Crete during LM IIIA/B." Minos: Revista de Filología Egea 29 (1994): 33-56.
7. Branigan, Keith. "Aspects of Minoan urbanism." Urbanism in the Aegean Bronze Age (2001): 38-50.

It is very difficult to know something like this, because the archaeological remains are fragmentary and there are no contemporary written records. Estimates based on agricultural capability have too many variables of uncertainty to be reliable.

The most famous piece of information concerning pre-historic Greece statistics is the Catalog of Ships, the list of approximately 1200 ships used to invade Ilium, as described in the Iliad of Homer.

If we estimate 100 men to each ship, then it would be an army of 120,000 (not including camp followers and supporters) requiring a population of perhaps 2-3 million people to support such an army. Of course, this is Homeric Greece, not Mycenaean Greece.

Lower Greece has about 25,000 square miles or 16 million acres. If we assume one million acres of those acres are tilled and another 2-3 million acres used as pasturage, then the land could easily support 1-2 million people. Note that Greece was much more fertile at that time then it is now.

Based on this I would estimate the population as being between 1 and 3 million people.

Are there any scientific estimates for the population of Mycenaean Greece? - History

Troy is the name of the Bronze Age city attacked in the Trojan War, a popular story in the mythology of ancient Greece, and the name given to the archaeological site in the north-west of Asia Minor (now Turkey) which has revealed a large and prosperous city occupied over millennia. There has been much scholarly debate as to whether mythical Troy actually existed and if so whether the archaeological site was the same city however, it is now almost universally accepted that the archaeological excavations have revealed the city of Homer's Iliad. Other names for Troy include Hisarlik (Turkish), Ilios (Homer), Ilion (Greek) and Ilium (Roman). The archaeological site of Troy is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Troy in myth

Troy is the setting for Homer's Iliad in which he recounts the final year of the Trojan War sometime in the 13th century BCE. The war was in fact a ten-year siege of the city by a coalition of Greek forces led by King Agamemnon of Mycenae. The purpose of the expedition was to reclaim Helen, wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta and brother of Agamemnon. Helen was abducted by the Trojan prince Paris and taken as his prize for choosing Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess in a competition with Athena and Hera. The Trojan War is also told in other sources such as the Epic Cycle poems (of which only fragments survive) and is also briefly mentioned in Homer's Odyssey. Troy and the Trojan War later became a staple myth of Classical Greek and Roman literature.


Homer describes Troy as 'well-founded', 'strong-built' and 'well-walled' there are also several references to fine battlements, towers and 'high' and 'steep' walls. The walls must have been unusually strong in order to withstand a ten-year siege and in fact, Troy fell through the trickery of the Trojan horse ruse rather than any defensive failing. Indeed, in Greek mythology the walls were so impressive that they were said to have been built by Poseidon and Apollo who after an act of impiety were compelled by Zeus to serve the Trojan king Laomedon for one year. However, the fortifications did not help the king when Hercules sacked the city with an expedition of only six ships. The sacking was Hercules' revenge for not being paid for his services to the king when he killed the sea-serpent sent by Poseidon. This episode was traditionally placed one generation before the Trojan War as the only male survivor was Laomedon's youngest son Priam, the Trojan king in the later conflict.

Troy in Archaeology

Inhabited from the Early Bronze Age (3000 BCE) through to the 12th century CE the archaeological site which is now called Troy is 5 km from the coast but was once next to the sea. The site was situated in a bay created by the mouth of the river Skamanda and occupied a strategically important position between Aegean and Eastern civilizations by controlling the principal point of access to the Black Sea, Anatolia and the Balkans from both directions by land and sea. In particular, the difficulty in finding favourable winds to enter the Dardanelles may well have resulted in ancient sailing vessels standing by near Troy. Consequently, the site became the most important Bronze Age city in the North Aegean, reaching the height of its prosperity in the middle Bronze Age, contemporary with the Mycenaean civilization on the Greek mainland and the Hittite empire to the East.


Troy was first excavated by Frank Calvert in 1863 CE and visited by Heinrich Schliemann who continued excavations from 1870 CE until his death in 1890 CE in particular, he attacked the conspicuous 20 m high artificial mound which had been left untouched since antiquity. Initial finds by Schliemann of gold and silver jewellery and vessels seemed to vindicate his belief that the site was actually the Troy of Homer. However, these have now been dated to more than a thousand years before a probable date for the Trojan War and indicated that the history of the site was much more complex than previously considered. Indeed, perhaps unwittingly, Schliemann would add 2000 years to Western history, which had previously gone back only as far as the first Olympiad of 776 BCE.

The excavations continued throughout the 20th century CE and continue to the present day and they have revealed nine different cities and no less than 46 levels of inhabitation at the site. These have been labelled Troy I to Troy IX after Schliemann's (and his successor Dorpfeld's) original classification. This has since been slightly adjusted to incorporate radio-carbon dating results from the early 21st century CE.

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Troy I (c. 3000-2550 BCE) was a small village settlement surrounded by stone walls. Pottery and metal finds match those on Lesbos and Lemnos in the Aegean and in northern Anatolia.

Troy II (c. 2550-2300 BCE) displays larger buildings (40 m long), mud-brick and stone fortifications with monumental gates. Schliemann's 'treasure' finds - objects in gold, silver, electrum, bronze, carnelian and lapis lazuli - most likely come from this period. This 'treasure' includes 60 earrings, six bracelets, two magnificent diadems and 8750 rings, all in solid gold. Once again, finds of foreign materials suggest trade with Asia.


Troy III - Troy V (c. 2300-1750 BCE) is the most difficult period to reconstruct as the layers were hastily removed in early excavations in order to reach the lower levels. Generally speaking, the period seems a less prosperous one but foreign contact is further evidenced by the presence of Anatolian influenced dome ovens and Minoan pottery.

Troy VI (c. 1750-1300 BCE) is the period most visible today at the site and is the most likely candidate for the besieged city of Homer's Trojan War. Impressive fortification walls 5 m thick and up to 8 m high constructed from large limestone blocks and including several towers (with the rectangular plan as in Hittite fortifications) demonstrate the prosperity but also a concern for defence during this period. The walls would have once been topped by a mud brick and wood superstructure and with closely fitting stonework sloping inwards as the walls rise they certainly fit the Homeric description of 'strong-built Troy'. In addition, sections of the walls are slightly offset every 10 m or so in order to curve around the site without the necessity for corners (a weak point in wall defence). This feature is unique to Troy and displays an independence from both Mycenaean and Hittite influence. The walls included five gateways allowing entrance to the inner city composed of large structures, once of two stories and with central courts and collonaded halls similar to those of contemporary Mycenaean cities such as Tiryns, Pylos and Mycenae itself. Outside the fortified citadel the lower town covers an impressive 270,000 square metres protected by an encircling rock-cut ditch. The size of the site is now much bigger than first thought when Schliemann excavated and suggests a population of as high as 10,000, much more in keeping with Homer's grand city-state.

Finds at the site point to the existence of a thriving wool industry and the first use of horses, recalling Homer's oft-used epithet 'horse-taming Trojans'. Pottery very similar to that on the Greek mainland has been discovered, principally the Grey Minyan ware which imitates metal vessels. There are also imported ceramics from Crete, Cyprus and the Levant. In marked contrast to Mycenaean palaces, there is no evidence of sculpture or fresco-painted walls.


Troy VI was partially destroyed but the exact cause is not known beyond some evidence of fire. Intriguingly, bronze arrow heads, spear tips and sling shots have been found on the site and even some embedded in the fortification walls, suggesting some sort of conflict. The dates of these (c. 1250 BCE) and the site destruction correlate with Herodotus' dates for the Trojan War. Conflicts over the centuries between Mycenaeans and Hittites are more than probable and may well have been the origin of the epic Trojan War in Greek mythology. There is very little evidence of any large-scale war but the possibility of smaller conflicts is evidenced in Hittite texts where 'Ahhiyawa' is recognised as referring to Mycenaean Greeks and 'Wilusa' as the region of which Ilios was the capital. These documents tell of local unrest and Mycenaean support of local rebellion against Hittite control in the area of Troy and suggest a possible motive for regional rivalry between the two civilizations. Intriguingly, there is also a bronze Mycenaean sword taken as war booty and found in Hattusa, the Hittite capital.

Troy VIIa (c. 1300-1180 BCE) and Troy VIIb (c. 1180-950 BCE) both display an increase in the size of the lower town and some reconstruction of the fortifications but also a marked decline in architectural and artistic quality in respect to Troy VI. For example, there is a return to handmade pottery after centuries of wares made on the wheel. Once again, this correlates well with the Greek tradition that following the Trojan War the city was sacked and abandoned, at least for a time. Both Troy VIIa and Troy VIIb were destroyed by fires.

Troy VIII and Troy IX (c. 950 BCE to 550 CE) are the sites of Greek Ilion and Roman Ilium respectively. There is evidence that the site was populated throughout the so-called Dark Ages but the settlement did not return to a level of significant development until the 8th century BCE. Ancient Troy was never forgotten though. The Persian King Xerxes is said by Herodotus to have sacrificed over a thousand oxen at the site prior to his invasion of Greece and Alexander the Great also visited the site before his expedition in the opposite direction in order to conquer Asia.


A Doric temple to Athena was constructed in the early 3rd century BCE along with new fortifications under Lysimachos (c. 301-280 BCE). The Romans also held Troy in high regard and even referred to the city as 'Sacred Ilium'. In Roman tradition, the Trojan hero Aeneas, son of Venus, had fled Troy and settled in Italy thus giving the Romans a divine ancestry. Julius Caesar in 48 BCE and Emperor Augustus (reign 27 BCE -14 CE) rebuilt much of the city and Hadrian (reign 117-138 CE) also added buildings which included an odeion, gymnasium and baths. Emperor Constantine (reign 324-337 CE) even planned to build his new capital at Troy and some construction work began until Constantinople was chosen instead. Over time the site declined, most probably because the harbour had silted up and the once great city of Troy was finally abandoned, not to be rediscovered for another 1500 years.


