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KNOSSOS (Minoan settlement) CRETE

Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)


  Gnosus, subsequently Cnossus, or Gnossus (Knosos, Knossos, Gnossos: Eth. and Adj. Knosios, Knossios, Gnosios, Gnossios, Gnosius, Gnosiacus, fem. Gnosis, Gnosias: Makro-Teikho). The royal city of Crete, situated to the N. of the island, SE. of Matium, and 23 M. P. from Gortyna (Peut. Tab.). It originally was called Caeratus (Kairatos, Strab. x.) from the small river of that name which flowed beneath its walls. (Callim. Hymn. Dian. v. 44.) Tritta (Hesych. s. v. Tritta), was a name that had been some time applied to it. Pliny (iv. 20), who places Cnossus among the inland cities, and Ptolemy (iii. 17. § 10), are quite wrong in the positions they assign to it. Strabo's text is undoubtedly corrupt; and this may in part serve to account for the difficulty that has been found in reconciling the statements of this writer, who was so intimately connected with Cnossus, with the known position of the city. Its foundation was attributed to the hero of Cretan romance, Minos, who made it his chief residence. (Hom. Od. xix. 178). Cnossus and its neighbourhood was the chosen seat of legend; and the whole district was peculiarly connected with Zeus. At the river Tethris, or Theron, according to tradition, the marriage of Zeus and Hera was celebrated. (Diod. v. 72.) The most received mythus assigned the birth-place as well as the tombs of the Father of gods and men to this locality. The well-known Cretan labyrinth is uniformly attached to Cnossus. It was described as a building erected by Daedalus, and the abode of the Minotaur (Diod. i. 61; Apollod. iii. 4). This monument could never have had any actual existence, but must be considered simply as a work of the imagination of the later poets and writers. The Homeric poems, Hesiod and Herodotus, are all equally silent on the subject of this edifice. The labyrinthial. construction is essentially Aegyptian, and it would seem probable that the natural caverns and excavated sepulchres still to be seen near Cnossus, and which were originally used for religious worship, suggested, after the introduction of Aegyptian mythology into Greece, the idea of the labyrinth and its fabled occupant.
  Cnossus was at an early time colonized by Dorians, and from it Dorian institutions spread over the whole island. It preserved its rank among the chief cities of Crete for some time, and by its alliance with Gortyna obtained the dominion over nearly the whole island. Polybius (iv. 53) has given an account of the civil wars which distracted Crete, and in which Cnossus took part. Afterwards it became a Roman colony. (Strab. x.) All the now existing vestiges of the ancient metropolis of Crete are some rude masses of Roman brick-work, parts of the so-called long wall, from which the modern name of the site has been derived. Chersiphron, or Ctesiphon, and his son Metagenes, the architects of the great temple of Artemis, were natives of this city, as well as Aenesidemus the philosopher, and Ergoteles, whose victories in the Olympian, Pythian, and Isthmian games, are celebrated by Pindar (Olynmp. xii. 19). For coins of Cnossus, both autonomous and imperial. The usual type is the labyrinth; the forms, since they represent only a poetical creation, are naturally varied.

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited June 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities


   Knosos, more correct than Cnossus, Knossos, if we follow the language of coins; also Gnosus. The royal city of Crete, on the northern coast, at a small distance from the sea. Its earlier name was Caeratus, which appellation was given also to the inconsiderable stream that flowed beneath its walls. It was indebted to Minos for all its importance and splendour. That monarch is said to have divided the island into three portions, in each of which he founded a large city; and fixing his residence at Cnosus, it became the capital of the kingdom. It was here that Daedalus cultivated his art and planned the celebrated labyrinth.

