The Palace of Knossos

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"The Minoan civilization is by far the richest, yet strangest, of the Aegean world" (Aegean Art 99). Through an in-depth analysis of the Palace of Knossos it will be evident that it mirrors the Minoan culture and lifestyle. The function, style, techology, medium, and symbolism used throughout the Palace, illustrate the intelligent, spiritual, and mercantile people the Minoans were. Cottrell states "Yet from the start of the excavations the great mound began to reveal its secrets-not material treasure of gold and precious stones such as Schliemann found at Mycenae-but evidence of a mature, sophisticated art, a skill in engineering and an architecture of such splendour, subtlety and refinement as could only have been produced by a civilization of great age" (110).

The Minoan civilization, which survived from 3000 B.C. to 1200 B.C., consisted of the Greek islands Crete and Thera. On the long narrow island of Crete exists the great Palace of Knossos; it is one of the most unique and legendary architectural structures of the Bronze Age. Knossos was first build around 2000 B.C. but was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1700 B.C. The rebuilding of the Palace commenced immediately after and gradually continued until 1450 B.C. Shortly after 1400 B.C., the Palace of Knossos was destroyed for the last time. In 1878, a Cretan merchant discovered the palace and started minor excavations. The merchant was only able to expose a section of the west facade and it was not until the 1900s Sir Arthur Evans was able to purchase the entire site and excavate the entire palace. Evans also assigned the alternate name, Palace of Minos, after Minos, the legendary ruler of Crete.

Minos, King of Crete, was said to have been either "the son of Zeus", or Zeus' close friend and chosen companion. "The traditions relating to Minos are various, and in some ways conflicting. All agree that he controlled a mighty fleet which ruled the Eastern Mediterranean…But there were also traditional memories of Minos the Tyrant, embodied in the most perishable of legends, the story of Theseus and the Minotaur" (Cottrell 105). King Minos had, through conquest, become overlord of Athens and as a tribute demanded each year twelve of Athens boys and girls whom he could sacrifice to the Minotaur. The Minotaur was the apparent offspring of Mino's wife and a bull. It was kept by Minos in a Labyrinth, beneanth his great Palace of Knossos. This maze was so tortuous anyone having entered would never find their way out unaided. Theseus, son of the King of Athens, offered to go to Knossos as one of the twelve children that were sarificed, with a plan to defeat the Minotaur. King Mino's daughter, whom Theseus fell in love with, gave Theseus a thread as he entered the maze, after he had found and slayed the Minotaur, he traced the thread back and escaped the Labynith. Labrynith comes from the word Labrys, referring to a double or two-bladed axe. Throughout the palace axe motifs were scratched on many of the stones and is the theme of the Shrine/Hall of the Double Axes. It is fairly safe to assume the modern word of Labrynith derived from the Palace of Knossos, or the ‘Palace of the double-axe'.

The maze-like palace has an interesting layout, there were not several main hallways. Instead, 1300 rooms are connected with corridors of varying sizes and direction. The palace seemed to be centered outwards from the central court, unlike oriental palaces which tended to spread inwards from the outside. With the center court being the focal point, it is safe to say the Minoans who inhabited the palace probably spent large quantities of time here, therfore making it apparent they were highly sociable, outgoing people. All important buildings faced inwards on to the center court. "If you stood in the central court you would see on the west the ceremonial and state rooms, comprising of a basement and two principal storeys, and rising to about 45ft in...
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