Crete

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Crete (Kriti)
Native name:
Κρήτη
Island of Crete, Greece.JPG
NASA photograph of Crete
Kriti in Greece.svg
Geography
Location Eastern Mediterranean
Coordinates 35°12.6′N24°54.6′E / 35.2100°N 24.9100°E / 35.2100; 24.9100 Coordinates: 35°12.6′N24°54.6′E / 35.2100°N 24.9100°E / 35.2100; 24.9100
Area8,450 km2 (3,260 sq mi)
Area rank 88
Highest elevation2,456 m (8,058 ft)
Highest point Mount Ida (Psiloritis)
Administration
Flag of Greece.svg  Greece
Region Crete
Capitalcity Heraklion
Largest settlementHeraklion(pop. 224,253)
Demographics
DemonymCretan, archaic Cretian (Greek)
Population632,674 (2017)
Population rank 73
Pop. density75 /km2 (194 /sq mi)
Ethnic groups Greeks
Additional information
Time zone
  • GMT +3
HDI (2017) 0.869 [1]
very high · 2nd

Crete (Greek : Κρήτη, Kríti ['kriti]; Ancient Greek: Κρήτη, Krḗtē) is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the 88th largest island in the world and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus, and Corsica. It bounds the southern border of the Aegean sea. Crete lies approximately 160 km (99 mi) south of the Greek mainland. It has an area of 8,336 km2 (3,219 sq mi) and a coastline of 1,046 km (650 mi).

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Ancient Greek Version of the Greek language used from roughly the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE

The Ancient Greek language includes the forms of Greek used in Ancient Greece and the ancient world from around the 9th century BCE to the 6th century CE. It is often roughly divided into the Archaic period, Classical period, and Hellenistic period. It is antedated in the second millennium BCE by Mycenaean Greek and succeeded by Medieval Greek.

Mediterranean Sea Sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean between Europe, Africa and Asia

The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa and on the east by the Levant. Although the sea is sometimes considered a part of the Atlantic Ocean, it is usually identified as a separate body of water. Geological evidence indicates that around 5.9 million years ago, the Mediterranean was cut off from the Atlantic and was partly or completely desiccated over a period of some 600,000 years, the Messinian salinity crisis, before being refilled by the Zanclean flood about 5.3 million years ago.

Contents

Crete and a number of surrounding islands and islets constitute the region of Crete (Greek: Περιφέρεια Κρήτης), the southernmost of the 13 top-level administrative units of Greece; the region is the fifth most populous region of Greece. Its capital and largest city is Heraklion, located on the northern shore of the island. As of 2011, the region had a population of 623,065. The Dodecanese are located to the northeast of Crete, while the Cyclades are situated to northwest, separated by the Sea of Crete. The Peloponnese is to the region's northwest.

Heraklion Place in Greece

Heraklion or Heraclion is the largest city and the administrative capital of the island of Crete and capital of Heraklion regional unit. It is the fifth largest city in Greece. According to the results of the 2011 census, the municipality's population was 173,993 and according to the results of 2011 census, the metropolitan area has a population of 225,574 and it extends over an area of 684.3 km2 (264.2 sq mi).

Dodecanese Former prefecture in South Aegean, Greece

The Dodecanese are a group of 15 larger plus 150 smaller Greek islands in the southeastern Aegean Sea, off the coast of Asia Minor (Turkey), of which 26 are inhabited. Τhis island group generally defines the eastern limit of the Sea of Crete. They belong to the wider Southern Sporades island group.

Cyclades Former prefecture in South Aegean, Greece

The Cyclades are an island group in the Aegean Sea, southeast of mainland Greece and a former administrative prefecture of Greece. They are one of the island groups which constitute the Aegean archipelago. The name refers to the islands around (κυκλάς) the sacred island of Delos. The largest island of the Cyclades is Naxos.

Humans have inhabited the island before 130,000 years ago, during the Paleolithic age. Crete was the centre of Europe's first advanced civilization, the Minoans, from 2700 to 1420 BC; the Minoan civilization was overrun by the Mycenaean civilization from mainland Greece. Later, Crete would fall under Roman rule, and afterwards the Byzantines Empire, Arabs, the Venetian Republic, and the Ottoman Empire successively ruled Crete. The Cretan people, who maintained a desire to join the Greek state, achieved independence from the Ottomans in 1898 as the Cretan State and became part of Greece in December 1913.

Paleolithic Prehistoric period, first part of the Stone Age

The Paleolithic or Palaeolithic, also called the Old Stone Age, is a period in human prehistory distinguished by the original development of stone tools that covers c. 99% of human technological prehistory. It extends from the earliest known use of stone tools by hominins c. 3.3 million years ago, to the end of the Pleistocene c. 11,650 cal BP.

Europe Continent in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere

Europe is a continent located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Asia to the east, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia.

Mycenaean Greece archaeological culture

Mycenaean Greece was the last phase of the Bronze Age in Ancient Greece, spanning the period from approximately 1600–1100 BC. It represents the first advanced civilization in mainland Greece, with its palatial states, urban organization, works of art, and writing system. The most prominent site was Mycenae, in the Argolid, after which the culture of this era is named. Other centers of power that emerged included Pylos, Tiryns, Midea in the Peloponnese, Orchomenos, Thebes, Athens in Central Greece and Iolcos in Thessaly. Mycenaean and Mycenaean-influenced settlements also appeared in Epirus, Macedonia, on islands in the Aegean Sea, on the coast of Asia Minor, the Levant, Cyprus and Italy.

The island is mountainous, and its character is defined by a high mountain range crossing from west to east; the range of Lefka Ori contains Crete's highest point, Mount Ida. Crete forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece, while retaining its own local cultural traits (such as its own poetry and music). The Nikos Kazantzakis at Heraklion and the Daskalogiannis airport at Chania serve international travellers. The palace of Knossos, a Bronze Age settlement and ancient Minoan city, lies in Heraklion in Crete. [2]

Lefka Ori mountain range

Lefka Ori or Madares is a mountain range located in Western Crete, in the Chania prefecture. The White Mountains or Lefka Ori occupy a large part of the centre of West Crete and are the main feature of the region. They consist mainly of limestone, from light grey to bluish or black color. The "White Mountains" have got their name from the perpetual white or off white color of their peaks as the off white of limestone during the summer and fall interchanges with the snow that covers the peaks until late in spring.

