|Aerial View of the Palace of Knossos|
The religious interpretation of Minoan Landscape Frescoes might prevail in the scholarly world, however there are other views concerning their function, some of which are very interersting giving new dimensions to a civilization that is often presented as purely theocratic and religious oriented. Chapin (2004: 59-61) presents a very convincing argument on the possible political function of the frescoes. She suggests that as all frescoes are part of palaces or villas, they were supposed to be viewed by a certain elite who would not only have access to them but would also identify themselves and their power in it. Art was therefore a means of exclusion and class division inside society. The patrons and consumers of art were the members of a Neopalatial elite who controlled access to the palaces and villas and therefore all that was incorporated in them. When the ordinary Minoans entered these places, Chapin (2004: 60) concludes they were overwhelmed by the magical landscapes they encountered, landscapes that would be inextricably connected to the upper class that owned them. Art therefore served not only a religious function (Chapin does not deny the religious meaning of the paintings but she considers an additional role as well) but also served as a strong communication tool and a social instrument used by the ruling elites –who are able to patronize and obtain artworks- in order to create, promote and legitimize political structures. Art in this case is a means to a very specific end. This of course presupposes the existence of an audience who will receive the message of the artwork. This is not a new idea in the interpretation of works of art. Simpson (1982: 266) speaks explicitly of messages and statements in art objects sent by the author who is usually the king /ruler to a certain group of people who can of course be his subjects, enemies or possible enemies. This is true not only in the Minoan context but in the wider Near Eastern area. For example, the Neo-Assyrian reliefs presenting the king victorious over natural and human forces addressed a very specific message to any possible invaders: the king and the Assyrian Empire were invincible (Winter 1981: 3). Actual gardens appear in Assyrian reliefs and particularly during the reigns of Assurnasirpal II and Sargon who presented through them the bounty from their expeditions, the richness of their kingdom and their legitimate and undeniable power (Stronach 1990: 171-172). In Egypt, in private contexts, the representation of flower gardens in art gave a higher social status to its owner (Schäfer 1989: 84). Indeed, in societies where writing was not widespread, where government was based on the divine or semi divine legitimacy of a king or a ruling elite, image substituted the role now played by written text (Winter 1981: 2). Images, then as now, are able to arouse strong feelings, being thus a very powerful tool for communication. They often tell more than words will ever be able to say and the reaction the viewer has to them is more direct.