HISTORY OF CRETE
‘In the middle of the wine dark sea is a country called Crete, lovely and prosperous and surrounded by water’ Homer, The Odyssey.
Crete is the most southerly and largest of all the Greek islands. It is rich in scenic variety and steeped in history and legend.
It’s splendid climate is matched by the warmth of it’s people who offer generous hospitality to any foreigners.
Over the centuries this island has been ruled by many nations who prized it’s ideal location.
The visible reminders of Crete varied history include the Minoan palaces, Venetian fortresses, elegant houses and the exotic Turkish mosques and minarets.
3000-1400BC While the rest of the world was still in the stone age era, a new civilisation began in Crete from migrants of Asia Minor, Egypt and Libya.
These people were known as the Minoans after their king Minos.
They were a prosperous and peaceful race, strong and graceful, who indulged in a spectacular and often cruel sacred ceremony to worship the bull.Beautiful palaces were built, the most famous of which is KNOSSOS, just outside the capital, Heraklion, which has been excavated and reconstructed just this century.
The Minoan race disappeared about 1400BC and the reason for their decline is still unknown. Some say the volcanic eruption on the neighbouring island of Santorini caused a great tidal wave, followed by tremendous earthquakes which destroyed them.
Others believe they became obsessed with a religion involving the dead. After the Minoan era Crete slipped into obscurity and its commercial power declined. Tall, blonde Dorians from the north over-ran the island. 67BC- 395AD.
The Romans came to settle the island feuds and stayed on as governors.
They made Gortyna their capital and in their usual fashion built roads, temples, villas and aqueducts. St. Paul arrived in 59AD bringing Christianity to Crete. AD 395- 824.
The Roman Empire divided into east and west and Crete fell under the rule of Byzantium AD 824- 961.
In the 9 century the Saracen Arabs conquered Crete and it became a pirate base and slave market of the Mediterranean. AD 961- 1204.
Eventually the Byzantines liberated and reclaimed Crete. However, during the fourth crusade when Byzantium fell, Crete was sold to Venice. AD1204- 1669 Crete thrived under the Venetians, despite initial revolts.
They named the island and the capital city CANDIA.
It was a time of great public building especially at Heraklion harbour, prominently displaying the lion of St.Mark.
The island even had its own renaissance, during which several artists emerged, the most famous being El Greco. AD1669- 1898.
After 21 years of battle Crete fell to the Turks and the island slipped back into the dark ages.
Culture, buildings and the island itself deteriorated and there were years of violent revolution. Always known for their independence of spirit, the Cretans declared they wanted freedom or death.
The Turks were expelled in 1898 by the allied powers of Europe and Crete reunion with Greece finally came about in 1913. AD1913- PRESENT. After decades of peace and growing prosperity, disaster struck again in 1941.
The rapid advance of the Germans forced the allied forces to retreat to Crete, resulting in a 10 day battle in a valiant attempt to defend the island.
Though the Germans won, it was an expensive victory. During the occupation that followed, many Cretans carried on guerilla warfare and managed to survive under harsh conditions.
When the war was over in 1945 much of Crete was in ruins from the bombing. Gradually the island restored its agriculture and commerce and in the 1960 tourism came to Crete.
The most recent development in the history of this island is the entry of Greece into the European Economic Community