|1. Chain of History -- Chain of Ideas|
|2. Theseus -- as political philosopher/administrator|
|3. The Minotaur --- Myth or Reality-based?|
|4. Behind Atlantis -- Ancient Crete|
|5. Ancient Crete -- The Land of Two Peoples|
|6. King Minos of Crete -- More than One Man?|
|8. The Death of Minos|
|9. Princess Ariadne|
|10. Theseus and Ariadne|
PRELUDE : Historical Assumptions and Projections
While certainly many of the facts, people and events of the Late Bronze Age remain vague and subject to some debate -- still there is much that is known and is clear from the archaeological records. And if theories or projections are to be extrapolated from these findings, then -- to have credibility -- they must be extremely consistent with, and logical to, existing knowledge about the period.
Similarly -- in the story-line projected for Athens & Knossos -- while absolute proof cannot be made for every personality, every motivation, and every conversation occurring --- yet it can be shown that every one of these aspects are highly consistent, and highly credible -- to existing knowledge and writings about the periods involved -- and that they do not contradict the established body of information up to this point..
Further, we believe it is important to stress one of the primary motivations of this production in general : that of promoting attention and more public interest, in the conceptual aspects of ancient history -- which we believe were not only real and influential within their own time periods; but in many cases, relevant today.
Below, we have summarized the historical assumptions and projections used in formulating the story and character outlines for Athens & Knossos. We appreciate your interest in these important aspects.
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1. Chain of History -- Chain of Ideas
A. There are numerous connections and references between the writings and ideas held by Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, Adams and others -- and the concepts of the Greek polis as expressed by Solon, Socrates, Pericles and others of the Classical period.
There are also numerous references from the Classical Greeks
to a time period a thousand years before occupied by a mythical-historical
figure called Theseus -- described by Plutarch, Euripedes and others -- repeatedly
referred to as the Founder of Athens, founder of Democracy -- to the point where
a common phrase of the times developed concerning Athenian heritage and concepts
in general : " not without Theseus ". There is a quote attributed to Theseus
by Euripedes in the "The Suppliant Women" -- that reads almost like
a quote from Thomas Paine or Patrick Henry:
"This state is not subject to one man's will -- but is a free city. The King here is the People, who by yearly office, govern in them. We give no special power to wealth -- the poor man's voice command equal opportunity."
C. There are numerous, striking similarities between the ' new ' political system and class organization set up by Theseus at the time of the autocratic Mycenaean regimes in the Bronze Age -- [the first democracy, Plutarch] --- and the institutions and class structure of the much older Indo-European cultures going back a thousand years before the Bronze Age itself.
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2. Theseus -- as political philosopher/administrator
A. The range of legends and accounts concerning 'Theseus' could be said to fall into two primary, and very different categories : myth-oriented, and reality-oriented.
1. Myth-oriented -- [see Motivations, below] depicting a series of grandiose adventures comparable to those of Hercules, Perseus, Jason and others. from confronting and killing a long series of giants, monsters, legendary bandits -- to abducting Amazons, or famous women -- talking to gods or goddesses, or claiming divine heritage -- even to going on pirate raids and treasure hunts.
2. Reality-oriented -- depicting Theseus as political administrator / philosopher : setting up government structures, institutions, organizing public assemblies, defining class rights, privileges and responsibilities -- mediating public disputes, setting borders, boundaries -- instituting public works, festivals, and trade treaties.
B. Conclusion -- We have made the assumption that the reality-oriented accounts of Theseus are the correct ones. And that the memory of his political actions survived into Classical times not only for the sheer merit of the ideas as applied to the ongoing Greek political-economic situation -- (low resources, high productivity) -- but also because they would have echoed key social-religous values inherent in the Greek consciousness going back to the much older Indo-European culture base.
1. Projection -- Theseus as a 'Throwback': that the figure of Theseus may, in his time, have represented a return to political/religious ideas of Indo-European peoples dating back to 3,000 B.C. and beyond -- of which offshoots, like the 'Achaens', began arriving in Greece around 2,000 B.C. His social-class organization is a close , if not exact replica, as described by Plutarch : government -- merchants-and-farmers -- and craftsmen/laborers. This is also related to parallel Indo-European offshoots like the Celtic and Hindu [Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Shudras] , except for the separate priest category in each.
