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At first glance

On the foothills of Mount Ida, the most important archaeological site in the municipality of Rethymno is based, providing visitors with the opportunity to experience what life was like in the past. Nowadays, excavations and research are still underway in the premises of the site. Approximately 25 kilometers south ofRethymno, Eleutherna- which according to tradition was named after Eleutheras, one of the Kouriteswho beat upon their bronze shields in order to preventCronusfromhearingthe cries of baby Zeus and devouring his son- was considered one of the greatest ancient cities in Creteduring the GeometricandArchaic periods, times when the Homeric poems were in circulation. Moreover, since thefourthcenturyBC, the city minted its own coins.

Onsite systematicexcavationsbeganin 1985 by the University of Crete and are continuing to  this day, having brought to light important archaeological findings which date back from the thirdmillennium BCto modern times.

Places to visit

The ancient city of Eleuthernastretches out on the PyrgiandNisi hills wherevariousmonumentsandmaterialremnantshavebeen found, scattered throughout the site. At the acropolis,remains ofbuilding materials, mainly dating back to the Roman times andthe pre-Christian era have been found, as well as one part of afortificationtower. A couple of roman houses that were destroyed by a powerful earthquake in 365 AD stand out, along with large water cisterns, ahuge limestone quarry, roman necropolesand a roman bathhouse with twofurnaces, a stone-paved street, an entirequarterfrom theHellenistic periodwithresidencesand a five-column Doric propylon (gateway) dating back to 400 BC, as well as a big publicbuilding, probably of the Hellenisticperiod (second to first centuries BC). Furthermore, of particular interest isthe exceptionally well-preserved bowstring arch bridge, which is estimated to have been constructedduring the Hellenistic period (second century BC), whereas at the site ofKatsivelos,a basilica dedicatedto the Archangel Michaelhas been unearthed, dating back tothe fifth century AD and built upon an older Hellenistic sanctuary.

On the west slope of the hill at the site ofOrthiPetra, a necropolis dating back to the Geometric and Archaic times has been unearthed. Among the many valuable and spectacularfindings is afunerarypyreof the eighth century BC (730 to 710 BC), belonging to a prominentmale warrior around 30 years of age. The burial rite and lack of grave offerings, as well asthe discovery ofaheadless and unburnt body close to the pyre, points to the Homericdescriptionof the burial ofPatroclus in the Iliad (Book XXIII). Another important finding is the digging of a cenotaph (an empty tomb). It consists of a large, practically square building, which was probably constructed in order to commemoratethosewho died in times of war and far away from their homeland. It was essentially an early prototype ofmemorial tomb of theUnknownSoldier. In otherburial sites, ornate jewellery and pots were brought to light, attesting to therelations between Eleutherna and Phoenicia, Egypt, Cyprus, theCycladesandEastMediterranean territories. A prime example is theburialcomplexcontainingthe skeletal remains of fourwomen, approximately from 7 to 70 yearsof age, whowererelatedand heldprominentpositionsinthe localcommunity and died all together, possiblydue toa type ofpandemic. Thisfuneraryassemblageofthe four «nobles-priestesses» as it was called, placed Eleutherna among the 10 archaeological sites in the world with the most impressive findings for the year 2009, accordingtothe magazine Archaeology.

Not to be missed

An archaeological park full of pathwaysand signposts has been created in the area, connecting the various excavated sites and all other places of interest together. Visitors can combine a tour to the park with a stop at the Museum of Ancient Eleutherna in order to enjoy a detailednarrationaboutthe fascinating and unknown parts of the ancient city and subsequently Cretan history itself.

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More Information

  • Accessible for people with special needs: NO
  • Location: Εleftherna
  • Telephone: +30 28210 44418
  • Fax: +30 28210 94487
  • Email: protocol@keepka.culture.gr

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