Athens' Parthenon is old. Built in 447 BC, it was constructed almost 2,000 years before Columbus happened upon America. Now consider this: The Minoan palace at Knossos, just outside the city of Iraklion, was built in 1900 BC, 1,453 years before the Parthenon. Archaeologists have discovered that four palaces were built basically on top of each other on the Knossos hilltop, the first in about 1900 BC.
The ancient Minoans laid terra-cotta pipes to bring water from a nearby hill, creating water pressure in much the same way we use towers. Various pressures were achieved with wide or narrow pipes. With this system, the queen had what might be the world's first flush toilet. Speaking of the queen, she and other ladies of the palace had something that today's women would recognize hair curlers, these made of ivory or clay. But the Minoans sometimes were too clever for their own good. To keep drinking water cool, they lined many of their clay pots with lead. It worked, but it also poisoned the water.
The palace also had a labyrinth, an intricate web of corridors that linked large and small rooms and even separate houses. Corridors are found in the queen's quarters and in the adjacent workers' areas. The labyrinths were supposed to confound any enemies who might get in. The labyrinth also led to the myth of the Minotaur, a fierce half-bull, half-man who ate children and had been banished there.
But now in the mountains, life is lived much as it has been for ages: Women tend to wash and cook, mustachioed men herd goats. And once in from the hills, the men can loll for hours over a demitasse of fierce black coffee sipped down to the slurry at the cup's bottom. As evening approaches, coffee is replaced by Mythos beer or ouzo, made from pressed grapes and often including star anise, coriander, cloves, angelica root, licorice, mint, wintergreen, fennel, hazelnut, cinnamon and lime blossom. Everywhere people carry the prayer beads of the Greek Orthodox Church.
But as tranquil as it all is now, you can still imagine Rhea spiriting baby Zeus off to a mountain cave where he was raised by three nymphs who gave him milk from a magic goat. It's that magic that survives to this day.
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