Study notes: Sacred cave legends and the subterranean Netherworld myths — Greeks, Cretans, Minoans, Phoenicians, Karians and Egyptians


Myths of Crete and Pre-Hellenic Europe, by Donald A. Mackenzie, [1917], at p. 293

CHAPTER XIII Cave Deities and their Symbols

Demeter and the Nameless Fates–

Forms of Mother-goddess–The “Eagle Lady” with Snake Girdle–Prototype of Hittite and Assyrian “Winged Disk”–

How Composite Monsters became Symbols–

The Caves of Zeus–Lasithi Plateau–The Dictæan Votive Offerings–

The Chariot of a Deity–Cave of Kamares–The Plain of Nida–Sacred Cave of Mount Ida–Mountain Religion –Well Worship–The “Seven Sleepers” Belief–Cretan Tammuz a Cave God –Pillar Symbols in Crete, Egypt, and Babylonia–Pillars as Mountains and “World Spines”–The Osirian Spine Amulet–Tree and Pillar Worship–“Horns of Consecration” as Sky Pillars–Double-axe Symbol–Spirits in Weapons–The God of the Axe.

“THE Cretans say”, Diodorus Siculus wrote, “that the honours rendered to the gods, the sacrifices and mysteries, are of Cretan origin, and other nations took them from them. Demeter passed from the Isle of Crete into Attica, then into Sicily, and thence into Egypt, carrying with her the cultivation of corn.” 1

On the other hand Herodotus, writing of the Pelasgi, says: “In early times the Pelasgi, as I know by information I got at Dodona, offered sacrifices of all kinds and prayed to the gods, but had no distinct names or appellations for them, since they had never heard of any. They called them gods (θεοὶ {Greek ðeoì}, disposers) because they had arranged all things in such a beautiful order. After a long lapse of time, the names of the gods came to Greece from Egypt, and the Pelasgi learnt them, only as yet they knew nothing of Bacchus, of whom they first heard at a much later date. ” 2

p. 294

There is, no doubt, a kernel of real historical truth in these traditions. The Demeter to whom Diodorus refers is not, of course, the beautiful goddess whom the Grecian sculptors conceived of, but rather the Phigalian cave monster, the black horse-headed fury with snakes hissing from amidst her tangled locks. In early times she had many forms–terrible and mystical forms. Some idea of these is obtained from the study of the seal impressions discovered by Mr. Hogarth at Zakro. In one phase she is the eagle lady”–a woman with prominent breasts, widespread wings, and an eagle’s head, wearing the snake waist girdle and the bell-shaped gown, or simply an eagle with a fan tall., and nothing human but her breasts. Several seal specimens show that this primitive form developed into a symbol which may have been a prototype of the Hittite winged disk and the Assyrian disk of Ashur. One is a column with fan tall and surmounted by winged human breasts, above which is a round beehive-shaped cap; others are variants, and then comes a fully developed symbolic object, with breasts represented by double spiral coils resting on a double bee-hive-shaped body with double outspread wings.

In another phase the goddess has a goat’s head, wings, a short columnar body, and spreading skirt. A god is similarly depicted with pants and waist girdle. A ram’s head appears on another seal impression of like character, and in a variant the head of a “sea horse”.

Winged sphinxes recall Egyptian forms. Of special interest is a bull-head deity with female breasts, wings, crouched-up legs and fan tail, which may have been bisexual. This form tends also to grow into a decorative symbol.

The Minotaur was a bull-headed god.

Composite monsters include deities with human bodies and lions’ heads resembling those of Egypt, two dogs’

p. 295

heads divided by a wing and united by a fan tail, a female sphinx with human breasts, butterfly wings and lion’s legs, a human head with wings and lion’s legs, and so on. The form of the Hittite and later Russian double-headed eagle is suggested by a conventionalized lion’s head with birds’ heads protruding from the ears, curving inward in opposition. In almost all cases the animal and composite animal forms tend to become decorative symbols.

The “Black Demeter” of Phigalia was, as has been indicated, associated with cave worship. In Crete there were many sacred caves. Of these the two most famous were those reputed in classical traditions to be the birthplace of Zeus. One is on Mount Ida and the other on Mount Dicte.

It is possible that these rival caves were sacred to rival cults. Beneath Mount Dicte was situated the city of Lyttos, which was, according to legend, hostile to Knossos and an ally of Gortyna. In references of this character there may be memories of ancient inter-state rivalries in Minoan Crete which survived into the Hellenic Period.

Hesiod, 1 dealing with the Zeus birth-legend, relates that the goddess Rhea carried her babe to Lyttos. Other writers were familiar with the legend that Zeus was nursed in the Dictæan cave. Diodorus 2 apparently endeavoured to reconcile the conflicting claims on behalf of the Dictæan and Idæan sanctuaries by stating that the god was first concealed in the one and then transferred to the other to be educated.

According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus 3 it was the Dictæan cave which Minos entered to receive from Zeus the code of Cretan laws. Lucian states that Europa, the mother of Minos, was carried thither by Zeus, his father, who had abducted her. 4

p. 296

From Myths of the Dikteon Cave At the beginning of each year the Greeks held a festival which was called “the awakening of Hercules”. The god returned, like Tammuz, from the underworld to bring fertility to the earth. Deities of this class were supposed to be born anew every spring. Mr. Bosanquet found at Palaikastro, in the Hellenic temple of Jupiter Dicteon, a grey marble tablet with the following inscription:–

“Hail, O great child, son of Kronos, omnipotent, who cometh yearly to Dicta seated on the hyena, escorted by demons. Accept the song which we raise to thee accompanied by the lyre and flute, standing round thy altar, O benefactor.

In this place the Cured received thee, O immortal child, from the hands of thy mother Rhea.” 1

Evidently the cave-god of Crete, whom the Hellenes identified with their Zeus, was supposed to awake from his underworld sleep each year. In other words, the Earth Mother gave birth to him in the mountain sanctuary. This young god is found associated with the goddess on Cretan seals. It has been shown in a previous chapter that there also existed a variant myth about a young goddess which survived in the Demeter-Persephone legend. At what period the myth of Rhea and her son was introduced we have no knowledge. It was possibly of Anatolian origin. The Phrygian Kybele-Attis myth is of similar character.

The birth of Zeus

Undoubtedly the best-known myth connected to the Dikteon Cave, the cause of its fame in antiquity, was that of the birth of Zeus. According to the myth, this was where Rhea bore the greatest of the gods, Zeus, hidden from her husband Cronus. This was also where Zeus grew up under the protection of the legendary Curetes, cared for by the goat Amalthea and the nymph Melissa.
NOTE: The honour of being the birthplace of Zeus is also claimed by the Ideon Cave on Mount Ida or Psiloritis.
Minos receives the laws from Zeus

Local tradition also has it that Minos met his father Zeus in the Dikteon Cave every nine years, when the courses of sun and moon converge, to receive the renewed laws. It is therefore no coincidence that Minos symbolised absolute justice and became a judge in Hades after his death. Of course the Ideon Cave is also claimed to be the meeting-place of Minos and Zeus.

Minos born in the Dikteon Cave

Another, relatively unknown local myth has it that Minos, like his father Zeus, was also born in the Dikteon Cave.
When Zeus, in the form of a bull, abducted the Phoenician princess Europa, he carried her off to Crete, to the Dikteon Cave (unlike the better-known version in which he took her to Gortyn), where he revealed himself to her in all his glory.
Their union bore fruit: Minos, the legendary king of Knossos, Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon.

To visit the Dictæan cave we must first reach the upland plain of Lasithi, to the south-east of Knossos, which is about 5 miles long, and roughly half that in breadth, and has an elevation above the sea-level of some 3000 feet. Mountains surround it on every side, the highest peaks being Aphendis Sarakinos (Mount Dicte), which rises to 5223 feet, and Selena to the north-east, which is almost as lofty. A river traverses the plain from end to end, and is fed by many hill torrents. It finds no valley outlet, but pours into a great cavern towards the north-west. According to local belief, it appears again lower down as the river Aposelemis, which enters the sea a few miles east of Candia.

This upland is approached from the west across the Pediadhan Plain, situated at an elevation of about 200 feet; the mule track then winds its way sheer up the mountain face. From the east the traveller leaves the western shore of the Gulf of Mirabello, and following the valley of the river Kalopotamos, makes a similarly difficult ascent by a zigzag path.

