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KNOSSOS Temenos, Crete.

Graeco-Roman city some 5 km S of Herakleion. The site is best known for its great Minoan palace and deep Neolithic deposits, but it was a flourishing city in the Geometric and archaic periods and during the Classical and Hellenistic eras it was again the principal city of the island. In the 4th and 3d c. it was frequently at war with Lyttos, and after the destruction of Lyttos in the late 3d c. B.C., it was intermittently at war with Gortyn. The Roman invasion, which Knossos resisted, resulted in the elevation of Gortyn to be capital of the island, but Knossos was made a colony (Colonia Julia Nobilis) in 36 B.C., and was occupied as a prosperous city continuously up to the early Byzantine period. There is some evidence for a temporary decline in the early 3d c. A.D.

The Geometric and archaic cities were situated N of the Minoan palace and settlement, and the Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman cities remained in this same area, eventually covering a little less than a square km. Little is known of the Classical and Hellenistic towns, although temples on the old palace site, on Lower Gypsades, and on or near the foot of the acropolis hill all seem to belong to the 5th or 4th c. That by the acropolis hill is known mainly from a fine metope relief showing Herakles and Eurystheus. The agora too, lying at the center of the city, was probably already sited by the Classical period.

In the Roman period the agora was flanked on the W by a large basilica, while to the S stood another public building often identified as a temple but possibly the public baths. The basilica, like much else at Knossos, may not have been built until the 2d c. A.D. Northwest of it, the remains of a small amphitheater are known, now partially overlain by the modern road. To the W of this road, and S of the amphitheater is the so-called Villa Dionysus. This is the best-known and -preserved example of the wealthier Roman town houses at Knossos, most of which are known only from fragmentary remains of walls and ill-recorded mosaics. The villa is built around a peristyle courtyard, to the W of which is a large square room with a mosaic showing the heads of Dionysus and maenads in medallions. In the SW quarter of the building is a small household shrine. Recent excavations suggest that the main period of occupation was in the 2d c. A.D. Contemporary houses of a lower quality have recently been excavated immediately N of the Minoan “Little Palace.” Earlier Roman houses, built in the Neronian period, were found beneath them, and around them were stretches of the narrow paved streets which served them.

On the N edge of the city a Christian church with an E apse, nave, and two aisles was built in the late 5th or early 6th c. It was erected over an earlier cemetery which included tombs of the 2d to 4th c. A.D. Other cemeteries were situated to the W and S of the city, and both dug and built tombs have been discovered. In the S and SE slopes at the foot of the acropolis hill, rock-cut Roman chamber tombs can still be entered.

Water was supplied to the city by an aqueduct coming from the S. Finds from the site are found in the Herakleion Archaeological Museum and the Stratigraphical Museum, Knossos.


H. G. Payne, “Archaeology in Greece, 1934-35,” JHS 55 (1935) 164-67I; S. Benton, “Herakles and Eurystheus at Knossos,” JHS 57 (1937) 38-43; M.S.F. Hood & J. Boardman, “A Hellenic Fortification Tower on the Kefala Ridge at Knossos,” BSA 52 (1957) 224-320I; M.S.F. Hood, Archaeological Survey of the Knossos Area (1958)M; W. C. Frend & D. E. Johnston, “The Byzantine Basilica Church at Knossos,” BSA 57 (1962) 186-238PI; J. Boardman, “Archaic Finds at Knossos,” BSA 57 (1962) 28-35; J.V.S. Megaw, “Archaeology in Greece, 1967,” Archaeological Reports 1967-68 (1968) 21-22I.


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