- Caria and Crete in Antiquity: Cultural Interaction between Anatolia and the Aegean by Naomi Carless Unwin
Over the last couple of decades archaeological work at Miletos in southwestern Asia Minor has brought to light abundant evidence of the presence of Minoans and Mycenaeans in the Bronze Age. In conjunction with material-cultural remains already known that indicate interconnections between Krete and southwestern Asia Minor, this new material has reinforced our sense of tight links between coastal Anatolia and the Aegean world that were attested also in Hittite documents and myth. The common notion that Krete and Karia resembled each other basically as reservoirs of mercenaries is only part of a very complex and historically deep tale. It is this tale, in all its ambiguities and complexities, that Naomi Carless Unwin seeks to unpack in her detailed and thoroughly researched new book on Caria and Crete in Antiquity. [End Page 596]
Carless Unwin’s approach to her topic rests on two chief methodological and interpretative pillars. First, she sees the uncovering of networks as a basic means of identifying interconnections and explicating their power in interstate relations. “[T]he Cretan link in Caria,” she writes, belonged “in a wider historical framework. It reflected something about the participation of Carians in the social and cultural networks of the Aegean” (6). These networks are revealed, in part, through mythological tales linking Krete and Karia—a central subject of her introduction (2–31)—and through claims of relationship asserted in Hellenistic diplomatic interactions, where deep mythological ties were deployed to shape what John Ma has called a “network of relatedness” (160). A good example of the way Carless Unwin plays out this approach occurs in her analysis of the Kretan origin myth of Magnesia on the Maiandros, known thanks to a long inscription (IMagn. 17, reprinted with translation, 213–16; 169–88).
Second, she insists on the role of mobility in creating, maintaining, and deepening links. For Kretans in the post-Bronze Age period, this mobility, in her analysis, revolves especially around their attraction to mercenary service. The very large number of Kretans who were settled near Myous she sees as bringing with them Kretan traditions and religious practices that may have inflected both Miletos and Magnesia (which controlled Myous briefly) in their claims to Kretan “historical kinship” (186, treating Milet I, 3, 37a). These two approaches intersect in her discussion of the problem of Karian ethnic identity, about which she comes to the reasonable conclusion that no such stable identity existed; instead, labile over time, it was adjusted and reworked according to need (32–60).
Her treatment of the mythological connections between Krete and Karia is nuanced and fully alive to contradictions and complexities. That there may be some historical kernel to many of the myths that link the two regions seems, as she suggests, likely, especially in light of the archaeological discoveries mentioned above. At the same time, myth plays a role in articulating claims of connection often displayed for diplomatic purposes, notably when one party wants something from another, as in the assertion of a “kinship” between Mylasa and the Kretans. Carless Unwin insists on the futility of a search for an “original” of mythological tales; it was handy to have different versions available for use as appropriate to different circumstances.
This review has space only to highlight a few of the matters Carless Unwin addresses; her book is rich and deep, and not only contributes to the history of Karia and Krete but can also serve as a case study for larger questions of network, mobility, and interconnectivity. Two additional observations: first, the scope is both larger and smaller than Karia: two chapters are devoted to non-Karian poleis, Miletos and Magnesia on the Maiandros (91–123, 169–88), while Karia east of Mylasa is virtually ignored. The largely coastal and river-valley territory of Kretan impact on Karia tracks in a striking way the arena of Minoan and Mycenaean penetration into the same scene...