Knossos – Temple of the Goddess

This summary is made on the basis of Rodney Castleden´s archaeological discourse “The Knossos Labyrinth – a New View of the “Palace of Minos” at Knossos” (a popular version that I have was called “Knossos – Temple of the Goddess”, published by Efstathiadis Group in 1997, but seems no longer to be in print).
Castleden argues that Knossos on Crete never was a palace of the legendary King Minos, but rather a temple, designed for initiations and other ceremonies and rituals.
The temple was known as “Labyrinthos” and had a maze-like architecture. It was run by priestesses who also seem to have been running the economy of the islands of Keftiu (Crete and some other islands such as Thera (Santorini), and was dedicated to a goddess.

“Despite of its title, his [Arthur Evan´s] book Palace of Minos is full of references to Minoan religious practices and leads the reader to the natural conclusion that the building was a religious cult centre of the first importance. A gap widened between the excavation results and the expectation that the site would prove to be a bronze age palace. Evans tried to solve the problem by inventing a Priest-King; this explained the religious flavor of much of the Labyrinth but allowed him to hang onto his idea that it was a palace.

Rodney Castleden, “Knossos – Temple of the Goddess”

Chapter 1:

From the time when the first Labyrinth was built in the bronze age city of Knossos in 1930 BC, it was the focus of a glittering and original culture. The Bronze Age Cretans, the people we call Minoans (after the legendary King Minos), and who probably called themselves Kafti, honored boxers, athletes and bull-leapers, revered a mysterious Great Goddess who took on many forms, and earnestly worshipped their gods and goddess in mountain top shrines and cave.

There was a long-lasting Greek tradition of a great ancient sea-empire stretching across the Aegean Sea and ruled from Knossos by King Minos. In the nineteenth century AD, as the site of Knossos gradually re-emerged from obscurity, it was probably inevitable that the first people to take an interest in excavating it, Minos Kalokairinos, Heinrich Schliemann and Arthur Evans, should seek archaeological evidence of the past as represented by Homer. This line of thought was a false trail, on that has obscured the true nature of the Labyrinth. Evan´s “Palace of Minos, this dwelling of prehistoric kings,” as he called it, has gripped the imaginations of tourists and scholars alike for a hundred years, but both Evans and his lieutenant at Knossos, Duncan Mackenzie, knew that the Labyrinth had a major religious function. It was, in fact, a temple.

[Castleden proceeds to explain the destructions of the Knossos ruins over time, and the grave errors made in reconstructing it]…But this book will enable the reader to see what the original bronze age building was like before it was interpreted and reconstructed by Sir Arthur Evans – and before it was burned in antiquity [in 1380 BC to be exact].

Schliemann [who excavated the city of Troy and proved that the legend of Troy was real – and thus was prepared to find truth also in the legend of Minos] had announced that it was a bronze age palace – and that was how Evans was conditioned to see the site as he uncovered it. Yet archaeological evidence that Knossos was a temple came from practically every part of the Labyrinth: double-axes, altars, bench altars, stone thrones, snake tubes, votives, religious frescoes showing the worship of a Great Goddess, communion chalices, idols, animal rhytons, sunken areas for special rituals, and horns of consecration. Most of the finds make sense interpreted as the equipment and décor or a pre-classical temple complex.

The architecture is easier to understand in these terms, the enclosed chambers as shrines for private rituals, the open courts as arenas for ceremonies and ritual dances.

[The legends of the Greeks about Minos, Daidalos, Ariadne and Theseus] are hard to shake off, the more so since the prehistoric past of Crete lives on in the present. Many of the places that were important 3500 years ago are still known by their original bronze age names.

The bronze age users of the Labyrinth..called it by the same name. The name “Knossos” and “Labyrinthos” are found on clay tablets excavated from the ruins of Knossos. Other Minoan sites have kept their identity in the same way…

There were other labyrinths in Crete, notably at Zakro, Mallia and Phaistos, but this one at Knossos was easily the largest and most complicated, the one that would be remembered in centuries to come as the legendary Labyrinth.

[From the time of the destruction of Knossos in 1380 BC and the Homeric sagas, written down by 700 BC, ]it was already a fabulous city lost in legend, where “Minos was nine years king”.

