The Palace System and Society in Ancient Crete and Greece
This article discusses the palace system and society in ancient Crete and Greece, examining the political, economic, and cultural aspects of the palatial period. It explores the evolution of palatial societies in the Near East, Aegean, and Greek mainland and presents the characteristics that distinguished them from each other. The article also touches on the writing systems that evolved within the palatial societies, including Cretan hieroglyphic, Linear A, and Linear B. The article concludes by highlighting some of the differences between the religious practices of the palatial societies on Crete and the Greek mainland.
Table of Contents:
- The Development of Palatial Societies in the Near East and Aegean
- The Palace System and Political Structures
- The Economic Role of the Palaces
- Memorializing the Dead in the Palatial Period
- The Destruction of Palatial Sites
- Writing Systems in the Palatial Period
- Religion in Palatial Society
Q: How did the development of palatial societies differ in the Near East versus in Crete?
A: The palatial societies in the Near East served to control private vendettas, while the palatial societies in Crete formed a network of centers covering much of the island. The palaces and “villas” in Crete were part of a single political and economic system but did not incorporate all parts of Crete. Palaces on the Greek mainland developed later than those on Crete, with a long process of evolution from scattered chiefdoms towards more centralized states.
Q: What distinguished the palaces on Crete and the Greek mainland from each other?
A: The palaces on Crete were larger and more complex than those on the Greek mainland, with a more decentralized political structure. The palaces on the Greek mainland, such as Pylos and Mycenae, were smaller in size but had more elaborate fortifications and a more centralized political structure. The palaces on the Greek mainland were also surrounded by tholoi and chamber tombs that served as sites for commemorating the dead, while those on Crete lacked such structures.
Q: What was the economic role of the palaces?
A: The palaces oversaw the manufacture of some products, tracked and recorded the production of agricultural goods, and stored luxury items. They also traded prestige goods for metals, spices, and ivory. Palaces played a key role in the economy of their respective societies, as they were involved in the production and distribution of goods and resources.
Q: How did the writing systems in the palatial period evolve?
A: Writing began on Crete with ‘Cretan hieroglyphic’, which was simpler than Linear A, the more complex script that later developed in southern Crete. Linear A was used throughout the island and beyond. The arrival of Mycenaeans on Crete saw the system of writing change to Linear B, which borrowed up to two-thirds of its signs from Linear A. Linear B represented the Greek language and was used for exclusive administrative purposes on Crete and the Greek mainland.
Q: How did the palaces on Crete and the Greek mainland differ in their religious practices?
A: There were important differences between the two cultures in the context of religious practices. The Mycenaean elites had been commemorating their dead in tholoi and chamber tombs, but during the palatial period, they chose to concentrate their resources near the palaces, which may have dominated society to the extent where there was no room for memorializing the dead of individual families. The palaces on the Greek mainland also had a more militaristic and aggressive culture, reflected in the elaborate fortifications that surrounded them. In contrast, the palaces on Crete seemed to have a more peaceful culture with a focus on religion and ritual.
The palace system and society in ancient Crete and Greece were complex and multifaceted phenomena that evolved separately but were linked through trade and culture. The palaces played a key role in political, economic, and cultural life, overseeing production, storage, and distribution of luxury goods and resources. The writing systems that evolved within these societies served as a means of administration and communication and played a significant role in the development of the Greek language. Palatial societies on Crete and the Greek mainland differed in their political, economic, and cultural characteristics, with important differences seen in religious practices. Overall, the palatial period was a period of significant cultural and technological development that has left an enduring legacy in the history of Mediterranean civilization.