The World of the Ancient Greeks - Warfare

Mycenaean Greece: History | Culture | Warfare


Military items have been found among the treasures of the Mycenaean age. The most impressive work is that of the Dendra panoply, a complete suit of Mycenaean armor. The cuirass is made up of bronze plates sewn to a leather garment. The weight of this armor must have hindered the mobility of a warrior, and it is for this reason it is supposed that it was worn by a warrior riding in a chariot.


The typical Mycenaean helmet, in use from the seventeenth to the tenth centuries BC, was made of cut segments of boar's tusk sewn to a leather or cloth backing. This type is illustrated in ivory relief plaques found in the shaft graves of the seventeenth and sixteenth centuries BC and in wall paintings of that era from Akrotiri on Thera (Santorini) and of the thirteenth century BC in the so-called Palace of Nestor at Pylos. Groups of boar's tusk plates from the helmets themselves have been found at many sites, including Mycenae, Prosymna, Thermon and Elateia, as well as in southern Italy. This is the type of helmet which is described by Homer several hundred years later.

Two types of shields were used: the "figure eight" or "fiddle" shield, and a rectangular type, the "tower" shield, rounded on the top. They were made of wood and leather, and were of such a large size that a warrior could completely cower behind his shield.


Offensive arms were made of bronze. Spears and javelins have been found, and also an assortment of swords of different sizes, designed for striking with the point and with the edge. Daggers and arrows, attesting to the existence of archery, compose the remainder of the armament found from this period.

Fortresses and palaces

The principal Mycenaean towns were well fortified. The town could be situated on an acropolis as in Athens or Tiryns, against a large hill as in Mycenae, or on the coastal plain, like Gla or Pylos. Besides the citadels, there are also isolated forts that undoubtedly served to militarily control territory. Mycenaean walls were often made in a fashion called cyclopean, which means that they were constructed of large, unworked boulders up to eight meters (26 ft) thick, loosely fitted without the clay mortar of the day. Different types of entrances or exits can be seen: monumental gates, access ramps, hidden doors, and vaulted galleries for escaping in case of a siege. Fear of attack meant that the chosen site must have a cistern or well at its disposal.

The best examples of the Mycenaean palace are seen in the excavations at Mycenae, Tiryns and Pylos. That these were administrative centers is shown by the records found there. From an architectural point of view, they were the heirs of the Minoan palaces and also of other palaces built on the Greek mainland during the Middle Age. They were ranged around a group of courtyards each opening upon several rooms of different dimensions, such as storerooms and workshops, as well as reception halls and living quarters. The heart of the palace was the megaron. This was the throne room, laid out around a circular hearth surrounded by four columns, the throne generally being found on the right-hand side upon entering the room. The staircases found in the palace of Pylos indicate palaces had had two stories. Located on the top floor were probably the private quarters of the royal family and some storerooms. These palaces have yielded a wealth of artifacts and fragmentary frescoes.


The most recent find is a Mycenaean palace near the village of Xirokampi, in Laconia. As of early 2009, the excavation is at its first stages and artifacts uncovered so far include clay vessels and figurines, frescoes and three Linear B tablets. Preliminary findings indicate that one the tablets contains an inventory of about 500 daggers and another is an inventory for textiles. The discovery was announced at the Athens Archaeological Society on April 28, 2009.

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Source: Wikipedia

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