The ancient city Eleftherna is located on the north-western foot of Mount Ida, approximately thirty kilometres south of Rethymnon, 380 metres above sea level.
The city’s excavated remains belong to various periods. The city was allegedly named after Elefthereas, one of the Kourites, or after Demeter Elefthous. A thriving Hellenistic settlement has been identified on the “Nisi” hill, which was one of the city’s nuclei, along with the “Pyrgi” hill.
Eleftherna fought against Rhodes and its ally, Knossos, in the third century BC, but sided with Knossos against other Cretan cities in 220 BC. It was besieged and conquered, however, so it was forced out of the alliance. Thanks to its naturally fortified position, the city successfully resisted Quintus Caecilius Metellus’ attack in 68 BC, until betrayal led to its conquest.
Eleftherna was the birthplace of poet Linos, philosopher Diogenes, lyric poet Ametor and sculptor Timochares. Humphrey Payne of the British School of Athens conducted excavations at Eleftherna in 1929 for a short time. Systematic excavations by the University of Crete began in 1985, revealing important archaeological remains dating from the Geometric until the Early Byzantine period as well as evidence of the continuous use of the site from the Early Minoan period to the modern times.
(Authors: Vanna Niniou – Kindeli, Aggeliki Tsingou, Eleni Mathioudaki, archaeologists)