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CNOSUS or GNOSUS, subsequently CNOSSUS, or GNOSSUS (Κνωσός, Κνωσσός, Γνωσσός: Eth. and Adj. Κνώσιος, Κνώσσιος, Γνώσιος, Γνώσσιος, Gnosius, Gnosiacus, fern. Gnosis, Gnosias: Mákro-Teíkho), the royal city of Crete, situated to the N. of the island, SE. of Matium, and 23 M. P. from Gortyna (Peut. Tab.). It originally was called CAERATUS (Καίρατος, Strab. x. p.476) from the small river of that name which flowed beneath its walls. (Callim. Hymn. Dian. 5.44.) Tritta (Hesych. sub voce Τρίττα), was a name that had been some time applied to it. Pliny (4.20), who places Cnossus among the inland cities, and Ptolemy (3.17.10), are quite wrong in the positions they assign to it. Strabo's text (l.c.) is undoubtedly corrupt (comp. Groskurd, in loc.; Hoeck, Creta, vol. i. p. 402); and this may in part serve to account for the difficulty that has been found in reconciling the statements of this writer, who was so intimately connected with Cnossus, with the known position of the city. Its foundation was attributed to the hero of Cretan romance, Minos, who made it his chief residence. (Hom. Od. 19.178). Cnossus and its neighbourhood was the chosen seat of legend; and the whole district was peculiarly connected with Zeus. At the river Tethris, or Theron, according to tradition, the marriage of Zeus and Hera was celebrated. (Diod. 5.72.) The most received mythus assigned the birth-place as well as the tombs of the “Father of gods and men” to this locality. The well-known Cretan labyrinth is uniformly attached to Cnossus. It was described as a building erected by Daedalus, and the abode of the Minotaur (Diod. 1.61; Apollod. 3.4). This monument could never have had any actual existence, but must be considered simply as a work of the imagination of the later poets and writers. The Homeric poems, Hesiod and Herodotus, are all equally silent on the subject of this edifice. The labyrinthial construction is essentially Aegyptian, and it would seem probable that the natural caverns and excavated sepulchres still to be seen near Cnossus, and which were originally used for religious worship, suggested, after the introduction of Aegyptian mythology into Greece, the idea of the labyrinth and its fabled occupant. (Comp. Hoeck, Kreta, vol. i. pp. 56, foll.)

Cnossus was at an early time colonized by Dorians, and from it Dorian institutions spread over the whole island. It preserved its rank among the chief cities of Crete for some time, and by its alliance with Gortyna obtained the dominion over nearly the whole island. Polybius (4.53) has given an account of the civil wars which distracted Crete, and in which Cnossus took part. Afterwards it became a Roman colony. (Strab. x. p.477.) All the now existing vestiges of the ancient “metropolis” of Crete are some rude masses of Roman brick-work, parts of the so-called long wall, from which the modern name of the site has been derived. (Pashley, Trav. vol. i. p. 204.) Chersiphron, or Ctesiphon, and his son Metagenes, the architects of the great temple of Artemis, were natives of this city, as well as Aenesidemus the philosopher, and Ergoteles, whose victories in the Olympian, Pythian, and Isthmian games, are celebrated by Pindar (Olynmp. 12.19). For coins of Cnossus, both autonomous and imperial, see Eckhel, vol. ii. p. 307. The usual type is the labyrinth; the forms, since they represent only a poetical creation, are naturally varied.



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