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Seightseeing in Crete

Knossos:

     The most important monuments of the site are: The Palace of Knossos. It is the largest of the preserved Minoan palatial centres. Four wings are arranged around a central courtyard, containing the royal quarters, workshops, shrines, storerooms, repositories, the throne room and banquet halls. Dated to 2000-1350 B.C. The Little Palace. It lies to the west of the main palace and has all the features of palatial architecture: scraped wall masonry, reception rooms, a pristyle hall, a double megaron with polythyra (pi er-and-door partitions) and a lustral basin-shrine. Dated to the 17th-15th centuries B.C.

     The Royal Villa. It lies to the NE of the palace and its architectural form is distinguished by the polythyra, the pillar crypt and the double staircase, with two flights of stairs. It is strongly religious in character and might have been the residence of an aristocrat or a high priest. Dated to the 14th century B.C. House of the Frescoes. It is located to the NW of the palace and is a small urban mansion with rich decoration on the walls. Dated to the 15th, 14th-12th centuries B.C. Caravanserai. It lies to the south of the palace and was interpreted as a reception hall and hospice. Some of the rooms are equipped with baths and decorated with wall paintings.

     The "Unexplored Mansion". Private building, probably of private-industrial function, to the NW of the palace. It is rectangular, with a central, four-pillared hall, corridors, storerooms and remains of a staircase. Dated to the 14th-12th centuries B.C. Temple Tomb. It is located almost 600 m. to the south of the palace and was connected with the "House of the High Priest" by means of a paved street. It seems that one of the last kings of Knossos (17th-14th centuries B.C.) was buried here. Typical features of its architecture are the hypostyle, two-pillar crypt, the entrance with the courtyard, the portico and a small anteroom. House of the High Priest. It lies 300 m. to the south of Caravanserai and contains a stone altar with two columns, framed by the bases of double axes. The South Mansion. Private civic house, located to the south of the palace. It is a three-storeyed building with a lustral basin and a hypostyle crypt, dating from the 17th-15th centuries B.C.

     Villa of Dionysos. Private, peristyle house of the Roman period. It is decorated with splendid mosaics by Apollinarius, depicting Dionysos. The house contains special rooms employed for the Dionysiac cult. Dated to the 2nd century A.D.

Festos:

     Phaistos was one of the most important centres of Minoan civilization, and the most wealthy and powerful city in southern Crete. It was inhabited from the Neolithic period until the foundation and development of the Minoan palaces in the 15th century B.C.

The Phaistos Disk, found at the Palace of Phaistos. Clay disk. Probably 17th century B.C.

The Minoan city covered a considerable area around the palatial centre. After the destruction of the palace in the 15th century, the city continued to be inhabited in the Mycenaean and Geometric periods, that is, until the 8th century B.C.

Later, the temple of Rhea was built to the south of the old palace. The Hellenistic city was extremely prosperous; houses of the period are to be seen in the west court (upper terrace) of the palace. In the middle of the 2nd century B.C. it was destroyed and dominated by the neighbouring city of Gortyn. Traces of habitation dating from the Venetian period are scattered in the whole area. The archaeological investigation of Phaistos started in 1884 by F. Halbherr and continued by the Italian Archaeological School at Athens, under the direction of F. Halbherr and L. Pernier in 1900-1904 and by Doro Levi, in 1950-1971.

Gortyna:

     It is located south of the prefecture of Heraklion and very close to Phaistos. The ruins of the ancient city of Gortyna with its acropolis and necropolis are spread over an area of approximately 4,000 acres, from the hills of Ai - Giannis, Volakas and Prophet Elias north to the village of Ag. Ten east and Metropolis south. The area of Gortyn has been inhabited since the Neolithic era, as findings of this period have been found in the plain and the hills, along with Minoan times. In the place of Kania, south of the village of Metropolis, a Late Minoan gout has been excavated with remarkable findings.

In the geometric period (1.100 - 700 BC), the settlement had been developed on the Acropolis, while small villages existed at the roots of the heights. In the Archaic period (700-500 BC) the city expanded to the position of the later Conservatory and the plain, in the area of the later temple of Pythian Apollo.

     From the city of the Classical period relics of the ecclesiastical church have been found in the place of today's Conservatory, while the most important monument is the Great Inscription on the northern circular wall of the Conservatory.

