The construction of towers was one of the several defensive measures taken by the rulers of Crete (mainly Venetians and Ottomans) to strengthen their domination and protect them from the ongoing revolutionary movements of the Cretans. Towers were also built by the Byzantines (between 961AD-1204AD so as to protect the province of Crete from the raids of pirates.
A tower was a tall edifice built on a strong base, used mainly for defensive purposes. Its shape was circular, semicircular, square or polygonal. Towers were usually built in the exterior walls of a castle, near its gates and on the corners of the fortresses.
Here we will deal with independent towers that were built mainly in the mainland of Crete, aiming at the enforcement of the conquerors against the Cretan people, but also with some towers built near the shores to supervise the sea and to warn the residents for enemies. These coastal towers were called torrete di aviso (warning towers). The Venetians in 1573 planned to build many torrete di aviso at distances that would allow visual contact. These were multi-storey towers and someone could move from floor to floor with removable wooden ladders.
While the castles and fortresses were public buildings, as they were erected under public expenses or with the fatigues of the native population, the towers were smaller buildings which were built mostly by rich individuals or feudal families at their own expense. Thus, the towers usually bore a family crest above their main entrance, which was the identity of the tower. Initially, the systematic construction of the towers started by the Venetian feudal lords and later by the Turks.
Also, in this subsection we shall refer to some buildings which do not have the characteristics of defensive towers, but were actually luxurious mansions for rulers that lived in the villages. The towers, as they are called, were configured to meet the housing needs of the lords, but also offered various administrative and military services. They were known as villas, seray, konak and were playing the role of a chateau.
According to some historical records, the number of towers per province was: Sitia 22, Mirabello 16, Ierapetra 15, Pediada 24, Rizos 4, Kairourgio 9, Pirgiotisa 7. That number soared after 1869, when the Turks built many public towers across the island of Crete (called Koules), which are presented in separate section. Most of the towers are now gone, as they were destroyed by the Cretan rebels.
Malaxa, apart from a village, is a mountainous area, the hills of which block the plains of Kydonia plain from the south. It is a fortified area that rises up opposite Souda Bay, which has several times been a scene of warfare between Crete and its occasional conquers.
One tower was built in Varsamakia, west of Kissamos and close to Sfinari, on the possible site of the unknown village Monoplatanos. The tower was then famous and is located next to the Chapel of Agios Dimitrios.
A Byzantine tower was built next to the building complex of the Monastery of St. George in Menies, Cape Spatha, very close to Menies beach. It was built by the monks of the monastery so as to control the sea and pirates.
Zou is a small green village located 7km south of Sitia. Its name probably derives from the Turkish word su, which means water, as water abounds here, flowing from the famous springs of Zou.
The Tower of St. George was built at the homonym village of Sitia province, which was then called Tourtouli. It was the residence of ordakayasi (Turkish commander) of Sitia, Ibrahim Afentakis or Afentakakis. It was an complete tower with a large courtyard and prisons.
Rafioli or Isihakis Mansion is located at the mountainous area of Nerokourou at position Chalometro and is a complex of the Venetian period, with great architectural importance. The area has been declared a historical monument and place of particular natural beauty.
The neighborhood of Palea Roumata called Arhontika (Mansions) took its name after the Venetian mansion, which still survives here, which belonged to the family of Renier. The entrance of the villa has an imposing doorway and a family crest. Nikolaos Renieris (1758-1847), one important Cretan politician came from this family.
In Neapolis town, in Agios Dimitrios area and next to the old aqueduct there was the house of the janissary Maslum Karakasis, which served as a tower. It was said to have 100 doors, one imposing central gate (called Portela today) and 30 arches. Portela gate closed in the same way of the castle Rumeli Hisar in Constantinople. The building was firstly constructed by the Venetian feudal lord Rasqualigo.