And Plutarch is very clear in describing these as being set up in a way to achieve 'balance' and 'equity' between the classes -- even to insisting on assemblies to represent their rights, privileges and interests. To quote: " the whole city being, as it were, reduced to an exact equality" -- and that "the civil rights" granted to all citizens were extended to foreign visitors and traders as well. In fact, after this, Homer - in his 'catalogue of the ships' - applies the name "People" only to the Athenians in the long list contained. The only remaining difference in the classes, as 'People', would seem to come down to the work function itself.
Surely this system would have been a complete departure from the absolute military rule of the Mycenaean at the time. Now, one can either assume that Theseus 'made up' this entire structure by himself -- [ on the way back from killing the minotaur? ]-- OR, that he was drawing from his own perceived heritage, [which he may well have been a student of ] -- AND from suppressed elements within his society trying to keep alive the older social/religious ideas -- which were set askew over the centuries, as reported by Thucydides -- " as the power of Hellas grew, and the acquisition of wealth became more an object -- tyrannies were established almost everywhere .. .. in the form of hereditary monarchy....". And the Dorian 'Invasion'- soon after Theseus - overthrowing the Mycenaean rule -- is often referred to as ' the return of the Heraclidae to their rightful position' on the Greek Mainland.
[ see The Dorians -- Invasion or Revolt from Within ? J. McInerney, U. of Penn.]
These creationist myths of the Indo-Europeans would also seem to imply an intended balance and harmony between the social classes -- or that the world would be the better for it. They would also seem to imply the fore-knowledge or prophecy that these categories would always exist -- so that, in effect, each person would come into the world with some predestined ability or "gift" for the world -- ready to contribute at one of these three basic levels. In fact, one could very well project these three levels rather clearly today -- in parallel : policy-makers and management -- merchants and producers -- craft and service industries.
But the key factor is the provision to maintain the harmony, balance or 'equity' between them -- as described by Plutarch with Theseus. And we project this may have been a big part of his appeal at the time -- a unifying figure restoring something older, and deeply ingrained in the Greek consciousness -- the 'rightful', or 'the intended' social order.
2. We have also projected that these two totally different categories of Theseus descriptions may have been preserved for entirely different motivations, and quite possibly by different types, or groups of people. Plutarch may be alluding to this in his statement: "If, that is, we may take stories least like poetry to be our guide to the truth."
A. One must remember the level of civilization existing at the peak of the Bronze Age -- then degrading into an essentially illiterate 'Dark Age' marked by intense tribal and regional conflict. One can easily see the motivation to develop a 'hero-myth' in the Attica region to compete with the older Hercules stories so popular with rival tribe, or clan elements in other regions of Greece. These types of stories would also have been very conducive to warrior initiation rites -- testing oneself to become a 'man', or soldier -- especially in times of ongoing tribal or regional war.
B. By contrast, the reality-based accounts may have had a different motivation -- possibly from pockets of literacy, or literate people surviving into the Dark Age, clinging to the idea of bringing back the higher level of civilization - and economy - so well-remembered from the prior age, and so different from the existing conditions.
C. While the projections above may not be proveable at this point -- still, surely there must be some explanation as to the enormous difference and disparity between the two types of legends -- and the two enormously different personas they represent, if in fact both of these were meant to represent actual human beings.
Conclusion: We suspect only one of them does -- and that the key point - the telling point -- of this issue can be seen most clearly in one of the most famous legends of all : The Minotaur. The relationship between myth and reality become especially clear in examining this particular story -- and especially if one looks in parallel at a myth of even greater stature -- the origins of Atlantis.
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3. The Minotaur --- Myth or Reality-based?
A. Mythical Scenario -- a familiar and extremely persistent story. The legend begins in the Hellenistic or Mycenaean Age with Theseus' arrival in Athens, at a time when a tax tribute becomes due to King Minos, of Crete -- dominant sea-power of the time. The tribute is for a past transgression -- youths and maidens to be offered to the Minotaur, half-bull monster kept in the 'labyrinth' of Crete - product of the queen's coupling with a sacred bull.. Theseus volunteers to go along with several of his friends, and once on Crete, obtains the help of Ariadne - who falls in love with him - gives him a sword and ball of thread to kill the Minotaur and find his way out of the labyrinth. Theseus escapes with Ariadne and the youth of Athens and returns to Greece -- and begins a democracy.