Mount Ida (Crete) highest mountain on Crete

Mount Ida, known variously as Idha, Ídhi, Idi, Ita. In Crete is called Psiloritis the mountain range as a whole and the summit Ida, at 2,456 m, is the highest mountain on Crete. Located in the Rethymno regional unit, it was sacred to the Greek Titaness Rhea, and on its slopes lies one of the caves, Idaion Antron, in which, according to legend, Zeus was born. Its summit Ida has the highest topographic prominence in Greece. A natural park which includes Mt. Ida is a member of UNESCO's Global Geoparks Network.

Mantinades is the art of musical declamation (recitative) in form of a narrative or dialogue, sung in the rhythm of accompanying music. It is prominent in several parts of Greece, especially on the island of Crete where mantinades are performed in accompaniment of the Cretan lyra and Cretan laouto.

Name

The island is first referred to as Kaptara in texts from the Syrian city of Mari dating from the 18th century BC, [3] repeated later in Neo-Assyrian records and the Bible ( Caphtor ). It was also known in ancient Egyptian as Keftiu, strongly suggesting a similar Minoan name for the island. [4]

Syria Country in Western Asia

Syria, officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon to the southwest, the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest. A country of fertile plains, high mountains, and deserts, Syria is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including Syrian Arabs, Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Circassians, Mandeans and Turkemens. Religious groups include Sunnis, Christians, Alawites, Druze, Isma'ilis, Mandeans, Shiites, Salafis, Yazidis, and Jews. Sunnis make up the largest religious group in Syria.

Mari, Syria Ancient Sumerian and Amorite city

Mari was an ancient Semitic city in modern-day Syria. Its remains constitute a tell located 11 kilometers north-west of Abu Kamal on the Euphrates river western bank, some 120 kilometers southeast of Deir ez-Zor. It flourished as a trade center and hegemonic state between 2900 BC and 1759 BC. As a purposely-built city, the existence of Mari was related to its position in the middle of the Euphrates trade routes; this position made it an intermediary between Sumer in the south and the Levant in the west.

Bible Collection of religious texts in Judaism and Christianity

The Bible is a collection of sacred texts or scriptures. Varying parts of the Bible are considered to be a product of divine inspiration and a record of the relationship between God and humans by Christians, Jews, Samaritans, and Rastafarians.

The current name of Crete is thought to be first attested in Mycenaean Greek texts written in Linear B, through the words ke-re-te (*Krētes; later Greek: Κρῆτες, plural of Κρής), [5] ke-re-si-jo (*Krēsijos; later Greek: Κρήσιος), [6] "Cretan". [7] [8] In Ancient Greek, the name Crete (Κρήτη) first appears in Homer's Odyssey. [9] Its etymology is unknown. In Latin, it became Creta.

Mycenaean Greek Most ancient attested form of the Greek language from the 16th to 12th centuries BC

Mycenaean Greek is the most ancient attested form of the Greek language, on the Greek mainland, Crete and Cyprus in Mycenaean Greece, before the hypothesised Dorian invasion, often cited as the terminus post quem for the coming of the Greek language to Greece. The language is preserved in inscriptions in Linear B, a script first attested on Crete before the 14th century. Most inscriptions are on clay tablets found in Knossos, in central Crete, as well as in Pylos, in the southwest of the Peloponnese. Other tablets have been found at Mycenae itself, Tiryns and Thebes and at Chania, in Western Crete. The language is named after Mycenae, one of the major centres of Mycenaean Greece.

Linear B Syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek

Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, the earliest attested form of Greek. The script predates the Greek alphabet by several centuries. The oldest Mycenaean writing dates to about 1450 BC. It is descended from the older Linear A, an undeciphered earlier script used for writing the Minoan language, as is the later Cypriot syllabary, which also recorded Greek. Linear B, found mainly in the palace archives at Knossos, Cydonia, Pylos, Thebes and Mycenae, disappeared with the fall of Mycenaean civilization during the Late Bronze Age collapse. The succeeding period, known as the Greek Dark Ages, provides no evidence of the use of writing. It is also the only one of the Bronze Age Aegean scripts to have been deciphered, by English architect and self-taught linguist Michael Ventris.

Homer name ascribed by the ancient Greeks to the legendary author of the Iliad and the Odyssey

Homer is the legendary author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, two epic poems that are the central works of ancient Greek literature. The Iliad is set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek kingdoms. It focuses on a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles lasting a few weeks during the last year of the war. The Odyssey focuses on the ten-year journey home of Odysseus, king of Ithaca, after the fall of Troy. Many accounts of Homer's life circulated in classical antiquity, the most widespread being that he was a blind bard from Ionia, a region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey. Modern scholars consider these accounts legendary.

The original Arabic name of Crete was Iqrīṭiš (Arabic : اقريطش < (της) Κρήτης), but after the Emirate of Crete's establishment of its new capital at ربض الخندقRabḍ al-Ḫandaq (modern Iraklion), both the city and the island became known as Χάνδαξ (Chandax) or Χάνδακας (Chandakas), which gave Latin, Italian and Venetian Candia, from which were derived French Candie and English Candy or Candia. Under Ottoman rule, in Ottoman Turkish, Crete was called Girit (كريت).

Physical geography

Messara Plain Mount Ida chain Messara plain from Phaistos Crete Greece.jpg
Messara Plain
The palm beach of Vai Vai R05.jpg
The palm beach of Vai
Lefka Ori Lefka Ori.jpg
Lefka Ori
View of Psiloritis Psiloritis3(js).jpg
View of Psiloritis

Crete is the largest island in Greece and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. It is located in the southern part of the Aegean Sea separating the Aegean from the Libyan Sea.

