THE ANCIENT CITIES OF CRETE

Herakleia - Kisamos

Herakleia. Stefanos Byzantios cites twenty-three cities of the same name. The seventeenth of them is in Crete. The national adjectives are Herakleus, Herakleiotes, Herakleotes, Herakleion, and Herakleiotikon.  

Herakleion. Herakleion city. According To Pliny, the city is called Herakleia. Tournefort and Bursian say that in antiquity the city was called Mation. Strabo cites the city twice: “Herakleion is the port of Knossos” and “the island of Dia is opposite to Herakleion of Knossos”. In the book Stadiasmoi it says: “from Astale to Herakleion, there is 100 stadia distance. It is city. It has port and water. In 20 stadia distance there is Knossos, and in 40 stadia there is an island. The island is called Dia. From Herakleion to Chersonisos it is 100 stadia distance.”. Pape distinguished Herakleion from Herakleia. In contrast to Tournefort and Bursian, Spratt located Herakleia at Herakleion and considers Mation as separate city, near Amnisos. In the Second Ecumenical Synod, Herakleion is written in Latin Heracleia. The Arabs named the city Chandac = Chandax = Candia. Cretans called the city Megalo Kastro (Great Castle) or Kastro (Castle). One century ago the city was named Herakleion. The intellectual circle of the city that wanted to replace the Arabic or Venetian name with the Greek one did this. In 29 May 1508, in 1810 and in 1856, the city was destroyed by earthquakes. From Herakleion was on of the Ten Saints Euarestos.

Hetis. (or Heteia). It is located at Petra village, Siteia. It was located in the western side of Didymo or Siteia Gulf. Ruins of walls and other ancient building are near Petra village. Diogenes Laertios says that Myson the philosopher was born there. Heteia was the port of Praisos. When Ierapytna destroyed Praisos, the citizens of Praisos who survived took refuge at Heteia. Heteia became the new capital of the state of Praisos. In inscription of 3rd century BC that was found at Praisos, Setaetai are cited twice. It seems that the name Seteia was given to the area by the Byzantine. Seteia existed in the Postminoan period, and was preserved until the Venetian period. In the second Byzantine period, the citizens moved in the hinterland and they established the village Episkopi (Bishopric) of Seteia. Seteia was the capital of Seteia province under the Venetian dominion.

The city was destroyed three times. In 1508 the city was ruined by earthquake and in 1538, by Chairendin Barbarosa. In 1648, the Turks laid siege to Seteia and the Greeks vacated the city. It was re-inhabited after two centuries. Two pashas bought the ruins of the ancient city and in 1870, the Turks built the new city Abnie that the Greeks called Limani Seteias. Vitsentzos Kornaros, the great Greek author who wrote the epic poem Erotokretos was from Seteia. In the east of the city there are ruins of Venetian castle that the Venetian destroyed by themselves in order to prevent it from the Turks (1651). “Hetis is city of Laconia, and city of Crete, whence Myson comes. Myson is cited by Plato in Protagoras.” Stef. Byzantios.

Hydramia (or Hydramon). Dramia Apokoronou. At Kefalas hill, near Dramia village. It was port of Lappa at Almyros gulf. There was found urn that testifies the existence of the city in the Postpalatial period. However, Hydramia flourished in the Roman period. There were found roman shells, and roman statue of naked Heracles. In the same area, there was the Agios Georgios monastery that was vacated in 1770 AD, when all monks were slaughtered in the catalogue of the one hundred cities of Crete of the Marcian Library, we read: “Idramia, allogiamento de forestieri, era ove hora il casale Dramia nel confine tra Rettimmo e la Canea.” (= Hydramia. Installation of foreigners. It was where now Dramia village is, at the border Rhethymnon-Chania)

Byzantios says: “Hydramia is city of Crete, as Xenion says, who wrote the Kretika. The citizens are called Hydramieis, like Megareis.” 

Idaion or Arkainsion Andron. Cave of Crete. Place of cult in northern mount Ide, at Nida upland, where Zeus is believed to have been brought up. Many votive objects have been found there. They testify the cult from Minoan period until the 4th century AD. Many of the artefacts (idols, bottles, tripods) have oriental origin. Very important are the relief bronze shields of 8th and 7th century BC, which show less influence from oriental, Assyrian, Phoenician prototypes. The objects that were unearthed show the complexity of the cult of Zeus and link this cult with the city of Axos, which had all the surrounding area under rule. In example, Anchiale, wife of Zeus and mother of Daktyloi of Ida, brings her sons up in a cave (Apollonios Rhodios, Argonautics). She was also considered mother of the founder of the city. The votive shields, boilers, cymbals, tripods, spears and arrows were found on the right of the cave opening. According to mythology, Zeus was son of Rhea and Cronus. He was born at Diktaian Andron but he was transferred to Idaion Andron. Cronus wanted to swallow Zeus in order to protect his reign. Rhea saved her son; she swaddled a stone and she gave it to Cronus, and Cronus swallowed it. Zeus was brought up by nymphs Adrasteia and Ide, and he was feed with milk from the goat Amaltheia and honey. When he was crying, the Kouretes were dancing clashing their swords with their shields. Pythagoras, Plato, and Solon had visited the cave.

