Minoan Crete

Minoan Crete


The history of Crete is rooted in antiquity. The history of the entire Western world began on this island.


The first people in Crete appeared back in the days of the Upper Paleolithic. But when did the civilized society itself form? And, most importantly, what kind of society was it?


The first civilized people to inhabit Crete were the so-called Minoans. This term is new; we still do not know the real name of the Minoans. The Minoans (on behalf of the legendary King Minos) were named by the famous English explorer Arthur Evans, who discovered the Knossos Palace.


Minoans, or Etheocrites, could have come either from the northern coast of Africa, or from Asia Minor.

Having settled in Crete in prehistoric times, they mixed with the local indigenous population and created the Minoan nationality.


Around 1900 BC the Minoans create grandiose palace complexes, which today are called "old palaces". From this moment on, it is right to speak of the emergence of a civilized society in Crete.

Old palaces appeared due to the combined effect of several factors.


1. The geographical position of the island. The island of Crete was incredibly geographically advantageous - right at the intersection of all the trade routes of that time. Crete was also quite remote from the ancient Eastern states, which at that time were the most important centers of aggression in the region. Thus, Crete, deriving considerable benefits from trade, was able to avoid a hostile takeover in the early stages of its development.


2. Vast agricultural land. Homer also calls Crete “beautiful rich land,” referring to its fertile lands. The active development of agriculture made it possible not only to provide all the needs of the local population for food, but also to actively trade surplus products.

3. A large number of sources of fresh water. This resource is key to the development of any nation, its value is very difficult to overestimate. There has always been a lot of fresh water in Crete, which also helped in agriculture.


4. A lot of ship woods. To carry out active trade, the Minoans needed ships. Due to the large number of ship woods on the island, they achieved significant success in shipbuilding. Numerous Minoan merchant ships plowed the waters of the entire Mediterranean. In historical science, the term “Minoan thalassocracy” appeared, emphasizing the crucial role of the fleet in the life of the Minoans.


5. A small number of natural metal deposits. The most controversial, but nonetheless incredibly important factor. It would seem that we are talking about times when mankind gradually switched from using processed stone and bone to using tools made of metal. And it would be logical to assume that the nation which has more metal deposits, should break ahead in their development. However, it turned out the opposite. Crete, which had very scarce metal reserves, left far behind all the "competing" cultures, which did not have such a problem. The explanation of this paradox is very simple. The Minoans were well aware of their losing position in relation to other nations. That is why they did their best to develop “alternative” sectors of the economy: agriculture, crafts, and cattle breeding. With the manufactured goods, the Minoans entered foreign markets and received the metal they needed so much.


All of these factors led to the construction of old palaces. Of course, the palaces functioned as the residence of the rulers and their closest circles. But initially the palaces were large economic centers, redistributive systems, designed to ensure the functioning of domestic and foreign trade and to ensure accounting for incoming and outgoing goods.


In general, the Minoan palace civilization was built on the eastern type, but already at this stage its distinctive features, the features of a completely new, western world, began to manifest clearly.

However, despite all its power, in the middle of the 18th century BC old palaces were destroyed due to a major earthquake. After a short pause, the palaces were rebuilt. The period of new palaces began. They were even more luxurious, large and powerful. It was during the existence of new palaces that Crete unites under the rule of Knossos and becomes a united state.


The history of the new palaces also ends dramatically. A number of natural disasters, including the most powerful eruption of Santorini volcano, lead to the destruction of palaces. The invasion of the Achaean Greeks in the middle of the 15th century BC leads to the final destruction of the Minoan civilization.

Thus, the entire Minoan culture at the stage of civilization lasted only five centuries. Born about 4,000 thousand years ago, it dies as a result of an Achaean invasion in the 15th century BC. Nevertheless, these five centuries were enough to establish the foundations of Western civilization, to determine the vector of development of the entire Western world.


Crete will pursue its further historical path within the framework of the Greek cultural space.


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