Ancient Minoan Trade

The sea was a defense and a source of food for the Ancient Minoans. The sea was also the key to the great success the Minoans had as traders.

Yes, the Phoenicians and others on the mainland had successful trading enterprises, but sea trade was easier and cheaper. Roads were still primitive, and land traders had to deal with rough terrain. Land trade required more expense in labor, pack animals, and especially time. The Europeans went in search of a sea route to Asia in during the Renaissance for good reason, but the Minoan had their own very profitable sea trade routes in the Mediterranean several thousand years before Columbus sailed west to the Americas.

The Minoans traded throughout the Mediterranean. Evidence suggests they traded extensively with Syria, Asia Minor, and Egypt. The Minoans even traded at least as far west as the island of Sicily.

The biggest exports from Crete were probably olives, olive oil, and grape products. Farming on Crete only allowed the Minoans to support themselves, but the land also allowed for sheep herding and therefore a profitable trade in the export of wool. And don’t forget wood. The forests of Crete would have been a valuable source of wood for export to the deserts of Egypt and Southwest Asia.

Perhaps the most important trade role the Minoans played was the transfer of ideas and technology from Egypt and Southwest Asia to the budding civilizations of Europe. In their dealings with the civilziations of the Near East, the Minoans also picked up technologies that they took home with them. As Minoan influence spread throughout the Aegean and the mainland of Greece, so to did Bronze working and other new ideas. Thus, the diffusion of these ideas to the Europe was accelerated much more than it would have been otherwise.