Historians have two major ways of understanding the ancient world: archaeology and the study of source texts. Primary sources are those sources closest to the origin of the information or idea under study. [10] [11] Primary sources have been distinguished from secondary sources, which often cite, comment on, or build upon primary sources. [12]

Archaeology Edit

Archaeology is the excavation and study of artifacts in an effort to interpret and reconstruct past human behavior. [13] [14] [15] [16] Archaeologists excavate the ruins of ancient cities looking for clues as to how the people of the time period lived. Some important discoveries by archaeologists studying ancient history include:

  • The Egyptian pyramids: [17] giant tombs built by the ancient Egyptians beginning about 2600 BC as the final resting places of their royalty.
  • The study of the ancient cities of Harappa (Pakistan), [18]Mohenjo-daro (Pakistan), and Lothal[19] in India (South Asia).
  • The city of Pompeii (Italy): [20] an ancient Roman city preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Its state of preservation is so great that it is a valuable window into Roman culture and provided insight into the cultures of the Etruscans and the Samnites. [21]
  • The Terracotta Army: [22] the mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor in ancient China.
  • The discovery of Knossos by Minos Kalokairinos and Sir Arthur Evans.
  • The discovery of Troy by Heinrich Schliemann.

Source text Edit

Most of what is known of the ancient world comes from the accounts of antiquity's own historians. Although it is important to take into account the bias of each ancient author, their accounts are the basis for our understanding of the ancient past. Some of the more notable ancient writers include Herodotus, Thucydides, Arrian, Plutarch, Polybius, Sima Qian, Sallust, Livy, Josephus, Suetonius, and Tacitus.

A fundamental difficulty of studying ancient history is that recorded histories cannot document the entirety of human events, and only a fraction of those documents have survived into the present day. [23] Furthermore, the reliability of the information obtained from these surviving records must be considered. [23] [24] Few people were capable of writing histories, as literacy was not widespread in almost any culture until long after the end of ancient history. [25]

The earliest known systematic historical thought emerged in ancient Greece, beginning with Herodotus of Halicarnassus (484–c. 425 BC). Thucydides largely eliminated divine causality in his account of the war between Athens and Sparta, [26] establishing a rationalistic element which set a precedent for subsequent Western historical writings. He was also the first to distinguish between cause and immediate origins of an event. [26]

The Roman Empire was an ancient culture with a relatively high literacy rate, [27] but many works by its most widely read historians are lost. For example, Livy, a Roman historian who lived in the 1st century BC, wrote a history of Rome called Ab Urbe Condita (From the Founding of the City) in 144 volumes only 35 volumes still exist, although short summaries of most of the rest do exist. Indeed, no more than a minority of the work of any major Roman historian has survived.

Timeline of ancient history Edit

This gives a listed timeline, ranging from 3300 BC to 600 AD, that provides an overview of ancient history.

Prehistory Edit

Prehistory is the period before written history. The early human migrations [28] in the Lower Paleolithic saw Homo erectus spread across Eurasia 1.8 million years ago. The controlled use of fire first occurred 800,000 years ago in the Middle Paleolithic. 250,000 years ago, Homo sapiens (modern humans) emerged in Africa. 60–70,000 years ago, Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa along a coastal route to South and Southeast Asia and reached Australia. 50,000 years ago, modern humans spread from Asia to the Near East. Europe was first reached by modern humans 40,000 years ago. Humans migrated to the Americas about 15,000 years ago in the Upper Paleolithic.

The 10th millennium BC is the earliest given date for the invention of agriculture and the beginning of the ancient era. Göbekli Tepe was erected by hunter-gatherers in the 10th millennium BC (c. 11,500 years ago), before the advent of sedentism. Together with Nevalı Çori, it has revolutionized understanding of the Eurasian Neolithic. In the 7th millennium BC, Jiahu culture began in China. By the 5th millennium BC, the late Neolithic civilizations saw the invention of the wheel and the spread of proto-writing. In the 4th millennium BC, the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture in the Ukraine-Moldova-Romania region develops. By 3400 BC, "proto-literate" cuneiform is spread in the Middle East. [29] The 30th century BC, referred to as the Early Bronze Age II, saw the beginning of the literate period in Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. Around the 27th century BC, the Old Kingdom of Egypt and the First Dynasty of Uruk are founded, according to the earliest reliable regnal eras.

Middle to Late Bronze Age Edit

The Bronze Age forms part of the three-age system. It follows the Neolithic Age in some areas of the world. In most areas of civilization bronze smelting became a foundation for more advanced societies. There was some contrast with New World societies, who often still preferred stone to metal for utilitarian purposes. Modern historians have identified five original civilizations which emerged in the time period. [30]

The first civilization emerged in Sumer in the southern region of Mesopotamia, now part of modern-day Iraq. By 3000 BC, Sumerian city states had collectively formed civilization, with government, religion, division of labor and writing. [31] [32] Among the city states Ur was among the most significant.

In the 24th century BC, the Akkadian Empire [33] [34] was founded in Mesopotamia. From Sumer, civilization and bronze smelting spread westward to Egypt, the Minoans and the Hittites.

The First Intermediate Period of Egypt of the 22nd century BC was followed by the Middle Kingdom of Egypt between the 21st to 17th centuries BC. The Sumerian Renaissance also developed c. the 21st century BC in Ur. Around the 18th century BC, the Second Intermediate Period of Egypt began. Egypt was a superpower at the time. By 1600 BC, Mycenaean Greece developed and invaded the remains of Minoan civilization. The beginning of Hittite dominance of the Eastern Mediterranean region is also seen in the 1600s BC. The time from the 16th to the 11th centuries BC around the Nile is called the New Kingdom of Egypt. Between 1550 BC and 1292 BC, the Amarna Period developed in Egypt.

East of the Iranian world, was the Indus River Valley civilization which organized cities neatly on grid patterns. [35] However the Indus River Valley civilization diminished after 1900 BC and was later replaced with Indo-Aryan peoples who established Vedic culture.

The beginning of the Shang dynasty emerged in China in this period, and there was evidence of a fully developed Chinese writing system. The Shang Dynasty is the first Chinese regime recognized by western scholars though Chinese historians insist that the Xia dynasty preceded it. The Shang dynasty practiced forced labor to complete public projects. There is evidence of massive ritual burial.

Across the ocean, the earliest known civilization of the Americas appeared in the river valleys of the desert coast of central modern day Peru. The Norte Chico civilization's first city flourished around 3100 BC. The Olmecs are supposed to appear later in Mesoamerica between the 14th and 13th centuries.

Early Iron Age Edit

The Iron Age is the last principal period in the three-age system, preceded by the Bronze Age. Its date and context vary depending on the country or geographical region. The Iron Age over all was characterized by the prevalent smelting of iron with ferrous metallurgy and the use of carbon steel. Smelted iron proved more durable than earlier metals such as copper or bronze and allowed for more productive societies. The Iron Age took place at different times in different parts of the world, and comes to an end when a society began to maintain historical records.

During the 13th to 12th centuries BC, the Ramesside Period occurred in Egypt. Around 1200 BC, the Trojan War was thought to have taken place. [36] By around 1180 BC, the disintegration of the Hittite Empire was under way. The collapse of the Hitties was part of the larger scale Bronze Age Collapse which took place in the ancient Near East around 1200 BC. In Greece the Mycenae and Minona both disintegrated. A wave of Sea Peoples attacked many countries, only Egypt survived intact. Afterwards some entirely new successor civilizations arose in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In 1046 BC, the Zhou force, led by King Wu of Zhou, overthrew the last king of the Shang dynasty. The Zhou dynasty was established in China shortly thereafter. During this Zhou era China embraced a feudal society of decentralized power. Iron Age China then dissolved into the warring states period where possibly millions of soldiers fought each other over feudal struggles.

Pirak is an early iron-age site in Balochistan, Pakistan, going back to about 1200 BC. This period is believed to be the beginning of the Iron Age in India and the subcontinent. [37] Around the same time came the Vedas, the oldest sacred texts for the Hindu religion.

In 1000 BC, the Mannaean Kingdom began in Western Asia. Around the 10th to 7th centuries BC, the Neo-Assyrian Empire developed in Mesopotamia. [38] In 800 BC, the rise of Greek city-states began. In 776 BC, the first recorded Olympic Games were held. [39] In contrast to neighboring cultures the Greek City states did not become a single militaristic empire but competed with each other as separate polis.

Axial Age Edit

The preceding Iron Age is often thought to have ended in the Middle East around 550 BC due to the rise of historiography (the historical record). The Axial Age is used to describe history between 800 and 200 BC of Eurasia, including ancient Greece, Iran, India and China. Widespread trade and communication between distinct regions in this period, including the rise of the Silk Road. This period saw the rise of philosophy and proselytizing religions.

Philosophy, religion and science were diverse in the Hundred Schools of Thought producing thinkers such as Confucius, Lao Tzu and Mozi during the 6th century BC. Similar trends emerged throughout Eurasia in India with the rise of Buddhism, in the Near East with Zoroastrianism and Judaism and in the west with ancient Greek philosophy. In these developments religious and philosophical figures were all searching for human meaning. [40]

The Axial Age and its aftermath saw large wars and the formation of large empires that stretched beyond the limits of earlier Iron Age Societies. Significant for the time was the Persian Achaemenid Empire. [41] The empire's vast territory extended from modern day Egypt to Xinjiang. The empire's legacy include the rise of commerce over land routes through Eurasia as well as the spreading of Persian culture through the middle east. The Royal Road allowed for efficient trade and taxation. Though Macedonian Alexander the Great conquered the Achaemenid Empire in its entirety, the unity of Alexander's conquests did not survive past his lifetime. Greek culture, and technology spread through West and South Asia often synthesizing with local cultures.

Formation of empires and fragmentation Edit

Separate Greek kingdoms Egypt and Asia encouraged trade and communication like earlier Persian administrations. [42] Combined with the expansion of the Han dynasty westward the Silk Road as a series of routes made possible the exchange of goods between the Mediterranean Basin, South Asia and East Asia. In South Asia, the Mauryan empire briefly annexed much of the Indian Subcontinent though short lived, its reign had the legacies of spreading Buddhism and providing an inspiration to later Indian states.

Supplanting the warring Greek kingdoms in the western world came the growing Roman Republic and the Iranian Parthian Empire. As a result of empires, urbanization and literacy spread to locations which had previously been at the periphery of civilization as known by the large empires. Upon the turn of the millennium the independence of tribal peoples and smaller kingdoms were threatened by more advanced states. Empires were not just remarkable for their territorial size but for their administration and the dissemination of culture and trade, in this way the influence of empires often extended far beyond their national boundaries. Trade routes expanded by land and sea and allowed for flow of goods between distant regions even in the absence of communication. Distant nations such as Imperial Rome and the Chinese Han Dynasty rarely communicated but trade of goods did occur as evidenced by archaeological discoveries such as Roman coins in Vietnam. At this time most of the world's population inhabited only a small part of the earth's surface. Outside of civilization large geographic areas such as Siberia, Sub Saharan Africa and Australia remained sparsely populated. The New World hosted a variety of separate civilizations but its own trade networks were smaller due to the lack of draft animals and the wheel.

