KNOSSOS: PALACE, CITY, STATE || "The Minoan distance": the impact of Knossos upon the twentieth century


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  • "The Minoan distance": the impact of Knossos upon the twentiethcenturyAuthor(s): Gerald CadoganSource: British School at Athens Studies, Vol. 12, KNOSSOS: PALACE, CITY, STATE (2004), pp.537-545Published by: British School at AthensStable URL: .Accessed: 11/10/2014 13:16

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  • 49 "The Minoan distance":

    the impact of Knossos upon the twentieth century Gerald Cadogan

    The two major archaeological discoveries of the early twentieth century must be, at least in the eyes of the world, the tomb of Tutankhamun and the so-called Palace of Minos at Knossos.1 A third might be Ur in Mesopotamia, with its gold treasures and unusual aban- donment level that appeared to produce a rationale for the story of Noah's flood (Woolley 1950). Tutankhamun and Knossos have had a considerable impact on the ar- tistic and cultural development of the century that is now closing, but along somewhat different paths. What follows is a tentative, short, emphatically selective^ and probably overly Anglophone, introductory review of some of the cultural effects of the excavation of Knossos. (For a stimulating French view of the phenomena, see Farnoux 1996, especially 95-112: 'Minoan Art Nouveau').2 If it partially reveals how well - or other- wise - archaeologists have explained their archaeologi- cal results to a non-archaeological world, or how much they have helped to spread confusion by adopting or semi-adopting myth and palace models to show their discoveries, I shall leave to the readers to draw their own conclusions (although I make some fairly heavy hints). I believe that it is worth the effort to try to ex- amine, and thus re-evaluate, the accretions that have grown up around Knossos and Minoan Crete during the twentieth century; but this is very much an intro- duction to a topic that deserves fuller treatment.

    The immediate impact of Tutankhamun in the 1920s and 1930s was principally in architecture, where an Egyptianising style - which we could characterise even as a renaissance of the Napoleonic Empire style - be- came a regular part of the Modernist/ Art Deco school, notably in the design of cinemas, but even extending to such buildings as the Carreras cigarette factory of 1926 at Mornington Crescent in London, designed by M. E. & O. H. Collins as a major statement of neo- Egyptianism, complete to shaping the factory chimney as an obelisk (Cherry and Pevsner 1998, 385). The young pharaoh also affected fashion and jewellery, but in other respects his effect was limited. While there has long been a general interest in mummies, and a particular one in the fantasy of the curse of Tutankhamun (from which among the first to suffer may, or, rather, may not, have been Richard Seager [Becker and Betancourt 1996, 184], who fell ill on the boat back to Crete from

    Alexandria after visiting the famous excavation and died in Herakleion the day after he returned [Becker and Betancourt 1996, 178]), I know of only a handful of novels about Egypt or archaeologists in Egypt or the intricate relationships of the Dynasty XVIII royal fam- ily. The novel that has lasted best is, I suppose, Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile (1937).

    Mesopotamia's impact on the public was less. One can occasionally detect allusions in architecture, such as the massive brick ziggurat which was the chimney stack of Bankside power station (1957-60) in London, designed by Giles Gilbert Scott (Cherry and Pevsner 1983, 582), which has now become the Tate Modern art gallery. There is also Christie's Murder in Mesopo- tamia (1936), in which the victim - the excavation di- rector's wife - is reputed to be modelled on Katharine, the notoriously difficult wife of Sir Leonard Woolley. (For the Woolleys, see Winstone 1990; also Piggott 1990.)

