Mycenaean Roots

The legendary hoplite warrior did not just appear in an instant. Historical artifacts instead point to a more gradual appearance. The evolution of the hoplite took roughly 850 years and spanned three main Greek Ages: The Mycenaean Age, The Dark Ages, and the Archaic Age.

Heinrich Schliemann discovered Troy and the Mycenae Grave Shafts.

[14] Heinrich Schliemann, archaeology pioneer, discovered Troy and the Mycenae Grave Shafts.

The Mycenaean Age was the Greek Bronze Age and is named after the first organized civilization on mainland Greece, the Mycenaeans. The Mycenaean Age lasted from 1600-1150 BC. There is very little known about this period of time due to lack of direct, concrete sources that speak of it. Some scholars believe that this is the era that Homer famously references in The Iliad and The Odyssey, also known as the Heroic Era.

Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890) was a businessman and pioneer in the field of archeology. He famously excavated multiple archaeological sites on the Balkan Peninsula in the late-1800s. His most well known accomplishments are his excavations of believed sites of Troy multiple times, as well as the Mycenae Grave Shafts.

[9] The boars tusk helmet was exclusive to the Mycenaean Age.

One artifact found that links Homer’s poetry is the Boars Tusk helmet, referenced in The Iliad. The passage is as follows:

“Meriones gave Odysseus a bow, a quiver and a sword, and put a cleverly made leather helmet on his head. On the inside there was a strong lining on interwoven straps, onto which a felt cap had been sewn in. The outside was cleverly adorned all around with rows of white tusks from a shiny-toothed boar, the tusks running in alternate directions in each row” (Homer, Iliad 10.260–5).

Archaeologists have found a boars tusk helmet that was dated to sometime in the 14th century BC. This era places it well into the Mycenaean Age. The boars-tusk helmet was one of the pre-cursors to the bronze helmets found in later ages of Greek civilization.

[10] An artist’s interpretation of a Mycenaean Greek Tower Shield.

Homeric poetry also makes mention of Mycenaean tower shields, also called figure-eight shields, which were predecessors to the later hoplon shields of Greek hoplites. Another passage from The Iliad is as follows:

“But this man then gave Hector even greater glory. For as he turned, he tripped against a shield rim the one he carried, which extended to his feet and protected him from spears” (Homer, Iliad 15.645–FF).

Also found in the a Mycenae tomb were bronze weapons. Bronze weapons would play a vital role in the construction of the equipment used warriors of later eras.


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