Empires with their immense military strength remained fragile to civil wars, economic decline and a changing political environment internationally. In 220 AD Han China collapsed into warring states while the European Roman Empire began to suffer from turmoil in the 3rd-century crisis. In Persia regime change took place from Parthian Empire to the more centralized Sassanian Empire. The land based Silk Road continued to deliver profits in trade but came under continual assault by nomads all on the northern frontiers of Eurasian nations. Safer sea routes began to gain preference in the early centuries AD

Proselytizing religions began to replace polytheism and folk religions in many areas. Christianity gained a wide following in the Roman Empire, Zoroastrianism became the state enforced religion of Iran and Buddhism spread to East Asia from South Asia. Social change, political transformation as well as ecological events all contributed to the end of ancient times and the beginning of the Post Classical era in Eurasia roughly around the year 500.

Lesson 28: Narrative


Any attempt to reconstruct the course of events on the Mycenaean Greek Mainland in the 13th and 12th centuries B.C. and to determine therefrom the probable causes of the destruction of the Mycenaean palaces and the collapse of the highly centralized political and economic system based upon them must rely on a sound and detailed chronology. Since no historical documents were produced locally during this period and since the absolute chronology of the LH IIIB and LH IIIC ceramic phases is rather "fluid" (still being essentially dependent on cross-dating with the relatively solid absolute chronology of New Kingdom Egypt, although there is now hope that dendrochronology may ultimately provide an independent and more precise series of dates), the dating of events within the Aegean during the period in question is primarily relative, depends largely on ceramics, and lacks great precision. Despite major advances since the mid-1960's which have, for example, resulted in the distinction of two phases within the LH IIIB period and up to as many as five in the following LH IIIC period, such a system of dating is still inadequate for anything more than a very broad outline of events in southern Greece from ca. 1320/1300 to 1050/1030 B.C. The dates of destruction or abandonment of altogether too many important sites are either unreliable or unknown, for a wide variety of different reasons. Although slow progress is being made, it will be a long time yet before the numerous local catastrophes of the two centuries between ca. 1250 and ca. 1050 B.C. can be placed with some degree of confidence into the order in which they occurred. The summary which follows is therefore a preliminary report at best - and a selective one at that! - on work still very much in progress.

Aside from problems with dating, there is in addition the problem caused by the constant proliferation of theories which purport to explain the Mycenaean collapse. Relatively few of these theories have been couched in terms whereby they can be tested by future programs of excavation and survey. To the extent that they cannot be tested, such theories are now, and will always remain, no more than vague possibilities. Aegean prehistorians future need to couch their hypotheses about the collapse in terms that are susceptible to testing in the field. Only in this fashion will the number of possibly valid theories be reduced in number and the probable causes for the collapse be restricted and, in the end, specifically identified.

Signs of Trouble within Mycenaen Greece During the LH IIIB Period

The evidence cited below with regard to both destructions and construction is limited to those sites where dating of major architectural remains is relatively secure. Numerous sites are abandoned or destroyed either within or at the very end of LH IIIB, but the pottery from the final levels of occupation cannot be accurately dated because it has been inadequately published.

Significant Destructions

(1) The so-called "houses outside the walls" at Mycenae (House of the Oil Merchant, House of Shields, House of Sphinxes, West House), located on a series of terraces south of Grave Circle B, were destroyed by fire in LH IIIB1. Wace concluded, from the evidence of stirrup jars filled with oil whose necks had been smashed off, that the fire was purposefully set after oil had been poured over the basement of the House of the Oil Merchant.

(2) The so-called "Potter's Shop" at Zygouries, probably a country mansion or even a small palace, was destroyed by fire in the LH IIIB1 period.

(3) The "palace" and citadel of Gla were destroyed by fire. Recent excavations at the site by Iakovides have confirmed that this destruction occurred early in the LH IIIB period, at which time the Copaïc Basin may well have been reflooded.

(4) There are some grounds for believing that part, if not all, of the later or so-called "New" Palace at Thebes was destroyed at this time, although not by fire.

Significant Constructions

(1) The fortifications at Mycenae were strengthened and an underground water supply system was added, presumably to allow the defenders to withstand a protracted siege (Phases 2 and 3 in the evolution of the citadel at Mycenae).

(2) The fortifications at Tiryns were strengthened, the citadel was substantially enlarged by the addition of the Unterburg (Lower Citadel), the storage facilities within the fortified area were enormously expanded with the construction of the East and South Galleries, in addition to numerous vaulted chambers within the thickness of the Unterburg's fortification wall, and an underground water supply system was again added in a final stage of construction to give the fortress adequate resources in the case of a prolonged siege (Phases 2 and 3 in the evolution of the citadel at Tiryns).

(3) Cyclopean fortifications were constructed around the Acropolis in Athens, and in a late stage of the LH IIIB period a subterranean water supply system was added to this citadel as well.

(4) A massive program of fortification was initiated at the Isthmus of Corinth in the form of a wall which was evidently intended to seal off the Peloponnese from invasion by land forces from the north. The surviving evidence suggests that this enormously ambitious project was never completed.

Evidence from the Linear B Tablets

(1) The "watchers-by-the-sea" tablets from Pylos have been interpreted by some as showing Mycenaean concern over the possibility of a seaborne invasion of Messenia.

The Horizon of Destructions and Abandonments at the End of the LH IIIB Period and the Very Beginning of the LH IIIC Phase

The Argolid and Corinthia

(1) A major destruction level within the citadel walls at Mycenae defines the end of the LH IIIB2 ceramic phase. The entire area within the walls appears to have been destroyed by fire and the palace was never rebuilt. The evidence for an earthquake at nearby Tiryns (see below) has led some excavators at Mycenae to attribute this destruction at Mycenae to a contemporary earthquake that had a major impact at all the sites ringing the Argive plain (i.e. at Midea as well see below).

(2) A major destruction by fire took place within the walls at Tiryns at the end of LH IIIB2 or just possibly in the very earliest stages of LH IIIC. Since the palace was completely excavated by Schliemann and others before modern archaeological practices became standard, it is difficult to be sure that the palace area was not reconstructed and reoccupied in the LH IIIC period. However, there is no compelling evidence to suggest that a Mycenaean palace functioned at Tiryns after this destruction.

The most recent excavations in the Unterburg at Tiryns have provided masses of data for the nature and date of this destruction. The associated pottery seems to be slightly later in date than the pottery from the equivalently massive destruction at Mycenae. Of even greater potential significance is the strong conviction of the German excavators that the destruction at Tiryns was caused by an earthquake rather than being due to human agency. The Greek excavators at Mycenae, Mylonas and Iakovides, have long championed the view that the destruction of terminal LH IIIB at Mycenae was also due to an earthquake. It may be, then, that both Mycenae and Tiryns were destroyed at the same time by a natural disaster, although no final consensus has yet been reached on this point.

Zangger has dated the destruction by flood of the lower town (Unterstadt) at Tiryns to the transition between LH IIIB and LH IIIC. It is as yet unclear what the date of this event should be relative to the citadel's destruction by fire.

(3) At least part, and probably all, of the walled citadel of Midea was destroyed by fire in or at the end of LH IIIB2. This destruction has been connected by Demakopoulou with the earthquake to which roughly contemporary destruction horizons at nearby Mycenae and Tiryns have been attributed.

(4) The small settlement at Iria to the southeast of Nauplion was destroyed by fire in the earliest recognizable stage of LH IIIC.

(5) Both Berbati and Prosymna appear to have been abandoned either late in LH IIIB or early in LH IIIC.

(6) The latest material of Bronze Age date from both Nemea-Tsoungiza and Zygouries is in each case a small amount of LH IIIB2 pottery, but the two sites appear to have been markedly less intensively occupied in this phase than in the preceding LH IIIB1 stage. Both appear to have been abandoned by the beginning of the LH IIIC phase.


(1) Eutresis was abandoned very early in the LH IIIC period.

(2) The bulk of the so-called "New Palace" in Thebes was probably destroyed by fire late in LH IIIB.


(1) Krisa was destroyed, although the precise date of the destruction within the LH IIIB to early LH IIIC periods is uncertain.


(1) The Menelaion was destroyed by fire at or near the end of the LH IIIB period.

(2) The site of Ayios Stephanos shows no evidence of occupation after the very early LH IIIC period.


(1) The palace at Pylos was burnt either late in the LH IIIB period or at some point fairly early in the LH IIIC phase, subsequently never to be rebuilt. Mountjoy (1997) has argued that the pottery from destruction contexts in the palace can be dated quite closely in Argive terms to the transition from LH IIIB to IIIC (her freshly coined "Transitional LH IIIB2/LH IIIC Early" phase).

(2) Nichoria was destroyed late in LH IIIB.

(3) The evidence for massive depopulation in the LH IIIC period is more striking in Messenia than in any other area of southern Greece.


There is an apparent population influx into this area during the LH IIIC period, although Papadopoulos' 1978-79 review of the evidence suggests that this may have been somewhat overemphasized by Desborough in 1964. The primary evidence for this influx consists of an increase in tombs in the area during the LH IIIC phase, precisely the reverse of the situation observed in Messenia, Laconia, and even the Argolid at this time.

Ionian Islands

As in Achaea, large numbers of newly constructed LH IIIC tombs, on the island of Kephallenia in particular, suggest a population influx into this area during this period.


(1) Although the later Athenians were very proud of the fact that they had escaped conquest at the hands of the invading Dorians, a case can nevertheless be made for the violent destruction of the Mycenaean citadel on the Acropolis in the earliest sub-phase of the LH IIIC period, contemporary with the destruction of Iria in the Argolid. Although the archaeological evidence for such a destruction is good, the agent(s) of the destruction cannot be precisely identified and thus the later Athenian boast that they defeated the Dorians may well be true.

(2) The extremely crowded conditions in the LH IIIC cemetery of Perati in eastern Attica suggest that there was probably at least a significant nucleation of population at, if not necessarily a population influx into, this coastal site in this period. The settlement associated with the Perati cemetery may well have been located on the rugged Raphtis island in the middle of Porto Raphti bay, an indication that a settlement on the Mainland itself (as at the nearby site of Brauron in the preceding LH IIIA-B periods) was somehow not safe. Indeed, it is tempting to identify the population buried at Perati as migrants from Brauron and their descendants, since both the settlement and the cemetery at Brauron go out of use at just about the same time as burials begin at Perati.


