Knossos Palace Guide

Knossos Palace

On a hypothetical perfect day trip to Crete, it has to start with a trip from Heraklion to the legendary Capital of Minoans –  Knossos Palace, After a good dose of history intermingled with mythology, the journey should continue towards the south, where the concentration of beautiful beaches is the highest. You can find more about my hypothetical-not-so-hypothetical perfect day in Crete in the other article, where I describe my trip from Heraklion to Matala and Red Beaches.

The Capital of Minoans

Now back to Knossos Palace. The city, and as a matter of a fact, the whole island was inhabited by an ancient mysterious culture – Minoans. Knossos is considered to be the oldest ruins of a known city not only in Crete but in whole Europe. No surprise, the city was built during the mythical times. Knossos is the place from which many famous Greek legends like Minotaur’s labyrinth, and Icarus and Daedalus have originated.

History of Knossos Palace & Minoans

Knossos is an ancient capital of people of unknown origins and ethnicity – Minoans. To this day their disappearance remains a mystery but their legacy stands. Crete is the home of many myths and legends including the birth of Zeus, the Minotaur’s labyrinth, Daedalus & Icarus. Even the name of civilization comes from the mythical King of Crete, Minos. Yes, the same one, who built the labyrinth for Minotaur. Despite its rich contribution to Greek myths, Minoans remain nothing but an unresolved puzzle.

Disappearance of Minoans

It is widely believed that in the Late Bronze Age Mycenaean Greeks violently removed Minoans from the power by destroying all of their palaces, including Knossos. Greeks are famous for the upsetting fights against Goliaths, but even they alone couldn’t do it.

The modern geological research shows clear evidence of Crete being devastated by the aftermath of the massive volcanic eruption in the Santorini Islands. Radiocarbon dating shows that massive tsunamis hit Crete at the same time as the volcano erupted. Minoan building material mixed with fossilized seashells from the deep levels could be found across the island. This was followed by years of wet and cold summers. The Minoan population plunged. Even Herodotus the Historian mentions that Cretans were ravaged by pestilence and famine. None have survived these events but Knossos, which then was an easy target for anybody. After years and years of abuse, the Greeks for sure took this opportunity and how bloody it was remained under interpretation.


The Bronze Age Collapse

This would settle everything, but I cannot help myself but wonder if that settles the big picture. Multiple civilizations in the region disappeared during the same time, not all of them were as close to the Santorini Islands as Crete was. This event is known as the Bronze Age Collapse and there is no clear answer behind it. The Egyptians talk of the ferocious Sea People, attacking their lands with everything they got including women and children. I assume, they probably were a mixture of the survivors from the islands devastated by some unknown event, maybe, the same volcanic eruption. Further on, evidence of famine and bad climate could be found across the region. Something happened, which destroyed the high culture of the Bronze Age, then the Dark Greek Ages followed. Maybe the eruption on the Santorini Islands was powerful enough to vanish countless civilizations around the Mediterranean, maybe, it was something even more catastrophic, which triggered all the other events including the volcanoes.

Legend of Zeus Birth

Crete is the birthplace of the main God in Greek mythology – Zeus. Despite that, different from the monotheistic mythos, Gods in polytheistic mythology are not absolute. Based on current day standards, this resulted in a rather rough childhood for Zeus. If it was not for his mother Rhea and Kourites, he would have been eaten by his abusive father Kronos. Kourites were giant half-gods and were the first inhabitants of the island, no better place for folks like this to live than the tallest mountain of the Crete – Mount Psiloritis (Mount Ida). Kourites invented agriculture and were taught the art of dance by Rhea herself.

Legends & Myths of Knossos Palace

This part of the mythos might be even more abstractly historically-true than the Kourites and Zeus one. The protagonist of this story is the son of nymph Europa and Zeus (the naughty God), the king of Knossos and Crete, Minos. Things were quite good for Minos until he got into trouble with Poseidon by not sacrificing him a white bull. Poseidon was truly creative and to revenge Minos, he made his wife Pasiphae to fall in love with the same bull. Things got really naughty when Pasiphae told about her love to the master craftsman Daedalus, who made her a wooden cow costume covered with real cowhide. Oh, that technological advancement of Minoans. One way or another, the tricked worked as Pasiphae hidden in the wooden cow had sex with the white bull, which resulted in the birth half-man half-bull creature – Minotaur.