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Iraklion History, Greece

Many cities in Greece have had an eventful and even legendary past, but not many of them can compare to Iraklion, the largest and most important city in Crete. Iraklion’s every corner is steeped in history and fascinating Greek mythology. The city’s past is simply fascinating, but not only amateur historians can spend a great holiday in Iraklion. Tourists looking for sunny beaches and a lively nightlife will definitely not be disappointed either. The memorable landmarks and the beauty of the surroundings make Iraklion one of the most effective tourist magnets in the entire Greece. This Iraklion History Guide briefly presents the events that shaped the city’s rich history.

Iraklion History Guide - Early History

Iraklion’s history is intertwined with the past of the Minoan civilization, one of the most advanced and mysterious civilizations of the Ancient world. The ruins of Knossos, the legendary palace of Minosis close to present day Iraklion. In the Bronze Age, Knossos was the most important human settlement on the island, and archaeologists also believe that it was an important port. One of the charms of the ancient palace is the myth of the Minotaur who has supposedly roamed the labyrinth built by the Minoan king. The city of Iraklion was founded in 824 AD, but not by Greeks but the Saracens who were exiled from Al-Andalus, in modern-day Spain. The Saracens operated a fortified pirate den, whose main target were the Byzantine ships that sailed the Aegean. In the 10th century, Crete fell came under the reign of the Byzantine Empire, who by that time had a considerable influence in the Greek Peninsula. The Saracen city was completely destroyed and its inhabitants slaughtered, but the Byzantines built a new city over the ruins, which they ruled for the next 250 years.

Iraklion History Guide - Middle Ages

At the beginning of the 13th century, the Republic of Venice, a major naval power at the time, bought Iraklion. The city flourished under the rule of the Venetians, despite the hostility of the locals. The city became the riches cultural centre in the Mediterranean, overshadowing even Athens or Thessaloniki. During the renaissance, many of the city’s artists became famous on the continent, for example El Greco. The Cretan School of icon painting is still very well known and appreciated today. In the 15th century, the Turks were a rising menace in Europe, and in order to protect the city, the Venetians built a 4.5 km long wall whose construction lasted for almost a century. However, the wall did not stop the Ottomans, who besieged the city for more than 20 years, and finally captured it in 1645. The Ottomans granted autonomy to Crete in 1898, and in 1913 the island merged with the rest of the Kingdom of Greece. During World War II, Iraklion was severely damaged by German bombs, but the city was rebuilt and once again reached its former glory.

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  • WazlingArchaeological museum of Iraklio
    travel tip by Wazling posted more then 30 days ago
    If you are at Heraklion, visit the archaeoligical museum. There you can see famous findings, also the bull´s head called Monitaurus and the Snakes Goddess. It´s worth a visit.
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