Knossos Archaeological Site (Κνωσός)




Location: Southwest of Iraklio (Heraklion) Map

Found: 1900 BC

Tel: (28102) 31940 (info)


Desription of Knossos Archaeological Site

Palace of Knossos Archaeological Site is the most magnificent and largest of the Crete’s palaces located just Southwest of Iraklio (Heraklion). Knossos Archaeological Site was inhabited since 7000 BC. Knossos palace was constructed during the Bronze Age around 1900 BC. Despite its age it is surprisingly advanced and sophisticated. The archaeologists who discovered and reconstructed parts of Knossos palace was an amateur archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans. The complex served both as a political and religious centre. It was built gradually between 1900 and 1400 BC on a side of the Kephala hill. The end of the Minoan culture came around 1600BC when Thera volcano eruption and subsequent tsunami laid a havoc to islands in the region. Crete and Knossos Palace was badly damaged. It was inhabited for several more decades, but Minoan culture never fully recovered to its former glory.

Legend of Theseus

Palace of Knossos is a maze of expansive network of rooms, 1300 in total. Even in the ancient times, long before re- discovery by Sir Arthur Evans ancient Greeks were impressed by an ancient and mysterious culture of the Minoan civilization. Over time they formed a legend about a of mythical king Minos (thus Minoan civilization) who once ruled here. The legend goes that wife of Minos,  Pasiphae fell in love with a bull, that was sent by Poseidon, god of the sea. This unnatural love gave life to ferrous beast that became known as the Minotaur. King Minos couldn't kill the Minotaur so he ordered Daedalus to design a labyrinth that served both as a home and a prison for this creature. In order to feed his appetite King Minos ordered his ships with black sails to travel to mainland Greece. Greeks were forced to hand over 7 women and 7 men annually. All these young men and women were fed to the Minotaur.

When once again mourning ship with black sails entered the Athenian harbor, young son of king Aegeus Theseus decided to join men and women to sail to Knossos. Theseus brought a sacrifice to Apollo, the patron of sea travelers. Delphi oracle predicted that a goddess of love Aphrodite and sister of Apollo heard his prayers. When victims were brought to Knossos palace King Minos and his daughter Ariadne noticed athletic and handsome Theseus. The goddess Aphrodite aroused a strong love in Ariadne. She secretly gave Theseus a sword and a ball of yarn.

Theseus tied a threat at the entrance of the Knossos labyrinth. Inside the maze he managed to kill the Minotaur. He returned to the surface by following a thread. Young Athenians damaged ships of residents of Knossos and sailed only remaining ship back home. They stopped near an island of Naxos. Theseus fell asleep and god Dionysus (god of wine) visited him in his sleep. He ordered Theseus to abandon Ariadne on the island since the gods of Olympus decided that she must become a wife of Dionysus. Theseus did not dare to ignore divine command. Ariadne stayed on Naxos.

Theseus sailed ships back home to Athens. He was overtaken by grief and he subsequently forgot to change the black sails from black to white. His father, Athenian king Aegeus assumed his son is dead and committed suicide by jumping into the sea. Greek immortalized his name by naming the Aegean sea after king Aegeus.


The bull was a symbol of strength and agility and it was a common symbol of a Minoan culture. Bull's horns adorned the top of the palace around its perimeter. Greeks probably found these depictions and a legend of Minotaur was born.


Running toilets and expansive water drainage system along with multilevel buildings gives some archeologists hint that this might be the base of the myth of Atlantis that was described by Plato. Besides evidence of massive tidal waves and ash from a Thera (Santorini) eruption in the 15th century BC coupled with foreign invasion further supports this idea. The city was later rebuilt and remained active through Roman and Byzantine periods, but with a significantly decreased population.


History of the palace
The first excavations were made in 1878 by Minos Kalokairinos from Heraklion. The excavations carried out by the Englishman Sir Arthur Evans (1900-1913 and 1922-1930) followed and which revealed the entire palace.

The oldest traces of habitation in the palace area date back to the Neolithic era (7000-3000 BC). The habitation continues in the pre-palace period (3000-1900 BC), at the end of which the area is leveled for the construction of a large palace. This first palace was destroyed, most likely by an earthquake, in 1700 BC. about. A second, more majestic palace is erected on the ruins of the old one. After a partial destruction around 1450 BC, the Mycenaeans settled in Knossos. The palace was finally destroyed around 1350 BC. from a large fire. The area it covers is inhabited again from the late Mycenaean period until the Roman years.

Extensive restorations have been made in the palace of Knossos by the archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans. It was multi-storey and covered an area of ​​20,000 sq.m. Impressive are the variety of building materials, colored mortars, orthomarbling and murals that adorn rooms and corridors. The high technical knowledge of the Minoans is confirmed by original architectural and construction inventions, such as skylights and multi-doors, the use of beams to strengthen the masonry, as well as the complex sewerage and water supply network.

The palace
The palace is developed around the large Central Courtyard, a place of public gatherings. The second courtyard, the West, was the official access to the palace and a ceremony area.

The western wing includes the official sites of administrative and religious activities: the Tripartite Sanctuary, the Holy Treasures and the Pillar Crypts. The Throne Room stands out, with the tank of purgatory and the alabaster throne framed by desks. In the south wing, the most important places are the South Propylon, the Corridor of the Procession and the South Entrance with the fresco of the prince with the Lilies. The east wing includes living areas and large reception halls, with the main ones being the Double Ax and the Queen's Palace. The imposing large Staircase leads to them.

The communication with the port of Knossos took place from the Northern Entrance. The North Entrance is framed by elevated galleries, of which the west is adorned with the fresco of the Hunting Bull.

A large cobbled procession, the Royal Road, led from the Small Palace and the city to the northwest corner of the palace, where an open-air theatrical space is formed.

Around the palace stretched the Minoan settlement and on the hills, the cemeteries. Important buildings of the same period are: the South House, the House of the Holy Step, the Small Palace, the Guesthouse, the Royal Villa and the Tomb-Sanctuary. From the Roman Knossos an important building is the Villa of Dionysus with mosaic floors (2nd century AD).

In 1961 Neolithic houses were discovered under the courtyard of the palaces. Numerous findings of exceptional art, from the palace, vases, utensils, figurines, the archive of plaques of Linear B writing, as well as the originals of the murals, are kept in the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.