Crete

Crete

Overview
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits (such as its own dialect, poetry
Mantinada
A mantinada, — are Cretan rhyming couplets, typically improvised during dance music. Rhymed Cretan poetry of the Renaissance, especially verse epic Erotokritos, are reminiscent of the mantinada, and couplets from Erotokritos have become used as mantinades. Mantinades have either love or...

, and music).
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Timeline

1898   700 Greek civilians, 17 British guards and the British Consul of Crete are killed by a Turkish mob in Heraklion, Greece.

1900   Sir Arthur Evans purchases the land around the ruins of Knossos, the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete.

1905   Eleftherios Venizelos calls for Crete's union with Greece, and begins what is to be known as the Theriso revolt.

1913   Crete, having obtained self rule from Turkey after the First Balkan War, is annexed by Greece.

1941   World War II: Battle of Crete ends as Crete capitulates to Germany.

 
Encyclopedia
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits (such as its own dialect, poetry
Mantinada
A mantinada, — are Cretan rhyming couplets, typically improvised during dance music. Rhymed Cretan poetry of the Renaissance, especially verse epic Erotokritos, are reminiscent of the mantinada, and couplets from Erotokritos have become used as mantinades. Mantinades have either love or...

, and music). Crete was the centre of the Minoan civilization
Minoan civilization
The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Crete and flourished from approximately the 27th century BC to the 15th century BC. It was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of the British archaeologist Arthur Evans...

 , the earliest "high culture" civilization
Civilization
Civilization is a sometimes controversial term that has been used in several related ways. Primarily, the term has been used to refer to the material and instrumental side of human cultures that are complex in terms of technology, science, and division of labor. Such civilizations are generally...

 in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

, which built the first palaces in Europe.

Name


The island is first referred to as Kaptara in texts from the Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

n city of Mari dating from the 18th century B.C., repeated later in Neo-Assyrian records and the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 (Caphtor
Caphtor
Caphtor is a locality mentioned in the Bible and related literature. The people of Caphtor are called Caphtorites and are named as a division of the ancient Egyptians. Caphtor is also mentioned in ancient inscriptions from Egypt, Mari and Ugarit. Traditional Hebrew sources place Caphtor in the...

). It is also known in ancient Egyptian
Egyptian language
Egyptian is the oldest known indigenous language of Egypt and a branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Written records of the Egyptian language have been dated from about 3400 BC, making it one of the oldest recorded languages known. Egyptian was spoken until the late 17th century AD in the...

 as Keftiu, strongly suggesting some form similar to both was the Minoan
Minoan civilization
The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Crete and flourished from approximately the 27th century BC to the 15th century BC. It was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of the British archaeologist Arthur Evans...

 name for the island.

The Mycenaean Greek name for Crete is unknown; it is not mentioned in extant Linear B
Linear B
Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet by several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization...

 texts. The name Crete (Κρήτη) first appears in Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

's Odyssey
Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

. Its etymology is unknown. One speculative proposal derives it from a hypothesized Luvian
Luwian language
Luwian is an extinct language of the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European language family. Luwian is closely related to Hittite, and was among the languages spoken during the second and first millennia BC by population groups in central and western Anatolia and northern Syria...

 word *kursatta 'island'. In Latin
Classical Latin
Classical Latin in simplest terms is the socio-linguistic register of the Latin language regarded by the enfranchised and empowered populations of the late Roman republic and the Roman empire as good Latin. Most writers during this time made use of it...

, it became Creta.

The original Arabic name of Crete was Iqrīṭiš ( < (της) Κρήτης), but after the Emirate of Crete
Emirate of Crete
The Emirate of Crete was a Muslim state that existed on the Mediterranean island of Crete from the late 820s to the Byzantine reconquest of the island in 961....

's establishment of its new capital at ربض الخندق Rabḍ al-ḫandaq (modern Iraklion), both the city and the island became known as Χάνδαξ (Khandhax) or Χάνδακας (Khandhakas), which became Latin and Venetian Candia, thence French Candie and English Candy or Candia. Under Ottoman rule
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

, in Ottoman Turkish
Ottoman Turkish language
The Ottoman Turkish language or Ottoman language is the variety of the Turkish language that was used for administrative and literary purposes in the Ottoman Empire. It borrows extensively from Arabic and Persian, and was written in a variant of the Perso-Arabic script...

, Crete was called Girit (Ottoman Turkish
Ottoman Turkish alphabet
The Ottoman Turkish alphabet was the version of the Perso-Arabic alphabet that was used for the Ottoman Turkish language during the time of the Ottoman Empire and in the early years of the Republic of Turkey, until the adoption of the new Turkish alphabet, derived from the Latin script, on...

: كريت, as recorded by Piri Reis
Piri Reis
Piri Reis was an Turkish Ottoman admiral, geographer and cartographer born between 1465 and 1470 and died in 1554 or 1555....

).

Physical geography






Crete is the largest island in Greece and the second largest in the eastern Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 (after Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

). It is located in the southern part of the Aegean Sea
Aegean Sea
The Aegean Sea[p] is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between the southern Balkan and Anatolian peninsulas, i.e., between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey. In the north, it is connected to the Marmara Sea and Black Sea by the Dardanelles and Bosporus...

 separating the Aegean from the Libyan Sea
Libyan Sea
The Libyan Sea is the portion of the Mediterranean Sea, north of the African coast of ancient Libya, i.e. Cyrenaica and Marmarica...

.

Island morphology


The island has an elongated shape: it spans 260 km (161.6 mi) from east to west, is 60 km (37.3 mi) at its widest point, and narrows to as little as 12 km (7.5 mi) (close to Ierapetra
Ierapetra
Ierapetra is a town in the southeast of the Greek island of Crete and a municipality of Crete region.-History:The town of Ierapetra is located on the southeast coast of Crete, along the beach of Ierapetra Bay. It lies south of Agios Nikolaos and southwest of Sitia and is an important regional...

). Crete covers an area of 8336 square kilometre, with a coastline of 1046 km (650 mi); to the north, it broaches the Sea of Crete
Sea of Crete
thumb|300px|Map of the Sea of CreteThe Sea of Crete is the sea south of the Aegean Sea, north of the island Crete, and south of the Cyclades. The sea also stretches from Kythera east to the Dodecanese islands of Karpathos and Kassos. The bounding seas to the west are the Ionian Sea as well as...

 (Greek: Κρητικό Πέλαγος); to the south, the Libyan Sea
Libyan Sea
The Libyan Sea is the portion of the Mediterranean Sea, north of the African coast of ancient Libya, i.e. Cyrenaica and Marmarica...

 (Greek: Λιβυκό Πέλαγος); in the west, the Myrtoan Sea
Myrtoan Sea
The Myrtoan Sea is a subdivision of the Mediterranean Sea that lies between the Cyclades and the Peloponnesos. It is described as the part of the Aegean Sea south of Euboea, Attica, and Argolis. Some of the water mass of the Black Sea reaches the Myrtoan Sea, via transport through the Aegean...

, and toward the east the Karpathion Sea. It lies approximately 160 km (99.4 mi) south of the Greek mainland.

Mountains and valleys


Crete is extremely mountainous, and its character is defined by a high mountain range crossing from west to east, formed by three different groups of mountains:
  • The White Mountains or Lefka Ori
    Lefka Ori
    Lefka Ori or Madares is a mountain range located in Western Crete, in the Chania prefecture. The White Mountains or Lefka Ori occupy a good part of the centre of West Crete and are the main feature of the region...

     (2452 m (8,044.6 ft))
  • The Idi Range (Psiloritis (35.18°N 24.82°E) 2456 m (8,057.7 ft))
  • The Dikti Mountains
    Dikti
    Dikti or Dicte is a mountain range on the east of the island of Crete in the prefecture of Lassithi. On the west it extends to the prefecture of Heraklio.According to the Greek Mythology, Zeus was reared on this mountain...

     (2148 m (7,047.2 ft))
  • Kedros
    Mount Kedros
    Mount Kedros , is a mountain on the island of Crete in Greece. It is located southwest of the Ida massif with which it forms the two flanks of the Amari Valley. Mount Kedros is conical-shaped and made of limestone. Its landscape abounds with canyons and rock cliffs and is almost barren, with dry...

     (1777 m (5,830.1 ft))
  • Thripti (1489 m (4,885.2 ft))


These mountains gifted Crete with valleys, such as Amari valley
Amari Valley
The Amari Valley is a fertile valley on the foothills of Mount Ida and Mount Kedros in Crete. The valley was known as a center of resistance to the Germans during the Battle of Crete and the German occupation...

, fertile plateaus, such as Lasithi plateau, Omalos and Nidha; caves, such as Diktaion and Idaion (the birthplace of the ancient Greek god Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

); and a number of gorges.

Gorges, rivers, and lakes


The island has a number of gorges such as the famous gorge of Samaria
Samaria Gorge
The Samariá Gorge is aNational Park of Greece on the island of Crete - a major tourist attraction of the island - and a World's Biosphere Reserve....

, Imbros gorge
Imbros Gorge
Imbros Gorge is a 11 km long canyon located near Hora Sfakion in southern Crete, the Mediterranean island. It runs parallel to Samariá Gorge, its narrowest part has 1.60 m and it ends at the village of Kommitádes...

, Kourtaliotiko gorge
Kourtaliotiko Gorge
The Kourtaliotiko Gorge , also known as the Asomatos Gorge, is a gorge on the southern side of the western part of the island of Crete.It is situated where the Kourtaliotiko River flows southwards between the mountains of Kouroupa and Xiron....

, Ha gorge
Ha Gorge
Ha Gorge is a gorge on the eastern part of the island ofCrete in Greece. It is located in the west slope of Thrypti mountain and exits eastof Vasiliki village in the plain of Ierapetra. The gorge is about 1.5km...

, Platania gorge, the Gorge of the Dead (at Kato Zakros, Sitia
Sitia
Sitia refers both to the port town, with 8,900 inhabitants and to the municipality with 19,209 inhabitants in Lasithi, Crete . It lies to the east of Agios Nikolaos and to the northeast of Ierapetra. Sitia port is on the Sea of Crete, which is a part of the Aegean Sea and is one of the economic...

) and Richtis Gorge
Richtis Gorge
Richtis Gorge refers to a gorge in Crete, Greece . It is a state protected park near Exo Mouliana, Sitia, eastern Crete that starts at the traditional village Exo Mouliana, which is located on the national road between Agios Nikolaos and Sitia and ends at the secluded Richtis beach, just east of...

 and waterfall at Exo Mouliana in Sitia
Sitia
Sitia refers both to the port town, with 8,900 inhabitants and to the municipality with 19,209 inhabitants in Lasithi, Crete . It lies to the east of Agios Nikolaos and to the northeast of Ierapetra. Sitia port is on the Sea of Crete, which is a part of the Aegean Sea and is one of the economic...

.

The rivers of Crete include the Ieropotamos River
Ieropotamos River
The Ieropotamos River is a watercourse in southern Crete in Greece. This river was a source of water supply for the ancient Minoan settlement of Phaistos. The Ieropotamos River was heavily drawn upon by the Minoans because of the intensity of farming, even in the Bronze Age at Phaistos...

