The Stones of Greece

Minoan Crete

Minoan Chronology

Early Minoan I 3300-2900 BC

Early Minoan IIA 2900-2550 BC

Early Minoan IIB 2550-2300 BC

Pre-Palatial (EM III/MM IA) 2300-1900 BC (Vasilike, Myrtos, Debla, Mochlos)

Proto-Palatial (MM IIA-MM IIIA) 1900-1700 BC (Knossos, Phaistos, Malia)

Neo-Palatial (MMIIIB) 1700-1600 BC (Ayia Triadha, Tylissos, Kommos, Akrotiri-Thira)

Neo-Palatial (LM IA-LM IB) 1600-1450 BC (Vathypetro, Kommos, Palaikastro)

Late Minoan II through Late Minoan IIIA/B 1450-1200 BC (Kydonia) (Kommos, Vathypetro)

Late Minoan IIIC 1200-1150 BC

This modern chronology is from Yannis Hamilakis' book, “The Labyrinth Revisited: Rethinking 'Minoan' Archaeology.” Oxbow Books, Oxford, 2002

Herakleion Archeological Museum****

The Ladies of Knossos, restored fresco at the Herkleion Museum (1500 BC)

Harp Player Geometric Period bronze (10th-6th cent BC), Photo Lessing
Note the refinement of the Minoan fresco compared to the expressiveness of the early Greek geometric art!

The superb Harakleion Museum has for decades been one of our favorites. The museum has been closed for renovations since November 2006. A temporary exhibition is now open within the museum where the main artifacts (including the Phaistos Disk, Snake Goddess, Bull-Leaping and King of the Lillies Frescoes) are on display. The temporary exhibition includes approximately 450 items in chronological order with the explanatory plaques and context plaques.
There is still the fabulous Latsis' Museum Catalog

Fournou Korifi**
2900-2550 BC

Southeastern coast near Myrtos

Fournou Korifi, Panoramio

A unique EMII settlement

This extremely important Early Minoan site is situated on the top and upper slopes of a steep hill, overlooking the Libyan sea, a few hundred metres from the present-day village of Myrtos and even closer to another Early Minoan site, Pyrgos, which lies between Fournou Korifi and the modern village. It is important because it belongs to only one period of Minoan history - EM II - and therefore gives vital information about this period which may not be so readily available at other sites where EM II deposits cannot be so clearly defined.

The site was excavated by Peter Warren in 1967 and fully published within a few years. Warren detected two distinct periods of development -- the first occurring in Early Minoan IIA and the second in Early Minoan IIB at the end of which the site was destroyed by fire. The first phase of development occupied a much smaller area than the second phase of about 100 rooms which Warren interpreted as a single communal settlement for about 100-120 people (perhaps a clan or extended family) living in one group without signs of hierarchy.
From uk.digiserve

Mochlos Island
2550-1450 BC
North coast, east of Ag. Nikolaos

The archeological site of Mochlos Island, Panoramio

Mochlos was first excavated by Richard Seager in 1908 at the western end of the island, where a prepalatial cemetery was found. At that time, tombs, pithos burials and pit graves were uncovered, as well as two large tombs at the western tip of the island. In the 1970s, Jeffrey Soles documented the tombs and cemetery uncovered by Seager. The cemetery was in use from Early Minoan II to Middle Minoan IA.

The main Minoan settlement is at the south end of the island. The earliest buildings are from Early Minoan IB and the ruins visible today on Mochlos date from Late Minoan IB. Northwest of the modern town of Mochlos, a three-storey building was found from the Late Minoan I period. The building included two pillar crypts, a staircase and a kitchen. This building is the largest of the Late Minoan I town.

16th cent -1450 BC

Knossos today, photo

The ruins were discovered by Minos Kalokairinos in 1878. Sir Arthur Evan excavated the site and reconstructed it partially between 1901 to 1931, which is the reason for some concrete parts in the ruins of today

Plan of Knossos, Planetware

Reconstruction of the Palace, photo civfanatics

which in turn I found through: Wikipedia

A further discussion and Photos from Ian Swindale, uk.digiserve collated with various Wikipedia articles:

Prepalatial Knossos

Knossos has been inhabited longer than any other site in Crete. The first, Neolithic, settlers probably arrived some time before 7000 BCE, making their the first settlement on what was to be the eventual site of the palace. These settlers did not make pottery but grew crops and kept animals. Over the millennia, the site slowly grew in size and pottery began to be used. The transition from Neolithic to Early Minoan (i.e. Early Bronze Age) at Knossos probably took place in the middle of the 4th millennium BCE. The site developed through the EM I, EM II, EM III and Middle Minoan IA periods, and large buildings were constructed on the site that predate the first Palace.

