Aegean Architecture


Table Summary

Summary of Aegean Architecture
Palace age
ca. 2000-1400 BC
Mycenaean age
ca. 1400-1200 BC
Knossos palace megaron, Treasury of Atreus

Main Article

Palace Age

ca. 2000-1400 BC

The Minoan homeland was the island of Crete. Minoan buildings were typically made of timber frames filled with clay bricks. At the heart of each Minoan city was a multi-story palace with a large central courtyard.G91,1,3

During the first phase of Minoan history, the Pre-Palace age (ca. 3000-2000 BC), the Minoans were a non-urban culture that lacked large-scale architecture (including palaces, hence the name of the period). The subsequent Palace age (ca. 2000-1400 BC) was the great flowering of Minoan culture, during which they flourished as an urban civilization. Palaces were the foremost type of Minoan architecture.1

The largest Minoan palace was erected at Knossos, the Minoan capital. This building features hundreds of rooms that served variously as bedrooms, offices, workshops, art studios, and storage chambers. Thus, along with housing the ruling class, a Minoan palace served as the hub of city business.G91,1

Knossos Palace
Knossos Palace
Reconstruction of Knossos Palace

Mycenaean Age

ca. 1400-1200 BC

The Mycenaeans based their culture firmly on that of the Minoans, as evidenced by their general architectural style. They ascended as a civilization during the Palace age, then ruled the Aegean for about two centuries: a period known as the Mycenaean age (ca. 1400-1200). Unlike the Minoans (who could rely chiefly on naval defence), the Mycenaeans surrounded their cities with massive defensive walls.3 The ruins of such walls have been preserved at several sites, including Mycenae, the civilization's foremost city.

A typical Mycenaean palace consisted of a central rectangular hall flanked by smaller chambers. The central hall, referred to as a megaron, featured a grand entrance framed with a portico (covered porch with columns). It was from the megaron that the Greek temple developed.D46-47,1,3

Little survives of any Mycenaean palace, however. The foremost extant Mycenaean building is the Treasury of Atreus, a "beehive tomb" at Mycenae. (Beehive tombs were erected by various ancient cultures of Eurasia.) The arch above the entrance, as well as the walls of the tomb itself, feature corbelled construction (see Corbelling). The Treasury of Atreus was the world's largest purely domed space (i.e. a domed space lacking additional supports, such as columns) prior to the Pantheon.G97,H113,1

Ruins of Mycenae
Reconstruction of a Megaron
Treasury of Atreus
Treasury of Atreus
Treasury of Atreus (dome interior)
Diagram of the Treasury of Atreus
1 - "Western Architecture: European Metal Age cultures » Aegean and eastern Mediterranean", Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed May 2009.
2 - "Architecture: Classical Architecture", Encarta. Accessed May 2009.
3 - "Aegean Civilization: Aegean Art and Architecture", Encarta. Accessed May 2009.
4 - "Western Architecture: European Metal Age cultures » Western Mediterranean » Bronze Age cultures", Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed May 2009.
5 - "Aegean Civilization", Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed May 2009.
6 - "Western Painting: Ancient Greek » Dark Ages", Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed April 2009.
7 - "Megaron", Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed April 2009.