The Minoan government was a thalassocracy, meaning that rulership was based on control of the seas. In a thalassocracy, a nation's strength is determined by its naval power and the success of its trading endeavors. The Minoan thalassocracy was built upon a foundation of thriving business centers and well-protected palatial cities. Minoa was named for its first ruler, King Minos, whose name means "master of the seas."
Crete's location on the southern edge of the Aegean sea gave the Minoan Cretes a strategic advantage when it came to controlling the seas. The location facilitated a successful import and export trade with Egypt and West Asia. The Minoans also had an advantage due to their advanced shipbuilding skills. Their vessels were 75 feet long, had square sails and a total of 30 oars. The ships were so massive that they could span long stretches of open sea. Minoa's strong naval presence allowed them to keep control of the islands of the Aegean Sea, the Peloponnese and Sicily for close to a millennium. Throughout the years, divers and archaeologists have recovered over hundreds of items from Minoan shipwrecks including pots, jars, cups, cargo, pottery, fishing weights and ceramics. These artifacts are a testament to Minoa's trading prowess and its legendary status as the first empire of the sea.