With the passing of the commercial power of Knossos, the mainland Greek principalities came into their own, under the loose leadership of Mycenae. Their societies were already literate – they received the Linear B script from the Minoans – and they were expansionist. They planted colonies on Cyprus, and probably on Sicily and southern Italy.
On the mainland their palaces increased in size and wealth, with storerooms, servants’ quarters, chariot sheds and other buildings spreading out from the central hall. Mycenae was the largest of these Greek centers, the palace-citadel surrounded by huge walls and gates, and the royal tombs of great splendor. Other places on the mainland and around the Aegean, such as Argos, Pylos and Troy (all these and others figure in Homer’s account of the Trojan Wars) also boasted fine, thick-walled palaces, and were all points in the international maritime trade networks of the period.
Bettany Hughes. MYCENAE – Palaces and Tombs of Warrior Kings. In Cities that Shaped the Ancient World:
The Bronze Age city of Mycenae was, from 1400 to 1100 BC, a bold experiment in the manipulation of the natural world and people power. All raw materials and edible resources from Mycenaean territory were brought into the mighty city and then redistributed back to its subjects: figs, flax, olives, grain, cumin, coriander, honey, milk, meat. The Linear B tablets, originally disposable clay lists, baked accidentally in palatial fires and hence surviving to give us brilliant details of life in this region, describe a strictly hierarchical society where both men and women enjoy pole position. The king or wanax and queen or wanassa rule over aristocrat-warriors, high-priests and priestesses; at the bottom of the pyramid crouch a huge phalanx of do-e-ra and do-e-ro – female and male servants or slaves.
Jared Diamond in The rise and fall of the third chimpanzee. 1991:
Archaeological surveys of ancient Greece have revealed several cycles of population growth alternating with population crashes and local abandonment of human settlements. In the growth phases, terracing and dams initially protected the landscape until felling of forests, clearing of steep slopes for agriculture, overgrazing by too many livestock, and planting of crops at too short intervals overwhelmed the system. The result each time was massive erosion of the hills, flooding of the valleys, and the collapse of local human society. One such event coincided with (and may have caused) the otherwise mysterious collapse of Greece’s glorious Mycenean civilization, after which Greece fell back for several centuries into a dark age of illiteracy.
Karl-Joachim Hölkeskamp und Elke Stein-Hölkeskamp in Geschichte der Antike. 2013 (transl. from German):
The material conditions and social structures of this late Mycenaean period differed in more than one respect from the preceding palace culture. Firstly, the layout and furnishings of the residences mentioned are very modest compared to the palaces. Secondly they apparently no longer gave rise to complex palatial state structures, and nowhere did they even come close to the centrally controlled economic system of the palaces.
Instead, these residences appear to have been the centres of small-scale, sometimes only local autonomous territorial rule. Their leaders were – again in contrast to the Mycenaean rulers and despite the nostalgic recourse to their ideology and culture – were rather “petty kings” at the head of a limited warrior class and military followers tied to their person.