Legend emphasizes the Minoan obsession with bulls, which archaeology again and again has proved to be a prehistoric fact. The ceremonial vessels, made for pouring libations to the gods were sometimes designed to look like bull´s heads…Everywhere at Knossos there are references to the bull.

Chapter 2 [Criticism of the erroneous conclusions made by the first excavators, and about their erroneous reconstructions of the “palace” that were based on preconceptions.]

[The double-axe carvings found at Knossos during the first excavations] proved that this was the House of the Labrys – or Double-Axe…the building might be the Labyrinth of Greek myth.

Boastful and egocentric, Schliemann was not above falsifying both the story of his life and his site evidence to make them more impressive…it is surprising that so much of value came out of his excavations}. Arthur Evans [ in 1900 started digging six years after his first visit].

Chapter 3: Reconstructing the Labyrinth

[Evans] was faced with a serious conservation problem. The frescoes were fragile and vulnerable to weathering…[Evans built roofs to protect them], but Evans liked the effect of the interior he had created…in 1930 Evans completed the reconstruction by rebuilding in stone and concrete…visually pleasing as well as fulfilling the essential purpose of keeping the weather out of the Throne Room complex.

[The Throne Room décor which we see today at Knossos was reconstructed erroneously]The griffin frescoes flanking the throne were added in 1930, though they were not part of the original design. Points like this become important when we realize that the wall paintings were not mere decoration but signed the function of the adjacent space. ..

“The Court of the Distaffs” in the “Queen´s Apartments” suggest high-born ladies quietly spinning in a broad sunlit courtyard, yet it is no more than a small dank ventilation shaft – scarcely a resort for princesses.  “The Room of the Plaster Couch” suggest a bedroom or withdrawing room where the ladies might recline elegantly on a chaise lounge. In fact this room is an antechamber to the lavatory which opens out of it. The “couch” is only 1.3 meters long and 1.5 meters from the lavatory door: it was probably a stand for ewers of water used to flush the lavatory.

Evans was a man of his time. What he imagined as Minoan Knossos was an idealized Late Victorian London. It is no accident that some of the fresco reconstructions have a hint of art nouveau about them…to a great extent Evans´ Knossos was a mirror held up to Victorian and Edwardian London.

…Evans found a badly damaged area where the Minoan building had been wrecked, he thought, by the insertion of a later Greek temple. He seized this opportunity. He dismantled the remains, which he thought were those of a Temple of Rhea, and used the stone to build [a staircase that he invented]. It now seems likely that the “Temple of Rhea” was part of the Minoan structure after all.

Chapter 4: Knossos before the Labyrinth

The low hill where Knossos stands was inhabited for over four thousand years before the bronze age temple complex was built…The first settlement was built in 6100 BC. Pottery appeared around 5600 BC. Over the next millennium the village expanded. By the end of the early Neolithic, it covered the whole site of the later temples; by 4500 BC the village was ten times its original area, housing a thousand people. By 3500 BC, Knossos had become a large village, almost a town.

Knossos had by now become one of the largest and most important settlements in the Eastern Mediterranean. By 3000 BC major economic changes were under way…trade…ideas…wealth…societies throughout the Aegean became more elaborate, more organized, more subtly stratified. Civilization was developing rapidly, culminating in the Minosn palace-temple society.

The Labyrinth was certainly the result of native cultural development. The Labyrinth´s architecture borrows some significant features from overseas (Near East and Anatolia). The Cretans were travelers, seafarers and traders; from the earliest layers at Knossos there is evidence of contact with other parts of the Aegean region..

Between 2500 and 2000 BC “the old temple of Knossos” existed.

Chapter 5: A tour of the Temple of the Goddess

Some people have seen the Labyrinth as a confused, illogical jigsaw of chambers, stairs and passages, but it is also possible to see it as a masterpiece of pre-classical architecture. It was an inside – out building, planned from the centre outwards….

The building was thought through from within, the reverse philosophy of most classical and later buildings where the appearance of the exterior is of primary importance.