Iera nesos. “Iera nesos is in the Cretan Sea as Charax says. Iera nesos is also another island near Egypt. The citizen was called Ieronesites or Ieronesios”. Stef. Byzantios.

Ierapolis. Leben or Malia. Stefanos Byzantios cites among other cities of the same name, Ierapolis of Crete. The national adjective is Ierapolitai.

Ierapytna. Ierapetra (36 kilometres from Agios Nikolaos). It was city in the southern coast of Crete. According to tradition, the city was called Cyrba, by the name Cyrbanta, its founder, who was one of the Corybantes. Then it was named Kamiros, Pytna and then Ierapytna or Ierapysna. The older names Cyrba and Kamiros show a kind of relationship with the island of Rhodes. It is probable that the first colonisers were Dorians who came to Crete via Rhodes. The Dorians were mixed with the local population. At first, Ierapytna was not important. The navy of the city was developed and was piratical. Hence, in 204-201 BC, when some Cretan cites fought with the Macedonians against Rhodes and its alliance, Ierapytna fought against Kos and Kalymnos. In 201-200 BC, Ierapytna allied with Rhodes. In 185 BC, the city signed decree with Eumenes B’.

In 145-140 BC, Ierapytna destroyed Praisos and was expanded. The city became gradually superpower. Larissa and Oleros became under the rule of Ierapytna. It was the last city that surrendered to the Romans in 68/67 BC. In the Imperial period, Ierapytna was in flourish. Servius says that Knossos and Ierapytna were the only cities that survived.

We have many coins from Ierapytna. Some of them have the image of wild boar or eagle (400-350 BC), some others the head of Zeus, phoenix or eagle (c.300 BC) and some others female head, phoenix or eagle (200-167 BC). Based on coins and inscription, in Ierapytna there were the cults of Zeus, Hera, Athena, and Apollo. In 1508 AD, Ierapetra was destroyed by earthquake. Duke of Crete was Ieronymos Donatos. The castle of Ierapetra was destroyed in 1780 AD. Three hundred Turks were killed.

“Ierapytna is city of Crete. It was called Cyrba, then Pytna, and then Ierapytna. The national adjective is Ierapytnios.” Stef. Byzantios.

Illatia. Between Allaria and Sybritos. “Illatia is city of Crete, as Polybios says. The national adjective is Illatios”. Stef. Byzantios.

Inachorion. Inachorio Kisamou. City in western Crete, which is located at Ennea Choria area. It is cited in ancient sources and catalogues of ancient cities of Crete. It is often written Innachorion.

Ippokoronion. Strabo cites the name: Ippokorona at Adramyttene and Ippokoronion in Crete. It is believed that it was name of city that was two miles south by west to Neo Chorio Apokoronou, on the Agios Mamas hill. There are ancient pieces of marble. Cornelius says “Hippocoronion sive Tanus hodie Castrum Apokoronou”. So, Ippokoronion was also called Tanos and was near Cydonia. According to Cornelius, the city was where the Venetian castle Bicorna was located, on the seaside hill near Kalyves. The name Apokoronas is cited since 1236 AD in the decree between Batantzes and Duke of Crete Istounianes. In the 2nd Byzantine period, it was called “tourma Psychrou”, maybe because of the village that Basilicata cites in 1630 AD. The are many different opinions about this city. However, we should agree that the city was called Tanos as it is written on the coins.  

Istoi. Unknown location.

Istros (or Istron). Pyrgos-Kalo Chorio Ierapetras. Based on inscriptions, we presume that Athena Polias was worshiped in the city and the leaders were called “kosmoi”. It is located in northeastern coast of Crete, near Istros River. In the area, there are some ruins.

Itanos. Ermoupolis Seteias. North by east to Toplou monastery. It is at Sidero Cape. There are ruins at the cape. The city flourished in the historic Greek and Greco-Roman period. It was established in the Prehellenic period. The name of the city is Minoan, although Stefanos Byzantios says that the city was established by the Phoenician Itanos. He established the colony for trading of purple and industry of glass. Herodotus gives us the first historic information. He says that in 630 BC, the citizens of Thera were lead by the Itanian fisherman Korybios to Libya, where they established Kyrene. Itanos became powerful and wealthy because of trading and the income from the Temple of Diktaian Zeus at Palaiokastro. The city had its own coins and public buildings covered with marble.