The Lasithi plain, embosomed among sublime mountains, is exceedingly fertile and comparatively populous. The climate resembles that of the more favoured parts of Switzerland. Neither olive trees nor carob trees grow upon it, but the vine flourishes and the grain crops are excellent. The nightingale which pipes so sweetly in lower valleys is here unheard. At morn and sweet eventide, however, the thrush and the blackbird carol amidst the pear and apple trees. On yonder grassy slopes are the familiar wild flowers of temperate climes, including the homely yellow buttercup. The winter is somewhat severe, and it is customary when it approaches to drive flocks and herds to the lower valleys, where they are sheltered and fed until the advent of Spring.

[See also p. 343 of From Minoan Farmers to Roman Traders: Sidelights on the Economy of Ancient Crete by Ángelos Chaniótis: Excavations of the Idaean Cave show a flourishing ceramic industry in central Crete, presumably at Knossos and Gortyn. The Idaean Cave begins to show us the names of Roman potters some from workshops that had migrated to Crete from Italy and many from workshops of purely Cretan origin….early indicators of Romanization among the potters of the island…Cretans with Roman names are known from lamps from the Idaean Cave, in slave ownership at Lyttos  and on waterpipes near Knossos. …By the 3rd century, and the broadly Imperial period, …comparable names appear in all the centers and zones of Crete, from the center — at Gortyn and her territory, Lyttos, and hers Knossos –to the north- and southwest … ]

WEAPONS AND IMPLEMENTS, IN BRONZE, FROM THE DICTEAN CAVE [History of the Dikteon Cave: The archaeological finds to date have shown uninterrupted human presence in the Dikteon Cave from the end of the Neolithic period onwards, i.e. for the last 6,000 years. It may have been inhabited and used for burials, but it certainly operated as a cult centre from the Minoan to the Archaic Period (2000-700 BC), while worship at the cave continued sporadically until Roman times (1st c. BC-1st c. AD), with periods of flowering and relative decline.]

Including double axes, spear-heads, knives, daggers, fish hooks, fibula, tweezers, gimlet, &c.

p. 297

On one of the ridges of Mount Dicte are the ruins of the city of Lyttos, and on another, right opposite, the modern village of Psychro. Five hundred feet above Psychro is the double cavern associated with the legends of Zeus–the famous Dictæan cave.As far back as the “eighties” it was known to contain archaeological relics. The earliest finds were made by goatherds who were accustomed to shelter in it, and after these passed into the hands of dealers, various archæologists paid visits to Psychro and the cave. It was not, however, until 1900 that thorough and systematic exploration of it was conducted by Mr. D. G. Hogarth. [see The Dictaean CaveD. G. Hogarth, The Annual of the British School at Athens Vol. 6, (1899/1900), pp. 94-116]

This accomplished archæologist did not achieve success without overcoming considerable difficulties. Rock-falls had occurred in the cave, and he had to have recourse to blasting operations. Besides, part of it is ever flooded. “Water flowing in from the east has”, writes Mr. Hogarth, “penetrated in two directions right and left. The main flow to southward has excavated an abyss, which falls at first sheer and then slopes steeply for some 200 feet in all to an icy pool, out of which rises a forest of stalactites.” 1

Inside the cave were found portions of walls, a paved way, and bits of sawn marble an inch thick which may have covered it, an altar-like edifice beside which lay a small stone “table of offerings” and fragments of about thirty other “tables”, lamps, cups, broken vases and ashes. Professor Myres found one of the cave “tables” in 1896, and another was purchased from dealers by Sir Arthur Evans in the same year.

The deposit, which was deepest and least disturbed in the north-west part of the upper cave, was divided by strata of pottery fragments and animal bones, between which lay ash and carbonized matter. The oldest pottery p. 298 was of the Kamares (Middle Minoan) variety. In the surface layer were lamps of the Roman period and a silver Byzantine cross, indicating that long after the cave ceased to attract crowds of votaries, the memory of its sacred character survived among the people. Terra-cotta figurines were also found.

When the upper cave was thoroughly explored, Mr. Hogarth prepared to take his departure. Before leaving, however, he sent some of the workers down the steep slope to conduct a search in the lower cave. Here, to the astonishment of everyone, a great archæological harvest awaited the gleaners. Hundreds of metal offerings were lying in the mud around and below the water, and among the niches formed by stalagmite, some being almost enclosed like flies in amber. In two days the lower cave was cleared. “Four days later”, Mr. Hogarth relates, “I took all the bronze pieces, amounting to nearly 500, the objects in gold, hard stone, ivory, bone and terra-cotta, a selection of the stone tables of offerings and of the pottery and specimens of skulls, horns and bones found in the upper Grot, to Candia. What I left under the care of the village (Psychro) officials included no fewer than 550 unbroken specimens of the common type of little wheel-made plain cup, all obviously new at the time they were deposited in the cave, and a great store of bones.” 1

The bronze figurines of human shape are of both sexes. They are usually posed in devotional attitudes, and may represent votaries or deities, or include both. One figurine is clearly Egyptian. It wears the high double plumes of the god Ra, and seems to have been deposited about 900 B.C. by some pious wanderer who believed, perhaps, that the Theban deity and the Cretan p. 299 Zeus were identical. Animal figurines include rams, bulls, and oxen. An ox and a ram with projections from their shoulders fit into a miniature chariot which may have been a god’s vehicle. On a gem in Sir Arthur Evans’s collection a chariot is drawn by goats, as was the car of Thor, the Germanic Zeus. Models of weapons are comparatively numerous. These include the double axe, lance-heads, darts, and knives. A knife with a slightly curved blade has a human head finely carved at the end of the handle. Among the ivory and bone ornaments special interest attaches to “three volute-like objects” which, as Mr. Hogarth remarks, “are closely paralleled by Bosnian fibula plates”. They also suggest the well-known “spectacle” symbols on Scottish sculptured stones. Hairpins, needles, and brooches figure among the finds.

There are two conspicuous caves on the slopes of Mount Ida, in which votive offerings were deposited. The first, on the southern side, is situated above the village of Kamares, and is faintly visible from Phæstos. Professor Myres explored it in the “nineties” and found, among other relics, the first specimens of the now famous “Kamares pottery”. The other cave, towards the north. east, has been identified as the rival of the one on Mount Dicte. In front of it a colossal altar was carved out of the rock, but at what period there can be no certainty. Professor Halbherr, who conducted excavations here, was less successful than Mr. Hogarth. He obtained, however, a number of votive offerings in terra-cotta and bronze. The latter, which include shields, come down to the ninth and perhaps even the eighth centuries B.C., and show strong traces of Dorian influence (=quintessentially ancient Greek or Ionian / map areas in red).

This Zeus cave on Mount Ida can be approached from the romantic plane of Nida or Nitha, which lies about 5 miles east of the central peak of Ida at an elevation of p. 300 over 3000 feet. It is about 2 miles long and ½ mile broad. The snow vanishes in the month of May. The secluded upland is then covered with fresh green pasture, to which shepherds drive their flocks, as did their ancestors in ancient days, when the grass in the lower valleys withers in the great summer heat. Yellow wild flowers of the buttercup variety are as thick in the grass as are poppies in some fields of corn. This fact may have given rise to the classic legend that the sheep which graze on Nida plain acquire golden teeth. Modern shepherds say that the pollen of the wild flowers does leave on the teeth of their sheep a perceptible yellow stain. Travellers who have climbed up to the plain speak with enthusiasm of its cool, bracing atmosphere, and the clear starry nights of wonderful listening silence amidst the serenity and grandeur of the mountains. Ancient Cretans who worshipped their deities in such places must have experienced the feelings of awe and devotion that so profoundly impress the mind in lofty solitudes “far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife”.


The group shown above was taken from a carpenter’s kit which had been concealed in a house in Gournia. The implements include axes, chisels, adzes, nails, &c.

