Illustrations used in
Cultural Comparison/Contrast Between Minoans and Classical Athenians

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I'm still looking for good, clear pictures (hopefully already on the web) to use here, without linking to someone else's potentially changing site. I've found a few, and I hope to scan in some myself... and of course, none of the pictures you find here are intended to violate anyone's copyrights. If you are unhappy with your site being mentioned here, please write me and let me know!
Please note! These are graphics, and may load slowly! However, I encourage you to be patient, as the Minoan artwork is quite lovely. Also, sometimes if your machine seems to be taking forever, hitting the "Stop" button, followed by the "Reload" button on your menu bar may give you a swifter download.
Currently all the pictures shown are credited right below the picture description.


Figure 1: A panther-shaped ax head from Mallia. Middle Minoan III (c. 1650-1450 B.C.] (Grimal, ed. 101). This is a good example of Minoan attitudes: the designs are fanciful and naturalistic, it was found in a palace/temple rather than at a battle site, and close examination of the ax-head will reveal that it is a ceremonial tool rather than a weapon. See Figure 4: Minoan labrys.

Figure 2: "Descent of the Goddess," three priestesses dancing in a field of lilies, that flower being especially sacred to the Moon Goddess Britomartis of Crete (Thomson and [separately] Evans quoted by Goodrich 93).

Figure 3: Clay pithos, or storage jar, Knossos, Crete (Hawkes 126).
from this site; from this site.

Figure 4: Minoan double bladed axes, or labrys (Amos & Lang 16) [not the original picture I used, but it illustrates how the double-headed axe looks well enough]. The Minoan merchant fleet was well-armed and quite capable of defending itself, to the extent that it dominated the Mediterranean of the time. However, this does not seem to have led to a need to conquer ever-larger territories, nor a glorification of war, but rather simply increased trade and better technology.
from this site:

Figure 5: A frieze of Alexander, who is a little late for "classical" Athens. He is nevertheless a good example of "statist" art -- the "hero's" enemies are being trampled underfoot by the horse, and Alexander and the horse are in stylized, "heroic" poses (Hawkes 168). [not the original picture I used, but it illustrates the same art style well enough]
from the Perseus Project.

Figure 6: "Dying Warrior," marble, 490 B.C. (Grimal 173). A good example of both the growing Athenian disillusionment with the Peloponnesian war, and non-rigid art styles.
from this site.

Figure 7: Minoan seal, showing goddess with attendants (Grimal, ed. 102).

Figure 8: "Pericles was to make democratic election (if only by free males) a reality in Athens, and by working with men of genius (such as the sculptor Phidias) to make it indeed "an education for Greece." ... Yet for all their achievement and their pursuit of the four virtues of courage, temperance, justice and wisdom, they could not hold back from man's terrible urge to warfare. Pericles wanted Athens to be the center of power as well as culture and so he alarmed Sparta and her allies, ... and then ensued the tragedy of the Peloponnesian war and the final defeat of Athens by 404 (Hawkes 168)."
from this site.

Figure 9: Store-rooms at Knossos (Amos & Lang 14). Note the decorated pithoi.
from this site; from this site.

Figure 10: The throne-room at Knossos, with what is believed to be the oldest throne in Europe. The fresco is a reconstruction (Amos & Lang 14).
from this site:

Figure 11: A view of the Acropolis of Athens. It was initially a fortress, and became the center of religious life of the city-state. It contains a multitude of large, impressive temples: the Parthenon (dedicated to Athena), the Erechtheum (named for Erechtheus, legendary founder of the city), the Propylaea, and the temple of Athena Nike. The defensive walls still stand (Grimal, ed. 170).
from the Perseus Project;

from this site.

Figure 12: The Phaistos Disc, Crete, has inscriptions stamped on its 6" clay surface (Hawkes 114). Perhaps a 'translation' or 'dictionary' of Linear A?
from this site.

Figure 13: Late Minoan pitcher in the "Palace" style found at Knossos, Crete (Hawkes 114).
from this site

Figure 14: "Still known to the Cretans as The Little Goddess of the Serpents, this [faience statuette] of the Goddess or one of her priestesses was discovered in the Palace of Knossos on Crete (Stone plate 5)."
from this site:

Figure 15: Two gold serpents coil about the arms and extend from the hands of this delicately carved ivory and gold goddess or priestess (Stone plate 6B).
from the slide lectures found at this site.

Figure 16: Achilles fights Hector outside the walls of Troy: on vase paintings the victor was shown on the left (Amos & Lang 33). The stylization of the poses is apparent, and as in most "statist" art, warfare is a favored subject of art.

Figure 17: Phoenician ivory plaque showing a goddess flanked by two goats; Ugarit, Syria (Hawkes 114). Note the resemblance to Minoan clothing styles.

Figure 18: "Dance of Priestesses at a Sacred Tree," as depicted on a gold ring. Although the ring was found at Mycenae, it closely resembles a Minoan religious scene. Note the "lamenter" (?), the dancer, the male acolyte pulling the branches of a fruit laden tree downwards, and the ubiquitous crescent moon. Are they in a plowed field? (Goodrich 89).

Figure 19: "Three priestesses as elaborately gowned as possible, wearing what appear to be wrapped skirts or wide pajamas that fall in tiers and are made of stiff brocaded fabrics like taffeta or heavy, gnarled wools. Again their torsos are bare, as are their feet. ... They bear gifts of long-stemmed water plants. ...under a tree heavy with fruit... [I]n her raised left hand the [priestess holds] the instruments of the ritual, and in her right hand two stems of another water lily in bud. Ripe figs on small leafy branches decorate the scene on the left.
The central object is the sacred labrys or double ax of Minoan Crete. This symbol remains unclear in its meaning... [It] may be an aniconic representation of the absent Mother Goddess herself. ... The long stem of the sacred lotus reaches far down into the earth and through the water, like an umbilical cord. ... Above them all shine the full-rayed sun of summer and the moon in her last quarter. They are separated from earth and the elegant priestesses by a wavy band of cloud (Goodrich 86-95)."
from the slide lectures found at this site.

  • Collie's Bestiary
  • Bibliography
  • Introduction to the paper
  • Page One of the paper
  • Page Two of the paper
  • Page Three of the paper


    Last Updated: Thu Jun 10 1999