, the Koiliaris, the Anapodiaris, the Almiros, and Megas Potamos. There are only two freshwater lakes: Lake Kournas
Kournas
Kournas is the name of a village and nearby lake on the island of Crete, Greece. It is in the Apokoronas region of Chania Prefecture close to the border with Rethymno Prefecture, 47 km from the town of Chania. Kournas is a fairly large village perched on a hill overlooking the lake. It is in...

 and Lake Agia, which are both in Chania prefecture. Lake Voulismeni
Lake Voulismeni
Lake Voulismeni is a former sweetwater small lake, later connected to the sea, located at the centre of the town of Agios Nikolaos on the Greek island of Crete It has a circular shape of a diameter of 137 m and depth 64 m. The locals refer to it as just "the lake". The lake connects to the harbour...

 at the coast, at Aghios Nikolaos, was formerly a sweetwater lake but is now connected to the sea, in Lasithi.

Surrounding islands



A large number of islands, islets, and rocks hug the coast of Crete. Many are visited by tourists, some are visited only by archaeologists and biologists. Some are environmentally protected. A small sample of the islands include:
  • Gramvousa
    Gramvousa
    Gramvousa, also Grambousa, Grampousa or Krampouza , further names include Akra, Cavo Buso, Cavo Bouza, Garabusa and Grabusa, are names used for two small uninhabited islands off the coast of north-western Crete in the prefecture of Chania...

     (Kissamos
    Kissamos
    Kissamos is a town and municipality in the west of the island of Crete, Greece. It is part of the Chania peripheral unit and of the former Kissamos Province which covers the northwest corner of the island. The city of Kissamos is also known as Kastelli-Kissamou and often known simply as Kastelli...

    , Chania
    Chania
    Chaniá , , also transliterated Chania, Hania, and Xania, older form Chanea and Venetian Canea, Ottoman Turkish خانيه Hanya) is the second largest city of Crete and the capital of the Chania peripheral unit...

    ) the pirate island opposite the Balo lagoon.
  • Elafonisi
    Elafonisi
    Elafonisi is an island located close to the southwestern corner of the mediterranean island of Crete, of which it is administratively a part, in the prefecture of Chania. When the weather is fine it is possible to walk to the island through the shallow water...

     (Chania
    Chania
    Chaniá , , also transliterated Chania, Hania, and Xania, older form Chanea and Venetian Canea, Ottoman Turkish خانيه Hanya) is the second largest city of Crete and the capital of the Chania peripheral unit...

    ), which commemorates a shipwreck and an Ottoman massacre.
  • Chrysi
    Chrysi
    Chrysi , also transliterated as Chrissi, and alternatively known as Gaidouronisi , is an uninhabited Greek island approximately 15 km south of Crete close to Ierapetra in the Libyan Sea. Approximately 700m east of the island is the island of Mikronisi...

     island (Ierapetra
    Ierapetra
    Ierapetra is a town in the southeast of the Greek island of Crete and a municipality of Crete region.-History:The town of Ierapetra is located on the southeast coast of Crete, along the beach of Ierapetra Bay. It lies south of Agios Nikolaos and southwest of Sitia and is an important regional...

    , Lasithi
    Lasithi
    Lasithi is the easternmost regional unit on the island of Crete, to the east of Heraklion. Its capital is Agios Nikolaos, the other major towns being Ierapetra, Sitia and Neapoli. The mountains include the Dikte to the west and the Sitia Mountains to the east...

    ), which hosts the largest natural Lebanon cedar
    Lebanon Cedar
    Cedrus libani is a species of cedar native to the mountains of the Mediterranean region.There are two distinct types that are considered to be different subspecies or varieties. Lebanon cedar or Cedar of Lebanon Cedrus libani is a species of cedar native to the mountains of the Mediterranean...

     forest in Europe.
  • Paximadia
    Paximadia
    Paximadia are two small uninhabited islands in the gulf of Mesara located approximately 12km south of Agia Galini in Rethymno Prefecture. They are in the Libyan Sea next to the southern coast of Crete...

     island (Agia Galini, Rethymno
    Rethymno
    Rethymno is a city of approximately 40,000 people in Greece, the capital of Rethymno peripheral unit in the island of Crete. It was built in antiquity , even though was never a competitive Minoan centre...

    ) where the god Apollo and the goddess Artemis were born.
  • The Venetian fort and leper colony at Spinalonga
    Spinalonga
    The island of Spinalonga , officially known as Kalydon , is located in the Gulf of Elounda in north-eastern Crete, in Lasithi prefecture, next to the town of Elounda....

     opposite the beach and shallow waters of Elounda
    Elounda
    Elounda , alternative transliterations Elounta or Elouda, is a small fishing town on the northern coast of the island of Crete, Greece...

     (Ag. Nikolaos
    Agios Nikolaos, Crete
    Agios Nikolaos is a coastal town on the Greek island of Crete, lying east of the island's capital Heraklion, north of the town of Ierapetra and west of the town of Sitia. In the year 2000, the Municipality of Agios Nikolaos, which takes in part of the surrounding villages, claimed around 19,000...

    , Lasithi
    Lasithi
    Lasithi is the easternmost regional unit on the island of Crete, to the east of Heraklion. Its capital is Agios Nikolaos, the other major towns being Ierapetra, Sitia and Neapoli. The mountains include the Dikte to the west and the Sitia Mountains to the east...

    ).
  • Dionysades
    Dionysades
    The Dionysades or Gianysades is a small group of islands off Sitia on the northeast coast of Crete. The group includes the islands Gianysada, Dragonada, Paximada, and Paximadaki...

     islands which are in an environmentally protected region together the Palm Beach Forest of Vai
    Vai (Crete)
    The palm beach of Vai is one of the largest attractions of the Mediterranean island of Crete. It features the largest natural palm forest in Europe, made up of Cretan Date Palm ....

     in the municipality of Sitia
    Sitia
    Sitia refers both to the port town, with 8,900 inhabitants and to the municipality with 19,209 inhabitants in Lasithi, Crete . It lies to the east of Agios Nikolaos and to the northeast of Ierapetra. Sitia port is on the Sea of Crete, which is a part of the Aegean Sea and is one of the economic...

    , Lasithi
    Lasithi
    Lasithi is the easternmost regional unit on the island of Crete, to the east of Heraklion. Its capital is Agios Nikolaos, the other major towns being Ierapetra, Sitia and Neapoli. The mountains include the Dikte to the west and the Sitia Mountains to the east...

    .

Climate



Crete straddles two climatic zones, the Mediterranean
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

 and the North African, mainly falling within the former. As such, the climate in Crete is primarily temperate
Temperate
In geography, temperate or tepid latitudes of the globe lie between the tropics and the polar circles. The changes in these regions between summer and winter are generally relatively moderate, rather than extreme hot or cold...

. 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 mountain tops remain snow-capped year long, 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 (above 110 °F (43.3 °C)).

The south coast, including the Mesara Plain
Mesara Plain
The Mesara or Messara Plain is an illuvial plain in southern Crete, stretching about 50 km west-to-east and 7 km north-to-south, making it the largest plain in Crete....

 and Asterousia Mountains
Asterousia Mountains
The Asterousia Mountains are a range in southern Crete separating the Mesara Plain from the Libyan Sea. Evidence of ancient Cretan cultures have been found in excavations performed within sites contained in this range; moreover, one of the most significant Minoan sites on Crete has been excavated...

, falls in the North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

n climatic zone, and thus enjoys significantly more sunny days and high temperatures throughout the year. There, date palms
Date Palm
The date palm is a palm in the genus Phoenix, cultivated for its edible sweet fruit. Although its place of origin is unknown because of long cultivation, it probably originated from lands around the Persian Gulf. It is a medium-sized plant, 15–25 m tall, growing singly or forming a clump with...

 bear fruit, and swallows remain year-round rather than migrate to Africa
Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

. The fertile region around Ierapetra
Ierapetra
Ierapetra is a town in the southeast of the Greek island of Crete and a municipality of Crete region.-History:The town of Ierapetra is located on the southeast coast of Crete, along the beach of Ierapetra Bay. It lies south of Agios Nikolaos and southwest of Sitia and is an important regional...

, 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 greenhouse
Greenhouse
A greenhouse is a building in which plants are grown. These structures range in size from small sheds to very large buildings...

s throughout the winter.

Human 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.

Administration


Crete with its nearby islands form the region Crete , one of the 13 regions of Greece which were established in the 1987 administrative reform. With the 2010 Kallikratis plan, the powers and authority of the regions were redefined and extended. The region is based at Heraklion
Heraklion
Heraklion, or Heraclion is the largest city and the administrative capital of the island of Crete, Greece. It is the 4th largest city in Greece....

 and is divided into four regional units (pre-Kallikratis prefectures
Prefectures of Greece
During the first administrative division of independent Greece in 1833–1836 and then again from 1845 until their abolition with the Kallikratis reform in 2010, the prefectures were the country's main administrative unit...

). From west to east these are: Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion and Lasithi
Lasithi
Lasithi is the easternmost regional unit on the island of Crete, to the east of Heraklion. Its capital is Agios Nikolaos, the other major towns being Ierapetra, Sitia and Neapoli. The mountains include the Dikte to the west and the Sitia Mountains to the east...

. These are further subdivided into 24 municipalities.

The region's governor is, since 1 January 2011, Stavros Arnaoutakis
Stavros Arnaoutakis
Stavros Arnaoutakis is a Greek politician and former Member of the European Parliament for the Panhellenic Socialist Movement ; part of the Party of European Socialists...

, who was elected in the November 2010 local administration elections
Greek local elections, 2010
The 2010 Greek local elections were held on 7 November 2010 and 14 November 2010 to elect representatives to Greece's restructured local authorities, comprising 13 regions and 325 municipalities.-Background:...

 for the Panhellenic Socialist Movement
Panhellenic Socialist Movement
The Panhellenic Socialist Movement , known mostly by its acronym PASOK , is one of the two major political parties in Greece. Founded on 3 September 1974 by Andreas Papandreou, in 1981 PASOK became Greece's first social democratic party to win a majority in parliament.The party is a socialist party...

.

Cities


Heraklion
Heraklion
Heraklion, or Heraclion is the largest city and the administrative capital of the island of Crete, Greece. It is the 4th largest city in Greece....

 is the largest city and capital of Crete. The principal cities are:
  • Heraklion
    Heraklion
    Heraklion, or Heraclion is the largest city and the administrative capital of the island of Crete, Greece. It is the 4th largest city in Greece....

     (Iraklion or Candia) (130,914 inhabitants)
  • Chania
    Chania
    Chaniá , , also transliterated Chania, Hania, and Xania, older form Chanea and Venetian Canea, Ottoman Turkish خانيه Hanya) is the second largest city of Crete and the capital of the Chania peripheral unit...

     (Haniá) (53,373 inhabitants)
  • Rethymno
    Rethymno
    Rethymno is a city of approximately 40,000 people in Greece, the capital of Rethymno peripheral unit in the island of Crete. It was built in antiquity , even though was never a competitive Minoan centre...

     (27,868 inhabitants)
  • Ierapetra
    Ierapetra
    Ierapetra is a town in the southeast of the Greek island of Crete and a municipality of Crete region.-History:The town of Ierapetra is located on the southeast coast of Crete, along the beach of Ierapetra Bay. It lies south of Agios Nikolaos and southwest of Sitia and is an important regional...