B. Historical Scenario -- Projections -- It is generally agreed that the discoveries of Sir Arthur Evans at the ancient city of Knossos on Crete provide a realistic basis for the famous Minotaur legend. Concurrently, the discoveries of Schlieman at Mycenaean sites on the Greek mainland provide some picture of the relationship between these two cultures in the late Bronze Age.
1500-1300 B.C. -- extensive evidence that the two had contact and were operating/trading in the same general area of the Aegean Sea -- although Crete appears to have been much earlier established in this and apparently more unified or centralized under its king, or series of kings, Minos [Thucydides]. Yet the various Mycenaean kingdoms on the whole were rising quickly in the acquisition of wealth, ships and weapons to the point where competition and mutual distrust became the dominant theme by the end of the period. Quite possibly, a strike or be stricken mentality must have evolved as evidenced by numerous palace burnings and violence on Crete attributed to the Achaeans toward the end of the period -- which could have involved some collusion by elements within the Cretan power structure, according to some legends.
One can also see where the tax levied by Crete on the Mainland in the legend would have some basis in reality. Thucydides emphasizes the profit-minded nature of Minos -- and history shows many instances where empires will first try intimidation -- to levy some form of taxes on a target kingdom as opposed to mounting an outright conquest, which would be more expensive. Such taxes could serve to not only weaken the kingdom, but provide the financing for a future takeover with even higher returns, in the years to come. And Plutarch reports that the Minotaur tribute was already in its third [9-year] phase by the time of Theseus, indicating 2-3 decades in this progression.
C. THE BULL-DANCE -- We project that the "Bull-Dance" evidenced at Knossos would have been closely related to the historical and mythical scenarios occurring -- and we have drawn a number of inferences and projections about this that are logical to both, which has been done by other theorists and writers of this period as well.
-- That the bull-dance held considerable significance in the cultural, religious or entertainment aspects of Cretan life. [or all of these] -- almost a culmination of the numerous bull-symbol, bull-worship phenomenon recurring throughout the culture.
-- That the Bulldance may have been performed on a regular basis -- and the clearly dangerous if not lethal aspects of it would have required more than a small supply of ready participants -- which is supported not only by the 'sacrificial nature ' of the legendary tax, but also by a number of viable areas on Crete for regular performances. And researchers project an unusually high standard of living and leisure time for Cretan society in general -- even in satellite or associated islands. [see archaeology, Santorini, Thera] And the population of Knossos at this time has been estimated at 40,000 -- and probably drawing many,many more from other towns during festivals and other events. In addition, it would be logical to assume that the well-to-do would prefer to see foreign athletes risking their lives in this rather than their own offspring. Here the 'human tax' could certainly have come into play -- and even the substitution of athletes by the smaller countries in lieu of other costly taxes -- as we project in the story.
-- Also, it would be hard to imagine any ongoing Bulldance activity subsisting only on a handful of youths from Athens every 9 years -- which were clearly expected to die very quickly anyway. And whereas the various individual Mycenaean kingdoms may have been viewed in much the same way by the Cretans - in a tax-for-profit sense - then it is fairly logical to assume the tax may have applied to all, and possibly other small countries around the Aegean as well. But many of these aspects - though reasonable - may not be proveable at this point.
D. Theseus and the Bulldance -- Because Theseus is so inextricably tied to the Minotaur legend, we have assumed he is tied to its likely basis in reality -- the Cretan Bulldance. And that his activities before and after may be tied to it.
-- In the legend according to Plutarch, the creation of the democracy occurs almost directly after his return to Greece from Crete and the Minotaur -- as if events on Crete put him in a position to do this. OR, that he didn't have enough support to do it BEFORE he left. One could surmise that he volunteered as a calculated gamble originally -- especially if this tax had been in progress for years, with young people from all over Greece in captivity. THEN if he managed some kind of treaty or escape -- he would come back as a national hero with a strong and wide political base among the younger generation.
