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Language and Culture in Mycenaean Greece

Code: 104217 ECTS Credits: 6
Degree Type Year Semester
2503702 Ancient Studies OT 4 2
2504394 English and Classics Studies OT 3 2
2504394 English and Classics Studies OT 4 2


Carlos Varias Garcia

Use of Languages

Principal working language:
catalan (cat)
Some groups entirely in English:
Some groups entirely in Catalan:
Some groups entirely in Spanish:



Objectives and Contextualisation

This is an optional course of 4th year of the "Bachelor's Degree in Ancient Studies", programmed in the Mention in Languages, and an optional course of 3rd and 4th year of the "Bachelor's Degree in English and Classics". 

This course will explore the earliest readable documents in Europe: the texts of clay inscriptions written in a syllabic (pre-alphabetic) script known as "Linear B". Linear B was used by the inhabitants of the Mycenaean palatial culture of mainland Greece and the island of Crete from 1400 BCE until the collapse of this form of high culture ca. 1200 BCE. Mycenaean civilization (1600-1100 BCE) is the first historical Greek and European civilization. By studying these texts students will be introduced into the earliest form of Greek language known up-to-date: Mycenaean Greek, which pre-dates our earliest Greek alphabetic texts by over four centuries.

The aims of this course are five:

(1) to familiarize ourselves with the structure of Linear B script in relationship to other writing systems used to represent Greek (i.e., the Cypriote Syllabic Script and the Greek alphabet) and to consider how well Linear B worked as a vehicle for recording Greek as ‘visible speech’;

(2) to understand the syntax and system of communication of the ca. 5,000 Linear B texts;

(3) to sample the lexicon and phonology and morphology of Mycenaean Greek and the relationship of the Mycenaean ‘dialect’ to the later historical Greek dialects, including Homer;

(4) to understand Mycenaean Greek culture through the contents of the tablets in relationship with archaeological discoveries;

(5) to learn how to ‘read’ historical texts.


    Ancient Studies
  • Be able to express oneself orally and in writing in the specific language of history, archaeology and philology, both in one's own languages and a third language.
  • Students must develop the necessary learning skills to undertake further training with a high degree of autonomy.
  • Understand and interpret the evolution of ancient societies in the Mediterranean – from Egyptian civilisation to the disbanding of Western imperial Rome – through analysis of the political, historical, social, economic and linguistic factors.
    English and Classics Studies
  • Interrelate linguistic and historical knowledge of the ancient world with knowledge of other fields of the humanities, mainly literature and archaeology.
  • Students must be capable of communicating information, ideas, problems and solutions to both specialised and non-specialised audiences.
  • Students must develop the necessary learning skills in order to undertake further training with a high degree of autonomy.
  • Use digital tools and specific documentary sources to gather and organise information.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Autonomously searching, selecting and processing information both from structured sources (databases, bibliographies, specialized magazines) and from across the network.
  2. Preparing an oral and written discourse in the corresponding language in a proper and organized way.
  3. Relate Mycenaean history and civilisation to the Greek literary, cultural and historical developments that emerge from it.
  4. Relate Mycenaean history and civilisation to the Greek literary, cultural, and historical facts and events that emanate from it.
  5. Submitting works in accordance with both individual and small group demands and personal styles.


1. Introduction to the Aegean Bronze Age.

2. The Aegean scripts of the second millennium BCE: Cretan 'hieroglyphic', Linear A, Linear B, Cypro-Minoan scripts.

3. Chronology, typology, and classification of Mycenaean texts.

4. The Linear B graphic system: list of signs (syllabograms and logograms) and spelling rules.

5. Mycenaean phonetics and phonology.

6. Mycenaean morphology.

7. Mycenaean syntax and lexicon.

8. Mycenaean Greek dialect.

9. The contents of Linear B texts and general features of Mycenaean civilization: geography of the Mycenaean kingdoms, social and political structure, economy, cult and religion, warfare, general assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of palatial Mycenaean culture.


After the preliminary professor's explanations of the first four topics listen in the "Contents" section, the teaching methodology of this course will focus on linguistic and cultural comments on a wide group of Mycenaean inscriptions done by students during the academic year, according to the pattern previously given by the professor. These inscriptions will be used to explain and illustrate the other topics of the course (5-9), which refer to Mycenaean Greek dialect and to the features of Mycenaean civilization.    

Furthermore, students will write a course's paper, which will also be orally presented, and three reviews of three compulsory readings (see "Evaluation" section). 

Annotation: Within the schedule set by the centre or degree programme, 15 minutes of one class will be reserved for students to evaluate their lecturers and their courses or modules through questionnaires.


