The man-made economic disaster of mid 12th century B.C. and the reconstruction (through means of experimental archaeology) of the military technology that it brought about.
Kleisiaris Nikolaos, Bakas Spyridon, for the Association of Historical Studies KORYVANTES
The study is based on a lecture the Association members gave in Pultusk Academy (Poland), June 2012
To download this paper in .pdf format, please click here: Studies on Disasters
To download the presentation in .pdf format, please click here: Putulsk Presentation – 2012.06.27
The purpose of this paper is to review the archaeological evidence about warfare in the period, during which the late Bronze Age Society of the Greek World collapsed and then transformed into the emerging societies of the Archaic Period. The Bronze Age Catastrophe or Collapse refers to social, financial and cultural transformation of the eastern Mediterranean Basin that was destroyed by disasters whore nature is difficult to be determined even today .
The catastrophes have been spotted by Richard Hope Simpson and Oliver Dickinson as “ …by the end of LH IIIB almost all the great mainland centers had been destroyed by fire, several been deserted thereafter. The destructions seem to concentrate at sites where there were palaces or comparable large buildings, or fortifications.” . The factors which led to the end of Mycenaean civilization were undoubtedly complex but are strongly connected to the overly centralized, highly specialized economy, which never developed a broad-based flexible infantry response-leaving the bureaucratic Palatial States armies vulnerable to a variety of enemy military units , that were able to fight in shock formation , more mobile and flexible, without reliance on horse-men or chariot borne missile troops .
The heavy palatial warrior aristocrats and champions evolved into a new form. The Hoplite Warrior and the Phalanx Formation lay in the emergence, of the polis . There seem to have been two main reasons in this development: one economic, the other political. The economic reason was the reopening of trade routes and the establishment of Greek colonies in Aegean Islands and southern Italy islands increased prosperity, as well as the number of men able to afford armor and weapons, previously the mark of a small aristocracy .
The two societies refer to a different type of warfare. The Mycenaean Warrior of Late Bronze Age Era and the Archaic Hoplite stand for in the ideals of their society, technology, morals of war, martial tactics and aesthetics. Of course we can find a lot of similarities between those two fighter types. The moral and ideological framework of the warrior is the Heroic Ideal as described by Homer (Heroism, Egoism, Antagonism with his peers to be more Brave and Noble) , even if sometimes, heroic realism is a matter of convention . Armor ownership is limited to a closed circle of Nobles  and Palace Officials. In this sense, weapons and armor are a clear demonstration of social status .
Both warrior types are the product of a strong and longitudinal culture of the heavy infantryman traced throughout the route of Hellenic History. This in its turn means a developed urban life and the warrior’s attachment to his ancestral land making obvious the tendency for increased armor protection. This shows a big investment both in research and in construction time. Moreover it means advanced technology in production with the use of appropriate materials and technical innovation in metallurgy for producing big metallic plates. This tendency for a full body protection demonstrates the inner need of the Greeks for martial superiority as the conflict transforms into the art of war. Heavy armor means: “I stand my ground” in the defense of my land and people.
The use of same materials for armor manufacture in both Eras – i.e. bronze and copper- due to inability to produce very big iron plates, that would allow the production of iron armor at this period. Both the Late Bronze Age Fighter and the Archaic Warrior operated as walking ramparts, around which less armored fighters engaged in combat. Heterogeneity In equipment and tactics between various military detachments- both in the Archaic or the Late Bronze age battle where the nobility played the leading role (“fluid” battle).
Heavy armor implies powerful adversaries. These wars were primarily fought amongst Greeks who applied similar tactics and employed similar equipment. (Greeks perhaps faced an entirely different style of warfare only in their conflict with the Persians) Powerful offensive weapons that were intended for breaking or piercing heavy armor were also employed. (Axes and war-hammers)  From the above mentioned points we derive that the method of fighting during the two time periods remained the same and there was no substantial difference like the rise of the hoplite phalanx.
Archaic Panoply vs Mycenaean Panoply in terms of construction and functionality.
Both types of armor were the most advanced of their time. There was no technical knowledge outside the Helladic World capable of producing these items. In both cases there was generalized usage of Bronze , or Copper . Around 1025 B.C. bronze is starting to being replaced by a previously rare metal: iron . In the Archaic era iron and steel were replacing bronze for most utensils and offensive weapons , as well as bronze was in primary use for the defensive ones, as there was a primary Focus on defensive equipment . Of course there were some undisputable differences. The Mycenaean Armor is more complicated due to the existence of articulated components. It offers enhanced protection but it also needs a lot of recourses for its construction. It weighs more, takes longer to manufacture and reduces mobility but covers a larger area of the human body and protects the wearer better.
