Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Minoan and Mycenaean Art by Reynold Higgins *****

Mycenaean (Greek) civilization inherited the Aegean Sea after the collapse of the peaceful Minoan island paradise following the enormous volcanic explosion on Thera. In spite of all the Greek accomplishments in philosophy and mathematics, their logical world view was...
"never really sympathetic to the more exuberant and less disciplined Cretan spirit ... their joie de vivre and love of natural subjects."
Minoan and Mycenaean Art by Reynold Higgins (in all its many editions) surveys the bronze age (roughly the second and third millennium BCE) in the Aegean Sea (Crete, The Cyclades, mainland Greece). This edition is generously illustrated with 241 illustrations with 54 in full color on glossy paper.

If this is your area of interest, this book is an excellent choice. (note: classical Greece is approximately the 4 and 5th centuries BCE, much later).

The art and architecture of the Minoans on Crete differed from the surrounding civilizations, Egypt and Mesopotamia, and the succeeding ones (Greek, Roman, et al). The Minoans were matriarchal and peaceful. Their art reflected this in many ways. For example, from frescos to sculptures, to cups and bowls, to jewelry, Cretan art chose natural subjects (marine life, plants, birds) and peaceful activities (harvesting, acrobatics), eschewing scenes of fighting and hunting used by virtually all following civilizations.

On a larger scale, the peaceful nature of the Minoans expressed itself in their palaces. Throughout the world, public structures tend to be built from the outside in. The structure starts with a defensive perimeter and everything else is fit into the internal space. This includes residences, castles, walled towns, and countries. Fortified boundaries are almost a universal sign of civilization.

The Minoans, on the other hand, started with a central courtyard. Around this space, residences, offices, treasuries, storerooms, etc. were added in an organic way, as and where needed.

It is interesting to wonder if the explosion at Thera had delayed another thousand years, whether western civilization might be different.

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