Crete History Facts and Timeline

(Crete, Greece)

Crete history is enviable, consisting of Greek myths and legends, and some of the most stunning Minoan relics of anywhere. The Romans, the Venetians, the Turks and the British also influenced its development - yet the island has its very own culture, since it has only actually been a part of Greece for roughly a century.

The Minoans brought much wealth to Crete. Their presence peaked around 1600 BC before dying out, possibly from a tsunami generated by the eruption of the Stromboli volcano on Santorini in 1500 BC. The Minoans built palaces and tombs, and formed a navy. Their ancient sites still dot the island, ranking as some of the principal attractions today.

Minoan Archaeological Sites

The most impressive historic sites of Crete are to be found in the ancient city of Knossos, just south of the capital Iraklio / Iraklion (Heraklion). This area retains ruins of houses, courtyards, paintings and pots. Other noteworthy sites include Kamilari (from 1900 BC), Gournia near Agios Nikolaos (from 1550 BC), the Palace of Malia, and Phaestos Palace. Ruins can also be seen at Arhanes, Aptera and Lendas, the latter of which boasts some ancient temple ruins from as far back as the 4th century BC.

After the decline of the Minoans and the Bronze Age came the Mycenaeans, followed by the Romans in 69 BC. They ruled the roost right up until 330 AD and were superseded by their Byzantine offshoot, which left some stunning monuments and mosaics. The Iraklio Archaeological Museum in the capital is especially worth seeing and contains numerous items from this era.

Venetians and Ottoman Turks

A significant period of Crete history was the arrival of the Venetians in the Middle Ages, following the Forth Crusade. The natives were not entirely happy with the Venetians, who were more interested in lining their pockets, and so they rebelled against their rule. The arrival of the Ottoman Turks in 1669 pleased the islanders greatly.

The Venetians did, however, leave behind some interesting architecture, including the Rocca al Mare (Koules Fort), which hails from the 16th century and resides at Iraklio Harbour. The Rethymno Fortress on Paleokastro Hill in Rethymno (to the west of the capital) also came about during this century.

War and Tourism

Cretans revolted against Turkish rule in the 19th century, which would eventually lead to war between Turkey and Greece. The Turks were forced out by Britain, France, Russia and Italy, leading to the establishment of the short-lived state of Crete. The island's desire for unity with Greece eventually came about in 1913.

Germany was met with stiff resistance by both the British Commonwealth force and Cretans during the Battle of Crete in WWII. Many locals were executed for the deaths of German soldiers, while the cities of Chania and Iraklion were heavily bombed. Tourism took off not long after the war, with a noticeable increase in popularity towards the end of the 1990s. Today, crowds of people come for the stunning beaches and also to experience the illustrious history of Crete first-hand.

Modern Immigration

Crete's temperate climate, along with its location at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa, has brought growing numbers of northern Europeans to the island in search of a holiday or second home in recent years. Topping the list of new immigrants are the Brits, followed by the Scandinavians, the Germans and the Dutch.

The right to buy property, together with the antiquity of Crete's history and the legendary Cretan hospitality, is a potent mixture that drives more and more people to the island every year.