Friday 1 April 2016

Europe's First Civilization

The first civilization to make it's mark in western Europe was the Bronze Age culture of the Minoans, based on Mediterranean island of Crete. Frescoes in the grand palaces depict a highly sophisticated way of life, and hint at a society where women played an unusually dominant role for the times.

Dating back to 6500 BC, the Neolithic people of Crete probably originated in Asia Minor. Their simple life centered around rearing livestock, growing crops and making basic pottery. During the 3rd millennium BC, trading towns on Cretan coast expanded.

The Minoan civilization, named after Minos, a mythical king of Crete flourished between 3000 and 1400 BC peaking around 1600 BC, during the late Bronze Age. They are often credited with having developed the first "navy" albeit used for trade rather than war.

The major cities on Crete were Knossos, Phaistos, Mallia and Zakros, of which Knossos was the most opulent. Around 1700 BC, the Knossos palace complex was destroyed by an Earthquake or an Invasion.

Knossos Palace

The Knossos palace fresco reveals the perilous art of bull-leaping in which young men and women took turns to somersault over a bull's back.

All Minoan gods were female and one of the most popular was the "Snake-goddess", depictions of whom have been found in the ruins of houses and small palace shrines.

The bull image is widespread being linked to King Minos. According to legend, his failure to sacrifice a bull sent by the sea god Poseidon caused his wife to give birth to a Minotaur - a creature that was half men, half bull.

Minotaur Statue

The rich and highly successful Minoan civilization started to wane around 1500 BC, but it's complete demise took hundreds of years. The Thera eruption in 1600 BC may have resulted in loss of Cretan fleet, making Crete more vulnerable to outside powers and influence.

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