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Generally, is believed that the Minoan civilization on Crete was peaceful and their culture was more like a culture of peace than a culture of war.

But I've read an article lately (http://www.livescience.com/26275-peaceful-minoans-surprisingly-warlike.html) that suggests that their civilization was warlike.

So, is there enough evidence of such a suggestion?

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2 Answers 2

The wiki subsection on the Minoan Peace is worth a read - it presents the arguments for and against the Minoans as warlike, and is well cited. The crux of it is this:

About Minoan warfare, Branigan concludes that "The quantity of weaponry, the impressive fortifications, and the aggressive looking long-boats all suggested an era of intensified hostilities. But on closer inspection there are grounds for thinking that all three key elements are bound up as much with status statements, display, and fashion as with aggression.... Warfare such as there was in the southern Aegean EBA early Bronze Age was either personalized and perhaps ritualized (in Crete) or small-scale, intermittent and essentially an economic activity (in the Cyclades and the Argolid/Attica) " (1999, p. 92). Archaeologist Krzyszkowska concurs: "The stark fact is that for the prehistoric Aegean we have no direct evidence for war and warfare per se" (Krzyszkowska, 1999).

The Live Science article in question appears to reflect a minority viewpoint not well supported by archaeological or historical evidence - if the Egyptians or Hittites tangled with a major thalassocracy like the Minoans, they didn't document it, and they documented pretty much everything else going on. This supports the idea that the Minoan defenses were impressive enough to make the other regional powers keep their distance, but they were not aggressive or "warlike".

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They controlled the entire land mass they could control using the technology at their disposal (the island of Crete). Now think about how that would have come about, and what the consequences would be.
Reasons for that are relatively simple:

  • manpower was low, too low to attack the far away mainland (or the islands close to it)
  • amphibious operations had not yet been invented, the technology would not exist for several hundred years to transport large groups of people across open water. It was risky enough for the occasional lone trading ship to cross that sea.
  • resources. Gathering enough bronze and other raw materials to equip a force large enough to successfully carry out an invasion of mainland Greece (the only target even theoretically close enough) was just about impossible for the island state.
    So even if they were warlike historically, circumstances would mean they would have no way to practice that after conquering the pacifying Crete itself (and maybe a few nearby small islands).
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