In the Hellenistic years (end of the 4th century BC - 67 BC) Gortyn was one of the largest cities in Crete. In the early 3rd cent. B.C. Was head of one of the three city associations and in the 2nd c. BC, when Rome intervened in the internal affairs of Crete, Gortyna was on the side of the Romans. After the Roman conquest, it became the capital of the Roman province of Crete and Cyrenaiki and experienced great building development. In the early Byzantine period, the administrative and urban center of the city was moved to the Christian district in the present village of Metropolis, while a second nucleus of the Proto-Byzantine city was in the area of the church of Ag. Ten. After the Arab conquest, Gortyna is ruined.

Spinalonga:

     At the northern entrance of the Elounda Bay, in the key position to control its natural harbor, lies the island of Spinalonga, with an area of 85 acres and 53 m altitude. The island was fortified in antiquity, most probably during the Hellenistic period, with a great fortification enclosure. On the ruins of an ancient castle, the Venetians built a strong fortress designed by Genese Bressani and Latino Orsini in accordance with the fortification practice of the bastion system.

     The first phase of the fortress's construction lasted from 1579 until 1586. Repairs and alterations to the fortress took place before and during the Cretan War (1645-1669). During the Venetian occupation, the fort was used for military purposes. The buildings that existed within it covered the needs of the establishment of the guard. During the period of the Cretan War (1645-1669), Spinalonga resorted to refugees and rebels who, on the island's base, harassed the Turks. Their action lasted as long as the Venetians held the fortress, since under the tradition of handing down Chandax in 1669 Spinalonga remained the property of Venice.

     After the occupation of the island by the Turks in 1715 in Spinalonga gradually formed a settlement Ottoman. During the first centuries of Ottoman rule, the fortress is marginalized and used as a place of exile and isolation. However, at the end of the 19th century, The data is changing. The role of the port of Spinalonga is upgraded as it acquires an export trade license. In the middle of the 19th century, A large number of residents are concentrated in the island, most of them merchants and sailors, who benefit from the security of the fortified settlement, exploit the shopping streets of the Eastern Mediterranean.

     The life of this settlement was abruptly disrupted due to the political developments that took place in Crete during the last years of the 19th century. The insecurity that prevailed among the Ottomans of Crete due to the revolutionary action of the Christians forced the majority of Spinalonga residents to emigrate. Since 1897 on the island and for about a year in Spinalonga, French military forces have been established.

The Cretan State in 1903 instituted the lexicon isolation and decided to create a Leper Community in Spinalonga in order to allow a co-ordinated help for the patients with Hansen's disease. The difficult life of the sick, who lived on the island until 1957, marked the scene and filled it emotionally, making it a place of martyrdom and historical memory.

Fortetza Fortress:

     The Venetian fortress of Fortezza is built on the hill of Paleokastro, west of today's city. On this hill there was the acropolis of the ancient city of Rithymna and the sanctuary of Rocky Artemis. The carvings found at various points of the hill testify to the existence of the acropolis on the rock. The settlement was probably near the harbor. However, we have no evidence either of the form of the settlement or of the acropolis and the sanctuary.

In the following centuries, the city of Rethymnon was developed at the same spot. Castel Vecchio, the small fortified settlement of the Byzantine era, was preserved until the middle of the 16th century. In 1540, a new fortification wall had begun to protect the bourgeois, which had spread outside Castel Vecchio. But the Turkish invasion of 1571 and the destruction of the city made it imperative for new fortifications, since the land wall did not cover it. In 1573 Fortezza was founded on the hill of Paleokastro. The original purpose of the construction was to include all the dwellings of the city, which was not finally done. The inhabitants of the city, after the Turkish danger was removed, began to rebuild their homes.

The work at the Fortezza area was completed around 1580. Only the Venetian garrison was installed inside the castle, as the space remaining for the construction of private homes after the completion of the public buildings was very small.

     The area on which the castle was built was in any case limited. This had implications for the overall organization of the fortress. The rocky ground, the absence of a moat and the small expanse of free space in front of the fortress (spianata), made Fortezza vulnerable in defense. Even the shape of the four bastions of the fortress is not complete, as it does not include the necessary elements of a complete bastion. However, some of its weaknesses were covered by the planned organization of the interior. Near the precinct there were no buildings, and the southern side, the most exposed to attacks, was protected by cavalieri. The ammunition depots were on the north side, while the sieges necessary for the siege had been ordered to the south.

     After 1646 and the occupation of the city by the Turks, Fortezza will not undergo major changes. Additions and supplements were made to the embankments and the fortress's enclosure. However, the number of homes built inside the castle increased. At the beginning of the 20th century the interior of Fortezza was almost entirely built. The transfer of the residents outside the fortress and the demolition of the ruined buildings from the Municipality of Rethymno gradually began. Meanwhile, the Municipality, the Archaeological Service and the EOT have expropriated these lands.

