Greetings from Crete: 4000-Year-Old Flush Toilet No Longer Flushing

If you can handle waiting in line for tickets for more than an hour, you shall be rewarded: the largest and most famous Minoan palace, Knossos (just south of the city of Iraklion, on Crete) is well worth the trip. It’s a Bronze-age palace excavated only in the last century, and holds many interesting features that still tell us relatively little about the Minoan culture or lives. It does reveal one hugely important fact: they knew the value of plumbing.

It turns out that they may have the oldest flush toilet in the world, dating from between 2500 and 1500 BC. According to the tour guide, they had three plumbing systems in the castle, one to collect rain water, one to provide drinking water, and the third to eliminate the results.

And the terracotta water pipes, looking almost exactly like today’s pipes, are intact and can be seen on a visit.

It appears to scientists that they used a wooden toilet seat, even. We’re just not sure if the furry seat cover originated then, or later.

Greetings from Crete: The Best of Myths

Ok, so you first heard this myth as a kid: the great King Minos (of Crete) gets a beautiful white bull from the god Poseidon. He’s supposed to sacrifice the bull, but decides he’d kind of like to keep it. And, unsurprisingly, it angers the god. Bad idea.

So the god makes Minos’ wife fall in love with the bull. That’s pretty rough. But, now, here’s where it gets weird. Really, really weird. (But, yes, you did hear this first in your elementary school class, and your parents were glad when you did well in Greek mythology.)

The wife decides she wants the bull. As in: wants to be with the bull. Bad enough to have an architect build a wooden cow for her to squeeze into…so she can have the bull. And she does. And her white bull love child? The Minotaur.

The Minotaur: half-man, half-bull. (The ladies are saying, ‘hey, isn’t that most men?’) He lived in the labyrinth of the famous Minoan palace of Knossos and ate Athenian children every nine years (another story). Until an Athenian, Theseus, came to slay the Minotaur.
I’m not sure what the moral of the story was supposed to be, but I can think of a few. The legend does leave out the later marital problems we assume must have occurred with the royal couple, after the coupling.

When not building crazy sex contraptions for the queen, the architect built Knossos for the king. I’ll give you a dispatch from the ruins of Knossos later this week.