History of the Cycladic Civilization

cycladic-civilisationOne of the oldest civilizations in Europe developed in the Cyclades during the 3rd and 2nd millennium BC, i.e. the Bronze Age. Their mild climate and especially their particularly privileged geographical position contributed to this.

Essentially, the islands of the Cyclades form a kind of natural bridge between Europe and Asia, mainland Greece and Crete. In the 3rd millennium BC, the ships of the Cycladic islands dominate the Aegean and together with the products of the Near East, they carry ideas, technical knowledge, religious concepts to Europe.

In almost all the islands of the Cyclades, the archaeological dig brought to light settlements, not extensive ones, of the 3rd millennium BC. Each settlement seems to have developed autonomously and there was no central authority of any kind. Initially the settlements are formed near the sea or on the slopes of low hills.

About 2300 BC some settlements are fortified (Agia Irini in Kea), others are destroyed and rebuilt fortified (Filakopi in Milos), while others are built on high hills far from the sea (Kastri Syros). This shows some disruption of life by the presence of new populations, possibly coming from Asia Minor. However, the islands quickly find their rhythm of life again.

In the 2nd millennium BC the Cyclades have contacts with mainland Greece first and then with Crete. Settlements grow, buildings are more complex and imposing. The most important settlement of this era is Akrotiri in Thira.

Around 1600 BC, when large Cycladic settlements were destroyed by an earthquake, the Cyclades passed into the sphere of influence of Minoan Crete, which experienced its greatest prosperity at the time.

After the destruction of the Minoan palaces, around 1450 BC, the Cyclades were dominated by the Mycenaeans from mainland Greece, who transmitted to the islands the characteristics of their own culture in technology, art and religion.

The most characteristic creation of Cycladic art during the Bronze Age is the marble figurines. Most depict naked women, a few male musicians, warriors or hunters. The figures are strongly stylized, with few but distinctive details to identify gender.

The clay vessels, which have a variety of shapes, are decorated with simple linear designs. Particularly impressive are the marble vases, as well as the metal ones with simple engraved decoration.