Tuesday 29 March 2022
Crete is a remarkable island! 260km west to east, 60km north to south at its broadest point and only 12km at its narrowest, it is the largest Greek island and is often called simply ‘the big island’, το μεγάλο νησί. It can also boast over 9,000 years of human history, to which various adjectives have been attached: Minoan, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Venetian, Ottoman. Part of the Greek state only since 1913, it was home to the earliest attested written form of the Greek language, in the Linear B script, one of at least five writing systems used on the island to record an even larger number of languages.
In this illustrated talk, Professor John Bennet (Camb, 1976) attempted to bring some order to this dizzying complexity and offered an outline ‘history’ of the island, with an emphasis on the outstanding remains from the Bronze Age, where his specialism lies. Certain watershed moments stand out: c. 7,000 BC (the first documented permanent human settlement, but not the first evidence of humans on the island), c. 2,000 BC (the construction of the first distinctive structures known as ‘palaces’), c. 1,600 BC (eruption of Thera/Santorini), 69 BC (Roman conquest), AD 827/8 (Arab conquest), AD 961 (Byzantine reconquest), AD 1204 (4th Crusade and Venetian conquest), AD 1669 (Ottoman conquest), AD 1913 (incorporation in the Greek state).
Within this historical framework, Professor Bennet emphasised some key themes in Crete’s history: the sea as isolator and connector; diversity and unity; continuity vs. discontinuity; the balance between East and West; ultimately what has often been called Crete’s ‘exceptionalism’.
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