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The Minoan civilization

By Spiros Tzelepis

A journey back to the early 2nd millennium BC

The Minoan civilization was developed between 1900-1450 BC. It was a very famous ancient civilization which was greatly influenced by the Eastern civilizations and especially Ancient Egypt.

Map of Crete
Its centre was Crete, a big island on the southern part of the Aegean Sea. This geographical position was of great importance and played a major role in the development of the Minoans since it was close to the places where the first great eastern civilizations were born (e.g. the Egyptian). The Minoans were influenced by those people and they formed their own great civilization. They were naval and peaceful people. The main cities in Crete where we have Minoan finds are Knossos, Faistos, Zakros and Malia. Their capital city was Knossos where archaeologists have found a huge and luxurious palace. Palaces were also found in the other three locations.

A view of Knossos today

Knossos-Minoans used to store up their products here

A wall painting in one of the Knossos buildings

The Dolphin Fresco-Knossos

The Minoans developed writing very early and that's because of their contact with the advanced civilizations of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. They first used a writing system similar to hieroglyphics. Then they developed another less complex form of writing called "Linear A". These two forms of writing haven't been read yet. A famous Minoan text is written in "Linear A" which has probably something to do with religion. It is written on a clay disk and called the "Disk of Faistos". Later, when the island was conquered by the Mycenaeans (who were the first Greek people living in Greece), a new form of writing appeared called "Linear B" which was created by the new owners of the island having in mind "Linear A". "Linear B" has been read in 1952 by the British Chadwick and Ventris.

The famous "Faistos Disk"-Heraklion Museum-Crete

The Minoan religion was related to nature. They worshipped one or more goddesses related to nature and euphoria of earth. There were also some (second class) gods who played the role of the husband or son of the great goddess. They worshipped their gods not only in specially made temples, but also in the open air or in caves.

The Bull-fight Fresco-Heraklion Musuem (The Bull-fight was a religious ceremony)

There isn't any sector of art in which the Minoans didn't put their personal touch. They were pioneers in the construction of pottery objects.

Painted pottery objects- Heraklion Museum

The Minoan gold jewelery was also magnificent. The wall paintings on the palaces are really wonderful. We really need a hole book to describe the Minoan art. So, let's leave words and see some pieces of it. Let's enjoy their magic (the only place in the world where some can see these masterpieces is the Archaeological Museum at Heraklion, Crete). Thousands of tourists go to Crete every year to see them.

Ladies in blue, Fresco from Knossos- Heraklion Museum

The priest- King from the palace of Knossos- Heraklion Museum

The visitors are fascinated by the beauty and the combination of colours and by the perfection of the Minoan art.

The photos are taken by Spiros Tzelepis with the permission of the Heraklion Museum. Info provided by the Heraklion Museum. Map is from my Geography textbook.

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Reconstruction: July-August-September 2002

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