The constitution of the city was democracy, like every Doric city. In the 3rd century BC, there was attempt for subversion of the constitution, which was helped by Ptolemy Philadelphos of Egypt. Athena was the matron of the city. There were two temples of Athena, one in the city and one outside the city. The cult of Athena is obvious on coins of 4th century BC. Earlier coins have the image of Triton or Glaukus, sea gods. Praisos and Ierapytna wanted to take under their rule the temple of Zeus (for financial efforts) and therefore there were many wars among the three cities. After the destruction of Praisos by Ierapytna, there were many fights between Ierapytna and Itanos for the Diktaian Temple, the island Leuki, which was centre of fishing and purple industry. The decline of the city was result of the earthquake of 795 AD and of the Saracens in the 9th century. The city was inhabited until the 15th century AD when the pirates forced the habitants of the city to move to the hinterland of the island. It not cited in the decree of the Cretan cities with Eumenes B’.

“Itanos is city of Crete, which took its name by Itanos the Phoenician or by a Kourete. The citizens were called Itanioi. There is also cape of the same name.” Stef. Byzantios. 

Kaino. Kainos or Kanos. It is located where village Kaina is now, at Chania prefecture. Diodoros the Sicilian cites the city and it is believed that Britomartys Diktynna was born there.

Êairatos. Ancient Phoenician name of Knossos.

Kalamyde. Kasteli Selinou, Palaiochora. The place is at the southwestern part of Chania prefecture. It is near the estuary of Kakodikianos River. The Venetian, who called the area Castel Selino, built a small castle in 1279 AD. In 1539, Barbarossa destroyed it. In 1834, Pashley found Selino Kastelli utterly destroyed. There are also ruins of Roman house at Trochaloi.

Kaloi Limenes. Bay near the city of Lasaia, at Kaloi Limenes. Bay at the Libyan Sea, in the south coast of Herakleion prefecture, between the capes Lithino and Kefalas. In the bay, there were four islands, Papadoplaka, Megalonisi, Mokronisi, and Trafos. In the coast there are the settlements Kaloi Limenes and Platia Peramata. Apostle Paul stopped at Kaloi Limenes on his way to Italy. There is also an English shipwreck of 1827 AD. Today the bay is modern, secure, and well equipped.

Kamara. Agios Nikolaos. The citizen was called Kamarites or Kamaraios. Lato pros Kamaran. Port of Lato he Hetera at Merambelo Gulf. Although the city was established in the archaic period, flourished in the 2nd century BC, when the citizens of Lato he Hetera, abandoned their city and settled in the city. The two cities were one administrative unit. They worshiped Eileithyia. They had one currency. The coins had the image of Eileithyia or Artemis and Hermes with the word Lation. The Latians had good relationship with Elounda, Dreros, Milatos and Minoa.

In the Venetian dominion (1204-1669), Enrico Pescatore, pirate from Genova, built the castle on the top of the hill. They named it Merambello, because the location had very nice view of the whole bay. The city of Agios Nikolaos declined in the Turkish dominion. It was re-inhabited by Cretans from Sfakia in 1860s. The lake of the city is very famous. According to tradition, Athena and Britomartys Artemis used to have bath there. The Venetian called it Mantrakio. In 1867, Kostas Adosides, Christian pasha, linked the lake with sea and cleaned the water of the lake.

Stefanos Byzantios says, “Kamara is city of Crete. The citizen is called Kamarites, as Xenion says in his “Cretan issues”. It was also called Lato.”

Kantanos. Kantanos Selinou. The village has still the name of the ancient city. Kantanos is cited by all ancient writers. Modern writers call it Kandanos. Pashley says that Kantanos was near the villages Kadros, Spaniako, and Kalamos, at the hill, which is near Blithia or Kakodikianos or Stratos River. De Sanctis does not agree with Pashley. He located the city where the village is now. Before the World Wars, the Greek archaeologist Theofanides excavated the area. He discovered a large Roman building. The floor has mosaics with linear decoration, circles, and lozenges. There was found the base of the statue of the Roman emperor Septimus Sebirus (193-211 AD). Kantanos was inhabited until the Byzantine period, when it was Bishopric, and the Arabs destroyed it. It was not reconstructed. The bishopric was re-established in the second Byzantine period, since 1210-1212 Kantanos existed. “Kantanos is city of Crete as Xenion says. The national adjective is Kantanios.” Stef. Byzantios.

