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Western University
Classical Studies
Classical Studies 1000

(F. D’Earmo) Monday, 19 September 2011 • The Minoans Continued: Knossos • “Palace of Minos” • This is due to the labyrinthine nature of the palace at Knossos which resonates with the myth of the Minotaur and the labyrinth on Crete. Minos was the King of Crete. Minos failed to sacrifice a bull to Poseidon. Poseidon got upset and cursed Minos. Poseidon made Pasiphae (Minos' wife) want to mate with a bull. Daedalus built a bull outfit for Pasiphae, and Pasiphae then mated with the bull. The resulting birth was the Minotaur.  This may be based off a legitimate folk-tale memory of these 'palace' complexes with confusing floor layout • Discovered by Arthur Evans in 1899 • Located on Crete near the modern port-city of Iraklio • Was found under a hill-top • It is not necessarily a palace, however, it is a large structure • It may have had a large religious importance • It seems to have had administrative purposes as well • Complexity of the site supported the view that Crete had been the centre of a powerful thalassocracy. • Thalassocracy = Sea power, from Greek thalassa (sea) and kratos (power) • This is assumed owing to the lack of defensive walls around the complex  The defensive wall was a typical feature of the ancient city • Cities also tended to be built on hills to make them more easily defensible  If these people did not need defensive walls, it suggests that they were not worried about an invasion, which further suggests that they were capable of controlling their region, since it is an island, it suggests that they had a navy capable of defending their territory • Evans named this early Aegean civilization ‘Minoan’ after Minos, King of Crete in myth. • The Palace is one of a number of Bronze Age sites on Crete • (Knossos, Phaistos, Zakros, etc. • It was built ca 2000 BC (several phases of development are discernible). • Likely began with a central court, and rooms were continually added over time • Damaged by an earthquake ca 1700 BC • The area was a common place for earthquakes, but this seems worse than most • The rebuilding seems to have taken place quickly which suggests a healthy society • Evans restoration is highly speculative: an ‘archaeological Disneyland’. • In the past, it was common for artists to attempt to restore archaeological finds to what they considered to be the 'original' form  This practice was very common in the Renaissance  Archaeologists of today, leave an item as it was found • Evans added modern cement and repainted frescoes to what he imagined  Evans' reconstruction is overly optimistic  He also reconstructed pots and other items • The palace at Knossos had more than one story • The Minoans: Akroteri • It is named by modern people • A site discovered in the late 1960s • Thus, the fanciful ‘reconstructions’ of Evans were avoided • A Bronze Age town deserted before the final eruption of the volcano ca 1600 BC. • We know it was deserted because there is no evidence of any small valuables  The Minoans were known for their jewelry • There is no evidence of dead people  At Pompeii and Herculaneum, many corpses were found, buried in the ash • Suggests that the people knew that the eruption was incoming and fled • Remarkable preservation of buildings. • Unlike Knossos, which was abandoned, Akroteri was buried and hidden in a short time period • While it is a Minoan style site, it differs from other Minoan sites • We would expect to find this unique style at another site if the settlers of Akroteri survived  It is possible that they escaped the volcano, but not the following tsunami • Provides unique insights into everyday life. • Arresting examples of Minoan wall-painting. • The paintings have been removed to museums at Athens and Santorini • Santorini is a volcano which is still active today • Akroteri is near to this volcano, and thus it was covered in ash • It is not as large of a tourist attraction as Knossos is • There is minimal intervention to the site • There is clear evidence of a second floor, there are stairs, pots with decorations, and wall paintings • Some modern cement is used to stabilize parts of the site • Minoan Society • Pre-palatial or Early Minoan (3500-2000 BC) • small farming communities • Arts & crafts established (ceramics, wood-working, textiles, etc.) • Communal tombs  In the ancient period, there were several methods of burial (inhumation, cremation, personal graves, communal graves, etc.)  The Minoans were burying their dead together • varied grave-goods suggest a hierarchical society  High-status people tend to be buried with lavish gifts, while the lower classes will have less valuable items (or nothing) • Middle Minoan • ca 2000 BC palaces established • Knossos is the most famous, but there are other sites (Phaestus, Mallia, Zakros)  Society began to become organized with certain centers  It is unknown how much cooperation there was between the various palaces, however, there was trade between the palaces (and other regions) • system of writing (hieroglyphic)  The 'Linear A' tablets  These tablets have never been translated • Mycenaean tablets were written in 'Linear B' which is an early form of Greek that was cracked by Michael Ventris • trade, and a wide range of products • ca 1700 BC damage from earth-quakes (?) • rebuilding and development of palaces Palaces were not only rebuilt, but expanded, showing the health of the  Minoan society on Crete • ca 1600-1500 BC • high point of Minoan culture • Thalassocracy  'Sea Power' From Greek Thalassa = Sea and Kratos = power • influence throughout the Aegean world  Shows economic contacts • evidence of warfare • violent sports (bull-leaping)  An acrobatic feat that is shown in frescos in Minoan art • Human sacrifice?  