Notebook, 1993-

[Evans, Sir Arthur. The Palace of Minos. A Comparative Account of the Successive Stages of the Early Cretan Civilization as Illustrated by the Discoveries. Vol. II: Part II. Town-Houses in Knossos of the New Era and Restored West Palace Section, with its State Approach. New York: Biblo and Tannen:. 1964.]

Knossos [cont.]

Evidences of Greater Rainfall supplied by Flora
The occurrence of certain species of plants, not now found in the neighbourhood, amongst those depicted on the walls points to the same conclusion that there was a more humid climate in Minoan times. Forest belts, securing a more equable and, probably, greater precipitation^ and a larger amount of surface soil in which moisture could be retained, may well have existed even in the immediate neighbourhood of Knossos down to the close at least of the Middle Minoan Age. The exceptional building activity of this epoch, as well as the increase in shipping caused by expanding trade, involved a continual drain on the timber supplies, and in the course of the succeeding Late Minoan Age the greater distribution of population itself marks the clearing of old forest areas.

Some of the most beautiful egg-shell cups of the Early Palace seem to owe their suggestion to the calix of a native water-lily^ with more or less rounded petals, resembling those of our common varieties, but unlike the [463] pointed forms of the lotus petals. Water-lilies, both white and yellow, are still known in Mainland Greece--but where do they grow now in Crete? The wild roses, climbing over the rocks in the wall-painting before us, were no doubt a familiar feature of the environs in Minoan days. At present they have wholly disappeared from the district, and their nearest habitat seems to be the well-watered Speliotissa glen in the hills fifteen miles away, where white roses are found. The Madonna lily, which, from its frequent recurrence in painted designs seems to have abounded here, is no longer to be found near the site of Knossos in a wild state.^ The pale yellow violets--of which both the flowers and leaves are clearly indicated on a fresco fragment from Hagia Triada [Fig. 274]--have shrunken away from that site to distant mountain glens.^

Selections of plant designs from the 'House of the Frescoes' are given in Figs. 266, 275. Sometimes, as in the case of the crocus [Fig. 266, B] and of the Madonna lily [Fig. 266, c], the reproduction is literal enough, though, as shown above, the transformation of the Pancratium [Fig. 268] is considerable. In the case of the rose we have noted such obvious discrepancies as the six petals and trefoil leaves. Free choice in colouring is continually manifesting itself, especially in the case of the crocuses, alternately shown white, blue, pink, and orange, and of the flower identified with the dwarf Iris Cretica [Fig. 275, F.G], which is depicted blue with a yellow fringe, pink with dark purple, and red bordered with green. The serrated leaves seen in Fig. 275, D, which hardly admit of identification, are sometimes blue and sometimes yellow on the same stalk. Fig. 275, A, from its leaves and flowers, which, however, resemble conventional rosettes, might be taken to be a convolvulus, but its buds are bell-shaped. By it appears a section of conglomerate rock with banded egg-like pebbles. Fig. 275, H, with its dark brown and orange petals, seems to be a honeysuckle. Fig. 275, I, is clearly a section of some flowering rush. The half-opened flower [p. 464] with an orange patch [Fig. 275, B] somewhat suggests a Cistus or rock-rose, a class of plant abundant on the rocky Cretan hills, from which laudanum was still collected in Tournefort's time by flicking the bushes with whips.^

Flowers suggested by papyrus sprays appear on reed-like plants [Fig. 274, C], which are otherwise hybridized by the attachment of a facing calix with stellate radiations. But the most interesting exemplification of a composite vegetable form is supplied by the trailing ivy seen between the rocks on the Coloured Plate X. This, as is shown below, is in its origin a blending of the sacred papyrus wand or waz of Egypt with its decorative canopy, and is finally assimilated with the ivy to such an extent as to bear its flowers. This 'sacral ivy', as we shall see, became the source of a whole series of ceramic types.