Title Hours ECTS Learning Outcomes
Type: Directed      
Elaboration of exercises and textual comments 21 0.84 2, 5, 3, 4
Explanation of the subject's topics 18 0.72 3, 4
Oral paper 9 0.36 2, 5
Type: Supervised      
Supervision of the writing paper 11 0.44 2, 5, 4
Tutorials 16 0.64 2, 5, 3, 4
Type: Autonomous      
Compulsory readings and reviews 30 1.2 2, 5
Writing paper 45 1.8 1, 2, 5, 3


Evaluation process

During lectures students will do analyses of Mycenaean texts useful to explain the course's contents. It is very important that students are conscious that the grades of these daily exercises, which are essentials to write properly the course's paper, are one of the evaluation activities (weight of 10%), so we stress on the attendance and active and regular participation in class.

Each student will write a course's paper, which will consist on the analysis and commentary of a coherent group of Mycenaean inscriptions, previously choosen in agreement with the lecturer. This written paper will be submitted at the end of the course (evaluation activity with weight of 35%) and will also orally presented in class (paper of 20 minutes: evaluation activity with weight of 25%).

Furthermore, each student will do three reviews, each one with a weight of 10% as evaluation activity, of the following three compulsory readings:

1/ Martín S. Ruipérez; José L. Melena, Los griegos micénicos, Madrid 1990.

2/ Cynthia W. Shelmerdine, "Mycenaean Society", en A Companion to Linear B.... (see complete reference in the "Bibliography" section), vol. 1, Louvain-la-Neuve 2008, pp. 115-158.

3/ Cynthia W. Shelmerdine, "Women in the Mycenaean Economy", en Stephanie Lynn Budin & Jean MacIntosh Turfa (eds.), Women in Antiquity. Real women across the Ancient World, London and New York 2016, pp. 618-634.

On carrying out each avaluation activity, lecturers will inform students (on Moodle) of the procedures to be followed for reviewing all grades awarded, and the date on which such a review will take place.

Students will obtain a Not assessed/Not submitted course grade unless they have submitted more than 30% of the assessment items. It is an essential  requirement to obtain a minimum score of 4/10 in each one of the evaluation activities in order to make the final average grade. The final grade needs be at least 5/10 to pass the subject.

Reassessment process

In order to participate in the reassessment process, students must have been previously evaluated in activities with a weight of at least 2/3 parts of the final grade. Only those students who have failed any evaluation activity with a mark lesser than 4/10 or those who have not achieved an average grade of 5/10 will be able to reassess the subject. The final score of any reassessment activity, that will be submitted on the reassessment day, will be “5 Pass”.


In the event of a student committing any irregularity that may lead to a significant variation in the grade awarded to an assessment activity, the student will be given a zero for this activity, regardless of any disciplinary process that may take place. In the event of several irregularities in assessment activities of the same subject, the student will be given a zero as the final grade for this subject. 

Assessment Activities

Title Weighting Hours ECTS Learning Outcomes
Attendance and active participation at lectures 10% 0 0 2, 3, 4
Paper (oral presentation) 25% 0 0 1, 2
Paper (writing presentation) 35% 0 0 1, 2, 5, 3
Review of book's chapter "Mycenaean Society" 10% 0 0 2, 5
Review of book's chapter "Mycenaean Women" 10% 0 0 2, 5
Review of book: "Los griegos micénicos" 10% 0 0 2, 5


Students will have a subject's dossier with topics and a selection of Mycenaean inscriptions.

The bibliography for Mycenaean studies depends on: 

1/ The formal editions of inscriptions.

2/ The acta of 16 formal Mycenological conferences (14 already published) and the acta of other specialized conferences of broader than purely Mycenological scope.

3/ The main speciality journals: Minos (Salamanca), together with its very imporatnt supplemental monograph series; Studi micenei ed egeo-anatolici (Rome) and Pasiphae (Rome); Kadmos (Berlin); Aegaeum (Liège-Austin).

4/ One can find analytical bibliographical syntheses year-by-year in Studies in Mycenaean Inscriptions and Dialect, now produced in Austin, TX USA; and also in the pages of the bibliographical index Nestor (Cincinnati) (see both series also in the "Webgraphy" section, below).

Basic bibliography

AA.VV., El Mundo Micénico. Cinco siglos de la primera civilización europea (1600-1100 a. C.) [catalogue of an exhibition held at the National Archaeological Museum], Madrid 1992.