     (23,707 inhabitants)
  • Agios Nikolaos
    Agios Nikolaos, Crete
    Agios Nikolaos is a coastal town on the Greek island of Crete, lying east of the island's capital Heraklion, north of the town of Ierapetra and west of the town of Sitia. In the year 2000, the Municipality of Agios Nikolaos, which takes in part of the surrounding villages, claimed around 19,000...

     (19,462 inhabitants)
  • Sitia
    Sitia
    Sitia refers both to the port town, with 8,900 inhabitants and to the municipality with 19,209 inhabitants in Lasithi, Crete . It lies to the east of Agios Nikolaos and to the northeast of Ierapetra. Sitia port is on the Sea of Crete, which is a part of the Aegean Sea and is one of the economic...

     (14,338 inhabitants)

Culture




The Greek language spoken on the island has a distinct Cretan Greek
Cretan Greek
Cretan Greek is a dialect of the Greek language, spoken by more than half a million people in Crete and many thousands in the diaspora....

 dialect with an extended vocabulary that is Crete-specific. Crete has its own distinctive Mantinades
Mantinada
A mantinada, — are Cretan rhyming couplets, typically improvised during dance music. Rhymed Cretan poetry of the Renaissance, especially verse epic Erotokritos, are reminiscent of the mantinada, and couplets from Erotokritos have become used as mantinades. Mantinades have either love or...

 poetry. The island is known for its Mantinades-based music
Music of Crete
The music of Crete is a traditional form of Greek folk music called κρητικά . The lyra is the dominant folk instrument on the island; there are three-stringed and four-stringed versions of this bowed string instrument, closely related to the medieval Byzantine lyra. It is often accompanied by the...

 (typically performed with the Cretan lyra
Lyra (Cretan)
The Cretan lyra is a Greek pear-shaped, three-stringed bowed musical instrument, central to the traditional music of Crete and other islands in the Dodecanese and the Aegean Archipelago, in Greece...

 and the laouto
Laouto
The laouto is a long-neck fretted instrument of the lute family, found in Greece, and similar in appearance to the oud. It is played in most respects like the oud .- Construction :...

) and has many indigenous dances, the most noted of which is the Pentozali.

Cretan authors have made important contributions to Greek Literature
Greek literature
Greek literature refers to writings composed in areas of Greek influence, typically though not necessarily in one of the Greek dialects, throughout the whole period in which the Greek-speaking people have existed.-Ancient Greek literature :...

 throughout the modern period; major names include Vikentios Kornaros, creator of the 17th century epic romance Erotokritos
Erotokritos
Erotokritos is a romance composed by Vikentios Kornaros in early 17th century Crete. It consists of 10,012 fifteen-syllable rhymed verses....

 (Greek Ερωτόκριτος), and in the 20th century Nikos Kazantzakis
Nikos Kazantzakis
Nikos Kazantzakis was a Greek writer and philosopher, celebrated for his novel Zorba the Greek, considered his magnum opus...

. In the Renaissance, Crete was the home of the Cretan School
Cretan School
The term Cretan School describes an important school of icon painting, also known as Post-Byzantine art, which flourished while Crete was under Venetian rule during the late Middle Ages, reaching its climax after the Fall of Constantinople, becoming the central force in Greek painting during the...

 of icon painting, which influenced El Greco
El Greco
El Greco was a painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. "El Greco" was a nickname, a reference to his ethnic Greek origin, and the artist normally signed his paintings with his full birth name in Greek letters, Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος .El Greco was born on Crete, which was at...

 and through him subsequent European painting.

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 (the sariki). Black is the color of mourning, and since Cretan families are notionally considered so extended as to include great-grandparents or second cousins (although they may have little actual contact) as well as all their respective in-laws, one is theoretically justified to be in continuous mourning for some relative or other, however distant. On festive occasions those who are not in mourning wear white, most notably white boots and headdress. In the small villages in the mountains some men unabashedly carry weapons including knives and guns which also appear at special occasions such as weddings.

Cretan society is well known for notorious family and clan vendettas
Feud
A feud , referred to in more extreme cases as a blood feud, vendetta, faida, or private war, is a long-running argument or fight between parties—often groups of people, especially families or clans. Feuds begin because one party perceives itself to have been attacked, insulted or wronged by another...

 which remain on the island to date. Cretans also have a tradition of keeping firearms at home, a tradition lasting from the era of resistance against the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

. Nearly every rural household on Crete has at least one unregistered gun. Guns are subject to strict regulation from the Greek government, yet the authorities turn a blind eye, accepting gun possession as their tradition.

Economy



The economy of Crete is predominantly based on agriculture and is one of the few Greek islands that can support itself independently without a tourism industry. The economy began to change visibly during the 1970s as tourism gained in importance. While an emphasis remains on agriculture and stock breeding, due to 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, while unemployment is at approximately 4%, of that of the country overall.

As in many regions of Greece, viticulture
Viticulture
Viticulture is the science, production and study of grapes which deals with the series of events that occur in the vineyard. When the grapes are used for winemaking, it is also known as viniculture...

 and olive
Olive
The olive , Olea europaea), is a species of a small tree in the family Oleaceae, native to the coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean Basin as well as northern Iran at the south end of the Caspian Sea.Its fruit, also called the olive, is of major agricultural importance in the...

 groves are significant; oranges
Orange (fruit)
An orange—specifically, the sweet orange—is the citrus Citrus × sinensis and its fruit. It is the most commonly grown tree fruit in the world....

 and citrons
Greek citron
The Greek citron variety of citrus medica was botanically classified by Adolf Engler as the "variety etrog". This is remarking on its major use for the Jewish ritual during Sukkot, due to its supposedly extraordinary natural beauty. It was also called Pitima, or the Cedro - Citron with a Pigolo -...

 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


The island has three significant airports, Nikos Kazantzakis at Heraklion
Heraklion
Heraklion, or Heraclion is the largest city and the administrative capital of the island of Crete, Greece. It is the 4th largest city in Greece....

, the Daskalogiannis
Chania International Airport
Additionally, several airlines operate charter flights to the airport, including:-External links:* ***...

 airport at Chania
Chania
Chaniá , , also transliterated Chania, Hania, and Xania, older form Chanea and Venetian Canea, Ottoman Turkish خانيه Hanya) is the second largest city of Crete and the capital of the Chania peripheral unit...

 and a smaller one in Sitia
Sitia
Sitia refers both to the port town, with 8,900 inhabitants and to the municipality with 19,209 inhabitants in Lasithi, Crete . It lies to the east of Agios Nikolaos and to the northeast of Ierapetra. Sitia port is on the Sea of Crete, which is a part of the Aegean Sea and is one of the economic...

. The first two serve international routes, as the main gateways to the island for travellers.

The island is served by ferries mostly from Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 by ferry companies such as Minoan Lines
Minoan Lines
Minoan Lines is one of the dominant passenger ferry companies in Greece, sailing between Piraeus and Crete and in the Adriatic Sea, between Patras and various Italian ports. The company was founded in May 1972...

 and ANEK Lines
ANEK Lines
ANEK Lines is a shipping company in Greece. It was founded in 1967 by numerous shareholders who were inhabitants of Crete. It operates passenger ferries, mainly on Piraeus-Crete and Adriatic Sea lines....

.

Tourism



Crete is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Greece. Fifteen percent of all arrivals in Greece come through the city of Heraklion
Heraklion
Heraklion, or Heraclion is the largest city and the administrative capital of the island of Crete, Greece. It is the 4th largest city in Greece....

 (port and airport), while charter journeys to Heraklion
Heraklion
Heraklion, or Heraclion is the largest city and the administrative capital of the island of Crete, Greece. It is the 4th largest city in Greece....

 last year made up 20% of all charter flights in Greece. Overall, more than two million tourists visited Crete last year, and this increase in tourism is reflected on the number of hotel beds, rising by 53% in the period between 1986 and 1991, when the rest of Greece saw increases of only 25%. 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
Chania
Chaniá , , also transliterated Chania, Hania, and Xania, older form Chanea and Venetian Canea, Ottoman Turkish خانيه Hanya) is the second largest city of Crete and the capital of the Chania peripheral unit...

 and a smaller airport in Sitia
Sitia
Sitia refers both to the port town, with 8,900 inhabitants and to the municipality with 19,209 inhabitants in Lasithi, Crete . It lies to the east of Agios Nikolaos and to the northeast of Ierapetra. Sitia port is on the Sea of Crete, which is a part of the Aegean Sea and is one of the economic...

 (international charter and domestic flights starting May 2012) or by boat to the main ports of Heraklion, Chania, Rethimno, Agios Nikolaos
Agios Nikolaos, Crete
Agios Nikolaos is a coastal town on the Greek island of Crete, lying east of the island's capital Heraklion, north of the town of Ierapetra and west of the town of Sitia. In the year 2000, the Municipality of Agios Nikolaos, which takes in part of the surrounding villages, claimed around 19,000...

 and Sitia
Sitia
Sitia refers both to the port town, with 8,900 inhabitants and to the municipality with 19,209 inhabitants in Lasithi, Crete . It lies to the east of Agios Nikolaos and to the northeast of Ierapetra. Sitia port is on the Sea of Crete, which is a part of the Aegean Sea and is one of the economic...

. Popular tourist attractions include the archaeological sites of the Minoan civilisation, the Venetian old city and port of Chania
Chania
Chaniá , , also transliterated Chania, Hania, and Xania, older form Chanea and Venetian Canea, Ottoman Turkish خانيه Hanya) is the second largest city of Crete and the capital of the Chania peripheral unit...

, the Venetian castle at Rethymno
Rethymno
Rethymno is a city of approximately 40,000 people in Greece, the capital of Rethymno peripheral unit in the island of Crete. It was built in antiquity , even though was never a competitive Minoan centre...

, the gorge of Samaria
Samaria Gorge
The Samariá Gorge is aNational Park of Greece on the island of Crete - a major tourist attraction of the island - and a World's Biosphere Reserve....

, the islands of Chrysi
Chrysi
Chrysi , also transliterated as Chrissi, and alternatively known as Gaidouronisi , is an uninhabited Greek island approximately 15 km south of Crete close to Ierapetra in the Libyan Sea. Approximately 700m east of the island is the island of Mikronisi...

, Elafonisi
Elafonisi
Elafonisi is an island located close to the southwestern corner of the mediterranean island of Crete, of which it is administratively a part, in the prefecture of Chania. When the weather is fine it is possible to walk to the island through the shallow water...

, Gramvousa
Gramvousa
Gramvousa, also Grambousa, Grampousa or Krampouza , further names include Akra, Cavo Buso, Cavo Bouza, Garabusa and Grabusa, are names used for two small uninhabited islands off the coast of north-western Crete in the prefecture of Chania...

, and Spinalonga
Spinalonga
The island of Spinalonga , officially known as Kalydon , is located in the Gulf of Elounda in north-eastern Crete, in Lasithi prefecture, next to the town of Elounda....

 and the Palm Beach of Vai
Vai (Crete)
The palm beach of Vai is one of the largest attractions of the Mediterranean island of Crete. It features the largest natural palm forest in Europe, made up of Cretan Date Palm ....

, which is the largest natural palm forest in Europe.

Sport


Crete has two football clubs: OFI Crete
OFI Crete
OFI , the Sportfriends Association Heraklion, is a Greek association football club based in Heraklion, on the island of Crete. Outside Greece, the club is generally known as OFI Crete F.C., however, the name Crete is not actually part of the club's official title.OFI is the club with most...

