According to mythology Crete Greece is the mythical land of King Minos. Legend says that he refused to sacrifice a bull to the gods and Poseidon, to punish him, made his wife fall in love with a bull. From this union Minotaur was born and hid in a labyrinth. Another legend says that, to avenge the death of his son by the Athenians, King Minos made them send seven young girls and boys to Crete and gave them in sacrifice to Minotaur. During an expedition the famous mythical hero Theseus, son of the King of Athens, left with the young Athenians and, with the help of Ariadne, King Minos’daughter, he managed to kill Minotaur and find his way out of the labyrinth.
Crete is where the Minoan civilization started, one of the most important civilizations of the world (2600-1150 BC).
They built palace-states, the famous and superb palaces of Knossos, Phaistos, Malia and Zakros and established a naval empire in the Mediterranean. This great civilization was stopped by the huge waves caused by the eruption of the volcano of Santorini Greece (in 1450 BC) and by the invasion of the Achaeans and the Dorians.
The Roman occupation came in 69 AC and lasted until 330 AC, followed by the Byzantine era during which the wealth of Crete is visible in the beautiful mosaic floor of the basilicas built during these times.
Then Crete fell under the domination of the Arabs in 824, and stayed under it for 137 years.
During those years the city of Heraklion was founded, first called Handak.
In 1204, the Venetians conquered the island of Crete; they fortified old castles built by the Arabs, built new ones, and founded new fortified cities such as Chania and Rethymno. The city of Rethymno is the only one that had remained intact from the Renaissance, with its beautifully decorated piazzas, its superb fountains and its fine churches and palaces.
During those years, arts flourished such as painting and literature; the famous painter El Greco (Domenicos Theotocopoulos) started in this epoch and artists and scholars from Constantinople and other parts of the old Byzantine Empire came to Crete.
In 1669 the island fell under the Ottoman rule which lasted until about 1900. Then Crete was declared an autonomous state and, in 1913, was united with the newly built independent Greek State.
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