-- Many accounts of Theseus mention a close group of friends referred to as 'the Cranes" -- some of which were enlisted to accompany him to Crete -- disguised as maidens, according to Plutarch. Could they have been political supporters or associates before he left ? Could they have been instrumental in the events on Crete -- gathering support for a new political system on the Mainland from the athletes already there ? A number of stories refer to the 'dance of the Cranes' at Delos before returning to Athens -- 're-tracing the steps of the Labyrinth'. There was no labyrinth in reality -- so could this have represented some sort of political centering point before making a major push for social change ? [democracy] Could the early stories about the young Theseus represent political activity or opposition to aspects of the Mycenaean system ? Ex. : The story of Procrustes forcing all people to fit one bed-size ? or the story of Sciron demanding menial service, then kicking people to their death [over a cliff] . And similar stories.
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4. Behind Atlantis -- Ancient Crete -- There are a number of factors relating the Atlantis legends to Crete in the late Bronze Age, and the setting of the projected story. See Author's essay below:
The majority of archaeological theorists in the field would seem to agree that the most likely inspiration for the famous legend of Atlantis as depicted by Plato, was, in all probability, the ancient civilization of Crete.
And the key to this argument rests primarily on the original source - the verbatim account handed down to Plato by his uncle Solon - given to him by Egyptian priests when he visited Alexandria in approximately 580 B.C.
In fact, the mystery becomes clearer, especially when analyzed from the viewpoint of the very people who told the story - the Egyptians; and in light of two important factors: First, that the Egyptians were one of the only peoples who kept accurate historical and trade records through the early Bronze Age. And second, that they were one of the least ocean-oriented peoples of the Ancient World, having rarely navigated beyond the Nile Delta itself; and never having built ships capable of long ocean travel.
And what the Egyptians remember in 580 B.C. is a culture they had extensive contact with about a thousand years before - a people they called "the Keftiu" - taken from the Egyptian word for "pillar" - and which also translates to the root form of the Greek word for Atlantis. They remember an almost magical island-country located somewhere " in the middle of the great ocean"; and a people imbued with a knowledge and craft gathered "from the four corners of the globe." - with numerous fleets and an ocean empire of islands and colonies 'across the world.'
And when one compares the Egyptian descriptions of Atlantis to the excavations and discoveries in this century of a lost civilization on Crete - the Minoan culture - from its palaces and cities, education, art, religion - down to the dress of the people and the ever-recurring symbol of the bull in ceremony, tradition and sport - there are far too many coincidences to ignore. The fit is extremely close.
The only discrepancies seem to occur in the descriptions of the size, distance and time factors, at least initially. But recently a translation error has been discovered between the Greek and Egyptian numerical systems which appears to have happened numerous times in ancient documents passed between the two countries. Sometimes the numbers have been off or misconstrued; by a factor of 10.
With this in mind, one can equate Plato's description of "the fertile plain of Atlantis" - protected on three sides by high "yellow" mountains, open to the sea on the south and measuring a whopping 235 X 350 miles - with the fertile plain on the island of Crete - also protected on three sides by high yellow mountains open to the sea on the south; and measuring 23.4 X 35.0 miles - off by a factor of 10.
By the same token, Plato's account puts the disappearance of Atlantis at 9,000 years before Solon's visit to Egypt. But if one were to go back only 900 years, one would arrive in the general period described by radiocarbon dating for a gigantic explosion on the island of Thera near Crete; an eruption four times more intense than Krakatoa in 1883 - which many have called the greatest natural disaster of this millennium.
The resulting earthquakes and tidal-waves may not have caused Crete to actually sink into the ocean - but it probably seemed that way to the Egyptians. Certainly the Cretan harbors, fleets and cities must have been crippled for some time by the level of damage incurred, if Krakatoa is any indication.
Indeed, geologists have discovered a layer of volcanic ash on "the fertile plain" of Crete up to several feet thick in some areas; originating between 1500 and 1300 B.C. - and undoubtedly damaging effective agriculture on the island for centuries.
If ever there was a people, a culture, or nation seemingly swept away "in the course of a day and a night" - then surely it was here - Ancient Crete - at the end of the Bronze Age.