This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

Non-profit organizations WebPages


  Main city of the Island of Crete, south of the Aegean Sea.
  Cnossus was the capital city of the kingdom of the legendary king Minos, who gave his name to a highly developed civilization of the Bronze Age, the Minoan civilization, that flourished from about 3000 to 1400 B. C. in the island of Crete and was rediscovered at the beginning of the century by the digs of Sir Arthur Evans (1900) who uncovered the remnants of the palace of Cnossus. More archaeological work through this century has allowed us to know a lot more about this civilization and the palaces that were at the center of its organization.
  If texts written in a system called Linear A used in Crete from the XVIIIth to the XVth century B. C. have not yet been deciphered, those more recent (XIVth to XIIth century B. C.) written in the syllabic script known as Linear B have been deciphered in 1952 and give us a vivid picture of the life in palaces such as that of Cnossus.
  For the Greeks of classical times, Minos was the son of Zeus and Europa. He was praised as a model lawgiver, the author of the most admired laws of Crete, that he was said to owe Zeus himself, whom he kept visiting every nine years in the cave of Mount Ida where the god was born and had been raised. As a result of his justice as a king, Minos was, along with his brother Rhadamanthus who had served as a judge in Crete, one of the judges of the souls of the dead in Hades.
  Another part of Minos' story that is worth mentioning is that of the Minotaur. This creature, half man, half bull, was the product of the love of Minos' wife, Pasiphae, for a bull that had been sent to Minos by Poseidon to show him that he favored him as king of Crete (this bull, that Minos, according to his pledge to Poseidon, should have offered in sacrifice to the god, had been rendered furious by Poseidon after Minos broke his vow at the sight of so beautiful an animal and decided to keep it in his flock ; known as the bull of Crete, he was later captured by Heracles as part of his labors and brought back to Crete where he was set free by Hera and was eventually killed by Theseus in the plain of Marathon. When Minos saw the result of his wife's unnatural love, he asked Daedalus to build a huge palace, the Labyrinth, in which he locked the Minotaur up.
  Later, Minos waged a war against Athens to avenge his son Androgeus. In order to end the war, the Athenians, weakened by famine and plague, had to accept Minos' conditions that every nine years (or each year, according to other sources) they would send to Crete seven youths and seven maidens as a tribute to be offered the Minotaur. It is Theseus who put an end to this obligation: he volunteered to be part of one shipment and, once in Crete, he killed the Minotaur and managed to get out of the Labyrinth with the help of a thread that Ariadne, the daughter of Minos who had fallen in love with him, had given him before entering the maze to mark his way while proceeding. He was thus able to bring back his companions alive to Athens.

Bernard Suzanne (page last updated 1998), ed.
This extract is cited July 2003 from the Plato and his dialogues URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks.

Perseus Project

Cnossus, Cnosus, Knosus, Knossos

The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites


  The site is best known for its great Minoan palace and deep Neolithic deposits, but it was a flourishing city in the Geometric and archaic periods and during the Classical and Hellenistic eras it was again the principal city of the island. In the 4th and 3d c. it was frequently at war with Lyttos, and after the destruction of Lyttos in the late 3d c. B.C., it was intermittently at war with Gortyn. The Roman invasion, which Knossos resisted, resulted in the elevation of Gortyn to be capital of the island, but Knossos was made a colony (Colonia Julia Nobilis) in 36 B.C., and was occupied as a prosperous city continuously up to the early Byzantine period. There is some evidence for a temporary decline in the early 3d c. A.D.
  The Geometric and archaic cities were situated N of the Minoan palace and settlement, and the Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman cities remained in this same area, eventually covering a little less than a square km. Little is known of the Classical and Hellenistic towns, although temples on the old palace site, on Lower Gypsades, and on or near the foot of the acropolis hill all seem to belong to the 5th or 4th c. That by the acropolis hill is known mainly from a fine metope relief showing Herakles and Eurystheus. The agora too, lying at the center of the city, was probably already sited by the Classical period.
  In the Roman period the agora was flanked on the W by a large basilica, while to the S stood another public building often identified as a temple but possibly the public baths. The basilica, like much else at Knossos, may not have been built until the 2d c. A.D. Northwest of it, the remains of a small amphitheater are known, now partially overlain by the modern road. To the W of this road, and S of the amphitheater is the so-called Villa Dionysus. This is the best-known and -preserved example of the wealthier Roman town houses at Knossos, most of which are known only from fragmentary remains of walls and ill-recorded mosaics. The villa is built around a peristyle courtyard, to the W of which is a large square room with a mosaic showing the heads of Dionysus and maenads in medallions. In the SW quarter of the building is a small household shrine. Recent excavations suggest that the main period of occupation was in the 2d c. A.D. Contemporary houses of a lower quality have recently been excavated immediately N of the Minoan "Little Palace." Earlier Roman houses, built in the Neronian period, were found beneath them, and around them were stretches of the narrow paved streets which served them.
  On the N edge of the city a Christian church with an E apse, nave, and two aisles was built in the late 5th or early 6th c. It was erected over an earlier cemetery which included tombs of the 2d to 4th c. A.D. Other cemeteries were situated to the W and S of the city, and both dug and built tombs have been discovered. In the S and SE slopes at the foot of the acropolis hill, rock-cut Roman chamber tombs can still be entered.
  Water was supplied to the city by an aqueduct coming from the S. Finds from the site are found in the Herakleion Archaeological Museum and the Stratigraphical Museum, Knossos.

K. Branigan, ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains 65 image(s), bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.

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