Prologue: February, 2000
The Goddess speaks through me.
I first read these words two years ago, translating them haltingly-but with great excitement-from the pages of a 3500-year-old manuscript recovered in 1960 in Egypt.
They are the opening words of the autobiography of Leesandra, a young Minoan woman, and they are accompanied by another set of scrolls, the biography of a warrior, Alektrion of Kalliste, Leesandra's contemporary. The writings can be dated precisely because both Leesandra and Alektrion describe, first hand, the 1628 BC explosion of the Mediterranean island of Kalliste, which we now call Santorini. This eruption, a stupendous geological event, is considered by many scholars the likely origin of the myth of Atlantis.
In 1900, on the island of Crete, Sir Arthur Evans discovered the fabulous "palace" at Knossos. Since then, many experts have puzzled over the Minoan language, and these ancient Mediterranean people have been known almost exclusively from their architectural ruins and graceful art. Their language remained undeciphered, their voices silent. Two years ago I broke the code. One result of that breakthrough is the book you now hold, in which I intertwine Alektrion's biography with Leesandra's words.
What we learn about that long ago world is valuable if only because it gives voice to a fascinating past that was lost until now, but the story of Leesandra and Alektrion also has special relevance for us. Crete's goddess culture was remarkably egalitarian and peaceful. The People of the Goddess, as the Minoans called themselves, were besieged. Then, as now, civilized people struggled to prevail.
Here is the way Leesandra described her dilemma [note that ancient Crete was called Keftiu]:
The Goddess speaks through me.
I am Leesandra.
I write this in my twenty-fifth year, and because I swear to record only the truth, I bear witness that I no longer hear the Great Mother's sweet voice.
I make this record because my beloved Keftiu is imperiled, and it is my duty to ensure that those who come after us know the truth. Blood-lusting Acheans from the mainland threaten us. Even as I write, these death-worshipping Poseidonists ready ships to attack the Mother's Heart this coming spring.
It is said, truly, that Keftians have no stomach for war. Nevertheless, within days the People must prepare a defense or make a bitter and defiling compromise with their supporters in Knossos. If the People fight, I fear we cannot win. The Memory Keepers say they can give no guidance from the past because never before has there been any possibility mainland forces might threaten Keftiu. Through fasting and prayer and poppy dreams, I've listened for the Goddess to speak. I hear only echoes of my dread.
The People come daily to the Temple's west court: mothers with babes in arms who ask their children's fate, lovers with clasped hands who want to know if they can trust the future, the elderly who can't believe the world they thought would last forever may be swept away. The fears and hopes of the people press on my heart with the weight of the great stone pillar of the Law itself. In the dark of my nights I tremble. But there will be no escape and as I no longer hear the Great Mother's voice, the choice I make will be mine alone. An unholy compromise with heretics-or war?
I begin this record with the day my feet took the first step on this path of confrontation with the Acheans. If the Lady chooses, I will live until spring, long enough to reach the end of this telling.
I translated Leesandra's ominous words about her death in the first three months of my work on the documents. Another two years passed before I learned her fate. Though I could reveal it to you now, I think it better to let you experience the unfolding of Leesandra and Alektrion's story as it emerges from the ancient texts.
J. Rosebrook Evans
Department of Antiquities, Brightmore University