And a striking coincidence occurs in the Egyptian record as well - for just as references to "the Keftiu" shrink and disappear after 1300 B.C.; yet the references to trade and contact with Mainland Greece now begin - indicating a dramatic power shift in the Mediterranean; from the island-empire of the old, to the Greek city-state of the new.
This in fact points up what is probably the most romantic and tragic aspects of the Atlantis legend itself. Because it seems the Atlantians - and the Cretans - both appear to have been swept away at the peak of their power. And in some ways both appear to have entered a fatal evolutionary phase before their demise. Though both may have been founded on the principles of trade, knowledge, and advancement - yet at some point each must have became more preoccupied with their place and position in the world - and holding onto it for the future. Peaceful development turning to - "defensive aggression."
The Egyptians attribute this strictly to an overabundance of wealth, greed, pride and arrogance - but one could project an historical scenario very logical to the development and position of Crete at that time. The country had enjoyed steady growth through the previous 500 years of the Bronze Age; by trading essential items with the great land empires of Asia - and the Aegean area.
But at some point growth apparently slowed down - easy to imagine with the appearance of competitive sea-going peoples at that time, along with the growth of overland trade routes in Asia . There are indications that the Cretans may have decided to colonize, subjugate or tax many of the smaller countries, not only for profit - but to keep them in check..
In any case, the Egyptians of 580 B.C. might very well have been summing up this entire scenario in relating to Plato's uncle that:
"There was a time when the greed and arrogance of Atlantis . . . threatened the security of the entire known world." But they also said this was the "shining hour" for the city of Athens - which arose and led a successful alliance of smaller countries in heroic opposition.
And maybe this is near the core of the romantic appeal of the Atlantis legend down through the centuries. Because history seems to ebb and flow around such dramatic turning points as these -- when nations, or peoples come together with a greater vision for the world around them.. Of course, that vision is a very elusive thing. One of the reasons for looking back in history -- even as we look ahead.
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5. Ancient Crete -- The Land of Two Peoples
There is much in the archaeological history of Crete supporting the idea of two co-existing, but conflicting cultural traditions -- both very much in play at the time of the story of Athens and Knossos [approx. 1400 BC ] -- each traceable to waves of immigration occurring at different times.
The first wave occurs in the Neolithic Age between 7,000 to 6,000 BC -- by most accounts involving a simple but ingenious people from the Anatolian regions, apparently capable of long ocean travel at a time when very few people were. All evidence indicates the establishment of a peaceful, agrarian society in the fertile lands of Crete -- with enough excess produce to allow extensive craft development and internal trade -- with a family, or clan-based social structure -- and a religion primarily devoted to the Earth-Goddess -- as evidenced by thousands of Earth-Mother artifacts found in undisturbed 'worship'caves and hill-dwellings of Neolithic Crete. This society apparently continues for several thousand years with no evidence of military fortifications or outside invasion.
The noted archaeologist, Sir Arthur Evans refers to the discovery of a pictographic script dated to 3,000 BC -- as an early written language form "epitomizing" this older culture -- utilizing hundreds of picture symbols for arts, crafts, trade items, family and sacred rites -- what he called " indications of a vibrant mercantile, pastoral and agricultural community."
The second wave begins with the Bronze Age [ post 3,000 BC] -- after the invasion or migration of Northern "Sky-father" peoples into the "Earth-Goddess" regions of southern Europe. First in smaller numbers, but increasing dramatically in the period from 2200 to 1700 BC -- coinciding with the building of cities and ports in the coastal areas and an apparent division of populations between 'urban' and rural settings. And wherein a definite shift in social and economic structure can be observed after this -- as summarized by the following quote from "Everyday Life in Ancient Crete".
"There is evidence to indicate that after a very long period of peaceful development, Minoan [Cretan] society in the later Bronze Age, was beginning to assume certain characteristics also observable elsewhere ... -- including a marked turn in the direction of militarism; a more rigidly hierarchical social system, with the cultivators [farmers] obliged to render services and tribute to central authority; and perhaps the coercion and exploitation of overseas communities. A system of roads, protected by forts, joined the Minoan centers; and this suggests that most of the island had passed to the control of Knossos........ this could help to account for the picture of Minos in later Greek tradition as a despotic ruler and imperial overlord.