    When we turn to Knossos which, in its reconstituted form, has been the principal exemplar of the Minoan style of architecture, its impact on twentieth century buildings in a significant way (rather than adorning the roof of one's taverna or rent rooms with a row of horns of consecration or adding tapered columns to one's shop front) has been surprisingly little in Crete or outside the island. In Crete a few 1930s (or later) neo-Minoan buildings come to mind: the Dimarcheion of Ierapetra;

    1 I thank Katerina Kopaka and Giorgis Nikolakakis for telling me of Rahmizade Behaeddin, Yannis Alexandrakis of the Vikelaia Library for showing me the Behaeddin photographic archive and allowing me to illustrate Behaeddin's house (FIGS. 49.1-49.2), Cleanthis Sidiropoulos for sending me Markatou 1998, Peter Warren for sending Blakolmer 1999, Eleni Hatzaki for sending Farnoux 2003 and Treuil 2003 (during final edit- ing), and Katerina Kopaka and Lucy Cadogan for comments.

    2 See also now Farnoux 2003, and also Treuil 2003, both with references, especially for the impact on French culture.

    For the cultural impact of the prehistoric Aegean on Ger- manic Art Nouveau, see Blakolmer 1999, who discusses prin- cipally the effects of Mycenaean art, but does point to a coin- cidence (with possible influence, depending on the chronol- ogy) between Knossian spiral designs and those of Gustav Klimt: Blakolmer 1999, 139, pl. 27, figs. 7-8.

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    Fig. 4.i. The Heroon ofigjo in Plateia EleftheriaSy Herakleion. Courtesy Evans Archive, Ashmolean Museum.

    the old, small terminal building at Herakleion airport, as Wolf-Dietrich Niemeier reminds me, which was still in use in the 1960s; and the heroon on Plateia Eleftherias in Herakleion (Markatou 1998).3 The Herakleion heroon (FIG. 49.1), designed by Dimitrios Kyriakos, chief engineer of the city, in a style derived from the Knossos Miniature Fresco, was built in 1930 to celebrate the centenary of Greek independence (Markatou 1998, 314, figs. 3-4). Spyridon Marinatos, who was Ephor between the wars (when he commissioned Piet de Jong's magnificent reconstruction drawings, so redolent of Art Deco, of Knossian architecture for the Herakleion Museum), proposed that it be Minoan in style, which would make it distinctively and unmistakably Cretan. It also, however, shows Marinatos as following a similar path (or committing a similar error) to that of the nine- teenth century architectural neo-classicists (with results so familiar in the rest of Greece) in trying to achieve something that could be both contemporary and Minoan. The result is the "acpe^rjc avaxQovio^i ev veaQO QO|iavTixo ctQxaioXoyou" remarks Markatou (1998, 317). Today the heroon appears as an abandoned (but still interesting) piece of cultural his- tory, an anachronism that is utterly out of context, in a shabby state, and needs complete refurbishment. Kyriakos had wished to add wings to the building to house a historical museum and an ethnographic mu- seum, but there were not the funds (Markatou 1998, 315 and n. 82).

    Far more remarkable is a suburban villa that was built by a Turkish Cretan called Rahmizade Behaeddin to the west of Herakleion dating to around 1905, which

    must be the world's first neo-Minoan building. It in- corporated such details as a row of roundels below the eaves, following the roundels (beam ends) of the Town Mosaic, and had two levels of Minoan-style tapered columns, the upper columns as part of a balcony. Behaeddin was the leading photographer of Herakleion at the beginning of the twentieth century and a friend of the Danish architect Halvor Bagge, who was draw- ing at Knossos between at least 1902 and 1905 (Momigliano 1999, 164, 168) and sketched the house for him in 1904, it would seem as a first working sketch for Behaeddin and his builder. The building has not been identified and may no longer exist: Behaeddin's family reports that it was at Talos. A copy of Bagge's drawing (FIG. 49.2) and Behaeddin's photograph of the finished building (FIG. 49.3) survive in the Behaeddin photographic archive in the Vikelaia Library in Herakleion. Bagge's drawing suggests a row of running spirals where later there would be the roundels. The caption on the drawing is in Turkish (dated 1904) and also in English, where it reads: "The first draft of the project in building a Villa (Metoshi). Eventually it was constructed with little or no charge. This sketch was made by a DANISH friend of mine named HALVORE (sic) BAGGE. He was an architect and draftsman. He did it free of charge".

