Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Western World in 300 Events: Event 13 - The Minoan Power


Historian Will Durant has called the Minoans the ‘first link in the chain of European history’. The Minoan civilization developed on the Aegean Island of Crete and was dominant between 2000 and 1450 BC. Much of what we know about the Minoans goes back to the work of British archaeologist Arthur Evans who rediscovered this civilization in the early 20th century. The Minoans were a trader people with an advanced maritime apparatus who were also noteworthy for the building. The elaborate palace at Knossos that provides the centre stage for the legendary King Minos (from which the name Minoan is derived) showcases this building impetus. As do the palaces at Phaistos, Malia and Kato Zakros.

Minoan civilization was essentially Bronze Age and had a dramatic influence over the surrounding islands and mainland Greek Peninsula (where they set up smaller colonies such as Akrotiri on Santorini). They also traded with Egypt, the Canaanite world (in Israel) and the Asia Minor City States. Minoan handiwork was very advanced and the culture showed a higher degree of equity amongst the sexes than was typical of other civilizations of the time. While much of what we know about the Minoans is still shrouded in mythology its demise seems to have occurred in dramatic fashion either through an Earthquake, a volcano (the infamous Thera Eruption) or the invasion of outsiders from Anatolia. By 1600 BC it was well into decline and was replaced by the land based Mycenean civilization as the predominant power in the region.

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