Thursday, October 25, 2012

Minoan Civilization (2000-1450 BC)

We may define civilization as any relatively distinct and enduring society and culture as defined by and giving expression to a particular religion. Previously we looked at what we might call Pharaonic civilization. That was the society and culture existing in Egypt from about 3000 BC to the conquest of Egypt by Alexander of Macedonia in 332 BC.

By the year 2000 BC, a historically significant civilization had developed on the large Mediterranean island of Crete. Tradition identifies Minos as the first ruler of Crete and refers to Cretan civilization at this time as Minoan.

A brisk maritime trade paid for the development of this civilization. Minoans produced olive oil, wine, wool, grain, and wood in abundance. They traded these for products from Anatolia, the Levant, and Egypt.

This prosperous trade by sea encouraged Minoans to excel in the construction of ships. At that time, ships typically sailed on rivers or clung to coastlines. Minoan shipbuilders knew how to make ships capable of sailing safely across the Mediterranean. They also built strong fast ships able to attack threatening pirates.

Minoans enjoyed their golden age between 1700 and 1500 BC. During this time, they were organized into a large number of small manorial states. A manorial state is a government consisting of a ruler and his manor. His manor consists of his mansion and all the people and land around it which he controls.

During the Minoan golden age, the city of Knossos outshone all others as the center of the most important manorial state on Crete. Its vast central mansion contained over 1,300 rooms used for housing, temples, offices, archives, factories, and storage. These rooms were organized around a large open square and connected by corridors. Because the mansion was so large, its corridors seemed like a labyrinth or maze.

Minoans loved sports. Then, as today, sports celebrated Vulcan as athletes developed the most efficient possible methods of training. The mansion at Knossos contained the world’s first stadium complete with box seats for important people. A fresco in the mansion portrays acrobats leaping over bulls.

According to tradition, Vulcan married Venus. In addition to celebrating their devotion to Vulcan through sports, Minoans also worshiped Venus. Arthur Evans, an English archaeologist, found a small statue of Venus in the mansion at Knossos. An artisan made her around 1600 BC. The snakes she holds symbolize fertility because they shed their skin and by doing so seem reborn.

At its height, people in southern Greece and on the large island of Cyprus all adopted Minoan culture. This was especially true of the Myceneans who lived on the mainland. After learning from the Minoans, envying their wealth, and surpassing them in power, these same Myceneans attacked and conquered the Minoans around 1450 BC. After that, Minoans lost their creativity and their civilization eventually died.

Copyright © 2012 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.