The Palace of Knossos would have to be one of the most amazing ancient sites I was fortunate to see. Built around 2000 BCE, and the largest of structures on Crete, it was the main power and pivotal centre of Minoan culture. The first palaces (Knossos, Mallia, Phaistos, Hagia Triada and Zakro) were destroyed by an earthquake circa 1730 BCE and rebuilt around 1650 BCE. The palaces withstood a series of earthquakes, and it wasn’t until the cataclysmic volcanic eruption at Thera and subsequent invasion of the Mycenaeans, that saw the demise of these extraordinary people and culture.
I will be focussing on the palace at Knossos and its features, though excavations of the other palaces have shown they were built in a similar fashion and on a smaller scale. What struck me first when I visited the site was the sheer size and the multi-levels on which it was built. As I walked around, the enormity and sophistication of the palace was awe inspiring.
The throne room with its stone regal chair, once considered to be the seat of the king with the famed griffins, is now thought to be the governing power of the Snake Goddess or her representative. However, it wasn’t the reconstruction of the throne room, the central court where the famed bull leaping may have occurred or the fresco with the charging bull that attracted my attention. I was fascinated by the clay metre long pipes that carried water to the palace, that is to the royal chambers and another set that took away sewerage waste. A concept and piece of engineering that wouldn’t be a common feature in households until the 20th century. It predated the tech savvy Romans, who were renowned for their aqueducts and sewerage systems.
I was also taken by the ‘bathtub’ and how it resembles what we have today. Plus, bathrooms with drainage systems! Another marvel was the staircases and the lightwells. The large wooden doors opened to allow light flood the rooms. Another piece of engineering genius was the use of stone blocks in conjunction with horizontal wooden beams. This strengthened the walls and remained intact during an earthquake.
As I wandered around the extensive site, the legend of the labyrinth came to mind. It is easy to imagine how the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur was created. The palace is a labyrinth of reception halls, rooms and apartments, paths, passages and storerooms. And I haven’t even mentioned the intricate, delicate and incredible friezes that adorned the rooms.
I did visit the museum in Heraklion where most of the artefacts from the palace is on display. That was also quite an experience.
As you may tell from my article, I was entranced and excited to see Knossos, it was a lifelong dream, so much so, it inspired me to write Servant of the Gods, of which book one, Search for the Golden Serpent is now published.
Thank you for your continued support and as always, I look forward to your comments and will respond.
Boatswain, T., & Nicolson, C. (2003). Greece. London: Phoenix.
Farnoux, A. (1993). Knossos: unearthing a legend. New York: Gallimard.
Historical fiction novelist and a secondary teacher, Luciana Cavallaro, burnt out but not done… yet. Subscribe and receive a free PDF on how to survive 7th century BCE http://eepurl.com/brIbFf