The Labyrinth had to fulfill many functions. It incorporated workshops where religious votives and other objects were manufactured, sanctuaries for the worship of gods and goddess, special cult rooms for initiation and other private ceremonies, spaces for bull games, ritual dances and sacrifices, courts for public religious processions and dances, rooms for oracles, storage and administration areas for the organization of produce redistribution, a service quarter for the priestesses.

The building was bound to be complicated…

The result was a bewilderingly elaborate building, designed to create all kinds of unexpected theatrical effects…

The Snake goddess sanctuary – The “Temple Repositories” of the Snake Goddess Sanctuary at Knossos still had their sanctuary treasure in them when they were opened in 1903.

The Destroyed Sanctuary – where Evans believed the post-Minoan Temple of Rhea, the Great Mother Goddess, stood.

The Cupbearer Sanctuary – Focus may have been an offering bench with a few goddess figurines placed on it…four figurines of a goddess from the south-east corner of the sanctuary, which links it with the worship of a goddess. The fresco fragments…show temple attendants processing through mountains with conical rhytons…the painted offerings are intended for the sanctuary´s goddess. The cupbearer in the fresco appears to pour a painted libation to a carved and painted goddess.

Temples in Mesopotamia around 2500 BC operated within a similar monastic system and a substantial area of the Sumerian temple was taken up with store rooms. Like the Labyrinth, the Sumerian temple was an important redistribution centre, gathering wealth from the lands it owned and from tribute.

The administrations ranged widely, dealing with towns and villages all over Crete…tablets dating from 1380 BC…record details of livestock….wine. Seventy different scribes were at work recording the inflow of produce. But there is more than everyday administration  to the archive of clay tablets. Some record offerings to gods, goddesses, priestesses and temples. One opens:

“In the month of Deukiuos:

To Dictaian Zeus, one measure of oil;

To the Daidalaion, two measures of oil;

Toe the Priestess of the Winds, four (liquid measures of….)

To the Lady of the Labyrinth, honey.”


[In the Dove Goddess Sanctuary, tablets include a dagger symbol .] The reference to daggers can be explained in a temple context…The priestesses may have felt it necessary to arm themselves or their attendants against emergencies. Men often wore daggers in their belts; animals and people were sacrificed with knives.  To find an inventory mentioning daggers in a temple is not so surprising, after all.

Some tablets list arrows and spears, which might have been used defensively, or for hunting.Knossos was actually conspicuously short of weapons. The temple at Knossos did not have a well-stocked arsenal within its walls, nor was any list of troops found there.

The tablets show a complex bureaucracy at work, with an interest in all the many aspects of the economy of the area…Revenues collected at Knossos provided for the upkeep of temples, shrines and priestesses in a large surrounding area. One dedication was “To Eleuthia at Amnisos”: Eleuthia was a goddess of childbirth and she had a famous cane sanctuary at Amnisos.

The West Wing: …two tiers of figures were shown, some standing, others sitting formally on camp stools receiving metal chalices. One woman has a sacral knot to show her dedication to the goddess, or perhaps her prospective husband. Similar images of drinking ceremonies were created in ancient Sumeria, where they show the preliminary ritual to a sacred marriage.

Often in ancient societies groups of boys and girls were compelled to take part in a mass marriage. It was the culmination of a series of initiation ceremonies, many of which may have taken place in the temple.

The Great Sanctuary: The largest chamber in the whole temple complex, was decorated with a bull-leaping fresco. Upper Throne Sanctuary: was decorated with the Jewel Relief Fresco…it clearly showed a ceremonial robbing scene, life size: a man is in the act of draping round a woman´s neck a gold necklace with a blue-check cloth tied to it, possibly a sacral knot.

In the Upper Snake Goddess Sanctuary there was a treasury, a room filled with cult objects for us in ceremonies in the neignbouring chambers.

The Central Court

The existence of the Central and West Courts implies and underlying common purpose to the whole building. The Central Court is an orderly, level, rectangular space round which the suites of rooms have been built. Although the Cretan temples vary in detail, they all evolved round this rectangular space. Some unifying ritual central to the temple´s purpose took place here.

