Greeks were great sailors. As the Greeks were out and about, sailing the
Mediterranean Sea in search of food, trade, and adventure, they were
also on the lookout for new places to build Greek cities and outposts.
While sailing about, the
Greeks stumbled across a tribe of people living on the island of Crete.
These people, the Minoans, were a very advanced civilization for the
times. They had a strong navy, which is probably why the Greeks never
succeeded in colonizing the Minoan people.
The Minoan king lived in the
capital city of Knossos, in a maze of a palace with 1500 rooms! It
was a gorgeous palace. But during Minoan times, even poor people
on the island of Crete had 4-room houses, with running water for
drinking and bathing, and bathrooms that flushed! This was a very
The ancient Minoans
did have a written language. Far more than the records they
left behind, the paintings on the walls of the palace at Knossos
share the daily life of these ancient people. Some walls were
painted with pictures of starfish and water scenes, much as you
would expect from a civilization that lived on an island.
But some walls were
painted with pictures of young people, both boys and girls,
jumping over bulls. Scholars believed that bull jumping must have
been a very popular sport in Minoan times.
Around 1700 BCE, an
earthquake hit Crete. Much of the Minoan civilization was
destroyed. The Minoans rebuilt. Around 1500 BCE, a volcano erupted
near the island of Crete. Tidal waves followed the eruption.
The Minoans might
have been wiped out by natural disaster or by war. There were
warrior tribes on the mainland of Greece. But scholars believe the
tidal waves certainly weakened them. Whatever the cause, around
1500 BCE, this civilization disappeared from the island of Crete.
The storytellers in
ancient Greece loved to tell stories about the ancient Minoans.
Some of the stories were about the mythical creature, the Minotaur
- a mix of man and beast - who supposed lived on the island of
Crete long, long ago.