History Files
 

Please help the History Files

Contributed: 84

Target: 400

2023
Totals slider
2023

The History Files still needs your help. As a non-profit site, it is only able to support such a vast and ever-growing collection of information with your help, and this year your help is needed more than ever. Please make a donation so that we can continue to provide highly detailed historical research on a fully secure site. Your help really is appreciated.

European Kingdoms

Eastern Mediterranean

 

Athens (Mycenaeans)

The Mycenaeans were part of a great expansion and migration of Indo-Europeans, a vast and multilayered grouping which originated on the northern shores of the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. The western section of this grouping migrated into Eastern Europe in the period between about 3300-2600 BC.

One of the last stages of this process involved the ancestors of the Mycenaeans. They descended from the steppe into Greece between 1900-1650 BC. Once there, they intermingled with and dominated the locals (who included the Pelasgians) to create a new, unique Greek culture. The first city states emerged by about 1600 BC, but the Mycenaeans did not form a single nation or kingdom. Instead they banded together the forces from each of their independent city states, placing them under one leader in times of trouble.

The site which later became Athens was occupied from at least as early as 5000 BC. The first signs of habitation were found at the Cave of Schist. By the sixteenth century BC the settlement had become an important centre of Mycenaean civilisation, and a major fortress existed at the site. Much of Greece remained under Minoan domination until around the fifteenth century BC, at which point its Mycenaean inhabitants gained independence and established a series of powerful city states of their own.

At the end of this period, by the twelfth century BC, Athens became the bolt-hole for those Mycenaeans who remained in Greece, possibly along with a population of Pelasgians, while the rest of the country was gradually taken over by the comparatively primitive Dorians.

Athens found itself cut off by this invasion, as the rest of Greece (and a great swathe of the Near East) entered a dark age as a result of general social discord which had been triggered by climate change. Athens endured an impoverished culture, retaining only a local sphere of influence and limited trade until the end of the dark age. During this period it was governed by hereditary Archons.

Once a full recovery was underway in the eighth and seventh centuries BC, Athens was able to trade with the Phoenician city states, and with Syria as a whole, with papyrus being imported from there and locations being used in stories about the Greek gods.

The traditional Athenian list of kings was recorded in the Parian Chronicle of the third century BC, along with a version by the chronographer, Castor of Rhodes, who probably took as a basis the late third-century work by Eratosthenes, and also the version in the Bibliotheca (see Harding, below).

The Greeks imported the Phoenician alphabet and eastern artistic influences, and were firmly a part of the region's trade system. By this time they had ditched their (semi-legendary) kings and were well on the way to creating the world's earliest-known democracy, one which was headed by elected Archons.

Ancient Greek frieze

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from History of Humanity - Scientific and Cultural Development: From the Third Millennium to the Seventh Century BC (Vol II), Ahmad Hasan Dani, Jean-Pierre Mohen, J L Lorenzo, & V M Masson (Unesco 1996), from The Iliad, Homer (Translated by E V Rieu, Penguin Books, 1963), from Europe Before History, Kristian Kristiansen, from A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, William Smith (Ed), from An Historical Geography of Europe, Norman J G Pounds (Abridged Version), from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, from The Ancient History, Vol 2, Charles Rollin (Ninth Edition, M Ogle, 1800), from The Histories, Herodotus (Penguin, 1996), and from External Links: Miletus (Perseus Digital Library), and DNA clue to origins of early Greek civilization (BBC News), and The Greeks really do have near-mythical origins, ancient DNA reveals (Science), and Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition), and The Story of Athens: The Fragments of the Local Chronicles of Attika, Phillip Harding (Taylor & Francis, 2007, and available via Google Books).)

fl c.1560s BC

Actaeus

First king of Attica, which was inherited by Cecrops.

c.1562 - 1506 BC

Cecrops I

Half-man half-serpent. Regarded as the first king of Athens.

c.1470 BC

During his reign of fifty-six years, Cecrops, son-in-law of Actaeus, is credited with deifying Zeus, adopting Athena as the patron goddess of the city of Athens, and introducing literacy and marriage. Strabo suggests that his name is not Mycenaean, and other descriptions make him only half Mycenaean by birth (and therefore in part 'barbarian', perhaps half-Pelasgian).

First Theatre of Larissa
The ruins of the third century BC theatre of Larissa are not Pelasgian as such, as there is little remaining which could categorically be attributed to them

During this period, Greece is still under the domination of the Minoans, but the volcano at the heart of the island of Thera erupts around this time, ending Minoan dominance of the Mycenaeans. The various Mycenaean city states begin to dominate not only Greece but the islands of the Aegean and Crete itself.

c.1506 BC

Erysichthon

Son. Predeceased his father and did not rule.

c.1506 - 1497 BC

Cranaus

Athens' wealthiest citizen. Reigned for 9 or 10 years.

Cranaus is deposed by Amphictyon who is in turn deposed by Erichthonius. Amphictyon is the son of one Deucalion who apparently flees to Athens to escape a flood. His son marries a daughter of Cranaus.

c.1497 - 1487 BC

Amphictyon

Son-in-law. Usurped the throne. Ruled 10 or 12 years. Deposed.

c.1487 - 1437 BC

Erichthonius / Erichthonios

Brother. Drove out Amphictyon.

c.1437 - 1397 BC

Pandion I

Son.

c.1397 - 1347 BC

Erechtheus

Son. His grandson was Menestheus, king of Athens.