The practice of performing religious and magical ceremonies in caves goes back, as we have seen (Chapters I and II), to remote Palæolithic times, when the huntsmen dwelt in them, buried their dead in them, and in some drew figures of animals and demons or gods on roofs and walls. In Crete, caves were sanctuaries in the Neolithic Age. The cave of Skalais at Præsos, for instance, has yielded Neolithic as well as Kamares pottery. No votive offerings earlier than Middle Minoan 2160-1900 BC have been found in the Dictæan cave. The lowest stratum begins with that period. Outside in the terrace deposit the Neolithic fragments were apparently deposited by water. What seems probable is that the Lasithi plain was a mountain lake in Neolithic times, and that it gradually subsided as its river found a  

p. 301

subterranean outlet. For a considerable interval afterwards the cave may have been completely filled with water. If so, it was probably regarded as sacred on that account. Elsewhere sacred caves have invariably wells, and some of these are supposed to be possessed of curative properties. Drops of water falling from roofs are said to cure deafness, restore fading eyesight, and heal wounds. In these islands “wishing wells” receive offerings of pins and other objects, especially on May Day. Rags of clothing are attached also to trees or bushes overhanging wells anciently sacred. This practice obtains in Crete as well as in the British Isles and throughout Western Europe. Writing at Aghia Triadha, Angelo Mosso has recorded: “Every day . . . I passed a curious tree covered with fetishes. . . . Near a ruined church stands an olive-tree hung with bits of rag which the peasants tie on the branches, hundreds of shreds of every colour, worn by rain and wind. . . . I asked what the curious decoration of the tree was, and was told that anyone who suffered from malarial fever binds it to the tree with a shred of his clothing, a handkerchief, or a ribbon, and says a prayer, hoping to be cured thereby. . . . Witchcraft is common in Crete. Rags and dirty bits of stuff, into which the witches profess to have banished diseases, are constantly found in the walls of churches.” 1 Here we have one reason why offerings were deposited in caves and thrown into the fire at Petsofa, near Palaikastro. The “wishers” affected a ceremonial connection with a sacred place to “switch on” the good influence and “switch off” the evil influence, which was negatived by being bound.

The “seven sleepers” of various countries lie in sacred caves.Although the date of the first settlement in Kusadasi near Ephesus is unknown it is clear that it goes back in time. In 3000 BC the Karia came from Anatolia and settled here. In 12th century BC, it became a part of the Ionian League and was then known as Panionia. In 546 BC, the Persians came here had seized the entire coastline, with Kusadasi then being taken over by the Romans in 200 BC. As the earliest versions of the legend spread from Ephesus, an early Christian catacomb came to be associated with it, attracting scores of pilgrims. On the slopes of Mount Pion (Mount Coelian) near Ephesus (near modern Selçuk in Turkey), the “grotto” of the Seven Sleepers with ruins of the church built over it was excavated in 1927–28. The excavation brought to light several hundred graves which were dated to the 5th and 6th centuries. Inscriptions dedicated to the Seven Sleepers were found on the walls of the church and in the graves.

 close connexions in the Bronze Age between the Cretans and the Karians, and the place name Labranda appeared to be etymologically related to the word Labyrinth, the name of the palace at Knossos in Crete. Since Persson believed that some Karian 7th century BC script signs had a Cretan Bronze Age origin, the deposed Manapa-Tarhunta of “the land of the Seha River”, one of the principalities within the Luwian Arzawa complex in western Anatolia. This they did, allowing Manapa-Tarhunta to take back his kingdom. In 1274 BC, Karkisa are also mentioned among those who fought on the Hittite Empire side against the Egyptians in the Battle of Kadesh. Taken as a whole, Hittite records seem to point at a Luwian ancestry for the Carians …According to Thucydides, it was largely the Carians who settled the Cyclades prior to the Minoans. The Middle Bronze Age (MMI–MMII) expansion of the Minoans into this region seems to have come at their expense. Intending to secure revenue in the Cyclades, Minos of Knossos established a navy with which he established his first colonies by taking control of the Hellenic sea and ruling over the Cyclades islands. In doing so, Minos expelled the Carians, many of which had turned to piracy as a way of life. During the Athenian purification of Delos, all graves were exhumed and it was found that more than half were Carians …They are sometimes referred to as the “Cari” or “Khari”. Carian remnants have been found in the ancient city of Persepolis or modern Takht-e-Jamshid in Iran….the Carians as being referred to as “cocks” by the Persians on account of their wearing crests on their helmets; the epithet was expressed in the form of a Persian privilege when a Carian soldier responsible for killing Cyrus the Younger was rewarded by Artaxerxes II (r. 405/404–359/358 BC) with the honor of leading the Persian army with a golden cock on the point of his spear…

One of the Carian ritual centers was Mylasa, where they worshipped their supreme god, called ‘the Carian Zeus’ by Herodotus. Unlike Zeus, this was a warrior god.

It is possible that the goddess Hecate, the patron of pathways and crossroads, originated among the Carians.[10] Herodotus calls her Athena and says that her priestess would grow a beard when disaster pended.[11]

On Mount Latmos near Miletus, the Carians worshipped Endymion, who was the lover of the Moon and fathered fifty children. Endymion slept eternally, in the sanctuary devoted to him, which lasted into Roman times.

There is at least one named priestess known to us from this region, Carminia Ammia who was priestess of Thea Maeter Adrastos and of Aphrodite Archaeologists also confirmed the presence of Carians in Sardis, Rhodes, and in Egypt where they served as mercenaries of the Pharaoh. In Rhodes, specifically, a type of Carian chamber-tomb known as a Ptolemaion may be attributed to a period of Carian hegemony on the island. 

In ancient times the people living in south-western Anatolia were known as the Karians. They had their own language, Karian, which was an Indo-European language related to that of their neighbours in Lykia to the east. Their country Karia was bordered to the north by the river Maeander (Büyük Menderes Çayı) and in the east by the river Indos (Dalaman Çayı). From 546 BC Karia formed part of the Persian empire, and was ruled by satraps appointed by the Great King at Persepolis in Persia. In the 4th century, Karia was ruled by satraps of a local dynasty. The first one was Hekatomnos (392-377 BC). As rulers after him followed his five sons and daughters, one after the other. They are called the Hekatomnids, which means the descendants of Hekatomnos. After the oldest, Maussollos (377-352), came his wife and sister Artemisia (352-351), then Idrieus (351-344), followed by Ada, who was also his sister and wife (344-341) and, after her, the youngest brother Pixodaros (341-336). Alexander the Great put Ada back in charge in 334 BC.
The most important sanctuary in western Karia was Labraunda, especially in the 4th century BC, since the Hekatomnids favoured it more than any other shrine in Karia. At that time the sanctuary of Labraunda does not seem to have belonged to any city. It was probably an independent shrine and a place for pilgrimage, ruled by its priests and belonging to the people of all surrounding villages.

Labraunda had been a sanctuary for centuries before the 4th century BC. The oldest potsherds found thus far in the excavations date from the mid-7th century, but the shrine may turn out to be much older. It is conceivable that Labraunda was first seen as a sacred place because of a remarkable rock just above the sanctuary. It has the appearance of having been split in two by a thunderbolt, and it is quite possible that this rock together with the thunderstorms that from time to time occur here made the people around believe that this was the abode of the sky god. Just under the split rock there is a source of clear, fresh water, and a simple spring house was built here in ancient times. It is probable that the oldest finds from the site are to be found in the neighbourhood of this spring.

Inland Karia was not urbanized in the Archaic period (7th – 6th centuries BC) but was an area with many small villages and hamlets. To protect their common interests they were joined in various confederations or leagues, of which the largest one in the 5th and 4th centuries was called The Karians. The first ancient author who mentioned both the league of the Karians and the sanctuary of Labraunda was Herodotos, who lived in the 5th century BC. He came from Halikarnassos (today’s Bodrum) and his father had a Karian name, Lyxes. Acording to Herodotos the forces of the Karians took refuge at the Labraunda shrine, where a battle followed against the Persians. It appears that Labraunda was an important meeting-place for the Karian league. It has been suggested that one reason for the Great King of Persia to appoint Hekatomnos satrap of Karia a century later was that he already held the position of the leader and the King of the Karian league, a position that Maussollos may have taken over after his death. This could also serve to explain why the Hekatomnids made Labraunda their favoured sanctuary.

In the 3rd century, another league appears to have taken over as the most important Karian confederation. It was called The Chrysaoreis. According to the geographer Strabo, who wrote in the late 1st century BC or early 1st century AD, they had their meeting-place in the territory of Stratonikeia, at the temple of Zeus Chrysaoreus. This had, however, not always been so. An inscription shows that this league used Labraunda as a meeting-place in 267 BC; some other inscriptions from Labraunda also mention the Chrysaoreis.

See also Karian rock-cut tombs and sarcophagi, pit and cist graves ca. mid 5th C BC Mylasa The total amount of the recorded graves reaches now 104. The necropolis occupies a wide area following the sacred way leading from Mylasa to Labraunda to Alinda. 

