The Greek heroic legends form cycles connected with different parts of Greece. Most of them are connected with Minoan/Mycenaean sites and heroes. The original Argonauts are Minyans (Minyai) from the site of Mycenaean of two Mycenaean cities. The Theban saga is an account of the struggles of two Mycenaean cities, Thebes and Argos, fighting for supremacy. Heracles, though frequently absent, is connected with Tiryns. Troy is attacked by four Mycenaean cities, Argos, Asine, Mycenae and Sparta. The legend of Theseus is set in MYcenaean Athens and the remains of a MYcenaean palace and fort have been found on the Acropolis.
The Cretan legends of Minos and the Minotaur refer to a pre-Greek age, when Crete held the supremacy of the sea and dominated the mainland cities, exacting tribute; a position later reversed with the rise of the Mycenaean/Achaean states in the Peloponnese, dominated by Mycenae. Although the later Greeks regarded Minos as an early king of Crete, we do not know if this was actually his name, or merely a title like pharaoh or king.
The civilization of the Late Bronze Age in Greece has been called the 'Mycenaean' because it was first discovered by Heinrich Schliemann at Mycenae in 1876. Prior to this, Greek history was thought to have begun in 776, B.C. with the First Olympiad. Mycenae, meaning 'rich in gold', was, at the time of the Trojan War (c.1200 B.C.), the leading city in the Achaean League but this position was not static and changed frequently. The world of this period is vividly portrayed by Homer, an epic Greek poet, who lived some four hundred years after the events that he described but whose veracity has been attested to, by excavations carried out at Troy, Mycenae, Pylus and other Mycenaean sites. For instance, the boar's tusk helmets which he descrived and which no one quite believed in, turned up at Cnossus (Knossos) in Crete and there is one from the Peloponnese, now in the Nauplia Museum.
The Mycenaen settlements have certain features in common. The large palaces were always built on fortified acropoli, of a megaron type structure, which later developed into the prototype of classical temple. The acropolis walls were usually built of large stone blocks known to the later Greeks as Cyclopean because they thought that these vast blocks must have been moved by giants, the Cyclops. The walls of the palaces were decorated with brightly coloured frescos, probably copied from those of Minoan cities, although the palaces themselves were less ornate and much smaller than the Minoan palaces.
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