Although the settlement in quantity of Mycenaean "colonists" on Cyprus during the LH IIIA and IIIB periods is considered doubtful by most scholars, there is no doubt but that the LH IIIC period witnessed at least two major incursions of Mycenaean "refugees" into the island. The first of these is dated early in LH IIIC at the sites of Enkomi, Kition, Palaeokastro Maa, and Sinda, while the second took place perhaps a couple of generations later in advanced LH IIIC.


The areas suffering the violent destruction of major administrative centers in the late LH IIIB period and massive depopulation in the subsequent LH IIIC phase lie along a roughly north-south axis (Boeotia, western Attica, Corinthia, Argolid, Messenia, Laconia). Population influxes, where these have been detected, are in evidence both west (Achaea, Ionian Islands) and east (eastern Attica, Cyprus) of this major north-south axis and have also been claimed further south on Crete. It is, however, too early to establish coherent patterns with any confidence from the limited amount of data currently available. Above all, more information is needed on the course of events in Thessaly and Macedonia at this time. Recent excavations at Assiros and Kastanas in central Macedonia will go some way toward filling the gaps in the evidence, but western Macedonia and Thessaly still remain blank. Evidence from stratified settlement sites occupied during this period in such areas as Achaea, the Ionian islands, and eastern Attica is also highly desirable. Full publication of the long LH IIIC sequence at Lefkandi in Euboea will be very informative, but this site is unlikely to provide much useful information on the transition from LH IIIB to LH IIIC in this area.

A Selection of Theories as to the Cause(s) of the Mycenaean Palatial Collapse

Andronikos (1954)

The collapse came about as the result of extreme social unrest within Mycenaean society and in the form of revolts of the peasantry against the ruling class.

While it is possible to believe in social revolutions at isolated sites such as Mycenae or Tiryns or even within a province containing one or more such kingdoms (e.g. the Argolid or Messenia), it is far more difficult to believe that more or less simultaneous revolutions took place throughout most of the Peloponnese as well as central Greece. In any event, this Neo-Marxist theory of internal social revolution as a the cause of the Mycenaean collapse fails to explain the ensuing widespread depopulation of large and fertile areas such as Messenia and Laconia.

Vermeule (1960)

"This disruption of commerce in the late 13th century may have been more disastrous for Greece than direct invasions and this followed inevitably on the coming of the Sea Peoples whose hunt for land and subsistence threw the Aegean into chaos." The theory posits that the Sea Peoples crippled Mycenaean commerce by severing the normal trans-Aegean trade routes. Since the palaces, according to this view, depended on external trading contacts for their continued existence, the widespread elimination of such commerce led directly to the destruction of the palaces, although at whose hands is uncertain and perhaps ultimately not very important.

The activities of the Sea Peoples are securely attested only through Egyptian sources which mention battles against them on the frontiers of Egypt fought by the pharoahs Merenptah and Ramesses III at the end of the 13th and early in the 12th centuries respectively. The Egyptian sources specify that these raiders had also caused havoc in the Levant, Cyprus, and Anatolia. Most scholars are therefore willing to see in them the destroyers of such prominent Levantine city-states as Ugarit. However, there is no sound evidence for their presence as far north and west as the Aegean. In fact, the limited amount of archaeological evidence available from the central and southeastern Aegean islands (Naxos, Melos, Rhodes, Kos) in the century ca. 1250-1150 B.C. suggests that these areas survived the collapse of the Mycenaean palaces on the Greek Mainland relatively unscathed. Only at the site of Koukounaries in northern Paros has a major early LH IIIC destruction level of a flourishing Cycladic settlement been documented. Vermeule's theory is a better response to the question of why the palaces were not rebuilt than it is to that of who destroyed them and why.

Desborough (1964)

Desborough cautiously suggested the possibility of an invasion by land from the north, although at the time he wrote he was acutely conscious of the fact that there was virtually no evidence, except for the destruction levels and widespread abandonments themselves, for the presence of such invaders. He did point out that a few new classes of bronze objects, the [or safety-pins] and the cut-and-thrust swords of the so-called "Naue II" type, make their first appearance in the Mycenaean world ca. 1200 B.C. However, these objects always appear in "good Mycenaean" contexts such as chamber tombs with otherwise standard Mycenaean funeral assemblages. They consequently do not appear to have belonged exclusively to an intrusive, non-Mycenaean population element. As a result, Snodgrass (1974) concluded that objects of these kinds need not be taken as evidence of the invasion or immigration of northern peoples from the western Danube basin into the Aegean (as argued by Grumach, Milojcic, and Gimbutas, among others) because they could be considered simply as "good ideas" which "caught on" in the Aegean area at much the same time as similar objects first appeared in northern Italy and in the early Urnfield cemeteries of the Danube basin. All such objects, Snodgrass argued, could have been imported initially and locally copied thereafter by peoples indigenous to the areas in question, rather than necessarily being the belongings of invaders.

Mylonas (1966)

Mylonas felt that too much emphasis had been placed on the supposed contemporaneity of the palatial destructions. In his view, specialists had been too busy looking for a single cause for what were a large number of distinct localized destructions. That individual Mycenaean centers were destroyed by quite different people for a variety of distinct reasons is supported by the destruction sagas associated with a number of these centers in the body of Greek myth: Thebes and the Epigonoi, the sons of the more famous "Seven against Thebes", a group of Peloponnesian heroes who had themselves failed, under the leadership of the Theban renegade Polyneices and the Argive king Adrastus, to sack Thebes a generation earlier Mycenae and the House of Atreus which destroyed itself in a series of intrafamilial squabbles (Atreus vs. Thyestes, Aegisthos and Clytemnestra vs. Agamemnon, Orestes vs. Aegisthos and Clytemnestra) etc. Documentary evidence of a different sort, contemporary Linear B tablets as opposed to later mythological tales, appears to show that Pylos may have been destroyed in a surprise piratic raid by the people(s) against whom the "watchers-by-the-sea" mentioned in the O-KA tablets had been posted.

Mylonas' approach fails to take sufficient cognizance of the remarkable coincidence of the complete collapse of palatial civilization on the Greek Mainland within a relatively short period of time, arguably no more than a generation at most in the Peloponnese. It is unclear from his explanation why the palaces should never have been rebuilt. The myths concerned with the Dorian invasion of the Peloponnese and other disturbances at this approximate time are summarized by Buck (1969).

Carpenter (1966)

Carpenter suggested that in the years around 1200 B.C., that is, around the end of the LH IIIB period, there was an extended drought which disrupted agriculture in the areas of Crete, the southern Peloponnese, Boeotia, Euboea, Phocis, and the Argolid but which did not particularly affect Attica, the northwest Peloponnese, Thessaly and the rest of northern Greece, or the Dodecanese (e.g. Rhodes, Kos, etc.). Since Carpenter was not a meteorologist, many scholars felt that he lacked the requisite expertise to substantiate his theory. In 1974, a group of meteorologists evaluated Carpenter's thesis from two points of view: (a) was a pattern of drought such as that postulated by Carpenter in fact possible? (b) did such a drought in fact occur ca. 1200 B.C.? In response to the first question, their answer was that the proposed pattern was indeed possible and had in fact occurred as recently as 1954-55. While in that particular instance the drought lasted for only one year, it was perfectly possible for such a drought pattern to persist for the longer period of time required by Carpenter's theory. In response to the second question, the meteorologists' response was less definite, for the simple reason that relatively few data presently exist from the Aegean which can be brought to bear on the problem in question. Most recently, studies by Kuniholm and his associates of tree-growth rings from Turkey suggest that there may have been a drought in central Anatolia at the time in question which may be connected with the collapse of the Hittite Empire ca. 1200 B.C.

This theory has the virtue of being a hypothesis for which objective tests can be quite easily devised. Further meteorological data concerning the climate of Greece in the 13th and 12th centuries may result in the partial or total confirmation of the postulated drought. The question as to who destroyed the palaces is not specifically addressed by this theory, although presumably it would have been the work of Mycenaeans seeking to gain access to the agricultural surpluses kept in palatial storerooms rather than that of non-Mycenaean outsiders.

Iakovides (1974)

The Mycenaean palatial economies were dependent on trade with Cyprus and the Levant. When the trade routes connecting Greece with these areas were cut as the result of the activities of the Sea Peoples, Mycenaean palatial civilization fell apart in a short space of time.

This theory, a slightly revised version of Vermeule's hypothesis of 1960, takes cognizance of the fact that the Sea Peoples' activities are only well documented in the easternmost part of the Mediterranean and therefore postulates a collapse of Mycenaean trading mechanisms at their eastern termini rather than within the Aegean. Like Vermeule's theory, Iakovides' thesis accounts for the disappearance of the Mycenaean palatial system after the destructions of ca. 1200 B.C. but fails to address the widepread depopulation of the Peloponnese in the LH IIIC period or to identify who actually destroyed the Mycenaean palaces. A decline in contacts between the Mycenaean Greek Mainland and both Cyprus and western Anatolia begins to be noticeable in the latter part of the LH IIIB period, a fact which suggests that the disruption of Mycenaean commercial activities with the east was a gradual and potentially rather drawn out process rather than the relatively sudden result of a small number of closely spaced events. The scarcity of raw materials, and of copper in particular, for specialized workers within the kingdom of Pylos is clear from Linear B texts found at that site. Although no comparable documentary evidence has been found at other Mycenaean centers, this shortage of imported raw materials and the breakdown in exchange networks which such a shortage implies is usually considered to have existed throughout the southern Aegean by the end of the 13th century B.C.

Rutter (1975, 1990), Walberg (1976), Deger-Jalkotzy (1977, 1983), Small (1990, 1997), Pilides (1994), Bankoff, Meyer, and Stefanovich (1996)

Rutter, following in the footsteps of E. French, identified a non-Mycenaean handmade and burnished class of pottery in early LH IIIC contexts at Korakou, Mycenae, Lefkandi, and a few other sites in central and southern Greece. Since this pottery was locally made, it constituted evidence for the presence of a non-Mycenaean population element within Mycenaean Greece in the period immediately following the destruction of the major Peloponnesian centers. This handmade and burnished pottery, in Rutter's view, had its closest parallels in the "Coarse Ware" of Troy VIIb1 and in the pottery of the Final Bronze Age Coslogeni culture of southeastern Rumania. Rutter therefore suggested that there might be a connection between the makers of this non-Mycenaean pottery and the destroyers of both Troy VIIa and of the Mycenaean centers in the Peloponnese.