INDOS was a River-God of southern Karia, in Anatolia (modern Turkey). The River Indos flowed into the Aegean Sea near the town of Kaunos, on the Karian mainland opposite the island of Rhodes. The most important neighbouring rivers were the Maiandros to the north, and Lykian Xanthos in the south-east– Hyginus, Fabulae – Latin Mythography C2nd A.D.  

Temple of Zeus at Labraunda- the Ionic-style temple had an earlier phase, probably dating to the end of the 6th century BC. At that time it had only two columns at the entrance on the eastern front and a square cella, measuring 6.6 m by 6.6 m on the inside According to Strabo, the statue was a so-called xoanon (a wooden, or primitive-looking statue); on reliefs and coins he is shown with a spear in the left hand and a double axe in the right. [why?]According to Plutarch (2nd century AD), this double axe had once been won by Herakles from the Amazon queen and given to the Lydian kings; subsequently, in the midseventh century BC king Arselis of Mylasa had given the axe to the statue of Zeus at Labraunda, after having received it as a gift from king Gyges of Sardes as a reward for his help in the fight for power of Lydia. Due to similarities between the Zeus temple at Labraunda and the Athena temple at Priene it has been suggested that both temples were built by the same architect, the famous Pytheos, who was also the architect of the Mausoleum at Halikarnassos, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. The temple at Priene was laid out on a grid plan, which resulted in uniform spacing of all columns; it has a three-stepped platform (krepis) with a slight curvature, it has a shallow enclosed space at the back (a so-called opisthodomos) and it has anta capitals of a type believed to have been invented by Pytheos. Since the same details also occur at the Labraunda Temple of Zeus, and since the Priene temple is slightly later, it seems reasonable to assume that Pytheos built the temple at Labraunda before he started building at Priene — read about the battle and fall of the Karians, and the two temples of Zeus   Qin shihuangdi’s Great Wall of China may have been a legacy from the Karians – see Karian fortresses – Great Wall construction was begun  ca.  7th century BC;[3] these, later joined together and made bigger, stronger, and unified are now collectively referred to as the Great Wall. Especially famous is the wall built between 220–206 BC by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. Little of that wall remains. see the Akropolis fortress

Ptolemeus Egypt – Greek and Egyptian merger of gods under the Graeco-Seleucid kingdom of Seleucus and Antiochus (Macedonian peoples, but multiracial army – made up of semitic peoples with Iranian and Anatolian elements subjects were populations of Mesopotamia, Iran, Syria, Asia Minor and Palestine)

 They appear to be identical with the spirits of vegetation, which slumber during the winter and return

p. 302

in spring. At the beginning of each year the Greeks held a festival which was called “the awakening of Hercules”. The god returned, like Tammuz, from the underworld to bring fertility to the earth. Deities of this class were supposed to be born anew every spring. Mr. Bosanquet found at Palaikastro, in the Hellenic temple of Jupiter Dicteon, a grey marble tablet with the following inscription:–

“Hail, O great child, son of Kronos, omnipotent, who cometh yearly to Dicta seated on the hyena, escorted by demons. Accept the song which we raise to thee accompanied by the lyre and flute, standing round thy altar, O benefactor.

In this place the Cured received thee, O immortal child, from the hands of thy mother Rhea.” 1

Evidently the cave-god of Crete, whom the Hellenes identified with their Zeus, was supposed to awake from his underworld sleep each year. In other words, the Earth Mother gave birth to him in the mountain sanctuary. This young god is found associated with the goddess on Cretan seals. It has been shown in a previous chapter that there also existed a variant myth about a young goddess which survived in the Demeter-Persephone legend. At what period the myth of Rhea and her son was introduced we have no knowledge. It was possibly of Anatolian origin. The Phrygian Kybele-Attis myth is of similar character.

It would appear that we have traces in Crete of more than one religious cult. But behind all the developed conceptions and imported beliefs lay, apparently, the background of primitive religion which the earliest settlers had brought with them and adapted to local needs. The oldest religious practices survived, no doubt, among the

p. 303

masses of the people, just as the practice of tying rags on the olive-tree at some spot anciently sacred survives at the present day.

The comparative study of Cretan religious symbols tends to show that, like the Pelasgians, the Minoans worshipped deities of the underworld-the “hidden deities” of Egyptian religion–who were “Fates” or “Disposers”, and were originally nameless. That is, they worshipped the spirits of nature and the spirits of ancestors. These symbols include pillars, the “horns of consecration”, and the double axe. Withal there were sacred wells and mountains and sacred animals associated with the “Great Mother” which were represented in symbols, as is shown by the evidence of the seal impressions.

The worship of pillars seems to have been connected with the worship of trees and mountains. In Egypt it was believed by certain cults that the iron vault of heaven was supported by two mountains. “Out of one mountain. came the sun every morning, and into the other he entered. every evening. The mountain of sunrise was called Bakhau, and the mountain of sunset Manu.” 1 Another theory was that the sky rested on two pillars, and a later one, which obtained, however, before the pyramid texts; were inscribed, set forth that there were four pillars”–the pillars of Shu”–one at each cardinal point. The pillars in time were regarded as the sceptres of the gods of the four quarters. According to the teachings of the Ra sun cult, the cave-like openings which the sun entered. at evening and emerged from at morning were guarded. by lions, or the deities with lions’ bodies and human heads which the Greeks called “sphinxes”. The northern Egyptian lion-god was Aker.

In Babylonia it was believed that the sky was supported

p. 304

by the world-surrounding chain of hills. Reference is made in the Gilgamesh epic to the mountain of Mashu or Mashi; that is, “the mountain of the Sunset”. Its cave-like entrance is guarded by scorpion-men, or a scorpion-man and a scorpion-woman.

Their backs mount up to the rampart of heaven,
And their foreparts reach down beneath Arallu (the Under-world) . . .
From sunrise to sunset they guard the sun. 1

There was a door on the cave, and Gilgamesh was allowed to pass through it to penetrate the dark tunnel leading to the Sea of Death, which only Shamash (the Sun) could cross. 2 Gilgamesh was the first “opener of the way”. Like the Indian Yama and the Egyptian Apuatu (Osiris) he discovered the path leading to Paradise, and discovered how mortals could be ferried over the dreaded sea.

The symbols of the Babylonian gods Ea, Anu, and Enlil were tiarras, or mountain-like cones, resembling somewhat the bee-hive-shaped caps on the Zakro sealings. Temples were erected like pillars or peaks. Ea’s temple at Eridu, like that of Merodach at Babylon, was called E-sagila, which signifies “temple of the high head”, or “the lofty house”. Enlil’s temple was E-kur, “mountain house”. Various deities were symbolized as pillars surmounted by heads. Nergal’s symbol was a lion’s head on a pillar, Zamama’s a vulture’s head on a pillar, Merodach’s a lance-head on a pillar, and so on. Anshar, “the most high”, was, in astronomical lore, the polar star, which was figured as a he-goat, or satyr, on the summit of the peak of heaven. The Assyrian Ashur was sometimes symbolized by a disk enclosing a feather-robed archer,

p. 305

resting on a bull’s head, with spreading horns, on the summit of a standard.

Ea, in one of the myths, built the world “as an architect builds a house”. 1 According to the Rigveda the Aryo-Indian god Indra similarly constructed the house of the universe, which appears to have been supported by the “world tree“. 2 The world-supporting tree, Ygdrasil, figures in Teutonic mythology. Mount Meru, the Indian Olympus, which supports the Paradise of Indra, is “the world spine”. In Egypt the ded (dad, or tet) amulet is the spine of Osiris in his character as the world-god.

According to Wiedemann ded means “firm”, “established”. This amulet was laid on the neck of the mummy to ensure resurrection. In Chapter CLV in the Book of the Dead the picture of the symbol is given, and the deceased, addressing Osiris, says: “Thy back (backbone) is thine, thou who art of the still heart (Osiris) . . . I bring unto thee the ded, whereupon thou rejoicest. These are the words to speak over a gilded ded made from the heart of the sycamore and placed on the neck of the glorified one.” 3

The ded symbol is a pillar surmounted by four crossbars. Budge says that these bars “are intended to indicate the four branches of a roof-tree of a house which were turned to the four cardinal points”. In the story of the search made by Isis for the slain Osiris it is related that a tree grew round his body and completely enclosed it. The King of Byblus had this tree cut down and made it a pillar for the roof of his house. Isis flew round the pillar in the form of a swallow, and was permitted subsequently to carry it away.

p. 306

The body of Osiris was afterwards dismembered by Set, but Isis collected the portions. The backbone was found at the Nilotic city of Daddu or Tettu. At this cult centre Osiris was “lord of the pillars”, and the hieroglyphic signs of the city include two Osirian pillars with cross-bars. Here a great festival, which the Pharaoh attended, was held once a year, and observance was made of the solemn ceremony of setting up “the pillar symbol of the backbone of Osiris”. 1 Like the amulet, the pillar may have been made from “the heart” of the sycamore tree.

