Minoan Civilization: Social Structure & Political Organization

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  • 0:05 Minoan Civilization
  • 0:34 Minoan Men & Women
  • 1:17 Minoan Palace Elite
  • 2:05 MInoan Art & Architecture
  • 2:43 Minoan Agriculture
  • 3:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Tommi Waters

TK Waters has a bachelor's degree in literature and religious studies and a master's degree in religious studies and teaches Hebrew Bible at Western Kentucky University.

Before Greece even existed as a civilization there was a society that strongly influenced them that lived on the island of Crete. In this lesson, we'll learn a bit about Minoan social structure and political organization.

Minoan Civilization

Imagine ancient Greece and the structure of the society in terms of gender and class. You might be thinking of a society where women are inferior to men and laborers are inferior to the educated. However, on the island of Crete, which was not far from the mainland of what became Greece, there was a nation that may have been relatively egalitarian, meaning people of different classes and genders were equal. This was the Minoan civilization, which became, to some extent, the forerunners of the later Greek civilization.

Minoan Men & Women

While the royalty of the civilization were kings not queens and men ran many parts of the society, the Minoan civilization seems to have allowed women to do the same things men did. This civilization probably did not have a land army, but a navy, so when the men in the navy were off at sea, women probably helped run much of Minoan society and politics. Women and men even participated in the same sports. Some of the most popular sports that both genders participated in were wrestling and bull-jumping, a sport where a bull ran at a person who would then try to jump and somersault over it. Also, unlike the later religion of Greece, which emphasized the male gods like Zeus, Minoan religion was primarily composed of worshiping goddesses.

Minoan Palace Elite

In the royal palace, some of the elite were priests and priestesses who would be responsible for leading and performing religious rituals and services. Perhaps because it was a goddess religion or because the society had important roles for women, there were many more priestesses than priests. The civilization was a bureaucracy where there were different, non-elected people who ran different facets of the society. What little we can tell from the indecipherable writings of the Minoans shows that the merchants and scribes kept excellent records of trade and produce and probably ran the economy. As we cannot read the writings of the Minoans, the identity of the various kings they had remains uncertain. However, some speculate that the infamous King Minos, who was said to be the son of Zeus and to have built a complex labyrinth, was a king of the island.

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