Return to Minoa (place)
|One of the first great cultural centers of the [ancient] world, the [Minoan] civilization was the originator of [Greek] civilization itself.
Settled on the island of [Crete] off of the mainland of [Greece] at approximately 3000 BCE, Minoa grew into a flourishing [empire] organized around several cities by 2000 BCE. It is likely that the [island] was settled by people from [Asia Minor], and as the civilization developed, [trade] began to grow with various nations in the [Mediterranean Sea|Mediterranean].
The spoken [language] of the Minoans is unknown, but they developed a [written] language very similar to Egyptian [hieroglyphics]. This writing would eventually turn into a [Linear A|linear] script. The main centers of Minoan [civilization] that have been excavated are [Knossos], [Phaistos] and [Kato Zakros]. There, huge [palace]s were built that were central to [aristocrat]ic life. The [architecture] of these palaces were very different from most of the ancient [world]. No defensive structures were built to [protect] them. Most of their efforts went to their trade and even their [navy] was not structured around [defensive] purposes, only those involved with [commerce]. This fact would later become central to their [downfall].
Due to the [archaeology|archaeological] findings at this sites, early Minoan civilization was probably orgnanized as a [monarchy]. Though [religious] influences were present at such levels of [society], it was not a [theocracy]. The [monarch] acted instead as the principal [regulator] of trade, as commerce was central to the [survival] of the empire and the state of [business] among the population was an important priority. All trading was heavily controlled by the officials of the [palace]. Under the monarch, there was an intricate [system] of administrative [bureaucrat]s who kept records of the progress of commerce and watched [production] and [distribution] carefully.
Because of the importance of trade and the necessity of maintaining [market]s abroad, the Minoans developed a [navy] in order to support the [mercantilism] that supported their [empire]. [Trade route]s were [vast]; Minoan presence has been recorded through recovered [artifact]s in [Egypt] and all over [Asia Minor], as well as among the ancient [tribe]s of [Greece]. Because of this network that was spread all over the [Mediterranean], the Minoan civilization enjoyed [wealth] which allowed them to embark on [architectural], [artistic], and [technological] pursuits. Even the poorest of people in the society had houses comprised of several rooms and a [plumbing] system (single room houses were the norm in all other ancient society and would remain so almost up until [modern] times. Plumbing was also [abandon]ed after the [collapse] of the Minoan civilization).
Other activities in the society centered mostly around [sport]s and [art]. The Minoans were one of the first [culture]s to enjoy such sports and both women and men actively participated in [boxing] and [bull-jumping], which is recorded in much of their art. Their art also was very distinct; most art of the ancient world was centered around [religion|religious] themes and thus was of some [utility]. However, Minoan art was used simply for the [aesthetic] value of it. It was often used to record [scene]s from everyday Minoan [life] and is therefore useful in constructing a view of what life may have been like in the society.
The specific [structure] of the society from the evidence recovered at the dig sites at the cities suggests that it was quite [advance]d. Even in the [urban] centers, [equality] seems to have been enjoyed by all members of the civilization. Lavish palaces were central to each city, but even in the "poorest" sections each house contained at least four rooms.* Therefore even in large cities where [economic] distinctions could lead to a large [poor] class, there wasn't one. Trade was participated in by most people, and almost everyone enjoyed the [benefit]s of it. Relationships among [family|families] and particular between the sexes seems to be relatively [equal], though construction of an exact model is difficult due to lack of [evidence].
[Minoan] civilization enjoyed 500 years of prosperity through their flourishing trading efforts, but a series of [natural disaster]s would start their downfall. c. 1500 BCE, a huge [earthquake] destroyed the palaces of Minoa, and around 50 years later, the island of [Strongphyle], a [volcano], erupted, tearing apart the island into several small [fragment]s. The exact nature of this [catastrophe] is unknown, but afterwards, the Minoan civilization was weakened due to the [collapse] of their cities. They were then conquered by the [Mycenean]s who had developed on the Greek [mainland]. [Mycenae] dominated after 1500 BCE because [Linear A] did not appear after that, only [Linear B] did: a combination of early Greek writing and Linear A. Gradually Minoan economic and palace life was [phase out|phased out] as more Mycenaens began to take over the area, and by 1400 BCE, the [civilization] of Minoa had [collapsed].
*[Cletus the Foetus] says The question of economic inequality as evinced in architecture really depends on how many families lived in each house. A four-room house with one family is quite comfortable. A four-room house with two families....