The scarab symbolised new life, renewal, regeneration and protection. In the time of the Minoans, clay scarabs were used in fertility rites - possibly due to the close trading connections between the Minoans on Crete and nearby Egypt, where the scarab was a symbol of the sunrise.
Later on in the Classical period, the scarab was important in the initiation rites of warriors. It was sacred to Zeus, rather like the eagle, as seen in Aesop's fable 'The Scarab and the Eagle'. The scarab wins, but the eagle remained the emblem of Zeus.