Considering the extensive vogue of marine subjects in reliefs of various materials, as well as in wall-paintings on the flat that is reflected by other remains of the last Middle Minoan Period, the comparative scarcity of such in the 'House of Frescoes' is remarkable. This, indeed, is all the more strange since the ceramic imitation of these types in the advanced L. M. I phase [b] points to their continual popularity in the greater Art at the beginning of the New Era. Painted fragments, indeed, showing rockwork associated with marine forms, were not wanting in the present case, but from their comparative scarcity it has been thought better to group them with other evidence of the influence of this field of design on ceramic motives in the succeeding Section.^ The individual taste of the owner of the 'House of the Frescoes' happened to turn rather to the flowery meads and creeper-hung rocks of his native country-side.

The Cultured Home of a Small Burgher
No discovery as yet made in the Island illustrates in an equal degree with the 'House of the Frescoes', not only the high standard of civilized life in the great days of Minoan Crete, but the wide diffusion of culture among all classes. The house itself was quite a small one, its lower story being only of about 120 square metres in its dimensions [about 183 square yards] or not more than about a third of the South House, for instance. Yet the citizen, we may suppose, of the petty burgher class who had his habitation here is shown by the remains that have come down to us--a mere fraction of the whole--to have been a man of cultivated taste. The painted [p. 466] decoration of the walls is unrivaled of its kind for its picturesque setting, and the many-coloured effect is enhanced, not only by the varied choice of flowers, but by the convention of the rocks cut like agates to show their brilliant veins. At the same time, amidst all these elements culled from the native 'banks and braes', we may trace a certain susceptibility to influence, due to the revived connexions with Egypt, in the embellished papyrus clumps, here introduced, and in particular the appearance among them of the 'Green Monkey' of the Soudan. The painted clay pottery brought to light exemplifies the elegance of the vessels used for domestic and religious purposes, though methodical plundering has deprived us of the metal objects. Of great significance, moreover, was not only the discovery of the finely inscribed libation table, but the remains of painted inscriptions--some of them in large characters--on the walls. We have here good evidence that the owner of the house was well acquainted with the art of writing. [p. 467]

Minoan Border Mouldings
Alike at Knossos and at Mycenae the half-rosette frieze was framed, as shown in the section, Suppl. Pl. XXII,^ with delicate and beautiful Mouldings consisting of a slight central convexity in relief, sharply bordered by narrower bands showing similar soft curves in cavetto. This moulding, which forms a prominent feature in Minoan architectural ornament, also accompanies, the parallel reliefs of whole rosettes. It has been already illustrated in relation to those from the area of the North-West Porch,^ And the magnificent rosette frieze to be described below, remains of which were found in connexion with the earliest Propylaeum,^ presents similar borders.

The delicate curvature of the central band of this class of border recurs in the crowning moulding of the epistyle in Temple C at Selinus,^ but [p. 596] the bands above and below have flat surfaces, more in keeping with the severe Doric spirit, in place of the harmoniously responsive caveto of the Minoan examples. [p. 598]

The seven-stringed lyre or cithara, the special instrument of Apollo, is also Minoan. It was played in ritual invocations of the Lady of the Double Axes long before the Cretan ministrants from Knossos chanted to its strains the hymn of victory in honour of the Delphic God.^

Attention has already been called in this work to the use of this instrument in the sacrificial scene on the painted sarcophagus from Hagia Triada, where the objects of worship were the sacred Double Axes of the Goddess, whose indwelling presence was marked by the perched birds. This is supplemented by another similar fragment, itself from the site of the 'Little Palace' there in which some details of the instrument are more clearly defined [see below, Fig. 552, b]. It may indeed, be truly said [in a more literal sense than might be suspected] that the long-robed priests--like those of the 'Procession Fresco' - who here play the Minoan cithara, were the true forerunners of Apollo kitharoedos.