    The impact of Knossos, however, in writing and art, and intellectuals' attitudes to classical Hellenism, as well

    3 Outside Crete, neo-Minoan buildings have been reported at Psychiko outside Athens, and in Belgium.

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    Fig. 4.3. Behaeddins house as built (c. 1905). Photograph by Behaeddin. Courtesy, Vikelaia Library.

    Schrter; ed. Koktanek] 1966, 373-89 on Crete and "Kafti").

    For many, both lay and academic, the Knossos that Evans revealed was a significant factor, along with other major prehistoric excavations as well as contemporary advances in anthropology, psychology and knowledge of the Byzantine civilisation and, not least, encounter- ing the people and place of modern Greece (Sherrard 1978, 12-14), in demanding that they reconsider their attitudes towards classical Greece. Here in Crete was a sophisticated culture, in Hellenic lands, that was cen- turies earlier and could be classified from a narrow view- point as being, somehow, "pre-Hellenic", with appar- ently little linkage to classical Greece except through the myths. One side-effect was to make it that much more difficult to explain the phenomenon of classical Greece, another to boost the position of "anti-classi- cal" heretics sceptical of the glory of the sixth to fourth centuries by demonstrating that Greece could create other glories and other cultural landscapes independ- ently of the classical era.4 Sherrard (1978, 2-3) notes Virginia Woolf, for instance, as among those wonder- ing whether classical Greece was anything more than a mirage.

    4 By definition, the question cannot arise of Minoan Crete's owing any cultural debt to classical Greece, unlike Byzantine Greece where a/the debt is a matter of debate.

    as in popular culture especially as portrayed to jet age tourists in all too familiar ersatz-Minom forms, has been considerable. The excavation at once attracted wide interest and plenty of visitors to the site. There were reports in Nature (such as Hall 1902a, 1902^). In Vi- enna, Sigmund Freud, who had a strong interest until old age in prehistoric Aegean archaeology and collected Mycenaean, Cypriot and other antiquities (D'Agata 1994), knew by July 1901 of the excavations at Knossos and the claim that here was the real labyrinth of Minos (D'Agata 1994, 14). Among his books, to be seen on the shelves just behind his desk in his study in his last house in Hampstead in London, now the Freud Mu- seum, are The Palace of Minos at Knossos and, more sur- prisingly, volume 6 for 1 899-1 900 of The Annual of the British School at Athens, which contains Evans's first preliminary report from Knossos (Evans 1900). D'Agata (1994) describes the role of archaeology, and the writings of Evans, in Freud's forming his theories of psychoanalysis, even if he felt that "psychoanalysts, unlike archaeologists, "can sooner or later see their ob- jects whole and clear, and hold them fast"" (D'Agata 1994, 20 and n. 64, with references). Similarly, Oswald Spengler ([with Schrter; ed. Koktanek] 1966, 513-20) used the first two volumes of The Palace of Minos as well as S cripta Mino a i (Evans 1909) in writing The Decline of the West, which includes a short but provoca- tive section on the "high civilization" of the Minoans (Spengler 1928, 88: "A Mycenaean palace is a promise, a Minoan something that is ending". See also comments by Calder [2001, 153, 162, n. 8]; and Spengler [with

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    Sherrard also points to the impact of Knossos on D. H. Lawrence (Sherrard 1978, 14), citing his poem 'The Greeks are coming!':

    "it is ships of Cnossos coming, out of the morning end of the sea, it is Aegean ships, and men with archaic pointed beards..." (Lawrence [ed. Pinto and Roberts] 1964, 687).

