The Minoans - the People Who Loved the Sea
In Heraklion's Archaeological Museum you are presented with tantalizing fragments left by the Minoans, a civilization so truly ancient, (from circa 2000 - 1450 BC) that you feel, along with the rest of what comprises the 21st century, like a very brash and ignorant newcomer to this planet.
In the upstairs rooms the walls are covered with large frescoes.
What was actually discovered of these Minoan paintings were only fragments, but these have been completed, to accord with the vision of what they would have looked like. But it is, as the guide says 'a fantasy'. What they actually looked like 'we not not know'.
We do know however, that 'the Minoans loved the sea above all'. She is pointing to the dolphin fresco, as she describes their love of the sea...
So a relatively modern imagination has been used to complete the fragments and we see delicate branches of olive trees painted in blues and greens, dark-haired women against a blue background and the most famous, the Prince of the Lilies, one hand stretched behind him.
Perhaps, as the guide says, he is leading a steer, perhaps the bull whose horned head forms the adjacent fresco, with body painted in, imagined. In this pose, the bull's head is turned around; as if he is refusing to go in the direction he is being led.
But that is pure speculation.
If the Prince of the Lilies is leading a bull, he faces forward, there is nothing to suggest a stubborn or recalcitrant steer behind him, he faces forward, full of confidence and vigour, the muscles of his chest and forearms clearly showing he is male, despite the pale pinkish hue of the fresco, a colour that usually represents the female form.
Or rather, white usually does. While red shows male bodies.
But perhaps this was once red and has faded to the palest of pink.
His elaborate head-dress curls into the shapes of lilies, which gives him his name. Dolphins, goddesses seated on rocks, a wide-horned bull, bull-leapers, sacred winged griffins and the Prince of Lilies.
Downstairs, carved and painted pots and storage jars, bronze and ceramic figurines, gods and goddesses, crowned, some with arms upheld, one, most notably, with writhing snakes in her hands.
Our ignorance I feel, is to do with what life is really about. It is to do with the fact that we have forgotten, or so it seems, how to deeply engage with life.
We walk through the Archaeological Museum at Heraklion, to be given reminders of the art and beauty, the imagery and imagination of a people who loved life so much, it overflowed into their paintings. Thousands of years later, we gaze at these depictions of ceremony, serenity and fantasy - gaze and speculate.
Excerpt from STIGMES Magazine by Morelle Smith