National Geographic : 1944 Mar
Travelers at a Mycenaean Palace ABOUT 1400 B.C. the great Palace at Cnossus was de stroyed by fire, and although part of it was rebuilt, Cretan civilization had passed its peak and never recovered. For a long time before that date, however, the people of Crete had traded with- the people inhabiting the mainland of Greece. Many Cretan motifs and architectural ideas had been brought to the Peloponnesus, where, from about 1600 to 1200 B.C., flourished a civilization called Mycenaean, from the name of one of its principal cities, Mycenae. There were many other rich centers as well, such as Pylos, Sparta, Tiryns, and Orchomenus in Boeotia, to the northwest of Athens. All these had added the graces of Cretan culture to their own basic northern ideas, for the lords of Mycenae and Tiryns in those days were probably northerners whose ancestors had come down into Greece in successive waves during the earlier centuries. Cretan dress, slightly modified, was worn by the women. The characteristic Cretan column, tapering downward in stead of up, was common; decorations patterned after shields which resembled a figure eight and are found in Crete also appear in Greece. Certain basic northern ideas, however, are found in Mycenaean architecture, especially the megaron type of house. The Mycenaean house, which stood iso lated under its own gabled roof, was entered from the end through a porch with columns which stood between the projecting side walls of the building. In the picture a youthful traveler is receiving from his Mycenaean host and hostess rich gifts-a golden cup and a woven garment. His companion is busy with the chariot in which they are to driveaway, and inthe courtyard atthe left a servant is roasting akid for afarewell breakfast. Two great hounds, such as appear on afresco painting of a boar hunt found atTiryns, stand near by, and acat rubs its back against one ofthe pillars ofthe porch. The cat is not supposed tohave been domesticated in Greece before the sixthcentury, but relics ofthe period prove that the Cretan andMycenaean artists knew and rep resented cats. The commercial relations which existed be tween Egypt and Crete, and extended through Crete tothe mainland, make it not impossible for atame Egyptian cat to have found its way tothe hearth of aMycenaean palace. Although the period ofthe Trojan War and Homer's Iliad and Odyssey is laterthan the height ofthe Mycenaean civilization, many of its glories remained inthe memory of the later people, to be written ultimately into these great epic poems. Some startling parallels are tobefound inHomer's description of certain objects, such asthe famous silver cup of Nestor with two doveswrought on the handle, and works of art actually found in Mycenaean graves. Our picture, though ofthe pre-Homeric period, illustrates such an incident as occurs intheOdyssey when the young Telemachus, in search ofnews ofhis father, Odysseus, drove from Pylos to Sparta and was welcomed and entertained by Menelaus and his fair wife Helen. On this journey Telemachus was accompanied by his friend Peisistratus. The King of Mycenae, Agamemnon, was leader of all the Greeks in the TrojanWar. His fleet of one hundred ships was the largest ofthe Greek contingents.