Today, we landed in Heraklion, the capital of Crete (which is part of Greece). We had booked a tour of Knossos, the site of Minoan ruins. It was one of the port adventures the Pirate chose, because he’s a history-loving nerd – one of his many, many admirable qualities. Here’s the biggest surprise: Heraklion is a decent-sized, spread-out city, and the ruins of Minos are only 15 minutes by bus from the cruise terminal.
The ruins are huge, and are the basis for the legend of the labyrinth. It was the seat of both government and religion, so it had apartments, storage rooms, classrooms, toilets (which always came in pairs – as the guide described it “one for when you only have to spend a short time, and one for when you have to spend a long time”). The whole complex was enormous, multi-purpose, and had been destroyed by earthquakes and rebuilt more than once. The main religious symbol of the time was a double-headed axe – it’s incised on the stone all over the place. The word “labyrinth” means “house of the double-headed axe,” but the intricacy of the palace complex meant that it became synonymous with “maze.”
Here’s the best thing we learned. There were no valuables, skeletons, weapons, etc. found in the ruins, even though they had been destroyed by earthquake. One would expect that people taken by surprise by a huge earthquake would have been crushed in houses built largely of stone.
But the Minoans kept pets. You know how a lot of people say that dogs and cats act differently before an earthquake? I don’t know about that (ours certainly don’t), but the Minoans kept snakes. They were apparently all over the palace, because people fed them and coddled and spoiled them. When the snakes disappeared, though, people knew an earthquake was coming and were able to get themselves and their valuables to safety. As a result, the snake motif is all over the island!