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Knossos or Cnossus (both: nŏsˈəs), ancient city of Crete, on the north coast, near modern Iráklion. The site was occupied long before 3000 B.C., and it was the center of an important Bronze Age culture. It is from a study of the great palace, as well as other sites in Crete, that knowledge of the Minoan civilization has been drawn. The city was destroyed c.1700 B.C. (possibly by earthquake, perhaps by invasion) and was splendidly rebuilt only to be destroyed again c.1400 B.C., possibly by an earthquake, by invaders from the Greek mainland, or both. This marked the end of Minoan culture. The palace was restored by Sir Arthur Evans, the English archaeologist who excavated (1900–35) the site. Based on fragmentary evidence, his reconstructions have proved to be controversial, as have the celebrated Knossos frescoes whose fragmentary remains were extensively restored by artists in the 1920s. Knossos later became an ordinary but flourishing Greek city, and it continued to exist through the Roman period until the 4th cent. A.D. In Greek legend it was the capital of King Minos and the site of the labyrinth. The name also appears as Cnosus and Knossus.


See Sir A. J. Evans, Palace of Minos (4 vol., 1921–35); L. Cottrell, Bull of Minos (1953); L. R. Palmer, A New Guide to the Palace of Knossos (1969); C. Gere, Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism (2009).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(also Knossos), an ancient city in the central part of northern Crete, one of the most important centers of Aegean culture. The excavations conducted by the British archaeologist A. Evans from 1900 to 1930 revealed that the site of Cnossus was inhabited as early as Neolithic period. During the Early Minoan period (c. 3000–2800 to c. 2200–2000 B.C.) it grew considerably. At the beginning of the Middle Minoan period (c. 2200–2000 B.C.) Cnossus became the capital of a strong kingdom. The city reached its peak of development in the Late Minoan period (c. 1600 to c. 1470 B.C.), when its kings became the supreme rulers of Crete, a powerful early slaveholding state with a strongly centralized government and economy.

The palace of the rulers of Crete (its main part was built after 2000 B.C.; it was restored after the earthquake of c. 1470 B.C. but was again destroyed by a fire c. 1380 B.C.), the economic, administrative, and political center of Crete, was a colossal structure measuring about 16,000 sq m in area. Multistoried and with a complex layout, it comprised state apartments and residential quarters, a rectangular court, stairs, propylaea, the Hall of the Double Axes, a throne room with murals, spacious storerooms, workshops, paved courtyards, and drainage systems. Excavations unearthed tools, weapons, and household articles; the so-called archives of the Cnossus Palace were also found (tablets with Linear B, a syllabic form of writing). Other buildings excavated in Cnossus were the Little Palace, the Royal Villa, the caravansary, and the remains of dwellings of the first half of the second millennium B.C.


Pendlebury, J. Arkheologiia Krita. Moscow, 1950. (Translated from English.)
Zlatkovskaia, T. D. U istokov evropeiskoi kul’tury. Moscow, 1961.
Evans, A.J. The Palace of Minos, vols. 1–4 and index. London, 1921–36.
Effenterre, H. La Crète et le monde grec de Platon à Polybe. Paris, 1948.
Pendlebury, J. A Handbook to the Palace of Minos, Knossos, 2nd ed. London, 1954.
Stella, L. A. Per la cronologia dei testi di Cnosso. Trieste, 1960.
Platon, N. Crète. Paris, 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


, Cnossus
a ruined city in N central Crete: remains of the Minoan Bronze Age civilization
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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