Old Palace

The old palace was built during the Middle Minoan IB period. Not much of it remains as the New Palace was built on the same site. It is not clear whether or not the Old Palace grew from the building of a collection of buildings. What is clearer is that there were two main phases in its construction. During the second phase, the West Court was laid out on a terrace outside the palace and the kouloures, round pits, were dug into it.- The Old Palace was destroyed at the end of Middle Minoan II, possibly by an earthquake, but almost certainly by natural means. The Palace was immediately rebuilt in LM IA.

New Palace

The Throne Room (1450 BC)

On the West Side of the New Palace is one of the most famous of rooms unearthed by Evans, the "Throne Room"(1450 BC)

The “Throne Room”, Evan's “lustral basin” hides behind the columns at left. The frescoes are heavily retored.

With its low ceiling and lack of windows it was separated from the Central Court by an anteroom. Archaeologists Helga Reusch and Friedriech Matz suggested that the throne room was a sanctuary of a female divinity and that a priestess that sat there was her impersonator. The stone benches around the walls suggest a sitting council or perhaps a court, while a sunken area, called by Evans "lustral basin", partially partitioned off at one side, was used for ritual bathing. According to various views, the throne itself may have actually had more religious than political significance, functioning in the re-enactment of epiphany rituals involving a High Priestess, as suggested by the iconography of griffins, palms, and altars in the wall-paintings.

Plan of the Throne Room, from odysseyadventures

The Grand Staircase

The Grand Staircase, photo Roger Wood/corbis

The highlight of the East Wing is the Grand Staircase and the rooms below it. The excavation of the Grand Staircase proved to be a major headache to Evans and his team, not least because it was actually quite a dangerous undertaking. Amazingly much of the staircase had been preserved in place even though a lot of the support had been built using wood which had carbonised in the ensuing period.

The staircase descends four flights to the Hall of the Double Axes. On their way down, the stairs open onto two colonnaded landings. Halfway down the stairs there is an area which Evans called the Upper Hall of the Double Axes. At the bottom of the stairs lies the Hall of the Double Axes proper.

The Hall of the Double Axes was a double chamber with an inner and an outer space. The inner space could be closed off by eleven sets of double doors. A similar arrangement can be seen in the "royal rooms" at the Palace of Phaistos. Presumably some aspects of the religious rituals performed in this hall were public and others were not, and so it was necessary to be able to close off the inner area from the view of others.

Room of the Snake Goddesses

The two snake goddeses found in a “temple repository”
ceramic painted, left 35 cm, right 20cm high
Photos: odysseyadventures

They are the famous possessions of the Archeological Museum of Herakleion,

An elaborate description of Knosos is found at Odyssey: Adventures in Archeology,
Sir Arthur Eveans (1921-35) The Palace of Minos (pdf)

Mt. Youktas Minoan Sanctuary**
Prominent mountain due south of Knossos

The chapel on Mt. Youktas south of the Minoan Sanctuary

Mount Juktas (ΓΙΟΥΚΤΑ) is the site of one of the most important peak sanctuaries in the Minoan world. It is also probably the first of the peak sanctuaries.

The mountain remained important in the religious life of the people of the area up to this day - a Greek Orthodox chapel is located a few hundred meters south of the Minoan sanctuary along the ridge of the mountain. Every year, people from towns down in the plains below Mount Juktas bring flowers in procession to the chapel.
For more detailed description of sanctuary and photos see uk.digiservice

Archanes-Phourni Necropolis*
2400 - 1200 BC

Shaft Graves

Further evidence of the importance of the burials were the stelai placed above the graves (although they had fallen onto the graves in the distant past). Grave stelai are almost unknown in Crete and are usually associated with Mycenaean Greece. The Mycenaean Grave Enclosure at Phourni brings to mind the Grave Circles A and B at Mycenae where stelai were also placed at the head of certain graves.

The long term and systematic excavations on the site, which began in 1964 and lasted for about three decades, were conducted by the Sakellarakis under the auspices of the Athens Archaeological Society.

