Knossos lies in the centre north of Crete, two hours’ walk from the sea: set amongst low hills, on fertile marly soil and well enough watered.
This was a combination that attracted the Neolithic settlers, around 7000 BC and led to their creating over the next three millennia a substantial tell and the largest of their settlements on the island. Though Knossos has yielded evidence of habitation fro quite early date and from Hellenic Greek and Roman times, it is most important for its Minoan Bronze Age material.
Evidence of the Minoan civilization that flourished on the island of Crete between 3000 and 1100 BC comes from Greek legend, which tells of the wealth of Crete in the time of King Minos.
Young Greek men and women were left in the labyrinth as human sacrifices until Theseus, prince of Athens, slew the minotaur and escaped with the help of Minos’ daughter Ariadne.
Knossos rise was gradual, though by 2000 BC the settlement was nearly as extensive as it ever was and already centered on the monumental structure, replaced by the First Palace.
Between the 18th an 17th centuries BC Knossos was damaged and several other places were completely destroyed possibly due to earthquake or war.
The Second Palace was erected in 1700 BC after an earthquake destroyed an earlier structure: its prosperity and vigor were shared islandwide; Minoan dominance was evident on the Cyclades and culturally influential in southern Greece.
Destroyed for the last time by fire, probably in the 14th century BC, the decline of Knossos was echoed by the deterioration of Cretan art into more crude and less imaginative style.
After the Early Christian and Byzantine periods, Knossos was once again deserted. With the Arab conquest of 827, nearby Herakleion became the more important site.
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