Many myths and legends of Crete center around King Minos, son of the god Zeus and the Phoenician princess Europa. Zeus had turned himself into a gentle, white bull and charmed by the creature, Europa climbed on its back. The bull bore her away to Crete where she would later bear their children. Minos became king of Crete and was said to be advised by Zeus himself, so the tale of Europa and Zeus became the starting point of the Minoan history.
The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age Aegean civilization on the island of Crete and other Aegean Islands which flourished from c. 2700 to c. 1450 BC, before a late period of decline, finally ending around 1100 BC.
The civilization was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of British archaeologist Arthur Evans. The name "Minoan" derives from the mythical King Minos and was coined by Evans, who identified the site at Knossos with the labyrinth and the Minotaur. What the Minoans called themselves is unknown, although the Egyptian place name “Keftiu” and the Semitic “Kaftor” or “Caphtor” and “Kaptara” in the Mari archives, both evidently referring to Minoan Crete, are suggestive.
The Minoan civilization has been described as the earliest of its kind in Europe and is particularly notable for its large and elaborate palaces, some of which were up to four stories high, featured elaborate plumbing systems and were decorated with frescoes.
The most notable Minoan palace is that of Knossos, followed by that of Phaistos. The Minoan period saw extensive trade between Crete, Aegean and Mediterranean settlements, particularly the Near East. Through their traders and artists, the Minoans' cultural influence reached beyond Crete to the Cyclades, the Old Kingdom of Egypt, copper-bearing Cyprus, Canaan and the Levantine coast and Anatolia.
The reasons for the slow decline of the Minoan civilization, beginning around 1550 BC are unclear; theories include Mycenaean invasions from mainland Greece and the major volcanic eruption of Santorini.
If you're interested in archaeology or just want to learn more about Cretan history check out the following archaeological sites in Crete.
The popular archeological sites of Minoan time, Phaistos and Agia Triada, are only a few kilometers distance. Here you get some information about the archaelogical sites which you should definetily visit during your vacation in South Crete.