Island morphology

The island has an elongated shape: it spans 260 km (160 mi) from east to west, is 60 km (37 mi) at its widest point, and narrows to as little as 12 km (7.5 mi) (close to Ierapetra). Crete covers an area of 8,336 km2 (3,219 sq mi), with a coastline of 1,046 km (650 mi); to the north, it broaches the Sea of Crete (Greek: Κρητικό Πέλαγος); to the south, the Libyan Sea (Greek: Λιβυκό Πέλαγος); in the west, the Myrtoan Sea, and toward the east the Karpathian Sea. It lies approximately 160 km (99 mi) south of the Greek mainland.

Mountains and valleys

Crete is mountainous, and its character is defined by a high mountain range crossing from west to east, formed by three different groups of mountains:

These mountains lavish Crete with valleys, such as Amari valley, fertile plateaus, such as Lasithi plateau, Omalos and Nidha; caves, such as Gourgouthakas, Diktaion, and Idaion (the birthplace of the ancient Greek god Zeus); and a number of gorges.

Gorges, rivers and lakes

The island has a number of gorges, such as the Samariá Gorge, Imbros Gorge, Kourtaliotiko Gorge, Ha Gorge, Platania Gorge, the Gorge of the Dead (at Kato Zakros, Sitia) and Richtis Gorge and (Richtis) waterfall at Exo Mouliana in Sitia. [10] [11] [12] [13]

The rivers of Crete include the Ieropotamos River, the Koiliaris, the Anapodiaris, the Almiros, the Giofyros, and Megas Potamos. There are only two freshwater lakes in Crete: Lake Kournas and Lake Agia, which are both in Chania regional unit. [14] Lake Voulismeni at the coast, at Aghios Nikolaos, was formerly a freshwater lake but is now connected to the sea, in Lasithi. [15] Lakes that were created by dams also exist in Crete. There are three: the lake of Aposelemis Dam, the lake of Potamos Dam, and the lake of Mpramiana Dam.

Surrounding islands

A large number of islands, islets, and rocks hug the coast of Crete. Many are visited by tourists, some are only visited by archaeologists and biologists. Some are environmentally protected. A small sample of the islands includes:

Off the south coast, the island of Gavdos is located 26 nautical miles (48 km) south of Hora Sfakion and is the southernmost point of Europe.

Climate

Crete straddles two climatic zones, the Mediterranean and the North African, mainly falling within the former. As such, the climate in Crete is primarily Mediterranean. The atmosphere can be quite humid, depending on the proximity to the sea, while winter is fairly mild. Snowfall is common on the mountains between November and May, but rare in the low-lying areas. While some mountain tops are snow-capped for most of the year, near the coast snow only stays on the ground for a few minutes or hours. However, a truly exceptional cold snap swept the island in February 2004, during which period the whole island was blanketed with snow. During the Cretan summer, average temperatures reach the high 20s-low 30s Celsius (mid 80s to mid 90s Fahrenheit), with maxima touching the upper 30s-mid 40s.

The south coast, including the Mesara Plain and Asterousia Mountains, falls in the North African climatic zone, and thus enjoys significantly more sunny days and high temperatures throughout the year. There, date palms bear fruit, and swallows remain year-round rather than migrate to Africa. The fertile region around Ierapetra, on the southeastern corner of the island, is renowned for its exceptional year-round agricultural production, with all kinds of summer vegetables and fruit produced in greenhouses throughout the winter. [16] Western Crete (Chania province) receives more rain and is more erosive compared to the Eastern part of Crete. [17]

Geography

Crete is the most populous island in Greece with a population of more than 600,000 people. Approximately 42% live in Crete's main cities and towns whilst 45% live in rural areas. [18]

Administration

Crete Region

Περιφέρεια Κρήτης
Prefecture map of Crete (Greece).svg
Coordinates: 35°13′N24°55′E / 35.21°N 24.91°E / 35.21; 24.91
CountryFlag of Greece.svg  Greece
Established1912
Capital Heraklion
Regional units
Government
  Regional governor Stavros Arnaoutakis (PASOK)
Area
  Total8,335.88 km2 (3,218.50 sq mi)
Population
 (2011) [19]
  Total623,065
  Density75/km2 (190/sq mi)
Time zone UTC+2 (EET)
  Summer (DST) UTC+3 (EEST)
ISO 3166 code GR-M
Website www.crete.gov.gr

Crete with its nearby islands form the Crete Region (Greek : Περιφέρεια Κρήτης, Periféria Krítis), one of the 13 regions of Greece which were established in the 1987 administrative reform. [20] Under the 2010 Kallikratis plan, the powers and authority of the regions were redefined and extended. The region is based at Heraklion and is divided into four regional units (pre-Kallikratis prefectures). From west to east these are: Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion, and Lasithi. These are further subdivided into 24 municipalities.

The region's governor is, since 1 January 2011, Stavros Arnaoutakis, who was elected in the November 2010 local administration elections for the Panhellenic Socialist Movement.

Cities

Heraklion is the largest city and capital of Crete. Chania was the capital until 1971. The principal cities are:

Economy

The economy of Crete is predominantly based on services and tourism. However, agriculture also plays an important role and Crete is one of the few Greek islands that can support itself independently without a tourism industry. [22] The economy began to change visibly during the 1970s as tourism gained in importance. Although an emphasis remains on agriculture and stock breeding, because of the climate and terrain of the island, there has been a drop in manufacturing, and an observable expansion in its service industries (mainly tourism-related). All three sectors of the Cretan economy (agriculture/farming, processing-packaging, services), are directly connected and interdependent. The island has a per capita income much higher than the Greek average, whereas unemployment is at approximately 4%, one-sixth of that of the country overall.

