Situated as it is, at the crossroads of sea communications between Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, the island of Crete has always been a tempting fruit, ripe for picking by invaders, colonisers and traders. Some have coveted the island for its natural riches of timber and fertile agricultural land; some have wanted to use it as a buffer between themselves and aggressors, others as a base for attacking enemies or as a departure point for invasions. Crete’s history is one of invasion, resistance, battle and bloodshed, interspersed with periods of calm and prosperity under a succession of rulers.
At times the island had seen such prosperity that it has been known as the jewel of the Mediterranean. At other times it has sunk into the misery of neglect and cruelty so deep that it seemed that it would never rise again. Each succeeding culture, beneficial or destructive, has left its mark. There are relics and remains of every period in the town streets and on lonely hillsides, among which the present-day Cretans lead their lives unconcernedly .
RELICS OF THE RULERS
The great Minoan civilization that rose and fell in Crete between 2600- 1400 BC left palaces at Knossos, Phaistos ,Malia and Zakros. Another is the hilltop town of Gournia, all of which are magnets for hundreds of thousands of visitors. After the Minoans, the Dorians who then ruled Crete built small city- states such as Polirrinia and Itanos, in the hills and by the shore, and their house and temple ruins lie mostly unvisited. The enormous sprawling Roman city at Gortys , where the olive groves are strewn with marble columns and fragments of pottery. Gortys also has a large basilica, built by the Byzantines ,the next rulers of Crete. Byzantine artists decorated their churches with geometric frescoes which display thousand-year-old colours that are still bright today.
Byzantine fresco. Herod ‘s Banquet. at the church Panagia Kera Crete.
Panagia Kera Byzantine Church. The Last Trumpet Call Fresco.
From 1204 for 450 years the Venetians held the island and their magnificent solid architecture is still widespread. The Turks drove the Venetians out in 1669, and ruled until 1898. They built fountains and minarets and added their own style of doors, windows and arches.to the Venetian houses. War memorials, newly built mountain villages and recent rebuilding in the bigger towns are reminders of the extensive damage suffered during World War 11 .
There is a mixture of Venetian and Turkish architecture in Rethymno Crete.
LEGEND AND FACT.
Crete rests largely on the remains of an obscure Bronze Age civilization unearthed by a short sighted Englishman. When Sir Arthur Evans discovered and excavated the palace at Knossos in 1900 he brought to light one of history’s most fabulous treasures, forgotten under the earth for 2,000 years and more. Evans named the palace builders Minoans after the mythical King Minos of Crete for this discovery brought together mythology and history, legend and fact. Other excavations at Phaistos , Malia and Gournia were to confirm what Evans suspected- that the ancient legends of Crete were founded on reality. Folk memories existed of a sophisticated, creative, artistic and powerful society that had once flourished on the island. The early excavations were not the end of the story. As late as 1962 the splendid Minoan palace of Zakros was unearthed and more discovery’s were made in caves and on hilltops all over Crete. Libation jugs, votive figurines, statues, pots and gold ornaments are among the treasures brought up to the surface. Hundreds of Minoan houses, store rooms, streets and sanctuaries lie concealed, some known to archaeologists, others yet to be discovered.
The Minoan civilization’s architecture demonstrates that they were both advanced and highly sophisticated. The Palace in Knossos, Akrotiri, and Zominthos contain architectural feats that are near unparalleled for their time. These feats include plumbing, drainage, use of light reflection and air. The Palace of Knossos had an extensive water supply and drainage system throughout the structure. They used terracotta pipes to deliver water to the palace as well as a subterranean drainage system that ran beneath the palace to prevent flooding and to dispose of water.
The town of Akrotiri had the capability to run fresh water into every building, and also had a sewage system throughout the entire town connecting to bathrooms within the buildings, even connecting to the second floors. The toilets of the town had an ingenious design; the waste would fall down a clay pipe to the subterranean sewage system below where water from the town’s drains flushed it into a cesspit. The pipes were designed in such a way that a siphon effect drew the smells down the pipes away from the lavatory. This type of system was at least a thousand years ahead of its time.
A portion of the Minoan terracotta pipe system that was able to pump water – without mechanized pumps using the (Venturi effect) uphill, to bathrooms, kitchens and fountains.
Channels at the flat surfaces contained catchment basins to control the water velocity. Probably the upper system was open manholes which provided access to parts that were covered.
Within the structure at Knossos the Minoans used their central staircase to provide light to the inner rooms of the palace. They also used a system known as peer and door partitioning (rows of pillars holding wooden shutters which could be opened and closed) to control air flow within the inner rooms. They also had under floor heating .
Knossos.Palace. The stairway to the main living quarters.