Sources on Mycenaean Warfare
Sun May 10 23:25:05 2009
Most of what we know of the Mycenaeans comes from four kinds of sources: excavated artifacts including burial goods, art including wall frescos, and vase painting, Linear B clay tablets, remains of massive stone palace architecture
The Palace complex functioned as redistribution center for food, grain, livestock and manufactured goods including arms, armor and chariots and was under the authority of the wa-na-ka (wanax) or “king.” Under the wa-ka-na served an aristocratic and possibly military elite called the e-ge-ta (heketas) or “attendants.” Most individuals mentioned on the clay tablets use only a personal name, but the e-ge-ta often also use a family or father’s name which may indicate some kind of hereditary and aristocratic status or privilege. The adjectival form of e-ge-ta is describes chariot wheels so they are probably in some way associated with chariots, either owning, using or commanding them.
Boar’s tusk helmets have been found in tombs and are represented in paintings and sculpture. The “warrior” vase also depicts an unusual horned helmet. The Dendra panoply of armor from the late 15th century is very similar to that on the Linear B ideograms. The armor greatly restricts movement and so was probably used in combination with the chariot. There have also been found small metal scales which suggest the possibility of scaled armor. Wall frescos, vase paintings and remnants found in tombs suggest that Mycenaeans also fought in kilts, white linen tunics, leather (possibly with metal reinforcements) or bare-chested. There are tall rectangular and figure-eight shaped ox hide shields shown in artwork that depicts hunting. However, there are no known records of disbursements for shields and none have been found at burial sites so it is unclear if they were ever used in warfare.
A variety of sword types have been found. The ideograms make it hard to differentiate them so it is difficult to understand many details of their use. Spear points are also plentiful and spears are well represented in art work for both hunting and warfare.