Cretan History


Ancient Praesus
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Praesus (or Pressos) was built on three hills located about 13km south of Sitia and 2km from Nea Pressos. The city was founded by the Eteocretans (= genuine Cretans) who abandoned the Minoan towns and found refuge in the inaccessible areas of Crete after the Dorian invasion (1100BC). It owned two ports, one in Sitia region (Etea) and one on the south coast (Stiles).

The Eteocretans initially conserved their Minoan tradition, language and religion. Indeed, the archaeologists have identified Minoan language inscriptions with Greek characters, which are very important for deciphering the Minoan language. However, they also adopted a democratic constitution, following the Dorian cities.

All three hills were used as Citadels. Its highest acropolis was fortified by a wall, while there were traces of an impressive mansion. On another hill an altar was found and many objects (weapons, figurines) used in sacrifices. In Praesus a tomb of an athlete was found, along with prizes that he probably won in the Panathenaic Games.

Praesus was one of the strongest cities in Crete and minted its own currency with many different representations (Hercules, Zeus, Apollo, Demeter, etc). He had come into conflict with Itanos and Ierapytna, in order to control the Temple of Zeus in Palekastro. Eventually, Ierapytna destroyed Praesus in 155BC and its residents fled to the port of Etea, where they founded New Praesus.

The first excavations were made in 1880s by the Italian archaeologists Halbherr and Mariani. Today the site can be visited.

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Additional Info

  • Location: Lassithi Prefecture
  • Type: Ancient City
  • Peak Period: Classical & Hellenistic Age (800 BC - 69 BC)
  • Accessibility: Dirt track
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