From an archaeological point of view, the terms, “Knossos,” and “palace,” are somewhat ambiguous. The palace was never just the residence of a monarch, although it contained rooms that might have been suitable for a royal family. Most of the structures, however, were designed to serve a civic, religious and economic center. The term palace complex is more accurate. In ancient times, Knossos was a town surrounding and including Kephala Hill. This hill was never an acropolis in the Greek sense. It had no steep heights, remained unfortified, and was not very high off the surrounding ground. These circumstances cannot necessarily be imputed to other Minoan palaces. Phaestos, contemporaneous with Knossos, was placed on a steep ridge, controlling access to the Mesara Plain from the sea, and was walled.
Knossos (pronounced Kuh-nuh-SOS) is the ancient Minoan palace and surrounding city on the island of Crete, sung of by Homer in his Odyssey: “Among their cities is the great city of Cnosus, where Minos reigned when nine years old, he that held converse with great Zeus.” King Minos, famous for his wisdom and, later, one of the three judges of the dead in the underworld, would give his name to the people of Knossos and, by extension, the ancient civilization of Crete: Minoan. The settlement was established well before 2000 BCE and was destroyed, most likely by fire (though some claim a tsunami) c. 1700 BCE.
In Greek mythology, King Minos dwelt in a palace at Knossos. He had Daedalus construct a labyrinth (by some connected with the double-bladed axe, or labrys) in which to retain his son, the Minotaur. Daedalus also built a dancing floor for Queen Ariadne (Homer, Iliad 18.590-2). The name “Knossos” was subsequently adopted by Arthur Evans because it seemed to fit the local archaeology. The identification has never been credibly questioned, mainly because of that archaeology.
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