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The most important king of the Cretan civilization was King Minos, for whom the civilization was named after. Minos ruled during the peak of the Minoan civilization, and made his city of Knossos the largest city during that era. Some even link the Minoans as the true inhabitants of the Atlantid, believing it even more as we know now that their civilization disapperead because of a tsunami and earthquake that gave birth to Sardegna. Rising from its ashes Knossos has been discovered, and visitors can now enjoy its glory 3.5 millennia later.
King Minos: the man and the myth.
Early in the myths of Argos the priestess Io came to Egypt, had a son Epaphos by Zeus, and married the king of Egypt. Libya, the daughter of Epaphos and Memphis, was loved by Poseidon and had twin sons Agenor and Belos (Baal). As was the rule in Argive myth, one twin stayed while the other left; Belos stayed in Egypt and Agenor moved to Phoenicia. Here he married Telephassa and they had three sons Kadmos (who brought the alphabet to mainland Greece), Phoinix, and Kilix (who gave his name to Cilicia in Asia Minor) plus a daughter named Europa.
Europa’s earliest literary reference is in the Iliad which is commonly dated to the 8th century BC. Another early reference to her is in a fragment of the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women, discovered at Oxyrhynchus the earliest vase-painting securely identifiable as Europa dates from mid-7th century BC
Zeus was in love with Europa, and, one day when she was playing in a flowery meadow Zeus took the form of a snow-white bull and came to the meadow. Beguiled by the beautiful bull (which breathed a crocus from its mouth), Europa came to pet it; according to Callimachus, she felt an overwhelming desire to kiss it, so she used her handkerchief to wipe off the foam from the recumbent bull’s mouth, then kissed it and climbed on its back. The bull ran into the water and, once safe at sea, announced its true identity, then swam west to the island of Crete.
Upon reaching Crete, Zeus changed back into his own shape and they made love. Zeus gave her a necklace made by Hephaestus and three additional gifts:
- Laelaps (a wonderful dog so swift that no beast could escape,
- Talos a giant tasked with her protection. Talos diligently patrolled the perimeter of the island of Crete three times daily, hurling volleys of boulders at any would-be invaders brave enough to stray close. Whilst attempting to land the Argo upon the shores of the island, the sorceress Medea vanquished Talos by casting a spell that drove him to madness, causing him to pluck out the bronze nail from the vein that ran from his ankle to his neck, draining the molten ichor that gave him animation.
- A javelin that never missed
He, of course gave her the ultimate gifts as they became the parents of triplets (Minos King of Crete, Rhadamantys the righteous King of the Cyclad Islands & Sarpedon Prince of Lycia). And later on two more kids Cartus and Alagonia before Europa married Asterios the king of Crete, and became the step-mother of his daughter Crete, and he raised her children. She was incapable to bore him more children.
Her brothers went to search for her and eventually settled to the places they first arrived and became king of the countries. Cadmus, the youngest and most beloved brother of Europa, asked the Oracle of Delphi what to do. The priests of the Oracle told him not to worry about his sister because she was safe. They also told him to go to Boeotia, a region to the north of Athens, and found a town there, which would become rich and powerful in the years to come. Indeed, Cadmus founded a town in Boetia to which gave his name, Cadmia. Later on, this town changed its name and was called Thebes.
She was worshiped under the name of Hellotis in Crete, where the festival Hellotia was held in her honour.
art by Ilja Tammen
The history of rape and abduction come from the Roman as they reinterpreted the legend and also because in ancient greek the same word meant showing a affection and rape. A bit like the Spanish word “ querer” that means “ to love” and “ to want” at the same time.
When Europa died, Zeus transformed her into a star complex and he himself took again the shape of the white bull to merge in the complex as a reminder of their union. The Taurus Constellation being Zeus. Today the name Europa has been given to one of Jupiter’s 16 moons and in fact this moon is very special, as it is believed to have water on its surface.
Zeus never abandoned his children and had a very close relationship with his eldest Minos whom he loved very much. Every nine years he would come to Crete taking Minos along with him at Mount Ida (his birthplace) and teach him about the art of governance and gave humankind its first laws via Minos.
Minos reigned over Crete and the islands of the Aegean Sea he was a beneficient ruler, legislator, and suppressor of piracy. His constitution was said to have formed the basis of that of Lycurgus for Sparta. He constructed a palace at Knossos, and he received instructions from his father, Zeus in term of the legislation he gave and aply to the island. He was the author of the Cretan constitution and the founder of its naval supremacy. Today his name is given to many young boy and means ruler. It is a very respectful and respected distinction.