The cult of the bull was a major ingredient in the rites of the Labyrinth. A bull festival survived into classical times in Miletus, a town founded as a Minoan colony in what is now Turkey…There is archaeological evidence for a bull cult in and round the Labyrinth itself…the skulls of slaughtered bulls making a foundation deposit on the Labyrinth´s southern edge…the stylized bull´s horns built into the architecture…bull-leaping did take place at bronze age Knossos.

The priestesses and onlookers in the Grandstand Fresco are watching a major spectacle in the Central Court which may well be bull games. The isolated section of colonnade south of the Triple Shrine may have been a spectator box for priestesses of the Snake Goddess….a fresco fragment from the Labyrinth actually shows us a strongly made three-rail fence with a female attendant or priestess leaning on it as she watches.

The bull was strongly associated with Poseidon….Minos´ bull carried sun and moon symbols on its head; it carried Poseidon´s signature. The same symbols hover above the Great Goddess in several seal impressions. ….Poseidon was a cosmic background presence when the goddess herself appeared.

Grand Stand Fresco: It tells us something important about Minoan attitudes towards the sexes. The restored fresco shows a crowd in the usual stylized way. Large continuous areas of re indicate men, with the faces in profile sketched on in black. There are also patches of white with identical facial profiles representing women. All look eagerly to the left or right as if watching a tennis championship.

In the middle of the crowd is a Triple Shrine surmounted by horns of consecration. One each side of the shrine sit five ladies painted in far greater detail; they lounge in opulent dresses and seem sunk in relaxed conversation, apparently ignoring the spectacle before them. Beyond these groups are porticoed staircases leading up through the crowd, empty of people except for women standing about like attendants or usherettes. Further off to each side there are more groups of standing or seated women, again shown in detail and in front of a crowd of male spectators.

The Grand Stand Fresco shows a crowd of spectators watching a formal event, a spectacle of some kind…The women in the crowd are painted with the same degree of care and attention as the men; apart from the background color, the women are indistinguishable from the men. The groups of “special” women are given a lot more attention. They are painted significantly larger, showing that they are more important, and their elaborate dresses are drawn in some detail. They are also individuals, one raising a hand to emphasize a conversational point, another resting her hand on her lap and relaxing as she listens. The fresco painter obviously held these women in high regard.

There is no sign in the Grand Stand Fresco of a prince if any kind, no sign of King Minos. Who the high-status women are is a matter of great importance and, given that the principal suites in the Labyrinth are religious sanctuaries, it is natural to identify them as temple priestesses.

The painter tells us that women at Knossos enjoyed a dominant role on big ceremonial occasions. …They were important people and, to judge from the way the artist has painted them, well aware of it.

It is surprising that depictions of bull sacrifice are so rare…the sacrifice may have led to a sacred communion, a special meal at which initiates, perhaps only the priests and priestesses, consumed the offerings. This is shown in the Camp Stool Fresco…The libations would have been undrinkable if they had consisted of blood alone; probably other liquids were added, as in the Kykeon drunk at Eleusis, where milk, honey and wine were mixed with the blood of sacrificed animals…special libation-pouring vessels: some were made in the shape of a bull´s head.

The Sacred Grove Fresco…shows elaborately dressed, bare-breasted women dancing in a large cleared space in the open air to a crowd of perhaps a thousand onlookers. The setting…seems to be the Labyrinth itself….both the crowd and the women dancers face and object of veneration…which frustratingly has been destroyed.

Priestesses Fresco – showing a group of seated priestesses.

The procession Fresco…a ceremonial procession either to the goddess or to a statue of the goddess. Kilted male attendants brought offerings; long-robed males may, as the excellent Museum reconstruction shows, have been musicians….perhaps the scene shows the robbing of the statue of the goddess, or the robbing of a priestess who is about the impersonate the goddess…the mythic setting for the ceremony was the peak sanctuary.

The False Priest-King Fresco

“The Priest-King Fresco” – more pieces of the Procession Corridor Fresco came to light, pieces Evans assembled to make his famous “Priest-King”.  …Despite of its title, his [Evan´s] book Palace of Minos is full of references to Minoan religious practices and leads the reader to the natural conclusion that the building was a religious cult centre of the first importance. A gap widened between the excavation results and the expectation that the site would prove to be a bronze age palace. Evans tried to solve the problem by inventing a Priest-King; this explained the religious flavor of much of the Labyrinth but allowed him to hang onto his idea that it was a palace.

