British Museum

This is a follow-up from my previous post, Past Inspiration Part 2. It is a narrative of Bronze Age Greece, with pictures (of course)!


On the island of Crete, south of the Greek mainland, lives the flourishing civilisation of the mythical King Minos. Their patron symbol is the bull, inspiration for the Minotaur legend.

Minoan bull

Minoan youths demonstrate their strength and skill by leaping over a charging bull’s back in the courtyards of their lavish palaces.

Minoan woman

Women in the Minoan world occupy a place on the border of reality and myth. They are high priests or queens, held in the highest regard by their subjects.


Some women are priestesses of the serpent cult, revered as well as feared by travellers from the mainland.

Thera wall painting

Women are also held in high esteem at the Minoan settlement on Thera (Satorini), such as this one who is painted picking saffron. Her clothes and hairstyle show off her elevated status.

converted PNM file

Around 1600 B.C. disaster strikes the Minoan world. The volcano beneath Thera erupts, leaving much of the island as a vast crater, which the sea soon claims. Minoan culture on the island is destroyed.


Crete does not escape this apocalypse. Thera’s eruption sends out powerful shockwaves, causing tsunamis which ravage Minoan coastal towns and palaces.

Minoan octopus

Those who survive begin to paint sea creatures such as this octopus on their pottery, an attempt to appease the gods.


In the temple at Anemospilia, a young man has just been sacrificed on the altar when an earthquake brings the roof crashing down on the worshippers’ heads.

Minoan axe

A sinister force arrives in the wake of the tsunami. The Minoans retreat to fortresses built on the steep slopes of secluded mountain ravines. They rely on bronze axes and secrecy for defence.

Mycenaean weaponsMycenaean weapons 2

The Mycenaeans, fierce warriors from mainland Greece, arrive on the shores of Crete. They have advanced weapons such as swords, spears and javelins.

Minoan snake goddess burnt

Soon, Minoan civilisation has been conquered, figurines of their serpent goddesses torn apart and thrown into their burning temples.

Mycenaean women

A new view of the female form emerges in Mycenaean figurines. Tall flat-topped hats and dresses with billowing arms come into fashion. But gone are the snake-wielding goddesses and mystical Easter-Island-esque statuettes of the Minoan age.

Mycenaean gold

The currency of Bronze Age Greece is no longer skilled pottery, athletics and trade. Gold reigns supreme in the firelit hall (megaron) of Mycenae.


With Crete and the Cycladic Islands conquered, Mycenae turns its attention to the East. It leads the warrior societies of Greece against Troy, satrapy of the Hittite Empire. A brutal, decade-long siege ensues.


The Mycenaean king, Agamemnon, returns to his capital after the sack of Troy. He is murdered in the bath by his wife, Clytemnestra, and his face forever immortalised in a burial mask of solid gold.

Are you looking for inspiration? You can search the British Museum collection online by following this link or discover the Greek Bronze Age at


3 thoughts on “Past Inspiration Part 3

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