As in many regions of Greece, viticulture and olive groves are significant; oranges and citrons are also cultivated. Until recently there were restrictions on the import of bananas to Greece, therefore bananas were grown on the island, predominantly in greenhouses. Dairy products are important to the local economy and there are a number of speciality cheeses such as mizithra, anthotyros, and kefalotyri.

Transport infrastructure

European route E75 near Heraklion Kreta - Europastrasse75 2.jpg
European route E75 near Heraklion

Airports

The island has three significant airports, Nikos Kazantzakis at Heraklion, the Daskalogiannis airport at Chania and a smaller one in Sitia. The first two serve international routes, acting as the main gateways to the island for travellers. There is a long-standing plan to replace Heraklion airport with a completely new airport at Kastelli, where there is presently an air force base.

Ferries

The island is well served by ferries, mostly from Athens, by ferry companies such as Minoan Lines and ANEK Lines.

Road Network

Although the road network leads almost everywhere, there is a lack of modern highways, although this is gradually changing with the completion of the northern coastal spine highway. [23]

Railway

Also, during the 1930s there was a narrow-gauge industrial railway in Heraklion, from Giofyros in the west side of the city to the port. There are now no railway lines on Crete. The government is planning the construction of a line from Chania to Heraklion via Rethymno. [24] [25]

Development

Newspapers have reported that the Ministry of Mercantile Marine is ready to support the agreement between Greece, South Korea, Dubai Ports World and China for the construction of a large international container port and free trade zone in southern Crete near Tympaki; the plan is to expropriate 850 ha of land. The port would handle 2 million containers per year, but the project has not been universally welcomed because of its environmental, economic and cultural impact. [26] As of January 2013, the project has still not been confirmed, although there is mounting pressure to approve it, arising from Greece's difficult economic situation.

There are plans for underwater cables going from mainland Greece to Israel and Egypt passing by Crete and Cyprus: EuroAfrica Interconnector and EuroAsia Interconnector. [27] [28] They would connect Crete electrically with mainland Greece, ending energy isolation of Crete. Now Hellenic Republic covers for Crete electricity costs difference of around €300 million per year. [29]

History

Minoan rhyton in the form of a bull, Heraklion Archaeological Museum AMI - Stierrhyton.jpg
Minoan rhyton in the form of a bull, Heraklion Archaeological Museum
Minoan fresco from Knossos, Heraklion Archaeological Museum Minoan fresco depicting a bull leaping scene, found in Knossos, 1600-1400 BC, Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete (30547636456).jpg
Minoan fresco from Knossos, Heraklion Archaeological Museum
Palace of Knossos Knossos Westbastion 05.jpg
Palace of Knossos

In 2002, the paleontologist Gerard Gierlinski discovered fossil footprints left by ancient human relatives 5,600,000 years ago. [30]

Hominids settled in Crete at least 130,000 years ago. In the later Neolithic and Bronze Age periods, under the Minoans, Crete had a highly developed, literate civilisation. It has been ruled by various ancient Greek entities, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Emirate of Crete, the Republic of Venice and the Ottoman Empire. After a brief period of independence (1897–1913) under a provisional Cretan government, it joined the Kingdom of Greece. It was occupied by Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

Prehistoric Crete

The first human settlement in Crete dates before 130,000 years ago, during the Paleolithic age. [31] [32] [33] Settlements dating to the aceramic Neolithic in the 7th millennium BC, used cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and dogs as well as domesticated cereals and legumes; ancient Knossos was the site of one of these major Neolithic (then later Minoan) sites. [34] Other neolithic settlements include those at Kephala, Magasa, and Trapeza.

Minoan civilization

Crete was the centre of Europe's first advanced civilization, the Minoan (c. 2700–1420 BC). [2] This civilization wrote in the undeciphered script known as Linear A. Early Cretan history is replete with legends such as those of King Minos, Theseus and the Minotaur, passed on orally via poets such as Homer. The volcanic eruption of Thera may have been the cause of the downfall of the Minoan civilization.

Mycenean civilization

In 1420 BC, the Minoan civilization was overrun by the Mycenaean civilization from mainland Greece. The oldest samples of writing in the Greek language, as identified by Michael Ventris, is the Linear B archive from Knossos, dated approximately to 1425–1375 BC. [35]

Archaic and Classical period

After the Bronze Age collapse, Crete was settled by new waves of Greeks from the mainland. A number of city states developed in the Archaic period. There was very limited contact with mainland Greece, and Greek historiography shows little interest in Crete, and as a result, there are very few literary sources.

During the 6th to 4th centuries BC, Crete was comparatively free from warfare. The Gortyn code (5th century BC) is evidence for how codified civil law established a balance between aristocratic power and civil rights.

In the late 4th century BC, the aristocratic order began to collapse due to endemic infighting among the elite, and Crete's economy was weakened by prolonged wars between city states. During the 3rd century BC, Gortyn, Kydonia (Chania), Lyttos and Polyrrhenia challenged the primacy of ancient Knossos.

While the cities continued to prey upon one another, they invited into their feuds mainland powers like Macedon and its rivals Rhodes and Ptolemaic Egypt. In 220 BC the island was tormented by a war between two opposing coalitions of cities. As a result, the Macedonian king Philip V gained hegemony over Crete which lasted to the end of the Cretan War (205–200 BC), when the Rhodians opposed the rise of Macedon and the Romans started to interfere in Cretan affairs.

In the 2nd century BC Ierapytna (Ierapetra) gained supremacy on eastern Crete.

Roman rule

Crete was involved in the Mithridatic Wars, initially repelling an attack by Roman general Marcus Antonius Creticus in 71 BC. Nevertheless, a ferocious three-year campaign soon followed under Quintus Caecilius Metellus, equipped with three legions and Crete was finally conquered by Rome in 69 BC, earning for Metellus the title "Creticus". Gortyn was made capital of the island, and Crete became a Roman province, along with Cyrenaica that was called Creta et Cyrenaica. Archaeological remains suggest that Crete under Roman rule witnessed prosperity and increased connectivity with other parts of the Empire. [36] In the 2nd century AD, at least three cities in Crete (Lyttos, Gortyn, Hierapytna) joined the Panhellenion, a league of Greek cities founded by the emperor Hadrian. When Diocletian redivided the Empire, Crete was placed, along with Cyrene, under the diocese of Moesia, and later by Constantine I to the diocese of Macedonia.

