The transition to the Late Bronze Age is related with a radical social change. The Grave Circles of Mycenae reveal the transition from an equal Middle Helladic society to a strictly hierarchized Late Helladic society. The variety and sumptuousness of the grave goods of this period show the existence of clearly separated social classes from which a powerful ruling class begins to distinguish. This evidence indicates that the institution of monarchy, the definitive form of which is known from the Mycenaean texts, had probably been formed already from the beginning of the Late Bronze Age. The formation of the political leadership seems to have had an ideological base; the prestige and power of the kings derived from their kinship with a previous leading caste which had been idolized.

During the 15th century BC, the Mycenaean leaders adopted the models of social organization of Minoan Crete and the Near East and applied them creating "palatial states". The Wanax,, the political and religious leader, was at the top of the hierarchy. The lower administrative duties and powers were distributed to the local chiefs and controllers while the security of the state was assured by the Lawagetas,, the leader of the army. The political system was completely centralized and based on land ownership.

Thanks to the bureaucratic organization and successful economic administration the agricultural settlements of the Middle Bronze Age were transformed into city-states with an efficient administration and international renown. A series of archaeological remains, as the presence of powerful fortifications, the great number of weapons in graves as well as the numerable representations with military themes lead to the conclusion that the Mycenaean society had a military character. In fact, according to one of the versions that interpret the unexpected economic ascension of the ruling class is that its wealth was concentrated from the booty and its recompense for taking part in military operations of other countries.

This social model was preserved for roughly five centuries until the destruction of the Mycenaean palaces around 1200 BC which marked the beginning of the decline. The collapse of the central power effected all the sectors of civilization, particularly economy and the arts. The population of mainland Greece must have decreased to the one tenth of the population of the 13th century BC and was organized in smaller communities. The reinforcement of the defensive works reveal a strong feeling of insecurity. At the same time new coastal settlements which experienced great prosperity because of their contacts with the East were founded.

After the definite destruction of the citadels around 1100 BC the social changes were more obvious. During the 11th century many settlements were destroyed or abandoned, a large part of the population settled in mountain agricultural installations whereas the centres of the greater territory and the colonies became independent. Large parts of the population settled on the Aegean and Ionian islands, on the coasts of Asia Minor, Cyprus and Palestine seeking greater security and better economic opportunities and transferring many elements of the Mycenaean civilization.

The successive destructions, the new burial customs which dominated from the 11th century BC and the introduction of certain new elements of the material culture, the main one being the use of iron, are attributed to the penetration of new populations from the North which have been identified with the first Dorian races which -according to Thucydides- penetrated into the Peloponnese two generations after the Trojan war.

Mycenae. Gold funeral mask,
known as the "mask of Agamemnon".
Mycenae, Lower Citadel.
The "Warrior Vase".