Deger-Jalkotzy, publishing similar non-Mycenaean ceramics from early LH IIIC contexts at the coastal site of Aigeira in Achaea, argued that similar pottery was to be found not only in Troy and Rumania but also in Sicily and southern Italy. In all cases, this pottery had no local ancestry and was presumably evidence for intrusive population groups. Such groups were probably not large (i.e. not comparable in scale to the migrating tribes who contributed to the downfall of the Roman Empire in the 4th and 5th centuries A.D.), but rather small bands of pirates, freebooters, and unemployed mercenaries. The original homeland of these groups, from which they filtered down into various areas of the Mediterranean by a number of different routes, was the central Danube. These warrior bands, comparable in terms of their activities and organization to the Vikings of the 7th to 10th centuries A.D., may indeed have constituted the nucleus of the raiders known later to the Egyptians as the Sea Peoples.

Despite the discovery of considerable amounts of handmade and burnished pottery at both Tiryns and the Menelaion since Rutter's and Deger-Jalkotzy's original publications, far too little of this pottery has yet been published for any sort of reliable estimate of its significance. Kilian has suggested that the closest parallels for this material come from northwest Greece (Epirus) and has maintained that the earliest examples of such pottery from Tiryns come from contexts immediately predating the major destruction at that site at the end of the LH IIIB period. It is also apparent from Tiryns that, at least at that site, the handmade and burnished pottery persisted in use throughout the LH IIIC period, while at Korakou and the Menelaion such material seems to be restricted to early LH IIIC levels. Moreover, at Tiryns standard Mycenaean shapes are imitated in the dark-surfaced, handmade and burnished fabrics. It thus appears that there is considerable local variability in the manner in which this intrusive class of ceramics manifests itself. Technologically comparable material has recently been identified at the sites of Kommos and Chania in Crete. That from Kommos dates from the LM IIIA2-B periods and has its closest parallels on Sardinia that from Chania, on the other hand, appears to be later in date and has better parallels in southern Italy. In both cases, the pottery in question is imported rather than locally made and consequently need not represent resident pottery producers of Italian origin at the sites in question.

Perhaps most significantly, the pottery of this technologically inferior variety constitutes precisely the sort of material for which Desborough searched in vain to bolster his theory of northern invaders in 1964. Deger-Jalkotzy has connected the fibulae and "Naue II" cut-and-thrust swords identified long ago as evidence for northern intruders into the Mycenaean world at this time with the much humbler, dark-surfaced, handmade-and-burnished pottery and views all three artifactual classes as representative of a single phenomenon. But most authorities see no compelling reason to accept such a connection. The pottery has nevertheless often been categorized as "Barbarian Ware", or even "Dorian Ware", especially in German scholarship on the subject. The larger topic of Mycenaean contacts with central Europe at this time has been most recently summarized independently and with quite different conclusions by Harding (1984) and Bouzek (1985).

An alternative approach to the interpretation of this pottery, which may be best referred to in an abbreviated as well as neutral fashion by the term HMBW (= HandMade and Burnished Ware), has been to view it as the result of a new mode of production: due to the collapse of the palaces and the centralized industries which they supported, production at the household level by non-specialized, indeed relatively inexperienced personnnel was required for the first time in centuries (Walberg 1976, Small 1990). This approach, however, fails to take cognizance of two very important aspects of the available evidence: first, the typological peculiarities of HMBW in shape and decoration [e.g. the recurrence of non-Mycenaean shapes like the deep wide-mouthed jar with multiple lugs of three or four characteristic varieties interrupting a finger-impressed plastic cordon below the rim at a number of sites spread over a wide area including the Corinthia (Korakou), the Argolid (Mycenae and Tiryns), Laconia (the Menelaion), and even northwestern Anatolia (Troy)] and second, the fact that standard wheelmade Mycenaean cooking and table wares continued to be produced in quantity throughout the Mycenaean period, thus showing that the long-established technological norms of indigenous ceramic production on the Greek Mainland continued in be operative with respect to the vast majority (probably 90% or even higher) of pottery being manufactured after the palatial collapse (Rutter 1990).

The most recent review of all HMBW material so far published has extended its distribution to Cyprus (Pilides 1994), where it seems to make its appearance at much the same time as Mycenaean refugees are aupposed to have colonized the island in substantial numbers at the beginning of the LH IIIC period (see above). An attractive recent suggestion for how HMBW ought to be interpreted has invoked the analogy of the creolized ceramic products of slave societies of the 16th-19th centuries A.D. in the Americas (Bankoff, Meyer, and Stefanovich 1996). Appropriately acknowledging the heterogeneous typology, retrograde technology, and undistinctive intrasite as well as intersite distribution of HMBW, this analogy suggests that this pottery represents an intrusive population element in the 12th century B.C. Aegean playing a subservient rather than dominant role in the climactic events of that age.

Winter (1977)

Winter has made the important point, on the basis of analogies with the 3rd century B.C. Galatian invasion of Anatolia and the 6th century A.D. Slavic invasion of Greece, both of them undisputed historical events, that invaders on a lower cultural level than the inhabitants of the area which they invade often do not leave behind any sign of their presence other than destruction levels and evidence for drastic depopulation. Even when they remain in the invaded area, as both the Galatians and the Slavs did, they are often not archaeologically detectable or observable since they may wholeheartedly adopt the existing material culture of the population which they have conquered.

In other words, regardless of whether the handmade and burnished pottery and the new bronze types have any significance as indicators of the identity of a group of invaders, the destruction levels and depopulation evident in Greece during the period ca. 1250-1150 B.C. are themselves sufficient evidence to sustain the theory of invasion from outside of Mycenaean Greece as a rationale for the collapse of the Mycenaean palatial system. This thesis has not found universal favor with archaeologists and historians, as responses to Winter's original article by Thomas (1978, 1980) show.

Betancourt (1976)

Betancourt has argued that the Mycenaean economy was so specialized that a short period of disruption of any kind, whether the result of internal social upheavals, invasion from outside, or a period of poor weather, would lead inevitably to the collapse of the major economic centers, the palaces, a phenomenon which would in turn cause the sort of internal chaos leading to the widespread depopulation of large areas of the Greek Mainland, even if they were agriculturally fertile and hence potentially productive.

Both Betancourt and Hutchinson (1977) focus their efforts on establishing how fragile the Mycenaean palatial economy was and hence address more the issue of why palatial civilization disappeared from Greece after 1200 B.C. than that of what the initial shock or shocks may have been which led to the destructions of the palaces in the first instance.

Drews (1993)

In a wide-ranging review of the relatively sudden demise of numerous kingdoms and empires throughout the eastern Mediterranean region in the later 13th and early 12th centuries B.C., Drews suggests that these collapses occurred as the result of a fundamental change in the nature of warfare in this period. In his view, what is at issue is the replacement of the massed chariotry that had been dominant on Near Eastern battlefields since the introduction of the horse-drawn chariot in the 18th-17th centuries B.C. by light-armed and highly mobile infantry who relied principally on the javelin as a weapon. The success of these new troops against chariot forces of the traditional type on 13th-century battlefields dealt a fatal blow to militaristic polities whose power had been based on chariots and on the socially and economically privileged warrior elite who manned them (e.g. the Hittite Empire, the Mycenaean kingdoms, the city states of coastal Syria and the Levant, the Hurrian kingdom of Mitanni, the Kassite kingdom of Babylon, etc.). Since the new mode of warfare entailed the abandonment of an entire social order based on the prominence of horse-drawn battle-cars, traditional forms of kingship were likewise either altogether scrapped or at the very least greatly modified.

The virtue of Drews' treatment of the Mycenaean collapse is that he places it in the context of a much larger series of military, economic, and political changes that affected all of the "civilized world" of western Asia and the eastern Mediterranean at the end of the Late Bronze Age. But in identifying a single cause for a very complex and multifaceted combination of events that involved a very large area over a century or more of time, Drews has unquestionably been guilty of the same kind of oversimplification that characterizes all of the "single-answer" approaches to the widespread "systems collapse" in question. Liverani (1994) has provided a brief critique of Drews' approach from a Near Eastern perspective. From an Aegean point of view, what is surprising is how popular the chariot continues to be in post-palatial Mycenaean art of the 12th century B.C., especially in view of the contemporary disappearance of such unambiguous totems of Mycenaean royalty as the figure-of-eight shield and the boars'-tusk helmet. In fact, rather than disappearing from the pictorial vocabulary of the LH IIIC vase painters who decorated the kraters used at male drinking parties, chariots are not only as popular as they ever were, but are now more often explicitly connected with warfare through the warrior garb of their occupants than was the case in the palatial era. Since many specialists have difficulty imagining chariot-borne warriors playing any significant role on Aegean battlefields in the first place because of the region's highly irregular topography, there is understandably a good deal of skepticism in this particular part of the eastern Mediterranean as to the significance of the supposed passing of massed chariotry from the military scene.


The theories outlined above can be roughly categorized as follows:

(a) Economic Factors: Vermeule, Iakovides, Betancourt.

(b) Climatic Change: Carpenter.

(c) Internal Social Upheaval: Andronikos, Mylonas.

(d) Invasion from Outside the Aegean World: Desborough, Rutter, Winter, Deger-Jalkotzy.

(e) Changes in the Nature of Warfare: Drews.

In fact, the relatively sudden, extensive, and thorough eradication of Mycenaean palatial civilization is likely to have been caused by a combination of factors. In any case, no one of the theories outlined above addresses all of the questions inherent in a reconstruction of the Mycenaean collapse. These questions include, but are by no means limited to, the following:

(1) How stable was Mycenaean palatial civilization in the first place? Was it flexible enough to withstand substantial "shocks"?

(2) Were there certain "shocks" which affected Mycenaean palatial civilization as a whole? Were these in every case ultimately responsible for the destruction of individual palatial centers or were such destructions often the final links in highly localized chains of causation?

(3) Why were the palaces never rebuilt?

(4) Why were large areas of the Peloponnese, including some of the richest agricultural zones in southern Greece, so thoroughly depopulated during the century following the destruction of the palaces? What percentages of the population which disappeared died in Greece of famine and disease or in battle, and what percentage migrated south to Crete, east to Cyprus, or west to Achaea and the Ionian islands?

