Crete and Phoenicia Merge into the Minoan Culture

Posted by: Rita George on January 21, 2015

Present day excavations at archeological digs along with recent historical discoveries have shed new light on the Minoan Civilization.  The bottom line:  the Phoenicians who emigrated by ship from Lebanon to Crete around 2000 BC merged into the Minoan culture.  It is a long story which you can read about in Sanford Holst's book Phoenician Secrets:  Exploring the Ancient Mediterranean. Here is a very short version.

A half day voyage from Santorini, the Phoenicians discovered an uninhabited Island called Dia.  They thought it would make another convenient trading post so they established a port on Dia.  Also, the Island lay offshore from the large Island of Crete.  Having discovered Crete around 3000 BC., the Phoenicians had been trading olive oil with the people on Crete for fabric, jewelry and tools.  Over a period of hundreds of years, they developed a trusting relationship with the population of Crete.  At the same time, as the population expanded, the inhabitants of Crete became a major customer for the Phoenician traders.   Even more important like the Maltese, the people revered Mother Nature.  But unlike the Maltese violent fighting would break out periodically between neighbors but the Phoenicians would remain impartial.

Around 2000 BC, the Phoenicians living in Tyre, Lebanon were dealing with the Amorite, a war driven society.  In order to survive and flourish they needed to relocate their people and their wealth.  They approached the leaders on Crete and offered them the following proposition:  The Phoenicians would share their wealth, which was considerable, and show the people of Crete how to build homes with many rooms if the Phoenicians could live there and if Crete would accept Phoenician practices and principles like living peacefully.  The population's standard of living would improve considerably so the leaders of Crete said yes.  Then the Phoenicians brought them gold, ebony, jewelry and other beautiful items that were valuable.  Imagine how you would feel if you were a farmer who lived off the land and suddenly you were surrounded by beautiful valuable items.

For the people of Crete suddenly their leaders were living in villas and the people in homes. The quality of their life began to soar.  The Phoenicians were buying all the products that the farmers, sheppards and artisans produced.  For the Phoenicians, they had expanded into new settlements in the past but on Crete they would make a huge commitment.  For the first time they were living on acres of land and growing olive oil and wine, two major crops on Crete.  This was new since their commitment had only been to the sea before never to an agrarian lifestyle.

The merging of these two cultures created a peaceful and wealthy society that worshipped nature, art and beauty.  And, imagine how you would feel being surrounded by the vast blue sea, the green countryside, and the golden warm sun.  It must have felt like living in paradise.

As prosperity continued to grow, the natives would build bigger homes and the Phoenicians would build a bigger and bigger Trading House.  When the incredibly lavish Knossos Place was built, beautiful Minoan artwork, carved marble figures and lifelike wall paintings were in the palace.   Like the frescos at Santorini, Phoenician life practices were depicted.  For example, the bull leaping fresco portrays both men and women's love of athletics; the Procession fresco depicts the worship of the Goddess and Mother Nature.

Then the Santorini earthquake and volcanic eruption in 1628 BC almost destroyed the Minoans.  The Phoenicians rebuilt; but their resources were drained.  After another violent earthquake happened around 1,500 BC, they were weakened.  At this point, knowing they would be invaded by the violent warring Mycenaean's, they emigrated with their people and wealth back to Tyre and other Phoenician cities in Lebanon.   The Mycenaean's, the ancestors to the Greeks, invaded Crete, lived in the Knossos Palace and took the Aegean Trade away from the Phoenicians.  With their new found wealth, the Mycenaeans relocated it to the Greek mainland.  Interesting they would pass into oblivion within 90 years. 

At this point in time, the Phoenicians were poised to begin their second empire. 

As an aside, the palace of Knossos and the Minoan civilization would eventually disappear.  Then the excavation in 1900 AD in Knossos and other sites in Crete shed light on the ancients and Minoans.  The excavation of Tyre, Lebanon in the 1970's would shed light on the Phoenicians vacating this city in 2000 BC and returning five hundred years later after the Phoenicians fled Crete.