History and Culture

 In Crete, Mythology, Archaeology, and History intertwine, creating bridges between ancestral memory, imagination, and facts. The history of Crete is age-long and should be traced back to the primordial myths and legends, when Zeus, the father of gods and humans, was born in a cave in Crete. Later on, Crete became the land of King Minos, son of Zeus and Phoenician princess Europa, and thus, a realm of glory in Greek mythology.

 Archaeological discoveries show that humans have inhabited the island since at least 130,000 years ago, during the Paleolithic Age, and communities that had lived in densely built settlements are recorded from the Neolithic (7000-3000 BC). In the Middle Bronze Age, Crete was the center of an astonishing advanced civilization, the Minoans, that flourished from 2000 BC until the total destruction around 1450 BC, by causes - either a natural cataclysm or war conflicts - for which there is no consensus among researchers. Today, millions of tourists visit the Palaces & Archaeological sites of Knossos, Phaistos, or Malia – just to mention the most important ones – and the Museums of History in the cities, willing to explore the amazing remnants of this brilliant early civilization, regarded as the Cradle of Western Civilization.

 Traveling back in time, we see that many civilizations and cultures left their marks on this island, both those of greatness and decay. From period to period, attacks, sieges, wars of invasions, and centuries of domination, proved the interest of the expansionist powers like Romans, Arabs, Venetians, Ottomans in Crete's wealth and geostrategic position, at the junction of three continents and four seas.

 After the fade of the Minoan superpower, the island was invaded and eventually conquered by Achaean and Dorian warrior tribes, living the so-called Dark Age (1200 BC – 800 BC). To protect themselves, the residents of the coastline took refuge in the mountains, building impregnable fortified cities like Karfi, Flektro, Kastro by Kavoussi, Azorias, Vrondas, Kastrokefala, Kyrimianos, Fratiani Kefala, etc.

 The Classic Hellenistic time started in the 8th BC century and lasted until 69 AC when Romans succeed in their second attempt of invasion. During this period, independent and autonomous Greek cities like Gortyn, Eleftherna, Cydonia, Pylos, Praisos, and others flourished over the ruins of Minoan palaces, getting to establish trade relations and alliances between them and subsequently creating the "common of Cretans" based in Knossos.

 As a vassal province, during the First Roman occupation (69 AC - 330 AC), the island accepts the influence of Christianity apparently with the contribution of Apostle Titus, a disciple of the Apostle Paul, and establishes its first Christian church. From 395 AD Crete falls in the Eastern Roman Empire and knows a peaceful and happy period called the Byzantine Era, from which the wealth and cultural refinement are still visible in the beautiful mosaic floors or in the frescoes of the basilicas, chapels, and monasteries that were built.

 Under Arab Rule (824-961 AD), Crete has experienced an extensive trade and agricultural expansion, serving at the same time as a base harbor for pirate fleets, and as the main slave market. The Venetians (1205–1669) modernized the old castles built by the Arabs, built new castles and fortified cities, having a significant influence on architecture, art, and the literature of Crete. The oppressive Ottoman Domination (1669–1898), was characterized by long-lasting heroic struggles and revolts, ended with the victorious  Great Cretan Revolution, celebrated today on ”Independence Day”, the 25th of March Greek National Holiday.

 After a short period of autonomy, in 1913, Crete united with the independent Greek State, fulfilling a centuries-old dream of its inhabitants. The island played a major role during World War II, when forcibly became the theater of military operations of the German Nazi army, at the same time, writing a dramatic page of the resistance movement of the civilian population.

 Despite so many historical twists and cultural influences, Crete managed to tailor its unique and strong character, which embodies the synergy between its traditional-rustic and modern-cosmopolitan features. People seem to be connected with the ancestral memory of the earth in which they have their roots, with the imposing history and cultural heritage of the Greek nation, and with the source of divine inspiration which is eternally generating creative visions, originality in thinking, and refinement in artistic expression.