Explore Cretan History

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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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Tholos Granary

At the west end of Tholos beach we meet the ruins of a large oblong building that served as a granary for storing grain and other products, especially during the Roman Era. Then, the port of Tholos was a transshipment point for ships carrying grain between Alexandria of Egypt and Rome. It is believed that is was also used during the Venetian Times.

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Chrissi island antiquities

An important settlement of the Minoan and Roman period has been found in the island Chrysea of ancient Greeks, the present island of Chrissi or Gaidouronisi. Buildings and at least three carved tombs have been identified near the church of Agios Nikolaos and the lighthouse on the island. The settlement was probably used for the production of Tyrian purple from the shells of Murex brandaris, exactly like the neighboring isle of Koufonissi.

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Hellenistic Town of Arkalochori

West of the town of Arkalohori rises for rock of Prophet Elijah (Profitis Ilias) with the homonym chapel at the top and the Minoan sacred cave of Arkalochori. On the hillside facing Arkalochori an extended settlement that was inhabited from the Minoan to the Ottoman era has been detected.

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Smari Citadel

At the top of the rocky hill of the Prophet Elijah (Profitis Ilias) near Smari, at an altitude of 590m, there are the ruins of a citadel with a strong defensive wall. The place has panoramic views across the fertile planes of Kasteli and Smari. According to the archaeologist Hadji-Vallianou the citadel was the actual site of ancient Lyttos mentioned by Homer. The city was inhabited from 1800 BC till 630 BC, before being abandoned by its inhabitants.

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Ancient Phoenix (Katopolis)

The bay where today's Loutro settlement is built was the port of ancient towns Anopolis and Aradena. This port is mentioned in ancient texts as Phoenix or Katopolis. The gods Zeus and Apollo were worshiped in Phoenix.

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Ancient Eltynia

The ancient city of Eltynia, Eltyna or Eltynea was dispersed in the present plain of Peza, but its main core was probably located in the current site of the village Kounavi. The main occupation of its inhabitants was viticulture and winemaking, which is still a key sector of the local economy.

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