Minos was not Greek. Rather, the historical Minoans discovered barely a hundred years ago by Sir John Evans were certainly not Greek, but–linguistically and ethnically–related to the Near East. But for all that we know of Minoan civilization, i.e. not much, they have always been an integral part of Greek, and therefore European, civilization. As late as Plato, the Greeks remembered Minos as the great king of a seafaring people, so powerful that he rid the sea of pirates and forced the Athenians into paying a yearly tribute consisting of seven young men and seven maidens. It is on Crete that Zeus was raised, protected by the mysterious Curetes, and it is on this island that he brought desguised as a bull the Phoenician princess Europa. Crete is legitimately the birthplace of Europe in this respect.
Even today this mysterious people remain in our legends the starting point of Western culture and civilization, although we cannot be certain of anything. Art historians have often seen, and still do, the Harvester’s Vase as a precursor of Classical Greek art, because the unique and distinguishing feature of the vase was the representation of a harvester singing, mouth wide open, with especially the depiction of the ribs inflating as the harvester inhales in order to sing. This feature, never seen before in art, is commonly thought as the beginning of a naturalist view of art which would result in the heights of the Classical age. How much influence this isolated work–we know of none others like this in Minoan Crete–really had upon later generations, we cannot be sure. It is certain, however, that Minoan artistic style influenced the Mycenaeans, who were Greeks–and perhaps, through them, the later Greeks of the Archaic and Classical ages, though the direct link between Mycenaean and Archaic Greece seems virtually lost after the fall of Mycenaean palaces. It remains nonetheless that the Minoans were extremely curious about the environment that surrounded them, giving their art a refreshing, living touch seldom seen elsewhere–and which also contributed to our idea of the Minoans as a peaceful people, even though we once again know little about that.
Whether we will some day know who Minos really was, who were the people depicted on boats off the island of Santorini and what they did, who these much-adorned women were, we cannot be sure. We only know that the island of Minos will continue to be the priviledged place of Zeus resting with Europa.