Explore Cretan History


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 Polirinia

The ports of Polirinia were Falassarna and Kissamos. It developed close trade relations with Sparta, Milos, Rhodes, Thiva, the coasts of Ionia and Egypt. Apart from trade, the town was apparently famous for livestock, as the name comes from the words “polla rinia” which means many lambs.


Sanctuary of Hermes and Aphrodite

The Peak Sanctuary that was dedicated to Hermes and Aphrodite is located at position Krya Vrissi, 5 km northeast of Kato Simi, and is the most important archaeological site in the province of Viannos.


Ancient Dreros

Ancient Dreros (or Driros) was built on the Mount Kadistos, next to the current church of St. Anthony, 2km northeast of Neapolis town. The town was inhabited by Eteocretans and Dorians (who arrived in Crete in 1100BC) and flourished in the Classical - Hellenistic Period.


Aphrodite’s Sanctuary at Lenika

The small ancient Sanctuary of Afrodision Iero (Aphrodite Temple) is located near the village Lenika and dates back from 10th century BC. The same place was used in the 2nd BC century for building a larger two-aisled temple of Ares and Aphrodite, as evidenced by inscriptions found here.


Ancient Tarra

Tarra was an ancient city of Crete and seaport of Elyros. Here there was a very famous temple of Apollo and ahealing center. The legend tells that once the god Apollo himself came to Samaria to purify himself by the great priest and healer Karmanor as after killing the Python at Delphi.


Ancient Axos

Ancient Axos was built on the hill southeast of the modern village and is considered one of the most important ancient towns of ancient Crete. The area was already inhabited since the Preminoan Era, but the city reached its peak during the Archaic period.


Ancient Lassea

Lassea was a harbor of the Roman city Gortys, the capital of crete in Roman Era. Lasea was rich in copper deposits, that was excavated. St Paul mentions the town in his records for his stay on Crete.


Makrigialos Roman Villa

The fertile valley and the sheltered harbor of Makrigialos was an ideal location for its habitation throughout the ages. One of the relics of the past is the Roman villa which was unearthed at Katovigli position in 1977, above the current port of Makrigialos, by the archaeologist N. Papadakis. Earlier, looted graves and a headstone of the 4th century AD were found on site.


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