How The Oldest Civilization In Europe Was Destroyed

Perhaps the oldest known civilization in Europe is that of the Minoans on the Mediterranean isle of Crete. Its people are heavily featured in myths and legends of ancient Greece, and it was in the Palace of Knossos that the Minotaur was held, and where Icarus and his father Daedalus escaped from prison with wings they made before Icarus flew too close to the sun.

But we can't visit Knossos anymore and stroll around the Minotaur's labyrinth. No, they didn't go and destroy historical buildings, but rather Knossos no longer exists. It was destroyed by a volcano and is among the civilizations that disappeared practically overnight. It's even thought to be an inspiration for the lost city of Atlantis. 

According to National Geographic, an eruption of the volcano Thera around 1500 BC destroyed many islands around Crete, including parts of the city of Knossos. Though we lack written records of the eruption, it was powerful enough to be considered a "time when the world almost ended." The palace itself survived the eruption, writes Live Science, but the earthquakes and aftershocks of the explosion damaged it. This was thought to be the end of the Minoan civilization, and the oldest city in Europe.

New finds shed more light on their influence

The destruction of Knossos was so bad that very little of the civilization's history remained. Live Science explains that civilization's end was so mysterious that researchers didn't even know what the people living in Knossos were really called. The name Minoans was coined by archaeologist Arthur Evans because he believed he found King Minos' palace.

Recent archaeological finds around Crete, however, have shed more light on the Minoans and what possibly happened after their city and palaces were destroyed. The Chania Post reports researchers uncovered artifacts pointing to a city that was rich in imports and larger than many believed. The archaeologists posit that the Minoans probably endured until the Iron Age. 

Though they disappeared, Minoan influence was felt all over Greece, per National Geographic. Their writing was adopted by the Mycenaeans — the people who next settled Crete — and became the basis for Greek writing.

The oldest city and civilization, in Europe may have been destroyed by a giant volcanic eruption, but not before it spread its culture far and wide.