History of Crete

Crete has a history, and prehistory, stretching back through centuries and millennia – its mythic history is every bit as old. Here was born Zeus – Father of Gods and Men in later Greek eyes. Here he made love, secretly, to the beautiful maid Europa, from which we get our modern name for our Continent. Here, defying gravity, a man first flew – the ingenious Daedalus, creator of the famous Labyrinth with his son Icarus.

The Minoan Civilization

History of Crete. The Minoan Civilization

The brilliance of the great Minoan centres – of Knossos, of Festos and the other important cities – spread its light throughout the whole of the Eastern Mediterranean. The architecture, the wall-paintings, the ceramics – all bear witness to the spirit of a people enamoured of peace, happy and strong in themselves. A people moreover closely connected to the sea. Read More about the Minoan Civilization on Crete

The Historical Period

History of Crete. The Historical Period. Greeks & Romans

After 1450 BC there is a strong mainland presence (Achaian) in part of the island; by the start of the Iron Age (1000 BC) the Dorian influence dominates, with the emergence of new cities like Lato, Rizenia, Eleftherna, Lapa and Polyrhenia. Then follow the years of the Greek culture (Classical and Hellenistic): Knossos lives on in Greek memory as the birthplace of important cultural values. With the Roman conquest other cities come to the fore: Gortyna flourishes, becoming the capital of the Roman province of Crete and Cyrenaica after 20 BC. Read More about the Historical Period on Crete

The Middle Ages on Crete

History of Crete. Byzantium & Saracen Arabs in Crete

In the first Byzantine period, Crete became an important Christian stronghold. In 824 AD the Saracens occupied the island: Chandax (today’s Heraklion) was their base for piratical raids in the Mediterranean. In 961 AD, the future emperor Nikephoras Phocas drove them out, so inaugurating the second Byzantine period. In the years that followed once more Crete is a strong Christian centre – and advances to a great cultural height. Read More about the Middle Ages on Crete

Venetian Crete

History of Crete. Venetian Crete & The Cretan Renaissance

After the sack of Constantinople in 1204 by the ‘Franks’ on crusade, Crete passed to the control of the Venetians (with a little initial interference from the Genoese). The Venetian period sees exceptional economic and intellectual prosperity: they built huge fortifications, large cities and monuments of outstanding beauty. The Cretan Renaissance gifts us with the magnificent Cretan School of painting. Music and theatre flourished and have bequeathed to us the wonderful creations of the Erotokritos and the Erofili. Read More about Venetian Crete and the Cretan Renaissance

Ottoman Rule & Modern Times

History of Crete. Ottoman Rule & Modern Times

All these achievements were cut short in 1669, when Heraklion, the last main Venetian stronghold on Crete, fell into the hands of the Turks. Bloody struggles and uprisings against Ottoman rule led to the autonomy of Crete in 1898: this period lasted to 1913 when the island achieved union with the rest of Greece.Read More about the Ottoman Rule & Modern Times

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