National Geographic : 1912 Jan
THE SEA-KINGS OF CRETE closely that they furnish one of the strongest links between the first great civilization of Europe and our own. Such tools were, of course, of bronze. Probably the chief industry of the island was the manufacture and export of olive oil. The palace of Knossos has its room of the olive press and its con duit for conveying the product of the press to the place where it was to be stored for use, and probably many of the great jars now in the magazines were used for the storage of this indispensable article. LIFE EVIDENTLY WAS DEMOCRATIC Of the social life of the people in these prehistoric times we know practically nothing. Only one inference, possibly precarious enough, may be made from one of the features of the architecture of Knossos. There is no attempt to se clude the life of the palace from that of the town and country around it. On the contrary, the building seems almost to have been arranged with the view of affording the citizens of the Minoan Em pire every facility for intercourse with the royal household. The great West Court, with its portico and its seats along the palace wall, suggests considerable freedom of access for the populace to the immediate neighborhood of royalty. It is perhaps rather a large inference to conclude that "the very architecture of the palaces of Knossos and Phaestos may testify to the power of the democ racy," but at least the thoughtfulness with which the comfort of the people visiting the palace was provided for and the general openness and lack of any jealous seclusion, testified to by the whole style of the buildings, suggest that the relations between the kings of the house of Minos and their subjects were much more human and pleasant than those obtaining in most ancient king doms. From their art one would, on the whole, conclude the people to have been a somewhat attractive race, frankly en joying the more pleasant aspects of life and capable of a keen delight in all the beauties of nature. Minoan art has little that is somber about it; it is redolent of the open air and the free ocean, and a people who so rejoiced in natural beauty and delighted to surround themselves with their own reproductions and inter pretations of it can scarcely have been bowed beneath a heavy yoke of servi tude or have lived other than a compara tively free and independent life. How much the Greeks of the classic period imbibed of the spirit of this gifted and artistic race we can only im agine. The artistic standpoint of the Hellenic Greek is somewhat different from that of his Minoan or Mycenaean forerunner, and he has lost that keen feeling for nature which is so conspicu ous in the work of the earlier stock; but the two races are at least at one in that profound love of beauty which is the dominant characteristic of the Greek na ture, and it may well be that something of that feeling formed part of the heri tage which the conqueror took over from the conquered, and which, added to the virility and intellectual power of the northern race, made the historic Greek the most brilliant type of humanity that the world has ever seen. THE GREAT PALACE WAS NOT FORTIFIED The main entrance of the palace at Knossos seemingly lay on the north side, where the road from the harbor, now Candia, 31 miles distant, ran up to the gates. Here was the one and only trace of fortification discovered in all the ex cavations. The entrance passage was a stone gangway, on the northwest side of which stood a great bastion with a guard-room and sally-port-a slender apology for defense in the case of a prize so vast and iimpting as the palace of Knossos. Obviously the bastion, with its trifling accommodation for an insig nificant guard, was never meant to de fend the palace against numerous assail ants or a set siege; it could only have been sufficient to protect it against the sudden raid of a handful of pirates sweeping up from the port. How was it that so great and rich a structure came to be left thus practically defenseless? The mainland palaces of the Mycenaean age at Tiryns and Mycena are, so to speak, buried in fortifications.