     Today Fortress Fortress is the most important monument of Rethymnon, a trademark of the city. The restored buildings host cultural events and exhibitions, while in the bastion of Prophet Elias is the small Municipal Theater "Erofili".

Malia Palace:

     In the small coastal plain and on its northern coast, at the foot of the Selena mountain range, on a low rocky outcrop, the palace of Malia stands in a key geographical position. Close to the palace it must have been an important port during prehistoric times. Apart from this, the palace is also of great importance due to its size (7500 square meters), the third largest Minoan palace in Crete. The ancient name is unknown today, but it has been assumed that Milatos was king Sarpidonas, son of Zeus and Europe, and younger brother of Minos. The palace was first built in 1900 BC. In a location where an older habitation was found, and was destroyed in 1700 BC. Along with the other palace centers. It was rebuilt around 1650 BC. In the same place, to be destroyed again in 1450 BC. This final disaster followed a short retreat. Its key position has facilitated both contact with the fertile hinterland and commercial activities at sea. A short distance from this is the necropolis of Chrysolakkos and the holy peak of Prophet Helias.

The palace was constructed in the Middle Minoan period (around 1900 BC). Two major building phases have been detected, which determine its history. The former had a lifetime of two centuries. Around 1700 BC His destruction took place. Fifty years later, a new palace was built (around 1650 BC), on the ruins of the old one, which seems to have followed in general its plan and the remains of which survive today. Its final destruction occurred around 1450 BC. And it was by fire. Whether the causes of destruction are related to warfare or natural disasters are still the subject of discussions in the scientific community. The palace was the center of the entire urban area. The various districts of the Minoan city extend a short distance from it. The city, the name of which is not known, was surrounded by a wall. City cemeteries are located to the north, next to the beach. There are signs of a Roman settlement and a Byzantine basilica.

     Most of the visible remains today belong to the new palatial complex, while from the first palace part of the northwest of the complex survives and from the post-imperial age a small "oblique" building in the northern courtyard. Access to the palace is made today by the paved western courtyard, which is crossed by slightly elevated corridors, the so-called "streetways". On each side of the complex were opened entrances, but the main ones were those of the north and south wings. The palace of Malia is characterized by the large central courtyard, the epicenter of the complex, the stairwells, the lighthouses, the polygamy, the monumental facades and the fixing of each side for certain functions. The central courtyard, measuring 48 x 23 m, is a remnant of the old palace. In the center there is an altar. The courtyard had a monumental view with two galleries on its north and east side and an altar at its center. The eastern gallery had wooden and stone pillars, typical of Minoan architecture.

The main face of the palace was the west, which had a second floor of monumental character. It housed the sanctuaries, the royal and the official flats, the storage rooms and the granaries. In the central part of it are developed the official apartments. An important role was played by a room in the central courtyard, with a penthouse at the entrance, and behind it four stairs, the so-called "loggia", a hall elevated and open to the courtyard where religious ceremonies were held. At its back was the treasury where a magnificent sword with a gold-plated handle was found and the well-known stone ritual axial pale.

     Immediately to the south of the "loggia" there is a large staircase (now eleven stairs are preserved). A little further south a large room opens, which was an important holy site. This holy site was communicating with a paved, pillow-paneled crypt in its center, another hall of religious rituals. Even further south there is a large staircase, from which four stairs are preserved and possibly leading to the upper floor rooms. However, it should also serve as seats for events held in the yard, something similar to the theaters of other palaces. There was also found the stone "coin" of Malia. In the northern part of the western side is the area of royal apartments. In the center of this section is a nice paved hall ("reception hall" or "mansion") with the typical Minoan multy. The eastern wing consists of elongated storage areas, liquid storehouses with benches where the piths were placed, and a groove and collector system. In the south wing, which was also a two-storey building, there are living or hospitality rooms, a small sanctuary and the monumental paved southern entrance of the palace that led directly to the central courtyard. The south-western corner of the palace complex occupies eight circular structures used to store cereals (cereals). Behind the north portico of the central courtyard is the underground hall and the anteroom. West of these areas a paved corridor connects the central courtyard to the north, surrounded by workshops and warehouses, and the northwestern courtyard or "courtyard of the tower." To the west of the latter are the official spaces. In the center is the auditorium with the typical Minoan polygamy and behind it the clearing tank.

The first excavation in the area of the palace was made by Joseph Hadjidakis in 1915, who due to lack of money was forced to interrupt his investigations. However, the discovery of the palace and a large part of the city is mainly due to the French Archaeological School (headed by F. Chapouthier). The excavations continue even today.

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