The cithara already appears at Knossos as a hieroglyphic sign on a seal impression and clay documents from the Palace deposit, Fig. 550, a, d, and, again, on a bead-seal from the Candia district, Fig. 550, b.^ The cursive versions of the sign, as seen in Fig. 550, c , d, present only three chords, but too much importance must not be attached to these secondary forms.^ That the instrument originally had only four is made probable by the appearance, at an epoch equivalent to E. M. III, of male figurines of marble [p. 834] of Cycladic fabric, holding a kind of triangle four-stringed harp or trigouon.^ In the developed form of the Cretan lyre the number of the strings was doubled, since we find eight or seven. The seven-stringed lyre--which Terpander had the credit of having substituted for the tetrachord--is indeed the true double of that with four strings, since, among the Greeks, tetrachords succeeding one another had a tone in common.^

The careful design, here reproduced in Fig. 551, is taken from a clay impression of a 'signet seal' from the Palace hoard,^ where it occurs, apparently in company with another stringed instrument, within a boarder, the decoration of which seems to be derived from a repetition of the lion's mask sign. It shows eight strings, as is the earliest known Semitic cithara,^ and this number is repeated [Fig. 550, b] on a more recently discovered four-sided bead-seal of green steatite from the Candia district, one face of which is occupied by four facing lion's heads--once more, a significant association.^ The horned projection of the upper framework in this specimen recurs in the graffito sign, Fig. 550, c, and it is noteworthy that the bar to which the strings are attached is distinctly separated from the base of the instrument.

This feature characterizes certain later Egyptian representations of lyres in a more pronounced degree, and a trace of a curving cross-line--father up above the base of the instrument but analogous to the seal-type--is visible in the design on the Hagia Triada sarcophagus, Fig. 552, a. This particularity is also restored in Fig. 552, b. It will be seen, indeed, that, though the ultimate origin of the cithara in Crete must be sought elsewhere, these designs were taken over from a more or less contemporary Egyptian source such as is supplied by the Theban example, Fig. 553.^ This Egyptian [p. 835] design explains certain well-marked and hitherto misunderstood features presented by the painted stucco fragment from the little Palace At Hagia Triada, restored in Fig. 552,b. The Egyptianizing sprays, here symmetrically set as ornaments on the upper cross-piece of the instrument, were obviously suggested by the lotus flowers, drawn as if rising from behind the heads of the players and dancers, in some Egyptian wall-painting like that from which Fig. 553 is taken, and have nothing to do with the lyre. On the other hand, the animals' heads with pointed ears, clearly shown on either side of the cithara in Fig. 552, b, are simply copied from the gazelles' heads of an Egyptian example like Fig. 553, without the curving horns. In view of this comparison, it is clear that we have neither to do with serpents, nor, as has been ingeniously suggested, with the 'whistling swan' [Cygnus musicus]^--however tempting this would be in connexion with a citharoredic figure. [p. 836]

Though the indebtedness to Egyptian models is in these cases undoubted, it must always be borne in mind that the lyre itself is in Egypt itself an exotic instrument . While the harp--evolved from the 'plain' bow--comes down from the earliest dynasties, and was no doubt a still earlier Nilotic heritage, the lyre or cithara only makes its appearance in the days of the Twelfth Dynasty and in an Asiatic connexion . . . . [p. 837]

The Procession Fresco
With the partial exception of an important fragment described below, the 'Cup-bearer Fresco' is the only figure in the 'processional' series of which the head has been preserved. The great mass of th evidence however, was brought to light in the Entrance Corridor of the West Porch named after these remains [see above, p. 682 seqq.]. [p. 719]

There, separated by short intervals, were three connected groups of designs--here referred to as A, B, C--there lower parts and the greyish black band on which they stood adhering to the left wall, but some of the upper parts lying on their faces on the corridor pavement. Although on grounds already stated, it is fairly certain that two rows of figures had originally existed, one above the other, only remains of the lower row had been preserved. On the right wall, which had been destroyed, little more was found than parts of the narrow black band below, adhering to its base .

Group A, with the robe of he female figure in front completed, occupied a space of 2:10 metres, and consisted of seven figures. Group B, of twelve figures, was almost continuous with it, and was about 5 metres in length. Group C, with three figures, followed closely on the latter, and extended 2.50 metres. The whole wall-space covered, including the small breaks between the groups, may be estimated at 11 metres, and as there were twenty-two figures, this gives an average space of half a metre for each, though the individual espacement of the figures varied, some standing free, some considerably overlapping one another.