, which plays at Theodoros Vardinogiannis Stadium
Theodoros Vardinogiannis Stadium
Theodoros Vardinogiannis Stadium is a stadium in Heraklion, Crete, Greece. It was built in 1951 as the home stadium of OFI Crete. The stadium is commonly known by its nickname, Yedi Kule.-History:...

 (Iraklion), and Ergotelis F.C., which plays at the Pankritio Stadium (Iraklion). Both are members of Superleague Greece.

Archaeological sites and museums


There are a large number of archaeological sites which include the Minoan sites of Knossos
Knossos
Knossos , also known as Labyrinth, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square...

 and Phaistos
Phaistos
Phaistos , also transliterated as Phaestos, Festos and Phaestus is an ancient city on the island of Crete. Phaistos was located in the south-central portion of the island, about 5.6 kilometres from the Mediterranean Sea. It was inhabited from about 4000 BC. A palace, dating from the Middle Bronze...

, the classical site of Gortys, and the diverse archaeology of the island of Koufonisi
Koufonisi
Koufonisia is a former community in the Cyclades, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Naxos and Lesser Cyclades, of which it is a municipal unit. It consists of three main islands.-History:...

 which includes Minoan, Roman, and World War II ruins.

There are a number of museums throughout Crete. The Heraklion Archaeological Museum displays most of the archaeological finds of the Minoan era.

Environmentally protected areas


There are a number of environmentally protected areas. One such area is located at the island of Elafonisi
Elafonisi
Elafonisi is an island located close to the southwestern corner of the mediterranean island of Crete, of which it is administratively a part, in the prefecture of Chania. When the weather is fine it is possible to walk to the island through the shallow water...

 on the coast of southwestern Crete. Also, the palm forest of Vai
Vai (Crete)
The palm beach of Vai is one of the largest attractions of the Mediterranean island of Crete. It features the largest natural palm forest in Europe, made up of Cretan Date Palm ....

 in eastern Crete and the Dionysades
Dionysades
The Dionysades or Gianysades is a small group of islands off Sitia on the northeast coast of Crete. The group includes the islands Gianysada, Dragonada, Paximada, and Paximadaki...

 (both in the municipality of Sitia
Sitia
Sitia refers both to the port town, with 8,900 inhabitants and to the municipality with 19,209 inhabitants in Lasithi, Crete . It lies to the east of Agios Nikolaos and to the northeast of Ierapetra. Sitia port is on the Sea of Crete, which is a part of the Aegean Sea and is one of the economic...

, Lasithi
Lasithi
Lasithi is the easternmost regional unit on the island of Crete, to the east of Heraklion. Its capital is Agios Nikolaos, the other major towns being Ierapetra, Sitia and Neapoli. The mountains include the Dikte to the west and the Sitia Mountains to the east...

), have diverse animal and plant life. Vai
Vai (Crete)
The palm beach of Vai is one of the largest attractions of the Mediterranean island of Crete. It features the largest natural palm forest in Europe, made up of Cretan Date Palm ....

 has a palm beach and is the largest natural palm forest in Europe. The island of Chrysi
Chrysi
Chrysi , also transliterated as Chrissi, and alternatively known as Gaidouronisi , is an uninhabited Greek island approximately 15 km south of Crete close to Ierapetra in the Libyan Sea. Approximately 700m east of the island is the island of Mikronisi...

, 15 km south of Ierapetra
Ierapetra
Ierapetra is a town in the southeast of the Greek island of Crete and a municipality of Crete region.-History:The town of Ierapetra is located on the southeast coast of Crete, along the beach of Ierapetra Bay. It lies south of Agios Nikolaos and southwest of Sitia and is an important regional...

, has the largest naturally grown Lebanon Cedar
Lebanon Cedar
Cedrus libani is a species of cedar native to the mountains of the Mediterranean region.There are two distinct types that are considered to be different subspecies or varieties. Lebanon cedar or Cedar of Lebanon Cedrus libani is a species of cedar native to the mountains of the Mediterranean...

 forest in Europe. Samaria Gorge
Samaria Gorge
The Samariá Gorge is aNational Park of Greece on the island of Crete - a major tourist attraction of the island - and a World's Biosphere Reserve....

 is a World Biosphere Reserve and Richtis Gorge
Richtis Gorge
Richtis Gorge refers to a gorge in Crete, Greece . It is a state protected park near Exo Mouliana, Sitia, eastern Crete that starts at the traditional village Exo Mouliana, which is located on the national road between Agios Nikolaos and Sitia and ends at the secluded Richtis beach, just east of...

 is protected for its landscape diversity.

Development


Newspapers have reported that the Ministry of Mercantile Marine is ready to support the agreement between Greece, South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

, Dubai Ports World
Dubai Ports World
DP World is a major operator of marine ports with 49 terminals in operation and a further 9 under development across 31 countries. In 2010, DP World handled nearly 50 million TEU across its portfolio from the Americas to Asia...

 and China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 for the construction of a large international container port and free trade zone
Free trade zone
A free trade zone or export processing zone , also called foreign-trade zone, formerly free port is an area within which goods may be landed, handled, manufactured or reconfigured, and reexported without the intervention of the customs authorities...

 in southern Crete near Tympaki
Tympaki
Tympaki is a town and a former municipality in the Heraklion peripheral unit, Crete, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Faistos, of which it is a municipal unit. It is located on the south coast, between Agia Galini and Matala. Population 10,000...

; the plan is to expropriate 850 ha of land. The port would handle 2 million containers per year, while as of 2007, there has been no official announcement of a project not universally welcomed due to its environmental, economic and cultural impact. As of January 2009, it appears the project has been canceled, in part due to the strong opposition from the local population, mostly on environmental grounds.

Holiday homes and immigration


Crete's mild climate attracts interest from northern Europe
Northern Europe
Northern Europe is the northern part or region of Europe. Northern Europe typically refers to the seven countries in the northern part of the European subcontinent which includes Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Finland and Sweden...

ans who want a holiday home or residence on the island. EU citizens have the right to freely buy property and reside with little formality. A growing number of real estate companies cater to mainly British expatriates, followed by German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, Scandinavian
Scandinavians
Scandinavians are a group of Germanic peoples, inhabiting Scandinavia and to a lesser extent countries associated with Scandinavia, and speaking Scandinavian languages. The group includes Danes, Norwegians and Swedes, and additionally the descendants of Scandinavian settlers such as the Icelandic...

 and other European nationalities wishing to own a home in Crete. The British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 expatriates are concentrated in the western prefectures of Chania
Chania Prefecture
Chania is one of the four regional units of Crete; it covers the westernmost quarter of the island. Its capital is the city of Chania. Chania borders only one other regional unit: that of Rethymno to the east. The western part of Crete is bounded to the north by the Cretan Sea, and to the west...

 and Rethymno
Rethymno Prefecture
Rethymno is one of the four regional units of Crete, Greece. Its capital is the city of Rethymno. Today its main income is tourism. The countryside is also based economically on agriculture and herding.-Administration:...

 and to a lesser extent in Heraklion
Heraklion Prefecture
Heraklion is one of the four regional units of Crete. The capital is the city of Heraklion.-Geography:The regional unit of Heraklion borders on the regional units of Rethymno to the west and Lasithi to the east. Farmlands are situated in the central and the northern parts, at the coast and in...

 and Lasithi
Lasithi
Lasithi is the easternmost regional unit on the island of Crete, to the east of Heraklion. Its capital is Agios Nikolaos, the other major towns being Ierapetra, Sitia and Neapoli. The mountains include the Dikte to the west and the Sitia Mountains to the east...

.

Fauna and flora






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 compared 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
Hercules
Hercules is the Roman name for Greek demigod Heracles, son of Zeus , and the mortal Alcmene...

 (who took a live Cretan bull to the Peloponnese). Hercules wanted to honor the birthplace of Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

 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
Natural History Museum of Crete
The Natural History Museum of Crete in Heraklion, Crete is a natural history museum that operates under the auspices of the University of Crete. Its aim is the study, protection and promotion of the diverse flora and fauna of the Eastern Mediterranean region...

 operating under the direction of the University of Crete
University of Crete
The University of Crete ' is the principal higher education institution on the island of Crete, Greece.The University of Crete, is a multi-disciplinary, research- oriented institution, located in the cities of Rethymno and Heraklion...

 and two aquariums - Aquaworld
Aquaworld Aquarium
Aquaworld Aquarium is a natural history museum in Hersonissos, Heraklion, Crete, Greece. Founded in 1995, Aquaworld was founded and developed by Scotsman John Bryce McLaren...

 in Hersonissos and Cretaquarium
Cretaquarium
Cretaquarium or Thalassocosmos is a public aquarium located near the town of Gournes in Crete, Greece, 15 km east of the city of Heraklion....

 displaying sea creatures common in Cretan waters.

Prehistoric fauna


Dwarf elephant
Dwarf elephant
Dwarf elephants are prehistoric members of the order Proboscidea, that, through the process of allopatric speciation, evolved to a fraction of the size of their immediate ancestors...

s, dwarf hippopotamus, and dwarf deer
Candiacervus
Candiacervus was a genus of deer native to Pleistocene Crete. Their most notable feature, besides their peculiar, spatula-shaped antlers, was their small stature: the smallest species, C. ropalophorus, stood about 40 cm at the shoulders when fully grown, as can be inferred from a mounted...

 were native to Pleistocene
Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

 Crete.

Mammals



Mammals of Crete include the vulnerable Kri-kri
Kri-kri
The Kri-kri , sometimes called the Cretan goat, Agrimi, or Cretan Ibex, was considered a subspecies of Wild Goat, but has been recently found to be a feral variety of the domestic goat...

, that can be seen in the national parks of the Samaria Gorge and the Agioi Theodoroi (islands)
Agioi Theodoroi (islands)
Agioi Theodoroi are two uninhabited islets off the coast of western Crete. One is named Agios Theodoros, also called Thodorou, and the islet a few metres further north is called Mikros Agios Theodoros . Administratively, they are part of the municipality of Agia Marina, in Chania Prefecture...

, the Cretan wildcat
Cretan wildcat
The Cretan Wildcat is a European wildcat subspecies that inhabits the Greek island of Crete and was first described in 1953....

 and the Cretan spiny mouse. Other terrestrial mammals include subspecies of the Cretan marten, the Cretan weasel, the Cretan badger, the long-eared hedgehog
Long-eared Hedgehog
The Long-eared hedgehog is a species of hedgehog native to Central Asian countries and the Middle East. The long-eared hedgehog lives in burrows that it either makes or finds and is distinguished by its long ears. It is considered one of the smallest middle eastern hedgehogs . This Hedgehog is...

, the edible dormouse
Edible dormouse
The edible dormouse or fat dormouse is a large dormouse and the only living species in the genus Glis.-Description:...

, and the Cretan shrew
Cretan Shrew
The Cretan Shrew is a species of mammal in the Soricidae family. It is endemic and exclusive to the island of Crete, Greece. Its natural habitat is temperate shrubland, and is threatened by habitat loss...

, a unique endemic species of mammal in Greece, that is unfortunately threatened with extinction.

Bat species include: Blasius's horseshoe bat
Blasius's Horseshoe Bat
Blasius's Horseshoe Bat is a species of bat in the Rhinolophidae family found throughout large parts of the Mediterranean, Middle East and Northern Africa.-Physical appearance:...

