King Minos and The Minoan Civilization
Throughout the ages there have been both legendary and actual individuals who have made remarkable contributions that defined entire cultures. This research paper topic suggestion will examine King Minos, a figure that is both legendary and historical, and the Minoan culture. In addition to providing background information regarding King Minos and the Minoan civilization, when you write an examination of King Minos, you should also discuss the following:
- Cultural contributions that the Minoan civilization made to the world
- Demonstrate that the historical and mythological King Minos was a wise naval commander
- A proficient economist
- A ruler who allowed his people to create a vital culture that was based on creativity and commerce, rather than military conquest
King Minos and Homer
In Book XIX of Homer's Odyssey, he wrote that there was once a great city called Knossos on Crete, where King Minos ruled for nine years and was "specially dear to Zeus," who was the Greek's father of the gods. According to Greek mythology, Minos was the son of Zeus and a mortal woman named Europa. King Minos was particularly notable to the Greeks and later cultures for several reasons. First, the island of Crete was very close to Greece, yet Minos was known as a non-Greek, partially due to the unique nature of the Minoan civilization. Next, the Minoan civilization ruled the Aegean Sea from 2000 to 1500 BC with total supremacy. With the island of Crete protected by the sea and ships, the Minoan fleet served to eliminate pirates and maintain safe commerce. For some, this system of naval protection allowed the Minoan economy to flourish, and the King's palace to regulate trade and encourage stable markets that thrived on international trade instead of battles. The Minoan's created vases and jewelry and harvested wool and timber to trade with other lands.
King Minos and the Minoans
One of the legacies of King Minos was the Minoan preoccupation with bulls. According to mythology, Minos prayed to the god Poseidon for a bull to sacrifice. When Poseidon sent the bull from the sea, Minos decided it was too handsome to kill, so Poseidon caused Minos queen, Pasiphae, to fall in love with the bull. As a result, she Pasiphae bore a creature that was half-man and half-bull, called a Minotaur, which lived in a labyrinth. Later, the Minotaur was slain by an Athenian, representing the Greek independence from Crete and the Minoans
Aside from the legendary stories of the greatness of King Minos, his greatest contributions may have been the ability to manage a flourishing economy that was based on international trade rather than colonial conquests. Because the Minoans did not have to prepare for battles outside of their territory or spend energy and resources on defending their ports from threatening armies, they could devote their navy to protecting commercial activities and maintaining safe trade. To accomplish this, one may assume that Minos was both a remarkable naval thinker as well as a savvy economist. Without military campaigns to support, the Minoan people were able to pursue the creation of a dynamic culture that contributed a great deal to later civilizations.
A great deal of Minoan culture was preserved in frescoes, vases, jewelry, seals and other objects found during the turn of the twentieth century by archaeologist Arthur Evans. Evans discovered hundreds of clay tablets that appeared to be records of transactions and taxes, which were preserved when the rest of the city was destroyed by fire resulting from the eruption of Mt. Thera. In addition, Evans found pottery and vases made by skilled craftsmen, as well as many seals that were to used as lids for jars as well as talismans that offered magic protection against various forms of harm. One may speculate that the mythological origins of Minos, for whom their country was named, contributed to the existence of magic beliefs in Minoan culture.
Evans also discovered the ruins of the legendary Palace of Minos at Knossos, which was a huge structure that consisted of many buildings connected by corridor and staircases. The palace also served as a trading center, government office, religious center and royal home and its architecture of was very distinctive, with flat rooftops clean lines and a spit-level design that gave it a modern appearance.
As mentioned above, the Minoans were closely related to bulls, and even the tops of their buildings were adorned with bullhorns. The favorite sport of Minoans was known as "bull leaping," which featured large crowds watching acrobats leap over the bulls as the charged at them in a courtyard. The bull remained special to Minoans, to whom it symbolized great power of nature, a special connection to the Earth goddess, and a connection to their mythological and historical ruler, Minos. As a ruler of the sea and wise economist, King Minos proved to be an exceptional ruler who allowed his people to create a vital culture that was based on creativity and commerce. Unlike many rulers who chose to expand their economy and culture through colonization and wars, Minos chose to use a strong navy to defend his own land and protect the commerce that ensured Minoan prosperity. In this respect, Minos used his genius to create a new, non-military framework for a prosperous and productive culture in which open trade and friendly international relations was highly prized. Moreover, by participating in open trade the Minoan culture was spread throughout the Aegean Sea and beyond.