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MYTHS OF CRETE & PRE-HELLENIC EUROPE

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« on: February 25, 2009, 10:53:32 pm »



MYTHS OF CRETE & PRE-HELLENIC EUROPE
By DONALD A. MACKENZIE
[1917]
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« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2009, 10:54:05 pm »

When I first saw learned of the existence of this book, I was a little suprised, since very little concrete information is available on this topic, and even less was known in 1917. However, to paraphrase a recent President of the United States, Myths of Crete depends on what your definition of of is....

There is substantial mythology about Crete. The Minoan civilization, which predated the better known classical Hellenic period by several hundred years, disappeared catastrophically, battered by volcanic eruptions and barbarian incursions. Successive generations, starting with the classical Greeks, created a vast number of myths about the vanished sea-empire. The Homeric epics, Daedalus and Icarus, King Minos and the Minotaur, and even, as Mackenzie points out, Atlantis, were all influenced by hearsay and speculation about the lost Cretan empire.

At the beginning of the 20th century archeologists finally started to excavate the Minoan ruins. Based lagely on circumstantial evidence such as the vivid wall art and the startling Goddess iconography, popularizers like Mackenzie built an entire new set of myths about the ancient Cretans. This mythology was eagerly adopted by neo-pagans, starting with Robert Graves, who wrote a little-known science fiction novel on the subject, Watch the Northwind Rise.

What do we actually know about Minoan mythology as of today? In a word, nothing. The Minoans developed the first known European writing systems, known as Linear A and B. Linear B was deciphered by Michael Ventris in 1952. Only commercial documents have been found, as befits a sea-trading empire. The other Minoan script, Linear A, remains a mystery. Although the phonetic values of some Linear A symbols have been tenatively identified, they have yet to be translated. So we have no translated Minoan religious documents to work with, although we can infer that certain Linear A texts are magical or religious in nature because they are inscribed on ritual objects.

We can assume from the prevelence of female images in ritual contexts that the Minoans worshipped one or more Goddesses. We also know that animals played an important role in their rituals, particularly snakes and bulls. However, any attempt at this point to make definite statements about their mythology or spiritual practices is inferential at best.

One factual correction must be noted. The story of Schliemann's Atlantis bequest, reported in Chapter V, page 98, turned out to be a complete hoax. This yarn appeared in a sensationalist Hearst newspaper in 1914, and as this book was written only a few years later, we can probably forgive Mackenzie for reporting it as fact. The entire article, How I found the Lost Atlantis, along with our analysis of it, is also at sacred-texts.

Nevertheless, Mackenzie, who also wrote Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt, manages to stretch the subject matter out into a full 300 page book. Informative, well researched and very readable, Myths of Crete is a unique book about a very opaque period of history.

--J.B. Hare


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« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2009, 10:55:20 pm »

MYTHS OF CRETE & PRE-HELLENIC EUROPE
By DONALD A. MACKENZIE




With Illustrations in Colour by John Duncan, A.R.S.A. and from Photographs
THE GRESHAM PUBLISHING COMPANY LIMITED
66 CHANDOS STREET COVENT GARDEN LONDON
[1917]

Scanned at sacred-texts.com, May-June 2002.



Ladies of the Minoan Court

From the painting by John Duncan, A.R.S.A.



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« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2009, 10:56:17 pm »

p. iii

PREFACE

This volume deals with the myths and legends connected with the ancient civilization of Crete, and also with the rise and growth of the civilization itself, while consideration is given to various fascinating and important problems that arise in the course of investigating pre-Hellenic habits of thought and habits of life, which are found to have exercised a marked influence in the early history of Europe. In the first two chapters the story of European civilization is carried back to remote Palæolithic times, the view having been urged, notably by Mosso, that a connection existed between the civilization of the artistic cave-dwellers in France and Spain, and that of the Island of Minos. It is shown that these civilizations were not, however, contemporary, but separated by thousands of years, and that in accounting for close resemblances the modern dogma of independent evolution is put to a severe test. The data summarized in the Introduction emphasize the need for caution in attempting to solve a complex problem by the application of a hypothesis which may account for some resemblances but fails to explain away the marked differences that existed even between contemporary civilizations of the Neolithic, Copper, and Bronze Ages.

p. iv

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« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2009, 10:56:56 pm »

To enable the reader to become familiar with the geological, ethnological, and archæological evidence regarding the earliest traces and progressive activities of man in Europe, who laid the foundations of subsequent civilizations, a popular narrative is given in the first chapter, the scientific data being cast in the form of a legend following the manner of Hesiod's account of the Mythical Ages of the World in the Work and Days, and of that of the Indian sage Markandeya's story of the "Yugas" in the Máhabhárata, and of Tuan MacCarell's narrative of his experiences in the various Irish Ages. Footnotes provide the necessary references.

