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History

Here something about the history of Crete. Don't be afraid, it is a short version.
 

6500-2600 B.C.

The earliest traces of human habitation in Crete go back to the Neolithic Age. The first inhabitants of the island lived in caves, which later became places of worship and in houses with stone foundations and brick walls. These people were farmers and shepherds. They used simple tools and utensils made of animal bones and stone, many of which have been turned up during archaeological excavations.

We know very little about their religious beliefs. It is hypothesized that they worshipped Goea, the goddess of fertility. Many figurines showing this female form have been found in Crete and throughout the eastern Mediterranean basin. For many centuries afterwards Mother was the most important symbol for the cultures of the Mediterranean lands.

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2600-1100 B.C.

The Bronze Age in Crete, around the year 2,600 B.C., was the beginning of the culture which has come to be called "Minoan civilization". The name, from Minos, the mythical king of Crete, was first used by the archaeologist Arthur Evans. The Minoan epoch is broken down into three periods:

Early Minoan period (2,600 B.C.- 2,000 B.C.)
Middle Minoan period (2,000 B.C. - 1,580 B.C.)
Late Minoan period (1,580 B.C. - 1,100 B.C.)
The first palaces were built in Crete around the start of the Middle Minoan period, that is, around 2,000 B.C. Economic and political power seems to have centered on the palaces of Knossos, Phaistos, Mallia, Archanes, Zakros and Kydonia.
An earthquake which shook the whole island and was followed by extensive fires seems to have destroyed the palaces around 1,700 B.C.

However, we do not know whether the destruction of the palaces was the work of nature alone, or whether there was also an invasion of the island. Immediately after, the palaces were rebuilt even larger and more magnificent than before and the period from 1700 B.C. to 1400 B.C. is often called the Final Palace period. Mallia, Zakros, Phaistos and above all Knossos were at the height of their power during this period. Excavations have revealed that more than one script was in use in Crete at this time: a hieroglyphic script (of which the Phaistos Disc in Herakleio Archaeological Museum is an example) and a syllabic script, which is known as Linear A, that has not yet been deciphered.
Excavations in the island and along the coasts of the Aegean show that the Minoans built trading posts in these places. The economy of the island flourished. Farming and stockbreeding produced large yields and the workshops of the palaces and the villages turned out goods for export to the other islands and to mainland Greece. Works of art made in Crete found buyers in Egypt, Phoenicia and Syria and Minoan pottery has been discovered throughout the eastern Mediterranean. Around 1400 B.C. there was a tremendous natural disaster which led to the end of the Minoan culture.
Earthquakes and fires destroyed Knossos and the other palaces and the towns were deserted.
The catastrophe may have been caused by the eruption of the Santorini volcano, although it is possible that this may have coincided with a foreign invasion. However, the disaster was not the absolute end of Minoan culture.

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1100-900 B.C.

After the destruction of the palaces and the collapse of the Minoan culture, Crete was conquered by the Dorians, who sailed across from mainland Greece. The Doric cities of Crete had the same system of government as Sparta, that is, they a senate consisting of the nobility of the city. The towns were protected by walls and each had its own acropolis. The cities could be kept united under the leadership of Knossos, but only when this was necessary for the purposes of repelling some new invader. Quite a number of traces of these Doric cities have survived down to the present day: at Prinia, some 40 km from Herakleio, traces have been found on a low hill of one of the most important Archaic sanctuaries of the 7th century B.C. Gortyn, approximately 45 km from Herakleio , was from time to time the most important and powerful city in Crete. Traces of all the periods in the history of the island have been found here. Of particular interest are the inscriptions giving the Laws of Gortyn, which include legislation in family law and the law of inheritance.

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900 B.C. - 330 A.D.

During the Classical period (500-323 B.C.), Crete did not play a particularly important part in the political and cultural spheres. This situation did not change during the Hellenic and Roman periods which followed.
When Crete became a Roman province, the living conditions of the islanders began slowly to improve. The population increased and densely-populated towns grew up in the plains and along the coasts.
It is worth to be noticed that during the Roman period, Gortyn became the island's capital.

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330-1204 A.D.

Crete experienced Byzantine rule in two periods: the first of these (330 - 826 A.D.) was interrupted by occupation by the Arabs (826 - 961) and was followed by the second Byzantine period (961 - 1204). The main characteristic of the first period was the establishment of Christianity in the island. After the Arab occupation in 826,there was much persecution of Christianity and the religion's hold over the island slackened.
It was not until 961 that the Byzantine general Nicephorus Phocas was able to liberate Crete and bring it back into the Byzantine Empire. In this second period Christianity gained in strength. It was at this time that Herakleio became the seat of the Archbishop and churches and monasteries sprang up everywhere.

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1204-1669 A.D.

In 1204 Venetians became the rulers of the island. In this period, Herakleio was renamed Candia and it remained capital of Crete. The Venetian influence in Crete's architecture remained until our days. When Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453, large number of Greek nobles and scholars took refuge in Crete. As a result, Byzantine culture and Byzantine art took on a fresh lease of life.
The Monastery of St. Catherine in Herakleio was a particularly important center of Byzantine culture where theology, philosophy, music and literature were developed. The traditional Byzantine style of painting combined with elements taken from the Italian Renaissance formed a new school of art called the "Cretan school". Among the most famous painters in this period were Michail Damaskinos, Klontzas and Ioannis Kornaros. The youthful works of Domenico Theotokopoulos, better known as El Greco, should also be seen as belonging to the Cretan school.

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1669-1898 A.D.

The Turks after an endless invasion which took place 130 years about, they succeeded to become the rulers of the island. Generally speaking the Turkish occupation was the darkest period in the island's long history. And when the Greek War of Independence broke out in 1821, the Turks in their rage behaved with even greater cruelty to the Cretans. The great Cretan rebellion began in 1866 and lasted until 1868. This was the climax of the Cretan desire for freedom and union with the rest of Greece. During the course of the revolt, the Arkadi Monastery was destroyed and it became a symbol of the indomitable will of the Cretans to be free. The Arkadi sacrifice sent a tremor of horror round the world. In the end, the rebellion petered out amid incalculable destruction and loss of human life.

Fresh fighting broke out in 1895 - 1896, after a period since the beginning of the decade when the old wounds had reopened and violence was an everyday occurrence. In 1897, Greek forces gradually began to liberate the island, with the intention of uniting it with Greece.

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1898-today

The fighting stopped in 1898. The great powers recognized the existence of autonomous "Cretan State'. Prince George of Greece was appointed High Commissioner over it. However, the struggle of the ordinary Cretans continued, culminating in the Theriso rebellion of 1905. That rebellion led to the eventual union of Crete with Greece. The most recent heroic event in Cretan history occurred during the Second World War, when Crete became the theatre of hard fighting, in the world famous "Battle of Crete".
 

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