Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ancient Greece (pt. 10)

Now go back a ways—about a thousand years—to the island of Crete, off the southern tip of the Greek peninsula.  (Sorry, I try to avoid anachronistic writing, but there's lots of history, ya know!)  Circa 1,700B.C., the Minoan civilization flourished.  What's so special about them is that they were probably the most advanced civilization of their time, featuring innovations that would not reappear until the Roman Empire, in the first century A.D.  Remnants of the Minoan culture on the island of Crete show us first-hand that these people had such advancements as: two-story houses (where the second floor was in use), toilets, running hot and cold water, vibrantly colorful wall frescos, and stunning gold artifacts made some of the finest goldsmiths of the time—among other things.  Furthermore, the people spoke a language totally lost to us and wrote in characters so far unintelligible to us.  It is for this reason the Greeks used the word "barbarian" to refer to people like the Minoans—outside cultures whose languages the Greeks did not understand (from the onomatopoeic word "barbar," which means to speak nonsense—"bar, bar, bar, bar").  But these were far from the primitive kinds of people we usually think of when we hear the word "barbarian."  In fact, apart from just surpassing the Greeks, the Minoans may have been the single most advanced civilization in the world at that time.  Let's have a look at the art…

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