Crete’s Ancient Cities: Eleutheras

Crete’s Ancient Cities: Eleutheras

When the heat of the summer months fade and change to cooler autumn days, it’s again time to spend some of my days hiking and exploring with others and enjoying more of the wonders and magic of the island of Crete. Visit Crete and experience all and more that the island has to offer.

It’s a late October grey overcast autumn day; with sprinkles of light rain. However, the weather certainly didn’t dampen our joy of learning and experiencing more of Crete’s ancient history.

Crete Map of Eleutherna

Approximately 30 mins drive South/East of Rethymno, nestled 380m above sea level, on the slopes of Crete’s highest mountain; Mount Ida (Psiloritis GR – Ψηλορείτης) is the ruined ancient city of Eleutherna, GR – Ἐλεύθερνα.

This ancient city site has been undergoing excavation since 1985, with researchers from the University of Crete continuing with ongoing excavations and investigation. Before hiking the grounds of the archaeological site; it’s well worth stopping in at the modern and extremely interesting Museum of Eleutherna, just a short five minutes’ drive from the more modern village of Eleutherna. The museum was opened in June, 2016 and houses incredible artefacts dated back to 3000 BC to the 14th century AD and is the result of many years of archaeological work found throughout the area now known as ‘Eleutherna Grove’. The museum has a wonderful collection of vases, sculptures, weapons, tools, and figurines of clay, stone and metal that provides insight into the public, political, religious, social and private life of Eleutherna through the ages; along with a rich explanation of information and impressive audio visual presentation showing the exchange of materials and goods between East and West during the times of antiquity. An incredibly interesting and wonderfully informative museum, that is a must visit when visiting Crete and definitely, well worth the €4.00 entry fee.

An added bonus was to see the Museums current (at the time of writing) exhibition ~ Cretan Cities: The Testimony of Coins. The exhibition covers the coinage of the ancient cities of Crete and coin circulation on the island providing history of the cities (based on the current four Prefectures of Chania, Rethymno, Herakleio (learn more here) and Lassithi) during Classical and Hellenistic periods. As an Astrologer, I was particularly interested to see coins using religious and mythological traditions; with the earliest coins showing the heads of the Greek God Zeus (Roman mythology – Jupiter); and Goddess Hera (Roman mythology – Juno), wife and sister of Zeus in the Olympian pantheon.  Taking photos was prohibited inside the museum; images of coins can be found courtesy of the Alpha numismatics website.

Another short drive from the Museum of Eleutherna and we find ourselves at a point within the archaeological site of the ancient city of Eleutherna, were there is an opportunity to hike the whole area as part of the E4 ‘The Cretan Way’ trail; time permitting.

According to tradition, the ancient city’s name – Eleutherna was named after Eleutheras GR – Ελευθέρας, one of the Kouretes GR – Κουρετές (a god, in Greek mythology); who protected the new born Zeus from his father Cronus hearing the infant’s cries and devouring him.

The ancient city was strategically located at the heart of Crete, being approximately midway between the ancient city of Kydonia GR – Κυδωνία (current day Chania), in the west and Knossos GR – Κνωσός in the east, along with the ancient cities of Gortyn and Phaistos GR – Φαιστός  in the south. The ancient city lies atop two long and narrow ridges, named Pyrgi and Nissi; with three rivers flowing around the foothills. Archaeological evidence to date shows this ancient city had been inhabited since at least the 3rd millennium BC and continued throughout the Minoan period during the 2nd millennium, and through to roman occupation during the 1st century AD and Early Byzantine period 4th – 7th centuries AD. The gradual decline began from the 8th century AD onwards and was finally abandoned following the revolt by the Kallergis family in 1333-38 and the Venetians banning any habitation.

Crete Eleutheras Ancient PathwaysCrete Ruins of Hellenistic Defensive TowerThe archaeological site covers, ruins of the Hellenistic walls and pathways that lead to the remains of what was a defensive tower that provided a vantage point to see across the island and out to sea, that was used during the Hellenistic and Byzantine periods between the 4th century BC and 7th century AD.

The seas ties to the ancient city was the basis for the society that was open to the world.

Given time considerations, we returned to the cars and drove a short ten minutes to again park and pay a €4.00 entrance fee to visit the roof covered necropolis GR – νεκρόπολη  (cemetery) of Orthí Pétra GR – Ορθή Πέτρα; still under excavation.

The necropolis is the resting place of the late Protogeometric period and early Archaic period between 870/85 – 600 BC, until the beginning of the 6th century BC.

Photos and videos under the roof enclosure weren’t permitted.

Crete Eleutheras Necropolis (cemetery) of Orthi Petra

An extremely interesting site to visit and learn more about a variety of inhumantion (burial) practices and customs, including cremations and bones of the deceased stored in various sized Pithoi GR – Πίθιους (ceramic vases). Along with grave enclosures, complete with funerary monuments, including amphora’s GR – του αμφορέα (Ancient Greek and Roman jar or jug used to hold various forms of liquid).