, the lesser horseshoe bat
Lesser horseshoe bat
The Lesser Horseshoe Bat , is a type of European bat related to but smaller than its cousin, the Greater Horseshoe Bat...

, the greater horseshoe bat
Greater Horseshoe Bat
The Greater Horseshoe Bat is a European bat of the Rhinolophus genus. Its distribution covers Europe, Africa, South Asia and Australia. It is the largest of the European Horseshoe Bats and is thus easily distinguished from other species...

, the lesser mouse-eared bat
Lesser Mouse-eared Bat
The Lesser Mouse-Eared Bat is a species of vesper bat in the Vespertilionidae family. Syn.: Myotis oxygnathus Monticelli, 1885.- Habitat :...

, Geoffroy's bat
Geoffroy's Bat
Geoffroy's Bat is a species of vesper bat in the Vespertilionidae family.It can be found in the following countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iran, Israel,...

, the whiskered bat
Whiskered bat
The whiskered bats Myotis mystacinus and related species, are small European bats with long fur. Although uncommon, M. mystacinus is often found around human habitation and around water; it is similar to Brandt's bat Myotis brandtii, from which it was distinguished as a separate species only in...

, Kuhl's pipistrelle
Kuhl's Pipistrelle
Kuhl's Pipistrelle is a species of vesper bat.It can be found in the following countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Cape Verde, Egypt, France, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Malta, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia,...

, the common pipistrelle
Common Pipistrelle
The Common Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus is a small pipistrelle bat whose very large range extends across most of Europe, North Africa, southwestern Asia, and possibly into Korea. It is one of the most common bat species in the British Isles....

, Savi's pipistrelle
Savi's Pipistrelle
Savi's Pipistrelle, Hypsugo savii is a species of vesper bat found across Eurasia. Its summer habitat is not known, but in winter it favors caves, old buildings, and rock crevices. The Hypsugo savii and the Pipistrellus kuhlii have a share of similarities...

, the serotine bat
Serotine bat
The serotine bat Eptesicus serotinus is a fairly large European bat with quite large ears. It has a wingspan of around 370mm and often hunts in woodland. It sometimes roosts in buildings, hanging upside down, in small groups or individually...

, the long-eared bat, Schreiber's bat, and the European free-tailed bat
European Free-tailed Bat
The European Free-tailed Bat. is a species of free-tailed bat found across the Old World. An adult European Free-tailed Bat has a body length of 8.4-9.4 cm, a tail of 4.8-5.6 cm, and a wing length of 5.7-6.5 cm...

.

Birds


A large variety of birds includes eagles (can be seen in Lasithi
Lasithi
Lasithi is the easternmost regional unit on the island of Crete, to the east of Heraklion. Its capital is Agios Nikolaos, the other major towns being Ierapetra, Sitia and Neapoli. The mountains include the Dikte to the west and the Sitia Mountains to the east...

), swallows (throughout Crete but throughout the year in the south of the island), pelicans (along the coast), and cranes (including Gavdos
Gavdos
Gavdos is the southernmost Greek island, located to the south of its much bigger neighbour, Crete, of which it is administratively a part, in the peripheral unit of Chania. It forms a community with surrounding islets and was part of the former Selino Province. It is the southernmost point of...

 and Gavdopoula
Gavdopoula
Gavdopoula is an islet located north-west of its larger neighbour, Gavdos, in the Libyan Sea. It is located to the south of Crete, of which it is administratively a part, in the peripheral unit of Chania. It is part of the municipality of Gavdos, and it was part of the former Selino...

). The Cretan mountains and gorges are refuges for the endangered Lammergeier
Lammergeier
The Lammergeier, Lammergeyer, or Bearded Vulture, Gypaetus barbatus , is the only member of the genus Gypaetus. Traditionally considered an Old World vulture, it actually forms a minor lineage of Accipitridae together with the Egyptian Vulture , its closest living relative...

 vulture. Bird species include: the golden eagle
Golden Eagle
The Golden Eagle is one of the best known birds of prey in the Northern Hemisphere. Like all eagles, it belongs to the family Accipitridae. Once widespread across the Holarctic, it has disappeared from many of the more heavily populated areas...

, Bonelli's eagle
Bonelli's Eagle
The Bonelli's Eagle is a large bird of prey. Like all eagles, it belongs to the family Accipitridae.It breeds in southern Europe, Africa both north and south of the Sahara Desert and across southern Asia to Indonesia...

, the bearded vulture or Lammergeier, the griffon vulture
Griffon Vulture
The Griffon Vulture is a large Old World vulture in the bird of prey family Accipitridae.The Griffon Vulture is long with a wingspan. In the nominate race the males weigh and females typically weigh , while in the Indian subspecies the vultures average...

, Eleanora's falcon, peregrine falcon
Peregrine Falcon
The Peregrine Falcon , also known as the Peregrine, and historically as the Duck Hawk in North America, is a widespread bird of prey in the family Falconidae. A large, crow-sized falcon, it has a blue-gray back, barred white underparts, and a black head and "moustache"...

, lanner falcon
Lanner Falcon
The Lanner Falcon is a large bird of prey that breeds in Africa, southeast Europe and just into Asia. It is mainly resident, but some birds disperse more widely after the breeding season.-Description:...

, European kestrel, tawny owl
Tawny Owl
The Tawny Owl or Brown Owl is a stocky, medium-sized owl commonly found in woodlands across much of Eurasia. Its underparts are pale with dark streaks, and the upperparts are either brown or grey. Several of the eleven recognised subspecies have both variants...

, little owl
Little Owl
The Little Owl is a bird which is resident in much of the temperate and warmer parts of Europe, Asia east to Korea, and north Africa. It is not native to Great Britain, but was first introduced in 1842, and is now naturalised there...

, hooded crow
Hooded Crow
The Hooded Crow is a Eurasian bird species in the crow genus. Widely distributed, it is also known locally as Scotch Crow, Danish Crow, and Corbie or Grey Crow in Ireland, which is what its Welsh name, Brân Lwyd, translates as...

, alpine chough
Alpine Chough
The Alpine Chough , or Yellow-billed Chough, is a bird in the crow family, one of only two species in the genus Pyrrhocorax. Its two subspecies breed in high mountains from Spain east through southern Europe and North Africa to Central Asia, India and China, and it may nest at a higher altitude...

, red-billed chough
Red-billed Chough
The Red-billed Chough or Chough , Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax, is a bird in the crow family; it is one of only two species in the genus Pyrrhocorax...

, and the hoopoe
Hoopoe
The Hoopoe is a colourful bird that is found across Afro-Eurasia, notable for its distinctive 'crown' of feathers. It is the only extant species in the family Upupidae. One insular species, the Giant Hoopoe of Saint Helena, is extinct, and the Madagascar subspecies of the Hoopoe is sometimes...

.

Reptiles and amphibians


Reptiles and 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
Balkan Green Lizard
The Balkan Green Lizard is a species of lizard in the Lacertidae family.It is found in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, and Turkey....

, european chameleon, ocellated skink
Ocellated Skink
Ocellated Skink may refer to:* Chalcides ocellatus, the Ocellated Skink, found around the Mediterranean* Niveoscincus ocellatus, the Tasmanian Ocellated or Spotted Skink...

, snake-eyed skink, moorish gecko
Moorish gecko
Tarentola mauritanica is a species of gecko native to the Western Mediterranean region of Europe and North Africa and widely introduced to North America and Asia. It is commonly observed on walls in urban environments, mainly in warm coastal areas, though it can spread inland - especially in Spain...

, turkish gecko, Kotschy's gecko, spur-thighed tortoise, and the stripe-necked terrapin.

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
Balkan Whip Snake
The Balkan Whip Snake, Hierophis gemonensis, is a species in the family Colubridae.-Geographic range:It is found in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Italy, Serbia and Montenegro, and Slovenia.-Habitat:...

 (locally called Dendrogallia), the dice snake
Dice snake
The dice snake is a European nonvenomous snake belonging to the family Colubridae, subfamily Natricinae.- Brief description :...

 (called Nerofido in Greek), and the only venomous snake is the nocturnal cat snake which has evolved to deliver its venom in to geckos and small lizards and is not dangerous to humans.

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

Amphibians include the green toad
Green Toad
Green Toad can refer to multiple species of toad:*Bufo coniferus Evergreen Toad*Bufo debilis, North American Green Toad*Bufo melanochlorus, Dark Green Toad*Bufo pseudoraddei, Swat Green Toad*Bufo retiformis, Sonoran Green Toad...

, American toad
American toad
The American Toad is a common species of toad found throughout the eastern United States and Canada. It is divided into three subspecies—the Eastern American Toad , the Dwarf American Toad , and the rare Hudson Bay Toad...

, common tree frog, and the Cretan marsh frog
Marsh Frog
The Marsh Frog is the largest frog native to Europe and belongs to the family of true frogs. It is very similar in appearance to the closely related Edible Frog and Pool Frog...

.

Arthropods


Crete has an unusual variety of insects. Xylophagous
Xylophagidae
The Brachyceran infraorder Xylophagomorpha is a small group that consists solely of the family Xylophagidae, which presently contains subfamilies that were sometimes considered to be two small related families...

, known locally as Tzitzikia, make a distinctive repetitive tzi tzi noise that becomes louder and more frequent on hot summer days. Butterfly species include the swallowtail butterfly
Swallowtail butterfly
Swallowtail butterflies are large, colorful butterflies that form the family Papilionidae. There are over 550 species, and though the majority are tropical, members of the family are found on all continents except Antarctica...

. Moth species include the hummingbird moth. There are several species of scorpion such as Euscorpius
Euscorpius
Euscorpius is a genus of scorpions, commonly called small wood-scorpions. It presently contains 17 species and is the type genus of the family Euscorpiidae - long included in the Chactidae - and the subfamily Euscorpiinae....

 carpathicus whose venom is generally no more potent than a mosquito bite.

Crustaceans and molluscs


River crabs include the semi-terrestrial potamon potamios
Potamon potamios
Potamon potamios is a semi-terrestrial crab occurring around the eastern Mediterranean, including many Mediterranean islands, extending as far south and west as the Sinai Peninsula....

 crab. 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, although reported since ancient times. Indeed, the Minoan frescoes depicting dolphins in Queen's Megaron at Knossos, indicate that Minoans knew many things about these creatures and respected them. Apart from the famous endangered Mediterranean monk seal
Mediterranean Monk Seal
The Mediterranean monk seal is a pinniped belonging to the Phocidae family. At some 450-510 remaining individuals, it is believed to be the world's second-rarest pinniped , and one of the most endangered mammals in the world.It is present in parts of the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern Atlantic...

, which lives in almost all the coasts of the country, Greece hosts whales, sperm whales, dolphins and porpoises. 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
Squid
Squid are cephalopods of the order Teuthida, which comprises around 300 species. Like all other cephalopods, squid have a distinct head, bilateral symmetry, a mantle, and arms. Squid, like cuttlefish, have eight arms arranged in pairs and two, usually longer, tentacles...

 and octopus
Octopus
The octopus is a cephalopod mollusc of the order Octopoda. Octopuses have two eyes and four pairs of arms, and like other cephalopods they are bilaterally symmetric. An octopus has a hard beak, with its mouth at the center point of the arms...

 can be found along the coast and Sea turtle
Sea turtle
Sea turtles are marine reptiles that inhabit all of the world's oceans except the Arctic.-Distribution:...

s and Hammerhead shark
Hammerhead shark
The hammerhead sharks are a group of sharks in the family Sphyrnidae, so named for the unusual and distinctive structure of their heads, which are flattened and laterally extended into a "hammer" shape called a "cephalofoil". Most hammerhead species are placed in the genus Sphyrna while the...

s swim in the sea around the coast. The Cretaquarium
Cretaquarium
Cretaquarium or Thalassocosmos is a public aquarium located near the town of Gournes in Crete, Greece, 15 km east of the city of Heraklion....

 and the Aquaworld Aquarium
Aquaworld Aquarium
Aquaworld Aquarium is a natural history museum in Hersonissos, Heraklion, Crete, Greece. Founded in 1995, Aquaworld was founded and developed by Scotsman John Bryce McLaren...

