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11-06-2015, 17:23

The Deities—Linear B

Linear B is Greek. It was developed by the Mycenaeans from Linear A (see chapter 3) to express the Greek language. Therefore, one must be very cautious when using it to determine anything about Minoan religion, as, inevitably, it involves a foreigner (Greek) looking at a local (Minoan) belief system. That much said, though, there are some data about Minoan religion that we might derive from the Linear B tablets: specifically, the deities' names and where they were worshipped.

Linear B tablets come from Mycenae, Thebes, and Pylos on the mainland, and from Knossos and Khania on Crete. A handful of divine names appear on tablets from both the mainland and the island: Zeus, Poseidon, Ares, Dionysos, Drimios, Diwiya, Hermes, and Marineus (thought to be some manner of wool god) (Hagg 1997, 165). Otherwise, the deities mentioned were specific to either the Minoans or the Mycenaeans, and it is here where we derive some information about Minoan religion from the tablets. Names specific to the Knossos archive are Atana Potnija, Potnija Dapurito, Pade, Qerasija, Pipituna, Eluthia, Erinus, Enualios, and Paiawon (Hagg 1997, 165). In spite of the odd spellings, many of these names are familiar to the student of Greek mythology. Eluthia is probably Eileithyia, goddess of childbirth. According to the Linear B tablets, this goddess had a cave sanctuary near Amnissos, where she received, among other things, dedications of honey. Erinus may refer to the Erinyes, also known as the Furies, those dread goddesses who punished crimes against blood kin. Enualios is a later epithet for Ares, just as Paiawon becomes an epithet for Apollo in his healing aspect; both may have been Minoan deities absorbed/re-placed by Greek gods. Potnija Dapurito is the Mistress of the Labyrinth, probably a goddess associated especially with Knossos. Atana Potnija is almost certainly Athena, the Mistress of Athens. Finding this goddess in Knossos but not on the mainland is particularly surprising, suggesting that there was probably more overlap between the deities of the island and the mainland than the tablets reveal.