This idea has been widely supported, not the least because Evans cleverly restored the fresco to suggest a portrait of a commanding and athletic prince with a plumed crown, which tourists and academics alike have been ready to accept as the Priest-King. But the figure is just one of what were originally hundreds of attendants, musicians and tribute-bearers who lined the walls of the corridor.

A facsimile of the reconstructed Priest-King Relief is now displayed in solitary splendor in the South-North Corridor of Knossos, with the implication that it was the leading figure in the procession. In fact the fragments were found ten meters from the corridor´s exit into the Central Court, so there may have been several figures ahead of him, including the goddess herself. It is unlikely that the headdress belongs to the reconstructed figure. It may have been worn by the mythical beast the attendant was leading or by another figure in the progression, perhaps even by the goddess herself, since the goddess shown on the Agia Thriada sarcophagus wears a similar plumed crown. The papyrus lilies confirm that the man was an attendant in service of the goddess; he wars a necklace made of lily-shaped beads…comparable works show human attendants leading large mythical animals. A giant dog has been suggested, as dogs were associated with the Minoan goddess. The much later Temple of Dictynna (The Minoan goddess as huntress) at the western end of Crete was guarded by great dogs. So it is possible that our attendant at Knossos (“King Minos”) may have been presenting a large dog to the goddess.

Labyrinthine initiation?

[Numerous entrances leading to the Central Court] Even when newly built, these entrances may have been hard to identify. Once inside, it would have been difficult to work out the way in to the centre …unless we assume that the Central Court was the centre. When we come to consider the possibility that the bull games were held in this court, the idea of a central confrontation between hero and bull monster takes on a new dimension.

The Lotus Lamp Sanctuary

Room of the Lotus Lamp and the Room of the Saffron-Gatherer, showing a blue monkey collecting crocuses in a bowl; made in 1700 BC, the fresco is among the earliest known in Crete.

The crocus was used for making saffron which could be used as a yellow textile dye or as  a pain-killing drug. Whether it was the narcotic qualities of saffron that made it a cult substance or the fact that it was used to dye the goddess´s robes is impossible to tell; either way, the crocus was often painted into frescoes of a religious nature. On Santorini, Minoan offering tables have been found with crocuses painted on them, and the Crocus Gatherers Fresco speaks clearly of a link with the worship of the goddess, with girls who may be initiands picking  crocuses and offering them to a barebreasted goddess enthroned on an altar and attended by a monkey and a rampant griffin. Although very little of the Labyrinth Fresco is left, it belongs to a similar cult-scene: a monkey in attendance on a goddess who is being offered a bowl of freshly picked crocuses. It follows tha the chamber which the fresco decorated was also dedicated to the cult.

The Room of the Lotus Lamp next door is identified as a cult room by its central square stone pillar…

The Initiation Area

The central feature is a sunken rectangular adyton …it has been accurately reconstructed…This area was probably used…for rites of purification…the ceremony of initiation, which involved token washing or anointing in the adyton and some additional rite in the enclosure.

An Egyptian pot-lid suggests several possibilities; perhaps the priestesses were trading with Egypt in 1620 BC, or perhaps an Egyptian visitor to Crete came to see the Temple of the Goddess, one of the wonders of the bronze age world.

The Sanctuary, where Evans guessed that “priestesses may have woven their own sacral vestments in their special sanctuary” was a place of worship. Bronze locks of hair found in the cellars prove that there was a huge statue of a goddess at the eastern end. In front of her was an exceptionally large pair of sacral horns. The goddess, as Evans visualized her, “towered above her worshippers, a radiant vision of divinity”…Given the size of the moulded bronze locks of hair, the head of the goddess´s statue must have been 40 centimeters high, so the whole statue, if in proportion, must have been three meters high.

Shield Frescoes – figure-of-eight shields are associated with the goddess. Even on their own they represent the goddess and her divine protection. Later, Athene too had a shield to symbolize her role as protectress: she may have inherited the symbol from her ancestor, the Lady of the Labyrinth.

Hall of the Double Axes – a place well-fitted to carry out religious rituals relateing to the gods of the underworld.

