Pause and Reflect: Comparisons

Pause and Reflect

In this session we have taken the three eras under consideration and looked at what evidence is available in certain categories as shown below:

Compare the three sites synchronically and diachronically. You may wish to look at the map of Crete to compare the three sites geographically.

This is the clickable map of Crete which you saw in Unit 1 Session 3 Lesson 1. Please note once again that it shows only some of the sites for each epoch.

You’ve now looked at a major site for each of the three epochs: Knossos (Prehistoric), Gortyn (Graeco-Roman), and Khania (Mediaeval-Modern). Each of these sites is part of a settlement pattern which differs from epoch to epoch. For example, the Late Roman period is the only time in Cretan history when the main centre was not on the north coast.

You may find it interesting to see how different the three settlement patterns are, and to think of explanations for these differences. Please post your ideas to the Discussion Forum.

The highest points on the island of Crete are around 2400m above sea level. The map has Prehistoric, Graeco-Roman and Mediaeval-Modern settlements illustrated.

One of the goals of this course is to show you the value of making comparisons, from period to period (diachronic), and within periods (synchronic). Here we give you brief tables for Venetian Khania, Roman and Late Roman Gortyn, and Neo-palatial Knossos. You will see that each table uses the same variables, such as size, listed at the left hand side. By comparing these three tables, you can make a diachronic analysis (across periods) of the three big sites that we have looked at so far. At the end of the next unit, you will be able to make synchronic comparisons (within each period), using these three large sites, and the smaller sites within Sphakia that you’ll be studying.

Size (sq. metres) 530,000 (within the walls) 2,000,000+ (= 200+ ha) 750,000
Government Buildings Rector's Palace; Barracks Praetorium; Odeion Palace: Throne Room (?). large rooms on upper floors, esp. on West Wing
Religion(s) Catholic churches as well as Orthodox; synagogue Churches. Temples. Shrines in palace; peak sanctuary on Mt Iouktas
Entertainment Baths (with aqueduct). Amphitheatre; theatres; circus. Theatral area to west, and Central Court (?)
Fortifications Substantial, including shipsheds none
Houses (elaborate) Large stone mansions near harbour Governor's residence Several large houses with ashlar masonry etc.
Representational Art Wall-painting and icons (churches) Sculpture; mosaics Wall-paintings; figurines; stone vases; some pots (e.g. Marine Style)
Language(s), Script(s) Greek; Latin; Venetian Italian Greek; Latin rarely. Unknown language written in Linear A script. Seals, sealings, and nodules used for record-keeping
Foreign Contacts Venice; Cretan Renaissance; El Greco Cyrene (joint province). Trade connections: Italy; E Aegean Rest of Crete; Aegean islands; Greek mainland; Egypt; Cyprus; Levant; Lipari islands

As you can see, some categories show similar evidence across the eras, others differ substantially.

Some suggested questions

Look at the size of these three sites. Does site size increase or decrease over time?

If the evidence from the buildings listed tells us about life in each era, what could account for the changes revealed by these comparisons?

In the first column of each table we have suggested a group of categories you might want to make comparisons against. Can you think of others that might be used to illustrate life in the past in Crete?

Discuss these questions with others in the Discussion Forum.