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.
Embrosneros hosted the chateau of one of the most terrible janissaries in Crete, the Turk Ibrahim Alidakis. Alidakis owned a vast property, which he had stolen from the Greeks, and became the greatest aga of the area. In the nearby plateau of Vothonas, Alidakis raised his horses.
Episkopi village is located in Mylopotamos provice, near Perama. There lived the Cretan-Turkish family of Kerimides (Kerimoglou) or Kyrimides. They built this tower there, so as to protect their property.
At the village Apodoulou, in Amari Province, there is a very well preserved building, that locals call Frankish Konak. This mansion was built by Lord John Hane, after 1829.
A Venetian Tower was built at Stamni village, with two floors and embrasures on the second floor. It is in very good condition and is used as a residence.
The Venetian villa and the Venetian olive mill are located in the Monastery of Saint George at Karydi. The villa and the adjacent mill date back to the period 1650-1750. The mansion has undergone subsequent restorations, which have not been altered seriously its original form.
Although it cannot be classified as a defensive tower, however, it has prevailed with the name of Tower. The tower, which belonged to George and Francesco Modinos, still survives in very good condition. It is attached to the scenic old church of Panagia Rogdia.
Agriolidis was a terrible janissary in Messara plain, who lived during the Greek revolutions of 1821. He resided in a 17th century chateau in the village of Agios Ioannis, near Phaestus, which still survives.
The tower of Mouzouras is a three storeydefensive building of the Venetian Era or more likely of the early Ottoman period, which is reserved in a very good condition. The tower was built with the same architecture with the towers at the corners of the fortification walls of Gouverneto monastery.