Erechtheus oversees a war against the city of Eleusis. This lies just twenty-one kilometres away and the circumstances surrounding it are unclear, other than each city following a different god (Athens follows Athena while Eleusis follows Poseidon). Both cities lose their kings in the fighting, but Athens emerges dominant, thereby increasing its domains.

Katpatuka monuments
At this time the Hittites were still fully dominant across much of Anatolia, with a string of allied minor states across the western regions along with a possible Mycenaean state by the name of Ahhiyawa

c.1347 - 1307 BC

Cecrops II

Son. Ruled for 40 years.

c.1307 - 1282 BC

Pandion II

Father of Lycus of Lycia in Greek mythology, and of Aegeus.

c.1282 BC

Metion

Seized the throne.

Upon the death of Pandion II (one in a series of legendary kings in the generations prior to the Trojan War), Metion seizes the throne. The four sons of Pandion wrest back control of Athens and divide control of the city state between them, with Aegeus becoming king. One of the brothers, Lycus, is also claimed as the founder of Lycia.

c.1282 - 1234 BC

Aegeus / Aigeus / Aegeas / Aigeas

Son of Pandion. King of Athens, and father of Theseus.

c.1240s? BC

It is the second Minos, 'Minos the Bad', who forces the Athenians to collect seven young boys and seven young girls to be sent into his labyrinth on Crete where they will be eaten by the minotaur.

Medea, the abandoned wife of Jason of Iolkos, flees to Thebes and then Athens, where she marries King Aegeus. When his son, Theseus, returns Medea leaves for Kolkis, where she kills her usurper uncle and restores her father to his throne.

Aegeus and the Oracle
Aegeus, grandson of the semi-mythical King Erichthonius of Athens, consults the Oracle at Delphi for advice regarding his lack of a male heir despite two marriages

c.1234 - 1205 BC

Theseus

Son. Aged 70, raped the teenaged Helen of Sparta.

c.1205 - 1183 BC

Menestheus

Son of Peteus, son of Orneus, son of Erechtheus.

1200 - 1140 BC

The Dorian invasion of Greece from the north takes place between about 1200-1140 BC, with the Mycenaean city states to the north falling between those dates, and with domination being achieved by about 1140 BC.

All Mycenaean palaces and fortified sites are destroyed and a major proportion of other sites are abandoned. The population of the Peloponnese appears to decline by about seventy-five percent.

Mycenae itself remains occupied, but is burned twice in succession and survives in a much-reduced state and size. The surviving Ionic-speaking Mycenaeans gather and flourish in Athens, or in conquered Mediterranean territories which probably include Phillistia.

Once the Hittites had been destroyed around 1200 BC, and the Mycenaeans had themselves (probably) smashed Troy, the colonisation of the western coast of Anatolia could begin (the possibility that the earlier Ahhiyawa may also be a Mycenaean colony notwithstanding).

Map of Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Greece 1200 BC
Climate-induced drought in the thirteenth century BC created great instability in the entire eastern Mediterranean region, resulting in mass migration in the Balkans, as well as the fall of city states and kingdoms further east (click or tap on map to view full sized)

This would seem to be the most likely - and popular - avenue of Mycenaean escape from the mainland. Once there they form or take over states or regions such as Caria, Lycia, and Maeonia, and perhaps Pamphylia, between about 1100 to 900 BC. Those states themselves usually survive until they are conquered by the later great empires.

c.1193 - 1183 BC

Agamemnon of Mycenae calls to arms the forces of his allied Achaean kingdoms, including Athens, to take part in the Trojan War. Menestheus, king of Athens since Theseus had travelled to the Underworld, takes fifty black ships in support of the siege of Troy but he himself seems to be rather shy of being involved in the fighting.

Following the war's conclusion with the destruction of Troy, he sails to Mimas and then Melos, where he becomes king, briefly ruling jointly over that and Athens until his death.

Artist's impression of Troy
This illustration is another artist's impression of an unspecified version of Troy, although it is believed to be based on the city which existed around the time of the Trojan War, shortly before its defeat and destruction

c.1183 - 1150 BC

Demophon

Son of Theseus. Fought against Troy.

c.1150 - 1136 BC

Oxyntes

Son.

c.1136 - 1135 BC

Ampheidas

Son. Reigned for 1 year.

c.1135 - 1127 BC

Thymoetes

Brother. The last descendant of Theseus to rule.

c.1126 - 1089 BC

Melanthus

Former king of Messenia. Succeeded or overthrew Thymoetes.

c.1089 - 1068 BC

Codros / Codrus

Last king. Position replaced by the Archons.

c.1068 BC

Codros sacrifices himself to prevent an oracle regarding the Doric conquest of the city from coming true. In doing so, he preserves the Mycenaean bloodline which survives in Athens when all of Greece has fallen to the Dorians.

Athenian inscription fragment
Shown here is a fragment of an Athenian inscription which has been dated to about 425 BC and which contains part of a list of archons, in this case six of them from the 520s BC

The heirs of Codros become hereditary Archons, or lords, of Athens. The he first of these is his son, Medros, while the title itself survives well into the Roman period. Another son, Neleus, is credited with founding (actually re-founding) the city of Miletus in Caria.

 
Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.