As chiefly infertile and inapproachable regions, the economy of the Aegean islands was always based on navigation and trade. Their ports played an important role in international exchange as they constituted the necessary stop for the ships. During the Late Bronze Age, the Cyclades and later the islands of the southeastern Aegean acquired great importance in international trade since they were placed in the middle of the Mycenaean expansion. The frequent contacts with other peoples and the abundance of material goods, which reached the ports, brought great economic prosperity to the islanders but also new ideas from the nearby cultures. This is the way the "international spirit" which distinguished this cultural region from the Early Bronze Age was maintained.

The insular society of the Late Bronze Age reflects the cultural evolutions in the Aegean as these were formed by the most powerful states. Thus, in the early phases of the Late Bronze Age, the Cretan traits prevail in all the cultural expressions as a result of the Minoan thalassocracy. This changes during the period of the Mycenaean expansion (15th century BC). The Minoan signs gradually disappear to give place to the Mycenaean customs. Specifically, the adoption of cult customs and the effect of mainland Greece on the burial customs are considered as indicators of the Mycenaean penetration which may have had the form of a partial settlement action.

A similar picture is observed in the evolution of the Late Cycladic arts. The inhabitants of the Cyclades adopted in the beginning the Minoan protypes, importing at the same time new forms of artistic creation such as the frescoes. The Cycladic art of the first periods of the Late Bronze Age maintained the peculiar naturalistic character of Minoan art. After the Late Cycladic II period, the Minoan influence decreased and gradually the artistic trends of Mycenaean Greece were adopted by the islanders. This is expressed by the massive introduction of Mycenaean products and the regional manufacture of objects of a similar style.

In all the fields of the Late Cycladic culture -from the town planning and the arts to the cult and burial customs- it is clear that the Aegean islands were not only receivers of the cultural evolutions of the Late Bronze Age but they were also important agents and centres of moulding initially of the Minoan and later of the Mycenaean culture.

Thera, Akrotiri-West House.
Fresco with fisherman.
Rhodes. Flask, tripod vessel and hydria.
Late Helladic III.