, are two of only three aquariums in Greece, they are located in Heraklion
Heraklion
Heraklion, or Heraclion is the largest city and the administrative capital of the island of Crete, Greece. It is the 4th largest city in Greece....

 and Hersonissos respectively, and examples of the local sealife can be seen there.

Some of the fish that can be seen in the waters around Crete include: scorpion fish, dusky grouper, east Atlantic peacock wrasse
Wrasse
The wrasses are a family, Labridae, of marine fish, many of which are brightly colored. The family is large and diverse, with over 600 species in 82 genera, which are divided into nine subgroups or tribes....

, five-spotted wrasse, weever fish, common stingray
Common stingray
The common stingray is a species of stingray in the family Dasyatidae, found in the northeastern Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean and Black Seas. It typically inhabits sandy or muddy habitats in coastal waters shallower than , often burying itself in sediment...

, brown ray, mediterranean black goby, pearly razorfish, star-gazer, painted comber
Painted comber
The painted comber is a subtropical marine fish, classified in family Serranidae, the groupers and sea basses. It is found in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Black Sea. Synonyms are Perca marina and Sebastus marinus....

, damselfish
Damselfish
Damselfish comprise the family Pomacentridae except those of the genera Amphiprion and Premnas. They can grow up to long. While most are marine, a few species inhabit the lower stretches of rivers in freshwater. Damselfish usually have bright colors. in tropical coral reefs, and many of those are...

, and the flying gurnard.

Flora


Common wildflowers include: camomile, daisy, gladioli, hyacinth, iris, poppy, and tulip. There are more than 200 different species of wild orchid on the island and this includes 14 varieties of Ophrys Cretica. Crete has a rich variety of indigenous herbs including common sage
Sage
- People :*A "sage" is any wise teacher, someone who imparts wisdom or the perennial philosophy, including spiritual teachers and teachers of mysticism but not necessarily with such religious connotations, so may refer to a:...

, rosemary
Rosemary
Rosemary, , is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple or blue flowers, native to the Mediterranean region. It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, which includes many other herbs, and is one of two species in the genus Rosmarinus...

, thyme
Thyme
Thyme is a culinary and medicinal herb of the genus Thymus.-History:Ancient Egyptians used thyme for embalming. The ancient Greeks used it in their baths and burnt it as incense in their temples, believing it was a source of courage...

, and oregano
Oregano
Oregano – scientifically named Origanum vulgare by Carolus Linnaeus – is a common species of Origanum, a genus of the mint family . It is native to warm-temperate western and southwestern Eurasia and the Mediterranean region.Oregano is a perennial herb, growing from 20–80 cm tall,...

. Rare herbs include Cretan dittany. Varieties of cactus include the edible Prickly Pear. Common trees on the island include the chestnut, cypress, oak
Oak Tree
Oak Tree may refer to:*Oak, the tree*Oak Tree, County Durham, a village in County Durham, England*The Oaktree Foundation, a youth-run aid and development agency*Oak Tree National, golf club in Edmond, Oklahoma...

, olive tree, pine, plane, and tamarisk. Trees tend to be taller to the west of the island where water is more abundant.

History



Hominids settled in Crete at least 130,000 years ago. In the later Neolithic and Bronze Age period, under the Minoan
Minoan civilization
The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Crete and flourished from approximately the 27th century BC to the 15th century BC. It was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of the British archaeologist Arthur Evans...

s, Crete had a highly developed, literate civilization. It has been ruled by various ancient Greek entities, the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

, the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

, the Emirate of Crete
Emirate of Crete
The Emirate of Crete was a Muslim state that existed on the Mediterranean island of Crete from the late 820s to the Byzantine reconquest of the island in 961....

, the Republic of Venice
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

 and the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

. After a brief period of autonomy (1897–1913) under a provisional Cretan government, it joined the Kingdom of Greece. It was occupied by Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 during the Second World War.

Prehistoric Crete



The first human settlement in Crete dates before 130,000 years ago, during the Paleolithic
Paleolithic
The Paleolithic Age, Era or Period, is a prehistoric period of human history distinguished by the development of the most primitive stone tools discovered , and covers roughly 99% of human technological prehistory...

 age.

Settlements dating to the aceramic Neolithic in the 7th Millenium B.C., used cattle
Cattle
Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

, sheep
Domestic sheep
Sheep are quadrupedal, ruminant mammals typically kept as livestock. Like all ruminants, sheep are members of the order Artiodactyla, the even-toed ungulates. Although the name "sheep" applies to many species in the genus Ovis, in everyday usage it almost always refers to Ovis aries...

, goats, pig
Pig
A pig is any of the animals in the genus Sus, within the Suidae family of even-toed ungulates. Pigs include the domestic pig, its ancestor the wild boar, and several other wild relatives...

s and dog
Dog
The domestic dog is a domesticated form of the gray wolf, a member of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora. The term is used for both feral and pet varieties. The dog may have been the first animal to be domesticated, and has been the most widely kept working, hunting, and companion animal in...

s as well as domesticated cereal
Cereal
Cereals are grasses cultivated for the edible components of their grain , composed of the endosperm, germ, and bran...

s and legumes; ancient Knossos
Knossos
Knossos , also known as Labyrinth, or Knossos Palace, is the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete and probably the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace appears as a maze of workrooms, living spaces, and store rooms close to a central square...

 was the site of one of these major Neolithic (then later Minoan
Minoan civilization
The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Crete and flourished from approximately the 27th century BC to the 15th century BC. It was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of the British archaeologist Arthur Evans...

) sites. Other neolithic settlements include those at Kephala
Kephala
Kephala is a hill landform in northern Crete, Greece. This locus was chosen by ancient settlers for the site of the Palace of Knossos; the footprint of the Neolithic settlement at Kephala Hill was actually larger than the Bronze Age Palace of Knossos....

, Magasa
Magasa, Crete
This article is about a Neolithic settlement in Crete; for the town in Italy, see Magasa, Italy.Magasa is a Neolithic settlement on the eastern part of the island of Crete in present day Greece. Magasa is notable as a Neolithic Cretan settlement for some use of large room sizes in its multi-roomed...

, and Trapeza
Trapeza, Crete
Trapeza, Crete is a Neolithic and Bronze Age settlement on the island of Crete in Greece. Some of the Bronze Age pottery finds at Trapeza are similar to specimens recovered at Knossos and Vasiliki....

.

Minoan civilization



Crete was the center of Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

's first advanced civilization, the Minoan
Minoan civilization
The Minoan civilization was a Bronze Age civilization that arose on the island of Crete and flourished from approximately the 27th century BC to the 15th century BC. It was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century through the work of the British archaeologist Arthur Evans...

 . This civilization wrote in the undeciphered script known as Linear A
Linear A
Linear A is one of two scripts used in ancient Crete before Mycenaean Greek Linear B; Cretan hieroglyphs is the second script. In Minoan times, before the Mycenaean Greek dominion, Linear A was the official script for the palaces and religious activities, and hieroglyphs were mainly used on seals....

. Early Cretan history is replete with legends such as those of King Minos
Minos
In Greek mythology, Minos was a king of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa. Every year he made King Aegeus pick seven men and seven women to go to Daedalus' creation, the labyrinth, to be eaten by The Minotaur. After his death, Minos became a judge of the dead in Hades. The Minoan civilization of Crete...

, Theseus
Theseus
For other uses, see Theseus Theseus was the mythical founder-king of Athens, son of Aethra, and fathered by Aegeus and Poseidon, both of whom Aethra had slept with in one night. Theseus was a founder-hero, like Perseus, Cadmus, or Heracles, all of whom battled and overcame foes that were...

, and the Minotaur
Minotaur
In Greek mythology, the Minotaur , as the Greeks imagined him, was a creature with the head of a bull on the body of a man or, as described by Roman poet Ovid, "part man and part bull"...

, passed on orally via poets such as Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

. The Minoan eruption of Thera devastated the Minoan civilization.

Mycenean civilization



Beginning in 1420 BC, the Minoan civilization was overrun by the Mycenean civilization from mainland Greece. The oldest samples of writing in the Greek language, as identified by Michael Ventris
Michael Ventris
Michael George Francis Ventris, OBE was an English architect and classical scholar who, along with John Chadwick, was responsible for the decipherment of Linear B.Ventris was educated in Switzerland and at Stowe School...

, is the Linear B
Linear B
Linear B is a syllabic script that was used for writing Mycenaean Greek, an early form of Greek. It pre-dated the Greek alphabet by several centuries and seems to have died out with the fall of Mycenaean civilization...

 archive from Knossos, dated approximately to 1425–1375 BC.

Roman rule



Crete was involved in the Mithridatic Wars
Mithridatic Wars
There were three Mithridatic Wars between Rome and the Kingdom of Pontus in the 1st century BC. They are named for Mithridates VI who was King of Pontus at the time....

, initially repelling an attack by Roman general Marcus Antonius Creticus
Marcus Antonius Creticus
Marcus Antonius Creticus was a Roman politician, member of the Antonius family. Creticus was son of Marcus Antonius Orator and by his marriage to Julia Antonia he had three sons: Triumvir Marcus Antonius, Gaius Antonius and Lucius Antonius.He was elected praetor in 74 BC and received an...

 in 71 BCE. 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 BCE, earning for Metellus the title "Creticus". Gortyn
Gortyn
Gortyn, Gortys or Gortyna is a municipality and an archaeological site on the Mediterranean island of Crete, 45 km away from the modern capital Heraklion. The seat of the municipality is the village Agioi Deka...

 was made capital of the island, and Crete became a Roman province, along with Cyrenaica
Cyrenaica
Cyrenaica is the eastern coastal region of Libya.Also known as Pentapolis in antiquity, it was part of the Creta et Cyrenaica province during the Roman period, later divided in Libia Pentapolis and Libia Sicca...

 that was called Creta et Cyrenaica
Creta et Cyrenaica
Creta et Cyrenaica was a senatorial province of the Roman empire created in 20 BC. It comprised the island of Crete and the region of Cyrenaica in north Africa ....

.

Byzantine Empire – first period



Crete came under the rule of the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 and Crete was separated from Cyrenaica ca. 297. During the first Byzantine period Crete was subjected to an attack by Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

 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. Circa 732, the Emperor Leo III the Isaurian
Leo III the Isaurian
Leo III the Isaurian or the Syrian , was Byzantine emperor from 717 until his death in 741...

 transferred the island from the jurisdiction of the Pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 to that of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Emirate of Crete



In the 820s when Crete was part of the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

, it was captured by Andalus
Andalus
Al-Andalus Ensemble is an award-winning husband and wife musical duo that performs contemporary Andalusian music. The ensemble features Tarik Banzi playing oud, ney and darbuka, and Julia Banzi on flamenco guitar...

ian Arabs led by Abu Hafs
Abu Hafs (pirate)
Umar ibn Hafs ibn Shuayb ibn Isa al Balluti, surnamed al-Ghaliz and later al-Ikritishi , and usually known as Abu Hafs , was a Muwallad corsair who was primarily active between 816 and 827...

 who established the Emirate of Crete
Emirate of Crete
The Emirate of Crete was a Muslim state that existed on the Mediterranean island of Crete from the late 820s to the Byzantine reconquest of the island in 961....