This harsher phase contrasts with the much more benign aspect of earlier Minoan civilization ............ based on matriarchal institutions. "
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6. King Minos of Crete -- More than One Man?
Sources including Plutarch, Thucydides, Aristotle and others offer varying, sometimes conflicting descriptions of "Minos" -- which may itself have been a kingly title accruing to any individual in the line of rulers -- much like the Egyptian "Pharaohs". Some legends refer to a famous king, and later his grandson as the most illustrious in the line. Others refer to a king vying for control against younger, rival brothers.
But all the descriptions depict essentially a 'high' king presiding over a confederation of regional cities or trading centers, often acting as one -- but sometimes in conflict or competition, according to Evans and others. [see other Cretan cities, excavations, Phaistos site] And it could be inferred from this that the powers of Minos were more 'Presidential' in scope, rather than absolute -- and that there may have been competition or disagreement concerning this leadership position as relating to the nation's overall profit or loss -- which was the main priority, according to Thucydides.
[ This also coincides with Plato's version of the Atlantian 'high' king presiding over regular council meetings of nine 'brothers', or sub-kings -- each representing different regions, sometimes disagreeing.]
In addition, the accounts of 'Minos" in the Bronze Age vary considerably from source to source -- from a wise benevolent "lawgiver" clearing the seas of pirates and advancing the welfare of his people [Thucydides, Homer] -- to the greedy despotic king imposing a harsh caste system on his own people and hungry for conquest around the Aegean. [Aristotle, Plutarch]
We have made the assumption from all of this, that there were at least two versions of Minos existing and wielding power in the late Bronze Age, either very close, or actually within the same generation -- and possibly representing different or opposing political outlooks -- possibly different interests, or segments of the population, as mentioned above. [see Story, Minos and Rhadamanthos]
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7. Rhadamanthos -- the Last Minos?
The character of Rhadamanthos is drawn from the above scenario as well as a number of legends referring to rival competitors, or brothers of Minos. Although Minos is mentioned as the eldest son, still he has to struggle for control of the kingdom with the others. Because there is no reference to any physical contest or duel in the myth as told, then one must assume some sort of political struggle.
Two of the brothers are banished, but one, Rhadamanthos, is allowed to remain indefinitely. Could this have been for political reasons -- that his supporters would have revolted -- or caused political unrest for the sitting ruler ? Could this figure have eventually succeeded him at some point? One could ask the question whether this in reality was actually a brother, or just a particularly strong candidate for the 'high king' position. Here one must look again at the two differing populations existing on Crete at this time -- both of which were instrumental to its existing economic position.
In keeping with this, we have projected "Rhadamanthos" as a rival political candidate for leadership of the Cretan confederacy, representing the upper classes of the city-coastal areas in the late Bronze Age.
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8. The Death of Minos
There are brief accounts of the death of the Minos in mythology, which are tied to the story of Daedalus, the famous architect, who escaped the island of Crete on 'wings' invented for the purpose. Minos pursues him in his ships across the Aegean, where the local king , thought to be harboring Daedalus, offers cooperation and hospitality, even the use of the royal baths -- whereby the king's daughters attend him with boiling waters, apparently hot enough to cause his death.
This rather loose and unplausible myth may represent a type of 'accidental' assassination method often used in the ancient world, as opposed to outright murder in public -- either by slow poisoning, rigging a chariot, or armor, or even infecting someone with sickness or fever -- easy to do if one has access to the royal bath. [see Scene 13, The Ancient Door]
This is the method of elimination we have projected for the older, reigning Minos in our story, not only because it is close to the myth -- but because it would probably result in a gradual withdrawal from power and lessen the chance for destructive war -- which would not have been to the economic advantage of his enemies.
Another possible death scenario of the Cretan high king comes by way of recent archaeology, related to an earthquake dating back to late in the Bronze Age, around the height of Cretan power in the Mediterranean. [excavation at Knossos site] In a small, 'dressing' room near a ceremonial chamber -- carefully unearthed after severe damage from the quake -- the corpse of what was apparently a young king or priest-king was found -- complete with necklace, jewels and adornments befitting the highest rank -- sitting before a kind of preparation table, with an elaborate set of facial, or body paints and accessories. The arms of the skeleton appeared to be in a position of fending off something falling from above, as if totally unexpected. It is conceivable that this moment may have occurred just before a ceremonial transfer of power in the island-kingdom, possibly at an important time in the island's history.