Crete Rock-Cut Cisterns Eleutheras

From the site of the Necropolis Orthi Petra, we made our way along a section of the E4 and walked the path to the rock-cut cisterns. This impressive large pillared cistern, standing about 4.5m in height is believed to be from the Roman period and was quarried from the rock of the Pyrgi hill. The water was conveyed from the southern side of the hill to the eastern side by a vaulted aqueduct.

Crete St Elessa's Tombs EleutherasWe continued walking and passed St. Elessa’s tombs before reaching…

Crete Ancient Bridge Eleutheras

…the Hellenic triangular (ekforic system) arch bridge and finding ourselves in a peaceful and idyllic spot in nature.

This unusual designed ancient bridge standing at only 1.84m was built in the early 4th century BC using limestone blocks in the shape of isosceles triangles; and crosses over the Chalopta stream.

A second bridge was built using the triangular design around the same time standing only a few hundred meters away, however was destroyed at some stage prior to 1893.

There is still more to see in the area, however it was mid/late afternoon and a few hungry hikers (myself included) were in need of food. Returning to the village of Eleutherna for a late lunch at Taverna Eleisthir, a traditional Cretan Taverna serving wonderful Cretan food, and ending our lunch with the complimentary Raki and preserved sweets to compliment a great day.

I will need to make a return visit to see more of the ancient city of Eleutherna.

This blog is one of a number in a series of blog posts sharing historic events, ancient history and the hypnotic wonders of many parts of Greece and her Islands and more specifically information on day trips, starting at the Venetian Harbour City of Chania, in western Crete; including ancient historic sites in Crete that I have written sharing personal journeys that have enriched my life and broadened my knowledge and understanding of the richness and diversity of our shared world. Experiencing the gifts of a new outer landscape in a new country that evokes ones senses in many and varied ways, and provides offerings of reflection that is awakening the inner landscape. I invite you to read and learn more about other locations within Greece and her Islands here.

Embracing the lessons and learning’s that a new outer landscape gives is one of life’s inspirational mysteries. Yet our personal horoscope offers valuable insights that guide each of us with acknowledging the lessons and integrating the learning’s through the practice of Astrocartography, Where Location Matters.

Below you’ll find a personal account of how and why Astrocartography is a valuable guide to support the awakening of your inner landscape. See how together with your personal horoscope and Astrocartography you can incorporate the outer and inner landscapes.

Book you Astrocartography, Where Location Matters today, here and awakening your inner knowing to the locations that are calling you.

Thank you for taking the time to read and I hope that I bring some inspiration (if needed) to visit this amazing and magical part of the world. Leave a comment and let me know, and visit A Soul Awakening to subscribe and receive new blog posts as they become available.

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  • Gabby

    It must be fascinating to see the remnants of such an old civilisation! Considering how old, they seem to have had quite a bit of “technology” 🙂

    • ASoulAwakening

      Thank you Gabby. Yes I totally agree it really is truly fascinating, and makes you wonder how far humanity has come; or lapsed.

  • Lisa Wood

    Ancient history was my favourite subject at school so to explore Creates Ancient Cities would be a dream come true. The Hellenic triangular (ekforic system) arch bridge sure is an interesting design.

    • ASoulAwakening

      Thank you Lisa, you would totally enjoy all that Crete has to offer. There island has many beautiful ancient sites to visit; some very nice beaches and wonderful food.

  • Wendy Lee

    I love how much you can see and do on Crete. I would absolutely love to see all the ruins and learn more about the history in the museums. I really hope to visit Crete one day.

    • ASoulAwakening

      Crete certainly has much to offer and wonderful ancient history. I hope the opportunity presents for you to visit at some stage.

  • Sharon

    I love the preservation of these cities and I am truly inspired to visit Crete someday. Thanks for sharing

  • Alma

    I’ve always wanted to visit Greece since I was a young adult and used to read mystery novels that took place in Greece. For the life of me I cannot remember the author but her description of the islands took me right into the novel. As I still haven’t been to visit I enjoy your posts about Greece and find them fascinating.

    • Marilyn

      Thank you Alma, I hope the opportunity presents to visit Greece and her Islands at some stage in the future. Greece will not disappoint and the mystery novels from childhood will take form.

  • Jess

    This history is absolutely incredible! Crete is on my bucket list to visit in Greece, and I had no idea there was so much incredible history there! I love this historic events series, can’t wait for more

  • Amanda

    I love ancient cities. I learned so much from reading this. I appreciate that you’ve showcased a different side to Crete, one that isn’t shared as much. It’s so interesting learning more about the historical side of this destination.

  • Sinjana Ghosh

    I’m so in love with archeological sites! Thanks for sharing such an experiential travel guide to Eleutheras, i can’t wait to go there.

  • Angela

    I always like to get beneath the surface of a place I am visiting and discover its history through its ruins, and Crete is seemingly the perfect destination to do such a thing. A visit to the museum would be a must for me to see the items excavated over the years.

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