digging up the dirt on the cretans

Daniel A. Foss (U17043@UICVM.BITNET)
Wed, 8 May 1996 18:33:35 CDT

me. It's an actual request for information. The background is, I've *very*
recently been in Contact with the Great Mother of us all, Ruby Rohrlich,
who has taken a Leave of Absence hence, for chastisement of the rest of
you, of course, but also me, who would have expected suchlike Betayal from
mine own so-, a person in whom I had vested such soaring hopes, you've been
a Big Disappointment, Daniel, I shall be anticipating picking up your Guilt
vibrations on my radio from a thousand miles away for a long time. As this
was, really, a Jewish family matter, it was cleared up, but strife broke
out anew on her current project, dealing with the great Green Goddess of
the Cretins, more generally anent the alleged gender utopia of the Minoan
Middle Palace period. Acrimony intensified when it emerged that Ruby, whom
I freshly addressed as Ruby Wednesday, Tuesday was yesterday, sees eye to
eye on all points with Riane Eisler. I told them, collectively, to "Tell
that to the Hussites," my favourite Mediaeval people, whose most minimal
demand was for Communion In Both Kinds For The Laity, so adopted for their
battle standard the Chalice. Then, from 1419 to 1433 waged victorious
peasant war against hordes of Germans many times their own number, literally
fighting for egalitarian communism with the Chalice in one hand and the
Blade with the other.

Now for the information. In the end-of-1991 double-issue of the Economist
there appeared a report of the excavations on Crete of Dr Stella Chryssopolous,
who is, I reminded Ruby, "a card-carrying woman," of the remains of Middle
Minoan military structures. These included what she identified as watchtowers,
sufficiently large as to accomodate about thirty armed Minoans of non-gentle-
pacifistic disposition. Watchtowers were in line of sight of each other for
signalling. There was also found an infrastructual network of military roads,
viaducts, I-forget-what-else. Dr Chryssopolous' analysis was reportedly that
the watchtowers and support structures "were sited to interdict movement in
the direction of Knossos." But the original publications are in Greek, and
Greek of any sort, Ancient, Byzantine, Modern, is Greek to me.

This is exactly what I'd expected would have been required to support the
laid-back luxury represented in the Minoan palace frescoes: a concentration
camp. No, make that, Carneiroistically, a "circumscription camp." To support
the fun and games, boys and girls together, of the elite, forced labour of
an arduous kind might be exacted, the victims whereof having only one imagi-
nable way out, ie, get to Knossos, hide in the city, and if sufficiently
desperate, become "boat people." (There's an even scarier possibility,
suggested by Chadwick, The Myceneans, 1967, which is that Bronze Age slave
management was inadequate for securely handling male captives; so that
the slaves mentioned on the Linear B tablets were women with dependent

So if you have good literacy in Modern Greek and the archeological
literature relavant to this question, please contact Ruby at her old
address, <rohrlich@gwis2.circ.gwu.edu>. I must warn the hardy soul(s)
driven by Objective Truth and Cognitive Passion to undertake this Sacred
Mission that it is quite possible, to be a bit ethnic here, that Ruby
cannot distinguish Minyan Ware from the ten aged, physically frail gentlemen
whose presence is required for initiating Divine Worship in the Sacred
Language; and that it is not out of the question that she may even suppose
the House of Tiles at Lerna had something to do with Mah Jongg. I say this
because, if you can't get away with cracks like this just from being Jewish,
what good is it being Jewish.

Thank you muchly in advance.

At stake here is the critical importance of distinguishing between a
society's self-representation, invariably ideological in character, and
the actuality of the social behaviour which may be ascertained. Consider
the Assyrians, notorious for portraying themselves as destroying cities,
massacring people in vast numbers, and perpetrating forced migrations to
interchange and relocate conquered populations. The excavation of the city
of Ekron, one of the Philistine towns, reveals the Assyrians as constructive
economic developers. They had no choice, as their state was based upon the
hard labour and hard fighting of tough peasants in northern Iraq just south
of Kurdistan. Any additional revenues toward keeping their ferocious military
machine in constant forward motion had to be obtained from restoring and
expanding the economies of their next-to-newest conquered provinces. The
Philistines, at least their elite, had originally been Mycenaean Greeks
from Mycenae itself (See Trude and Moshe Dothan, People of the Sea, 1992).

[Why one bunch of migrating Greeks, *danaoi*, should have become the Tribe
of Dan in the Children of Israel while another crowd, the Pelest, Ended
Up the National Enemy, is one of those wonderful messy complications which
make the true story of any People's ethnogenesis indigestible. Most difficult
to keep down are those instances where there wasn't any ethnicity there until
someone concluded there simply had to be. There's a story in Norman Davies,
God's Playground: A History of Poland, Vol 2, that modern Lithuanian ethnic
consciousness was invented by members of the Anthropology Department of the
University of Vilna (now Vilnius); a survey was taken in 1885 on the
distribution of spoken languages, where most Lithuanian-speakers were
bilingual in Polish, tending toward identification as ultra-Polish when
not mere Polish. This story contributed, I admit, to the invention of the
Militant Paranoid Movement, which has only begun to fight.]

Back to the Philistines. Having migrated to Canaan, they settled down
to watch the Canaanites do the work, adopting the Canaanite/Hebrew language
of the locals who vastly outnumbered them. The Dothans, indeed, find the
Biblical Samson closely resembling a Greek trickster-warrior hero, similar
to Mopsus, also of the Early Iron Age. But Samson was supposed to have been
on the Other Side, unless getting a haircut. "Diffusionism" is wicked today,
a term of abuse, but maybe you can get a lot of diffusion into an itty
bitty can provided nobody admits it's possible because We are Pure Us,
They are Pure Them.

What is more provable is that the Philistine cities kept up contact with
Greece for centuries. When the Assyrians conquered the Philistine coast,
the better-off were importing Corinthian pottery. The Assyrians built upon
this connection, encouraging the production of olive oil in the city of
Ekron in what must be called factories. Immense quantities of olive oil
was exported, one supposes to Greece.
When Assyria fell to the coalition of Babylonians, Medes, and - for
reasons of courtesy - Egyptians, in 612-609, the result in Philistia was
economic regression. The Neo-Babylonian Empire, whereto Assyrian Philistia
fell, didn't give two hoots about economic development, being able, for
a brief time, to enjoy a wasteful and slovenly system of financing the
The moral of the story is that the wickedly-self-portrayed Assyrians
turned out to have, in Scriptural language, "played a historically progressive
role in the development of the progressive forces." Why shouldn't the benignly
self-depicted Minoans have gone the other way?

Daniel A. Foss