Tholos thomb B (before 2000 BC) excavated by Efi and John Sakellarakis.

Continuing southwards through the cemetery we come to Tholos Tomb B. It was built before 2000 BC at the end of the Early Bronze Age and was almost certainly used for the burial of people of royal descent up until LM IIIA so it remained in use for hundreds of years.

Although the Tholos Tomb B complex, which numbers 12 spaces, underwent modifications, especially during the early period of its existence, it was essentially a rectangular complex with the tholos at its centre.

The south west chamber of Tholos B seems to have been built around the larnax which it contained, since it would have been impossible to manoeuvre the larnax into the chamber afterwards. The larnax was in fact an ossuary, containing the bones of 19 people, including two children. Most of the people had died below the age of 35.
From uk.digiservice

Archanes Vathypetro**
1580-1470 BC

The Manor House at Vathypetro, Panoramio

Vathypetro (Greek: Βαθύπετρο) is an archaeological site, four kilometres south of the town of Archanes. It contains some of the oldest wine presses in the world. Excavations began in 1949 by the Greek archaeologist Spyridon Marinatos. The estate contains a manor house or villa which had a prominent role in the rural region around Archanes. The complex consists of several buildings, courtyards and workshop spaces. Next to the individual houses is the Minoan wine press, a plant for the production of olive, a Minoan kiln and ceramics, and the remains of an ancient pottery workshop.
Detailed description and photos: uk.digiservice

Anemospilia Temple Sacrifice*
17th cent BC

Archeological site of the temple of Anemospilia - clearly visble in GE. Panoramio

Excavations carried out there in the 1980s by the Efi and John Sakellarakis showed evidence of what appeared to have been a human sacrifice aroused much controversy, as it contradicted the conventional view of Minoan civilization as humane and peaceful. It is one of three sites that have provided such evidence: along with Fournou Korifi in southern Crete (a peak sanctuary complex), and Knossos (in a building known as the "North House"). At Anemospilia were found ruins of a supposed temple destroyed by earthquake during the Middle Minoan Period. The skeleton of a man was found on a raised platform in a position that led the Sakellarakis to claim that he had been tied up for sacrifice, and that the platform was a sacrificial altar. Pathological evidence shows that the body was half-drained of blood.

What appears to be a bronze dagger found among his bones, discolored on one side of his body reinforced this argument. Three other skeletons (of priests) were found in the temple, some with broken bones, appeared to have been killed in a sudden earthquake. Nanno Marinatos disagreed with this version and maintained that all died in an earthquake; that the building was not a temple, and that the knife was really a spearhead and could have fallen from elsewhere during the earthquake. The Sakellarakis' arguments appear more convincing than those advanced against the human sacrifice theory in regard to the skeletons of children that appeared to have been butchered that were found at Knossos during the Late Minoan period.

19th cent-1450 BC/2nd cent AD

North coat, just east of Herakleion

The small archeological site at Amnissos, Panoramio

The first habitation in the area of Palaiochora (Amnissos) dates from the Middle Minoan period (19th century B.C.). The site is mentioned as a-mi-mi-so in the Linear B tablets. The Minoan "Villa of the Lilies" was destroyed by fire in the 15th century B.C. but complexes C and E continued to be inhabited until the 12th century B.C. In the Archaic period (7th century B.C.) the sanctuary of Zeus Thenatas was founded and remained in use until the 2nd century A.D. After a long period of abandonment, the hill was again inhabited during the Venetian occupation.

The first excavations of the site were conducted at the villa by Spyridon Marinatos in 1929-1938
Hellenic Ministy of Culture and Tourism

Cave of Eileithyia*
Neolithic 4000-1300 BC -500 AD

South of Amnissos

Entry to the cave, Panoramio

The object of veneration, Panoramio

Eileithyia was a goddess that protected childbirth and this cave was an important place of her worship. According to tradition she was born by Hera inside this cave, which is also mentioned by Homer in the Odyssey (t 188). The finds proove that it was continuously used from Neolithic until late Roman times, with more intensive occupation noted for the Neolithic, Minoan, and late Roman periods. Evidence for cult practice in the Early Christian times (5th century A.D.) also exists.

A limited investigation was carried out in 1885 by Joseph Chatzidakis. The site was systematically excavated by Spyridon Marinatos in 1929-1938. The cave of Eileithyia is 64.5 m. deep and entered from the east. Inside there was a rectangular anteroom and a rectangular peribolos surrounding cylindrical stalagmites (altar or cella).

