Aptera was one of the most important city-states of Crete. It was already mentioned in Linear B inscriptions (13th – 14th century B.C.) and continued to exist until the 7th century A.D., when it was destroyed by a strong earthquake in combination with the attacks of the Saracens.
Its excellent position on an extensive flat area of the hill, dominating the southeastern side of Souda Bay and controlling at the same time the greater area around it, proved to be ideal for the development of the city into a strong commercial and cultural centre. With its two harbours, Minoa (modern Marathi) and Kissamos, at the entrance of Souda Bay, it ensured control of every activity at sea.
The written sources and the results of the excavation research until now have shown that the period of the city’s greatest prosperity were the early Hellenistic times (end of 4th – 3rd century B.C..), when it was financially and politically powerful and started minting its own currency. In the Roman times, with the introduction of the “Pax Romana”, the city declined financially and politically. However, the agricultural production was developed, following the plan of the Roman authority. Habitation continued until the Byzantine times, without, however, any particular prosperity.
In the centre of the ancient city, the Monastery of Agios Ioannis the Theologian was built, which was already mentioned in an 1181 A.D. Chronicle. It belonged to the Monastery of Patmos and functioned until the mid-1960s. During the years 1866-69 a castle was built by the Ottoman conquerors, in order to suppress the Cretan Revolution. In recent years, the 25th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities conducted systematic excavation research in the archaeological site of Aptera and rescue excavations in the greater area. Important works to enhance the archaeological site were realised by the Community Support Framework II.
(Authors: Vanna Niniou – Kindeli, Aggeliki Tsingou, archaeologists)