    This was written not long before he died (in March 1930) and published posthumously among his Last Po- ems (Lawrence 1932). Another poem of the same vin- tage is 'Middle of the world' (Lawrence [ed. Pinto and Roberts] 1964, 688): the title refers to the Mediterra- nean. Here Lawrence writes as a voyager:

    "What do I care if the smoking ships of the P. & O. and the Orient Line and all the other stink- ers cross like clock-work the Minoan distance! They only cross, the distance never changes.

    ". . .1 see descending from the ships at dawn slim naked men from Cnossos, smiling the archaic smile..."

    In autumn 1929 (which may be the date of the poems) Crete was on his mind, as two letters of his of 1 Octo- ber 1929 show. One is a request for books on civilisa- tion in the eastern Mediterranean "before the rise of Athens - on Tree and Pillar cult - on the Chaldaean and Babylonian myths - Sir Arthur Evans on Crete is so huge and expensive" (Lawrence [ed. Sagar and Boulton] 1993, 506-7).5 The other rebukes the recipi- ent since the "impulse to your drawings is either Greek (Athens) or else Jewish". Lawrence suggests instead heroes and bulls - "none ofthat boring Greek 'beauty', nor that nasal Jewish ethics" - and recommends a book of photographs of tombs at Tarquinia and Cerveteri, "and catch that curious magic, Cretan or whatever it is, and leave the Parthenon frieze and gothicised Blake alone" (Lawrence [ed. Sagar and Boulton] 1993, 508). For Lawrence the early races around the Mediterra- nean embodied a golden age (Clark 1980, 11-12, 214, 381, 384). As for his magnificent phrase "the Minoan distance", it is ironic that he never came to Crete - but did once, on 28 February or 1 March 1922, look at it, with snow on the mountains, in the distance across the Mediterranean, while sailing towards the Suez Ca- nal for Ceylon (Lawrence [ed. Roberts et al.] 1987, 203- 6).

    Today, by contrast, the anti-classical shock of the Minoans has worn off. Somewhat complacently, we have grown accustomed to the idea of a Greece, and a Crete, where prehistoric and classical co-exist, in our minds at least. This change of approach, I suspect imbibed by osmosis rather than conscious decision, will probably be seen to have had a major part in the contemporary

    drive among archaeologists of Greece towards dia- chronic understanding of the land and its peoples.

    In two other areas the revelation of Minoan Knossos necessitated fresh thinking. One was Europe, since the Minoan culture quickly acquired the honour of being Europe's first civilisation - whatever that meant to the prehistoric Cretans who, one imagines, had no es- pecial reason to relate themselves to the landmass of Europe, even if they were the first group to create a sophisticated civilisation in what is now known as Eu- rope. In historiography, the setting of Greece over against the East has strong roots in Herodotus. In pre- history, one turns to the writings and ex oriente lux ap- proach of Gordon Childe.6 Today, the ideology is, in a sense, still alive, being endorsed by Greece's version of the 2 coin which shows the so-called Rape of Europa.7 The other area where Knossos confronted accepted opinions was in the conservation and restoration of monuments, since it provided the aesthetic challenge of architecture that was both not part of the familiar forms of classical Greece and, once uncovered, needed stabilisation. In 1926 Evans discussed the topic, and defended his position, before the Society of Antiquar- ies (Evans 1927), doubtless aware that there were some who questioned the methods and aesthetics of his reconstitutions (see also Karetsou in this volume).

    These fascinating themes, which by now have helped to transform our approaches to ten millennia of Greek history, seemed to coalesce in the physical fact of the Palace of Knossos as Evans created it. Reaching its fi- nal form in the 1920s, the Palace that we have known for the past three quarters of a century, and which to- day is as much Evans's as Minos's, remains for scholars almost as powerful a statement of how Evans conceived Minoan culture as what he wrote in The Palace of Minos. For the general public, which does not read those vol- umes, its impact, combined with the Herakleion Mu- seum, is even greater. This is Minoan Crete, Knossos declares, whether you like it or not. Knossos is a site that demands application and consideration from its visitors, if they wish to start to understand it. It is a building complex that is both far from obvious and de- fiantly confrontational.