A courtyard with altars outside the cave was probably used for ceremonial activities. Buildings of the 14th-13th centuries B.C. were discovered here and interpreted as priests' houses by their excavator.

4000 - 1450 BC

In the Messara, central south coast

Phaistos is a wonderful site, trees, shade, not too large and empty compared to Knossos. Panoramio

It was a "royal" residence rather than a city. Phaistos was inhabited from around 4000 BC. A palace, dating from the Middle Bronze Age, was destroyed by an earthquake during the Late Bronze Age. Knossos along with other Minoan sites were destroyed at that time. The palace was rebuilt toward the end of the Late Bronze Age.

Plan of Phaistos, Planetware

The first palace was built about 2000 BC. This section is on a lower level than the west courtyard and has a nice facade with a plastic outer shape, a cobbled courtyard, and a tower ledge with a ramp, which leads up to a higher level. The old palace was destroyed three times in a time period of about three centuries. After the first and second disaster, reconstruction and repairs were made, so there are distinguished three construction phases. Around 1400 BC, the invading Achaeans destroyed Phaistos, as well Knossos. The palace appears to have been unused thereafter, as evidence of the Mycenaean era has not been found.

Excavation dates:
1874, Federico Halbherr
1900–1904, 1950–1971, Italian School of Archaeology at Athens
Since 2007 the Phaistos Project has been conducting a survey and exchange of information about the Phaistos region

Agia Triada***
16th cent - 1450 BC

10 km west of Phaistos

The grand stair case, Panoramio

Hagia Triada, like nearby Phaistos, was excavated from 1900 to 1908 by a group from the Scuola Archeologica Italiana di Atene, directed by Federico Halbherr and Luigi Pernier. The site includes a town and a miniature "palace", an ancient drainage system servicing both, and Early Minoan tholos tombs. The settlement was in use, in various forms, from Early Minoan I until the fires of Late Minoan IB.

Agia Triada Sarcophagus in the Herakleion Museum

The archeologists unearthed a sarcophagus painted with illuminating scenes from Cretan life. It is the only limestone sarcophagus of its era discovered to date and the only sarcophagus with a series of narrative scenes of Minoan funerary ritual. However it is possible that the Minoan religious beliefs were mixed with the beliefs of the Myceneans, who captured the island in 14 th century BC. It was originally used for the burial of a prince.

In the centre of one of the long sides of the sarcophagus is a scene with a bull sacrifice. On the left of the second long side a woman wearing a crown is carrying two vessels.By her side a man dressed in a long robe is playing a seven string lyre. This is the earliest picture of the lyre known in classical Greece.

In front of them another woman is emptying the contents of a vessel-perhaps the blood of the sacrificed bull-into a second vessel, possibly as an invocation to the soul of the deceased. It seems that the blood of the bull was used for the regeneration of the reappearing dead.

This scene reminds us a description of Homer, where the dead needed blood. On the left three men holding animals and a boat are approaching a male figure without arms and legs and presumably he represents the dead man receiving gifts. The boat is oferred for his journey to the next world. According to a Minoan belief, beyond the sea , there was the island of the happy dead Elysion, where the departured could have a different but happier existence. Rhadamanthys was the judge of the Elysion, and this idea probably predates some later Orphic beliefs.
Text and photo from Wikipedia

1900 -1450 BC

On the east coast

Zakros excavation area.

The Minoan town was dominated by the Palace of Zakros, originally built around 1900 BC, rebuilt around 1600 BC, and destroyed around 1450 BC along with the other major centers of Minoan civilization.

Plan of Zakros, Planetware

Zakros was the last of the major palaces to be discovered and is smaller than the other three at Knossos, Malia and Phaistos. The original excavations were begun by D.G. Howarth of the British School of Archaeology at Athens, and 12 houses in the town surrounding the Palace, whose existence remained unknown, were unearthed before the excavation was abandoned. Nikolaos Platon resumed the excavation in 1961 and was able to unearth a palace which had not been looted at the time of its destruction. The excavations have continued until the present day. The excavation represents one of the most important for Minoan archaeology since the Second World War, and the lateness of its discovery allowed it to be excavated using more modern and more scientific methods than those adopted in the excavation of the other Palaces some 60 years earlier.