In his fusion with the world-god Ptah, Osiris was invariably represented as a mummy grasping in his hands in front of him a staff surmounted by the ded cross-bars, and the ankh or life symbol.

Bata, the hero of a well-known Egyptian folk-tale, who is evidently an early form of Osiris, exists for a time as a blossom on a tree-top, then as a bull, and then as two trees which grew up on either side of the entrance to the King’s palace. 2

It will thus be seen that the sacred pillar, tree, or mountain was the god, or the spine of the god, which supported the universe. As the world-god Ptah sits on a mountain, his head supports the sky, and his feet reach to the underworld.

The idea that a spine was a charm for stability in life and death is probably of great antiquity. Spines of fish were laid on the bodies of the dead in Palæolithic times. In Crete the necklaces made from the vertebræ of an ox, or sheep, had, no doubt, a magical significance. The Ligurian and Cretan Neolithic people who carried home portions of the backbones of whales may have believed

p. 307

that by doing so they prolonged their lives and charmed their dwellings against attack and disaster.

The dolmens and the single standing-stones–the archæological “Bethels”–which were set up in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages throughout Europe, may have been symbols of the god of the pillars, as well as “spirit-houses” of the dead. In India standing-stones are usually erected below trees. The tree spirit may have been believed to sleep for part of the year in the stone.

A mass of evidence has accumulated to indicate that pillars, mountains, and trees were worshipped in Crete, pre-Hellenic Greece, and Anatolia. The “Lion’s Gate” of Mycenæ shows two lions supporting the sacred pillar. They are evidently, like the Egyptian lions, the guardians of the world deity. Cretan seals depict the mother goddess on a mountain-top supported similarly by a couple of lions, and also standing or seated between a lion and a lioness. The Cretan pillar is seen similarly guarded by lions, griffins, bulls, sphinxes, or wild goats. When the sacred tree is shown like the pillar, animals guard it also. An intaglio seal shows water-demons on either side of a sacred tree, heraldically opposed, and holding jugs above the branches. These demons have been compared to the Egyptian hippopotamus goddess Taurt. The Babylonian lion-headed eagle, a form of Nin Girsu (Tammuz), which figures on the silver vase of a Sumerian King of Lagash, is supported by two lions, on the backs of which its claws rest. The Anatolian goddess Kedesh, who was imported into Egypt in the Empire Period, stands nude on the back of a lion. The lion was evidently the symbol of the earth, and the various figures of lions devouring animals, found in various countries, probably symbolized the earth receiving its propitiatory sacrifice. Myths about the mother-serpent (the earth-serpent) attacking and disabling p. 308 the eagle may have been connected with a similar belief.

Sir Arthur Evans, who first threw light on the significance of the pillar and other symbols of Crete, 1 believes that tree and pillar worship in Palestine and Anatolia was “taken over from the older stock” by Semites and Hittites. A later infusion of Minoan ideas into Anatolia and Palestine was caused by the colonizing Philistines, Carians, and Lycians who were of Ægean origin.[probably two-way interaction and exchanges… Cretan DNA has Anatolian in it..Anatolian civilization – henges oldest in the world]

“The undoubted parallelism observable between the tree and pillar cult of the Mycenæan (Ægean) and that of the Semitic world“, writes Sir Arthur Evans, “should be always regarded from this broad aspect. . . . The coincidences that we find, so far as they are to be explained by the general resemblance presented by a parallel stage of religious evolution, may be regarded as parallel survivals due to ethnic elements with European affinities which on the east Mediterranean shores largely underlay the Semitic. . . . The worship of the sacred stone or pillar known as Massêba or nosb is very characteristic of Semitic religion.” There were also Semitic sacred hills and sacred trees. The two pillars, supporting the Philistine temple of Dagon, which were pulled down by Samson, no doubt had a sacred character. In Scandinavian legends the sacred tree supports the chief’s dwelling. Sigmund, Volsung’s son, draws from the house tree, called “Branstock”, the magic sword which Odin thrust into it, saying: “He who draws the sword from the stock shall have it as a gift from me, and it will stand him in good stead”. 2

In Crete altars and tables of offerings were supported on pillars. On seals a columnar form was sometimes

p. 309

given, as has been indicated, to animal-headed deities. Pillars were actually worshipped, being the abodes of spirits. On a cylinder from Mycenæ, for instance, a male figure is posed in an attitude of adoration before “five columns of architectural character with vertical and spiral flutings”. No doubt the pillars of Egyptian and Grecian temples had originally a religious significance. In Christian churches ancient Pagan symbols have been perpetuated as architectural conventions. The cock, which was supposed to be a charm against demons, and consequently perched as a sentinel on the “world tree” of Teutonic Mythology, still appears on spires, where it indicates how the wind blows. In Scottish Mythology the north wind brings the evil spirits and the south wind the good spirits. “Shut the windows towards the north, and open the windows towards the south, and do not let the fire go out”, is an instruction given in a folk-tale by a man who desires his house to be guarded against the visits of demons. The Teutonic Jotuns were in the east. Thor always went eastward to wage war against them.

The “horns of consecration” were originally the horns of the sacred bull or sacred cow. In Egypt the cow-goddess Hathor was a world-deity. Heaven rested on her back, and the under part of her body, which is usually shown covered with stars, formed the firmament. Her four legs were thus the sky pillars. Another belief was that the sky rested on the horns of the sacred animals. Thus we find a reference in the “Book of That which is in the Underworld” to the “Horn of the West”, 1 apparently the same as the “pillar of the west” and “Sunset-Hill”. The sun-god Ra, who absorbed the attributes of all other deities, is referred to in the “Pyramid Texts” as the deity with “four horns, one toward each of the cardinal

p. 310

points”. 1 In Crete the horns were of great ritual importance. “At times”. Sir Arthur Evans writes, 2 “these have the appearance of being actually horns of oxen, but more generally they seem to be a conventional imitation of what must be regarded as unquestionably the original type-that is, a kind of impost or base terminating at the two ends in two horn-like excrescences. Sometimes this cult object appears on the altar. At other times it rises above the entablature of an archway connected with a sacred tree or on the roof of a shrine. It is frequently set at the foot of sacred trees.” Occasionally the double axe is surmounted on a staff between the horns. A horned cult object in terra-cotta, with the eye symbol of Anatolian pottery painted on the base, was found in one of the Cretan votive caves. The horned symbol has been found associated with early Bronze Age relics in Sardinia, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, and the Balearic Islands, which were probably the Cassiterides Islands in which tin was found. It may be that the Cretan symbol was distributed by early sea-traders. In Syria the altar of Astarte had horns. The “horns of the altar” are referred to in the Bible.

The double-axe symbol was evidently of remote origin. Weapons were in the animistic stage of primitive culture believed to be possessed of spirits, and were given individual names. “Every weapon has its demon” is an ancient Gaelic axiom. The sword of the Scoto-Irish folk-hero Finn-mac-Coul was called “Mac-an-Luin”. In the Indian epic, the Mahábhárata, the warrior Arjuna receives a celestial weapon from the god Shiva. “And that weapon then began to wait upon Arjuna”, the narrative proceeds.

And the gods and the Danavas (Titans) beheld that


p. 311

terrible weapon in its embodied form stay by the side of Arjuna of immeasurable energy.” 1 Rama of the Rámáyana is adored by the spirits of his celestial weapons. 2 The Indian weapons were all named.