The Greeks really do have near-mythical origins, ancient DNA reveals

Ever since the days of Homer, Greeks have long idealized their Mycenaean “ancestors” in epic poems and classic tragedies that glorify the exploits of Odysseus, King Agamemnon, and other heroes who went in and out of favor with the Greek gods. Although these Mycenaeans were fictitious, scholars have debated whether today’s Greeks descend from the actual Mycenaeans, who created a famous civilization that dominated mainland Greece and the Aegean Sea from about 1600 B.C.E. to 1200 B.C.E., or whether the ancient Mycenaeans simply vanished from the region.

Now, ancient DNA suggests that living Greeks are indeed the descendants of Mycenaeans, with only a small proportion of DNA from later migrations to Greece. And the Mycenaeans themselves were closely related to the earlier Minoans, the study reveals, another great civilization that flourished on the island of Crete from 2600 B.C.E. to 1400 B.C.E. (named for the mythical King Minos).

The Lion Gate was the main entrance to the Bronze Age citadel of Mycenae, the center of the Mycenaean civilization.

The ancient DNA comes from the teeth of 19 people, including 10 Minoans from Crete dating to 2900 B.C.E. to 1700 BCE, four Mycenaeans from the archaeological site at Mycenae and other cemeteries on the Greek mainland dating from 1700 B.C.E. to 1200 B.C.E., and five people from other early farming or Bronze Age (5400 B.C.E. to 1340 B.C.E.) cultures in Greece and Turkey. By comparing 1.2 million letters of genetic code across these genomes to those of 334 other ancient people from around the world and 30 modern Greeks, the researchers were able to plot how the individuals were related to each other.

The ancient Mycenaeans and Minoans were most closely related to each other, and they both got three-quarters of their DNA from early farmers who lived in Greece and southwestern Anatolia, which is now part of Turkey, the team reports today in Nature . Both cultures additionally inherited DNA from people from the eastern Caucasus, near modern-day Iran, suggesting an early migration of people from the east after the early farmers settled there but before Mycenaeans split from Minoans.

The Mycenaeans did have an important difference: They had some DNA—4% to 16%—from northern ancestors who came from Eastern Europe or Siberia. This suggests that a second wave of people from the Eurasian steppe came to mainland Greece by way of Eastern Europe or Armenia, but didn’t reach Crete, says Iosif Lazaridis, a population geneticist at Harvard University who co-led the study.

This dancing Minoan woman from a fresco at Knossos, Crete (1600–1450 B.C.E.), resembles the Mycenaean women (above).

Not surprisingly, the Minoans and Mycenaeans looked alike, both carrying genes for brown hair and brown eyes. Artists in both cultures painted dark-haired, dark-eyed people on frescoes and pottery who resemble each other, although the two cultures spoke and wrote different languages. The Mycenaeans were more militaristic, with art replete with spears and images of war, whereas Minoan art showed few signs of warfare, Lazaridis says. Because the Minoans script used hieroglyphics, some archaeologists thought they were partly Egyptian, which turns out to be false.

When the researchers compared the DNA of modern Greeks to that of ancient Mycenaeans, they found a lot of genetic overlap. Modern Greeks share similar proportions of DNA from the same ancestral sources as Mycenaeans, although they have inherited a little less DNA from ancient Anatolian farmers and a bit more DNA from later migrations to Greece.

The continuity between the Mycenaeans and living people is “particularly striking given that the Aegean has been a crossroads of civilizations for thousands of years,” says co-author George Stamatoyannopoulos of the University of Washington in Seattle. This suggests that the major components of the Greeks’ ancestry were already in place in the Bronze Age, after the migration of the earliest farmers from Anatolia set the template for the genetic makeup of Greeks and, in fact, most Europeans. “The spread of farming populations was the decisive moment when the major elements of the Greek population were already provided,” says archaeologist Colin Renfrew of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the work.

Author information

Iosif Lazaridis and Alissa Mittnik: These authors contributed equally to this work.


Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, 02115, Massachusetts, USA

Iosif Lazaridis, Swapan Mallick, Nadin Rohland, Songül Alpaslan Roodenberg, Kristin Stewardson & David Reich

Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, Cambridge, 02142, Massachusetts, USA

Iosif Lazaridis, Nick Patterson, Swapan Mallick & David Reich

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena, 07745, Germany

Alissa Mittnik, Alexander Peltzer, Cosimo Posth, Philipp Stockhammer & Johannes Krause

Institute for Archaeological Sciences, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, 72074, Germany

Alissa Mittnik, Saskia Pfrengle, Anja Furtwängler, Cosimo Posth & Johannes Krause

Radcliffe Institute, Cambridge, 02138, Massachusetts, USA

Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, 02115, Massachusetts, USA

Swapan Mallick, Kristin Stewardson & David Reich

Integrative Transcriptomics, Centre for Bioinformatics, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, 72076, Germany

23rd Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, Herakleion, 71202, Crete

British School at Athens, Athens, 106 76, Greece

26th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, Greek Ministry of Culture, Piraeus, 13536, Greece

Department of Archaeology, University of Athens, Athens, 17584, Greece

The Holley Martlew Archaeological Foundation, The Hellenic Archaeological Foundation, Tivoli House, Tivoli Road, Cheltenham, GL50 2TD, UK

University of Crete Medical School, 711 13 Herakleion, Crete, Greece

Erenköy, Bayar caddesi, Eser Apt. Number 7, Daire 24, Kadıköy, Istanbul, Turkey

Mehmet Özsait & Nesrin Özsait

Ephorate of Paleoantropology and Speleology, Greek Ministry of Culture, Athens, 11636, Greece

Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, British, V5A 1S6, Columbia, Canada

Hellenic Archaeological Service, Samara, 27, Paleo Psychico, 15452, Athens, Greece

Green Templeton College, University of Oxford, Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6HG, UK

School of Archaeology and Earth Institute, Belfield, University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland

Daniel M. Fernandes & Ron Pinhasi

Department of Life Sciences, CIAS, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, 3000-456, Portugal

Division of Mathematics, Science, and Engineering, Hartnell College, 411 Central Avenue, Salinas, 93901, California, USA

Division of Medical Genetics, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, 98195, USA

Dimitra M. Lotakis, Patrick A. Navas & George Stamatoyannopoulos

Laboratory of Archaeometry, National Center for Scientific Research ‘Demokritos’, Aghia Paraskevi, 153 10, Attiki, Greece

Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, 98195, Washington, USA

John A. Stamatoyannopoulos

Department of Genome Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, 98195, Washington, USA

John A. Stamatoyannopoulos & George Stamatoyannopoulos

Altius Institute for Biomedical Sciences, Seattle, 98121, Washington, USA

John A. Stamatoyannopoulos

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Institut für Vor- und Frühgeschichtliche Archäologie und Provinzialrömische Archäologie, München, 80799, Germany

Department of Anthropology, University of Vienna, Althanstraße 14, Vienna, 1090, Austria

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G.S. conceived the study. D.R. and J.K. co-supervised the ancient DNA work, sequencing, and data analysis. I.L. performed population genetics analysis and wrote the manuscript with input from other authors. P.J.P.McG., E.K.-Y., G.K., H.M., M.M., M.Ö., N.Ö., A.Pa., M.R., S.A.R., Y.T., A.V., R.A., P.S., R.P., J.K., and G.S. assembled, studied, or described archaeological and osteological material. A.M., S.P., N.R., A.F., C.P., D.M.F., J.R.H., D.M.L., Y.M., J.A.S., K.St., R.P., G.S., D.R., P.A.N., and J.K. performed wet laboratory work. A.M., N.P., S.M., and A.Pe., performed bioinformatics analyses.

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Minoan civilization

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Minoan civilization, Bronze Age civilization of Crete that flourished from about 3000 bce to about 1100 bce . Its name derives from Minos, either a dynastic title or the name of a particular ruler of Crete who has a place in Greek legend.

A brief treatment of Minoan civilization follows. For full treatment, see Aegean civilizations.

Crete became the foremost site of Bronze Age culture in the Aegean Sea, and in fact it was the first centre of high civilization in that area, beginning at the end of the 3rd millennium bce . Reaching its peak about 1600 bce and the later 15th century, Minoan civilization was remarkable for its great cities and palaces, its extended trade throughout the Levant and beyond, and its use of writing. Its sophisticated art included elaborate seals, pottery (especially the famous Kamáres ware with its light-on-dark style of decoration), and, above all, delicate, vibrant frescoes found on palace walls. These frescoes display both secular and religious scenes, such as magical gardens, monkeys, and wild goats or fancifully dressed goddesses that testify to the Minoans’ predominantly matriarchal religion. Among the most familiar motifs of Minoan art are the snake, symbol of the goddess, and the bull the ritual of bull-leaping, found, for example, on cult vases, seems to have had a religious or magical basis.

By about 1580 bce Minoan civilization began to spread across the Aegean to neighbouring islands and to the mainland of Greece. Minoan cultural influence was reflected in the Mycenean culture of the mainland, which began to spread throughout the Aegean about 1500 bce .

By the middle of the 15th century the palace culture on Crete was destroyed by conquerors from the mainland. They established a new order on Crete, with centres at Knossos and Phaistos. Following the conquest, the island experienced a wonderful fusion of Cretan and mainland skills. The Late Minoan period (c. 1400–c. 1100 bce ), however, was a time of marked decline in both economic power and aesthetic achievement.

Is the DNA of modern Greek people similar to that of the ancient Greeks? | A racial analysis of the ancient Greeks

I will try to provide an in-depth answer based on data and conclusions from anthropological, historical, genetic as well as linguistic studies. Thankfully, I have enough time.. so, this is going to be long.

If you are looking for a quick answer then know that nobody is “pure”. Every population is mixed to a certain degree. With that in mind it should be noted that there is a strong genetical connection between the modern and ancient populations of the areas around the Aegean Sea (Greece). According to geneticists : “Our results support the idea of continuity but not isolation in the history of populations of the Aegean, before and after the time of its earliest civilizations” which seems to be the most credited and quick answer, but more on genetics later. It is important to know that people native to certain region have genes from all the previous civilizations of this region. People don’t just disappear.

