Who were the Ancient Minoans?

Whenever I think of Ancient Greece, I think of two things. First, I think of their culture, particularly their art, literature and their achievements in government, philosophy, and science. Second, I think of the great Greek military triumphs, especially their victory over the much larger and more powerful Persian empire. These two components of their great civilization were the result of a hybrid of the two cultures that came before them. Their military prowess came mostly from a civilization on the Greek mainland called the Mycenaeans. The roots of Greek culture, however, probably came from an older civilization called the Minoans.

The Minoans were a seagoing people that made their living mostly as traders. The Ancient Minoans based their trading empire on the island of Crete in the Southern Aegean Sea / Northern Mediterranean Sea, and they thrived there from about 2600 BC to around 1450 BC when the civilization came to a mysterious halt.

The Ancient Minoans were probably the first true civilization in Europe. They had a food surplus, built cities, had diversified labor, a written language, and a government. There is a lot we don't know about the Minoans, but we do know a fair amount about them based on the art and artifacts that have been discovered in the ruins of their palaces and cities.

One of the many mysteries that remain concerning the Minoans is how they met their end. We may never know for sure, but one theory is that they were weakened by a huge volcanic eruption and then conquered by the Mycenaeans.