Only one bad action can be linked to Minos. It came under the form of a very beautiful young man. When they grew up, they fought over the affection Miletos. According to Ovid, Miletos was the son of Apollo and Deione and one being of beauty. The triplets fought for his affection but Miletos favored Sarpedon, Minos was furious and expelled his brother Crete. Miletos settled in Asia Minor, where he founded the city of Miletus. There, he married the daughter of the river god Meander — Kyana — and had two children with her.
Sarpedon joined his uncle Kilix in a war against the Lykians, and eventually became king of Lykia. He will die during the Trojan War killed by Patroclus and his body will be led to Lycia by the primordial twin Gods Hypnos (Sleep) and Thanatos (Death) to receive the due honors.
As for Rhadamanthys after ruling the city of Phaestos nearby Knossos, he was a lawgiver in Crete and then for the people of the Aegean islands, who invited him to be their ruler because of his reputation for justness. With his elder brother still furious after him, he flew away to Okalea in Boiotia, where he married Alkmena, mother of Herakles. He then became his own half-brother father in law. What a family mess!)
Minos also was a famous lawgiver, both in Crete and in the underworld, where he judged the dead along with Rhadamanthys and Aiakos his half-brother. According to Plato, the three judges, as well as those being judged, had to be completely naked; Rhadamanthys was appointed lord of the Elysian Fields along with his grandfather the Titan Chronos and judged the Asiatic dead, Aiakos: guardian of the keys of Hades- judged the Europeans, and Minos presided over appeals. In case of disagreement, his word was final and the case settled according to his will.
The three judges of Hades.
The Minoan civilization flourished in the middle Bronze Age on the Mediterranean island of Crete from ca. 2000 BCE until ca. 1500 BCE and, with their unique art and architecture, the Minoans made a significant contribution to the development of Western European civilization as it is known today.
However, as we have no much information about those people, and as their language is still unciphered, all we know about them is no more than hypothesis. The study of this civilization is important in order to understand the greek period following this. After all, we can call them the “parents” of greek culture and thus european. They are the cradle we grew from
The Minoan Palace of Knossos lays about 5 km south of Heraklion Town. This is the most famous and largest Minoan site in Greece. Discovered in the early 20th century , the site was found almost intact and covered by ashes. This led scientists to believe that the palace was destroyed by a tsunami wave caused by the volcanic eruption of Santorini in 1,550 BC.
The archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans was first alerted to the possible presence of an ancient civilization on Crete by surviving carved seal stones worn as charms by native Cretans in the early 20th century CE. Excavating at Knossos from 1900 to 1905 CE, Evans discovered extensive ruins which confirmed the ancient accounts, both literary and mythological, of a sophisticated Cretan culture . It was Evans who coined the term Minoan in reference to this legendary Bronze Age King.
Knossos is the single best-recognized site of ancient Greece, from 1700-1400 BC, outside modern Heraclion. Palace covers 3 acres, built around large central courtyard. On a small hill, sort of in valley, views of the water. Sir Arthur Evans in 1900. Minos Kalikrineos – 1870s, found pithos, send news to Louvre and Rome, Britain hears and sends archeologists. Evans buys sites and excavates. 1921 – publishes excavation report (6 volumes) – The Palace of King Minos at Knossos.
Knossos is known for bull imagery (Minotaur), structure of Palace is very confusing and twisted (Labyrinth). Axes, double headed, curved blade, called a Labyris.
But though Evans is typically credited with the unearthing of this vast palace, but he was not the first person to dig on this site, nor was he the first to find the citadel. A Cretan businessman named Minos Kalokairinos first discovered the palace in 1878. While digging in the area, Kalokairinos unearthed some walls of the palace complex, as well as some large pithoi (stone storage jars). The Ottoman Empire, which controlled the island at this time, forced Kalokairinos to stop and refused to grant him permission to excavate further. In 1894, with the help from the king of Greece, Evans began negotiating with the Turkish government for a portion of the island, and eventually, in 1899 the Turks granted him permission to purchase an area in Crete, his own homeland.
The Throne Room at the heart of the Bronze Age palace of Knossos, considered the oldest throne room in Europe. Crete, 15th century BC
The Palace of Knossos has two other names to which it is referred, the first being the House of the Double Axes. Evans gave the palace this name because he discovered double axes in many of the rooms, as well as axes carved into the walls of the citadel. There is a theory proposed by Alexander MacGillivray that the double axe symbolized “Zeus Labraunda”, who came from the region of Caria. The Carian word for axe is labrus, and he believes that it formed the Greek word for labyrinth meaning, “house of the axe”. However, there is some objection to Evans’ theory of linking the labyrinth to the double axe. W.H.D. Rouse does not believe this connection to be accurate and considers it a stretch of Evans’ imagination. Rouse explains the Minoans only worshiped a female divinity due to the many “snake goddesses” found throughout the palace complex. This deity was coming from Egypt and was a counsellor of King Minos.