    Unsurprisingly, the early visitors to Evans's Knossos had mixed attitudes. Often they noticed the same things, often from different points of view. In 1929 the writer Evelyn Waugh came to Crete on a cruise "to admire the barbarities of Minoan culture". In the Herakleion Museum, "except for one or two examples of animal sculpture", he wrote, "I found nothing to suggest any

    5 This obvious reference to The Palace of Minos at Knossos is misconstrued by the editors (Lawrence [ed. Sagar and Boulton] 1993, 507, n. 1).

    6 For a recent review of Childe in Greece, see Merrillees 1999, 457-60.

    7 As does Cyprus's 50 cents coin.

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    genuine aesthetic feeling at all". On the merits of Minoan painting he was perspicaciously uncertain, "since only a few square inches of the vast area exposed to our consideration are earlier than the last 20 years". In the restorations, he detects "a somewhat inappro- priate predilection for covers of Vogue". At Knossos, he continues, "I do not think that it can be only imagi- nation and the recollection of a bloodthirsty mythol- ogy which makes something fearful and malignant of the cramped galleries and stunted alleys. . . these rooms that are mere blind passages at the end of sunless stair- cases". As for the throne, "here an ageing despot might crouch and have borne to him, along the walls of a whis- pering gallery, barely audible intimations of his own murder" (Waugh 1930: 136-7).

    Three years later, R.G. Collingwood, who was both a philosopher and a historian of Roman Britain, was troubled by the un-classical architecture of Knossos. "The first impression... is that Knossian architecture consists of garages and public lavatories" (Hood 1995), he wrote in his diary, attributing this partly to the box- like principles of architecture and talking, rightly, of "Knossian 'modernity'" - in the heyday of the Bauhaus. "The Cretan artists were modern in the sense of being barbarously utilitarian, not Hellenically clas- sical". The important corollary was that Crete was "not the forerunner of Greece" (as in the title of Hawes and Hawes 1909) "but its antithesis". He was also averse to Evans's concrete and to the surprise element in Minoan architecture, which delights many of us nowadays.

    Henry Miller, visiting in 1939, had sharply different reactions, as he wrote in The Colossus of 'Maroussi (1941): "I am grateful to him" (Evans). . . "that he made it pos- sible for me to descend the grand staircase, to sit on that marvellous throne chair the replica of which at the Hague Peace Tribunal is now almost as much a relic of the past as the original.

    "Knossus... is... gay, healthful, sanitary, salubri- ous"... and "closer in spirit to modern times, to the twentieth century, I might say, than other later epochs of the Hellenic world... There is something down to earth... the sort of atmosphere which is evoked when one says Chinese or French... In short, the prevailing note is one of joy" (Miller 1941, 121). One biographer remarks (Martin 1978, 362) that "Crete was everything he expected: the land itself was dark and bloody, pre- Christian, an apt setting for the ancient ruins at Knossos and Phaestos. It made him think of the primitive, long unsettled American land" before suggesting (Martin 1978, 370) that Greece had had the same sort of effect on Miller as Tahiti did on Paul Gauguin and Mexico on D. H. Lawrence; see also Ferguson 1991, 267, on Phaistos (and meeting the guard Alexandros Venetikos [Miller 1941, 156-65]) as one of the two "symbolic high- points" of Miller's visit to Greece.