Taking the entire length of the Corridor from the East portal of the West Porch to the point where it abuts on the landing of the Staircase leading up form the South Entrance of the Palace as 56 metres, it appears that the umber of figures on either side of this ceremonial passage-way--assuming that there were double rows--must have amounted to 224, or 448 in al, and 88 or more have been already estimated for the interior decoration of the two compartments of the Propylaeum Hall.^ In this way we reach the total number of 536 life-sized figures, with ut reckoning the almost certain extension of the series to the upper Propylaeum system. It seems likely that similar processional scenes filled the back wall of the porticoes on either side of its central flight of steps, as well as the lobby into which it opened.

That the Upper Porch of the Propylaeum and its dependencies showed the same 'processional' scheme of decoration as the lower part of the system is indeed a conclusion dictated by every consideration of architectural unity. Of the wide extension of this scheme of decoration in the building, we have ample evidence. Fragments of frescoes belonging to these processional scenes were found on the wast heaps near the North-West Portico, which were evidently collected from a wide area of the Western wing of the Palace, and an isolated part of one occurred near the Grand Staircase of the Domestic Quarter--drifted, perhaps, down the slope from the west side [p. 720] of the Central court . . . .

As is clearly shown by the duplicated feet, the first section of Group A--the beginnnig of the whole series on the left wall of the Corridor--consists of two pairs of youths walking side by side, and wearing long robes with vertical bands, of which the restoration is made possible by the appearance of a youthful attendant with a similar costume on an offertory scene of the Hagia Triada painted sarcophagus. He is playing a seven-stringed lyre like that shown in Fig. 450,A. In these long robes with their narrow upright bands, we may probably trace some priestly influence from the Oriental side. The bands--in one case decorated with rosettes^--must be regarded as running down the centre of the gaberdine in a manner for which there are many Semitic parallels.^ The bands seen on the robes of the figures in the 'Palanquin Fresco' described below are transverse, as are those on the long robes of apparently sacerdotal personages that appear on a not infrequent class of Late Minoan seal-stones of elongated amygdaloid form, usually of haematite, of which specimens are given in a later Section.

In the case of these sacerdotal personages on seal-stones, the Eastern element is well marked by the fact that in three out of five specimens known to me he holds a single-bladed axe of a characteristic Syrian form,^ itself betraying Egyptian influence.

The suggestion is made in the restored design that the figures of the first Group [A] represent musicians and singers, since on the Hagia Triada sarcophagus the youth referred to above as similarly attired is accompanying [p. 721] the sacrifical pair in front of him with a tune on a seven stringed lyre.^ For this reason the figure, No. 5 of the present group, is restored, as playing a similar instrument. This parallel has a further value, since the scene referred to on the sarcophagus is a ritual celebration before the sacred bear on the interpretatin here adopted of the central figure of what seems to be the Goddess herself in the succeeding Goup B [No. 14], approached, it would seem, by adorants on either side. It is further to be noted as a considerable religious import that, as we see from repeated examples on the Hgaia Triada sarcophagus, the particular kind of long Oriental robe worn by the first group of the Fresco was also common to Female worshippers.

Nos. 1 and 2 of Group A are depicted as holding sistrums like that of the 'Harvesters' R[?] in the Hagia Triada Cup,^ and No. 4, the double pipes as in the painted sarcophagus from that site. The lower part is seen of the flounced skirt of a female figure [No. 7] who progresses slightly in front of the others of this group, showing the remains of one white foot with well-formed toes. She and her male companion [No. 6] are here restored with bands raised in the act of adoration. The vessel held by No. 9 [Group B] is restored from a fragment which had drifted to the North of the site [See Fig. 451].^ It is banded alternately black, white, rose, green, deep red, and yellow, and was evidently cut out of some brilliantly variegated rock, such as some of those used by the Cretan lapidaries. The expanding end of the handle, here three times repeated, recalls, on the other hand, the handles ending in papyrus tufts which seem to characterize certain vessels of Syro-Egyptian fabric.^

The central position of Group B is occupied by a founced female figure in a facing position, but, according to the artistic convenition of this time, with the feet and probably the head in profile. She is approached on the left by pairs of youths, following on to Group A, and on the right by two more couples of the same sex, the hindmost figure showing the end of a robe falling nearly to his ankles. Beyond this, again, are seen the feet of an other male pair advancing to the right and belonging to the beginning of another scene [No. 19]. Throughout this whole section only the feet and the lower borders of robes are preserved. [p. 722]

