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Mazes and Labyrinths


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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #30 on: March 19, 2009, 01:19:44 pm »

"The first thing you come at is a kind of Cavern exceeding rustick, and gently sloping: in this there is nothing extraordinary, but as you move forward the place is perfectly surprizing; nothing but Turnings and crooked By-ways. The principal Alley, which is less perplexing than the rest, in length about 1200 Paces, leads to the further end of the Labyrinth, and concludes in two large beautiful Apartments, where Strangers rest themselves with pleasure. Tho’ this Alley divides itself, at its Extremity, into two or three Branches, yet the dangerous part of the Labyrinth is not there, but rather at its Entrance, about some thirty paces from the Cavern on the left hand. If a Man strikes into any other Path, after he has gone a good way, he is so bewildered among a thousand Twistings, Twinings, Sinuosities, Crinkle-Crankles and Turn-again Lanes, that he could scarce ever get out again without the utmost danger of being lost."

p. 25

He refers to various inscriptions in charcoal, mostly names of former visitors, and notes various dates ranging from 1444 to 1699. "We too," he says, "wrote the Year of the Lord 1700 in three different places, with a black stone." "After a thorow Examination of the Structure of this Labyrinth we all concurred in Opinion, that it could never have been what Belonius and some other of the Moderns have fancy’d; namely, an antient Quarry, out of which were dug the Stones that built the Towns of Gortyna and Gnossus. Is it likely that they would go for Stone above a thousand paces deep, into a place so full of odd Turnings? . . . Again, how could they draw these Stones through a place so pinch’d in, that we were forc’d to crawl our way out for above a hundred paces together? Besides, the Mountain is so craggy and full of Precipices that we had all the difficulty in the World to ride up it. . . . It is likewise observable, that the Stone of this Labyrinth has neither a good Hue nor a competent Hardness; it is downright dingy, and resembling that of the Mountains near which Gortyna stands.

". . . It is therefore much more probable, that the Labyrinth is a natural Cavity, which in times past some body out of curiosity took a fancy to try what they could make of, by widening most of those Passages that were too much straitened. . . . Doubtless some Shepherds having discovered these subterraneous Conduits, gave occasion to more considerable People to turn it into this marvellous Maze to serve for an Asylum in the Civil Wars or to skreen themselves from the Fury of a Tyrannical Government: at present it is only a Retreat for Bats and the like."

Tournefort stayed for a while with an ignorant priest, "who would have persuaded us in his balderdash Italian that there was an ancient Prophecy wrote on the Walls of the Labyrinth importing that the Czar of Muscovy was very soon to be Master of the Ottoman Empire and deliver the Greeks from the Slavery of the Turks." He

p. 26

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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #31 on: March 19, 2009, 01:20:03 pm »

adds: "Whatever Scrawlings are made upon the Walls of the Labyrinth by Travellers, these Simpletons swallow down for Prophecies." He mentions also a labyrinth at Candia, but says it must not be confused with the Labyrinth of tradition, "which, from antique Medals, appears to have been in the town of Gnossus."

Dr. Richard Pococke, to whose description of the Egyptian Labyrinth we referred in Chapter III, paid a visit to Gortyna about forty years after Tournefort. He says that the "labyrinth" was shown to him, but that it was evidently nothing more than the quarry out of which the town was built. He points out that the real Labyrinth was at Knossos and that nothing was left of it in Pliny's time.

Another French traveller, C. E. Savary, visited the spot about 1788. He came to the conclusion that this was the Labyrinth of the Minotaur, but regarded it as something distinct from that built by Daedalus at Knossos.

A very interesting account of the Gortyna cavern is that contained in the Journal of C. R. Cockerell, R.A., 1 who travelled in Southern Europe and the Levant during the years 1810 to 1817. He and his party entered the "labyrinth" by an inconspicuous hole in the rock in a steep part of the hill (Mount Ida) and found themselves in an intricately winding passage. They had taken the precaution to bring with them a great length of string wound upon two sticks, and it was fortunate that they did so, for "the windings," says Cockerell, "bewildered us at once, and, my compass being broken, I was quite ignorant as to where I was. The clearly intentional intricacy and apparently endless number of galleries impressed me with a sense of horror and fascination I cannot describe. At every ten steps one was arrested, and had to turn to right or left, sometimes to choose one of


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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #32 on: March 19, 2009, 01:20:18 pm »

three or four roads. What if one should lose the clue!" He relates how a poor lunatic had insisted on accompanying them all the way from Candia and following them into the cavern. This man, together with a boy who had a lantern, wandered off and caused the rest of the party--except some Turks, who philosophically remarked that God takes care of madmen--to feel much alarm on their account. They were, however, discovered again an hour later, the boy half dead with fright.