    In AvacpoQa axov Fxxo, written when he was an old man but projected back into the early years of the twentieth century, the young Nikos Kazantzakis goes

    out to Knossos one Sunday morning "71a Xko ey 7TQoaxvr||ia, va %aiQSxr|a(o rr|v 'Ayia KQr|Tr|" (Kazantzakis 1961, 147). He meets a Roman Catholic monk (abb), which starts a dream-like sequence, a tone poem that meanders through the ruins, although themes familiar from his other works recur clearly enough. "Eco xoQictQxe r| cpavxaaa, r' %aQr|, to XevxsQO 7rai%viiG|ia xr'q ihiouqyixii uva|xr| to avQCDTroi)", he writes (Kazantzakis 1961, 149). "sv oriyooe e8(o toy v9Q(07TO r' aXvyxaxi], ayXaoxr] Xoyixr'- XQX'ai'io r|xav o vo, pxx i)7rr|Q8Tr|, %i acpevTix", he decides - in a neat demonstration of anti-classicism. As for the ancient bullfights ("xauQ0|iax8"), the abb declares that they were a U7rai%v8i %(uq a|iara" (Kazantzakis 1961, 149); and, through the priest, Kazantzakis sees the God of the cross as the same as the god of the double axe and, stopping on the way back to town at the dervishes' monastery at Teke, realises that he is also the god of the dance (Kazantzakis 1961, 150-4).

    If these travellers concentrate on what they see and remain relatively free of the myths, in such works as Richard Strauss's Ariadne au/Naxos (191 2) we may detect distant influences of how the uncovering of Knossos rekindled interest in the Cretan myths. The impact is more obvious in Pablo Picasso's many Minotaur drawings of the 1930s, albeit starting in 1928 (Gedo 1980, 142-56, 161, 182, 198; Cortenova 1991, 28, 224-5; Cox and Povey 1995, 29-47, especially 35; Florman 2000, 140-94), where he depicts a beast at times gentle, at times savage, often dark, and always lustful (whether for drink, or sex, or both), in a splen- did amalgamation of the mythical bull with the bulls of his native Catalunya.8 Picasso even drew the front cover for the first issue of the journal Minotaure in May 1933. The excavations at Knossos were clearly a factor in its naming, notes Florman (2000, 142), who also points out (280, n. 4) their impact on the Academician Roger Caillois, who contributed regularly to Minotaure and discussed Knossos and the Minoan world in Le mythe et Vhomme of 1938 ([barely] revised edition: Caillois 1972). To us today, his remarks are, in many but not all respects, percipiently modern: Knossos was "l'habitat d'une existence toute sacralise", as against classical build- ings - simultaneously a palace, temple and entrept. In King Minos one recognises a "monarque temporaire, prtre, sorcier et dieu tout ensemble, responsable de la fcondit des femmes et de la fertilit du sor (Caillois 1972, 138-9). In Minoan dress, Callois finds "plus de coquetteries que de noblesse, plus de charme que de vritable grandeur" (144), and in the Palace building "un got prononc du thtraP' as shown by its balconies and propylaea (146).

    8 We may associate with them the bull in Guernica (Cortenova 1991, 230-1).

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    Equally theatrical is a photograph of Picasso play- ing, as it were, the Minotaur, wearing a bull mask made of basketry (Quinn 1965, chapter 5 [no page number]). In his 'Q5r| gtov Ilixaoa' of 1948 Odysseas Elytis (see Alexiou in this volume on a visit of the poet's to Knossos) picks up the importance of the Minotaur to Picasso:

    "ITixaGG Ilae aQ7rei tov Gvaxo ano tou XCtQTTO T(0V %Ql(OV Kai tov Tia^eoei coov (oqcio xi euyevix MivxauQo Iloi) go %vei exevo to ajia tod togov sgv aVTQ8l68Gai IlaQvei 7regv acpr|veic avcurivei AouoSia a>a cpiAi eixoe..." (Elytis 1974, 23).

    Picasso also knew something of Minoan, and specifi- cally Knossian made, pottery as we see in the swirling octopus decoration of the well known Late Minoan IB Marine Style flask from Palaikastro, which he trans- ferred to a plate (Cox and Povey 1995, 144-5), m his exuberant vase painting phase after the second world war (Penrose 1958, 324-6, 349, 353).

