Crete was the home of the ancient Minoan civilization (named after its most famous ruler King Minos). While their language and culture was not Greek, they influenced later Greek civilization significantly. Minoan civilization lasted from about 2600 BC to 1250 BC, reaching its height from 1700-1450 BC.
There is evidence of significant palace construction on the island of Crete from the Minoan civilization, particularly at the ancient capital, Knossos. Minoan workshops produced decorated silver vessels, daggers and pottery, much of which has been discovered around the eastern Mediterranean, including Egypt, Syria, Asia Minor, and Greece suggesting a substantial export trade. Interestingly, the palaces and towns of Crete had no walls and do not appear to have been fortified at all, a possible reflection of the religious devotion and faith in the Mother Goddess, Gaea, among the Minoans. Also as a result of devotion to Gaea, women held unusually high status in Minoan society. Men and Women appear to have been on nearly equal footing in society.
The End of Minoan Crete
Beginning around 1450 BC, Minoan civilization took a drastic downturn. Virtually every Cretan city was destroyed around this time, with the last, Knossos, being destroy around 1375 BC. The cause of this destruction is not entirely clear. It has been argued that a volcanic eruption on the Greek island of Thera was responsible for the destruction. Given the lack of militarization of Cretan society, however, it seems much more likely that the more militaristic Greeks were responsible for the destruction of Minoan civilization. The first appearance of warrior graves in Crete around this time seems to support this interpretation. Knossos was destroyed again around 1250 BC, marking the end of Minoan civilization.
Crete in Greek Mythology
Crete appears in Greek mythology primarily through the tale of Theseus and the Minotaur. Theseus, the son of King Aegeus of Athens, traveled to Crete in order to slay the Minotaur and end the tribute of seven Athenian boys and seven Athenian girls enforced on Athens by King Minos. The Labyrinth in which the Minotaur was kept had been constructed by Daedalus. Theseus was also aided in his quest by Ariadne, the daughter of Minos.