The Dolphin Sanctuary- Evans like to see this area as a suite reserved for the Queen, but its darkness and extreme seclusion make it more like a dungeon than a royal apartment…In the ancient Mediterranean world, the dolphin was a symbol of the soul´s liberation from the earthly body. …in part as an expression of the freeing of the human spirit, either in death or in religious trance… A lot of carved bone lozenges were found…may have been used in a game but they are equally likely to have been used for divination, more like the Tarot cards from which modern playing cards have developed….a wooden idol of a goddess…provides the ritual setting for the casting of the lozenges.

Triton shell sanctuary  – within this building were found altars, offerings, a sacrificed youth trussed up on a stone table, and the remains of the priest and the priestess who murdered him, dead on the floor beside the body….a stand for cult objects, possibly statuettes of goddesses.

Chapter Seven : The Temple of the Goddess

Diodorus said that in his day (which was the first century BC) it was still possible to see at Knossos the foundations of the ancient Temple of Rhea. “Rhea” to the Greeks meant the Divine Mother, the Mother of the Gods, so Knossos was still remembered then as the place where the Temple of the Great Goddess had stood. Perhaps more than anything else it was the worship of that goddess which gave the Minoan civilization its distinctive character.

The godling Velkhanos was always subject to the goddess and invariably shown worshipping her. The crowned “Divine Child” figurine in ivory, probably from the Labyrinth, may be an image of Velchanos as a boy, hands stretched up in adoration. The even more remarkable ivory and gold figure known as the Boston Goddess is probably the other half of the tableau. Velchanos was leader of the Kouretes, the young nature spirits who with their female companions, the Kourai, caused the flowers to bloom. When the worship of the goddess became wilder, he seems to have become the prototype of Dionysus. In a gold ring from the New Temple of Knossos we can see the goddess calling the young Velchanos down from the sky.

I n the last decades of the Labyrinth, the Great Goddess was called Potnia. It means only “The Lady” or “The Mistress”, and yet it carried powerful resonances, rather like the phrase “Our Lady” in more recent centuries. It was clearly the name or title of the goddess. We find her named in the Labyrinth itself, where an inscription on a tablet refers to an offering made to Labyrinthos Potnia – the Lady of the Labyrinth. She appears again and again as the chief goddess.

Hers was the double-axe symbol that we find at so many Minoan shrines on Crete; the pillar and the snake were her symbols too….snake made a natural symbol for the spirit of the underworld.

A chaste and free goddess who hunted and tamed wild beasts is often referred to as the Mistress of the Animals. The Cretans called her Britomartis (“Sweet Virgin”)…, and she became Artemis or Diana in the classical period. Britomartis was worshipped at peak sanctuaries, where we know ritual pyres were lit: the later cult of Artemis involved similar mountain bonfires. A Minoan seal impression shows a male counterpart, a Master of Animals, who may have been her consort. Artemis had a young consort called Hippolytos. Artemis succeeded and developed out of an older goddess, Cubele, the mother-goddess of the Phrygians. Cybele too was usually invisible, but lived in the rocky mountainsides. Sometimes she appeared in the form of a stone pillar flanked by lions of took on human form between her animals…There are close connections here with the Minoan goddess, who was also thought of as residing in the stone of the mountain peaks, as showing herself in human forms between pairs of animals, or even, as powerfully shown by the Lion Gate at Mycenae – as a Minoan pillar flanked by two lions.
There is evidence of a Goddess of Caves…associated with childbirth and the underworld and may have been regarded as the primeval Earth Mother…recognizable as Rhea in the later Greek myths, but we know that is the final centuries of the Labyrinth´s use she was known in Crete as Eleuthia.

The Cave of Eleuthia at Amnisos remained an important center of goddess worship from Neolithic times right through to the Roman period and is even mentioned in Homer´s Odyssey.

In Greek religion, Eleuthia was sometimes equated with Artemis, but often treated as a separate goddess….the discovery in 1974 of a sacred cave at the peak sanctuary on Mount Juktas shows that it was possible to combine peak and cave sanctuaries: identical inscriptions have been found on offering tables in both types of sanctuary. Perhaps the Minoans, like the later Greeks, worshipped a two-sided goddess, Artemis-Eleuthia.