The associaton of the robes, divided in front by vertical bands, seen in Group A [Nos. 1-5, and probably 6], with a religious function, in honour of the sacred Double Axes of the Minoan cult, as shown on the Hagia Triada sarcophagus, offers here, however, a welcome clue to the interpretation of the richly robed female figure that forms the centre of the present group. It looks as if it might well have represented the Minoan Goddess herself holding the sacred symbols. A suggestion for the restoration of the figure is, indeed, afforded by a mould found at Siteia in East Crete, on which the Goddess is shown, in this case fully facing [this being a work of relief], holdng the Double Axes in either hand.^ She wears the usual founced robe, and apparently some kind of crown, which justififes the crown of a sacral Minoan type, also common to Minoan Sphinxes, placed on the Goddess's head in the present restoration.^ Although the mould belongs to the latest Minoan Age, the permanence of religious tradition makes the parallel still pertinent.

A remarkable feature in what remans of the lower part of the Goddess, as here recognized, is the narrow curving white bands that apparoach the extremity of the lowest founce. They may be thought to represent some kind of diaphanous veil, descending from her head and shoulders. Some analogy to this is presented by a curious disposition of the snakes of the Goddess as seen on a gem-type illustrated below.^ [p. 724]

Of Group C, happily, more of the upper part of the figures has been preserved, and the figure of the 'Cup-bearer' here reproduced [Fig. 454: Coloured Plate XII], enables us to complete the picture. In this group appears a series of three youths, with enough of their arms remaining to show that they were carrying vases, much in the manner of the 'Cup-bearer'. In the case of No. 20 the lower half of the vessel itself is depicted, the body--of an oragne hue, indicating gold--finely [?], and with a blue, or silver, base showing a running spiral decoration. The bossed part of the bearer's belt is also blue with similar spirals, the same colour, with black bars, being repeated along its lower border, while the incurved middle section is coloured orange, and presents rosette ornaments. The belt of the youth immediately in front of him shows a variation fo the same decoration, the rounded upperband and the lower border having an orange--presumably gold--ground, and the incurved middle blue or silver. The ornamentation is the same, differently distributed.

The close-fitting kilts, or short tunics, descend in front to a point a little above the level of the knee, the peak--to judge from the appearance of No. 20--being weighted with a piece of metal to keep it in position. These kilts are brilliantly embroidered. On that of the first figure we see an orange ground with A blue border barred with black, and on that of the second a blue ground with a gold border showing a barred blue centre. The respective decoration of scale and diaper patterns is elaborately worked out [see below, Fig. 456, b,c] and in both cases appears a blue beaded network [p. 725], falling down from the point of the tunic to the level of the middle of the shins, and terminating below in blue pendent beads of the form that combines suggestions of the lily and the papyrus [see Fig. 453, b, c].^ These bear a very close resemblance to those seen on the border of the magnificent bronze basin illustrated above, p. 643, Fig. 419A.^

Like the Cup-bearer, the youths here depicted wear silver [blue] armlets on the upper part of the arm a little above the elbow, and they, doubtless, also wore them on their wrists. On the feet, preserved, as on those of all the other figures, are seen anklets which, from their bue colour, may be also regarded as of silver [Fig. 454]. These curve downwards so as to fit the ankle, and in the case of No. 20 they present a row of black spots pointing to some inlay. These blue anklets are also very well marked on the feet of the Goddess.

The appearance of these ornaments on the feet of processional figures is of considerable interest. Anklets on Egyptian monuments are associated with Asiatics from a very early period as a sign of dignity. Already on a fragmentary monument belonging to the latter part of the Old Kingdom, before 2400 B.C., anklets with a floral ornament in front and behind are seen [p. 726] on the feet of a 'Mesopotamian' prince wearing a fringed mantle.^

[Evans, Sir Arthur. The Palace of Minos. A Comparative Account of the Successive Stages of the Early Cretan Civilization as Illustrated by the Discoveries. Vol. II: Part II. Town-Houses in Knossos of the New Era and Restored West Palace Section, with its State Approach. New York: Biblo and Tannen:. 1964.]



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