Introduction of Crete
An island in the E Mediterranean, SSE of Greece and W of Turkey. It is considered the fountainhead of Aegean civilization. Its early periods are generally called Minoan, after the legendary King Minos, and can be divided into three eras: Early Minoan, c. 2800–2100 b.c.; Middle Minoan c. 2100–1500 b.c.; and Late Minoan c. 1500–1000 b.c. In the Early Period there was a remarkable growth of culture from a Neolithic base with the importation of metals, use of bronze, and hieroglyphic writing. The great centers of Knossos and Phaistos as well as many lesser settlements, first date from this time. Vases, seals, and fabrics of Cretan origin incorporated into Egyptian deposits from the Twelfth Dynasty found at Kahun have provided evidence of extensive foreign trade in this period.
The Middle and Late Periods produced great palaces and a pictographic script (Linear A). Then c. 1500 b.c., the vast earthquake and eruption of Thira, followed by an invasion of Greeks from Mycenae destroyed or crippled much of the island ’s culture. The civilization soon declined. It rose again in the Late Minoan period with luxurious palaces rebuilt around the island , often under Mycenaean Greek control. As the period waned, Crete ceased to be the center of Aegean culture, which passed to the mainland . During the Dark Ages, Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic Periods (11th through the first centuries b.c.) the history of Crete was part of that of Greece. Crete was annexed to Rome in 67 b.c. by Quintus Metellus. It became part of the Byzantine Empire in a.d. 395 but fell to the Arabs in 824 and became the headquarters of Saracen pirates during the ninth century. It was reconquered for the Byzantine Empire by Nicephorus Phocas in 960–61. Boniface, count of Montferrat, a leader of the Fourth Crusade of 1202 to 1204, sold it to Venice. In 1669 it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire, which completed the expulsion of the Venetians by 1715.
In the late 19th century Crete sought independence from Turkey and annexation to Greece, obtaining the assistance of Greece in 1896, thus bringing about the Greco-Turkish War of 1897. Although the Turks were victorious, they were forced by the European powers to evacuate the island , and although Crete remained nominally Turkish, it was supervised by a high commission provided by England , France, Russia, and Italy. It became a semi-independent state, then joined Greece preliminarily in 1908, with final annexation in 1913. In World War II it was captured by German airborne forces between May 20 and 30, 1941. It was freed by the Allies in 1944.