Comments on The Minoan Civilisation

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Minoan Civilisation.

Programme information and audio


    • 1. At 10:34am on 07 Jul 2011, RaymondJB wrote:

      No mention of the Phaistos Disk ! I was hoping for some elucidation from three (four) such knowledgable persons.

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    • 2. At 11:11am on 07 Jul 2011, Tolkny wrote:

      All that was missing was Poirot investigating a murder!

      Great stuff I wondered if this was one of the sites the Christie's visited - maybe that is another programme - the uses of The Greek Islands in English Fiction?

      I have recently been considering the origin of religion and I am beginning to think it is connected with a sort of inate Need for Belonging - as explained by American Psychyiatrist William Glasser with his Choice Theory.

      I see in June 2011 edition of National Geographic that there is a suggestion that religion came before farming and farming might have even developed out of the need to feed people who gathered on pilgrimmage in larger numbers than usual and so needed more food than they could carry/hunt.

      Those people gathering on the Syrian/Turkish border were there just a thousand or so years before the folks at Knossos were getting realy established and are not so far away, so maybe someday someone will discover some definite links.

      Plus there is the issue that is hard for us 21st century folk to appreciate that there is unlikely to have been any or much division between the secular and the spiritual which you touched on in your discussion about the use of palace buildings.

      It is easy for us to be ultra critical of the Arthur Evans type explorer for his apprent definitive attitudes to what he discovered. He actually had to go and dig and research whereas we have the benefit of being able to 'stand further back' but to focus in as we click our Internet Mouses(Mice?)!

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    • 3. At 2:54pm on 07 Jul 2011, Margaret Jackson wrote:

      This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

    • 4. At 3:04pm on 07 Jul 2011, Margaret Jackson wrote:

      Pity there was so little discussion on the position of women in Minoan society and their significance in Minoan religion. I would also have liked to see some suggestions for further reading on these aspects. Otherwise, the programme was interesting but not particularly illuminating.

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    • 5. At 4:44pm on 07 Jul 2011, Ginjoints wrote:

      Re the offerings left in Minoan sanctuaries: reminds me of the votive objects (miniature limbs, organs etc made of tin) left in Cretan churches today...

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    • 6. At 9:59pm on 07 Jul 2011, Mike Davis wrote:

      I was disappointed that the necropolis theory was not discussed. When I was there, I was shown the 'Queen's bath' that was identical with the sarcophagi shown in the museam; the large 'oil containers' were kept in 'rooms' such that any oil could not possibly be accessed. So nothing seemed to make Knossos a 'Palace' for the living.

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    • 7. At 10:40pm on 07 Jul 2011, John Thompson wrote:

      Certainly the bull is associated with Crete and Cretans on seals and the tradition of bull-jumping.The story of the Minotaur, marrying ‘bull’ and ‘Minos’,evolved in Crete;the labyrinth describes the ground-plan of the vast palace Evans dug up.These Cretans
      were dubbed ‘Minoans’ by Evans as Crete was where King Minos was supposed to rule,Thucydides treated traditions as historical records.There was a tradition of the rulers of Knossos taking hostages for good behaviour from good Athenian families,feeding into the myth of Athenians paying tribute of 7 youths and 7 maidens to a dreadful monster,the Minotaur.The symbol of divinity or authority was the ‘labrys’,a double-headed axe.The many cult-images discovered in Crete,make it clear that this people worshipped a goddess,a nature-goddess symbolic of the fertility of the soil.The goddess conception is more Mediterranean than European.
      The Myceneans of mainland Greece became the heirs of this civilization after the destruction of Knossos. Collapse of the Minoan civilization preceded(and permitted)the Hellenic regeneration.Known as the Mycenean civilization,this becomes the background of the Iliad.The absence of fortifications suggests the Minoan civilization was based on sea-power,whose vast palaces attest its wealth,centres of administration rather than
      strongholds.Their political administration was centralized around palatial courts, which were simultaneously a sanctuary,a counting-house,with warehouses for produce,an academy of artists and craftsmen,working on new materials gathered from afar.The wealth gathered concentrated in the hands of merchant princes who were also priest-kings.Although your speakers mention contacts between Crete and Egypt and the Levant,people coming from Anatolia and the Cyclades,the mixture of imports and local innovations,Evans saw them as the emergence of European civilization.This is backed up by Colin Renfrew’s ‘Before Civilization’,who traces it back to local antecedents,and were not diffused from Egypt and the Near East(cf Childe).The Cretan palaces reflect a highly stratified society.The complexity of organisation required to control the elaborate redistribution system is reflected in the inscribed tablets and sealings.Palace scribes used both simple pictographic signs and a more complex system where each syllable of the language had its own sign,in the
      Minoan script.The linear B version of this script,deciphered by Michael Ventris,is an early form of the Greek language.Instead of adaptation of innovations from outside,increases of population density,changes of farming pattern,technological advance and
      developments in social organisation,shows a local Aegean process,which has been tested through further excavation and research.