Consideration is also given, in dealing with Cretan origins, to Schliemann's hypothesis regarding the "Lost Atlantis", and the connection he believed existed between the Mexican, early European, and Nilotic civilizations. It is brought out that the historical elements in Plato's legend are susceptible of a different explanation.

Cretan civilization has not yet been rendered articulate, for its script remains a mystery, but of late years a flood of light has been thrown upon it by the archæologists, among whom Sir Arthur Evans is pre-eminent. We can examine the remains of the palace of Minos; tread the footworn stones of the streets of little towns; examine pottery and frame a history of it; gaze on frescoes depicting scenes of everyday life in ancient Crete, on seal engravings which show us what manner of ships were built and navigated by mariners who ruled the Mediterranean Sea long before the Phœnician period, what deities were worshipped and what ceremonies were performed; we can study a painted sarcophagus which throws light on funerary customs and conceptions of the Otherworld,

p. v

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« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2009, 10:57:11 pm »

and stone vases which afford glimpses of boxers, bull-baiters, soldiers, and processions; and we can also examine the jewellery, weapons, and implements of the ancient folk. With the aid of these and other data we are enabled to reconstruct in outline the island civilization and study its growth over a period embraced by many centuries. It has even been found possible to arrange a system of Cretan chronology) approximate dates being fixed with the aid of artifacts, evidently imported from Egypt, and of Cretan artifacts found in the Nilotic area and elsewhere. The idea of the "Hellenic miracle" no longer obtains. It is undoubted that Crete was the forerunner of Greece, and that the Hellenes owed a debt to Cretan civilization the importance of which was not realized even by the native historians of ancient Greece.

Various problems arise in dealing with the growth of civilization in Crete and the influence exercised by it in Central and Western Europe. These include the race question, the migrations of peoples from the area in which the agricultural mode of life was first adopted, the question of cultural contact, of trade routes on sea and land. of homogeneity of beliefs of common origin, and of the influence of locality in the development of beliefs and material civilization. In the pages that follow, these problems are presented in their various aspects, and such representative evidence as is available has been utilized with purpose to throw light upon them.

Readers cannot fail to be impressed by the note of modernity which prevails in the story of Cretan life. It is emphasized to a remarkable degree in Minoan art. In this connection the coloured illustrations in the present volume. by Mr. John Duncan, A.R.S.A., are of peculiar

p. vi

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« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2009, 10:57:30 pm »

interest. In preparing these designs Mr. Duncan has deliberately sought to follow the style of the Minoan artists themselves, as displayed in the relics of frescoes, and in pottery, seal engravings and impressions, &c., recently unearthed. The colours are confined to those used by the native craftsmen, while the decorative borders are essentially Cretan in character. In the Plate facing p. 248 a suggestive parallel is drawn between Celtic and Minoan patterns and symbols. It will be noted that the Celtic treatment of complicated patterns of common origin is more thorough and logical than the Minoan, as, for instance, when we compare No. 3, which has incomplete curves, with the finished and exact No. 4. The examples dealt with include a symbol of the Egypto-Libyan goddess Neith.

