What happened to the Minoans?

‘Empires inevitably fall, and when they do, history judges them for the legacies they leave behind.’ Noah Feldman

The Minoans left us with an enormous legacy, their extraordinary feats dazzle and confound us to this day. Yet in spite of their sea power, engineering marvels, sophisticated society and interactions with neighbouring and far-reaching civilisations, they could not prevent their eventual demise. Regardless of the multitude of times they rebuilt their mega cities, the Minoan race could not withstand the ultimate test of natural disasters and invasions.


The cataclysmic eruption of the volcano on Santorini was 10 times greater than the devastation of Krakatua, making it the largest in the last 20,000 years. Unlike Pompeii where plaster casts of the ill-fated inhabitants remained in situ at the time of their deaths, there is no evidence of any of the Theran residents. The likelihood was that the people were incinerated and blasted into nothingness. However, the optimist inside me hopes many escaped given the warnings of the trembles and ominous smoke emanating from the volcano.

The effects of the volcanic eruption were much greater than early scholars first predicted. Plato’s description was much more accurate than he was originally credited. The impact of the Santorini eruption was felt as far as Egypt and into Asia Minor.

‘Day turned to night and darkness fell upon the Earth for many weeks.’
Timaeas, Plato

The huge tsunamis that followed the eruption destroyed much of the coastline of Crete, its population and economy. The pyroclastic steam converged on Crete and burnt the palaces at Knossos and Phaistos, and Malia was subsumed by massive tsunamis. In the previous millennia, following earthquakes, the Minoans did rebuild, and they did restore Knossos but not the other palaces. How did this affect the Minoans? We’ll never know for certain but they never recovered to full strength and prosperity as they had done from previous natural disasters.

Tsunami Sumatra 2004, Andaman Indonesia http://www.sms-tsunami-warning.com/pages/tsunami-sumatra-2004#.WEoUOuZ95aQ
Tsunami Sumatra 2004, Andaman Indonesia

In the following years, they were invaded by the mainland Greeks—the Myceneans. There are ruins in the mountains of Crete of ancient buildings. Archaeologists dated these sites to a few hundred years after the Santorini eruption and the invasions. They believe the Minoans retreated to the mountains and built small townships as it was more secure than living in the regions where the old palaces once stood.

"The Achaean conquest of Knossos, 1.430 BC" Artwork by Giuseppe Rava, 2015
“The Achaean conquest of Knossos, 1.430 BC” Artwork by Giuseppe Rava, 2015

The continual raids by the Greeks forced them to relocate and find a safe haven in the lofty peaks of Crete.

Various powerful civilisations have met similar fate as the Minoans—the Trojans, Etruscans, Romans, Persians, Egyptians, Incans, Aztecs just to name some. Their demise a result from human destruction. What can we learn from these lessons of history? A lot! Yet it seems the human race is intent on repeating the mistakes of our ancestors. The quest for power, money, religious persecution and oppression dictates logic and sanity.

Today, there a many ‘wanabe empires’, all wanting to dominate Mother Earth and her inhabitants. To that end, what will be our lasting legacy?

Thank you for your continued support and as always, I look forward to your comments and will respond.

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

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  1. Jacqui Murray

    Fascinating history. I see connections throughout time to many other civilizations. Mine is much older than yours, but no less impacted by natural disasters and vicious invaders.

    On a separate topic: Are you going to the SD Writer Conference in January? If so, I’d love to find you at one of the networking sessions, pick your brain about research. If not, no worries. We’ll do it another time.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Christy B

    Between the invasions and natural disasters, I can certainly see why the Minoans met the fate that they did.. and you’re quite right that they weren’t the only ones.. As always it’s a pleasure to read your quality post that is based on research and teaches me more about the past. Thank you for the time you took crafting this one. Oh and great touch with the quotes, including the one from Plato!

    Liked by 1 person

    • cav12

      Thanks, Christy. 😀
      When I research and see these connections, I often wonder if the people of these amazing empires ever considered their demise was possible.


  3. Aquileana

    Dear Luciana… thanks so much for telling us about the demise and eventual fall of the Minoans… I had the Myceneans invasion in mind… But didn´t know much about how the eruption of the volcano on Santorini had struck on this civilisation. The combination of both natural and social factors seemed to be conclusive… But at least we can be sure that their legacy remains alive.
    Great post, cara… Happy Holidays and best wishes for 2017. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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