AURA JORRO, Francisco, Diccionario Griego-Español. Anejo I: Diccionario Micénico (DMic.), vol. I, Madrid 1985; Anejo II: Diccionario Micénico (DMic.), vol. II, Madrid 1993.

AURA JORRO, Francisco; BERNABÉ, Alberto; LUJÁN, Eugenio R.; PIQUERO, Juan; VARIAS GARCÍA, Carlos, Diccionario Griego-Español. AnejoVII: Suplemento al Diccionario Micénico (DMic.Supl.), Madrid 2020.

BARTONEK, Antonín, Handbuch des mykenischen Griechisch, Heidelberg 2003.

BERNABÉ, Alberto; LUJÁN, Eugenio R., Introducción al griego micénico. Gramàtica, selección de textos y glosario. 2ª edición corregida y aumentada, Zaragoza 2020.

CHADWICK, John, El enigma micénico. El desciframiento de la escritura lineal B, Madrid 1966.

CHADWICK, John, El mundo micénico, Madrid 1977.

CHADWICK, John, Linear B and Related Scripts, London 1987.

CHANTRAINE, Pierre, Morfología histórica del griego, Reus 1974.

CLINE, Eric H. (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean, Oxford 2010.

DEL FREO, Maurizio; PERNA, Massimo (eds.), Manuale di epigrafia micenea. Introduzione allo studio dei testi in lineare B, 2 vols, Limena 2016.

DUHOUX, Yves; MORPURGO DAVIES, Anna (eds.), A Companion to Linear B. Mycenaean Greek Texts and their World, Louvain-la-Neuve, vol. I, 2008; vol. II, 2011; vol. III, 2014.

JIMÉNEZ DELGADO, José Miguel, Sintaxis del griego micénico, Sevilla 2016.

KILLEN, John T., Economy and Administration in Mycenaean Greece. Collected Papers on Linear B, edited by Maurizio Del Freo, vol. I-III, Roma 2015.

LEJEUNE, Michel, Phonétique historique du mycénien et du grec ancien, Paris 1972.

MELENA, José Luis, Ex Oriente Lux. La aportación de las filologías del Oriente Próximo y Medio Antiguo a la comprensión de los primeros textos europeos, Vitoria 1984.

MELENA, José Luis, Textos griegos micénicos comentados, Vitoria 2001 [working book at lectures, in PDF].

OLIVIER, Jean-Pierre, Les scribes de Cnossos. Essai de classement des archives d’un palais mycénien, Roma 1967.

OLSEN, Barbara A., Women in Mycenaean Greece. The Linear B Tablets from Pylos and Knossos, New York 2014.

PALAIMA, Thomas G., The Scribes of Pylos, Roma 1988.

PALMER, Leonard R., The Interpretation of Mycenaean Greek Texts, Oxford 1963.

PIQUERO, Juan, El léxico del griego micénico. Index Graecitatis. Étude et mise à jour de la bibliographie, Nancy 2019.

PIQUERO, Juan, La civilización micénica, Madrid 2020.

RUIPÉREZ, Martín S.; MELENA, José Luis, Los griegos micénicos, Madrid 1990 [compulsory reading].

SHELMERDINE, Cynthia W. (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to the Aegean Bronze Age, Cambridge 2008.

VENTRIS, Michael; CHADWICK, John, Documents in Mycenaean Greek, Cambridge 19732.

VERMEULE, Emily, Grecia en la Edad del Bronce, México 19902.

VOUTSAKI, Sophia; KILLEN, John T. (ed.), Economy and Politics in the Mycenaean Palace States, Cambridge 2001.


http://bib.cervantesvirtual.com/portal/diccionariomicenico/ (web of Diccionario Micénico).

- http://sites.utexas.edu/scripts/ (Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory, Univ. Texas).

http://classics.uc.edu/nestor/ (Nestor journal).

- http://calibra.classics.cam.ac.uk (CaLiBRA: Cambridge Linear B Research Archive).

http://www.aegeussociety.org/en/index.php/aegeus/ (Aegeus. Society for Aegean Prehistory).

http://lila.sns.it/mnamon/ (Mnamon. Antiche scritture del Mediterraneo).

- http://www.hf.uio.no/ifikk/english/research/projects/damos/ (DAMOS. Database of Mycenaean at Oslo).

- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CgjVjI2bNU (A very English genius: video about Michael Ventris' life)

- https://itsallgreektoanna.wordpress.com/2016/06/08/mycenopoly/ (Mycenopoly: board game based on "Monopoly", but set in the Mycenaean palaces)

- https://www.bsa.ac.uk/videos/how-to-make-a-linear-b-tablet/(video explaining how to make Linear B tablets).


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