Posts Tagged ‘Mycenaeans’

False Light in 295 Words

February 5, 2012 2 comments

In my last post, ‘Who is This Guy?’, I mentioned the novel I’m writing. Here’s a brief description.

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False Light is the story of three brave but mismatched people thrown together against their wills amidst ancient danger. Hektor is a loyal, ambitious mercenary. Korinsia is a smart but frightened princess. Argurios is a skilled and cynical chariot archer. All three are among the best in their land, but that may not be enough. False Light is also a tale of how fragile a great civilization can be.

The time is more than 3,000 years ago, and the place is what we now call Greece. It is two decades since the great Achaean victory over Wilios in the east, and prosperity has soared. Fabled Pylos is first in honor among the empire of Greek kingdoms. This empire and its ships dominate most of the Great Sea, almost to the shores of eternal Aegypta.

A looming threat has begun to show itself, but the proud, confident Achaeans are blind. Arrogance, centuries of rising power, and their own internal struggles cause leaders and people alike not to see the new peril for what it is.

Our three heroes are forced together by circumstance, but they are far from being kindred spirits. Too late in the year, they must set out on a long voyage fraught with unknown risk. The goal is Thapsos, a powerful Achaean enclave many weeks away. Their galleys struggle along wild barbarian coasts amidst  jagged rocks, would-be pirates and ship-killing storms. At every outpost, they uncover more clues about a vast, new power looming in the Far West. It’s single purpose: destroy all Soft Ones. Utterly.

Can the three fight their way back to warn Pylos in time? Will their constant conflicts with each other and barbarian fanatics curse them to failure? Will any of that matter to merciless Fate? 

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As you might surmise, copyrights apply to everything about the book, False Light, and The First Dark Age series.

Minoan Musings

April 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Four thousand years ago, Minoans ruled most of the Aegean Sea.

A Restored Minoan Fresco

Their palace cities on the island of Crete had no need of walls because their steep mountains and fleets kept them safe. Minoan culture was fascinating, unique and flourished for much longer than Europeans have been in the Americas.

Eventually, the Mycenaeans took over – until about 1200 BC, when Aegean civilization collapsed and all but disappeared for 400 years. Throughout this time, Egypt continued to look inward, except for a few excursions toward the northeast.

So, where did the Minoans come from, and why did they succumb? I have a theory that fits the lean archaeological record (see this post for more about what I think ‘lean’ implies in this sense).

An 'Over-restored' Part of the Knossos Palace

My view is that the Minoans began as voluntary exiles from the lower Nile who lost a dynastic struggle in the dim past. On Crete, they easily mastered the stone age people there but could not sustain the bureaucratic and religious ‘overhead’ of Egyptian culture. The island environment was just too starkly different. After a few hundred years, their culture had morphed into a powerful, seafaring one with a new form of writing and a barely recognizable religion that was completely devoid of now-useless River Gods.

On the mainland of Greece, the proto-Greek Mycenaeans had arrived and ruled everywhere but in the Minoan coastal towns and the most remote mountains. Over centuries, the Mycenaeans, whom Homer called Achaeans, were driven by geography to learn all that the Minoans knew about seafaring. And then some.

A Palace Doorway

The huge explosion of the Aegean island volcano of Thira (Santorini) around 1625 BC weakened the Minoans at a time when the Mycenaeans were poised to expand. And the cultural momentum shifted to them. First, the Minoans lost their mainland towns, then their central Aegean holdings. After a couple hundred years, Minoan people were subjects of the Mycenaeans.

Restored Fresco

Even so, Minoan culture likely had the same kind of influence on the Mycenaeans as Greek culture would later have on the Romans – an ancient, respected, civilizing and enlightening factor that moderated and shaped a much stronger, ‘modern’, expansionist will.

Outside Heraklion, Crete, are the partly-restored ruins of a famous Minoan palace, Knossos. This is one of several major Minoan centers scattered around the island. A visit there several years ago for some book research so enthralled me that I completely revamped my planned story as a result.

If you get a chance to visit Knossos on a spring or fall day and have any interest at all in archaeology or art, you will be delighted that you did.

Meandering in Miletus

April 16, 2011 2 comments

More than three thousand years ago, it rivaled Troy.

Looking North from the Roman Theater to Where the Meander River Once Flowed

Back then, Miletus was the major Mycenaean port city in Asia Minor. The Mycenaeans, Homer’s Achaeans, had taken it from people he called Carians, and it was under constant threat from the powerful Hittites inland who called it Millawanda.

Thales of Miletus was famous as one of the Seven Sages. Later, the city was conquered by Alexander, Romans and Goths. Then, finally, the Turks. Today, the famous river Meander no longer flows past at the end of its winding course, and the coast now lies miles away. But a thoughtful stroll through the monumental Roman ruins almost brings these ancient memories back to life.

The 15th Century Mosque Built on the Ruins. Note the Huge Birds Nest on Top

I was in the Miletus a few years ago to research a setting for part of a book. Before the trip, I’d studied maps, ancient texts, scholarly works and Google Earth. Very dry stuff. So, it was good to be on the ground at last, scrambling over the stones in a place where so many ancient powers had once held sway. I did a lot of exploring there and was happy to discover all I had hoped to find.

By the way: Three cheers for the Turks! One of the many things I appreciate about the Turks’ approach to archaeological sites is the access an interested visitor can have. They preserve and protect the fragile things, but use common sense, treating stones as a bit more durable than glassware. In most of Europe on the other hand, the various ministries of antiquities hire thousands of make-work employees whose only purpose seems to be access prevention. And, as with many entrenched employees of the state, their attitude is mostly so pointless and surly that it can make you long to be back home, suffering abuse from a slightly less truculent DMV window clerk on Crack. Go Turks!

Ruins of the Baths

In Miletus, the 15,000 seat Roman theater used to face the sea and is still mostly intact. Though the structure dates from about 240 BC, some form of theater had likely been in that place for a thousand years then.

And the nearby Baths of Faustina (c. 40 AD) were the model from which Turkish Baths came into being. Before taking Miletus, nomads from the steppes had little use for bathing. And, the Turks conquered this area long before finally taking down the last of the Roman Empire in the East. So they had plenty of time to adopt the practice.

But these things are so new. Even if you don’t know all the details of what happened here, as you explore the ruins, you can know that few places on earth are so steeped in continuous history, including Troy.

And at Miletus, you can touch it! Go there when you can.

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