The Bronze Age

From the Minoans to the Greeks
The Minoans were a peaceful, highly-advanced Bronze Age civilisation inhabiting the fertile and forested island of Crete.
They had sewage systems. Complex bureaucracies. A writing system. Beautiful works of art. And lived in spectacular labyrinthine palaces.
They traded—extensively. A maritime power, one ancient writer claimed that there were Minoan traders in every port. They traded with peoples from all over the Mediterranean, and beyond. To manufacture bronze, the Minoans imported tin from the British Isles and imported amber from the Baltic.
Did you know?
The Minoans were a matriarchal society—not only did women play a prominent role in their religion, but the Minoans worshipped a Mother Goddess. 
Their early contact with ancient Egypt had a huge influence on their artwork, and they imported goldsmithing knowledge from Syria. In turn, the Minoans influenced their neighbours. The Mycenaean Greeks (the warrior heroes of Homer’s Iliad) integrated Minoan burial customs, art styles and pottery techniques into their own culture.

After a series of natural disasters and invasions, this peaceful, maritime civilisation fell apart.
The Phoenicians were a Semitic people inhabiting a narrow slither of land on the coast of modern-day Syria, Lebanon and northern Israel.
After the collapse of the Bronze Age civilisations, they began establishing trading settlements throughout the Mediterranean—from the southern coast of Spain to the coastline of modern Turkey.
With their reputation for craftiness, these traders and seafarers sailed as far as ancient Britain and circumnavigated the whole of Africa.
Far from being a homogenous, centralised country, they were a confederation of independent, sometimes rival trading communities.
Did you know?
The Phoenician city of Gebal (called Byblos by the Greeks) was a great exporter of papyrus and eventually gave the “bible” its name.
Their impact on wine-making was enormous, spreading their knowledge of viticulture to modern-day France, Spain, Egypt, and Greece. They were expert shipbuilders and glass-makers too, and their purple dye was highly prized.

But it was their alphabetic writing system—the root of all western alphabets—that proved to be their most valuable export.
ancient Greeks
Modern civilisation owes a lot to the ancient Greeks—democracy, philosophy, modern science, theatre, poetry, historical writing.
And the Greeks owed a lot to the Phoenicians. By spreading their alphabet to every corner of the Mediterranean, the Phoenicians ushered in a cultural renaissance in Greece the likes of which was not surpassed for another 2,000 years.
The School of Athens. Raphael (Wiki Commons)
Their city-states established colonies everywhere—from the coasts of Turkey to southern France—exporting their architecture, art, political systems, and ideas across the Mediterranean.

Greek Colonization Archaic Period (Wiki Commons)
Did you know?
Cosmopolitan comes from the Greek word ‘cosmopolis’, which means world city. This new word came into being in the 3rd century BCE after the Greeks had spread their culture across the Mediterranean.
But it was with the advent of Alexander the Great that things became truly global.
Conquering as far as Egypt and India, Alexander’s empire established Hellenic culture as the dominant cultural force in the Mediterranean. As a result, trade became even more widespread.
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