Karnessopolis. Lyktos. Hesychius says: “Karnessopolis was called the Cretan city of Lyktos”.

Katre. In the location Vate or Sterna, at Krapis basin, near Askyfou. P.Faure assumes that Katre was at Kadros Selinou. Pausanias says that is was established by the Hero Katreas, son of Minos. According to mythology, Menelaos was in Katre, guest of Katreas, when Paris abducted Helen from Sparta. Stefanos Byzantios informs us: “Katre is Ionic city of Crete, as Herodianos says… The national adjective is Katraios like Askraios”.

Kaudo. Gavdos. “Kaudo is island near Crete, where there are big wild asses”. Soudas. Strabo cites it as Gaudos.

Kaunos (or Kaudos). The island Gavdos. The earlier relics on the island belong to the Neolithic period. Information on the inhabitation of Gaudos since the Neolithic period is given by the ancient writers, Herodotus, Strabo, Ptolemy, and Hierocles. It is certain that Gaudos is inhabited since the third millennium BC and until today. Until now, there have been spotted sixty-three archaeological locations, the fifty of which have been searched. At Ai Yiannis and at Lavraka bay, there are obvious signs of flourishing in the Hellenistic and Roman period. This area is already been declared as archaeological area. In 1927, F. Halbherr discovered at the Praetorium of Gortys, the two first parts of inscribed limestone. Many years later, in 1960, there was found the third part of the inscription at Messara. The text is the decree between Gortys and Kaudos. The decree testifies friendship between the two cities in the 3rd century BC. The text is written in Doric Cretan dialect and prescribes rights and obligations of Kaudos to Gortys. This is a short and free translation of the decree:

“The Gortynians provide the right to the Kaudians to dwell their island, free and autonomous, with their own courts and laws, and with the constitution the Gortynians established. The citizens of Kaudos have to follow the Gortynians in war and in peace, and to pay the dekate, i.e. the 1/10 of their products apart from animals and vegetables. In addition they have to give five thousand choes of salt from the total production, two hundred medimnos fruits of the tree cedar, if the harvest was good, and sixty, if the harvest was bad.”

Salt and oil of cedar fruits were used in pharmaceutics and preservation of ships. Those were the main products of the island and along with the income from the ports, they were the basic elements of their economy. Another important artefact from Gaudos is a headless statuette of woman, which Spratt transferred in 1865 to the British Museum in London. The statuette belongs probably to the 2nd century AD. In the Roman period, the island is in decline. In the 2nd century AD, emperor Andrianos gives the island to Sparta. In the byzantine period, the island was byzantine province with its own bishop. Later Gaudos is again in decline. In the Venetian dominion, Gaudos becomes trading centre of the Mediterranean. However, due to the pirates, the island is not re-inhabited. The Venetians wanted to build fortifications but they did not due to the high cost. Stefanos Byzantios says that there is one city of this name in Karia and one in Crete. The national adjective is Kaunios and Kaunaios.

Keraia. Rokka Kissamou. Keraia was autonomous city of Crete. The coins of the city have the representations of Artemis and Apollo. The citizen was called Keraites or Keretes. It was ally to Polyrrenia in the wars against Knossos (221-220 BC). Polybios says that the city was near Polyrrenia (based mainly on the coins of the two cities and the representations on them). Bursian is of the same opinion and he believes that the city was located where Rokka village is now. The city was one of those that singed the decree with EumenesB’. Soudas says that the famous poet Kretikos Rhianos was from Bene or Keraia.

Kisamos. Kalami Apokoronou. This is the second city of the name Kisamos. It was the port of Aptera. Spratt located the city near the village Kalyves Apokoronou.

Kisamos. Kasteli at Kisamos. Port of Polyrrenia. Pliny located the city near Pergamos and Cydonia. On the other hand, Ierokles located the city between Cydonia and Kantanos. According to Ptolemy, Kisamos was located at Kisamos bay, at the ruins near Kasteli Kisamou. Although it was port of Polyrrenia, the city was autonomous and had its own coins. The coins have the image of Hermes and a dolphin.

The ancient port was at the location Mavros Molos. The ruins of the ancient city are away from the sea, because the land of western Crete upraised. Kisamos flourished in the Roman period. In that period, the city had very famous theatre. The mosaics of Kisamos are considered the best of the 2nd and 3rd century AD. At Krya Brysi location, there are ruins of Roman aqueduct. In the Byzantine period, it had bishopric. The Venetians built fortifications. The Classical and Hellenistic city was at Seli hill. The Greco-Roman and Byzantine city was where the today city is located.

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