Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!

Voyage to Crete: Souda, Aptera, Chania
by Eti Bonn-Muller
July 23, 2009

Traveling west across Crete, the island’s character changes markedly, its landscape becoming more lush and forgiving, and its seaside towns sleepier and dreamier than bustling Iraklion.


Image 2 of 5

Although Aptera is mentioned in Linear B tablets as early as the 14th century B.C., the city-state reached its peak during the early Hellenistic period (late 4th-3rd century B.C.). It flourished because it controlled two harbors--Minoa and Kissamos--located on both sides of Souda Bay. A 7th-century A.D. earthquake, along with subsequent Saracen invasions, ultimately destroyed the city. The monastery of St. John the Theologian (center) was used from about the 12th century until 1962.

The Labrys Dance Group from the Cretan Association of New York, under the direction of Nikos Zoulakis, performed a couple of nights ago. Chania’s picturesque Firkas Fortress, built in 1629, provided the romantic backdrop along the city’s Venetian harbor. In this video, the group dances the Pentozalis, which is believed to have ancient origins.

According to Greek mythology, the god Kronos killed his father Uranus and usurped his power. Kronos then married his own sister, Rhea, with whom he started fathering children. But Kronos became paranoid that he would succumb to his father’s fate, so he began swallowing his offspring one by one. When Zeus was born, however, Rhea tricked Kronos into swallowing a rock wrapped in a blanket, and instead hid the baby in a cave on Crete. As the legend goes, the Kourites, the guardians of the cave (Ideon Andron), performed this noisy dance—filled with stomping—to stifle the baby’s cries, which ultimately saved his life.

In modern times, the dance has been associated with Crete’s 1770 revolution, led by Yiannis Daskalogiannis, against the Turks. The stomping is believed to represent the army preparing for battle.

Comments posted here do not represent the views or policies of the Archaeological Institute of America.

One comment for "Voyage to Crete: Souda, Aptera, Chania"

  • Reply posted by Carolyn Dominish (August 13, 2009, 5:51 pm):

    I visited Chania, Crete, in 2004. I was travelling alone as I prefer. I had allowed 8 days extra in a place I especially liked. Chania was it! The good thing about travelling alone, particularly in Greece, is that people tend to want to take you under their wing, Greeks and foreigners alike. By the time I had left Chania I had made many friends. All up I spent ten days there. My best experience in Chania was coming across Minoan ruins within walking distance of the old town’s square. There they were behind a big iron fence, just waiting for me to enter. I couldn’t, but the memory of the excitement I felt “discovering” those ruins will never leave me. I think of Greece every day. It is the home of my heart. Η μονομανία μου.

    I had visited Knossos and Iraklion during my first trip to Greece in 1982. Knossos never fails to astonish and the museum in Iraklion rivals The National Museum in Athens. I hadn’t got any further than Iraklion that first trip, but this time around (2004) I made sure I did. I had waited 22 long years to return, I had keenly felt my exile (η ξενιτία μου). Of course I want to return, but the journey from Australia to Greece is a long one and the exchange rate for the Australian dollar, bad – but maybe…