Byzantine Empire – first period

Arkadi Monastery Crete MoniArkadiou1 tango7174.jpg
Arkadi Monastery

Crete was separated from Cyrenaica c.297. It remained a province within the eastern half of the Roman Empire, usually referred to as the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire after the establishment of a second capital in Constantinople by Constantine in 330. Crete was subjected to an attack by Vandals in 467, the great earthquakes of 365 and 415, a raid by Slavs in 623, Arab raids in 654 and the 670s, and again in the 8th century. In c.732, the Emperor Leo III the Isaurian transferred the island from the jurisdiction of the Pope to that of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. [37]

Arab rule

The Byzantines under the general Damian attack Crete but are defeated by the Saracens, c. 828, as depicted by Ioannes Scylitzes (see Skylitzes Chronicle). The Cretan Saracens defeat the Byzantines under Damianos.jpg
The Byzantines under the general Damian attack Crete but are defeated by the Saracens, c.828, as depicted by Ioannes Scylitzes (see Skylitzes Chronicle).

In the 820s, after 900 years as a Roman, and then Eastern Roman (Byzantine) island, Crete was captured by Andalusian Muladis led by Abu Hafs, [38] who established the Emirate of Crete. The Byzantines launched a campaign that took most of the island back in 842 and 843 under Theoktistos. Further Byzantine campaigns in 911 and 949 failed. In 960/1, Nikephoros Phokas' campaign completely restored Crete to the Byzantine Empire, after a century and a half of Arab control.

Byzantine Empire – second period

In 961, Nikephoros Phokas returned the island to Byzantine rule after expelling the Arabs. [39] Extensive efforts at conversion of the populace were undertaken, led by John Xenos and Nikon "the Metanoeite". [40] [41] The reconquest of Crete was a major achievement for the Byzantines, as it restored Byzantine control over the Aegean littoral and diminished the threat of Saracen pirates, for which Crete had provided a base of operations.

In 1204, the Fourth Crusade seized and sacked the imperial capital of Constantinople. Crete was initially granted to leading Crusader Boniface of Montferrat [39] in the partition of spoils that followed. However, Boniface sold his claim to the Republic of Venice, [39] whose forces made up the majority of the Crusade. Venice's rival the Republic of Genoa immediately seized the island and it was not until 1212 that Venice secured Crete as a colony.

Venetian rule

Frangokastello was built by the Venetians in 1371-74 Frangokastello R03.jpg
Frangokastello was built by the Venetians in 1371–74

From 1212, during Venice's rule, which lasted more than four centuries, a Renaissance swept through the island as is evident from the plethora of artistic works dating to that period. Known as The Cretan School or Post-Byzantine Art, it is among the last flowerings of the artistic traditions of the fallen empire. The most notable representatives of this Cretan renaissance were the painter El Greco and the writers Nicholas Kalliakis (1645–1707), Georgios Kalafatis (professor) (c.1652–1720), Andreas Musalus (c.1665–1721) and Vitsentzos Kornaros. [42] [43] [44]

Under the rule of the Catholic Venetians, the city of Candia was reputed to be the best fortified city of the Eastern Mediterranean. [45] The three main forts were located at Gramvousa, Spinalonga, and Fortezza at Rethymnon. Other fortifications include the Kazarma fortress at Sitia. In 1492, Jews expelled from Spain settled on the island. [46] In 1574–77, Crete was under the rule of Giacomo Foscarini as Proveditor General, Sindace and Inquistor. According to Starr's 1942 article, the rule of Giacomo Foscarini was a Dark Age for Jews and Greeks. Under his rule, non-Catholics had to pay high taxes with no allowances. In 1627, there were 800 Jews in the city of Candia, about seven percent of the city's population. [47] Marco Foscarini was the Doge of Venice during this time period.

Ottoman rule

Depiction of the Siege of Candia Vue du siege de Candie en 1669.jpg
Depiction of the Siege of Candia
Greek Orthodox (blue) and Cretan Muslim/Turkish (red) ethnic makeup of the island in 1861 Crete - ethnic map, 1861.jpg
Greek Orthodox (blue) and Cretan Muslim/Turkish (red) ethnic makeup of the island in 1861
Kara Musa Pasha mosque, Rethymno Mosquee Kara Musa Pasha.JPG
Kara Musa Pasha mosque, Rethymno

The Ottomans conquered Crete in 1669, after the siege of Candia. Many Greek Cretans fled to other regions of the Republic of Venice after the Ottoman–Venetian Wars, some even prospering such as the family of Simone Stratigo (c. 1733 – c. 1824) who migrated to Dalmatia from Crete in 1669. [48] Islamic presence on the island, aside from the interlude of the Arab occupation, was cemented by the Ottoman conquest. Most Cretan Muslims were local Greek converts who spoke Cretan Greek, but in the island's 19th-century political context they came to be viewed by the Christian population as Turks. [49] Contemporary estimates vary, but on the eve of the Greek War of Independence (1830), as much as 45% of the population of the island may have been Muslim. [50] A number of Sufi orders were widespread throughout the island, the Bektashi order being the most prevalent, possessing at least five tekkes. Many among them were crypto-Christians who converted back to Christianity in subsequent years, while many Cretan Turks fled Crete because of the unrest, settling in Turkey, Rhodes, Syria, Libya and elsewhere. By 1900, 11% of the population was Muslim. Those remaining were relocated in the 1924 Population exchange between Greece and Turkey. [51]

During Easter of 1770, a notable revolt against Ottoman rule, in Crete, was started by Daskalogiannis, a shipowner from Sfakia who was promised support by Orlov's fleet which never arrived. Daskalogiannis eventually surrendered to the Ottoman authorities. Today, the airport at Chania is named after him.

