Turkish Towers (Koules)
During the Cretan Revolution of 1866-1869, the Ottoman Empire was forced to send several pashas in Crete, but the effort proved fruitless. The latest Pasha sent to the island was Avni Pasha, who faced the continuing resistance of the Cretans and decided to change his operational tactics.
Thus, the measures he took were:
- He provided political protection to those who declared allegiance to the muftis.
- The Turkish fleet ruled the northern coast of Crete, so as to stop supplies coming from Greece.
- Put a price on the Cretan rebels, with 500 ottoman pounds each.
- He settled Kurds and Circassians to the island, in order to strengthen the Muslim population.
- He designed an entire system of large and small towers (called Koules) in prominent locations throughout Crete, in order to fully control the island.
Specifically, Crete was divided into five provinces, the governors of which undertook the construction of Koules. The Koules were built on high hills, crossroads, ports, passages and their guards spied the rebels and the transporting Christians. They intercommunicated (with fanfare or fire) in case of an emergency and delivered the alert message serially to the main camp (called Kiesle). The effectiveness of Koules was devastating for the Cretans, as they could no longer easily intercommunicate.
The Cretans reacted actively during the erection of the towers, harassing the builders, destroying the buildings in the evenings or destroying lime furnaces, from where the Turks supplied lime for building. Nevertheless, Avni Pasha managed to complete his project by using experienced Bulgarian and Armenian craftsmen, who until August 1868 had built more than 60 Koules and 2 months later this number increased to 150.
As mentioned, the Turks called these towers Koules, after the Turkish Koule. The only difference between them and the rest towers of the island is that Koules were built by the state, rather than by private feudal lords and onwers (mainly Venetian).
The Cretans, while trying to free themselves, destroyed several Koules, many of which do not currently exist. However, dozens of areas on Crete have relevant place names (koule or pirgos (tower)), that implies the former existence of towers. Due to the large number of the Koules, here we will not deal with all of them, but a few that still exist.
The Koules of Askifou are two small forts built by the Ottomans in the Plateau of Askyfou, in order to be able to control the passage from Chania to Sfakia. Today they are in bad condition, but they are still reminding of the Ottoman past in Crete.
The fort of Koules is located in Paleokastro area, 12km east of Chania, near the village of Kalami and close to the ruins of ancient Aptera. The fort was built by the Turks after the Cretan Revolution of 1866. The building is a representative sample of the forting architecture of the 19th century.
Nio Chorio Koules
The Koules in Nio Chorio is located in the middle of Apokoronas Province, about 25km southeast of Chania and close to the village of Nio Chorio. On the hill of the fort leads a road starting from Nio Chorio. The fort is not well preserved, with only a few walls standing and commemorating its glorious past.
The Turkish towers of Sfakia
Besides the Koule of Askyfou, several other Koules had been constructed in the present province of Sfakia in order to suppress the revolutions of the Sfakians. They were built in Loutro, Agios Ioannis, Anopolis and Agia Roumeli.
The rest Turkish Towers of Chania Prefecture
In the Province of Selino (the wider area of Paleochora), in Sougia Koyles were built in the positions Boukelasi, Koustogerako, Kefala in Rodovani (ancient Elyros), Stavros near Kantanos, Moustakos, Spaniako and Vigles.
The Turkish Towers of Rethymnon Prefecture
The most important passage of Rethymnon prefecture was that of Agios Vasilios (south), through where Turks and Greeks traveled from Mesara plain to Sfakia area. Moreover, there were several towers built in Milopotamos province, protecting the north passages to Rethymno city.
One of the many Turkish towers (Koules) built by the Turks in Crete is that of Plakias at South Rethymno. It was built on a hill of conglomerate grounds, with steep cliffs at its east and south sides, inside a fortified enclosure. The position dominates the region and controlled the bay of Plakias. The fortification wall probably belonged to a former Venetian fortress, with a length of 60-70m and a width of 25-35m. It was fortified with two bastions, one on the south side and one on the north curved wall.
The Turkish Towers of Heraklion Prefecture
The Turks built several Towers in the Prefecture of Heraklion, mainly in the plain of Messara, but also in the other passages of the county. Indeed, the area of Messara was a strongly guarded area. The passages leading to it were all fortified with series of towers, so that Messara could not communicate with the neighboring areas.
The Turkish Towers of Lassithi Prefecture
The Isthmus of Ierapetra, from Pahia Ammos to Ierapetra city, was a very important key passage in Lasithi prefecture. The fortification of this passage thus controlled the relations of the provinces of Mirabello and Ierapetra, while isolated the province of Sitia. Thus, the Turks built the Koules of Pahia Ammos, Vasiliki, Episkopi and Kentri.