This island's fertile soil
and towering peaks witnessed the development of one of the most important
civilizations on Earth, the Minoan (2800-1150 B.C.). In successive phase,
the Minoans built palace-states, the famous palatial centres of Knossos,
Phaistos, Malia, Zakros (1700-1450 B.C.).
the painters and ceramists show
us the limits the refinement of art can reach.
Ther frescoes bring us close to
the soul of that world, peace-loving but at the same time powerful. A geological
catastrophe- the eruption of tghe volcano of Santorini in 1450 BC halted
the Minoan civilization at its pick.But life did not stop. Through shipping,
commerce and trade with other people Phoenicians, Syrians, Egyptians -
opened up new horizons. With the invasion of the Achaians and Dorians on
the island the new cities of Lato and Aptera were founded. Lato became
the most important city on Crete (7th century BC) until the roman occupation
(69-330 AC). The most distinguished place those days was Gortyn.
But Christianity came to the island
early. During the Byzantine era the wealth of Crete was shown off in the
mosaic floors of its basilicas and in half the churches of Grece.
But invasions never stopped since
many were interested in this rich island.
First Crete fell into the hands
of Arabs for a long period of 137 years (824-961). Handak -the nowardays
city of Iraklio- was founded. Then in 1204, the island passed to the Venetians.
They fortified the old castles at Handak and built new ones at Gramvoussa,
Spinalonga, Francokastello, Ierapetra, Plaeochora. They broke the ground
for new cities (Hania and Rethymno) and built the fortifications, essencial
to their defense. Inside the walls the cities developed with narrow alleyways
and residential blocks, interspersed with decorative piazzas, fountains,
churches and palaces, remains of which can still be seen today, with most
characteristic example the old city in Rethymno town which is the only
well-preserved Renaissance town in Greece.
In spite all these invasions and
the many revolutions of the population, the island continued to develop
economically and culturally. Painting and litterature flurished.
Domenicos Theotocopoulos (El Greco), Damaskinos and other iconographers
painted exquisite portaits. And wonderful ballads were written and by Hartatzis
about the suffering of Erotokritos and Erophili.
In 1645 the Muslim conquerors who
had already conquered the rest of Greece, set foot on the island for the
first time, while in 1669 the whole island fell to the Turks. Not until
1913 was the island untited with the rest of Greece.