Crete was left out of the modern Greek state by the London Protocol of 1830, and soon it was yielded to Egypt by the Ottoman sultan. Egyptian rule was short-lived and sovereignty was returned to the Ottoman Empire by the Convention of London on 3 July 1840.

Heraklion was surrounded by high walls and bastions and extended westward and southward by the 17th century. The most opulent area of the city was the northeastern quadrant where all the elite were gathered together. The city had received another name under the rule of the Ottomans, "the deserted city". [45] The urban policy that the Ottoman applied to Candia was a two-pronged approach. [45] The first was the religious endowments. It made the Ottoman elite contribute to building and rehabilitating the ruined city. The other method was to boost the population and the urban revenue by selling off urban properties. According to Molly Greene (2001) there were numerous records of real-estate transactions during the Ottoman rule. In the deserted city, minorities received equal rights in purchasing property. Christians and Jews were also able to buy and sell in the real-estate market.

The Cretan Revolt of 1866–1869 or Great Cretan Revolution (Greek: Κρητική Επανάσταση του 1866) was a three-year uprising against Ottoman rule, the third and largest in a series of revolts between the end of the Greek War of Independence in 1830 and the establishment of the independent Cretan State in 1898. A particular event which caused strong reactions among the liberal circles of western Europe was the Holocaust of Arkadi. The event occurred in November 1866, as a large Ottoman force besieged the Arkadi Monastery, which served as the headquarters of the rebellion. In addition to its 259 defenders, over 700 women and children had taken refuge in the monastery. After a few days of hard fighting, the Ottomans broke into the monastery. At that point, the abbot of the monastery set fire to the gunpowder stored in the monastery's vaults, causing the death of most of the rebels and the women and children sheltered there.

Cretan State 1898–1908

Revolutionaries at Theriso Revolutionnaires therissos.jpg
Revolutionaries at Theriso

Following the repeated uprisings in 1841, 1858, 1889, 1895 and 1897 by the Cretan people, who wanted to join Greece, the Great Powers decided to restore order and in February 1897 sent in troops. The island was subsequently garrisoned by troops from Great Britain, France, Italy and Russia; Germany and Austro-Hungary withdrawing from the occupation in early 1898. During this period Crete was governed through a committee of admirals from the remaining four Powers. In March 1898 the Powers decreed, with the very reluctant consent of the Sultan, that the island would be granted autonomy under Ottoman suzerainty in the near future. [52]

In September 1898 an outbreak of rioting in Candia, modern Heraklion, left over 500 Cretan Christians, and 14 British servicemen, dead. As a result, the Admirals ordered the expulsion of all Ottoman troops and administrators from the island, a move that was ultimately completed by early November. The decision to grant autonomy to the island was enforced and a High Commissioner, Prince George of Greece, appointed, arriving to take up his post in December 1898. [53] The flag of the Cretan State was chosen by the Powers, with the white star representing the Ottoman suzenraity over the island.

Flag of Cretan State Flag of Cretan State.svg
Flag of Cretan State

In 1905, disagreements between Prince George and minister Eleftherios Venizelos over the question of the enosis (union with Greece), such as the Prince's autocratic style of government, resulted in the Theriso revolt, one of leaders of which being Eleftherios Venizelos.

Prince George resigned as High Commissioner and was replaced by Alexandros Zaimis, a former Greek prime minister, in 1906. In 1908, taking advantage of domestic turmoil in Turkey as well as the timing of Zaimis's vacation away from the island, the Cretan deputies unilaterally declared union with Greece.

With the break out of the First Balkan War, the Greek government declared that Crete was since then part of the Greek territory. This was not recognised internationally until 1 December 1913. [53]

Second World War

German paratroopers landing on Crete during the Battle of Crete Bundesarchiv Bild 141-0864, Kreta, Landung von Fallschirmjagern.jpg
German paratroopers landing on Crete during the Battle of Crete

During World War II, the island was the scene of the famous Battle of Crete in May 1941. The initial 11-day battle was bloody and left more than 11,000 soldiers and civilians killed or wounded. As a result of the fierce resistance from both Allied forces and civilian Cretan locals, the invasion force suffered heavy casualties, and Adolf Hitler forbade further large-scale paratroop operations for the rest of the war. During the initial and subsequent occupation, German firing squads routinely executed male civilians in reprisal for the death of German soldiers; civilians were rounded up randomly in local villages for the mass killings, such as at the Massacre of Kondomari and the Viannos massacres. Two German generals were later tried and executed for their roles in the killing of 3,000 of the island's inhabitants. [54]

Tourism

Matala beach Kreta-Matala07.jpg
Matala beach

Crete was one of the most popular holiday destinations in Greece. 15% of all arrivals in Greece come through the city of Heraklion (port and airport), while charter journeys to Heraklion seven years ago made up 20% of all charter flights in Greece.[ citation needed ] Overall, more than two million tourists visited Crete some years back,[ when? ] when the increase in tourism was reflected in the number of hotel beds, rising by 53% in the period between 1986 and 1991.

Today, the island's tourism infrastructure caters to all tastes, including a very wide range of accommodation; the island's facilities take in large luxury hotels with their complete facilities, swimming pools, sports and recreation, smaller family-owned apartments, camping facilities and others. Visitors reach the island via two international airports in Heraklion and Chania and a smaller airport in Sitia (international charter and domestic flights starting May 2012) [55] or by boat to the main ports of Heraklion, Chania, Rethimno, Agios Nikolaos and Sitia.

Popular tourist attractions include the archaeological sites of the Minoan civilisation, the Venetian old city and port of Chania, the Venetian castle at Rethymno, the gorge of Samaria, the islands of Chrysi, Elafonisi, Gramvousa, Spinalonga and the Palm Beach of Vai, which is the largest natural palm forest in Europe.

