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interkriti:the E4 and other Mythical Trails-by Stelios Jackson
A diary of events of the trials and tribulations
of a lone walker, in his attempt to cross Crete
from Kato Zakros to Kissamos...
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History Box Nr. 8
All Cretans Are Liars

"All Cretans Are Liars"

You have probably heard this expression, and may well know at least one of its sources; there are in fact, at least,  three. The reason that I place this box here, is because the second of these assertions, concerns Zeus' burial on Mount Juktas, which towers above the town of Archanes. The following are in reverse chronological order:

1) Paul (St) 1st century AD:

     The most oft-quoted source of this phrase, is that of Paul (St) of Tarsus, in his epistle to Titus - later bishop of Crete, and based at Gortyns -  and dates to around the middle of the first century AD. In these epistles, Paul (St) makes mention of "filthy lucre", before getting down to the business of repeating the age-old "paradox" (see number 3, below) in chapter one, verse 12. of the epistle: 'One of them a prophet of their own, said: "The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, slothful bellies"', and by way of confirmation, in the following verse: 'This testimony is true. Wherefore, rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith:' Always the forgiving kind, was Paul (St).

2) Callimachus (poet) 3rd C. BC:

     The second of these sources, was written by Callimachus in his 'Hymn to Zeus', in the third century BC, and here we get to Mount Juktas, slightly west of Archanes, which was believed, by the Cretans, to be the tomb of Zeus. From a distance, the face of the mountain, does appear to take on the look of a man's (or god's) profile. Callimachus wasn't having with this. Gods don't die, they are immortal, so "all Cretans are liars".

3)Epimenides (Smart Alec) 6th Century BC:

     If you thought that the Cretans were having their names taken in vain, they only have themselves to blame! With an ironic twist, that would  have been wasted on Paul (St), we have the earliest source of this expression. Epimenides 'Cretan Paradox', was written in the 6th century BC, and has even been used in an episode of Star Trek (first series). to confuse the chips out of a malign robot! Described as a "mathematical riddle", it's more of a contradiction in terms. "All Cretans are liars", said the Cretan Epimenides; if this is true, then Epimenides is not lying, and therefore not all Cretans are liars; however, if Epimenides is a liar, then by saying that "all Cretans are liars", he is in turn issuing a false statement, so not all Cretans are liars, only some, including him! For further mind-boggling thoughts on the "paradox", visit Steven Blatt's page.
Stelios Jackson 2004
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