The Palace of Zakros probably acted as the Minoan gateway to the east and this view is supported by various movable finds on the site which had come from the Middle East. Like the other palaces, Zakros was rebuilt after the earthquake destruction of the old palaces. The second palace was built around 1600 BCE and finally destroyed around 1450 BCE, along with the other centres of Minoan civilisation in Crete. Fortunately many artefacts were left in situ, probably due to the suddenness of the destruction. The palace covered 8,000 square metres, contained 150 rooms and had a Central Court measuring about 30 metres by 12 metres, considerably smaller than that of Knossos.

The excavators (1960) found few archeological remnants but an unusually large number of vases, precious objects, pithoi, linear A insciptions, etc, which can now be admired in the Herakleion Archeological Museum.

Rython, Feience

Bull's Head

Rython, Crystal Quartz

Some of the exceptional objects found in Zakro, Herakleion Museum

The harbour was connected to the Palace by a road and the complex was entered by the north-east entrance which led to the central court, where the base of an altar can still be seen. To the north west of the central court were the magazines (store rooms) and to the south the Hall of Ceremonies. Fresco remains were found here, together with cult objects which had presumably fallen from the floor above, as has been noticed so often at Minoan palaces. Among the finds were two rhytons. The first was the famous bull's head rhyton and the second showed a tripartite peak sanctuary.

The “lustral basin” in the shrine of the West Wing

The shrine in the west wing included a “lustral basin”. The role of these lustral basins has been disputed amongst scholars. Some believe that they were domestic bathrooms, especially when located adjacent to rooms which are considered to be some kind of royal apartment. On the other hand, many scholars argue that they have a purely religious function and that they were probably used for ritual cleansing. Certainly the presence of gypsum in many lustral basins would rule out large quantities of water being used in them as the gypsum would dissolve over time. Those who believe that the lustral basins were purely for ritual purposes argue that any ritual cleansing would have been done using water from jugs rather than filling the bottom of the basin with water.

The west wing shrine itself was a small room with two benches, and here various libation vases were found. The Treasury contained a large number of important vessels, including one of rock crystal and many of stone. In the Archive Room boxes with tablets inscribed with Linear A were stored.

The buildings at the north-east corner of the court contain another lustral basin, now roofed over for protection, in which remains of frescos showing sacred objects like double axes and horns of consecration were found.

The Palace was surrounded by the town, of which only a part has so far been excavated. The houses were often quite large, containing up to 30 rooms, with small storage rooms built around a large room with a bench and a central support. The houses were arranged in blocks and both olive oil and wine presses were found in the town. It is almost certain that some of the buildings were not houses, however, but buildings belonging to the palace.

In one such building Hogarth discovered 500 clay sealings with images of imaginary creatures. South of the harbour road a furnace was discovered which, judging by its size, must have been one of the most important in this part of the Mediterranean.

The site is very remote, and involves a long drive across fairly barren countryside, but the final drive down to the seashore and the setting of Zakros itself is spectacular. A few tavernas line the beach offering shade, food and drink after your time under the relentless sun.

At the beach is a notorious resort which has drawn attention in 2002 by violent drunken binges and sexploitations.
From uk.digiserve

Zakros, Valley of the Dead*
2400 BC- recently

Zakros, the Canyon of the the Dead Panoramio

Kato Zakros is about a forty-five minute drive from Zakros, but many opt to reach the palace by a three hour trek through the spectacular gorge which connects the two villages and is known as the "Valley of the Dead" because of the cave tombs, Minoan and later, which are carved into its walls. If you opt for the walk though the gorge, it would be a good idea to arrange for a way to get back to your car afterwards since there is no local transportation in Kato Zakros.

1650-1450 BC.

North coast, 40 km, east of Herakleion

The grand staircase of the second palace at Malia built 1650 BC. Its predecessor was detroyed by an earthquake. In 1460 BC Malia like the other coastal Minoan palaces was destroyed by the heatwave and tsunami from the Thira volcanic explosion.

Bull Dancer,
gold ring ~1400 BC
(3 times nat. size)

Pendent, Two bees representing the
chthonic Bee Goddess 1200 BC

Priestessess before the Great Goddess with
Double Butterfly Axe, gold ring 1500 BC
(3 times nat. size)

Storage vessel.