Transportation

Crete has an extensive bus system with regular services across the north of the island and from north to south. There are two regional bus stations in Heraklion. Bus routes and timetables can be found on KTEL website. [56]

Holiday homes and immigration

Crete's mild climate attracts interest from northern Europeans who want a holiday home or residence on the island. EU citizens have the right to freely buy property and reside with little formality. [57] A growing number of real estate companies cater to mainly British immigrants, followed by German, Dutch, Scandinavian and other European nationalities wishing to own a home in Crete. The British immigrants are concentrated in the western regional units of Chania and Rethymno and to a lesser extent in Heraklion and Lasithi. [24]

Archaeological sites and museums

There is a large number of archaeological sites which include the Minoan sites of Knossos, Malia (not to be confused with the town of the same name), Petras, and Phaistos, the classical site of Gortys, and the diverse archaeology of the island of Koufonisi which includes Minoan, Roman, and World War II ruins. The latter, however, has restricted access for the last few years due to conservation concerns so it is best to check before heading to a port.

There are a number of museums throughout Crete. The Heraklion Archaeological Museum displays most of the archaeological finds of the Minoan era and was reopened in 2014. [58]

Fauna and flora

Fauna

Crete is isolated from mainland Europe, Asia, and Africa, and this is reflected in the diversity of the fauna and flora. As a result, the fauna and flora of Crete have many clues to the evolution of species. There are no animals that are dangerous to humans on the island of Crete in contrast to other parts of Greece. Indeed, the ancient Greeks attributed the lack of large mammals such as bears, wolves, jackals, and poisonous snakes, to the labour of Hercules (who took a live Cretan bull to the Peloponnese). Hercules wanted to honor the birthplace of Zeus by removing all "harmful" and "poisonous" animals from Crete. Later, Cretans believed that the island was cleared of dangerous creatures by the Apostle Paul, who lived on the island of Crete for two years, with his exorcisms and blessings. There is a natural history museum, the Natural History Museum of Crete, operating under the direction of the University of Crete and two aquariums – Aquaworld in Hersonissos and Cretaquarium in Gournes, displaying sea creatures common in Cretan waters.

Prehistoric fauna

Dwarf elephants, dwarf hippopotamus, dwarf mammoths, dwarf deer, and giant flightless owls were native to Pleistocene Crete. [59] [60]

Mammals

Mammals of Crete include the vulnerable kri-kri, Capra aegagrus cretica that can be seen in the national park of the Samaria Gorge and on Thodorou, [61] Dia and Agioi Pantes (islets off the north coast), the Cretan wildcat and the Cretan spiny mouse. [62] [63] [64] [65] Other terrestrial mammals include subspecies of the Cretan marten, the Cretan weasel, the Cretan badger, the long-eared hedgehog, and the edible dormouse. [66]

The Cretan shrew, a type of white-toothed shrew is considered endemic to the island of Crete because this species of shrew is unknown elsewhere. It is a relic species of the crocidura shrews of which fossils have been found that can be dated to the Pleistocene era. In the present day it can only be found in the highlands of Crete. [67] It is considered to be the only surviving remnant of the endemic species of the Pleistocene Mediterranean islands. [68]

Bat species include: Blasius's horseshoe bat, the lesser horseshoe bat, the greater horseshoe bat, the lesser mouse-eared bat, Geoffroy's bat, the whiskered bat, Kuhl's pipistrelle, the common pipistrelle, Savi's pipistrelle, the serotine bat, the long-eared bat, Schreibers' bat and the European free-tailed bat. [69]

Birds

A large variety of birds includes eagles (can be seen in Lasithi), swallows (throughout Crete in the summer and all the year in the south of the island), pelicans (along the coast), and cranes (including Gavdos and Gavdopoula). The Cretan mountains and gorges are refuges for the endangered lammergeier vulture. Bird species include: the golden eagle, Bonelli's eagle, the bearded vulture or lammergeier, the griffon vulture, Eleanora's falcon, peregrine falcon, lanner falcon, European kestrel, tawny owl, little owl, hooded crow, alpine chough, red-billed chough, and the hoopoe. [70] [71]

Reptiles and amphibians

Tortoises can be seen throughout the island. Snakes can be found hiding under rocks. Toads and frogs reveal themselves when it rains.

Reptiles include the aegean wall lizard, balkan green lizard, Chamaeleo chamaeleon , ocellated skink, snake-eyed skink, moorish gecko, turkish gecko, Kotschy's gecko, spur-thighed tortoise, and the stripe-necked terrapin. [69] [72]

There are four species of snake on the island and these are not dangerous to humans. The four species include the leopard snake (locally known as Ochendra), the Balkan whip snake (locally called Dendrogallia), the dice snake (called Nerofido in Greek), and the only venomous snake is the nocturnal cat snake which has evolved to deliver a weak venom at the back of its mouth to paralyse geckos and small lizards, and is not dangerous to humans. [69] [73]

Turtles include the green turtle and the loggerhead turtle which are both endangered species. [72] The loggerhead turtle nests and hatches on north-coast beaches around Rethymno and Chania, and south-coast beaches along the gulf of Mesara. [74]

Amphibians include the green toad, American toad, common tree frog, and the Cretan marsh frog. [69] [72]

Arthropods

Crete has an unusual variety of insects. Cicadas, known locally as Tzitzikia, make a distinctive repetitive tzi tzi sound that becomes louder and more frequent on hot summer days. Butterfly species include the swallowtail butterfly. [69] Moth species include the hummingbird moth. [75] There are several species of scorpion such as Euscorpius carpathicus whose venom is generally no more potent than a mosquito bite.

Crustaceans and molluscs

River crabs include the semi-terrestrial Potamon potamios crab. [69] Edible snails are widespread and can cluster in the hundreds waiting for rainfall to reinvigorate them.

