The Minoan civilization in Age of Empires represents the Ancient people who lived on the island of Crete.
Minoan culture (2200 to 1200 BC)
Primitive agricultural communities sprang up around the Aegean Sea by 6000 BC but this area lagged behind Egypt and Mesopotamia in advancing toward civilization. For reasons not yet understood, the island-based Minoan culture made a sudden leap forward around 2000 BC and became the first civilization of Europe. The sudden take-off may have been stimulated by trading contact with Mesopotamia through Levant ports or through contact with Egypt. One theory suggests that refugees from Egypt during a time of turmoil may have emigrated to Crete and brought technology and ideas with them.
The Minoan culture was centered on the island of Crete, but extended to other nearby islands, including Thera and Rhodes. They may have colonized the Anatolian coast at Miletus and elsewhere. By the extension of trade, they influenced the developing Greek culture on the mainland and other Aegean islands.
The palace at Knossos on Crete was the capital of the Minoan civilization. It remained a hidden Ruin until rediscovered and revealed in the twentieth century.
Rise to power
The Minoans were an economic power, not a military one. They preserved their economic advantages by apparently controlling ship traffic in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. For approximately 800 years they dominated trade in these regions. They were so secure on their islands, protected by their ships, that they never fortified their cities.
Crete was rich in natural resources, including farmland, water supplies, timber, copper, building stone, and access to the sea. The Minoans were prosperous thanks to Agriculture and fishing, but grew rich primarily on trade. The Minoans grew grain, fruits, herbs, and olives. Grain, wine, olive oil, timber, ceramics, and manufactured goods were their principal exports. They imported tin, silver, Gold, linen, luxury items, and raw materials for manufacturing.
Religion and culture
The high standard of living, the relative abundance of food and other good things, and the security of their island homes gave the Minoans an outlook on life substantially different from other contemporary cultures. Perhaps because life was good, worship and communication with gods was not stressed. They built no great Temples. Their religion was dominated by female goddesses who protected the household, the crops, and the animals. The Minoans made regular offerings of Food, statues, and other objects. The Minoans may have practiced human sacrifice at one time. There is a famous tale of a minotaur, half man, half bull, who lived in a labyrinth beneath the palace. Young people were sacrificed to the minotaur each year. The high priest or king may have worn a bull mask for the sacrifice, creating the illusion of half man, half animal. They believed in an afterlife and buried the dead with food and possessions that would be of use. Two sacred symbols were bull horns and the doubled-sided axe. The Minoans developed a hieroglyphic writing system around 2000 BC, perhaps following trading contact with the Egyptians. By 1900 BC they had developed a new script now called Linear A. A third script called Linear B came into use at Knossos around 1450 BC. To date, only Linear B has been deciphered, but most of the surviving examples are accounting records that reveal little about their history and culture. Surviving artwork shows the people of Crete engaging in the sport of bull-jumping. The significance of this activity is not known. Young men and women are depicted approaching a charging bull, grabbing it by the horns, and somersaulting over the animal’s back to land behind it. The everyday life of the Minoans was pleasant and relatively free of war and unrest, as witnessed by the richness and exuberance of their frescos, wall paintings, and decorative objects.
The great palace at Knossos was also a giant warehouse. The distribution of food and other goods may have been organized from here. The only king whose name survives was Minos. It may be that the word minos referred to the office, not the man, like the Egyptian term pharaoh.
The Minoans had little apparent need for an army, relying instead on their navy to keep any enemies from approaching. Minoan ships were galleys, manned by rowers on both sides. Narrow galleys were fast and maneuverable, allowing them to overtake slower sailing ships of the day. They did not employ rams at this early date, according to the evidence of surviving artwork.
Decline and fall
The idyllic life of the Minoans was disrupted by natural disasters. The archaeological remains indicate that the palace of Knossos was destroyed by an earthquake in 1700 BC and rebuilt. The nearby island of Thera was partially sunk by a volcanic eruption and the resulting tidal wave probably struck Crete, causing extensive damage. The Minoan culture suffered from recurrent earthquakes and the Thera explosion, but the extent of the damage and its effect on their civilization is debated. There are two main scenarios for the end of the Minoan culture. According to the oldest theory, mainland Greeks invaded around 1450 BC, essentially destroying the culture, although it lingered for 700 years more until mainland Greece itself was overrun. In the second scenario, based on more recent research, the Minoans suffered through disaster and a resulting loosening of their control of sea trade and movement, but did not succumb to the mainland Greeks. The Minoans were instead destroyed along with the Myceneans on the mainland by barbarians as part of the catastrophe of 1200 BC. Evidence suggests that by 1180 BC the Cretans had moved from coastal towns and palaces to defensive city sites high in the hills. Attacks and the threat of further attacks were the probable cause of this shift.
The Minoans are remembered today for their fabulous palace and frescoes at Knossos, now partially restored. It may have been the largest and most beautiful palace of the late Bronze Age. They are also remembered for their mysterious writings, some of which continue to defy linguists.
[Quoted from Age of Empires Help File]