The palace of Malia was discovered in 1915 by Hadzidakis, a Greek archaeologist. It was fully excavated from 1922 onwards by the French School at Athens in collaboration with Greek scholars. Importantly, the palace was surrounded by a Minoan town which has only recently been uncovered. Excavation is ongoing

At 7,500 square metres, it is the third largest of the Minoan palaces. The Minoan name for the Palace is not known and it takes its name from a local town.

The first palace to be constructed on the site was built around 1900 BCE. Little is known of this palace though some finds from the Old Palace period attest to the wealth. The second palace, the ruins of which we see today, was built about 1650 BCE and is similar to the old one. The second palace was destroyed around 1450 BCE, along with the other Minoan sites in Crete. The various functions of a palace -- religious, political, economic -- are all in evidence here.

The Pillar Crypt

A “pillar crypt” is entered from the Main Hall, and two large pillars can still be seen in the rooom, one of which has the engraving of a double axe on it. Pillar crypts exist in other palaces and in other buildings as well and their use is assumed to be religious.

The Malia Kernos

A kernos is located to the south of the central court, near the south entrance to the palace. It is so named because it resembles a kernos from the classical period: Offerings to the gods, especially of seeds and smaller grown objects were placed in the small holes of the kernos. The Minoan Kernos is a large, round stone into which 34 shallow holes have been incised around the rim of the top. One of these holes is larger than the others and another has been placed in the centre of the stone.

Thera, Akrotiri****
1650 BC


A collection of unusual images:

The Harbor of Akrotiri

A seated Goddess

Lotus Gatherers

Wooden table cast in volcanic ash - 1650 BC !!

Akrotiri is an excavation site of a Minoan Bronze Age settlement on the Greek island of Santorini, associated with the Minoan civilization due to inscriptions in Linear A, and close similarities in artifact and fresco styles.

Akrotiri was buried by the explosion of the Theran volcano in1650 BC (during the Late Minoan IA period); as a result, it is remarkably well-preserved. Frescoes, pottery, furniture, advanced drainage systems and three-story buildings have been discovered at the site. The site was excavated by Spyridon Marinatos starting in 1967.
Text from the otherwise poor Wikipedia article which, however, has many photos of this most remarkable excavation site....

1550 -1450 BC
North coast, southeast of Agia Nikolaos

The Hill of Gournia,

Gournia - the ancient name of which is not known - is the most characteristic of the excavated medium-size settlements, dated to the period of the peak of the Minoan culture (Late Minoan I period: 1550-1450 B.C.). It is called "Pompeii of Minoan Crete" because of the good state of preservation. It occupies a low hill, close to the sea, at the Isthmus of Hierapetra. The first inhabitants settled here in the Early Minoan III period (2300 B.C.). Remains of the Middle Minoan period (2000-1600 B.C.) are also preserved; in c. 1600 B.C., the palace was erected but was destroyed along with the surrounding town in 1450 B.C., at the same time with all the other palatial centres of Crete. Fifty years later the site was partly reoccupied and was finally abandoned in around 1200 B.C. The excavations at Gournia were carried out in 1901-1904 by the American archaeologist Harriet Boyd-Hawes and her colleagues. Wikipedia

Plan of Gournia, Planetware

Typical Minoan “Doll” House, clay model 1700 BC

An idea of what Minoan houses looked like can be gained from the ivory and faience plaques discovered in the East wing of Knossos. These plaques show what houses in the the town of Knossos looked like in the 17th century BCE.

On the roof there was a small room. This may have been used for sleeping in during the hot summer months. The rooms on the first floor had windows, but those on the ground floor did not, although some of them had doors on the ground floor. It may be that windows on the ground floor were avoided for simple reasons of security -- to avoid burglary.

The houses were built around a wooden frame -- wooden beams ran horizontally and were linked to upright beams. The most likely reason for the use of these beams was as protection against earthquake damage.

For a more detailed description (Wikipedia is only a stub) see

7th-3rd cent. BC

The Roman Odeon. The modern structure in back houses the "Gortyn Code" inscriptions.

The earliest inscriptions from the site date from the later 7th cent BC., and the oldest of the temples was either a Geometric or archaic foundation. By the 3rd cent. BC it had become one of the major cities of Crete, and had conquered Phaistos and taken over its harbor at Matala.

In 68 BC Gortyn allied with Rome, and while Knossos was destroyed, Gortyn became the capital of the new province of Crete and Cyrene. Gortyn continued to rise under Roman rule, and became the capital of the joint province of Creta et Cyrenaica. From the 4th century AD it was the capital of a separate province of Crete.