I read in another answer that the modern Greek state was an artificially made state. I fail to understand how this is related to the topic. Somebody who has attempted to answer this question also said that it was the first modern Greek state, which is simply incorrect. The first modern Greek state (that is an ethnically Greek state after the fall of Constantinople in 1453) was the Septinsular Republic , and that was the only Greek state that didn't exist during the medieval times, because we have many other ethnically Greek states that were founded before the fall of Constantinople, but survived until after 1453: the post 4th Crusade states. Those include the Empire of Trebizond (survived until 1461), Despotate of Epirus (survived until 1479), Duchy of Athens (survived until 1456) all of which were ethnically Greek states that existed after the fall of Constantinople, therefore modern Greek states. Also, let's not forget the Kingdom of Morea as well as the Despotate of Morea - again ethnically Greek states. Oh yeah, also: the Kingdom of Thessalonica, the County Palatine of Cephalonia and Zakynthos, the state of Lemnos, the empire of Nicaea, the Latin empire, County of Salona, Principality of Achaea, the Marquisate of Bodonitsa, Duchy of Naxos, Triarchy of Negroponte. All of those were short-lived (for the most part) states founded by the Latins, but they were ethnically modern Greek states, inhabited almost entirely by Greeks. Even the Duchy of Philippopolis was mostly Greek - and it was in Bulgaria. And there are a lot other neo-modern Greek states after the Ottoman occupation as well (Cretan State, Principality of Samos, State of Northern Epirus, Republic of Cyprus and of course the Hellenic Republic or Modern Greece) most of which united with modern Greece, which, very simply, proves that “modern Greek” is not just a political term related to citizens of the modern Greek state, but an ethnicity irrelevant to state. If we followed the same logic then medieval citizens of the Holy Roman Empire in the region of Germany were not Germans because they didn’t live in the modern German state. Idiotic, isn’t it? I would not trust an answer given by somebody with such bad knowledge of history.

Also, there are many people referred to as “Greek" before the Greek state, especially in eastern Anatolia (Constantinople, Smyrna). The Greek identity became more common among Greeks after the 4th crusade. Before that, they generally carried the “Roman" identity with them. The west always referred to them as Greeks, to keep them away from the title of the Roman, which sort of kept the Greek identity alive. No matter which year you choose from ancient Greece to today, there will always be a reference to the Greek people, around the Eastern Mediterranean, speaking Greek. There are many modern Greek noble families that can trace their origins back to medieval Greece and the Byzantine empire, some even the Roman empire (Vlastos - Wikipedia ). After the fall of Constantinople (1453), many Greeks moved to the west and became scholars of the Renaissance (Greek scholars in the Renaissance - Wikipedia), and from the mid 1400s until almost the 1900s, in the west “Greek" was synonymous with noble, wise and educated, because the only Greeks that went to Europe were typically the educated ones from noble families.

It is not too far stretched to suggest that modern Greeks are related their ancient predecessors, as most anthropologists agree that they are related to the peoples of the region even before the Mycenaeans ( that is, the ancestors of the ancestors of the ancient Greeks). First of all, we should clear up that it is almost a fact that there is a connection between the ancient and modern inhabitants of Greece. The main argument is about how close they are. I will try and defend the most popular opinion of the two. We have a lot to cover, so I better start now.


Before we get into Anthropology note that a large part of “Racial Anthropology” is nothing more than scientific racism and falls under the category of pseudo-science. Racial Anthropology itself, however, is very real, and it’s a pity that it is abused to a point where it becomes a fake and misleading pseudoscience.

"It is inaccurate to say that the modern Greeks are different physically from the ancient Greeks such a statement is based on an ignorance of the Greek ethnic character. The Greeks, in short, are a blend of [sub]racial types, of which two are most important: the Atlanto-Mediterranean and the Alpine. Dinaricism here is present, but not all-pervading true Alpines are commoner than complete Dinarics. The Nordic element is weak, as it probably has been since the days of Homer. The racial type to which Socrates belonged [Alpine] is today the most important, while the Atlanto-Mediterranean, prominent in Greece since the Bronze Age, is still a major factor. It is my personal reaction to the living Greeks that their continuity with their ancestors of the ancient world is remarkable, rather than the opposite."

Coon, Carleton S. The Races of Europe. MacMillan, 1939

All ancient skulls found in Mycenaean upper/ruling class tombs in the region of Greece suggest that the ancient inhabitants of the region were of the Mediterranean sub-type of the European Caucasian race, the same is the case with many modern Greeks.

These are the reconstructed Mycenaean kings’ skulls examined by English professors Prug, Neave, and Musgrave. According to the research’s results, the skulls show Mediterranean features similar to those of modern Greeks.

The Günther theory (discredited today), started by German Nazi scientist Hans K. Günther suggests that ancient Greeks were of the Nordic sub-race. Günther himself, however, was very selective to his evidence and ignored proof that suggested otherwise, even when it came from his colleagues. More specifically Angel J. L’s A racial analysis of the ancient Greeks, 1942 later disproved the Günther theory. (Also: Lerna, a pre-classical site in the Argolid, 1971). Modern supporters of the Günther theory use as evidence the fact that some ancient Greek gods and others (ex: Achilles) are described as blonde - a very unscientific approach that we will debunk anyway. The ancient Greek perception of color was different from ours. Achilles is described as “Xanthos”, which in modern Greek does indeed mean blonde, however, it most probably did not in Homer’s time. We can verify this by the fact that when the Greeks met the Celts (A blonde tribe) described them as “White-haired”, which proves that “Xanthos” meant something entirely different. Aristotle himself compared the color to things that we would call brown today, so it probably meant brunet. Another reason why this is an unscientific approach is that blonde =/= Nordic, and there were definitely blonde Mediterranean people, just less common. It is known that Hitler himself did not believe in this theory but let it spread for propaganda purposes. This can be confirmed from his Mein Kampf quote “If the Germans in the ancient times lived in the south, they would have created a civilization similar to that of the Greeks”.

Also, in the context of Anthropology: Composite Greeks: the Ancient and the Modern - the average facial measurements of 16 Greek statues appear identical to the average facial measurements of 16 modern Greek athletes.

In the Balkans, there were mainly two races: The Mediterranean and the Dinaric. The Mediterraneans were forced to remain mainly in the south as the Dinarics migrated from the north. With skull measurements, we have concluded that Ionic & Aeolic Greek skulls are of the Mediterranean sub-type (Ares Poulianos - Anthropology 1968). When it comes to anthropological skull measurements, Doric Greeks are hard to examine, because in their early years they burned the dead (thus, we have no skulls to examine). In their later years, they didn’t - they had however probably mixed with other Greeks too much for us to examine their skulls properly. This would, however, mean that there would be a few Dinaric elements in the surviving skulls, which is not the case. Therefore, we can conclude that they were mainly Mediterranean too.

(Note: there probably were other elements, including Dinaric, in ancient Greeks, just like today. All of which were sub-types of the Caucasian race)

Greeks are some of the earliest contributors of genetic material to the rest of the Europeans as they are one of the oldest populations in Europe” Cavalli-Sforza, Luigi Luca Menozzi, Paolo Piazza, Alberto (1996). The History and Geography of Human Genes. Princeton University Press. pp. 255–301. ISBN 0691029059.

Greeks cluster with other South European (mainly Italians) and North-European populations and are close to the Basques, and FST distances showed that they group with other European and Mediterranean populations” Cavalli-Sforza, Luigi Luca Menozzi, Paolo Piazza, Alberto (1996). The History and Geography of Human Genes. Princeton University Press. pp. 255–301. ISBN 0691029059. Bauchet, M et al. (2007). "Measuring European population stratification with microarray genotype data". Am. J. Hum. Genet. 80: 948–956. doi:10.1086/513477. PMID 17436249.

A 2017 study on the genetic origins of the Minoans and Mycenaeans showed that modern Greeks resemble the Mycenaeans, but with some additional dilution of the early Neolithic ancestry. The results of the study support the idea of genetic continuity between these civilizations and modern Greeks but not isolation in the history of populations of the Aegean, before and after the time of its earliest civilizations. According to the same study, ancient Mycenaeans mostly carried genes for darker hair and eyes.

Lazaridis, Iosif et al. (2017). "Genetic origins of the Minoans and Mycenaeans". Nature. 548: 214–218. doi:10.1038/nature23310

Greeks are Caucasian (Top-right) and cluster predominately with other Europeans.

People tend to think that Ancient Greeks disappeared after they were conquered by the Romans and popped out of nowhere magically in modern Greece. Looking at it this way, it’s kind of hard to imagine a connection between the two peoples, and it’s understandable. However, that’s not the case. Once the Greeks were conquered by the Romans.. nothing happened. They just became part of another larger state, which, as I said in my epilogue, doesn’t necessarily affect the ethnological composition of the area. That is especially the case with Greece in the Roman empire. Despite the fact that the legions beat the phalanxes and conquered the land of Greece, no major mass migration happened to Greece, therefore the Greek genepool stayed the same until the first third part of the medieval era. In fact, life in Greece wouldn’t be much different from that of classical Greece for centuries to come.

You can find known Greek people from all centuries from ancient Greece to today. That is because the Greek ethnic identity never disappeared and was artificially reconstructed as many might suggest. Greek scholars in the Renaissance - Wikipedia - If the Greek identity was created in 1821 (with the creation of the Greek state) how come there were Greeks four centuries prior to that? List of people from Greece - Wikipedia - As you can see there are notable Greeks from the Middle Ages as well.

The Greeks were among the first people to start converting to Christianity, and since they were in Eastern Europe and under the “Greek Church” (Non-Roman / Eastern Patriarchate), they eventually became part of the Orthodox Church, which means that modern-day descendants of the Ancient Greeks would be mostly practicing the Orthodox Christian religion today.

Up until the 10th century (yes, the 10th century), there were minorities in the region (especially isolated areas) of Greece in the Byzantine empire that had kept their pagan beliefs and practices, continuity of tradition since the Mycenaean times. Suddenly, the gap between ancient and modern Greeks doesn’t feel so large, does it?

The Slavic migrations to Greece happened in the Middle Ages. According to the also disproven and very discredited Fallmerayer theory, the Slavs who came to Greece killed all the Greeks entirely leaving nobody behind and replaced them (?), and the Greeks of minor Asia (Constantinople, Smyrna etc) that had survived the Slavic migration, re-Hellenized the people of mainland Greece. This has not happened ever to any population. Not even the Neanderthals - 2–4% of European DNA is Neanderthal-derived -. Also this theory doesn’t take into account the fact that the Slavs didn’t go to whole of Greece, that they would Speak Slavic in Greece and not Greek today, that Slavs did not go to the coasts or islands or eastern Greece, that Byzantine historians do not mention any massacres from the Slavs - instead what they said is that they formed the infamous “Sklavinies”, or small places where they lived. etc. Generally this is a very discredited theory. Objectively most historians who have studied the matter cringe with such assumptions.

