Minoan Culture

For reasons not yet understood, the island-based Minoan culture suddenly made a cultural leap forward around 2000 BCE and became the first advanced civilization of Europe. The Minoan culture was based on the Greek island of Crete and extended to other nearby islands. The capital of the Minoan civilization was the Palace of Knossos on Crete.

The Minoans were an economic power, not a military one. They preserved their economic advantage by controlling ship traffic in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas for approximately 800 years. They were so secure on their islands that they never fortified their cities.

Crete was rich in natural resources, including farmland, water supplies, timber, copper, building stone, and access to the sea. The Minoans prospered through agriculture and fishing, and it grew rich primarily on trade.

The Minoans developed an outlook on life substantially different from other contemporary cultures thanks to their high standard of living, the relative abundance of food, and the security of their island homes. Female goddesses protected the household, crops, and animals, and worship of deities was not stressed. There is a famous Greek myth of a minotaur, half man, half bull, who lived in a labyrinth beneath the palace. Young people were sacrificed to the minotaur each year. They believed in an afterlife and buried the dead with food and useful possessions.

The Minoans developed a hieroglyphic writing system around 2000 BCE, perhaps following trading contact with the Egyptians.

Surviving artwork shows the people of Crete engaging in bull jumping. Young men and women are depicted approaching a charging bull, grabbing it by the horns, and somersaulting over its back to land behind it. The significance of this activity is unknown.

Minoan life was relatively free of war and unrest, as witnessed by the richness of their frescos, wall paintings, and decorative objects.

The great palace at Knossos was also a giant warehouse. The distribution of food and other goods may have been organized from here. The only king whose name survives was Minos. At its height, perhaps 100,000 people lived in the Palace and the dwellings in the surrounding area.

The Minoans relied on their navy to keep any enemies from approaching. Minoan ships were fast galleys, manned by rowers on both sides.

Natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and tidal waves interrupted Minoan life.

There are two main theories about the end of the Minoan culture. Perhaps mainland Greeks invaded around 1420 BCE, destroying the culture. Alternatively, the Minoans suffered a devastating natural disaster followed by external invasions.

Source: Minoan Culture
© 2021 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Back to top