Among archaeologists, ancient historians, and classicists Gortyn is known today primarily because of the 1884 discovery of the Gortyn Code which is both the oldest and most complete known example of a code of ancient Greek law. The code was discovered on the site of a structure built by the Roman emperor Trajan, the Odeon, which for the second time, reused stones from an inscription-bearing wall that also had been incorporated into the foundation of an earlier Hellenistic structure. Although portions of the inscriptions have been placed in museums such as the Louvre in Paris, a modern structure at the site of the mostly ruined Odeon now houses many of the stones bearing the famous law code

The city was destroyed in ca. AD 828 by invading Arabs, who established their own state on the island.

Plan of Gortys from Planetware

4th - 5th cent BC.

Above Ag. Nikolaos

Site of Lato, Panoramio

Lato (Ancient Greek: Λατώ) was an ancient city of Crete. The ruins are located approximately 3 km from the small town of Kritsa. The Dorian city-state was built in a defensible position overlooking Mirabello Bay between two peaks, both of which became acropolises to the city. Although the city probably predates the arrival of the Dorians, the ruins date mainly from the Dorian period (5th and 4th cent BC). The city was destroyed ca. 200 BCE, but its port (Lato Etera or Lato pros Kamara), located near Agios Nikolaos was in use during Roman rule. This has led to the confusion, repeated by Stephanus of Byzantium quoting Xenion, a Cretan historian, that Kamara and Lato were one and the same. Modern scholarship distinguishes the two.

There is some speculation that the city was named after the goddess Leto (of which Lato is the usual Doric form) and may be mentioned in Linear B tablets as RA-TO. Lato also minted coins in antiquity, bearing the likeness of the chthonic goddess Eileithyia who appears to have been particularly worshipped at Lato.

Nearchus, admiral of Alexander the Great, was born at Lato.

Arkoudiotissa Cave
19th cent BC - 5th cent AD

Northwest coast near the Chania airport
north of the Monastery of Gouvernetos

Taken the omniscence of the Great Goddess in her various manifestations, there are numerous caves in Crete which go back to Neolithic times. This one, dedicated to the Goddess in her Bear Form (arkou) has had a particularly long life.

A stalacmite in the cave, is seen as a woman with a child, has bestowed its aura on an Arkoudiotissa Panaghia (Our Bear-Lady ) during Christian times.

From the Monastery of Gouvernetos the path is only accessible by foot and leads to the cave of the Arkoudiotissa ("she-bear"), where a stalagmite is said to look like a bear.

This cave is believed to have been used for worship since early Minoan times (as there is evidence for cults of Artemis as Bear and Apollo), During the Christian era ascetics lived in the cave.

Further along the path, after a descent of 140 steps, is the Katholikon (monastic church), the third monastery, now abandoned. It is believed to date from the 5th or 6th Century, founded by St John the Hermit. It is built into the cliff, with a unique church largely carved into the rock-face. This striking set of buildings is now overgrown with fig trees but retains significant charm.

Brief History of Byzantine Crete
4th-13th cent AD.

Due to the special history of the island a are large number of Byzantine churches survived in Crete, many with unique murals (Late Byzantine Cretan School). The subject exceeds my space and expertise. The following is a brief outline from Wiipedia

First Byzantine period and Arab conquest 4th cent - 820 AD

Afteer Roman rule, Crete had formed a joint province with Cyrenaica, that of “Creta et Cyrenaica”. Under Diocletian and Constantine the Great it was formed as a separate province within the Diocese of Moesia (and later the Diocese of Macedonia), an arrangement that persisted until the end of Late Antiquity.

Few contemporary sources mention Crete during the period from the 4th to the 7th centuries AD. The island was very much a quiet provincial backwater in the periphery of the Greek world at the time. Its bishops are even absent from the First Council of Nicaea in 325, in contrast to neighbouring islands like Rhodes or Kos. With the exception of an attack by the Vandals in 457 and the great earthquakes of 9 July 365 and 415, which destroyed many towns, the island remained peaceful and prosperous, as testified by the numerous, large and well-built monuments from the period surviving on the island.