Chambers opened off from the passages, and contained much evidence of former visitors, in the shape of names scratched on the walls, such as "Spinola," "Hawkins, 1794," "Fiott," and many of a Jewish character. All of the passage ends were infested with bats, which rose in thousands when one of the party fired a pistol. Lichens grew here and there, and in one place arose a spring. There were signs of metallic substances in the rock, but not sufficient, thought Cockerell, to warrant the supposition that the place was a mine. The stone was sandy, stratified and easily cut, and the air was dry. The surface of the rock appeared to have been prepared with a chisel.

The passage was 8 or 10 feet wide, and from 4 to 10 feet high; in many places it had fallen in. Cockerell concluded that the excavation was probably made in the days of Minos as a storehouse for corn and valuables. He mentions that he was informed by natives that the cavern extended right through the mountain and was three miles in length; also that a sow once wandered in and emerged some years later with a litter of pigs!

About fifty years after Cockerell's visit, the cavern was explored by Capt. T. A. B. Spratt, R.N., who, in his "Travels and Researches in Crete" (1865), tells us that the Cretans "have long since walled and stopped up its inner and unknown extremes, so as not to be lost in its inner intricacies." He discusses the probable location of the traditional Labyrinth and concludes that probably

p. 28

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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #33 on: March 19, 2009, 01:20:29 pm »

the latter is to be found in some similar cavern in the neighbourhood of Knossos. He mentions that there is, in fact, an excavation in the side of the ridge overlooking Knossos which the natives state to be the entrance to extensive catacombs, but that it is choked up by the falling in of its sides.

He reproduces a sketch by Sieber of the Gortyna Cavern (Fig. 7); this, he says, took the artist three days to make. Capt. Spratt, by the way, points out that the meander pattern, which is so common a feature of Greek ornament, and is associated by some writers with the origin of the labyrinth idea, may very well have been derived from the square-spiral trenches which are commonly constructed by Eastern gardeners for irrigational purposes. (See also Chapter VIII.)

Whatever the original purpose and function of the Gortyna Cavern may have been, it was certainly a "labyrinth" in the extended sense, and no doubt the classic writers themselves would have had no hesitation in admitting the use of that word to describe it, but, as we shall see, discoveries of recent years have considerably diminished its claim to be considered as the original Labyrinth of the Minotaur.

 

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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #34 on: March 19, 2009, 01:20:53 pm »



Fig. 7. Cavern of Gortyna. (Sieber)



 


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Footnotes
23:1 Often erroneously alluded to as "the Athenian Grammarian."

26:1 Edited and published by his son, S. P. Cockerell, in 1903.

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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #35 on: March 19, 2009, 01:21:13 pm »

p. 29

CHAPTER VI
THE CRETAN LABYRINTH (continued)
(iii) Knossos

A FEW miles to the north-east of Gortyna, and not far south of the north coast town of Candia, lay, at the base of the hill of Kephala, a few ruined walls indicating the site of the ancient city of Knossos. These walls consisted of large blocks of gypsum and bore curious engraved marks.

For many years Dr. A. J. Evans (now Sir Arthur Evans) had been convinced that excavation of this site would probably bring to light evidence of a system of writing which might be of interest in connection with the origin of the Greek system, but it was not until the year 1900 that he finally obtained a concession enabling him to explore the spot. The resulting discoveries were of such an astonishing nature, and of such absorbing interest, that one is greatly tempted to digress and to mention them in some detail. However, they have been summarised and discussed by many able writers (see Appendix III, ii.), and it must suffice here to refer simply to the main points in which they bear upon the story of the Labyrinth.

After about two months' work, with a staff of from 80 to 150 men, about two acres of the remains of a great prehistoric building, showing strong evidence of having

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« Reply #36 on: March 19, 2009, 01:21:27 pm »

been destroyed by fire, were uncovered, and later excavations showed that it was yet more extensive, covering altogether about five acres. Not only this palace, but the multitude of objects found within it, or associated with it, were of surpassing importance in their bearing on the nature of the ancient civilisation of which they demonstrated the existence, and to which Sir A. Evans has given the name "Minoan." Vast quantities of pottery of widely different designs and workmanship, written tablets, wall paintings--often of great beauty--reliefs, and sculptured figures, shrines, seals, jewellery, a royal gaming-board, and even a throne, were discovered as the work went on, and eventually the whole area was excavated down to the virgin rock, remains of an earlier and smaller palace being found beneath the other, and below this again a great thickness of deposits containing many remains of neolithic man.

