The Chieftain Cup from Aghia Triada, c. 1550-1450 BC, stone, Archaeological Museum, Herakleion, Crete
A group of Minoans that called for the special attention of the elders were the youth. For this reason the Minoan society had priest-leaders who were responsible for the taking care of the young Cretans until the latter became men. These leaders were the supervisors of the closing stages in the initiation of a youth into manhood. A ceremony which involved the rites of passage of most probably local aristocratic youths is likely to be depicted on the Chieftain Cup from Aghia Triada according to one of the various interpretations of the relief scene. Two male figures are represented confronting each other. The young Minoan on the left with the arm over his shoulder (the initiate) is shown receiving orders from his leader-chief before whom he stands (actually he is bending as an act of respect). The leader appears to be slightly larger with the arm stretched out holding a staff in a pose of command, wearing jewellery, high boots and having the characteristic hairstyle and garment (the Minoan lowing cloth) that signifies his role as the priest-ruler of a group. The Chieftain Cup highlights the importance of leadership in Neopalatial Crete that as a principle it started being introduced to the Minoans from a very young age and it was determinant in the shaping of the Minoan personality. Apart from this explanation, the scene on the Chieftain Cup has been interpreted as a king before a god, as a young aristocratic ruler -a prince- who is standing outside his palace in a commanding pose giving orders to one of his officials, or as two young Minoans playing with each other.
Today's artwork is a generous contribution of Eleftheria Pavli, BA, MA