If we take into account the large amounts of bronze arrow tips, excavated at the sites of the Bronze Age palace complexes, we understand that the use of massed archery at war requires heavy armor if it is to be dealt with. The articulated parts allow a great variety of armor types in various shapes as we have a large variety of designs and adaptations to the human anatomy. The Mycenaean Armor covers effectively the upper parts negating shield usage and offers greater mobility. This is uncommon in the archaic and classical hoplite armor as they require more flexibility. The use of the large ox hide shield is not required anymore. We can assume with relative ease that this was necessary because of the heavy bronze swords and pauldrons. The sword fight would bear little resemblance to modern fencing.
There would be a preference towards using the edge to crush the armor rather than using he point aiming for openings. The Mycenaean Warrior presents –largely due to the use of articulated armor plates-an “inhuman killing machine” trapped in a metallic shell. The non-antphropomorphic image of his armor presents a knightmarish/hellish figure to his enemy. The visual aesthetic of the Archaic Hoplite is Anthropocentric and follows the artistic concept of his time that has a tendency in worshiping the human form as the human faced god cults become more popular. The human body is aggrandized with the use of the warrior’s panoply.
The armor demonstrates Anthropomorphic features like the “triangular torso”, imitation of chest anatomy and the usage of the abdominal arch and the “alba linea” in the armor decoration . The usage of all these features attempts to create the impression of an “ideal archaic body”. Everything is now closer to the common mans level. The whole culture chooses the mortal human body as its focal point thus opening the road for the miracle of Classical Athens .The Mycenaean Armor hides the human form while Archaic Armor highlights it. The Archaic hoplite does not have pauldrons and that means that mobility is favored over full protection. The Archaic hoplite can be viewed like a mobile metallic kouros (mythic figure of Talos?) or a naked shiny metal statue – an expression of the Heroic Nudity Ideal. Let’s note also that helmets gradually lose their bestial outlook. The appearance of decorative carvings transforms them in to artwork which even tries to placate the nether gods. There are no scales in the early Archaic armor in an attempt to present the perfect human form. All armor accessories try to imitate the human form. Grieves are distinct right and left while Mycenaean grieves are identical – there is no right or left.
The Mycenaean Warrior expresses with his armor his static collectivistic society while the Archaic Hoplite Armor features demonstrate social mobility. The Archaic panoply is a personal affair while the Mycenaean armor, because of the articulated parts can adapt to different body types (less individualistic item).
Here we must note the importance of copper and bronze. To the ancient peoples they had metaphysical – almost divine qualities. The investment of the Archaic era statues with metal (bronze) parts elevated them to the level of divinity. Another interesting observation of the armor evolution from the Bronze Age to the Archaic Age is the rise of the cult of Hercules from Parton of the Doric tribe to a Pan-Hellenic god. It wouldn’t be inappropriate to suppose that the Archaic Hoplites, encased in their bronze armor anthropomorphic armor were taping on the strength of the deified hero while fighting to protect their society from danger. The atavistic memories of the Palace Societies collapse and the calamities linked to it ware probably haunting the memories of the Archaic people and the sight of the metal encased (god like) hoplite was a reassurance that all would be done so that it would never be repeated.
The Collapse of the Palace Societies makes us ponder on the permanent lacking of human institutions when facing odds of a cataclysmic state and the folly of the human belief that things, we are comfortable with can last forever. The differences in weaponry between the two periods inform us that the Mycenaean Society was characterized by a Conservatism that made it so inflexible, that in the time of need it could not overcome the odds. In contrast the Archaic Society with its encouragement for Mobility, Colonialism, Individualism, Innovation and support for Experimentation bequeathed us all the tools that we need to survive as species in times of hardship and even turn the odds to our favor. The Greek proverb about the inflexible oak and the flexible reed could not have been more appropriate.
- KORYVANTES Association of Historic Studies would like to thank Armorer Mr. Dimitrios Katsikis (gr) for his dedication and perseverance of hard work that made the accurate reconstructions, which aided us greatly in our research and provided most valuable information.
- Association President Mr. Antonios Aliades whose tireless efforts and refusal to give up in the face of adversity made this project possible.
- KORYVANTES Association of Historic Studies would like to thank SCA Packaging Hellas S.A., for the generous contribution that made the construction of the armors and consequently this study feasible.
- The armors presented in this study were first presented in »Journées Gallo-Romaines St-Romain-en-Gal 2012», held in Musée gallo-romain de Saint-Romain-en-Gal – Vienne, France. We would like to thank the Museum Authorities and Personnel for the hospitality and great assistance that made the KORYVANTES Association participation feasible.
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Published by «ACTA ARCHAEOLOGICA PULTUSKIENSIA Vol. IV «.
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