For this reason, we have projected a similar fate for Rhadamanthos, the younger rival of the Minos in our story -- who is killed on the very night of his coronation and ascension to power -- during an earthquake -- but with the added element of a sword confrontation with the character of Theseus. Yet even this scenario is supported by a story from Plutarch, whereby Theseus kills a well-known Cretan nobleman in a challenge-duel upon his arrival on the shores of Crete.
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9. Princess Ariadne
There are numerous legends and myths surrounding the figure of Ariadne, but virtually all portray the common aspects of being daughter to Minos, high priestess of the Earth-Goddess religion, the ceremonial bride of Bacchus or Dionysus, and with romantic links to the character of Theseus -- as well as living at a time coinciding with the late Bronze Age, at the height of Cretan power. While none of the stories describe her as having any sort of direct political power --- yet all of them depict her as a closely held symbol of the 'Earth-Mother', or female deities in general -- and sometimes as the living embodiment of the goddess herself -- or, "Goddess-on-Earth". Many of the religious aspects persisted long after the Bronze Age itself.
We believe that much of this phenomena was closely related to the long, historical past of Crete, as described in the above section: Crete-- the Land of Two Peoples -- which may have followed a pattern similar to other parts of the world.
A Neolithiic period spanning thousands of years featuring relatively peaceful pastoral/agricultural communities devoted to 'Earth-Goddess ' religions in the warm, southern lands of Europe and Asia -- later disturbed by the migration of Northern peoples from colder climates featuring chiefly male deities -- in effect, taking over. This could have been a memory that died very hard, with people stubbornly clinging to particular religious beliefs -- especially in the absence of political or military power. This would fit the development of Crete very well coming into the late Bronze Age as the newer inhabitants consolidate power in the cities and coastal regions away from the older Neolithiic culture and rural peoples. In this light, the person of Ariadne can be seen as a crucial political linch-pin -- elevated to high status to calm the large, rural populations and encouraging their continued productivity to the Cretan economy. But the legends themselves may be implying the wish on her part to discontinue this role. In the famous myth, she falls in love with a foreigner, [Theseus] -- helps him to kill the Minotaur [symbol of Cretan domination in the Aegean] -- gives him a ball of thread to find his way --and helps his people escape, after which the power of Minos is no longer a threat. We believe most of this could be interpreted in historical terms. And this is the basis for the projected story between Theseus and Ariadne.
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10. Theseus and Ariadne
Reportedly, Ariadne falls in love with Theseus 'at first sight'-- according to some accounts -- or upon 'first knowing him' -- according to others [depending on the translation]. One must remember that this is a girl steeped in a religion tied to the older, peaceful craft/farming culture -- at variance with, and in fear of the newer and wealthier inhabitants of the cities, now holding greater power in the country.
And the social vision of Theseus, future founder of democracy, could have lined up very well with particular aspects of this older culture -- things that were close to her heart. In short, if the two were actually real people -- this could have been at the core of their relationship. They would have had a lot in common. And the famous ball of thread -- symbolically -- could represent how she helps him "find his way" to the alliance he desperately needs with the older culture.
But we have also incorporated the idea that they came from differing religious 'directions' -- male or female oriented -- and this may have been a further source of the attraction, and/or even the subsequent departure, as reported in the myths.
Theseus would be coming from an Achaean heritage prizing achievement and accomplishment -- and protection of women-folk and children. Yet certainly he would have had to be harboring serious doubts about the enormity of the task before him -- in effect overturning a class system in power for hundreds of years -- when he had little, or only scattered support at the time.
While Ariadne would be coming from a tradition that identifies and accepts human fear and frailty before the greater powers -- something he might have felt inside -- but not be overly willing to acknowledge. She may have seen him as a sort of younger version of her own beleaguered and distant father, in need of her help.
And it is commonly reported that Theseus' mother was herself a minor priestess of the Goddess in Troizen, his birthplace. We have projected that all of these factors could have played a role in the romantic pairing of Theseus and Ariadne.
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Next Page The 'Amazons' -- Basis in Reality ? and the Lost Days