During the Cretan Revolution of 1866-1869, the Ottoman Empire was forced to send several pashas in Crete, but the effort proved fruitless. The latest Pasha sent to the island was Avni Pasha, who faced the continuing resistance of the Cretans and decided to change his operational tactics.
Thus, the measures he took were:
- He provided political protection to those who declared allegiance to the muftis.
- The Turkish fleet ruled the northern coast of Crete, so as to stop supplies coming from Greece.
- Put a price on the Cretan rebels, with 500 ottoman pounds each.
- He settled Kurds and Circassians to the island, in order to strengthen the Muslim population.
- He designed an entire system of large and small towers (called koules) in prominent locations throughout Crete, in order to fully control the island.
Specifically, Crete was divided into five provinces, the governors of which undertook the construction of koules. The koules were built on high hills, crossroads, ports, passages and their guards spied the rebels and the transporting Christians. They intercommunicated (with fanfare or fire) in case of an emergency and delivered the alert message serially to the main camp (called Kiesle). The effectiveness of Koules was devastating for the Cretans, as they could no longer easily intercommunicate.
The Cretans reacted actively during the erection of the towers, harassing the builders, destroying the buildings in the evenings or destroying lime furnaces, from where the Turks supplied lime for building. Nevertheless, Avni Pasha managed to complete his project by using experienced Bulgarian and Armenian craftsmen, who until August 1868 had built more than 60 koules and 2 months later this number increased to 150.
As mentioned, the Turks called these towers koules, after the Turkish kule. The only difference between them and the rest towers of the island is that koules were built by the state, rather than by private feudal lords and onwers (mainly Venetian).
The Cretans, while trying to free themselves, destroyed several Koules, many of which do not currently exist. However, dozens of areas on Crete have relevant place names (koule or pirgos (tower)), that implies the former existence of towers. Due to the large number of the Koules, here we will not deal with all of them, but a few that still exist.
This is one of the several Turkish towers (koules) that the Turks built in the late 19th century in order to control the south shores of Crete. This is ruined and has amazing views to the surrounding areas.
Here we meet one of the many koules (Turkish forts) that were built by the Turks in Selino district so as to control the surrounding slopes and valleys.
The Koules of Spaniakos controlled the valleys, the passages and the towering peaks around it, while on the south lies the Libyan Sea. It had a very important role in the suppression of the revolution of 1866-1869.
At the wider area of Kandanos, the Ottomans built four towers with loopholes to protect themselves from the rebels. Traces of one tower are still preserved above the village of Vamvakades, while the towers at Anisaraki, Nychteriano and Koufalotos have not survived. The tower of Vamvakades was built at an altitude of about 1040 m., being the tower with the highest altitude in Crete.
The Koules in Nio Chorio is located in the middle of Apokoronas Province, about 25km southeast of Chania and close to the village of Nio Chorio. On the hill of the fort leads a road starting from Nio Chorio. The fort is not well preserved, with only a few walls standing and commemorating its glorious past.
Above Loutro there are still the ruins of the Turkish fortress, Koules, which dominated over the current settlement. The building was built in 1868 and had two towers on west and east sides. It has rectangular shape and some of its walls survive. Outside the walls, there are big tanks surviving.
The Koules of St. John still stands deserted, while the visitor still sees the cisterns for storing water. The place can be accessed via a trail crossing the beautiful landscape with cypress trees and the views of the Libyan Sea.
South of Malia rises a small mountain which locals call Kouledes. Its name is taken after the Turkish fortresses (koule) built by the Ottomans to control the fertile plain of Malia. The Turkish forts of Malia had eye contact so as to communicate in case of emergency. Although they have almost been completely destroyed, the existence of so many fortresses in such close distance indicated how important the plane of Malia and the surrounding passages were for the Ottomans.