Sealife

Apart from terrestrial mammals, the seas around Crete are rich in large marine mammals, a fact unknown to most Greeks at present, although reported since ancient times. Indeed, the Minoan frescoes depicting dolphins in Queen's Megaron at Knossos indicate that Minoans were well aware of and celebrated these creatures. Apart from the famous endangered Mediterranean monk seal, which lives in almost all the coasts of the country, Greece hosts whales, sperm whales, dolphins and porpoises. [76] These are either permanent residents of the Mediterranean or just occasional visitors. The area south of Crete, known as the Greek Abyss, hosts many of them. Squid and octopus can be found along the coast and sea turtles and hammerhead sharks swim in the sea around the coast. The Cretaquarium and the Aquaworld Aquarium, are two of only three aquariums in the whole of Greece. They are located in Gournes and Hersonissos respectively. Examples of the local sealife can be seen there. [77] [78]

Some of the fish that can be seen in the waters around Crete include: scorpion fish, dusky grouper, east Atlantic peacock wrasse, five-spotted wrasse, weever fish, common stingray, brown ray, mediterranean black goby, pearly razorfish, star-gazer, painted comber, damselfish, and the flying gurnard. [79]

Flora

Common wildflowers include: camomile, daisy, gladiolus, hyacinth, iris, poppy, cyclamen and tulip, among others. [80] There are more than 200 different species of wild orchid on the island and this includes 14 varieties of Ophrys Cretica. [81] Crete has a rich variety of indigenous herbs including common sage, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. [81] [82] Rare herbs include the endemic Cretan dittany. [81] [82] and ironwort, Sideritis syriaca , known as Malotira (Μαλοτήρα). Varieties of cactus include the edible prickly pear. Common trees on the island include the chestnut, cypress, oak, olive tree, pine, plane, and tamarisk. [82] Trees tend to be taller to the west of the island where water is more abundant.

Environmentally protected areas

There are a number of environmentally protected areas. One such area is located at the island of Elafonisi on the coast of southwestern Crete. Also, the palm forest of Vai in eastern Crete and the Dionysades (both in the municipality of Sitia, Lasithi), have diverse animal and plant life. Vai has a palm beach and is the largest natural palm forest in Europe. The island of Chrysi, 15 kilometres (9 miles) south of Ierapetra, has the largest naturally-grown Juniperus macrocarpa forest in Europe. Samaria Gorge is a World Biosphere Reserve and Richtis Gorge is protected for its landscape diversity.

Mythology

"Diktaean Cave" Zeushoehle.jpg
"Diktaean Cave"

Crete has a rich mythology mostly connected with the ancient Greek Gods but also connected with the Minoan civilisation.

According to Greek Mythology, The Diktaean Cave at Mount Dikti was the birthplace of the god Zeus. The Paximadia islands were the birthplace of the goddess Artemis and the god Apollo. Their mother, the goddess Leto, was worshipped at Phaistos. The goddess Athena bathed in Lake Voulismeni. The ancient Greek god Zeus launched a lightning bolt at a giant lizard that was threatening Crete. The lizard immediately turned to stone and became the island of Dia. The island can be seen from Knossos and it has the shape of a giant lizard. The islets of Lefkai were the result of a musical contest between the Sirens and the Muses. The Muses were so anguished to have lost that they plucked the feathers from the wings of their rivals; the Sirens turned white and fell into the sea at Aptera ("featherless") where they formed the islands in the bay that were called Lefkai (the islands of Souda and Leon). [83] Hercules, in one of his labors, took the Cretan bull to the Peloponnese. Europa and Zeus made love at Gortys and conceived the kings of Crete, Rhadamanthys, Sarpedon, and Minos.

The labyrinth of the Palace of Knossos was the setting for the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur in which the Minotaur was slain by Theseus. Icarus and Daedalus were captives of King Minos and crafted wings to escape. After his death King Minos became a judge of the dead in Hades, while Rhadamanthys became the ruler of the Elysian fields.

Culture

Crete has its own distinctive Mantinades poetry. The island is known for its Mantinades-based music (typically performed with the Cretan lyra and the laouto) and has many indigenous dances, the most noted of which is the Pentozali.

Cretan authors have made important contributions to Greek Literature throughout the modern period; major names include Vikentios Kornaros, creator of the 17th-century epic romance Erotokritos (Greek Ερωτόκριτος), and, in the 20th century, Nikos Kazantzakis. In the Renaissance, Crete was the home of the Cretan School of icon painting, which influenced El Greco and through him subsequent European painting. Crete is also famous for its traditional cuisine. The nutritional value of the Cretan cuisine was discovered by the American epidemiologist Ancel Keys in the 1960, being later often mentioned by epidemiologists as one of the best examples of the Mediterranean diet. [84]

Cretans are fiercely proud of their island and customs, and men often don elements of traditional dress in everyday life: knee-high black riding boots (stivania), vráka breeches tucked into the boots at the knee, black shirt and black headdress consisting of a fishnet-weave kerchief worn wrapped around the head or draped on the shoulders (sariki). Men often grow large mustaches as a mark of masculinity.

Cretan society is well known for notorious family and clan vendettas which persist on the island to date. [85] [86] Cretans also have a tradition of keeping firearms at home, a tradition lasting from the era of resistance against the Ottoman Empire. Nearly every rural household on Crete has at least one unregistered gun. [85] Guns are subject to strict regulation from the Greek government, and in recent years a great deal of effort to control firearms in Crete has been undertaken by the Greek police, but with limited success.

Sports

Crete has many football clubs playing in the local leagues. During the 2011–12 season, OFI Crete, which plays at Theodoros Vardinogiannis Stadium (Iraklion), and Ergotelis F.C., which plays at the Pankritio Stadium (Iraklion) were both members of the Greek Superleague. During the 2012–13 season, OFI Crete, which plays at Theodoros Vardinogiannis Stadium (Iraklion), and Platanias F.C., which plays at the Perivolia Municipal Stadium, near Chania, are both members of the Greek Superleague.

Notable people

Domenikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco) El Greco - Portrait of a Man - WGA10554.jpg
Domenikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco)
Eleftherios Venizelos Venizelos--lifeofvenizelosw00chesuoft.png
Eleftherios Venizelos

Notable people from Crete include:

See also

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Kingdom of Candia

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