By means of occasional discoveries of imported Egyptian objects, by comparison of Minoan pottery and paintings with some found in Egyptian tombs, and by various other indications, it was possible to date the upper remains, say from 1580 B.C. onwards, fairly nearly. The dating of the older remains is much more difficult, chiefly because, although they can often be equated with certain periods of Egyptian culture, the chronology of the latter admits of widely different views, but it seems safe to say that the earliest traces of the Minoan civilisation date from quite 3000 years B.C., and possibly many centuries before that.

The earlier palace and town seem to have been built before 2000 B.C. and destroyed a few centuries after that date. The later palace was begun somewhere in the eighteenth or nineteenth century B.C., was elaborated in succeeding centuries, and was sacked and burned, just as it had attained the height of its glory, about I400 B.C.

The discovery of this palace was one of the first-class "finds" of archaeology. Those who based their estimates

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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #37 on: March 19, 2009, 01:21:39 pm »

of the architectural capabilities of ancient Crete on their knowledge of the development of the builder's art in classic Greece, a millennium later, were amazed to find that in many respects the product of the older civilisation was superior.

To mention but a few of the most remarkable facts about the palace, it was of several storeys, grouped around a central court and pierced by "light-wells"; it contained several staircases, one of them at least being of a very imposing character and composed of many flights. Moreover, it possessed a quite modern system of drainage, with jointed underground pipes and with inspection manholes to the main drains. Along the west side of the basement ran a long straight gallery flanked by a series of great storage-rooms or magazines. It was near one end of this gallery that Dr. Evans discovered a store of tablets with pictographic inscriptions, in proof of his suspicion that the Phoenician script was not the original parent of European written language.

Not far from this spot was the room containing the throne (or Worshipful Master's Chair, as the masonic Dr. Churchward prefers to call it) which may actually have been occupied by King Minos.

A definite distinction can be recognised between state and domestic apartments and subsidiary offices and workshops.

To the north-west of the palace was a "stepped theatral area" (orchestra), which suggests the "dancing ground" of Ariadne.

From the point of view of our subject, however, the most interesting features were the frequent occurrence of the sign of the double axe, which was obviously an object of great importance in Minoan worship, and the profusion of evidence concerning the cult of the bull. On the fallen plaster of one of the walls of a corridor, too, was a repeated meander pattern, painted in red on a white ground, very suggestive of a sort of maze (Fig. Cool.

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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #38 on: March 19, 2009, 01:21:57 pm »

The significance of the axe symbol from our point of view lies in its bearing on the derivation of the word "labyrinth," a question that will be referred to in rather more detail in a later chapter.

One room of the palace, a stately hall about 80 ft. in length by 26 ft. in breadth, traversed by a row of square-sectioned pillars, has been named by its discoverer

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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #39 on: March 19, 2009, 01:22:24 pm »



FIG. 8.--Knossos. Maze-pattern on Wall of Palace. (After Evans.)
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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #40 on: March 19, 2009, 01:22:40 pm »

"the Hall of the Double Axes," from the frequent occurrence of this symbol therein. Not only does the sacred axe occur as a more or less crude engraving on the stone blocks composing certain pillars in the palace, but little models of it were found associated with an altar, and, in the Dictaean cave, some miles distant, several bronze specimens of the axe were discovered in circumstances which show that they were votive offerings. Sometimes the sacred symbol was set up on a socketed pedestal
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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #41 on: March 19, 2009, 01:23:02 pm »



Fig. 9. Double Axe and Stepped Steatite Socket from Dictaean Cave. (Psychro)
(From Archæolagia, by kind permission of the Society of Antiquaries, and Sir Arthur Evans)
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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #42 on: March 19, 2009, 01:23:28 pm »



Click to enlarge
Fig. 11. Knossos. View of Cist, showing shape of Double Axe.
(From Archæolagia, by kind permission of the Society of Antiquaries and Sir Arthur Evans.)



 

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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #43 on: March 19, 2009, 01:23:45 pm »

 (Fig. 9). Moreover, in more recent excavations a curious "tomb" was found (Figs. 10 and 11) which was double-axe
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Kabrina Teppe
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« Reply #44 on: March 19, 2009, 01:24:10 pm »



FIG. 10--Knossos. Plan of Tomb of Double Axes, showing position in which relics were found.
(From ''Archæolagia,'' by kind permission of the Society of Antiquaries and Sir Arthur Evans.)

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