Crete. History

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This island's fertile soil and towering peaks witnessed the development of one of the most important civilizations on Earth, the Minoan (2800 - 1150 B.C.). In successive phase, the Minoans built palace-states - the famous palatial centers of Knossos, Phaistos, Malia, Zakros (1700 - 1450 B.C.). Their painters and ceramists show us the limits the refinement of art can reach.Their frescoes bring us close to the soul of that world, peace-loving, light-hearted, but also powerful. They bring us close to the sea and its wealth. A geological catastrophe - the eruption of the volcano of Santorini in 1450 B.C. - halted the Minoan civilization at its height. But life did not cease. Through shipping, commerce and trade with other peoples - the Phoenicians, Syrians, Egyptians - opened up new horizons. With the invasion of the Achaians and the Dorians on the island the new cities of Lato and Aptera were founded. Lato became the most important city on Crete (7th century B.C.). Until the Roman occupation (69 - 330 A.D.). The most distinguished center in those days was Gortyn. But Christianity came to the island early. During the Byzantine era the wealth of Crete was shown off in the mosaic floors of its basilicas and in half the churches of Greece. But many others had their eye on these riches. First Crete fell into the hands of the Arabs (824) for one and a half centuries (961). Handak, present-day Iraklio was founded. Then in 1204, the island passed to the Venetians. They fortified the old castles at Handak and built new ones at Gramvoussa, Spinalonga, Frangokastello, Ierapetra, Paleohora. They broke the ground for new cities (Hania and Rethimno) and built the fortifications essential to their defense. Inside the walls the cities developed with narrow, convoluted alleyways and small residential blocks, interspersed with decorative piazzas, fountains, churches and palaces, remains of which can still be seen today. Although the island was shaken from time to time by the rebellious populace, it continued to develop both economically and culturally. Painting and literature flourished. Domenicos Theotocopoulos (El Greco), Damaskinos and other iconographers painted exquisite portraits of the Virgin and Christ. Under the vaulted gates and arched windows troubadours passed singing ballads by Hortantzis about the suffering of Erotokritos and Erophili. In 1645 the Muslim conquerors set foot on the island for the first time. In 1669 the whole of Crete fell to the Turks. Not until 1913 was the island united with the rest of Greece. 

Crete. Greece. 

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