From the subterranean treasure troves of the Central Palace Sanctuary at Knossos/Crete, Greece
The Sanctuary of the Great Goddess no longer exists, only the remains of the cellars below can be seen today. But as often the case, when the building collapsed a large number of objects from upper floors fell through to the ground floor and many of these were recovered during the excavations. Among the finds was sanctuary equipment including a small three-pillar shrine and altars, one of which had horns of consecration on top. A statue of a goddess, possibly three metres high, almost certainly existed as bronze locks of hair were found in the cellars.
Granted, there are problems with assuming the Minoans only worshiped one deity; there is too much evidence proving the inhabitants of Crete did believe in and worshiped Zeus.
Bull leaping at King Minos palace Knossos Crete
Stairs in the Palace of Knossos, the oldest palace in Europe, dating back to 1900 B.C. with perhaps the earliest settlement in 7000 B.C. Crete
The Ring of Minos is a gold seal ring, dated to be approximately 3500 years old (1500 – 1400 BCE)
This ring is one of the most significant symbols of the Minoan Civilization.
After being found in the late 1920s, it remained lost for 73 years until it was given to the authorities in 2001 and in 2002, a Greek & international committee after careful examination, proved its authenticity.
The Tale of Theseus and the Minotaur
It is a very commom mistake to confuse Minos ( son of Zeus and Europa) with his grandson who share the same and asked Daedalus to created a labyrinth under his palace to emprison the Minautor. This makes the Cretan laugh a lot
Though if you think about it the confusion could even never happened in the first place. Why ? Easy.
- why when you are the beloved son of the most powerful of the gods that grant your every wish will you turn to your uncle to obtain some favor ?
- Why would you fear for your throne when you are a wise and beneficient ruler loved by your people?
- King Minos Pasiphae’s husband was quite cruel a character trait Minos the demi god never had
One Messed Up Mythological Couple
King Minos (grandson of the demigod Minos) and Queen Pasiphae of Crete had many children, including Androgeos and Ariadne.
Pasiphaë, whose name means ” all shining”was the immortal daughter of the sun-god Helios. Along with her siblings .Aeetes and Circe, she was a skilled practitioner of witchcraft (pharmakeia) and later married King Minos,. She did not trust her husband so she casted a spell on him. It kept him from … having relations … with anyone else but her. But in a very unusual way: if King Minos slept with anyone but herself, he would ejaculate serpents, scorpions, and centipedes, killing the unlucky women. He eventually get cured by an Athenian girl. Prokris
Upon offending the god Poseidon by keeping a bull Minos had intended to sacrifice, Poseidon cursed Pasiphae to fall in love with the bull. She mated with it and the offspring, being half man and half bull, was the Minotaur, named Asterion ( the stary one). Despite trying to raise it, Asterion turned feral and began devouring humans. After seeking advice from the Oracle of Delphi, Minos made Daedalus construct a labyrinth to imprison Asterion.
Years later, Androgeos, the eldest of Minos’ children, participated in the Panathenaic Games and did so well he was envied and assassinated, which enraged King Minos, who went to war with Athens after its king: King Aegeus, could not reveal the assassins. Upon winning, he demanded that every nine years, seven Athenian boys and seven Athenian girls were sent to Crete to be eaten by Asterion in the labyrinth. On the third occurrence of sacrifices, Aegeus’ son, Theseus, volunteered to slay Asterion and vowed to return flying white sails.
art by Jakub Rozalski
When he arrived in Crete, Ariadne fell in love with him and vowed to help him. She gave him a ball of string and advice from Daedalus to help navigate the labyrinth, if he would take her and her sister away from Crete. Theseus agreed and took the gifts, along with the sword he had hidden, and found his way to the center of the labyrinth. He came upon sleeping Asterion, who woke, and a battle ensued.
Theseus Statue in Athens
Theseus killed Asterion, used the string to escape the labyrinth with the other sacrifices, and took Ariadne and her sister with him as he sailed back to Athens. They fell asleep on the island of Naxos and Athena visited Theseus in a dream, telling him he had to leave right away and abandon the girls. Theseus complied, and in his distress, forgot to change the black sails to white. When Aegeus saw the black sails and thought his son had been killed, he threw himself into the sea, which became known as the Aegean. Ariadne was in such despair from being abandoned that Dionysus, the god of wine, heard her cries and saved her, eventually marrying her and she became the goddess of labyrinths, vegetation, wine, and Crete.
