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The mysterious Phaestos inscriptions, yet to be interpreted.


Knossos is probably one of the most impressive archaeological sites that anyonepalace of Knossos can visit in today's Greece. It was once the centre of one of the most powerful civilizations of the ancient world and through excavations, mythology and history it tells us the story of its people, the Masters of the Sea: the Minoans.

The most famous king of Crete, was also the one who gave the whole civilization its name. Minos might actually have been several kings, but tradition holds that he was a son of Zeus and a great ruler - in life as in death.

Mythology: Minos was the child of the Phoenician princess Europa, who had been abducted by Zeus in the shape of a bull. He had been given the right as a king and all his laws by his divine father, with whom he consulted every nine years. Zeus was strongly connected to Crete, since he had been brought up here, and was sometimes believed to have been the island's first ruler. The Cretans even had his tomb here.

Minos was married to Pasiphae. When the people of Crete had defied him and said that the right to the throne was not his, Minos had replied that it was the gods' will that he be ruler. As a sign for this, Poseidon sent a bull to be sacrificed by the king, but it was so beautiful that Minos kept it, sacrificing one of his own bulls.

This angered the sea god, and made Pasiphae fall in love with the divine bull, and she bore the animal a child - the Minotaur.
The famous architect and inventor Daedalus worked for Minos, and the king now asked him to construct a labyrinth, in which the half man half bull Minotaur would be kept.
Minos son Androgeos had gone off to Athens to compete in the games there. He won, but the king of Athens sent the young man to fight a bull in Marathon. The bull killed Androgeos, and when Minos learnt of it he declared war against Athens. Zeus tormented the city, and the king was told to do anything Minos asked for to up heave the curse.

Minos then asked that seven young girls and seven young boys were to be sent to Crete to be sacrificed to the Minotaur every nine years. This continued until the hero Theseus came as one of the youngsters to be sacrificed. Minos' daughter Ariadne fell in love with him, and she and Daedalus helped him defeat the Minotaur. After this, they fled, and Minos punished Daedalus by locking him and his son Icarus into the labyrinth.
Daedalus escape is one of the most famous stories in Greek mythology. He made wings for himself and his son by using wax and feathers, and off they flew. Despite Daedalus' warnings, Icarus flew too close to the sun. The wax of his wings melted, and he drowned in the sea, that from then on was called the Icarean sea.
Daedalus made it to Sicily, and found refuge at the court of king Cocalus. Minos had set out to hunt him down, but when he reached Sicily, he was killed by king Cocalus daughters. After death he became one of the rulers in the underworld.

History : Although we do not know exactly what Knossos was, it is traditionally called "the Palace". Excavations have showed that there was a settlement here in the 8th Millennium BC, perhaps even before that, and that a palace stood here as early as in the 4th Millennium BC.

minotaurusThe foundations of several palaces have been found here, and most of what we see today belongs to the time period 16th-14th century BC. It has later constructions as well, since the end of the Minoan civilization did not mean the end of inhabitants here. It was to become an important settlement during the Mycenaean period, as well as during Roman and Hellenistic times, and was not abandoned until the Middle Ages.

In 1878 the Greek merchant Minos Kalokairinos discovered the site of Knossos, and it was to be excavated by Sir Arthur Evans in 1900.

The excavations went on for some thirty years and restoration work has been made many times since then. The site is huge: it covers more than 20 000 sq. meters.

Originally a female deity was worshipped here. Figurines of a bare breasted woman holding snakes in her hands is believed to have been the goddess of the early Cretans. Another holy symbol was the double axe, and the bull was also worshipped. There were games where young men and women jumped on top of bulls, and several artworks of horns and heads of bulls have been found in Knossos.

It is not certain what people lived here at first, but there are many likenesses with Eastern cultures both in art and religion.
The Achaeans invaded in the 15th century BC and it was their culture that brought the Minoan civilization to its height. They spoke Greek, had Greek gods and used Knossos as their canter It was also they who used the so called Linear B script, which has been found on clay tablets.

The end of the Minoan civilization was probably caused by natural disasters. The earthquake that sunk half of Santorini in 1450BC seems to have destroyed most of the buildings on Crete as well.

The Museum:Many of the findings from the Knossos excavations are on display in the Iraklion Archaeological museum, but all over Greece there are Minoan objects in the various museums.

Getting there:Most travel agencies offer daytrips to Knossos, but of course, you can also go there on your own. From Iraklion there is a bus that will take you straight there.

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