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.
One mile southwest of Neapolis town, on the northern slopes of Mount Kavalaras, there is the beautiful grove of Pashaligo. The small forest takes its name after the Venetian feudal lord Fillipo Pasqualigo, the military governor of Candia (1592-1600), who used to live in a nearby Tower.
The janissary Arif Mohoglou lived in Mohos (near Stalis) during the period of the Revolution of 1821. Mohoglou had built a fortress - tower, where his family lived.
The idyllic suburb of Chania, called Perivolia, till the German Occupation hosted the luxurious villa of Mustafa Naili Pasha, known also as Giritlis (= Cretan), which was destroyed by the Germans in order to use its materials for building their own buildings.
In the village Akoumia in Agios Vasilios province, which is perched on the northern slopes of Mount Asiderotas, there are the ruins of a Turkish tower, although locals believe that it was Venetian.
In the middle of the village there was a three-storey Venetian tower, built by the Venetians to secure their dominance over the wider region. It is considered that the tower belonged to the feudal family of Francesco Vlachos, as the crest of the Vlachos family is still surviving on a tomb in Agios Athanasios position (next to the village). When the Turks conquered the region of Sitia, they found the tower in excellent condition and used it immediately so as to oversee the area.
In Rodopos, Kissamos Province, there was a reference for a Venetian villa, called Senekjana and built in 1575. It might be the mansion that still survives in the village and operates as a Centre for Information and Study of Rodopos Cape and Kolymbari wider area.
The Ottoman Empire, after the revolution of 1866, founded a new prefecture (liva) that consisted of the current provinces of Apokoronas, Sfakia and Agios Vasilios. This prefecture was called Sfakia Prefecture and its capital was Vamos.
In Kaina village of Apokoronas Province lived a tremendous janissary named Mehmet Aga Genitsaris. He came in Crete from Tunis in Tunisia and was a descendant of Ali, a commander of the Turkish army that arrived in Crete through Monastery of Gonia shores in 1645.