The fantastic creatures of Bronze Age Crete
This thesis studies the imaginary beings of Minoan iconography with the aim of understanding their functions and meaning within the iconography of Bronze Age Crete. Two broad categories of Minoan fantastic creatures can be discerned, namely the imported and the locally created hybrids. With the exception of investigations of the genius, previous studies have focused mainly on matters of typology and style and, more importantly, have detached the illustrations of imaginary beings from their context of creation and use. Consequently, griffins and sphinxes are vaguely classified as "royal monsters", the dragon is merely considered as the transporter of deities, the reasons behind the creation of the bird-lady and the "Minotaur" are still unfathomable and the demonic creations of the Zakros workshop have not been explained at all and are simply viewed as meaningless. On the other hand, conjoined animals and less popular monsters, like the winged goats, have been more or less overlooked. In an attempt to remedy this, this study places the fantastic creatures of the Minoans within their context. The iconography of the Prepalatial, Protopalatial, Neopalatial and Final Palatial periods is examined sequentially so as to determine the degree to which the functions of demons and monsters changed through time in the Minoan repertoire. Variations in the choice of media for their depictions, the consideration of their find contexts, of religious and socio-political developments in each period and of the development of monstrous iconography in the mainland, the Aegean islands, the Near East and Egypt, all help towards a better appreciation of the fantastic world of the "Minoans". As a result, generic characterisations of the Minoan imaginary beings are rejected and the multiplicity of their roles, their ability to evolve and their significant role in the expression of the Minoan mindset are established. In short, the demons and monsters of the Minoans are revealed as reflections of the multifaceted, complex society of Bronze Age Crete and articulate the fears, concerns and beliefs of its different members.