That this belief goes back to Palæolithic times is suggested by the evidence of Egypt. “The common word given by the Egyptians to God, and god, and spirits of every kind, and beings of all sorts, and kinds, and forms, which were supposed to possess any superhuman or supernatural power, was”, says Professor Budge, “‘Neter’. The hieroglyph used as the determinative of this word, and also as an ideograph, is the axe with a handle. The common word for goddess is Netert.” Professor Budge shows that “from the texts wherein the hieroglyphics are coloured it is tolerably clear that the axe head was fastened to its handle by means of thongs of leather”. 3 As holes were bored in axes at an early period, Mr. Legge considers that the fastenings indicate that the symbolic use of the axe “goes back to the Neolithic and perhaps the Palæolithic Age”. He adds: “It is now, I think, generally accepted that the use of the stone axe precedes that of the flint arrow-head or flint knife; and it thoroughly agrees with the little we know of the workings of the mind of primitive man that this, the first weapon that came into his hands, should have been the first material object to which he offered worship”. An axe is worshipped by a priest in Chaldæan garb on an Assyrian agate cylinder. The axe also appears as a symbol “in the prehistoric remains of the funereal caves of the Marne, of Scandinavia and America”. 4 We have already alluded to its appearance on the standing-stones of Brittany, and to

p. 312

the theory that Labyrinth is derived from Labrys, “the axe”. Professor Maspero shows that in Egyptian “a town neterit is ‘a divine town’; an arm neteri is ‘a divine arm'”. He adds that “neteri is employed metaphorically in Egyptian as is ‘divine’ in French”. 1

Votive axes, too small for use, have been found in Cretan graves and sanctuaries. The earliest form was the single flat axe: the double-headed axe was first made after copper came into use. Mosso gives interesting particulars regarding votive axes found on the Continent. Some of these are of a friable sandstone, and could have served no practical purpose. 2 Small axes, which were pierced for suspension, were used as charms in Malta and elsewhere. The sacred axe survives to the present day in the Congo


Wikipedia: The oldest evidence of inhabitants on Crete are preceramic Neolithic farming community remains that date to approximately 7000 BC.[15] A comparative study of DNA haplogroups of modern Cretan men showed that a male founder group from Anatolia, or the Levant, is shared with the Greeks.[R.J. King, S.S. Ozcan et al., “Differential Y-chromosome Anatolian influences on the Greek and Cretan Neolithic”] The neolithic population dwelt in open villages. On the shores, there were fishermen’s huts, while the fertile Mesara Plain was used for agriculture.

At the end of the MMII period (1700 BC), there was a large disturbance in Crete, probably an earthquake, or possibly an invasion from Anatolia.[20] The palaces at Knossos, Phaistos, Malia, and Kato Zakros were destroyed. But with the start of the Neopalatial period, population increased again,[21] the palaces were rebuilt on a larger scale and new settlements were built all over the island. This period (the 17th and 16th centuries BC, MM III / Neopalatial) represents the apex of the Minoan civilization. There was another natural catastrophe around 1600 BC, possibly an eruption of the Thera volcano. Even this disaster didn’t discourage the Minoans: the palaces were again rebuilt and were made even greater than before.[18]

The influence of the Minoan civilization outside Crete manifests itself in the presence of valuable Minoan handicraft items on the Greek mainland. It is likely that the ruling house of Mycenae was connected to the Minoan trade network. After around 1700 BC, the material culture on the Greek mainland achieved a new level due to Minoan influence.[18] Connections between Egypt and Crete are prominent. Minoan ceramics are found in Egyptian cities and the Minoans imported several items from Egypt, especially papyrus, as well as architectural and artistic ideas. The Egyptian hieroglyphs served as a model for the Minoan pictographic writing, from which the famous Linear A and Linear B writing systems later developed. Minoans were traders, and their cultural contacts reached far beyond the island of Crete — to Egypt’s Old Kingdom, to copper-bearing Cyprus, Canaan, and the Levantine coasts beyond, and to Anatolia.

*** In Babylonia the Sumerian power suffers decline, and two sets of invaders, the Amorites in the north and the Elamites in the south, wage a determined struggle for p. 315 supremacy. This is roughly the Age of Abraham, whose migration from Sumeria northward through Mesopotamia into Palestine appears to have been one of the results of the ethnic disturbances waged in his native land.

Troy has fallen, and invaders from Thrace have penetrated eastward through Anatolia to constitute an element in the Muski-Phrygian blend. The Hittites are powerful in Cappadocia, and are extending their sway into northern Syria.

Of special interest is the Biblical reference to the battle of four kings against five.

“And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel King of Shinar, Arioch King of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer King of Elam, and Tidal King of Nations; that these made war with Bera King of Sodom, and with Birsha King of Gomorrah, Shinab King of Admah, and Shemeber King of Zeboiim, and the King of Bela, which is Zoar.” 1

Amraphel is believed to be Hammurabi of Sumer (Shinar), Arioch of Larsa, (Ellasar) a Sumerian city king who was a son of the Elamite monarch, and Tidal a Hittite ruler. This confederacy may have been formed against common enemies in the Western Land (Syria and Palestine) in the interests of trade. It could not have been of long endurance. After twelve years of subjection the western tribes rebelled, 2 and the four allies again “smote them”. Thereafter Hammurabi threw off his allegiance to Elam and extended his sway over the greater part of Babylonia and Assyria, while he also included the Western Land in his sphere of influence. About the same period (2000 B.C.) the Twelfth Dynasty was established in Egypt, its first great king, being Amenemhet I.

When the first palaces of Knossos and Phæstos were erected the Cretans were trading with the Twelfth Dynasty merchants of Egypt. The spiral design had become popular among Nilotic seal engravers, who combined it with the lily flower, and the Cretan potters imitated them. Middle Minoan vases from Phæstos are decorated with the Egyptian lily spiral, which in one case is utilized in quite a new way. The papyrus designs were also taken over by the Cretan artists, and used with characteristic freedom. So greatly admired were the Kamares vases of Crete’s Middle Minoan Period that they were freely purchased in Egypt. Professor Flinders Petrie found fragments of them in a tomb at Kahun of the Twelfth Dynasty, while a Cretan vessel was found by Professor Garstang in a grave of similar date at Abydos.

It was during the Twelfth Dynasty that the great Egyptian Labyrinth was erected. Its builder was Pharaoh Amenemhet III. According to Herodotus it had twelve covered courts and three thousand apartments, half of which were underground. “No stranger”, says Strabo, “could find his way in or out of this building without a guide”. It is possible that the Egyptian Labyrinth was an imitation of the mazy palaces of Crete.

Probably it was owing to its close commercial connections with Crete that Egypt received during the Twelfth Dynasty such liberal supplies of tin that bronze was freely manufactured.

p. 318

Towards the close of Crete’s Middle Minoan II Period the Twelfth Egyptian Dynasty came to an end, and the Sebek-Ra rulers of the Thirteenth Dynasty established their sway, which became centralized in Upper Egypt. Foreign settlers were increasing in number in the Delta region. In Asia great ethnic disturbances, due to widespread migrations, were in progress. The Hittites had grown powerful and were known both in Egypt and Babylonia. Assyria was overrun by a non-Semitic people who ultimately established a military aristocracy in northern Mesopotamia and brought into existence the Kingdom of Mitanni. In time the Hammurabi Dynasty of Babylon was overthrown by Hittite raiders, who were followed by the Kassites.

A memory of the ancient island conflicts appears to survive in the following reference by Herodotus to the Lycians: “The Lycians”, he wrote, “are in good truth anciently from Crete, which island, in former days, was wholly peopled by barbarians. 1 A quarrel arising there between the two sons of Europa, Sarpedon and Minos, as to which of them should be king, Minos, whose party prevailed, drove Sarpedon and his followers into banishment. The exiles sailed to Asia, and landed on the Milyan territory. Milyas was the ancient name of the country now inhabited by the Lycians; the Milyæ of the present day were, in those times, called Solymi. So long as Sarpedon reigned, his followers kept the name which they brought with them from Crete, and were called Termilæ, as the Lycians still are by those who p. 319 live in their neighbourhood. . . . Their customs are partly Cretan, partly Carian.” 1 Herodotus also noted that the Lycians took “the mother’s and not the father’s name”–an interesting and perhaps significant fact when we consider the prominent part taken in social life by the Cretan women.

That the destruction of Knossos was due to internal revolt, which may or may not have received outside aid, is highly probable. It was rebuilt at the beginning of the Middle Minoan III Period, but before its rulers had attained to the full height of their power a long era of prosperity was in store for the smaller towns. Gournia, Zakro, Psyra, and Palaikastro began to be important trading centres before 1700 B.C., and ere the second palace of Phæstos was erected. It was after the Knossian palace was remodelled that these towns were destroyed.

Ere the Middle Minoan III Period had drawn to a close the Hyksos invaders had overrun Egypt, and the Hittites, Mitannians, and Kassites were in ascendancy in Mesopotamia and Anatolia.

