helens_daughter (helens_daughter) wrote,


Now that I'm finished with Knossos, I'm reading June Rachuy Brindel's 1980 novel Ariadne.  The writing is gorgeous and evocative, but God, I'm tired of the Mother Goddess/nurturing priestess-women = good versus sky gods/rapey, murdering men = bad trope.  Ariadne certainly isn't the first or last novel about the Minoan/Mycenaean world to take cues from Robert Graves's The White Goddess and The Golden Bough, and Jacquetta Hawkes's Dawn of the Gods.  I suppose the whole matriarchal goddess-rule/death of the year-consort/brutal suppression by patriarchal Mycenaeans trope was the thing back in 1980; I've seen it used in novels as late as a few years ago.

However, the archaeological evidence doesn't support this view.  The Aegean world of the Bronze Age seems to have been much more complex than early theories make it out to be.  We know the Minoans produced weapons and could defend themselves, although they probably relied more on a navy than on vast armies for home defense.  We know the Mycenaeans had their gentler side; they worshipped both powerful gods and goddesses, and aped Minoan culture even as they took over Crete.  Yet whether the takeover was a brutal invasion or something more subtle is a matter of conjecture.  In Knossos, I depict the Mycenaeans as already living in Crete, serving the weak native rulers as mercenaries and traders--becoming Cretans themselves--before eventually displacing them.  My model was the Germanic tribes in the late Roman world.  As one power collapsed, another stepped into its place.

As rulers go, the Minoans probably had a secular male ruler rather than a priestess-queen; we still don't know very much about Minoan administration, but the title mi-no ro-ja (royal Minos) has been deciphered on Linear A tablets.  Whoever the Minos was, no doubt he had priestly duties in the temple, as kings did in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece itself.

Well, you might say, but women ruled in the temples.  Maybe.  Priestesses and priests are depicted together on the famous Agia Triadha sarcophagus, so there might have been powerful priests as well as priestesses running the temples.  For physical evidence, the bodies of both a priest and priestess were found at Anemospilia, and the priest with his iron ring (a prized possession in those days) and amethyst seal stone was no slouch, though who held the knife that dispatched the young victim--the priest or the priestess--is up for debate.
Tags: ariadne, books, minoans, minos, mycenaeans, religion

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