Minotaur and Labyrinth Coin from Gortyn, Crete
Silver stater struck in Gortyn circa 425-360 BC
Although this coin appears from its style to be archaic in origin, with the Minotaur positioned in the familiar kneeling-running stance, it does in fact date from the classical period. This is usually attributed to the fact that Crete was more isolated than the city-states on the mainland.
Rhadamanthys ‘s palace. Rhadamanthys means rod diviner’ derived from two Greek words mantis “soothsayer, seer” and rhabdos “rod, wand”. It could also be etymologically related to Greek adámas “invincible, untamed”, damázo “to overpower, to tame, to conquer.”
Although many inscriptions were found by the archaeologists, they are all in Linear A code which is still undeciphered, and all we know about the site, even its name are based to the ancient writers and findings from Knossos.
According to mythology, Phaistos was the seat of king Radamanthis, brother of king Minos. It was also the city that gave birth to the great wise man and soothsayer Epimenidis, one of the seven wise men of the ancient world.
Excavations by archaeologists have unearthed ruins of the Neolithic times (3.000 B.C.).
During the Minoan times, Phaistos was a very important city-state. Its dominion, at its peak, stretched from cape Lithinon to cape Psychion (Today cape Melissa at Agios Pavlos, South Rethymnon) and included the Paximadia islands.
The city participated to the Trojan war and later became one of the most important cities-states of the Dorian period.
Phaistos continued to flourish during Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic times. It was destroyed by the Gortynians during the 3rd century B.C. In spite of that, Phaistos continued to exist during the Roman period.
Phaistos had two ports, Matala and Kommos.
To the west of the king’s room is a lustral basin which is probably the best-preserved basin in all of Crete. The southeast wing collapsed at some point in time and does not exist anymore. All the findings from the palace can be found today at the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.
The place is less crowded that Knossos more authentic I should say , very few monuments were restored so all stays like frozen in time. An absolute pleasure!
The Phaistos Disc is a disk of fired clay from the Minoan palace of Phaistos on the island of Crete, possibly dating to the middle or late Minoan Bronze Age (second millennium B.C.). The disk is about 15 cm (5.9 in) in diameter and covered on both sides with a spiral of stamped symbols. Its purpose and meaning, and even its original geographical place of manufacture, remain disputed, making it one of the most famous mysteries of archaeology. This unique object is now on display at the archaeological museum of Heraklion.
Info Point Heraklion: adress Nikiforou Foka Square (Lions Square), Heraklion, Crete 712 01, Greece
How to get from Heraklion to Knossos
There are 4 ways to get from Heraklion to Knossos by bus, taxi or foot
Bus: Take the line 2 at bus station Heraklion hospital . Duration 13 minutes. Departure every 30 minutes. Price 2€
From Heraklion bus station. Pick up line 2 . Duration 36 minutes. Departure every 30 minutes. Price 2€
Taxi : 5 minutes ride for 7€.
Walk: 1 hour from Heraklion
How to get to Phaistos ?
The archaeological site of Phaistos is located 62 km south of Iraklion in the fertile plain of Messara, on Agios Ioannis hill, at an altitude of 100 m from sea level.
You can access Phaistos from Iraklion taking the road to Moires- Timbaki, an asphalt road of fairly good condition with panoramic views to the Messara plain. The site can be accessed also from the south via the south axis road.
Regular public transportation is available from Iraklion and Rethymnon.
Ariving at Phaistos you will find a large parking area in a few distance from the palace. You have to walk a little, through a paved road until the entrance of the archaeological site where there is the “Phaistos Xenia”, a complex of cafe – restaurant, shops with post-cards, guide-books, maps etc. for the visitors.
The view from here is great, all around the plain, the mountains of Ida and Asteroussia and the bay of Messara.
23rd Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities
Τ.Κ. 70200, Faistos (Prefecture of Iraklio)
Telephone: +30 28920 42315
Full: €4, Reduced: €2
Special ticket package: Full: €6, Reduced: €3
Valid for: Phaistos and the Royal villa at Agia Triada the summer house of King Rhadamantys
Admission fees, holidays etc
source : Wikipedia
source : kairatos.com
source : kairatos.com
source : kathimerini.gr
source : academia.edu
source: Museums of Greece by Zambia Pateraki
source : biroz.net for further intepretations and details
source: Patris Newspaper:
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