Rough Guide to Greek Islands

The Rough Guide to Greek Islands
  New full-colour features explore the Greek Islandís highlights, including the best Greek Island beaches and the Greek Islandís finest cuisine. Find detailed practical advice on local products, sections exploring history, music, archaeology and wildlife, combined with information on living in Greece, navigating your way around the Greek Islandís extensive ferry network and comprehensive coverage of the Greek Islandsí glittering festivals. Make the most of your holiday with The Rough Guide to Greek Islands. More information and prices from:
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Greek Islands

Greek Islands (DK Eyewitness Travel Guide)
by Marc Dubin
  The DK Eyewitness Travel Guide to the Greek Islands will lead you straight to the best attractions the Greek islandsí have to offer. With over 1000 detailed maps, illustrations and colour photographs, this best-selling guidebook gives detailed background information on the best things to do, from magical island cruises and scenic walks and tours to the best beach resorts for a family holiday in the Greek Islands. More information and prices from:
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History of Crete

The bull jumping fresco, Knossos

The bull jumping fresco, Knossos

Crete may have been inhabited since the palaeolithic but the oldest evidence of human occupation was found at Knossos and dates from 6100-5700 BC. But Crete's greatest civilization was that of the Minoans who first appeared around 3000BC. Unlike the mainland Mycenean culture that eventually took over the island (1400-1100 BC), the Minoans did not have walled city states but a network of royal palaces that seemed to have exercised a peaceful control over the island from palaces such as that at Knossos and Phaestos.

"Around the end of the prepalatial period (...) Crete seems to have offered an advanced way of life, prosperity and impressive signs of progress. It still had thick woods and many streams; and the inhabitants, dark-eyed, swift, vivacious and lightly-dressed, lived in the crowded villages, not very different to today, near the streams and on the coast, and close to the groups of vaulted tombs where their forefathers lay. Its seas were traversed by fleets of trading vessels sailing to the Cyclades, Egypt and Asia Minor in order to buy obsidian, gold, copper, silver and ivory in exchange for Cretan products (...). The olive was already cultivated, cattle, goats, sheep and pigs were reared and the island as a whole was densely inhabited, even on the south. At their festivals they played at bull-vaulting, and their religion seems to have been based on the worship of a Mother Goddess." (S.T. Alexiou Minoan Civilization trans. by Cressida Ridley, Heraklion.)

Minoan Crete was a maritime economy, projecting its power throughout the eastern Mediterranean with a powerful navy. Minoan settlements have been found at numerous trading ports of call, including Skopelos and Rhodes. The Cretans seem to have been in contact with the Egyptians and devised their own writing system, unique to their island, that used a syllabic system half way between hieroglyphics and an alphabetical system.

Detorakis (1994:26) comments on the apparent freedom and importance of women in Minoan Crete:

"In contrast to other ancient cultures in which women (...) appear to live in the shadow of male domination, women (in) Minoan Crete participated actively and on an equal footing with men in all aspects of social life. They had a prominent place at religious festivals and public occasions where, indeed, they are shown as being carried in litters borne by servants, and they took part in dangerous games, religious ceremonies, and even went hunting alongside men."

The 'dangerous games' referred to are those of the bull dancers, requiring the participants to leap over the back of a bull.

In Frommer's Greek Islands John S.Bowman concludes that few travellers need to be sold on Minoan Crete but many are unaware of the rich history left by later civilizations, including the Byzantines, Venetians and Turks.

Phaestos, Crete

Phaestos, Crete


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