|The settling of the island started from the first prehistoric years.
Neolithic Period (7000-3000 BC). Crete was settled from 7000 BC, or earlier, first in the east part. People were living in caves, rocky refuges, or small rectangular houses, built by stone and mudbrick, as it can be seen from the underground Neolithic remainders of Festos and Knossos, which was the largest Neolithic settling in Europe and Anatolia. Stone was used for their tools and weapons, necessary for their defence and survival. The economy was marine and agricultural and pottery appeared, in the beginning with dark smoked decoration and later with incised geometrical patterns filled with white or red paste. The female statue figurines that were found, in steatopygous shapes, show that these first inhabitants were believing in a female goddess, representing fertility, probably goddess Earth.
The Bronze Age - The Minoan Civilization (3000-1100 BC). The Neolithic period ended by a gradual infiltration of new settlers, first in the east and central part of the island and later in the west. In these years the island met the most significant development becoming a marine, trade and art creation center. The people were farmers, shepherds and mainly marines, with notable merchant relations with Asia, Africa and the Cyclades. The civilization that was developed was named Minoan, after the legendary King Minos, by the English archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, during his excavations at the Palace of Knossos. He sorted this era in three main periods with three subdivisions on each of them: Early Minoan 1 - 2 - 3, Middle Minoan 1 - 2 - 3, Late Minoan 1 - 2 - 3. This period is now sorted according to the chronological system of the Greek archaeologist N. Platonas, based on the time-span of the big Minoan palaces, to the following periods:
The Early Iron Age (1100-650 BC). After the Dorian invasion from Peloponnese, the most of the old cities are deserted and the majority of the population moved to inaccessible mountain shelters, interrupting communication with the outside world.
The Archaic period (650-500 BC). The population of the island increases, with the infiltration of the Dorians, especially in the West of Crete. New towns are being established, like Axos, Falasarna, Polyrinia, Yrtakina and the population in others, like Eleftherna and Kydonia is increasing. This period is characterized by the prosperity of the Dedalic style of sculpture, by successors of students of the mythical Dedalos.
The Classical and Hellenistic Periods (500-69 BC). Greece develops, but this does not happen with Crete, with the towns being in antagonism or fighting each other. The population of the island increases.
The Roman Period and the first Byzantine Years (69 BC-824 AC). The Romans lost the war against Crete in 71 BC, but 2 years later they came back with more army and navy. The island was occupied after three years resistance, with the Romans accomplishing their desire to conquer the famous birthplace of Zeus. During the period of Pax Romana the island prospers and develops with trade. It's capital became Gortys. Around 63-66 AC, Christianity comes to Crete and the first Christian church is being established in Crete, at Gortys, by bishop Titos. With the division of the Roman Empire in East and West, Crete became a separate province.
The Arab Occupation and the Byzantine Years (824-1204).In 824, Crete was captured by Arab raiders, who ravaged the island, destroyed Gortys and other towns, burned every basilica church and succeeded to many atrocities against the Greek population. To protect from the relief expeditions of the Byzantines, they built their capital, El Khandak, where today is the site of Iraklion. Crete, because of its position had become the slave-trading capital of the East Mediterranean and a constant threat for the Byzantine Empire. After many unsuccessful expeditions, Nikiforos Fokas recaptured the island in 961, demolished the walls of El Khandak, so that they could not be useful to new pirates and reinvigorated with different ways the much-depleted Christian community. The administrative center was re-established on the ruins of El Khandak, renamed to Handakas. In the end of the 12th century, new settlers were sent to Crete from Consantinople, headed by 12 aristocrats, that created the new Cretan aristocracy.
The Venetian Period (1204-1669). With the capture of Constantinople with the Fourth Crusade, the Byzantine Empire was divided. Crete was given to Boniface of Monferat, who sold the island to Venice, in 1204. The Venetians kept Handakas as the capital and built castles in different parts in the island. The Greek bishop was sent away and the Latin bishops were established, but without annoying the lower Orthodox clergy and religion. Many orthodox churches and chapels were built, that can be visited today throughout the island. The earth was taken from the people and was given to Venetian knights, with the former owners becoming slaves. Taxes and labour obligation made life very difficult. The venetian occupation could not be accepted from the Cretan people and their independent character. The continuous revolts for many years, brought a hard repression and tortures. After the fall of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453, many Greeks moved to Crete and the Byzantine culture was strengthened. Because of the Turkish threat and their attacks, Venetians and Cretans managed to co-exist, with the island appearing significant economical and cultural growth. Great artists of the period were, in icon painting, Michail Damaskinos and Domenico Theotokopoulos, who left Crete to work abroad, finally going to Toledo, Spain, where he became famous as El Greco and, in literature and theater, Vitsentzos Kornaros from Sitia, Georgios Hortatzis from Rethymno and others, unknown till today. The Turks with continuous expeditions will try to capture the island. In 1645, they capture Hania and Rethymno and in 1669, after 22-year siege, Candia was forced to surrender, as Iraklion was called by the Venetians.
The Turkish Occupation (1669-1898). Crete was divided in 3 sections, based on Iraklion, Rethymno and Hania. The occupation was the hardest one the island had met: killings, raping, unbearable taxation, violent inslamation and slavery, made that the revolts became a way of life. With the Big Revolt of 1821 for Independence, in Greece, all the big revolts in the island did not end successfully. The London's protocol on 1830, establishing Greece as an independent country, was not including Crete. The last protest of the Cretan council to the Christian European countries, on 1830, was ending like this: "Here is Crete, the kingdom of Minos, that gave the first laws in the world, many sciences and arts... It preserved under the Greek name, over 3000 years, it's children, who abandoned from their brother Christians, after a ten year exterminating war to get rid of the dreadful tyranny, become again victims of the cruelty of the inhuman Turks." Crete was sold by the Turkish sultan to Egypt, starting a new period of dynasty and misfortunes. In 1841, after Egypt's unsuccessful revolt against Turkey, all Egypt's possessions were left to the Turks. The Cretans continued fighting for their freedom, with the most tragic being the revolt of 1866, which ended to the blowing-up of Arkadi Monastery. Revolutions and endless wars continued until 1898, when the four Great Powers, England, France, Russia and Italy imposed as a solution to the Cretan problem the autonomy of Crete under Ottoman suzerainty, under the terms of complete withdrawal of the Turkish army from the island.
Modern History (1898- ). In 1908 the army of the four Powers left the island, after the insistence of Crete to unite with Greece and in 1913 the island became an integral part of Greece. Agriculture and trade started to prosper, untill 1941, when the Germans occupied the island, until 1945. In recent years, agriculture, trade, industry and tourism have brought the island a remarkable development.
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Last revised: 19 March 2009