This peace was broken in the 7th century. Crete suffered a first raid by the Slavs in 623, followed by Arab raids in 654 and the 670s, during the first wave of the Muslim conquests, and again during the first decades of the 8th century. Thereafter the island remained relatively safe, under the rule of an archon appointed by Constantinople. In ca. 732, the emperor Leo III the Isaurian transferred the island from the jurisdiction of the Pope to that of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. A strategos of Crete is attested in 767, and a seal of a tourmarches of Crete is known. This has led to suggestions that the island was constituted as a theme in the 8th century, perhaps as early as the 730s. Most scholars however do not consider the evidence conclusive enough and think it unlikely that the island was a theme at the time.

Byzantine rule lasted until the late 820s, when a large group of exiles from Muslim Spain landed on the island and began its conquest. The Byzantines launched repeated expeditions to drive them back, and seem to have appointed a strategos to administer what parts of the island they still controlled. The successive campaigns were defeated however, and failed to prevent the establishment of the Saracen stronghold of Chandax on the northern coast, which became the capital of the new Emirate of Crete. The fall of Crete to the Arabs posed a major headache for Byzantium, as it opened the coasts and islands of the Aegean Sea to piracy.

Byzantine reconquest, second Byzantine period 9th-12th cent AD

A major Byzantine campaign in 842/843 under Theoktistos made some headway, and apparently allowed for the re-establishment of the recovered parts of the island as a theme, as evidenced by the presence of a strategos of Crete in the contemporary Taktikon Uspensky. However Theoktistos had to abandon the campaign, and the troops left behind were quickly defeated by the Saracens. Further Byzantine attempts at reconquest in 911 and 949 failed disastrously, until in 960–961 the general Nikephoros Phokas, at the head of a huge armament, landed on the island and stormed Chandax, restoring Crete to Byzantium.

After the reconquest, the island was organized as a regular theme, with a strategos based at Chandax. Extensive efforts at conversion of the populace were undertaken, led by John Xenos and Saint Nikon "the Metanoeite". A regiment (taxiarchia) of 1,000 men was raised as the island's garrison, under a separate taxiarches and subdivided into tourmai.

Under Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081–1118), the island was ruled by a doux or katepano. By the early 12th century, it came, along with southern Greece (the themes of Hellas and the Peloponnese) under the overall control of the megas doux, the commander-in-chief of the Byzantine navy. Aside from the revolt of its governor, Karykes, in 1092/1093, the island remained a relatively peaceful backwater, securely in Byzantine hands until the Fourth Crusade (1206)

During the Crusade, Crete appears to have been granted to Boniface of Montferrat as a pronoia by the emperor Alexios IV Angelos. Boniface however, unable to extend his control to the island, sold his rights to the island to the Republic of Venice. In the event, the island was seized by the Venetians' rivals, Genoa, and it took Venice until 1212 to secure her control over the island and establish it as a Venetian dependency.

The Black Death of 1348 hit Crete particularly hard. Plagues followed in 1398, 1419, 1456, 1523, 1580, 1592, 1678, 1689, 1703 and 1816, and some of these were credited with killing one third of the population. Many Cretans migrated overseas during difficult periods on the island, some acquiring great fortune abroad, such as Constantine Corniaktos (c. 1517-1603) who became one of the richest people in Eastern Europe. Others like the Spanish painter El Greco, born in Crete as Doménikos Theotokópoulos, (1541–1614) became famous.

Ottoman Crete (1669-1898)

During the Cretan War (1645–1669), Venice was pushed out of Crete by the Ottoman Empire, with most of the island lost after the siege of Candia (1648–1669), possibly the longest siege in history. The last Venetian outpost on the island, Spinalonga, fell in 1718, and Crete was a part of the Ottoman Empire for the next two centuries. There were significant rebellions against Ottoman rule, particularly in Sfakia. Daskalogiannis was a famous rebel leader. One result of the Ottoman conquest was that a sizeable proportion of the population gradually converted to Islam, with its tax and other civic advantages in the Ottoman system. Contemporary estimates vary, but on the eve of the Greek War of Independence as much as 45% of the population of the island may have been Muslim.

Some of them were crypto-Christians who converted back to Christianity; others fled Crete because of the unrest. By the last Ottoman census in 1881, Christians were 76% of the population, and Muslims (usually called "Turks" regardless of language, culture, and ancestry) only 24%. Christians were over 90% of the population in 19/23 of the districts of Crete, but Muslims were over 60% in the three large towns on the north coast, and in Monofatsi.