Physical Geography of the Ancient Minoans

The story of the geography of the Ancient Minoans is largely about water.

The Minoans built their civilization on the island of Crete. Because they were surrounded by water, it's no mystery as to why they became one of the great seafaring people of the ancient world.

In addition to forcing them to rely on the sea for much of their livelihood, the Minoan's isolation on the island of Crete also provided protection from conquest minded groups elsewhere in the region. While the Minoans were developing their culture virtually undisturbed, other civilizations such as Egypt and Mesopotamia were constantly embroiled in war with other neighboring groups on the mainlands of Southwest Asia and Northeastern Africa.

Isolation meant that the Minoans had no need for a large military force. This would eventually make them ripe for the picking by the Mycenaeans coming from the Greek mainland to the north. In the meantime, the Ancient Minoans would focus their efforts on trading.

Eventually, the Minoans would expand to other islands and to coastal areas, but the center of their civilization remained on Crete.

Crete is about 160 miles long and is only about 37 miles wide at its widest point.

As seen in the satellite images above, Crete is also quite mountainous. In fact, Crete has a number of mountains which rise to 6,500 above the sea and higher. Mountains, like the sea, probably also discouraged invaders.

Upon closer examination, you can see that there are also quite a few plateaus and plains where the Minoans could farm and build their cities. Much of the coastline of Crete is marked by sandy beaches.