Early Aegean Civilizations, c. 1600 B.C.–1000 B.C.


1600 B.C.–1500 B.C.

(Vanished by 1400 B.C.)

  • Sea traders based on Crete
  • Absorbed ideas from Egypt, Mesopotamia
  • Worshiped bull and mother goddess
  • Later influenced Greeks living on European mainland
  • Colorful, graceful frescos at Knossos palace; women perhaps enjoyed more rights than in most other ancient civilizations


1400 B.C.–1200 B.C.

(Ended around 1100 B.C.)

  • Sea traders
  • Absorbed ideas from Egypt, Mesopotamia; also reached Italy, Sicily; learned from Minoans (including writing)
  • Lived in separate city-states on mainland; warrior kings rule surrounding villages from thick-walled fortresses
  • First Greek-speaking culture which left written records, spoke Indo-European language
  • Fine gold ornaments found in their tombs
  • Conquered Greek mainland, then Crete; took part in Trojan War, around 1250 B.C.


1100 B.C.–1000 B.C.

Swept away Minoans and Mycenaeans, initiated cultural dark age

  • Originated in northern and northwestern Greece, attacked Mycenaeans from the north
  • Conquered and settled cities of Sparta, Corinth, and Argos, as well as in today's Sicily, Italy, North Africa, and along the Black Sea coast
  • Greek-speaking people, relatively low cultural level, inventors of iron slashing sword
  • Their restrained, powerful, monumental art an important influence on later Greek art

Analyze Charts

A series of Greek civilizations grew, flourished, and fell on the mainland and islands of the eastern Mediterranean. Which civilizations absorbed ideas from Egypt and Mesopotamia? How did they learn about these ideas?

Homer's epics reflected the Greek world view, which later had much influence on the Western world. The poems were not sacred religious texts. The gods played a role, but they had the same weaknesses as humans. The key figures were individual humans who displayed reason, intelligence, courage, honor and restraint.

A Legacy for the Future

After the Dorian invasions, the land of Greece passed several centuries in obscurity. The people lived in small isolated villages and had few contacts with the outside world. Over time they made the stories about Crete and Mycenae a part of their heritage, and they built upon the legacy of those and other civilizations to forge a new Greek civilization. When it emerged, this Greek civilization would not only dominate the region; it would ultimately extend the influence of Greek culture over most of the Western world.


  1. Identify Cause and Effect How did the Minoans create a brilliant early Greek civilization?
  2. Draw Conclusions How do frescoes on the walls of the palace of Knossos reflect the history of the Minoan culture in which they were produced?
  3. Infer Why do you think the Minoans and Mycenaeans absorbed ideas, customs, and skills from other cultures?
  4. Hypothesize Why do you think that for centuries most people thought the Trojan War was just a legend?
  5. Summarize What is known about the causes of the Trojan War?

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments