The brilliance of the great Minoan centres – of Knossos, of Festos and the other important cities – spread its light throughout the whole of the Eastern Mediterranean. The architecture, the wall-paintings, the ceramics – all bear witness to the spirit of a people enamoured of peace, happy and strong in themselves. A people moreover closely connected to the sea.
After 1450 BC there is a strong mainland presence (Achaian) in part of the island; by the start of the Iron Age (1000 BC) the Dorian influence dominates, with the emergence of new cities like Lato, Rizenia, Eleftherna, Lapa and Polyrhenia. Then follow the years of the Greek culture (Classical and Hellenistic): Knossos lives on in Greek memory as the birthplace of important cultural values.
With the Roman conquest other cities come to the fore: Gortyna flourishes, becoming the capital of the Roman province of Crete and Cyrenaica after 20 BC.
Exciting new finds of stone tools on the south side of the island of Crete have finally and conclusively shown that hunter-gatherers were present from around 10,000 BC. Whether or not there is yet a much earlier Palaeolithic evidence (700,000-130,000 BC) is still under discussion: if correct, this would imply the presence of Homo erectus or the like – predecessors to Homo sapiens.
The long Neolithic presence on the island gives way to the wonders of the Minoan. The name is bestowed upon them by modern scholars with reference to the mythical King Minos, ruler of the kingdom and palace of Knossos. The Palace at Knossos, and indeed Minoan towns generally, enjoyed a standard of water management and sanitation that would have remained an envy for all Europe until the Hellenistic and, in particular, Roman times.
The time of the legendary Minos is over. Now, in a manner still not fully understood, the early Iron Age ushers in a great social change - out of which by 900 BC begins to emerge an island of city-states with strong constitutional and social similarities to the so-called Dorian Way seen on the Greek mainland.