Postpalatial Period of Crete

Postpalatial Period (1450-1100 BC)

Around 1500 BC Greece was invaded from a tribe of people from the heart of Europe, thought to be either a Celtic or Gothic race. In Greek legend these people are called the Achaeans and, although few in number, the civilization of Crete was virtually destroyed by these "semi-barbarians". It is thought that they were able to exploit the downfall of the Minoan civilization and turmoil left by the catastrophic after effects of the volcanic eruption at Thira and invaded and took control of the island, occupying Knossos and establishing a strong Achaean dynasty.

The Achaeans did not conquer all of Greece but they were wholly successful in destroying Cretan supremacy and most of its culture. The economy during this new dynastic rule was still largely based on trading with neighbouring areas, particularly with Asia Minor and Egypt. The cultural shift though is especially evident in art and daily life. All the evidence, as depicted on ceramics, bronzes and other artefacts seems to show that the two populations coexisted and influenced each other for a considerable length of time. However, in 1300 BC Crete was hit by another strong earthquake which eradicated the last remains of the Minoan civilization including the palace at Knossos.

An alternative explanation is that this final elimination was the result of further Achaean invasions who entered into warfare with the Achaeans already established on Crete. Perhaps a third reason is a combination of the two factors. Nevertheless, following this destruction, the new conquerors become extremely powerful and whilst holding on to the wealth of their predecessors did not succeed in carrying on with their distinguished cultural tradition. Though not founded by the Achaeans, Mycenae (now an archaeological site in the north-eastern Peloponnese and 90km from Athens) was adopted as their capital city and excavations there reveal a civilization quite magnificent in its way but far below that of the earlier Cretan days. With regard to the island of Crete, historians relate that in 1200 BC the island had a powerful fleet that was employed in raiding the eastern part of the Mediterranean. By the 11th century BC, European tribes had descended from the north into Crete.