. Byzantium launched a campaign to take the island back in 842 and 843 under Theoktistos
Theoktistos
Theoktistos was an influential senior Byzantine official during the reigns of Michael II and his son Theophilos, and regent for the underage Michael III...

 with some success. Further Byzantine campaigns in 911 and 949 failed. In 960/1 Nikephoros Phokas
Nikephoros II
Nikephoros II Phokas was a Byzantine Emperor whose brilliant military exploits contributed to the resurgence of Byzantine Empire in the tenth century.-Early exploits:...

' campaign successfully restored Crete to Byzantium.

Byzantine Empire – second period



In 961, Nikephoros Phokas returned the island to Byzantine rule after sieging and expelling the Arabs. During the Fourth Crusade
Fourth Crusade
The Fourth Crusade was originally intended to conquer Muslim-controlled Jerusalem by means of an invasion through Egypt. Instead, in April 1204, the Crusaders of Western Europe invaded and conquered the Christian city of Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire...

 Crete was granted to Boniface of Montferrat
Boniface of Montferrat
Boniface of Montferrat was Marquess of Montferrat and the leader of the Fourth Crusade. He was the third son of William V of Montferrat and Judith of Babenberg, born after his father's return from the Second Crusade...

 as a pronoia
Pronoia
Pronoia refers to a system of land grants in the Byzantine Empire.-The Early Pronoia System:...

 by the Byzantine emperor Alexios IV Angelos
Alexios IV Angelos
Alexios IV Angelos was Byzantine Emperor from August 1203 to January 1204. He was the son of emperor Isaac II Angelus and his first wife Irene. His paternal uncle was Emperor Alexius III Angelus....

. However, Boniface sold his rights cheaply to the Republic of Venice
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

 but the island was seized by Venice's rival the Republic of Genoa
Republic of Genoa
The Most Serene Republic of Genoa |Ligurian]]: Repúbrica de Zêna) was an independent state from 1005 to 1797 in Liguria on the northwestern Italian coast, as well as Corsica from 1347 to 1768, and numerous other territories throughout the Mediterranean....

 and it was not until 1212 that Venice secured Crete as a colony.

Venetian rule


From 1212, during Venice
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

's rule, which lasted more than four centuries, a Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 swept through the island as is evident from the plethora of artistic works dating to that period. The most notable representatives of this Cretan renaissance were the painter El Greco
El Greco
El Greco was a painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. "El Greco" was a nickname, a reference to his ethnic Greek origin, and the artist normally signed his paintings with his full birth name in Greek letters, Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος .El Greco was born on Crete, which was at...

 and the writers Nicholas Kalliakis
Nicholas Kalliakis
Nicholas Kalliakis was a Greek scholar and philosopher who flourished in Italy in the 17th century. He was appointed doctor of philosophy and theology in Rome, university professor of Greek and Latin and Aristotelian philosophy at Venice in 1666 and professor of belles-lettres and rhetoric at...

 (1645–1707), Georgios Kalafatis (professor)
Georgios Kalafatis (professor)
Georgios Kalafatis was a Greek professor of theoretical and practical medicine who was largely active in Padua and Venice in the 17th century Italian Renaissance.- Biography :...

 (ca. 1652–1720), Andreas Musalus
Andreas Musalus
Andreas Musalus was a Greek professor of mathematics, philosopher and architectural theorist who was largely active in Venice during the 17th-century Italian Renaissance.- Biography :...

 (ca. 1665–1721) and Vitsentzos Kornaros
Vitsentzos Kornaros
Vitsentzos or Vikentios Kornaros or Vincenzo Cornaro was a Cretan poet, who wrote the romantic epic poem Erotokritos. He wrote in vernacular Greek, and was a leading figure of the Cretan Renaissance....

.

Under the rule of the Catholic
Catholic
The word catholic comes from the Greek phrase , meaning "on the whole," "according to the whole" or "in general", and is a combination of the Greek words meaning "about" and meaning "whole"...

 Venetians
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

, the city of Candia
Candia
-Places:* The old Venetian name for Heraklion, Crete* Kingdom of Candia, colony of the Republic of Venice * Candia Canavese, Italy* Candia Lomellina, Italy...

 was reputed to be the best fortified city of the Eastern Mediterranean
Eastern Mediterranean
The Eastern Mediterranean is a term that denotes the countries geographically to the east of the Mediterranean Sea. This region is also known as Greater Syria or the Levant....

. The three main forts were located at Gramvousa
Gramvousa
Gramvousa, also Grambousa, Grampousa or Krampouza , further names include Akra, Cavo Buso, Cavo Bouza, Garabusa and Grabusa, are names used for two small uninhabited islands off the coast of north-western Crete in the prefecture of Chania...

, Spinalonga
Spinalonga
The island of Spinalonga , officially known as Kalydon , is located in the Gulf of Elounda in north-eastern Crete, in Lasithi prefecture, next to the town of Elounda....

, and Fortezza
Fortezza Castle
The Fortezza Castle is the Venetian-era citadel of the city of Rethymno in Crete, Greece.In the aftermath of the fall of Cyprus to the Ottoman Empire in 1571, the Venetians began fortifying Crete, their largest remaining overseas possession. Construction began on 13 September 1573. The fortress...

. Other fortifications include the Kazarma fortress
Kazarma fortress
Kazarma , from , "the guard barracks"), is the Venetian-era fortress of the city of Sitia in Crete, Greece. This fortress was built in the 13th Century.- External links :*...

. In 1492, Jews expelled from Spain settled on the island. In 1574–77, Crete was under the rule of Giacomo Foscarini as Proveditor General, Sindace and Inquistor. According to Starr (1942), 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.

Ottoman rule



The Ottomans
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 conquered Crete in 1669, after the siege of Candia
Siege of Candia
The Siege of Candia was a military conflict in which Ottoman forces besieged the Venetian-ruled city and were ultimately victorious. Lasting from 1648 to 1669, it was the longest siege in history.-Background:...

. Many Greek Cretans fled to other regions of the Republic of Venice
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

 after the Ottoman–Venetian Wars, some even prospering such as the family of Simone Stratigo
Simone Stratigo
Simone Stratigo ; ca. 1733 – ca. 1824) was a Greek mathematician and an Nautical science expert who studied and lived in Padova and Pavia in 18th century Italy.- Biography :...

 (ca. 1733 – ca. 1824) who migrated to Dalamatia from Crete in 1669. Islamic presence on the island, aside from the interlude of the Arab occupation
Emirate of Crete
The Emirate of Crete was a Muslim state that existed on the Mediterranean island of Crete from the late 820s to the Byzantine reconquest of the island in 961....

, was cemented by the Ottoman conquest
Ottoman wars in Europe
The wars of the Ottoman Empire in Europe are also sometimes referred to as the Ottoman Wars or as Turkish Wars, particularly in older, European texts.- Rise :...

. Most Cretan Muslims were local Greek converts who spoke Cretan Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, but in the island's 19th century political context they came to be viewed by the Christian population as Turks. 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. A number of Sufi orders were widespread throughout the island, the Bektashi
Bektashi
Bektashi Order or Bektashism is an Islamic Sufi order founded in the 13th century by the Persian saint Haji Bektash Veli. In addition to the spiritual teachings of Haji Bektash Veli the order was significantly influenced during its formative period by both the Hurufis as well as the...

 order being the most prevalent, possessing at least five tekkes. Many amongst them were crypto-Christians who converted back to Christianity in subsequent years, while many others fled Crete because of the unrest, settling in Turkey, Rhodes, Syria and elsewhere. By 1900, 11% of the population was Muslim. Those remaining were relocated in the 1924 Population exchange between Greece and Turkey
Population exchange between Greece and Turkey
The 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey was based upon religious identity, and involved the Greek Orthodox citizens of Turkey and the Muslim citizens of Greece...

.

Uprisings by Christians were met with a fierce response from the Ottoman authorities who executed bishops, regarded as ringleaders on several occasions..

During Easter of 1770, a notable revolt against Ottoman rule, in Crete, was started by Daskalogiannis
Daskalogiannis
Ioannis Vlachos , better known as Daskalogiannis was a wealthy shipbuilder and shipowner who led a Cretan revolt against Ottoman rule in the 18th century.-Life and career:...

, a shipowner from Sfakia
Sfakia
Sfakiá is a mountainous area in the southwestern part of the island of Crete, in the Chania peripheral unit. It is considered one of the few places in Greece to never have been fully occupied by foreign powers...

 who was promised support by Orlov's fleet
Orlov Revolt
The Orlov Revolt was a precursor to the Greek War of Independence , which saw a Greek uprising in the Peloponnese at the instigation of Count Orlov, commander of the Russian Naval Forces of the Russo-Turkish War...

 which never arrived. Daskalogiannis eventually surrendered to the Ottoman authorities who skinned him alive. Today, the airport at Chania is named after him.

Crete was left out of the modern Greek state by the London Protocol
London Protocol
-1814:On June 21, 1814, a secret convention between the Great Powers: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Prussia, Austria, and Russia awarded the territory of current Belgium and the Netherlands to William I of the Netherlands, then "Sovereign Prince" of the United Netherlands...

 of 1830, and soon it was yielded to Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 by the Ottoman sultan
Sultan
Sultan is a title with several historical meanings. Originally, it was an Arabic language abstract noun meaning "strength", "authority", "rulership", and "dictatorship", derived from the masdar سلطة , meaning "authority" or "power". Later, it came to be used as the title of certain rulers who...

. Egyptian rule was short-lived and sovereignty was returned to the Ottoman Empire by the Convention of London
Convention of London (1840)
The Convention of London of 1840 was a treaty with the formal title of Convention for the Pacification of the Levant, signed on 15 July 1840 between the European Great Powers of United Kingdom, Austria, Prussia, Russia on the one hand, and the Ottoman Empire on the other.The treaty summarized...

 on July 3, 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". The urban policy that the Ottoman applied to Candia was a two-pronged approach. 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
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 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.

Between 1833 and 1897, several more Christian uprisings took place, and in 1898, Crete, a complex autonomous Cretan State
Cretan State
The Cretan State was established in 1898, following the intervention by the Great Powers on the island of Crete. In 1897 an insurrection in Crete led the Ottoman Empire to declare war on Greece, which led the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Russia to intervene on the grounds that the Ottoman...

 under Ottoman suzerainty
Suzerainty
Suzerainty occurs where a region or people is a tributary to a more powerful entity which controls its foreign affairs while allowing the tributary vassal state some limited domestic autonomy. The dominant entity in the suzerainty relationship, or the more powerful entity itself, is called a...

.

Cretan State



Crete was garrisoned by an international military force, with a High Commissioner
High Commissioner
High Commissioner is the title of various high-ranking, special executive positions held by a commission of appointment.The English term is also used to render various equivalent titles in other languages.-Bilateral diplomacy:...