The Snake Goddess also represented the underworld. Dove goddess as a fertility goddess, there may have been a sea goddess too. Now we have a Snake Goddess whose concerns seem to overlap with those of the other two. Probably some of the Minoan goddesses were aspects of each other, transformations of a single goddess representing different cosmic functions.

It is odd to find so little in the Minoan religion about gods. From the Linear B tablets found at Knossos, Pylos, Mycenae and Thebes, it appears that the same deities were worshipped in Crete as on the mainland of Greece in the period 1470-1380 BC. As far as the mainland was concerned, the principal god was Poseidon…there is no positive evidence so far from Knossos that he had a significant cult following in Crete.

Among the gods worshipped at Knossos were Erimus, Hermes, Merineus and Diktaian Zeus. One tablet…mentions Eunalios (a name for Ares, god of war), and Paiawon (a name for Apollo).

The clay tablets tell us that offerings at Knossos were dedicated to gods as well as goddesses…a frequent entry on other tablets is “for all the gods”. This phrase confirms that the Minoans had many gods. The absence of evidence [for a powerful father-god} implies that the bull may have symbolized the male creative force and aggression.

The Goddess at Knossos

The Procession fresco shows the goddess as the centre and focus, standing between two approaching lines of men bearing tribute…priestesses are the most important: there is no sign of a king, no sign of any important male officials. The Lady of the Labyrinth was attended by an elite of powerful priestesses. The Palanquin Fresco shows as public ceremony attended by a horde of warriors. In the middle of the crowd is the figure of a woman in a simple white robe being varied on a litter, indicating her high status…a priestess..publicly paraded..on her way to take part in a religious ceremony.

…it seems that a priestess acted the role of the goddess. This type of ritual appearance was already an ancient convention by the time of the Temple of Artemis around 600 BC; it had become a common practice in the eastern Mediterranean.

The priestesses dances were important acts of worship too. Men were dancers, as clay models show, but usually it is women who are shown dancing and in all sorts of locations – sacred groves, flowerly meadows, wild rocky places, the West Courts of temples. They danced with raised arms, swaying bodies, leaning heads, abandoned to the music  and very likely intoxicated with wine of opium.

A gold ring found in a Minoan tomb near Knossos shows four richly dressed priestesses, their breasts bared and their arms raised in the air. One of them, in the centre, seems to be performing a solo: she leans her head over to one side and her right arm points down at the ground. Above is the tiny figure of the goddess appearing in the sky: the visitation by the goddess is the purpose of the dance.


Chapter 8: The Fall of the Labyrinth

Destruction in 1470 BC –

Many damages occurred over the period….in 1700 BC…a major destruction at many Minoan sites, marking the end of the Old Temple Period…1700 BC earthquake disasters.

1500 BC Earthquake damages.

1470 BC: all the Minoan temple-complexes were destroyed by it. All were left in ruins. All were abandoned – except the Labyrinth at Knossos. The Knossos Labyrinth alone was repaired and restored. The final phase, the Late Temple Period (1470-1380 BC) was the Labyrinth´s zenith, when its powers extended east and west across most of Crete and power became highly centralized, with Knossos controlling the whole of central Crete from Rethymnon to Ierapetra.

1380 BV: The Temple of the Goddess was destroyed decisively, finally, never to be repaired….a great mystery…a turning point in the history of Crete. When the Labyrinth went up in flames, the influence of Crete, not just Knossos, seems to have imploded, leaving the way clear for a vigorous expansion of the Myceneans trading empire.


3 Responses to Knossos – Temple of the Goddess

  1. Peter Ooijen says:

    Usual plural for labrys is labryses.

  2. Peter Ooijen says:

    Chapter 5 (and further) states: Eleuthia…………….. she had a famous CANE (must be
    CANE) sanctuary at Amnisos; Upper Throne Sanctuary…….. It clearly showed a

  3. Peter Ooijen says:

    Chapter 5 (and further states: Eleuthia…………….. she had a famous CANE (muste be
    CAVE) sanctuary at Amnisos;
    Upper Throne Sanctuary………. It clearly showed a ROBBING (must be ROBING) scene.

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