The note of modernity in Cretan art inclines us perhaps to be somewhat generous and enthusiastic in our praises of it. An eminent archæologist has declared that "it yields to none that was contemporary and hardly to any that came after it". This is a strong claim, especially when we give consideration to the extraordinarily full and varied art of Egypt. In Crete, for instance, we do not meet with the skilled technique and psychological insight of some of Egypt's notable portraiture in stone, nor with faces of such high intellectual and moral qualities; nor do we meet with the masculine energy, the disciplined ferocity and brilliant directness of appeal that characterize the finest products of Assyrian art; nor can we help noting the absence of the idealistic tendencies of Greek art, with its aim to visualize mental and spiritual impressions, its moral ascendancy, and its preoccupation with the idea of beauty of form and character. No doubt it

p. vii

is because Cretan art is infused with a lyrical carelessness and freedom, not only in subject, but also in execution, that it makes a very special appeal to modern eyes. There are certainly notable instances of excellency in delicate modelling, a love of colour--who can refrain, for instance, from admiring the golden afternoon effects of Vasiliki pottery?--a delight in natural objects, a marked absence of formalism in the best work, and an extreme and arresting grace, especially in the ivory work. Yet it is possible to overestimate the artistic value of such works as the "Harvester Vase" (p. 212), with its liveliness of movement and expression, and to commend even its defects, and forget that there are finer examples of low relief in Egypt, where the artists have left us in no doubt as to what they meant; it is possible also to infuse our art criticisms with archæological enthusiasm, as when, for instance, we gaze on the fresco of the Cup Bearer (p. 118), which is an impression of a very ordinary, good-looking, young man, with formal eyes, and hand and arm out of drawing. Yet while, as a whole, Cretan art is very unequal, there are a few masterpieces which set it on a high level. The ivory figurine of "The Leaper" is one of these (p. 48). Its Parisian elegance and Greek-like accuracy and beauty of modelling take the eye at once. It is much worn, but the unbroken parts exhibit fine craftsmanship. The bones and muscles of the arm and hand especially are expressed with the modesty and animation of nature; there is none of the gross exaggeration so often found in Assyrian art. Another outstanding masterpiece is the bull's head in steatite (p. 108). We are struck by its fine dignity, the noble poise of the head, the alert eye, the mobility of the pricked ears, and the

p. viii

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« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2009, 10:58:07 pm »

combination of naturalism with simplicity, grace, and loftiness of treatment. A contrast is presented by the other bull's head in plaster relief (p. 124), with the magnificent blaze of the great eye and the exhausted gasp of mouth and nostrils; the noble animal has evidently fallen a victim in the ring; it is powerful and grand even when death takes it. Special mention may also be made of the goat suckling its kid, an admirable piece of realism characterized by grace and insight (p. 152).

The spirit of naturalism pulsating in Cretan art is also found in Palæolithic art, of which two notable examples are given (p. 20) from the cave paintings. These remarkable relics of the Pleistocene Age are typical products of Palæolithic art, the advanced condition of which suggests a long history, and even the existence, in such remote times, not only of devoted personal study, but also of an organized system of training. The civilization reflected by such an art must have been of no mean order. Evidently it met with disaster during the Fourth Glacial Period, but subsequent discoveries may yet demonstrate that its influence was not wholly lost to mankind.

D. A. MACKENZIE.



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« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2009, 10:59:16 pm »

CONTENTS

CHAP.
 
 Page
 
 
 INTRODUCTION
 xvii
 
I.
 PRIMITIVE EUROPEANS OF GLACIAL AND INTERGLACIAL PERIODS
 1
 
II.
 PALÆOLITHIC MAGIC AND RELIGION
 26
 
III.
 ANCIENT PEOPLES OF THE GODDESS CULT
 51
 
IV.
 HISTORY IN MYTH AND LEGEND-SCHLIEMANN'S DISCOVERIES
 73
 
V.
 CRETE AS THE LOST ATLANTIS
 97
 
VI.
 THE GREAT PALACE OF KNOSSOS
 115
 
VII.
 RACES AND MYTHS OF NEOLITHIC CRETE
 143
 
VIII.
 PRE-HELLENIC EARTH AND CORN MOTHERS
 165
 
IX.
 GROWTH OF CRETAN CULTURE AND COMMERCE
 191
 
X.
 TRADING RELATIONS WITH TROY
 216
 
XI.
 LIFE IN THE LITTLE TOWNS
 252
 
XII.
 THE PALACE OF PHÆSTOS
 281
 
XIII.
 CAVE DEITIES AND THEIR SYMBOLS
 293
 
XIV.
 DECLINE OF CRETE AND RISE OF GREECE
 313
 
 
 INDEX
 337
 


 



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« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2009, 11:03:25 pm »