But Cretan influence was not confined to the islands. Both Mycenæ and Tiryns on the Grecian mainland were stimulated by it as early as the Middle Minoan III Period. The contents of the shaft graves of Mycenæ, which Schliemann assigned to the Homeric Age, are of Late Minoan I antiquity (c. 1500 B.C.), as are also boar-hunt frescoes recently found at Tiryns, which are distinctively Cretan, and the famous Vaphio cups with the bull-snaring scenes. The Peloponnesian colonies of Crete appear to have been established in the Middle Minoan III Period (c. 1800-1700 B.C.). In Bœotia there were settlements in Late Minoan I times, if not earlier, and tombs have yielded Cretan, and imitations of Cretan products, which confirm the traditions of the source of early Grecian culture, the religious mysteries, and so forth. With Cretan modes of life came Cretan modes of thought to a people who were not much advanced from the Neolithic stage of culture. It is probable that the islanders formed a military aristocracy from which sprung the kings who ruled the various important city States in pre-Homeric times.

Pausanias 1 tells us that the lion gate of Mycenæ and the walls of Tiryns were the work of the Cyclopes who laboured for Proctus.

Britomartis of Crete, and Hercules, the son of Alcmena, and Amphiarus, the son of Œcles, and beside them Castor and Pollux.” 1 So were the ancients who believed in giants and gods identified with them.

During the last century of the Late Minoan I Period the Hyksos were overthrown in Egypt, and the Theban Eighteenth Dynasty was established. The Cretans were known then in the Nile valley as the Keftiu, and characteristic wasp-waisted figures carrying Minoan vases were depicted in the tombs. It was during this period that the later Phæstian palace was erected.

The Late Minoan II Period, also known as the “Palace” Period, began towards the close of the reign of Pharaoh Thothmes I, the father of Queen Hatshepsut. It lasted for about half a century, from c. 1500 till 1450 B.C. One by one the coast towns perished, the latest to survive being Palaikastro, which some identify as the ancient city port of Heleia. Some think that Palaikastro existed as late as the Late Minoan III Period, and was ruled by an independent prince.

It is uncertain whether the towns were plundered by piratical bands from the Cyclades and the Greek mainland, or were wiped out by the central Cretan power which was established at Knossos. The later Knossian palace was remodelled during Late Minoan II times, and did not therefore suffer from the depredations of invaders. It would seem that we now reach the age of the legendary Minos who struck down all rivals and became supreme ruler in Crete. “The first person known to us in history as having established a navy”, writes Thucydides, “is Minos. He made himself master of what is now called the Hellenic Sea, and ruled over the Cyclades, into most of which he sent his first colonies, expelling the Carians p. 323 and appointing his own sons governors; and thus did his best to put down piracy in those waters, a necessary step to secure the revenues for his own use. For in early times the Hellenes and the barbarians of the coast and islands, as communication by sea became more common, were tempted to turn pirates, under the conduct of their most powerful men; the motives being to serve their own cupidity and to support the needy. They would fall upon a town unprotected by walls, and consisting of a mere collection of villages, and would plunder it; indeed, this came to be the main source of their livelihood

At what period this traffic had origin is at present wrapped in obscurity. It seems probable, however, that it was carried on as early as 1500 B.C. One of the reasons for this belief is the discovery of Egyptian relics in southern England. Among the relics taken from Bronze Age graves are numerous Egyptian beads of blue-glazed faience. “They are beads, moreover, which”, writes Professor Sayce, “belong to one particular period in Egyptian history, the latter part of the age of the Eighteenth Dynasty and the earlier of that of the Nineteenth Dynasty. . . . There is a large number of them in the Devizes Museum,

p. 326

as they are met with plentifully in the Early Bronze Age tumuli of Wiltshire in association with amber beads and barrel-shaped beads of jet and lignite. Three of them come from Stonehenge itself. Similar beads of ‘ivory’ have been found in a Bronze Age cist near Warminster: if the material is really ivory it must have been derived from the East. The cylindrical faience beads, it may be added, have been discovered in Dorsetshire as well as Wiltshire.” Mr. H. R. Hall, dealing with the same Egyptian relics, says: “My own interest in the matter is due to the fact that in the course of the excavations of the [Egyptian] Fund at Deir el Bahari, we discovered thousands of blue glaze beads of the exact particular type (already well known from other Egyptian diggings) of these found in Britain. Ours are, in all probability, mostly of the time of Hatshepsut, and so date to about 1500 B.C.” 1 Similar beads have also been discovered in Crete and Western Europe. The British finds help to fix the age of Stonehenge, the inner circle of which, according to Professor Boyd Dawkins, is formed of stones taken from Brittany.

By whom were these Egyptian beads carried to Britain between 1500 B.C. and 1400 B.C.? Certainly not the Phœnicians. The sea-traders of the Mediterranean were at the time the Cretans. Whether or not their merchants visited England we have no means of knowing. It is possible that they did. It is also possible, and even highly probable, that during the early Bronze Age in England, which may have been of greater antiquity than has hitherto been supposed, there existed a comparatively high degree of civilization, and communities of traders.

The Late Minoan III Period begins with a partial revival of Minoan civilization. A portion of the Knossian palace was reoccupied, and new houses were erected at Gournia and Palaikastro beside the ruins of those which were destroyed in the early Palace Period. Trading relations with Egypt were resumed, and hundreds of Cretan vases of Bügelkannen type were imported into the Nile valley. These and others were imitated in faience and alabaster by Egyptian artisans. But Cretan culture was on the down grade. The island artisans of the Late Minoan III Period were imitators of their predecessors, and sometimes slovenly imitators; they invented nothing new. It was an age of decadence and transition. Ultimately Knossos and the small towns were entirely deserted, and the people retreated to the inner mountain valleys and plateaux. The Cretans ceased to be known in Egypt as the Keftiu during the reign of Amenhotep III, the father of Akhenaton. 2 The founders of Præsos, who claimed to be the “true Cretans”, were no doubt descendants of the old Minoan peoples and the Achæo-Pelasgian elements from the Continent.

But although Late Minoan III culture perished by slow degrees in Crete, it flourished in Cyprus. Apparently large numbers of Cretans and Cretan colonists from the mainland settled on that island and achieved a political

p. 330

ascendancy over the natives. Others settled on Rhodes. About the same time the Minoan colonies in Lycia and Caria were strongly reinforced, and for a period, if Greek tradition is to be relied upon, the Carians monopolized the sea trade of the Ægean. It is believed that large numbers of Cretans also fled to Phœnicia and stimulated maritime enterprise in that quarter. “In the Homeric poems”, says Professor Myres, “more visits are paid by western seafarers to Phœnicia and Sidon than ‘Phœnician’ merchants pay to the west. . . . The wide Phœnician trade of historic times had clearly begun to grow as the Minoan sea-power failed.” 1

About a century after the fall of Knossos, Mycenæ, Tiryns, and other mainland towns had reached the height of their prosperity. It is possible that they owed their supremacy to Hittite influence. At any rate, persistent Greek legends associate their rulers with Anatolia. The walls of Tiryns were reputed to have been built by Cyclopes from Lycia, and Pelops, who gave his name to the Peloponnesus, was reputed to have come from Asia Minor. “The account given by those Peloponnesians”, says Thucydides, “who have been the recipients of the most creditable traditions is this. First of all Pelops, arriving among a needy population from Asia with vast wealth, acquired such power that, stranger though he was, the country was called after him; and this power fortune saw fit materially to increase in the hands of his descendants.” 2 The complicated family history of Pelopidæ and Atridæ is of special interest in this connection. Atreus, son of Pelops, married his son Plisthenes to Aerope, granddaughter of King Minos of Crete. Her father had given her and her sister to the King of Eubœa, because it had been foretold he would die by the hand of one of his children. The sons of Aerope

p. 331

were Agamemnon and Menelaus.

A Minoan king of Crete is to be slain by his own kin from the mainland, and invaders from Anatolia intermarry with Cretan stock in the Peloponnesus. This appears to be as good history as the reference in Ezekiel to the ethnics of Jerusalem: “Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite”. 1 Mycenæ’s mother was a Cretan and his father an Anatolian, perhaps of Indo-European speech like the military aristocracy of the Mitannian State, which appears to have for a period achieved political ascendancy over the Hittites.

In this connection special interest attaches to our own legends about the invading giants who gave their names to Alban (Albion) and Erin. It seems probable that these giants symbolized the folks who overran Great Britain and Ireland in the early Bronze Age. “Alban” (genitive of “Alba”) or “Albion” and “Alps” are derived from a common root, signifying “white”. Were the invaders of ancient Britain “Whitelanders”, i.e. an Alpine folk?

