Cradle of civilization

Crete’s history extends from 6000 BC to the 21st century. An overview of its history will demonstrate how Crete played a leading role in progressive civilization in the Minoan period, how being occupied by various countries led to locals being stronger and fighting harder. It is a constant in Crete’s history to fight for freedom and independence – admirable traits.

Neolithic Period: 6000-3000 BC

Cretans lived in caves or basic houses with walls of unbaked mudbrick or stones. These people with hunters and gatherers who were involved in agriculture and who farmed and raised livestock which made up their economy including trade in wheat, barley, lentils, sheep, goats, pigs and some cattle. In the Early Neolithic period (4000-3700 BC) the weaving industry begins and axes are used and settlements in Crete include Knossos and Trapeza. The Middle Neolithic period (3700-3600 BC) house plans of larger buildings with several small rooms appear. The Late Neolithic period (3600-2800 BC) brings with it the copper axe.

Minoan Period (3000-1.100 BC)

The civilization that was developed was named Minoan after the legendary King Minos, by English archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans during his excavations of the Palace of Knossos.

The Minoan arrived on Crete from North Africa or the Middle East and brought with them the necessary skills for making bronze (and so this period is known as the Bronze Age). This enabled them build stronger, more durable boats and in turn this enabled them to broaden their trade horizons. The Minoans established a naval empire, built their first palaces (Knossos, Faestos, Malia), produced fine pottery and jewelry and in this time art and science flourished. This intelligent and progressive civilization, being the first advanced civilization to emerge from Europe, vanished abruptly as the eruption of the Thira (Santorini) volcano caused huge tidal waves that reached Crete and swept away its people and creations.

Following this disaster, Crete was in constant warfare as it was invaded by both mainland Mycenaean (1400-1100BC) and then the Dorians (1100-67 BC).

Roman Period (67 BC-824 AD)

Crete was occupied by the Romans in 67 BC. Gortys (today known as Gortyna), became the capital and most powerful city of Crete. Crete becomes part of the Byzantine Empire, its people converted to Christianity and was ruled from Constantinople (Istanbul).

The Arab occupation (824-961 AD)

The Arabs conquered Crete in 824 AD and founded the city of Chandax (Heraklion). The city was reclaimed by the Byzantine emperor Nikiforos Fokas at 961 AD. At 1204 AD Crete was sold to the Venetians.

Venetian occupation (1204-1669 AD)

Constantinople falls to the Turks in 1453 AD, artists and scholars from all parts of the former Byzantine empire fled to Crete seeing Crete flourish in the fields of art, science, culture and showed economic growth again. Well-known artists of the period include Domenico Theotokopoulos (‘El Greco’) and Michail Damaskinos. The poet Vitsentzos Kornaros is remembered for his poem Erotikritos and literary Georgios Hortatzis for his dramatic Erophile.

Turkish occupation (1669-1898 AD)

Chania and Rethymno are captured by the Turks in 1669 AD and after a siege that lasted 22 years Heraklion (known as Candia by the Turks) too surrendered. This was the hardest and most violent occupations including slaughters and slavery. During the years that followed, the Cretans organized several unsuccessful revolutions. Their fight for freedom includes the revolt of 1866 AD which had the tragic outcome of destroying Arkadi Monastery. In 1898, with the intervention of the then four Great Powers (England, Russia, France and Italy), Crete was declared an autonomous state and the Turkish army withdrew from the island.

Independent Crete (1898-1913 AD)

In 1913 Crete was united with Greece. Until then it remained autonomous.

Modern History (1913 AD – today)

The 1941 Battle of Crete was the final battle of the World War II. Beginning on the morning of 20 May 1941 Nazi Germany launched an air born attack on Crete. Greek, Allied forces (Australian, British and New Zealand) as well as local Cretan civilians defended the island for 10 days. Overrun by Germans, the third Reich occupied Crete until its defeat in 1945.

The infrastructure of any city or country is in many ways the deciding factor on if that location is a good place to live. Today, Crete is an island of bubbling growth with massive progress on the infrastructure front. Roads, bridges, highways, public transportation services, sewerage systems, utility systems (electrical grids, gas, water treatment and supply), telecommunication services and property development (buildings such as homes, schools, court houses, sports facilities, public parks and private housing) all have expanded to meet the ever-growing needs. All these facilitate the production of goods and services, the distribution of these and well as enriching the experience of living on the already naturally blessed island of Crete.

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