At the westernmosttip of the Cape of Gramvousa and on the northwest coast of the island, the ancient village of Phalasarna is situated, named after the local nymph Phalasarni. Today, the area is known for its unique beaches but in ancient times it was one of the most important ports of Crete, with its main period of prosperity being during the 4th and 3rd centuries BC.
History of the settlement
Although excavation evidence and historical data do not place the foundation of Phalasarna before the 6th century BC, it must have already been organised by the end of the Geometric period with the union of the scattered settlements of the plain into one solid settlement that would develop into a considerable naval power. In later years, the ancient city played an important role in maritime trade with the construction of its harbour, the only natural harbour in western Crete. The heyday of the settlement dates back to the 4th century BC, a period during which it acquired strong fortifications, a considerable naval power, a mint and various temples. According to the excavators of the site, the city was a refuge for pirates, which is why it was finally destroyed by the Romans in the middle of the 1st century BC, when the entrance to the harbour was subsequently sealed. The rise in sea level may have contributed to the decline of the ancient city. The town was explored in the mid 19th century by English travellers who discovered the settlement and the abandonded harbour. Since 1968, various rescue excavations have been carried out, whereas since 1986 the Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities began a systematic survey to determine the extent of the harbour and its surrounding features.
Not to be missed
Nowadays, the port of the ancient city is found…on land! Its facilities have been raised up to 9 meters above sea level, probably due to a strong earthquake in 365 AD. Take notice of the two surviving towers that protected it.It is truly impressive to witness a port on land!
Just before you reach Phalasarna, of great interest are also the traces of the strong fortification of the acropolis above the harbour, the city cemetery east of the harbourthat contains 43 archaic tombs and a carved throne which was probably dedicated to the god Poseidon.
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