Crete is the combination of the crystal clear blue sea, the rough but imposing mountains, the renowned museums and ancient settlements, the impressive caves and precipices that have been known since prehistoric times, the frescos with the lively colours, the mild climate, the enchanting coasts with the ultramodern hotels, the charming mainland with the picturesque villages, the traditions and warm hospitality, and the excellent local cuisine that has been proven by research to dramatically increase the average life expectancy (composed mainly of meat, virgin olive oil, fruit, vegetables and legumes). It is a unique place and the largest island in Greece with an area of 8,366 sq. km and a coast line in excess of 1,000 km.
Crete’s unique location between Africa, Europe and Asia Minor and its mild climate have made it a centre of civilisation since the Neolithic age. Prehistoric settlements have existed on Crete since 6,000 B.C., while settlers familiar with bronze working arrived on the island around 2,600 B.C. These are the beginnings of the glorious history of the Minoan civilisation that peaked around 1950 B.C. when the brilliant palaces at Knossos, Festos and Malia were built. According to mythology, Rhea hid the newly-born Zeus in a cave on Crete where he was raised by the nymphs, while the Curete demons banged their shields aloud so Cronus couldn’t hear the baby crying, and eat it. It is on Crete again where Zeus disguised as a bull brought Europa to consummate his love with her. Their son Minos reigned in Crete and made it a sea power. Even Attica paid tribute to Crete during this period until the Athenian prince Theseus killed the Minotaur. A rich and powerful kingdom and the oldest civilisation on the European continent are concealed behind the myth.
The successive destructions that led to the decline of the Minoan civilisation in 1450 and 1400 B.C., were probably due to the eruption of the volcano on Thera. This was followed by the Dorian migration to the island, which was subsequently followed by the Romans. Crete became a Byzantine province and was later occupied by the Arabs, for almost a century (824 -961 A.D.) and became a hide-out for pirates, who used Chandakas, currently Heraklio, as their base of operations. Crete again reverted to Byzantine control until the arrival of the Venetians, who occupied the island for almost 5 centuries and left their mark deeply rooted in to the island's civilisation. The Turkish occupation commenced in 1669, after Chandakas' decline, and is a period full of bloody revolutions. The Turkish domination came to an end in the late 19th century with the founding of the Cretan State and the king of Greece as the High Commissioner. Finally, Crete was officially annexed by Greece in 1913.
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