PLATES IN COLOUR

 Page
 
LADIES OF THE MINOAN COURT
              From the painting by John Duncan, A.R.S.A.
 Frontispiece
 
THE SNAKE GODDESS OF CRETE
              From the painting by John Duncan, A.R.S.A.
 facing 58
 
THE BULL-BAITERS
              From the painting by John Duncan, A.R.S.A.
    "   186
 
SEA TRADERS FROM CRETE
              From the painting by John Duncan, A.R.S.A.
    "   218
 


 



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« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2009, 11:04:00 pm »

xiii

PLATES IN MONOCHROME

 
 Page
 
INSCRIBED TABLETS FOUND IN CRETE
 facing xxxii
 
LIMESTONE SARCOPHAGUS FOUND AT AGHIA TRIADHA
 xliv
 
VOTIVE OFFERINGS FROM THE DICTEAN CAVE
 xlviii
 
EXAMPLES OF PALÆOLITHIC ART
                  From various sources
 16
 
PALÆOLITHIC ART: PAINTINGS OF BISON AND DEER
                  From copies of the originals by L'Abbé Breuil
 20
 
GROUP OF FIGURINES, IN TERRA-COTTA, FROM PALAIKASTRO
 30
 
IVORY FIGURINE AND HEAD--"THE LEAPER"--FROM KNOSSOS
                  Reproduced from the "Annual of the British School at Athens"
 48
 
THE LION GATE, MYCENÆ From photograph by English Photo. Co.
 98
 
BULL'S HEAD, IN STEATITE, FROM KNOSSOS
 109
 
p. xiv
 
 
THE THRONE OF MINOS, KNOSSOS
 facing 112
 
THE CUP-BEARER, KNOSSOS
                  From photograph lent by Sir Arthur Evans
 118
 
PAINTED PLASTER RELIEF-BULL'S HEAD-KNOSSOS
                  From photograph lent by Sir Arthur Evans
 124
 
A GLIMPSE OF THE EXCAVATED REMAINS OF THE PALACE OF KNOSSOS
 130
 
A CRETAN SHRINE: RESTORED BY SIR ARTHUR EVANS
 138
 
WILD GOAT AND YOUNG: FAIENCE RELIEF, FROM KNOSSOS
                  Reproduced from the "Annual by the British School at Athens"
 152
 
THE PRINCIPAL ROOM OF THE MUSEUM AT CANDIA, CRETE
 160
 
MAGAZINE OF JARS AND KASELLES, KNOSSOS
 196
 
EARLY MINOAN POTTERY, INCLUDING EXAMPLES WITH "BEAK" OR "TEAPOT SPOUTS"
 208
 
THE "HARVESTER VASE" (STONE) FOUND AT AGHIA TRIADHA
 212
 
GENERAL VIEW OF "THE TREASURE OF PRIAM"
                  From the photograph by Schliemann
 234
 
GROUP OF JEWELS FROM THE ISLAND OF MOCHLOS
 238
 
DECORATIVE MOTIFS AND SYMBOLS
                   (Minoan and Celtic patterns compared)
 248
 
p. xv
 
 
THE RUINS OF THE LITTLE TOWN OF GOURNIA
 facing 258
 
THE ISLAND OF MOCHLOS, OFF THE NORTH COAST OF CRETE
 266
 
DECORATED POTTERY FROM PALAIKASTRO
 270
 
THE GRAND STAIRCASE, PALACE OF PHÆSTOS
 284
 
THREE VASES, SCULPTURED IN STONE, FOUND AT AGHIA TRIADHA
 288
 
WEAPONS AND IMPLEMENTS, IN BRONZE, FROM THE DICTEAN CAVE
 296
 
BRONZE IMPLEMENTS FROM GOURNIA
 300
 
PILLAR AT KNOSSOS, INCISED WITH DOUBLE-AXE SYMBOLS
 310
 
MINOAN POTTERY FROM ZAKRO
 316
 
RUINS OF THE "ROYAL VILLA", AGHIA TRIADHA
 328
 


 

 

*** The Monochrome Plates, unless where otherwise stated, are reproduced from photographs by G. Maraghiannis, Candia, Crete.