A Note on Human Sacrifice • There seems to be some archaeological evidence for ritual murder  ‘Ritual murder’ at Arkhanes, Crete: • National Geographic 159.2 (February 1981) 204-222 • Three bodies were found • 2 of them seemed to be completely drained of blood, while another was partially drained of blood • They may have been in the midst of a human sacrifice • It could have been due to impending disaster • A last ditch offering to the gods to avert disaster  A. Henrichs, “Human Sacrifice in Greek Religion,” Le sacrifice dans l’antiquité (Entretiens sur l’antiquité classique 27: Vandœuvres-Geneva 1981) 195-242  D. D. Hughes, Human Sacrifice in Ancient Greece (London 1991)  Some of us have a desire to find evidence of human sacrifice, while others would like to refute the possibility of human sacrifice in the Greek world  Sacrifices were meant to be an offering to the gods • When Greeks slaughtered animals, they burned the non-edible parts for the gods, and the humans would eat the meat of the animal • Human sacrifice would not have been performed like animal sacrifice • Cannibalism was a major taboo • Human sacrifice is common in Greek myth • Often a princess would be sacrificed before an expedition of war • See: Aeschylus, Agamemnon. The sacrifice of Iphigenia at Aulis • Decline of Minoan Society • centralization of power and authority • After the achievement of the palaces, it seems that things started to unravel • The palaces were capitol points  The problem is that authority is not diffused • If the centralized authority is broken, the effects are far harsher • Strained resources? • People mainly lived as subsistence farmers • The palace of Knossos would rely on locally grown produce • If there was a drought, a famine would likely result • natural disasters • eruption of Santorini • In this period, the region of Crete seemed quite prone to natural disaster • after 1500 BC settlements were destroyed (often by force), and not immediately reoccupied • It is difficult to distinguish if a city is destroyed by an earthquake or a hostile army • In ancient times, there was a drive to completely destroy enemies  People would be killed, cities would be destroyed • This contrasts with the Minoan rebuilding 100 years earlier (1600BC)  The society had ceased to be resilient • the Mycenaeans were the chief beneficiaries, who took over Crete ca 1450 BC • The Minoan language and way of life disappears • Minoan Art • Frescoes include Griffins, blue monkeys, the Minoan 'priestesses' or 'goddesses', bull- leaping, bulls, boxing, • Most frescoes are restorations as the work did not survive in its entirety  They rely on a rather heavy amount of interpretation, as well as other frescoes, and information about the art of other primitive cultures • Bull imagery was extremely common in Minoan art • Various vases and storage vessels • Sea creatures are very common (octopus) • The Snake-Goddess votive offerings • Bare-breasted women holding snakes  The bare breasts suggest fertility • Ritual ceremonial dagger • Phaistos Disk • Hieroglyphics on a disk  Nobody knows what it is   Mycenaeans   September-­‐21-­‐11   • Mycenaeans were an Indo-European people from the Greek mainland • There is little archaeological evidence • However, there are major sites at Pylos (south-western mainland), and Mycenae (Argive Plains in the North-Peloponnese) • Mycenae • Discovered by Heinrich Schliemann (who also found Troy) • He was not a professional archaeologist or classicist • He was a wealthy businessman with an interest in the Homeric Epics  There was a story that the town drunk told the Homeric tales to kids in Heinrich's hometown  Schliemann firmly believed that the Homeric poems were essentially true (they were originally considered to be a complete mythological fantasy)  He set out to find Mycenae (home of Agamemnon) and Troy • He found both by paying close attention to the Homeric poems themselves • A major centre of power during the Later Helladic period. • Known from Homer as the home of Agamemnon, leader of the Achaean forces at Troy. • The Mycenaean citadel was placed on a hilltop • Mycenae had defensive walls unlike Knossos, which shows a concern for security • Mycenae was not reconstructed like Knossos was by Evans • Thus, we only have the foundations of buildings, but we can see the overall plan • However, the Lion's Gate was reconstructed to remake the entranceway • Lions are used a symbol for power, authority, and ferocity in Homeric similes • Excavations of of tombs by Schliemann brought to light many extraordinary finds. • Grave Circle A and B were found, and there were many treasures (grave goods)  The Circles are within the confines of the citadel, which is different to the Classical Greeks who felt that death brought pollution (miasma), and thus bodies were interred outside of the city walls • Since the area was undisturbed, it allowed us to find the original location of these goods • One of the major finds were gold death masks which would have been placed on the face of the dead  Schliemann felt that one of these was the death mask of Agamemnon himself • It is more detailed than the other death masks and it has been suspected of being a fa
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