Crete history

Prehistoric Crete

Excavations in South Crete in 2008–2009 led by Thomas F. Strasser (Providence College, R.I., USA) revealed stone tools at least 130,000 years old.[1][2] This was a sensational discovery as the previously accepted earliest sea crossing in the Mediterranean was thought to occur around 12,000 BC. The stone tools found in the Plakias region of Crete include hand axes of the Acheulean type made of quartz . It is believed that pre-Homo sapiens hominids from Africa crossed to Crete on rafts.[3][4]

In the neolithic period, some of the early influences upon the development of Cretan culture arise from the Cyclades and from Egypt; cultural records are written in the undeciphered script known as "Linear A". The archaeological record of Crete includes superb palaces, houses, roads, paintings and sculptures. Early Neolithic settlements in Crete include Knossos and Trapeza.

Because of a lack of written records, estimates of Cretan chronology are based on well-established Aegean and Ancient Near Eastern pottery styles, so that Cretan timelines have been made by seeking Cretan artifacts traded with other civilizations (such as the Egyptians) – a well established occurrence. For the earlier times, radiocarbon dating of organic remains and charcoal offers independent dates. Based on this, it is thought that Crete was inhabited from the 7th millennium BC onwards.

The native fauna of Crete included pygmy hippo, pygmy elephant Paleoloxodon chaniensis, dwarf deer Praemegaceros cretensis, giant rodents and insectivores as well as badger, beech marten and a kind of terrestrial otter. Large carnivores were lacking. Most of these animals died out at the end of the last ice-age. Humans played a part in this extinction, which occurred on other medium to large Mediterranean islands as well, for example on Cyprus, Sicily and Majorca. Crete's religious symbols included the dove, lily and double-headed ax.

Remains of a settlement found under the Bronze Age palace at Knossos date to the 7th Millennium BC.

The first settlers introduced cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and dogs, as well as domesticated cereals and legumes.

Up to now, Knossos remains the only aceramic site. The settlement covered approximately 350,000 square metres. The sparse animal bones contain the above-mentioned domestic species as well as deer, badger, marten and mouse: the extinction of the local megafauna had not left much game behind.

Neolithic pottery is known from Knossos, Lera Cave and Gerani Cave. The Late Neolithic sees a proliferation of sites, pointing to a population increase. In the late Neolithic, the donkey and the rabbit were introduced to the island, deer and agrimi hunted. The Kri-kri, a feral goat, preserves traits of the early domesticates. Horse, fallow deer and hedgehog are only attested from Minoan times onwards.

Minoan-Mycenaean Crete

Crete was the centre of Europe's most ancient civilization, the Minoans. Tablets inscribed in Linear A have been found in numerous sites in Crete, and a few in the Aegean islands. The Minoans established themselves in many islands besides Ancient Crete: secure identifications of Minoan off-island sites include Kea, Kythera, Milos, Rhodes, and above all, Thera (Santorini).

Archaeologists ever since Sir Arthur Evans have identified and uncovered the palace-complex at Knossos, the most famous Minoan site. Other palace sites in Crete such as Phaistos have uncovered magnificent stone-built, multi-story palaces containing drainage systems,[5] and the queen had a bath and a flushing toilet. The expertise displayed in the hydraulic engineering was of a very high level. There were no defensive walls to the complexes. By the 16th century BC pottery and other remains on the Greek mainland show that the Minoans had far-reaching contacts on the mainland. In the 16th century a major earthquake caused destruction on Crete and on Thera that was swiftly repaired.

By about the 15th century BC a massive volcanic explosion known as the Minoan eruption blew the island of Thera apart, casting more than four times the amount of ejecta as the explosion of Krakatoa and generating a tsunami in the enclosed Aegean that threw pumice up to 250 meters above sea level onto the slopes of Anaphi, 27 km to the east. Any fleet along the north shore of Crete was destroyed and John Chadwick suggests that the majority of Cretan fleets had kept the island secure from the Greek-speaking mainlanders. The sites, save Knossos, were destroyed by fires. Mycenaeans from the mainland took over Knossos, rebuilding some parts to suit them. They were in turn subsumed by a subsequent Dorian migration.


Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Arab Crete

In the Classical and Hellenistic period Crete fell into a pattern of combative city-states, harboring pirates. Gortyn, Kydonia (Chania) and Lyttos challenged the primacy of ancient Knossos, preyed upon one another, invited into their feuds mainland powers like Macedon and its rivals Rhodes and Ptolemaic Egypt, a situation that all but invited Roman interference. Ierapytna (Ierapetra) gained supremacy on eastern Crete.

In 88 BC Mithridates VI of Pontus on the Black Sea, went to war to halt the advance of Roman hegemony in the Aegean. On the pretext that Knossos was backing Mithradates, Marcus Antonius Creticus attacked Crete in 71 BC and was repelled. Rome sent Quintus Caecilius Metellus with three legions to the island. After a ferocious three-year campaign Crete was conquered for Rome in 69 BC, earning this Metellus the agnomen "Creticus." At the archaeological sites, there seems to be little evidence of widespread damage associated with the transfer to Roman power: a single palatial house complex seems to have been razed. Gortyn seems to have been pro-Roman and was rewarded by being made the capital of the joint province of Creta et Cyrenaica.

