Explore Cretan History

Grecoroman

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 Matala

Matala, ancient Matelon, was 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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Ancient Itanos

The ancient Itanos was one of the strongest cities in Crete, especially during the Hellenistic and Greco-Roman times. The name comes from its founder Itanos, who came from Phoenicia. Its territory, during its peak, stretched from Cape Samonio (current Cape Sidero) to Cape Erythrae (current Cape Goudouras).

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Ancient Lissos

Ancient Lissos was the seaport of Elyros and was built in a small valley between Sougia and Paleochora. It flourished from the Hellenistic period up to the 9th century, when it was destroyed by the Saracens. It was famous for the Asclepion, where patients from all over the island arrived to be healed from the thermal baths.

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Ancient Naxos at Oxa

At a magnificent location on Mount Oxa, with panoramic views of the lagoon of Elounda, we meet the ruins of a fortified state that is believed to be ancient Naxos. Perhaps, it served as the acropolis of Olous, the ancient town of Elounda.

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Ancient Diktynna

Menies beach is located on the site of ancient Diktynna. Diktynna was the most important temple of the goddess Vritomartis, which is believed to be goddess Artemis. Thousands worshippers used to come in the area from all over the island. Vritomartis was worshiped here during the Hellenistic and Roman times. The possession of Diktynna was always a conflict between ancient Kydonia and Polirinia.

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Ancient Heronissos

The present town of Hersonissos retains the name of the ancient city of Hersonissos or Heronissos. The town existed since the Minoan period, but flourished after the conquest of Crete by the Romans.

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Ancient Elyros

Elyros was the most important town in southwestern Crete during the Doric and Roman Period. Ruins are conserved 500m far from the village Rodovani atop the panoramic hill Kefala. The town had two harbours: Syia(current Sougia) and Lissos. The exact location of the town was verified by an inscription with the phrase in Greek "Glory to the people of Elyros".

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Ancient Apollonia (Agia Pelagia)

At the cape of Souda, above the shrine on the beach of Agia Pelagia we see some traces of the excavations carried out by Stylianos Alexiou. At this point he discovered the most important archaeological site of the wider area, the Prytaneum of the Hellenistic town of Apollonia (or maybe Panormos).

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