Most Mycenean warriors did not wear body armor, but relied on their large shields for protection.
War was a central part of Mycenean life. Kings and nobles trained for battle, and musicians sang songs about great victories. When a Mycenean city went to war, the king and his nobles rode in battle chariots, while the ordinary soldiers marched on foot. Most of the army wore simple kilts and relied for their protection on helmets and shields. Helmets were usually fairly plain-
The golden death mask of an early Mycenean king, found by the archeologist Heinrich Schliemann.
The Myceneans created gleaming golden death masks for their kings. The masks were made by beating a sheet of gold over a carved wooden mold, and the sheet was then laid over the face of the dead ruler in his tomb. The most famous of these masks was discovered by the archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann in the 1870s. At first Schliemann believed that he had found the body of King Agamemnon of Troy, one of the major figures in Homer’s Iliad, but it was later proved that the mask belonged to one of the earliest Mycenean kings.
Shields were made from ox hide stretched over a wooden frame. Some shields were shaped like a solid figure eight, while others, known as “tower shields,” were tall and rectangular and bowed in at the sides. Occasionally, a warrior wore a complete suit of armor made from bronze, but these were very heavy and rigid, and probably uncomfortable to wear. Warriors fought with shields, swords, and daggers, and some of these weapons were beautifully decorated. One dagger found in a king’s grave has a solid gold hilt and a blade inlaid with a scene in gold, silver, and copper, showing leopards hunting in the forest.