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Knossos Archaeological Site (Κνωσός)


Palace of Knossos Archaeological Site is the most magnificent and largest of the Crete’s palaces located just Southwest of Iraklio (Heraklion).



Location: Southwest of Iraklio (Heraklion)   Map


Found: 1900 BC


Tel: (28102) 31940 (info)






Desription of Knossos Archaeological Site


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.












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