Gortyn was the site of the largest Christian basilica on Crete, the Basilica of Saint Titus, dedicated to the first Christian bishop in Crete, to whom Paul addressed one of his epistles. The church was begun in the 1st century. As revealed in the Epistle to Titus in the New Testament and confirmed by Cretan poet Epimenides the people of Crete were considered by these Christians to be liars, evil beasts and gluttons. (Note: Epimenides was a poet in the 6th century BC. Paul cited him in Titus 1:12.)

Crete continued to be part of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire, a quiet cultural backwater, until it fell into the hands of Iberian Muslims under Abu Hafs in the 820s, who established a piratical emirate on the island. The archbishop Cyril of Gortyn was killed and the city so thoroughly devastated it was never reoccupied. Candia (Chandax, modern Heraklion), a city built by the Iberian Muslims, was made capital of the island instead.

The Emirate of Crete became a center of Muslim piratical activity in the Aegean, and a thorn on Byzantium's side. Successive campaigns to recover the island failed until 961, when Nikephoros Phokas reconquered Crete for the Byzantine Empire and made it into a theme.[6] The Byzantines held the island until the Fourth Crusade (1204). In its aftermath, possession of the island was disputed between the Genoese and the Venetians, with the latter eventually solidifying their control by 1212. Despite frequent revolts by the native population, the Venetians retained the island until 1669, when the Ottoman Empire took possession of it.


Venetian Crete (1205–1669)

In the partition of the Byzantine empire after the capture of Constantinople by the armies of the Fourth Crusade in 1204, Crete was eventually acquired by Venice, which held it for more than four centuries (the "Kingdom of Candia").

The most important of the many rebellions that broke out during that period was the one known as the revolt of St. Titus. It occurred in 1363, when indigenous Cretans and Venetian settlers exasperated by the hard tax policy exercised by Venice, overthrew official Venetian authorities and declared an independent Cretan Republic. The revolt took Venice five years to quell.

During Venetian rule, the Greek population of Crete was exposed to Renaissance culture. A thriving literature in the Cretan dialect of Greek developed on the island. The best-known work from this period is the poem Erotokritos by Vitsentzos Kornaros (Βιτσένζος Κορνάρος). Another major Cretan literary figure was Nicholas Kalliakis (1645–1707), a Greek scholar and philosopher who flourished in Italy in the 17th Century.[7]

Georgios Hortatzis was author of the dramatic work Erophile. The painter Domenicos Theotocopoulos, better known as El Greco, was born in Crete in this period and was trained in Byzantine iconography before moving to Italy and later, Spain.[8]


Ottoman Crete (1669–1898)

During the Cretan War (1645–1669), Venice was pushed out of Crete by the Ottoman Empire, with most of the island lost after the siege of Candia (1648–1669), possibly the longest siege in history. The last Venetian outpost on the island, Spinalonga, fell in 1718, and Crete was a part of the Ottoman Empire for the next two centuries. There were significant rebellions against Ottoman rule, particularly in Sfakia. Daskalogiannis was a famous rebel leader. One result of the Ottoman conquest was that a sizeable proportion of the population gradually converted to Islam, with its tax and other civic advantages in the Ottoman system. 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.[9]

Some of them were crypto-Christians who converted back to Christianity; others fled Crete because of the unrest. By the last Ottoman census in 1881, Christians were 76% of the population, and Muslims (usually called "Turks" regardless of language, culture, and ancestry) only 24%. Christians were over 90% of the population in 19/23 of the districts of Crete, but Muslims were over 60% in the three large towns on the north coast, and in Monofatsi.[10]

Modern Crete

Ottoman forces were expelled in 1898, and the independent Cretan State (Official Greek name: Κρητική Πολιτεία), headed by Prince George of Greece, was founded.

Prince George was replaced by Alexandros Zaimis in 1906, and in 1908, taking advantage of domestic turmoil in Turkey as well as the timing of Zaimis's vacation away from the island, the Cretan deputies declared union with Greece.[11] But this act was not recognized internationally until 1913 after the Balkan Wars. By the Treaty of London, Sultan Mehmed V relinquished his formal rights to the island.

In December, the Greek flag was raised at the Firkas fortress in Chania, with Eleftherios Venizelos and King Constantine in attendance, and Crete was unified with mainland Greece. The Muslim minority of Crete initially remained in the island but was later relocated to Turkey under the general population exchange agreed in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne between Turkey and Greece.

One of the most important figures to emerge from the end of Ottoman Crete was the liberal politician Eleftherios Venizelos, probably the most important statesman of modern Greece. Venizelos was an Athens-trained lawyer who was active in liberal circles in Chania, then the Cretan capital. After autonomy, he was first a minister in the government of Prince George and then his most formidable opponent.

In 1910 Venizelos transferred his career to Athens, quickly became the dominant figure on the political scene and in 1912, after careful preparations for a military alliance against the Ottoman Empire with Serbia, Montenegro, and Bulgaria, allowed Cretan deputies to take their place in the Greek Parliament. This was treated as grounds for war by Turkey but the Balkan allies won a series of sweeping victories in the hostilities that followed (see Balkan Wars). Turkey was effectively defeated in the ensuing war and were forced out of the Balkans and Thrace by the Alliance, except for the borders which Turkey continues to hold to this day.

Source::https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Crete



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