From an Antique Land: Ancient and Modern in the Middle East

By Julian Huxley | Go to book overview

17
KNOSSOS AND THE MINOAN CIVILIZATION

IT IS REALLY ASTONISHING TO remember that sixty years ago we knew next to nothing about ancient Crete. Only in 1894 did Sir Arthur Evans begin his series of excavations at Knossos. These revealed the unique Minoan civilization, which flourished for more than a millennium and a half. Minoan civilization is not quite as old as Egyptian, but dates back certainly to 3000 B.C. Throughout its existence it was the westernmost outpost of civilized life, as well as the first maritime empire. Culturally, it was a parent of Mycene, and so a grandparent of Greece.

In the Embassy at Athens, planning our visit to Crete, I remembered vividly the impression made on me as an undergraduate at Oxford by the Minoan exhibits in the Ashmolean -- the unique use of the octopus as decorative motive; the snake-goddess with her modern flounced skirt but her bodice cut so as to reveal her breasts; the frescoes of bull-vaulting; the young men with broad shoulders and wasp-waists. And now we were actually going to see Knossos at first hand.

I was struck by the physical geography of Crete when I was steaming along its southern coast on the way to East Africa in 1929. Magnificent cliffs fell steeply into the sea from mountain ranges over 8000 feet high; and the ship's chart showed depths of 11,000 feet quite close offshore -- a crumpling of the earth's crust involving a vertical drop of 19,000 feet in the space of a

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From an Antique Land: Ancient and Modern in the Middle East
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Illustrations 7
  • I - Introduction 13
  • 2 - The Land 22
  • 3 - Byblos: Doorway of Many Pasts 31
  • 4 - Baalbek and the Proliferation of Divinity 57
  • 5 - Lebanon: Phoenician Land 67
  • 6 - Turkey: Past and Present 92
  • 7 - Modern Jordan and Ancient Petra 111
  • 8 - Damascus, Port of the Desert 134
  • 9 - Palmyra the Caravan Empire 143
  • 10 - North Syria and Its Dead Cities 159
  • 11 - Baghdad and the Twin Rivers 180
  • 12 - The Birth of Civilization 194
  • 13 - Persia and Its Blue Mosques 214
  • 14 - On the Banks of the Nile 227
  • 15 - Pyramids 238
  • 16 - The Egyptian Past 255
  • 17 - Knossos and the Minoan Civilization 278
  • 18 - And Las 291
  • Index 305
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