Distribution of gene r of blood type 0 in Europe according to French researcher Edgar Morin and Swedish anthropologist Bertil Lundman. The differentiation between Greece and its Northern Neighbors is clear, suggesting that even if there was mixing, it was of minor importance.

Triaxonic diagram of blood system ABO in Greece (E) and other Mediterranean, Dinaric and Baltic countries. M = Central Spain, μ = Sicily, B = Slovakia, B’ Ukraine and Δ = Romania. Greeks are most similar to other Meds.

A much lighter version of this theory however is actually true - some Greeks mixed with Slavs, but not too much. According to genetics “Balkan” descent in the average Greek varies from 10–30% depending on the region too. Did you notice that I said Balkan and not Slavic? That is because Slavs are a linguistic group, not an ethnic one. In particular, the ones that came to Greece seemed to have had absorbed Thraco-illyrian and other groups of the Balkans. This can be verified by the skeletons of the only Slavic cemetery found in Greece, near Prespes. The skull shape of the “slavs” is actually of the Mediterranean type. They might have absorbed Greek populations before the mixing with the rest of Greece.

Ottoman Turks

The Turks ruled Greece for centuries, they most definitely mixed.

No. Marriages between Christians and Muslims were illegal in the Ottoman empire, and no Turk converted to Christianity because that meant more taxes and being treated as a second class citizen (and having your male children taken away from you in order to be raised as Ottoman soldiers, more on that later). The opposite did happen though. Many Greeks, in order to avoid the taxes, converted to Islam. As a result a large number of modern day Turks have significant amount of Greek descent. The only time mixing could have happened is by raping women, which even if happened a lot, could not really affect the genepool of the whole population all that much, because the woman would actually have to become pregnant, which by itself is already very unlikely, and the kid would still be only half Turkish, or even less, considering most Ottoman soldiers in campaigns against Greek revolts were Janissaries - males of Greek descent who were raised as Ottoman Turks after being conscripted & forcefully taken away from their Greek Christian parents -.

I read another answer that “the modern Greek state was made up of mostly Albanians, not Greeks”. The guy was probably referring to a bilingual group of people who spoke Greek and Albanian in the Attica region, known as the Arvanites. That’s not the same as saying “Albanian”. Also, Arvanites were a minority in the Greek population, not “most of it” as some like to say in order to promote their agenda. In fact, they were so few that most ethnographical maps ignore them completely. (Just search ethnographical maps of Greece in the Ottoman empire on your favorite search engine and see what I mean.). And still, these Albanians (who migrated to Greece in waves from the 10th to 14th century) were Tosks, not Ghegs. Tosk Albanians (Probably descended from unorganized Greek tribes or the Illyrians) were known to be heavily mixed with the Greeks of Northern Epirus and once they arrived they mixed even more to a point where the Albanian element became significantly weaker. They were probably not even just Tosks, but Tosks & Northern Epirote Greeks (Greek minority in Southern Albanian). Their average skull measurements are more similar to that of Greeks (identical, actually) suggesting they were of Greek descent, but de-Hellenized and linguistically “Albanified” (1)(2). K. Biris has confirmed that when Greek and Albanian populations were mixed, the Albanian language became dominant.(3) Which suggests that they were originally of Greek descent, but fewer when they arrived as well, since they linguistically de-Hellenized other Greeks.

1,2 - N. Rassengeschiechte von Griechenland - Rassengesch. der Meschheit, VI, 1975

3 - K. Biris - Arvanites, 1960

The Arvanites are a very disputed topic, and this is just a theory. Many people believe they were originally Albanian and not Greek. It is important to note, however, that they have mixed too much with the Greeks to be considered Albanian now. Also, if you tell a Greek Arvanite that he is Albanian, he will get quite pissed.


Greek, unlike eg Hebrew, was never revived, as it has been spoken in the region since it was first “created”. People in Greece spoke Greek in the early modern times, the middle ages, the late antiquity Roman times and the ancient times. It is fair to assume that native speakers of any dialect / language derived from Ancient Greek to be cultural descendants of the Ancient Greeks, that however does not seem to please many. “Cultural Descendants?”, you say. “That’s not what I am looking for”. Of course, so let’s get deeper into that.

Modern Greek dialects, all except for one (The endangered Tsakonian dialect) are derived from the Koine Greek dialect. This dialect Hellenized hundreds of thousands of people in the past, which could mean that modern Greeks are descendants of those Hellenized people, and not the Greeks themselves. That’s a very good claim, but can be debunked easily. In areas of Greece were Doric dialects of Greek were spoken people still use some linguistic features that are actually derived from the Doric dialects. For example you might hear the Doric “Zesta” (warmth) instead of the Ionic Attic “Zesti” of standard Greek. That suggests that previously the same people spoke a different dialect of Greek, and not a non Greek language. Such linguistic evidence can be found all over Greek. It was easy for them to adopt a new Greek dialect since they already spoke Greek. Hellenized people who previously spoke another language almost never had Greek as their first language, and many had forgotten it after a few generations, so only a small percentage of modern Greek DNA comes from those who were linguistically Hellenized

The Slavophones Greeks of northern Greece were a bilingual group of people who spoke Greek as a second language and a Slavic idiom as a first daily-talk language. That Slavic idiom has many Greek words - Estimates reach more than 52% (changes depending the area), and was mostly spoken in the mountains, away from other Greek speakers which means that this vocabulary was derived from the previous language they spoke - Greek. Many of them adopted Slavic to avoid Ottoman discrimination against Greek speakers, others because they were merchants and mostly traded with northern Slavs etc. They usually lived near other Slavs (Which is why they were linguistically “Slavified”) but had different national awareness which can be confirmed by the many wars and conflicts they had (most notably the Macedonian struggle). They attended different Churches (especially after the creation of the Bulgarian Exarchia) etc. Of course these people have higher Balkan Thraco-Illyrian blood from mixing but their Greek descent is stronger, which has been confirmed by DNA studies.

Greeks, just like everyone else, have actually mixed with foreign populations. However that mixing was certainly not enough to break the strong connection between modern and ancient Greeks. It’s important to know that Greeks are subdivided in to many groups that live in different areas. Islander Greeks are probably the most similar to ancient ones, however they probably went through incest as well, especially in smaller islands. Greeks from the western seashores of Anatolia, like Greeks from Smyrna & Constantinople are also very similar to ancient Greeks, because there were no other Christians in the area to mix with. Greeks from the southern Black Sea shores seem to have high Caucasian Armenoid influence, those from Cappadocia along with Greek, also have some descent from the ancient Caucasian Anatolian tribes (who were Indo-European, and probably similar to the Greeks as well). Those from Cyprus have southern influences and those from the very North have some Balkan influence.

Previously unknown migration event?

It was previously believed that this eastern ancestry was brought to Europe by steppe pastoralists from the north, who themselves shared this eastern ancestry. However, although the Minoans have this eastern heritage, they do not show genetic heritage from the northern steppe populations. On the other hand, the Mycenaeans show evidence of both eastern and northern genetic heritage. This indicates that, at least in some cases, this eastern heritage from the Caucasus and Iran arrived in Europe on its own, perhaps in a previously unknown migration event. It also indicates that the migration of the northern steppe pastoralists reached as far as mainland Greece, but did not reach the Minoans on Crete.

The study helps to provide boundaries on the timing of the arrival of both the eastern and the northern ancestry. “Neolithic samples from Greece, down to the Final Neolithic, approximately 4100 BC, do not possess either type of ancestry, suggesting that the admixture we detect probably occurred during the 4th-2nd millennium BCE time window,” explains David Reich of Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute and a co-corresponding author of the study. To determine the timing of these events more precisely, further samples from broader time periods and geographic locations will be necessary.


The article provided the most plausible explanation for the obvious. The advancing peoples of the Cradle of Civilization (Sumer) explored prime real estate in the Mediterranean Sea. The island flourished due to proximity to Egypt and Indus Valley civilizations.

It is not my intent to "downplay"the accomplishments of "Black Africans," nor promote "Caucasoid development." I just attempt to see things as they are, not how someone (anyone) "wants them to be," or "wishes they were." If an ancient civilization was"Black, "it was "Black," if it was "Caucasoid," it was "Caucasoid," etc., and there is little point in trying to "make it otherwise," just to satisfy some politically correct garbage that 90% of the time isn't "correct" to begin with. It is what it is, whether anyone likes it or not. The "Olmecs" are a good example. some say they are African Blacks, some say they are Asian, some say they are indigenous natives. and no one knows for sure, because the archaeological evidence is mixed. Some research indicates that the Olmecs did NOT "pre-date" the Maya, and that the Maya were actually contemporaries of the Olmecs, and may well have been responsible for wiping them out. As to whether the Olmecs were "Blacks"from Africa, I haven't a clue. there does seem to be a lot of evidence pointing in that direction, however. Hell, half the "Phoenicians" were "Black," but very few people will acknowledge or admit THAT, either, and the Phoenicians were world-wide travelers, no telling who wound up where. I just don't particularly care for those who try to promote things that aren't factually backed up by actually valid research. There is no doubt that Blacks were among early explorers. but there is also no doubt that none of the ancient, advanced civilizations such as those in Sumeria, in Northwestern India, in Northwestern China and Siberia were Caucasoid. Egyptian civilization is "up in the air," and may well have involved both Blacks and Caucasoid peoples. the evidence favors some sort of co-development, as there were both "Caucasoid and Negroid" Pharaohs, though very few ever mention the "Negroid" Pharaohs. Ignoring them does not make them "go away," it just means they are being ignored. I, personally, could care less who started what, when. I just want to know WHO/WHEN. The "alien intervention" theory is an area of interest to me for the simple reason there is a ton of evidence supporting that theory, and it DOES explain quite a number of historical anomalies that are VERY difficult to explain otherwise (if they are to be explained at all). I get on your case because you push the "Black thing" in areas where there is no support for your views, and it comes off as overt racism.. I have a tendency to push the "Caucasoid" side, as there is much evidence to support that, as opposed to making claims that can't be supported.


  1. Girard

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  2. Vudomi

    Anything especial.

  3. Lennon

    the talent, you won't say anything.

  4. Farhan

    I'll take a look at work on Friday.

  5. Kelby

    In my opinion, the topic is very interesting. I invite everyone to take an active part in the discussion.

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