The Legends of Knossos

When thinking of ancient Greece, one thinks of beautifully crumbled statues, ruined buildings, and exquisite mosaic floors depicting a simpler life.  There is one ancient ruin, Knossos, built on the hill of Kefalas, next to the river Kairatos that is one of the most beautiful and oldest palaces in Europe. So, newlyweds, or people who have been dating for some time, often book a flight and take a romantic vacation to one of the most elaborate palaces in Europe.

The palace of Knossos was first built in the 7th century BC, during the Neolithic period. The first palace was built around 1900 BC on the ruins of a previous settlement, and destroyed (for the first time) in 1700 BC. It was the center of administration for the entire island of Crete during the Minoan times, and may have had as many as 100,000 inhabitants. The area is prone to seismic activity, and the palace been destroyed and rebuilt many times, each time more grand than the last. It was positioned to allow major growth and prosperity in the area, which is evidence by the huge amounts of storage magazines and workshops. It was again destroyed and rebuilt after the massive volcanic eruption of Thera in 1450 BC. After the invasion of the Mycenaean, which used the island as a capital while ruling Crete, Knossos was abandoned which brought an end the Minoan civilization.

According to Greek Mythology, the palace was designed by the famous architect Daedalus, with the help of his son Ikaros. King Minos wanted a labyrinth built to keep the Minotaur a prisoner. Wanting to keep the design of the labyrinth a secret, the king imprisoned Daedalus and Ikaros. Not able to find their way out, Daedalus made wings of wax to fly above the labyrinth and off the island. Daedalus warned his son not to fly too high as the sun would melt the wax. Ikaros did not listen, and flew higher and higher, until the heat from the sun melted the wax, and Ikaros plunged to his death in the Aegean Sea. The labyrinth was said to be so skillfully crafted that no one escaped from it. 

The labyrinth is perhaps the most well-known ancient architectural maze. Built around the same time as the Egyptian Labyrinth, Knossos was a huge interconnected complex of intricate corridors, winding staircases and private courts.  It consisted of about 1,300 rooms spread over three acres of land. The labyrinth at Knossos burned to the ground in the 15th century BC, yet the myth survived. Through time,the double-axe (labyrinth) symbol began to be associated with the labyrinth and its legends. It consists of a single path winding back and forth to a center point in a series of seven concentric rings.

It is also said that the labyrinth was the dwelling place of the Minotaur, a half man, half bull monster. As Daedalus was building the Labyrinth, he gave detailed plans to Ariadne, the king’s daughter, who gave the map and some thread to her lover, Theseus, the son of the Athenian King Aegeus. Theseus used the thread to leave a trail, and after killing the Minotaur, used the map and thread to find his way back out of the Labyrinth.  

The site of Knossos includes the Palace of Knossos, the Minoan Houses, the Villa of Dionysus, the South Royal Temple, and the Royal Tombs. It also is famous for its Roman Mosaics. The Throne Room in the palace has a throne made of gypsum, and enough benches to accommodate sixteen people. The palace has a central courtyard, a theater, and numerous royal chambers. There are chambers and rooms that give evidence of a forum that had elaborate rituals and great historical occurrences. 

British Archeologist, Arthur Evans, excavated the site from 1900-1931 AD. The complete excavation of the complex only took five years, which is virtually unheard of by today’s standards. Evans used concrete for his restorations and has received criticism that it is historically inaccurate, and detrimental the building itself. Some think he based his restoration efforts on an educated guess. He spent the rest of his life restoring the palace, and the restoration shows the grandeur and complexity of the palace that took several millennia to create.

·     3-D Virtual Tour of the site

·     Pictures and history on the site

·     Hellenistic history

·     Remains of the Minoan Civilization

·     Pictures and location room within the palace

·     A little history of Theseus

·     Legends of the Labyrinth

·     Children’s version of Theseus and the Minotaur

·     King Minos, a brief history

·     A collection of Sir Arthur Evans papers of Knossos

·     List of Evans’ accomplishments at Knossos

·     Excavations at Crete

Excavations to be done at Knossos

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