Friday, April 13, 2007

Rising from Minoan Civilization (Part I)

Anthony Quinn as "Zorba the Greek" played up the playful and proud nature of Greece's people. Melina Mercouri, Greece's world-famous actress and cultural ambassador, likewise brought the passion and independence of the Greeks to the movies in “Never on Sunday”.
These two beloved actors skillfully endeared interntational audiences to the people who gave our world some of history's greatest philosophers, architects, artists and adventurers.
The people of the island of Crete (Cretans) have their own, special lineage. The Minoan people, who settled largely in Crete, were traders, developing the most advanced navy that had ever been seen. All of this concentrated mercantile activity produced great wealth for the Cretans, which went into massive building projects, art, and technological development.
The Minoans during the Bronze Age
Prior to classical Greek culture, the civilization was named after King Minos, who in Greek mythology was said to be the King of Crete. Some believe that Minos either figuratively represents the civilization or is a dynastic name. Major cities of Minoan culture were Knossos, Phaestos, and Malia, built around 1900 BC. In Minoan times, the palaces were not only the royal residence but also served as the administrative and religious center for the entire district. The architecture of early Crete was quite advanced... represented in large, complex, and luxurious palaces.
The Minoans used stone, plaster, and timbers, and painted their walls with bright colors with scenes from everyday life as well as plants, animals, and nature scenes. The Minoans built drainage systems, aqueducts, indoor pluming with toilets that could be flushed as well as a shower system! They had a system of pipes that carried water from a mountain spring six miles away, and also built stone roads and bridges.
It was the concern of Minoan religion to ensure fertility of crops, animals, and the human population and to protect against natural disasters-drought, disease, Earthquakes. These concerns were addressed in their religion. The Minoans gave Deities offerings of food or goods in household and rural shrines. A popular place for sanctuaries for the rural shrines were in sacred caves that were used as collective cult centers, most likely for ritual performances. The Minoans religion consisted of individual worship, and was also corporate too.
It is believed that the chief deity of the Minoans was a mother goddess, which was a female fertility goddess and the symbol of the creative force in nature, who controlled the harvests, weather, and other natural occurrences. The bull also played an important part in the Minoan religion. One of the Minoan customs was bull leaping. An acrobat would stand in front of a charging bull, and at the last moment he would grab a hold to the bull's horns and vault over his back. It is not sure whether of not the role of the bull leaping was strictly religious or if it was also a form of entertainment, although it is known that the Minoans worshiped the bulls.
Who were the "Hellenes?
You may notice the term"Hellenic"; is used often in referring to the people of Greece. What does it mean? Hellenic Greece was the ancient civilization of Hellas in what is modern Greece... Bound on land by Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Albania to the north, to the east by Turkey and the waters of the Aegean Sea and to the west and south by the Ionian and Mediterranean Seas. Regarded by many as the cradle of Western civilisation, Greece has a long and rich history during which it spread its influence over three continents. The people were called Hellenes.
Hellenic civilization reached the peak of its power duing the 5th century BC. In 478 B.C., following the defeat of the Persian invasion, Athens assumed leadership of an alliance known as the Delian League, which would later come to be known as the Athenian Empire. Sparta, the other great power in Greece, and leader of the Peloponnesian League, fearing the growth of Athenian power, sparred with Athens throughout the middle of the century. Finally, the two sides fought in the Peloponnesian War, from 431-404 B.C., which involved virtually every state in Greece, including colonies in Asia, Italy, and Sicily. The war ended in the decisive defeat of the Athenian Empire.