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« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2009, 11:05:35 pm »



Sketch Map of Eastern Part of Crete
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« Reply #12 on: February 25, 2009, 11:06:39 pm »

p. xvii

INTRODUCTION
IN relating how Crete has risen into prominence as the seat of a great and ancient civilization, one is reminded of the fairy story of Cinderella. The archæological narrative begins with the discovery made by Schliemann of traces of a distinctive and high pre-Hellenic culture amidst the ruins of the Peloponnesian cities of Tiryns and Mycenæ, which he assigned to the Homeric Age. Evidence was soon forthcoming that this culture was not of indigenous character, but had been imported from some unknown area after it had reached its highest development and was beginning to show signs of decadence -a sure indication of its great antiquity. A dramatic search followed for the centre of origin and diffusion. The wonderful slipper had been found, but where was Cinderella? In the end, after several claims had been urged, the last comer was proved to be the missing princess of culture, and the last comer was Crete. Research on that island had been long postponed on account of the disturbed political conditions that prevailed under the Turkish regime.

A new first chapter has since been added to the history of European civilization. We no longer begin with Hellenic Greece, or believe that Hellenic culture sprang full-grown into being like the fabled deity who leapt from her parent's head. In this volume it is shown that the

p. xviii

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« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2009, 11:07:13 pm »

myths and legends preserved in the works of various classical writers regarding the sources of Grecian culture were well founded, and that the traditions of the "Heroic Age" did not have origin in the imaginations of poets and dramatists. But, wise as we chance to be, after the event, we need not regard with scorn the historians of a past generation who hesitated to sift and utilize such elusive myths as the Cretan origins of Zeus and Demeter, and the semi-historical references to Crete, in the works of Homer, Thucydides, and others, to find a sure basis for a convincing narrative worthy of the name of history.

It is only within recent years that the necessary archaeological data have been available which enables students of ancient civilization to draw with some degree of confidence upon the abundant but confused contents of the storehouse of folk memory.

The discovery that Crete was the birth-place of Ægean civilization, which radiated in the pre-Hellenic times throughout Europe--"the little leaven that leavened the whole lump"--does not, however, set a limit to the work of research, or solve all the problems which are involved. Although it has been demonstrated that the Cretan leaven was in existence and at work at the dawn of the Egyptian Dynastic Age, and when the Sumerians were achieving their earliest triumphs in the Tigro-Euphratean valley, we are still confronted with the problem of remote origin. The earliest settlers in Crete had, as their artifacts demonstrate, already obtained a comparatively high degree of Neolithic culture. Houses were built of stone as well as of wattles daubed with clay, a sea trade was in existence, for obsidian was imported from Melos, and a section of the community had adopted the agricultural mode of life. Withal, beliefs were well developed and had assumed a fixity which remained until they were merged in the

p. xix

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« Reply #14 on: February 25, 2009, 11:07:25 pm »

accumulated mass of Grecian inheritance, and suffered, as a result, for long ages, complete loss of identity. The earliest settlement of people at Knossos has been assigned to about 10,000 B.C., an approximate dating which is based on the evidence of the archaeological strata.

But the earliest traces of an artistic culture in Europe belong to a still more remote age. Although during the vast periods of the Neolithic, or Late Stone Age, there existed savage communities, just as happens to be the case at the present day in various parts of the world, there were also, as in Crete, Egypt, and Babylonia, refined and progressive peoples who were already "heirs of all the Ages"--the Ages when ancient Europe passed through stages of climatic oscillations of such pronounced character that the remains of mankind are found in strata yielding alternately tropical, temperate, and Arctic flora and fauna. The period in question, the lengthiest in the history of civilization, is the archaeological Palæolithic, or Early Stone Age. Towards its close, for which the minimum dating is 20,000 B.C., there existed in Europe at least two races, whose cultures are referred to as Aurignacian and Magdalenian. A stage called Azilian links the Palæolithic with the Neolithic Age, and the continuity of culture from the earliest times is now generally regarded as an established fact.

The story of Cretan civilization may constitute, as has been said, the first chapter of European history. But the "Introduction" is derived from the Palæolithic Age, before and during the Fourth Glacial Epoch of the geologists.

Our introductory data are obtained from the famous Palæolithic cave-dwellings of France and Spain, which are dealt with in Chapters I and II. No definite traces are yet obtainable, among the scanty human remains that

p. xx

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