    Among other artists of the Minotaur, Ariadne and the Cretan myths, we should mention the Volos-born fan of Ariadne Giorgio de Chirico (Boulotis 2000) and Michael Ayrton, who also wrote an imaginative, medi- tative essay - The Testament of Daedalus - on Crete and its myths, and their overwhelming impact upon him, when he encountered them in the 1950s as some- one who was "the most devoted Italophile and wanted nowhere else" (Ayrton 1962, 66). (For Daidalos, see also Angelos Sikelianos's poem 'ActaXo' [Sikelianos (ed. Savvidis) 1968, 36-9, (trans. Keeley and Sherrard) 1979, 88-95] an his verse play O Aaao crr/v KqiJtt] [Sikelianos 1950, 123-94; see also Sherrard 1956, 176- 7, and, for Ariadne, Boulotis 2000]).

    Another artist to react enthusiastically to Crete and Knossos is John Craxton, who came for the first time in 1947 when he experienced similar reactions to Mill- er's: "I remember the delight of finding the main stair- well and being able to walk up and down like a Minoan three thousand years ago, sharing his feelings... the staircase at Knossos is in every way a masterpiece of humanist architecture; its risers and treads perfectly suited to the act of walking upwards and downwards" (Craxton 1992). At much the same time the cartoonist and architectural historian Osbert Lancaster, then work- ing in the British Embassy in Athens, visited Knossos, which he writes about in his engaging, and ironic, Clas- sical Landscape with Figures (Lancaster 1947, 203-6). He points out how immediately different the architec- ture is from that of classical Greece. The Minoans "were staunch believers in the 'open plan' (that is to say that their buildings were conceived from the inside out. . .)" (Lancaster 1947, 203), but "of the purely aesthetic char- acter of the Minoan achievement it is far harder to form any just estimate". He suggests wickedly that the Late

    Minoan IB Marine Style with its "star-fish and shells, octopus and squids, would seem excessive even on a table at Pruniers", the London sea-food restaurant. But then he remarks that this decline links this art clearly with that of the West, where "a tendency towards ex- aggerated sinuosity of line" recurs "just at those mo- ments when a particular style has become exhausted and overblown". The "writhing tentacles have much in common with the window tracery of late Flamboyant Gothic, the final spasms of Rococo plasterwork" (Lan- caster 1947, 203-4). He would not be sympathetic with those who see LM IB as the apogee of Minoan culture.

    Knossos and its associated myths have also spawned a crop of would-be historical novels such as Mary Renault's The King Must Die (1958) and The Bull from the Sea (1962), which are both highly readable. Renault has often been praised for her historical "accuracy" in her combination of archaeology with stories dating cen- turies later - but we must ask, "Accuracy to what?" In 1954, it is reported, Renault came to Crete for the first time, on a cruise ship, and dreamed up much of The King Must Die as she wandered round Knossos (Sweetman 1993, 169). The sight of Knossos, she wrote, "winded me like a blow in the belly. . . I felt like a goat- herd who comes in from the back hills and sees his first city" (Sweetman 1993, 168). The ship continued to Thera but, on arrival there, she could not go ashore - she was so "lost in spirit in Minos's labyrinth" (Sweetman 1993, 170, cited by Garrett [1994, 173]). We also have, in English, novels about Cretan excava- tions such as Lucy Cadogan's Digging (1987), and nov- els that blend the Minoans, the myths and modern ar- chaeologists such as Lawrence DurrelPs The Dark Laby- rinth ( 1 961) or Roderick Beaton's Ariadne's Children (1995). A probably overlooked Greek novel is Kazantzakis's children's bookZra naXxia t]Kv)gov (i 98 i); a recent addition to the corpus of Minoanising literature is Nikos Zervonikolakis's AciSv]: rijuAioaa roo cpeyyaQiov (2000). I am sure that more may be added to the list, in Greek, English and other languages. As for poetry in English revolving around Knossos, see for instance in Ruth Padel's collection Summer Snow (1990) 'Royal Road' (Padel 1990, 78), 'Visitors' (Padel 1990, 58-9), and 'South wind' (Padel 1990, 62-3), where she writes:

    "A plundered faked-up palace rests above us - house of ponderous myth for a million foreigners each year, shattered on a day in spring when the wind blew from the south".

