Abstract: Power Politics in Mycenaean Palatial Territories


The palatial territories of Mycenaean Greece that reached their high points in the late 14th and 13th centuries BCE were successful, and not at all short-lived, experiments in state formation, social and political organization, efficient mobilization of natural and human resources and pious observation of religious beliefs and practices. Otherwise these centers of economic, political and military power could not have competed successfully in the eastern Mediterranean cultural milieu of the late Bronze Age.

In this lecture, we will look at how the Mycenaeans managed to put together their palatial systems, in areas that in historical times were the regions of Greek poleis, one or several.

The Linear B tablets and the evidence they provide for social, political and economic terminology and ideology will be used to give us a picture of the outcomes of the power struggles that must have taken place among rival clan groups and centers as individuals vied for dominance and palatial centers asserted and maintained control over what then became lesser centers.

The notions promulgated by the palatial centers in titles and terms help us understand how deft Linear B kings must have been to keep their states stable and prosperous. We will propose parallels with successful state structures in historical times, from the Greek poleis to the formation of the Carolingian state to Nazi Germany.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

—C. Shelmerdine, “Mycenaean Society,” in Y. Duhoux and A. Morpurgo Davies eds., A Companion to Linear B: Mycenaean Greek Texts and Their World  (2008) 115-158.

—John Chadwick, The Mycenaean World (1976), pp. 84-101, esp. 89-102.

—Jack L. Davis, Sandy Pylos (1998) esp. 111-133.

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