CRETE, CRETANS (Gr. Krētē, Krētes,
In mythology, Mount Ida is the legendary birthplace of Zeus, the head of the Greek Pantheon. King Minos, a half-historical and half- mythological character, alleged son of Zeus, was an early ruler of Crete. Both Thucydides and Aristotle accepted the existence of King Minos and claimed that he established maritime supremacy for Crete by putting down piracy. Aristotle compares the institutions of Crete to those of Sparta. Crete is said to have been colonized by the Dorians from Peloponnesus. The most important of the ancient cities of Crete are Knossos, excavated by Arthur Evans; Gortyna near the gulf of Messara; and Cydonia. Around 140 b.c. the Jews established a large enough colony on this island to be able to appeal successfully to the protection of Rome.
In the OT the Kerethites (
CRETE kret (Κρήτη, G3207). A large island in the eastern Mediterranean SE of the Gr. mainland.
The island is 160 m. long and seven to thirty-five m. wide. It is dominated by four mountain ranges, but in the eastern half there are fertile plains and upland basins which furnish summer pasturage. For this reason only the eastern half was settled in prehistoric times.
First settled by Neolithic people, Crete enjoyed great prosperity during the Middle and Late Bronze (Minoan) Ages. The unfortified cities first formed a thalassocracy under the semi-mythical King Minos. Extensive trade was carried on with Egypt, the Gr. mainland and the E. The glories of the culture are revealed in gigantic palaces (labyrinths), magnificently decorated vases, frescoed walls, and enormous storage jars for the oil, wine and grain of the bureaucracy. During the Late Minoan period the island was conquered by the Mycenaeans of the mainland and went into decline soon thereafter. The Palace of Minos at Knossos has been excavated and partially rebuilt by the efforts of Evans and Pendlebury. American archeologists have excavated on the islands and the mainland in the vicinity of the Gulf of Mirabello. Gordon has theorized by the partial decipherment of Linear A that the Minoans were W Semites. Others have looked for similar eastern origins for them.
During classical times Crete was largely a recruiting area for mercenary soldiers, particularly archers. Numerous Jews lived there in the 2nd cent. b.c. In 141 b.c. interceded with the consul Lucius for the protection of the Jews of Gortyna. Conquered by the Romans in 68-66 b.c. it was joined with Cyrene as a province. Gortyna is the only Rom. city that has been excavated. Numerous large public buildings have been uncovered as well as the ruins of the church of Agios Titos.
Jews from Crete were present at the feast of Pentecost (
The Cretans were proverbially depraved. Paul quoted the poet Epimenides c. 600 b.c., “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (
J. D. S. Pendlebury, The Archaeology of Crete (1939); R. Matton, La Crète Antique (1955); R. W. Hutchinson, Prehistoric Crete (1962); L. R. Palmer, Mycenaeans and Minoans (1962).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
An island bounding the Aegean Sea on the South. It stretches from 34 degrees 50’ to 35 degrees 40’ North latitude and from 23 degrees 30’ to 26 degrees 20’ East long. With Cythera on the North and Carpathos and Rhodos on the Northeast, it forms a continuous bridge between Greece and Asia Minor. The center of the island is formed by a mountain chain rising to a height of 8,193 ft. in Mt. Ida, and fringed with low valleys beside the coast. There are no considerable rivers; the largest, the Metropole, on the South, is a tiny stream, fordable anywhere. An island of considerable extent (156 miles long, and from 7 to 30 miles broad), in several districts very fertile and possessing one or two good harbors, it seems marked out by its position for an important role in the history of the eastern Mediterranean. But never since an age which was already legendary when Greek history began has Crete occupied a dominating position among the powers of the surrounding continents. Internal dissensions, due in ancient times to the diversity of races inhabiting its soil (Eteocretans--the original inhabitants--Pelasgians, Acheans, Cydonians and Dorians), and in modern times to the fact that a large minority of the population has accepted the Ottoman religion along with Ottoman government, have kept Crete in a position of political inferiority throughout the historical period.
1. Early History:
Mt. Ida in Crete was famous in Greek legend as the birthplace of Zeus. The half-legendary, half-historical King Minos was said to be the son of Zeus, and to have derived from his father the wisdom to which, by a type of myth common in Greek lands, the constitution of the Cretan cities was ascribed. Minos was accepted as a historical personage by Thucydides and Aristotle, who say that he was the first dynast in Greece to establish dominion on the sea. One of his exploits was the suppression of piracy in Cretan waters, a feat which had to be repeated by the Roman Pompeius at a later period. Aristotle compares the Cretan institutions with those of Sparta; the island was said to have been colonized by Dorians from Peloponnesus (Politics ii.10). The most important cities in Crete were Knossos (whose palace has been excavated with fruitful results by Mr. Arthur Evans), Gortyna, near the Gulf of Messara, and Cydonia, with its river Iardanus. The excavations of Mr. Evans at Knossos and of the Italians at Phastos (near) prove that Crete was a center of Mediterranean civilization in an early age. In the Homeric poems, Crete is said to have contained an hundred cities; at that period the Cretans were still famed as daring sailors. In the classical age of Greek history they never held a leading position. They are mentioned chiefly as traders and mercenary soldiers, skilled especially in archery. During the Hellenistic period Crete remained free. Demetrius Nicator made the island his base of operations before his defeat at Azotus in 148.
2. The Jews in Crete:
In 141, the Cretan Jews were influential enough to secure the patronage of Rome. They were being oppressed by the people of Gortyna, and appealed to Rome, which granted them protection. In strengthening the position of the Jews, the Romans were copying the Seleucid policy in Asia Minor; both the Seleucids and the Romans found the Jews among their most devoted supporters in their subject states. This interference of Rome in the interest of her future partisans paved the way for her annexation of the island in the following century. From this date, there was a strong and prosperous body of Jews in Crete, and Cretans are mentioned among the strangers present at the Feast of Pentecost in
3. Later History:
They formed one province till the time of Constantine, who made Crete a separate province. The Saracens annexed Crete in 823 AD, but it was recaptured for the Byzantine Empire by Nicephorus Phokas in the following century. From the 13th till the 17th century it was held by the Venetian Republic: from this period dates its modern name "Kandia," which the Venetians gave to the Saracen capital Khandax, and afterward to the whole island. After a desperate resistance, lasting from 1645 to 1669 AD, Crete fell into the hands of the Turks, who still exercise a nominal suzerainty over the island.
4. Crete in the:
5. Crete in the:
Crete owes its connection with Pauline history to the accident of a gale which forced the ship carrying Paul to Rome to take shelter on the South coast of the island. In the harbor of Myra, on the coast of Lycia, the centurion in charge of Paul transferred him from the Adramyttian ship which had brought them from Caesarea, to a ship from Alexandria in Egypt, bound for Ostia with a cargo of grain. The fact that the centurion was in virtual command of the ship (
The narrative does not state that Paul landed in Crete, but as the ship lay for some time at Fair Havens (
6. The Cretans:
Cretans were present, as noted above, at the Feast of Pentecost (
Smith,; Ramsay, Paul the Traveler and Roman Citizen, 320-30. On Crete in Greek and Roman times, consult e.g. Grote, Holm, and Mommsen. A succinct account of the prehistoric archaeology of the island is given in Burrows, The Discoveries in Crete, and Bailkie, The Sea Kings of Crete.