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.
The settlement Grimbiliana was a suburb of Kolimbari, near Kissamos, where feudal lords Gribilli lived. They had built a tower like a fortress for their safety and when the Turks conquered the island the family of Gribilli was Islamized so as to retain their privileges.
In the area of Akrotiri Cape, near Chania, the Turks had built two towers towards protecting and controlling the wider area. The first was built in Kounoupidiana area (near the Tombs of Venizelos), while the second was built in Sternes position (overlooking Souda Bay). Apart from them, there were several other fortified chateaus, like the tower of Mouzouras.
Several towers were built in other areas of the prefecture of Heraklion. In Panasos, in the Turkish neighborhood located 500m southeast of the village, there was a tower, which was used by the Turks during the great revolution of 1821.
At position Pirgos of the village Gerani and within the boundaries of private property we meet the remains of the initally four-storey tower of Gerani. The small tower is believed to have functioned as a Medieval phrycotry to send messages by fire to other towers of the province of Rethymnon during the Venetian rule. Today only the first floor is preserved from the tower, as the two highest floors have collapsed.
The tower of Aga at Tsifliki is located in a privileged position in Elounda lagoon, on the road leading to Plaka. In fact, the settlement Tsifliki owes its name to this residence, which was the base of the chiftlik (Turkish system of land management) of the region.
Northwest of the village Damania, on the road that heads to Arkadi village (Monofatsi province) we meet the hill of Kefala. Kefala has unique views to Damania and the beautiful dam-lake, the fertile plain of the village and other villages of Monofatsi. The whole area in the upper part of the hill is full of the remains of the village that was there centuries ago and is now completely deserted.