The Mycenæan period of Greek civilization was remembered as that of the third or Bronze Race of Hesiod.

Another element which entered into the ethnic fusion in Mycenæan Greece was the Danubian. The influence of Danubian culture extended as far south as Thessaly, where the Achæans were predominant. These Achæan pastoralists were drifting southward into the Peloponnesus as early as the Late Minoan I Period, and some of them may have reached Crete. But their greatest migration appears to have occurred at the close of the Pelopid Dynasty, and it is probable that they were the late conquerors of Mycenæ and Tiryns. After holding sway in the Peloponnesus for a period of uncertain duration, they were overthrown in turn by the Dorians.

About the time that the legendary Pelops secured the ascendancy of his stock on the Greek mainland, Crete was in a state of decay. In Egypt the brilliant reign of Amenhotep III marked the zenith of Egyptian power in the Nile valley and Syria. Mitanni, in northern Mesopotamia, which was ruled by kings with Indo-European names, was being threatened on one side by the growing power of Assyria, and on the other by that of the Hittites.

p. 333

[paragraph continues] After Akhenaton, the dreamer king, ascended the Egyptian throne and inaugurated his religious revolution, the kingdom of Mitanni was overthrown, and the Egyptian Empire in northern Syria went to pieces. The Hittites had leagued themselves with the Amorites, and were pressing southward, gaining control of the trade routes from Babylonia and Egypt.

The eastward expansion of the Hittites was accompanied by a shrinkage of their power in the west. Reinforced by folk-waves from Thrace, the people of the Phrygian area then began to gather strength, and asserted themselves later as the Muski, 1 the forerunners of the historic Phrygians. The sixth city of Troy also came into prominence. It was contemporary with Mycenæ and Tiryns, and like these cities owed its rise to the fusion of Danubian and Ægean cultures, the latter predominating.

This was Homer’s Troy, and so powerful did it become that when the Achæans entered into possession of the Peloponnesian centres of Mycenæan culture they found that it constituted a serious menace to their ascendancy.

he second raid was of great dimensions. It included the Danauna, the Danaans, the Shakalsha, the Tursha, the Tikkarai, who may have come from Zakro in Crete, and the Pulesti, the Philistines. The sea force which sailed south by Cyprus was supported by land raiders from North Syria and Anatolia. Among the latter were the Philistines, who gave their name to Palestine. Rameses III won victories on sea and land, being assisted by the raiders’ kinsmen, the Shardana mercenaries.

It is suggestive to find that the siege of Homer’s Troy occurred a few years afterwards. The conquerors of pre-Mycenæan Greece, having been foiled in their attempt to

p. 335

overrun Egypt, sought expansion eastward, and had first to strike down the Phrygian city which threatened their supremacy.

Troy VI had been built about 1500 B.C., that is, about the beginning of Crete’s Late Minoan II or Palace Period. It was surrounded by great stone walls 16 feet thick and 20 feet: high, which were surmounted by first a brick and then a stone parapet, which added another 6 feet to them. The walls were flanked by three great towers about 30 feet in height. As the stone-work has Egyptian characteristics, it is possible that the builders were imported from Egypt during the Eighteenth Dynasty. There were at least three city gates, and these were all on the southern side. Wells were sunk to the water-bearing strata of the hill.

When Troy VI was set on fire it did not suffer so greatly, being largely built of stone, as did the second city. The houses were, however, overthrown, and the upper portions of the walls demolished. Scarcely an object of any value survived the sack of the wealthy city. The ceramic remains are partly Mycenæan, or Late Minoan III, and partly Trojan.

After the fall of Troy the European elements in Anatolia were strengthened. Carian and Lycian pirates infested the seas. There were also settlements of Ægean stock in Cilicia. The Muski-Phrygians, pressing eastward from central Anatolia, appear to have contributed to the overthrow of the tottering empire of the Hittites. In Palestine the Philistines gradually extended their area of control, moving steadily southward, as the Empire of Egypt shrank by slow degrees.

The Achæans of Greece met in time the same fate as their predecessors of the Late Mycenæan Period, the Pelopid Dynasty. About two generations after the Trojan war the Dorians, who had been gradually filtering south

p. 336

ward through Thessaly, gradually achieved ascendancy. In time, assisted by Illyrian allies, they overran the Peloponnese. The dispossessed Achæan aristocracy and followers were forced into the land of the Ionians, which afterwards became known as Achaia. Dorians also found their way to Crete, which, like Rhodes, was eventually conquered.

For generations Greece was devastated by inter-tribal wars, and lapsed into a condition of decline. Periodic migrations took place of its merchants and traders and artisans, and these settled in Crete, Sicily, Sardinia, and Italy. Many found refuge in Anatolia, where grew up Ionian Greece along the coastland of Lycia and Caria.

“It was in Ægean Ionia”, writes Mr. Hall, “that the torch of Greek civilization was kept alight, while the homeland was in a mediæval condition of comparative barbarism; Cyprus, too, helped though she was too far off for her purer Minoan culture to affect the Ægean peoples very greatly. It was in Ionia that the new Greek civilization arose: Ionia, in whom the old Ægean blood and spirit most survived, taught the new Greece, gave her coined money and letters, art and poesy, and her shipmen, forcing the Phœnicians from before them, carried her new culture to what were then deemed the ends of the earth.” 1


Ionia (Ancient Greek Ἰωνία or Ἰωνίη) is an ancient region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey, the region nearest İzmir, which was historically Smyrna. It consisted of the northernmost territories of the Ionian League of Greek settlements. Never a unified state, it was eponymously named after the Ionian tribe who in the Archaic Period (800–480 BC) settled mainly the shores and islands of the Aegean Sea. Ionian states were identified by tradition and by their use of Eastern Greek.

Ionia proper comprised a narrow coastal strip from Phocaea in the north near the mouth of the river Hermus (now the Gediz), to Miletus in the south near the mouth of the river Maeander, and included the islands of Chios and Samos. It was bounded by Aeolia to the north, Lydia to the east and Caria to the south. The cities within the region figured large in the strife between the Persian Empire and the Greeks.

According to Greek tradition, the cities of Ionia were founded by colonists from the other side of the Aegean. Their settlement was connected with the legendary history of the Ionic people in Attica, which asserts that the colonists were led by Neleus and Androclus, sons of Codrus, the last king of Athens. In accordance with this view the “Ionic migration”, as it was called by later chronologers, was dated by them one hundred and forty years after the Trojan war, or sixty years after the return of the Heracleidae into the Peloponnese.[

The Ionian cities formed a religious and cultural (as opposed to a political or military) confederacy, the Ionian League, of which participation in the Panionic festival was a distinguishing characteristic. This festival took place on the north slope of Mt. Mycale in a shrine called the Panionium. In addition to the Panionic festival at Mycale, which was celebrated mainly by the Asian Ionians, both European and Asian coast Ionians convened on Delos Island each summer to worship at the temple of the Delian Apollo.

But like the Amphictyonic league in Greece, the Ionic was rather of a sacred than a political character; every city enjoyed absolute autonomy, and, though common interests often united them for a common political object, they never formed a real confederacy like that of the Achaeans or Boeotians. The advice of Thales of Miletus to combine in a political union was rejected….

Under the last Anatolian empire
About 700 BC Gyges, first Mermnad king of Lydia, invaded the territories of Smyrna and Miletus, and is said to have taken Colophon as his son Ardys did Priene. The first event in the history of Ionia for which there is a trustworthy account is the inroad of the Cimmerii, who ravaged a great part of Asia Minor, including Lydia, and sacked Magnesia on the Maeander, but were foiled in their attack upon Ephesus. This event may be referred to the middle of the 7th century BC. It was not until the reign of Croesus (560–545 BC) that the cities of Ionia fell completely under Lydian rule.

[edit]Satrapy of the Achaemenids
The defeat of Croesus by Cyrus was followed by the conquest of all the Ionian cities. These became subject to the Persian monarchy with the other Greek cities of Asia.

The Arabic, Turkish, Persian and Urdu name for Greece is Younan (یونان), a transliteration of “Ionia.” The same is true for the Hebrew word, “Yavan” (יוון) and the Sanskrit word “yavana”. Not to be confused with the meaning of the Assyrian name Younan (also spelled, Yonan), a transliteration of Jonah, from the Aramaic and Hebrew, “Yonah”, meaning dove or peace

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s