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    • 8. At 9:35pm on 08 Jul 2011, Dhyandeva wrote:

      This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

    • 9. At 12:46pm on 09 Jul 2011, Maeve wrote:

      I understand there is clear evidence of human sacrifice, as mentioned by your contributor, perhaps in an effort to prevent earthquake. But why would it not be published now? Evans was extremely possessive of 'his' idealised Crete and would not tolerate any notion of nasty, rough mainland 'Greeks' on the island or of 'savage' practices such as human sacrifice. I'd love to know more.

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    • 10. At 6:56pm on 10 Jul 2011, erne wrote:

      This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

    • 11. At 4:12pm on 12 Jul 2011, ianbuist wrote:

      I felt it a mistake to concentrate only on Knossos. We must surely see that as one of the three main sites (of which Phaistos/Haghia Triada seemed to me the most "ceremonial" and Mallia the main centre for economic activity outside farming).
      Knossos might have been a repository for the storage of foods etc. for use as a famine reserve. As I recall the translation of many of the initial words in Linear B by Ventris, most of them were "laundry lists", and this use of writing for administrative, not literary, purposes was surely common throughout the Near East.
      The possible commonality of some signs/meanings between Linear A and B was new to me, but might either be a coincidence or relate to items like numerals? I agree with the comment that it would have been good to hear more about the Phaistos Disc.
      Caves (including the "birth place of Zeus" and the one high on Mt. Ida where the extraordinary Kamares ware was found) have surely been religious sites, and possibly connected to the importance of snakes in ritual.
      Two more brief points. Given the Minoan "naumarchy", where was their main port and why haven't we yet discovered it?
      And second, how come no reference to Mary Renault's marvellously inventive novels set around the tale of Theseus?

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    • 12. At 2:15pm on 13 Jul 2011, Yorkshire Dave wrote:

      An excellent programme, though I felt that Arthur Evans came off a little likely. But I was surprised that the references to the background to his work was so fuzzy. Evans did not employ "Ottoman" workers, he hired Turco-Cretan Muslims, i.e. Cretan Muslims of Greek descent. Though he came from a fiercely anti-Ottoman and anti-Turkish background (his father-in-law, the historian E.A. Freeman wrote some remarkably racist passages on Turks and Muslims--and also the Welsh.) Evans had seen with his own eyes the aftermath of anti-Muslim pogroms in eastern Crete and the unburied bodies of victims (There are accounts of this in some of the books cited in your bibliography, McGillivray and Joan Evans--who fetchingly concludes that horrible as the massacres of Muslims by Christians were, they had at least prevented the reverse happening. MacGillivray [pp 161-2] cites another eyewitness account in a book by a Canadian [C. T. Currelly, I Brought the Ages Home, Toronto 1956]) Between 1896 and 1898 the number of Cretan Muslims fell by approximately two thirds, with most of them fleeing to Turkey or countries int he Arab world.
      Evans may also have been disturbed by the subsequent siege and near starvation of most of the island's Muslims through 1897 and 1897 by the Greek insurgents in the major Cretan towns, even though Crete was under British, French, Italian, and Russian naval occupation. Knossos (Fortezza) on the edge of Heraklion was a Bektashi Dervish convent. European public opinion ignored both the sieges and the massacres--though an uprising in which a much smaller number of Christian Greeks were killed was followed by the expulsion of the Ottoman administration. Evans who had seen things at very close quarters made a gesture by recruiting some of his workers from among the survivors of the minority.

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