Cretan History

Classical &
Roman Era

During the Dark Age, living in such remote and inhospitable areas was so arduous, that a few centuries later those settlements declined and disappeared. During the same period, the Achaeans and Dorians broke the ground for the flowering of Classical Hellenism. They introduced new customs, such as the use of iron, cremation and new clothing habits.

The "island of a hundred cities", as recorded by Homer, gradually came to the fore. Knossos became the administrative center again and new impressive cities were developed, such as Hierapytna, Itanos, Axos, Praesus, Sivrytos, Dreros, Rizinia, Tripitos, and many others.

When the Roman Quintus Caecilius Metellus undertook the conquest of Crete in 69 AD, the capital of the island was moved to Gortys, which later became the capital of the senatorial province of Crete and Cyrenaica. The city still impresses with the remains of the baths, theaters, stadium, hippodrome, citadel and temples. It was served by the ports of Matala, Lassea and Levena (current Lendas).

Apart from Gortys, many other cities flourished, with the most impressive archaeological sites being today Eleftherna, Polyrhenia, Lyttos, Elyros, Aptera, Lappa, Olous, Lato and Priansus.

After the establishment of Cretan colonies in Sicily, Marseille and Cyrene in the 7th century BC, trade flourished again and many ports surpassed in power the cities they served. Some ports evolved into major cities such as Falassarna, Lissos, Cheronissos, Lato Kamara and Inatus.

The advent of Christianity

During his journey to Rome, Paul the Apostle stopped in Crete and preached Christianity, lighting the flame of a centuries-old ascetic tradition, signs of which we meet even today in hermitages and monastic establishments of Asterousia range.

Areas that, according to tradition, were visited by Saint Paul and Saint John Xenos, turned to live ascetic communities. Among them, Asterousia and Akrotiri Cape at Chania still retain their monastic character.

The island became an important Christian center, as reflected in the hundreds of religious monuments, which are scattered everywhere. The old temples of Twelve Olympians turned into imposing basilicas and cavernous sanctuaries were transformed into churches.

Remains of early Christian basilicas, which are still awe-inspiring due to their size, are scattered throughout the island. Apart from the colossal basilica of Saint Titus by Gortys, traces of similar religious monuments are located at Hersonissos, Fragokastelo, Elounda, Almyrida, Panormo, Goulediana, Sougia and Eleftherna.

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Ancient Lappa

Ancient Lappa was built near the current town of Argyroupolis, located 27km south of Rethymno. The area is now famous for its springs with waterfalls, its old mills and the lush green landscape that attracts thousands of visitors each year.

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Ancient Eleftherna

Ancient Eleftherna is located 25km southeast of Rethymno, close to the Monastery of Arkadi. The town is the most important archaeological site in the prefecture of Rethymno, which has not fully been excavated and it is expected to give archaeologists many more discoveries. The first organized excavations here started in 1985 by the University of Crete.

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Ancient Falasarna

The ancient town of Falasarna (or Phalasarna) is located at the west base of the peninsula Gramvousa and was one of the major towns of Crete during the Hellenistic Era. The city was famous for its port, the only natural harbor in western Crete, built in a small lagoon.

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Ancient Gortyn

The archaeological site of Gortys (or Gortyna) is located 45km south of Heraklion, near the village of Agii Deka and next to the road connecting Agii Deka with Mires. The town covered a large area along the river Mitropolianos (or Litheos) with vast olive groves.

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Ancient Olous

Within short distance from Elounda, near the salt pans, we meet few remains of the ancient city Olous (most inside the sea) that was inhabited since the Minoan period. Olous was one of the hundred most important cities of ancient Crete with a maximum population of over 30,000 people.

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Ancient Lato

The name Lato is taken after the Dorian pronunciation of the goddess Leto, who probably was worshiped here. However, the patron of the city was the goddess of childbirth, Eileithyia, who is depicted on the coins of Lato. moverer in Lato was born the admiral of Alexander the Great, Nearchus (360 to 312 BC).

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Ancient Aptera

The ancient city of Aptera was founded in the 8th century BC in a panoramic position that controlled Souda Bay and flourished in the Hellenistic period. It was abandoned in the Arab years, when it was destroyed by the pirates (or an earthquake).

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Ancient Matala

Matala, ancient Matelon, were a port of Phaestus and Gortys and is well known for the carved caves, which were Grecoroman tombs. The cape south of Matala has been identified as the Cape Nysos and the location where the ships of Menelaus were wrecked (Odyssey).

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