Around 2000-1400 B.C.E., the Minoan civilization heavily prospered. It can be seen from mere observations of the city that they did not rely on protective walls since they were isolated on the island of Crete. How did this affect their art and gender? Now, to better understand some aspects of the Minoan society, it is important to focus on the ritual games, human sacrifices, and myths.
In the Minoan Society, they had very interesting rituals. They called it, "The Ritual Game" (Fiero 78). In today's society, this can be seen as the modern day bull fighting as seen in Portugal. I immediately was wondering why a person would leap over a raging bull. After I analyzed the Minoan's bull-leaping fresco from the Palace of Minos, it seemed a bit clearer. This is a cultural sport that is related to their society's blood sacrifices. It amazed me none the less. To increase the survival rate of the people doing this sport, they must have been well trained. Their cultural acceptance was to train for this day, and they would have to start young. In the match, the fresco displays a man leaping over a bull's back while he had aid from two other women. This picture tells me that the gender balance must have shifted slightly. Women's role must have shifted from no power at all to running the household and assisting their husbands. Their blood ordeals, which were observed by many, had women in them.
Through further analysis, one can conclude from the figure Priestess with snakes that women began to be highly praised in the Minoan society (Fiero 79). This is most likely do to the fact that women gave birth to the children, which allowed their society to continue. It could also be noted, from the appearance of the statue, that the snakes the Priestess is holding represents a type of fashion statement that many women wore. The snakes represented a renewal of life due to the shedding of the skin. This molting process leaves behind the snake's old skin in order to form a better and newer version of it-self. This process of shedding became a symbol of rebirth and renewal in the Minoan society (Venefica). This being said, it shows that their art frescos were influenced by the gender roles in their society.
All of this is connected to their human sacrifices. The bull fights are indeed directly related, note the numerous frescos that incorporated both genders. This is because not everyone would survive a bull fight. They are fast, strong, and ferocious creatures with no remorse at all. The fact that they are taunting the bulls makes the situation even worse. Their writings, some four thousand six hundred tablets, depict accounts of these events happening. These events dragged on for ages, until it was believed from historical records and many geological findings that an earthquake destroyed the Minoan society.
While the Minoans were prospering, a well-known myth was developing. This myth focused on the creation of Minotaur, "A Minotaur half-man half-bull hybrid born of the union of Minos' queen and a sacred white bull" (Fiero 79). This myth most likely was developed from the constant cultural obsessions with bulls. It can be inferred that when a man was making acrobatic moves over the bull's back, he was bonding on a deeper level of connection to the bull, such as using his cleverness and physical agility to challenge the bull for a short time.
All of the aspects such as the ritual games, human sacrifices, and myths can be seen as heavy influences on Minoan art and gender. These influenced the Minoans to concentrate on the arts in the Palace of Minos. The rituals, such as the bull fights, caused the different myths to emerge throughout the society. While in this culture, women also had a better opportunity to gain influential power in their society, as depicted in the frescoes.
Fiero, Gloria K. "Minoan Civilization." The Humanistic Tradition: the First Civilizations and the Classical Legacy. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2011. 78-79. Print.
Venefica, Avia. "Snake Symbolic Meaning." What's Your Sign? Discover the World of Signs and Symbolic Meanings. Avia Venefica. Web. 14 Oct. 2011. Web.