Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Palace at Knossos

The ruins at Knossos

Our first week in Crete was an immediate immersion into our surroundings with a field trip beginning on Monday morning. Our first stop was the palace at Knossos, where King Minos lived eight thousand years BC. The most important king of Crete, he ruled over the ancient Minoan civilization, and was both a historical and a mythological figure. In Greece, history and folklore are equally important and their stories often blur and overlap.

The King Minos legend is slightly redolent of a modern teen television drama. He himself was said to be the son of Zeus and Princess Europa. When King Minos offended the gods, they caused his wife, Pasiphae, to believe she was in love with a bull. After a sodomitic excursion, she gave birth to the infamous Minotaur, a monster with the head of a bull and the body of a man.

In order to restrain the beast, which ate seven young men and women per year, King Minos assigned the talented designer Daedalus with the task of building a labyrinth. His name is now used as an adjective to describe any structure, which is architecturally complex. Many Cretans believe that the labyrinth was actually the palace at Knossos based upon its intricate design including five levels as well as a sewage and ventilation system.

I really enjoyed the archaic ruins at Knossos, especially the vividly restored wall paintings. The most famous of these is the Prince of the Lilies, which can be seen throughout the island on souvenirs and postcards. Others included wonderful depictions of the elaborately braided hair and bare-breasted costumes of Minoan women. Anyone who has taken History of Costume I would instantly recognize these distinct fashions.

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