Explore Cretan

History

Crete’s strategic location at the crossroads of the ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean is the main reason for the continuous claim of the island by many occupants.

Crete managed to keep its unique and strong character till today. Religion, glorious history and the wild Cretan terrain formed the personality of Cretans, who held their Greek soul after many centuries of slavery. Apart from the scattered archaeological sites and monuments of spiritual wealth, the visitor has the chance to see the rare and priceless findings of excavations at the various museums and collections throughout the island.

Crete is the birthplace of Zeus, the ruler of the gods, people and hospitality. Even today the hospitality of the Cretans is more than a ritual. The first European civilization, the Minoan, emerged here between 2800 BC and 1400 BC. Even today, the palaces of Knossos, Phaestus, Malia and Zakros reflect the splendor of the Minoan civilization through the masterpieces of architecture, pottery, gold, silversmithing and painting. The most powerful fleet in the then known world, as evidenced by the different findings across the Mediterranean, brought wealth to Crete from trading the famous Cretan cypress and its agricultural products. This brilliant course was terminated in 1400 BC when the Achaeans and the Dorians made their presence on the island, founding new towns (eg Lato, Polyrineia) and gave the baton to the Classical Greek civilization.

After the conquest of Crete by the Romans, the capital moved to Gortys, which subsequently became the capital of the Roman province of Crete and Cyrene. During his journey to Rome, St. Paul stopped in Crete and proclaimed Christianity, beginning a century-old monastic tradition in more remote areas. The island became an important Christian center as depicted in hundreds of religious monuments, scattered everywhere.

In 824AD Crete was conquered by the Arabs, who turned Candia (today’s Iraklion) to a base for pirate attacks in the Mediterranean Sea. After many failed attempts, the Byzantines managed to release Crete in 961, under the commands of the later emperor Nikiforos Fokas, giving a new impetus in Christian tradition on Crete.

After the conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204, the Venetian became the new rulers of Crete until 1669. During this period Crete experienced a great economic and spiritual wellbeing. The big cities were rebuilt, decorated with amazing monuments and fortified with massive walls. Moreover, the art reached its apogee with great personalities from the field of hagiography, as El Greco (El Greco) and Michael Damascinos. Moreover, literature, music and theater thrived and produced masterpieces, like Erotokritos and Erofili. All these were abruptly interrupted in 1669 when Candia, Crete’s last stronghold, surrendered after the longest siege in history by the Ottomans.

Successive revolutions and bloody battles led to the autonomy of Crete in 1897. In 1913 Crete became part of the Greek territory, honoring the longed dream of all Cretans for the Union. During the Union of Crete, the politician Eleftherios Venizelos came into foreground, who would later become the greatest leader that ever ruled Greece. The struggles, however, of the Cretans did not end here, as the Cretan glory emerged in the Battle of Crete in 1941 and from the ashes of the dozens of villages burnt by the Germans. Thousands of Cretans were executed with their fearless gaze towards the barrel of the German guns, helping to turn the scales in favor of the Allies.

Archaeological Sites
The strategic position of Crete at the crossroads of the ancient Mediterranean civilizations was the main reason for the constant claim of the island by various occupiers. Traces of each occupier are scattered everywhere on the island and are deeply engraved in the customs of the Cretans. Show Map
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Museums
The island's archaeological importance is highlighted through museums and archaeological collections. The Archaeological Museum of Heraklion houses the most important findings of the Minoan civilization. Treasures dating back from the Neolithic to the Roman Era can also be viewed in the archaeological museum of Chania, Rethymnon, Sitia, Kissamos and Arhanes. In the following years, the new museums of Messara and Ancient Eleftherna are expected to operate, while the museum of Agios...
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Fortresses
Crete in ancient times was not threatened by external enemies. The first external enemies of the island were the Romans. Therefore, till then, the fortification of cities was focused on internal enemies. After the Roman Empire (67 BC-330 AD) things changed radically. Crete became a province of the Eastern Roman Empire, which later transformed to the Byzantine Empire. At the same time, several civilizations started developing around the Mediterranean Sea. Thus, Crete,...
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Myths
The history of Crete is age–long and should be traced back in the first myths and legends. According to the Greek mythology, Zeus, the father of gods and humans, was born in Crete, where later he secretly copulated with beautiful nymph Europe, who gave her name to our continent. It was here that for the first time resourceful craftsman Daedalus, the constructor of the famous Labyrinth, disregarded the law of gravity and flew away with his son Icarus. Cretan mythology...
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Tradition
The multicultural and distant past of Crete is reflected in all aspects of modern Cretan people, such as language, dance, music, food, arts and crafts. Folk tradition of Crete constitutes an inexhaustible contemporary cultural entity with customs, materials, spiritual features and ancient habits that have formed the core of the modern Cretan life over the years. The Cretan dialect is considered the oldest in Greece and has been a subject of study and research. Dozens...
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Lighthouses
Lighthouses are modern monuments that highlight the position of Greece in world naval history. On the shores of Crete there are some masterpieces of lighthouse architecture, unfortunately abandoned by local government, fading out due to salt and sea. The most important lighthouses of the island are the lighthouses of Aforesmenos (Saint John), Gavdos, Elafonisi, Cape Drapanos, Cape Sidero and the lighthouses in the Venetian harbours of Chania and Rethymnon.
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