 (Armostis) appointed by the government of Greece, Alexandros Zaimis
Alexandros Zaimis
Alexandros Zaimis was a former Greek Prime Minister, Minister of the Interior, Minister of Justice, and High Commissioner of Crete. He served as Prime Minister six times.-Early Life and Family:...

. The island was partitioned in to four quarters by the four main powers jostling for power at that time. The four quarters were divided between Italy, Russia, the United Kingdom, and France, who controlled Chania, Rethymnon, Heraklion, and Lasithi respectively. Crete was joined in union with Greece on 1 December 1913.

World War II



During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the island was the scene of the famous Battle of Crete
Battle of Crete
The Battle of Crete was a battle during World War II on the Greek island of Crete. It began on the morning of 20 May 1941, when Nazi Germany launched an airborne invasion of Crete under the code-name Unternehmen Merkur...

 in May 1941. German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 paratrooper
Paratrooper
Paratroopers are soldiers trained in parachuting and generally operate as part of an airborne force.Paratroopers are used for tactical advantage as they can be inserted into the battlefield from the air, thereby allowing them to be positioned in areas not accessible by land...

s sustained almost 7,000 casualties, meeting fierce resistance from both locals and the British Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Nations
The Commonwealth of Nations, normally referred to as the Commonwealth and formerly known as the British Commonwealth, is an intergovernmental organisation of fifty-four independent member states...

 force, commanded by General Sir Bernard Freyberg. As a result, Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 forbade further large-scale airborne operations. During the occupation, German firing squads were routinely used to execute male civilians, who were randomly gathered at local villages, in reprisal for the death of German soldiers, such as at Kondomari
Massacre of Kondomari
The Massacre of Kondomari refers to the execution of male civilians from the village of Kondomari in Crete by an ad hoc firing squad consisting of German paratroopers on 2 June 1941 during World War II. The shooting was the first of a long series of mass reprisals in Crete and was also the first...

.

Mythology


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

The Idaion cave at Mount Ida was the birthplace of the god Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

. The Paximadia
Paximadia
Paximadia are two small uninhabited islands in the gulf of Mesara located approximately 12km south of Agia Galini in Rethymno Prefecture. They are in the Libyan Sea next to the southern coast of Crete...

 islands were the birthplace of the goddess Artemis
Artemis
Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman equivalent is Diana. Some scholars believe that the name and indeed the goddess herself was originally pre-Greek. Homer refers to her as Artemis Agrotera, Potnia Theron: "Artemis of the wildland, Mistress of Animals"...

 and the god Apollo
Apollo
Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in Greek and Roman mythology...

. Their mother, the goddess Leto
Leto
In Greek mythology, Leto is a daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe. The island of Kos is claimed as her birthplace. In the Olympian scheme, Zeus is the father of her twins, Apollo and Artemis, the Letoides, which Leto conceived after her hidden beauty accidentally caught the eyes of Zeus...

, was worshipped at Phaistos
Phaistos
Phaistos , also transliterated as Phaestos, Festos and Phaestus is an ancient city on the island of Crete. Phaistos was located in the south-central portion of the island, about 5.6 kilometres from the Mediterranean Sea. It was inhabited from about 4000 BC. A palace, dating from the Middle Bronze...

. The goddess Athena
Athena
In Greek mythology, Athena, Athenê, or Athene , also referred to as Pallas Athena/Athene , is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, justice, and skill. Minerva, Athena's Roman incarnation, embodies similar attributes. Athena is...

 bathed in Lake Voulismeni. The ancient Greek god Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

 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
Souda (island)
Souda is an islet in Souda Bay on the northwest coast of Crete. In ancient times this islet was one of two islets that were referred to as Leukai . The second islet is known today as Leon.-History:...

 were the result of a musical contest between the Siren
Siren
In Greek mythology, the Sirens were three dangerous mermaid like creatures, portrayed as seductresses who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. Roman poets placed them on an island called Sirenum scopuli...

s 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
Aptera
Aptera is an obsolete taxonomic category, which included the Apterygota along with various other wingless arthropods.Aptera may also refer to:* Aptera, Greece, the city in Crete* Aptera Motors, an automobile company producing the Aptera 2e...

 ("featherless") where they formed the islands in the bay that were called Lefkai (the islands of Souda
Souda (island)
Souda is an islet in Souda Bay on the northwest coast of Crete. In ancient times this islet was one of two islets that were referred to as Leukai . The second islet is known today as Leon.-History:...

 and Leon
Leon (Souda Bay)
Leon , also known colloquially as Nisi and during Venetian rule as Rabbit Island, is an islet in Souda Bay on the northwest coast of Crete....

). Hercules
Hercules
Hercules is the Roman name for Greek demigod Heracles, son of Zeus , and the mortal Alcmene...

, in one of his labors, took the Cretan bull
Cretan Bull
In Greek mythology, the Cretan Bull was either the bull that carried away Europa or the bull Pasiphaë fell in love with, giving birth to the Minotaur.- Origin :...

 to the Peloponnese. Europa
Europa (mythology)
In Greek mythology Europa was a Phoenician woman of high lineage, from whom the name of the continent Europe has ultimately been taken. The name Europa occurs in Hesiod's long list of daughters of primordial Oceanus and Tethys...

 and Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

 made love at Gortys and conceived the Kings of the Minoan civilization.

The labyrinth
Labyrinth
In Greek mythology, the Labyrinth was an elaborate structure designed and built by the legendary artificer Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at Knossos...

 of the palace of Knossos has the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur where the Minotaur
Minotaur
In Greek mythology, the Minotaur , as the Greeks imagined him, was a creature with the head of a bull on the body of a man or, as described by Roman poet Ovid, "part man and part bull"...

 was slain by Theseus
Theseus
For other uses, see Theseus Theseus was the mythical founder-king of Athens, son of Aethra, and fathered by Aegeus and Poseidon, both of whom Aethra had slept with in one night. Theseus was a founder-hero, like Perseus, Cadmus, or Heracles, all of whom battled and overcame foes that were...

. Icarus
Icarus
-Space and astronomy:* Icarus , on the Moon* Icarus , a planetary science journal* 1566 Icarus, an asteroid* IKAROS, a interplanetary unmanned spacecraft...

 and Daedalus
Daedalus
In Greek mythology, Daedalus was a skillful craftsman and artisan.-Family:...

 were captives of King Minos and crafted wings to escape. King Minos became a judge of the dead in Hades
Hades
Hades , Hadēs, originally , Haidēs or , Aidēs , meaning "the unseen") was the ancient Greek god of the underworld. The genitive , Haidou, was an elision to denote locality: "[the house/dominion] of Hades". Eventually, the nominative came to designate the abode of the dead.In Greek mythology, Hades...

.

Notable people from Crete



Internationally famous people from Crete include:
  • John Aniston
    John Aniston
    John Anthony Aniston is a Greek-American actor and the father of actress Jennifer Aniston. He is best known for his role as Victor Kiriakis on the NBC daytime drama Days of our Lives, which he originated in July 1985 and has played continually since then.-Early life:Aniston was born Yannis...

    , actor, best known for his role as Victor Kiriakis on the NBC daytime drama Days of our Lives
    Days of our Lives
    Days of our Lives is a long running daytime soap opera broadcast on the NBC television network. It is one of the longest-running scripted television programs in the world, airing nearly every weekday in the United States since November 8, 1965. It has since been syndicated to many countries around...

     also father of Jennifer Aniston
    Jennifer Aniston
    Jennifer Joanna Aniston is an American actress, film director, and producer, best known for her role as Rachel Green on the television sitcom Friends, a role which earned her an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award.Aniston has also enjoyed a successful film career,...

  • Ross Daly
    Ross Daly
    Ross Daly is a world musician who specializes in music of the Cretan lyra. Although of Irish descent, he has been living on the island of Crete for over 35 years.-Biography:...

    , a world music
    World music
    World music is a term with widely varying definitions, often encompassing music which is primarily identified as another genre. This is evidenced by world music definitions such as "all of the music in the world" or "somebody else's local music"...

     musician who has lived in Crete for most of his life, originally from Ireland.
  • Eleni Daniilidou
    Eleni Daniilidou
    Eleni Daniilidou is a Greek tennis player born in Chania, on the island of Crete.As of 2011, she has won five WTA singles titles and three doubles titles. In 2003, she reached the Australian Open mixed doubles final. Her highest singles ranking has been 14th...

    , an international tennis player, born in Chania.
  • Odysseas Elytis
    Odysseas Elytis
    Odysseas Elytis was regarded as a major exponent of romantic modernism in Greece and the world. In 1979 he was bestowed with the Nobel Prize in Literature.-Biography:...

    , an internationally-renowned poet, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature
    Nobel Prize in Literature
    Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

     in 1979, was born in Heraklion
    Heraklion
    Heraklion, or Heraclion is the largest city and the administrative capital of the island of Crete, Greece. It is the 4th largest city in Greece....

    .
  • El Greco
    El Greco
    El Greco was a painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. "El Greco" was a nickname, a reference to his ethnic Greek origin, and the artist normally signed his paintings with his full birth name in Greek letters, Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος .El Greco was born on Crete, which was at...

    , a Renaissance artist, born in Fodele.
  • Nana Mouskouri
    Nana Mouskouri
    Nana Mouskouri , born Ioánna Moúschouri on October 13, 1934, in Chania, Crete, Greece, is a Greek singer who has sold about 300 million records worldwide in a career spanning over five decades, making her one of the best-selling music artists of all time. She was known as Nána to her friends and...

    , an internationally-known singer, born in Chania.
  • Georgios Samaras
    Georgios Samaras
    Georgios Samaras is a Greek footballer who plays for Scottish Premier League club Celtic and the Greek national football team. He is predominantly a left winger but can also play as a striker....

    , an international football player, born in Heraklion.
  • Eleftherios Venizelos
    Eleftherios Venizelos
    Eleftherios Venizelos was an eminent Greek revolutionary, a prominent and illustrious statesman as well as a charismatic leader in the early 20th century. Elected several times as Prime Minister of Greece and served from 1910 to 1920 and from 1928 to 1932...

    , an internationally-renowned former Greek Prime Minister, born in Chania Prefecture
    Chania Prefecture
    Chania is one of the four regional units of Crete; it covers the westernmost quarter of the island. Its capital is the city of Chania. Chania borders only one other regional unit: that of Rethymno to the east. The western part of Crete is bounded to the north by the Cretan Sea, and to the west...

    .
  • Nikos Kazantzakis
    Nikos Kazantzakis
    Nikos Kazantzakis was a Greek writer and philosopher, celebrated for his novel Zorba the Greek, considered his magnum opus...

    , an internationally-published author, born in Heraklion.

See also

  • Cretan dialect
  • Mantinades
    Mantinada
    A mantinada, — are Cretan rhyming couplets, typically improvised during dance music. Rhymed Cretan poetry of the Renaissance, especially verse epic Erotokritos, are reminiscent of the mantinada, and couplets from Erotokritos have become used as mantinades. Mantinades have either love or...

  • Music of Crete
    Music of Crete
    The music of Crete is a traditional form of Greek folk music called κρητικά . The lyra is the dominant folk instrument on the island; there are three-stringed and four-stringed versions of this bowed string instrument, closely related to the medieval Byzantine lyra. It is often accompanied by the...

  • List of Greek islands
  • List of novels set in Crete

External links