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If you are planning a holiday on the Mediterranean island of Crete then visiting the Palace of Knossos has got to be right up there on your list of top ten things to do. Not only it is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete, it is oldest city so far discovered in Europe and therefore considered to be the birth place of European civilization.

The Palace of Knossos was the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture, and was excavated by British Archaeologist Arthur Evans in the earliest years of the 20th century.

He discovered that the bronze age Palace had actually been built on top of the remains of a previous palace that had been destroyed by powerful earthquakes.

The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and storerooms, and is the inspiration of the Minotaur and the labyrinth in Greek mythology. The Minotaur was a creature with the head of a bull on the body of a man who inhabited the center of the Cretan Labyrinth,

The legend of the Minotaur

After King Minos ascended to the throne of Crete, his sovereignty was challenged by his brothers to rule. To assert his position, King Minos prayed to the god Poseidon to send him a snow-white bull as a sign of support.

He was to sacrifice the bull as a show honor to Poseidon, but Minos was so captured by its beauty that he decided to keep it for himself instead. Hoping that Poseidon wouldn't realize he sacrificed one of his own bulls but his plan failed.

As a punishment, Aphrodite made Minos' wife - PasiphaĆ« fall deeply in love with the bull. PasiphaĆ« had the craftsman Daedalus make a hollow wooden cow, and climbed inside it in order to mate with the white bull. She bore a child from the bull which was the monstrous Minotaur. PasiphaĆ« nursed him in his infancy, but he as he grew older he became increasingly ferocious.

Because he was the unnatural offspring of man and beast, the Minotaur had no natural source of food and so devoured men for sustenance. After getting advice from the oracle at Delphi, King Midas had Daedalus construct a gigantic labyrinth to hold the Minotaur.