    By now, the general chronological and cultural mish- mash of Knossos has deep roots as it envelops visitors' (and local) perceptions in an iconography of bulls, dou- ble axes, horns and topless women - in a century that became ever more explicit about sex, these have had an excellent reception - while for a long time there has

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    been a generalised misapprehension of the Minoans as peaceful flower pickers (sometimes using monkeys for the job, as in the Saffron Gatherer frescoes) who, de- spite the myths and despite the efforts of scholars to present a more realistic picture (notably Alexiou 1979, 1980; Starr 1984), did nothing nasty or brutish. We may recall the vehement reactions in Herakleion to Yannis Sakellarakis's and Peter Warren's discoveries of human bones at Archanes-Anemospilia and Knossos (Sakellarakis and Sapouna-Sakellaraki 1997, 302-11; Wall et al. 1986): that the Minoans, who are so often seen today as part of "we the Cretans and our Cretan heritage", were not that sort of people, was the implicit subtext of the objections, "expressed orally not with- out clearly discernible, even nationalistic motives" (Sakellarakis and Sapouna-Sakellaraki 1997, 306).

    The origins of this confusion are obvious. Archae- ologists have failed to clarify the distinctions between fact and story. The idea that Knossos was the site of Minos's palace began, before Heinrich Schliemann, with Minos Kalokairinos, who was the first to identify the remains as the palace of Minos (Kalokairinos [ed. Kopaka] 1990, 8; Kopaka 1995, 506, and also in this volume), writing even of the royal palace or hall (megaron) of Minos I - "too Baaico Mvcoo too A'" (Kalokairinos [ed. Kopaka] 1990, 32, 53, 58; Kopaka 1995, 511) - as if he were a contemporary European monarch. Evans, although not totally committed at first to the notion of a palace, made up his mind that it was one within a month of starting work. And so it has stayed. Here Knossos has differed from Mycenae, but not from Pylos where Carl Biegen revealed "the Palace of Nestor". At Mycenae, the buildings on the top luck- ily escaped being Agamemnon's palace, I presume since Schliemann had already gazed on the face of Agamemnon down in Grave Circle A.

    I end with 'The jesting of Arlington Stringham', a short story by the writer Saki (191 1 - "Saki" was the nom de plume of H. H. Munro) which, I think, alludes, if dis- tantly, to the impact of Knossos as well as to the politi- cal situation of Crete just before Enosis with Greece. Stringham is a dull, stupid Member of Parliament. Just once, however, he made a joke in the House of Com- mons. He "made his great remark", Saki writes, "that the people of Crete unfortunately make more history than they can consume locally" (Saki 191 1). It is a sweet- bitter joke. His wife learns that he has heard it from one Lady Isabel, who has to be his mistress, and kills herself.

    At the close of this Conference I suggest that we may say, Yes, there is plenty of history in Crete, but never too much. Whether we are Cretans or outsiders privi- leged to share in creating Cretan history, it remains a paramount duty for us all to deconstruct, in humility, and explain, and then reconstruct, so as to remove the cultural confusion between the stories and the events and places of centuries earlier that they are derived from,

    that has been a very mixed blessing for the Cretan Bronze Age throughout the twentieth century. If so, we begin to comprehend D. H. Lawrence's "Minoan distance" which, for those working in early Crete, is in its way as powerful, poignant and demanding a catch phrase as Fernand Braudel's well known

    " longue dure"

    of Mediterranean life. Our magnificent task is to at- tempt to cross "the Minoan distance".


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