Cydonia (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — Fieldnotes
Cydonia is one of the five great cities of Minoan Crete, although exact location of the ancient city was not even resolved until the latter half of the 20th century. The most powerful center of western Crete, Cydonia produced Bronze Age pottery and Linear B writings circa 1700 to 1500 BC, and was one of the first cities of Europe to mint coinage. A temple of Britomartis was erected on Mount Tityros near the city.
HISTORY Cydonia was likely established as a Neolithic settlement in the fourth millennium BC. Archaeological excavations in the old town of present day Chania have revealed the remains of Middle Minoan Period Cydonia. These explorations are difficult, since the entire Venetian city of Chania was developed over Cydonia, with virtually no recorded medieval or modern mention of the ancient city specifics until the first finds in 1965. (Andreadaki,) Ancient mention of the civilization in Cydonia is also made by Polybius, Strabo, Scylax and by Hanno in the ''Periplus''. (Smith, 1878) Interestingly Pashley was able to work out rather accurately the location of ancient Cydonia without any archaeological data; he deduced the location near the port and Old Town from passages in the classical literature. (Pashley, 1837)
The Minoan culture likely peaked in Cydonia at a similar time to that of Knossos, (Hogan, 2007) around 1800 to 1500 BC. After the Minoan Period, the Dorians from mainland Greece colonized Cydonia, possibly as early as 1100 BC. By about the sixth century BC the Aegina peoples established control of Cydonia, although contact with Aegina has been verified to much earlier Bronze Age times; in particular, the Minoan goddess Britomartis was adopted by people of Aegina within the Bronze Age, and was one of the first images used in Aeginean coinage. During the maritime expansion of Aegina in the Archaic Period Cydonia would have been an ideal naval stop for the Aegina fleet on its way to other ports known to have been controlled or visited by that emerging power.
In 429 BC, the Athenians laid waste to Cydonia to assist the neighboring city of Polychna. In 343, BC, Phalaikos, leader of the Phokaians, unsucessfully laid siege to Cydonia. In the third century BC Cydonia was in war with Phalasarna, Elyros, Aptera and Polyrrenia. At 219 BC, the Cydonia joined the Aitolian and thence the Achaian Federation. As the Romans conquered other Cretan cities, Cydonia fell to Roman forces led by by Caicilius Metellus in 69 BC.. Panares, one general of the city, signed a truce, while Lasthenes, the other general, fled to Knossos.
ARCHITECTURE AND ART Recent excavations indicate a palace building at Cydonia dating to the beginning of the Neo-palatial Period (Middle Minoan III). Numerous elements of pottery, coinage and Linear B writing have been recovered in subsurface excavations, and considerable numbers of coins and ceramic objects have been found at other Aegean centers with whom Cydonia traded. For example, Cydonian inscribed stirrup jars for transporting perfumed olive oil or wine have been found at many sites in the rest of Crete and the Greek Mainland, while fine ceramic products of Cydonia have been recognized in many of the Aegean centers, including Cyprus and Sardinia. Many of the Minoan, Hellenistic and Roman finds are housed in the Khania Archaeological Museum.
COINAGE As one of the first European cities to mint coins, Cydonia first began this activity by overstriking coins of Aegina, with whom a close relation was maintained in the mid first millennium BC. One silver coin struck in Cydonia was that of a stater featuring the Minoan goddess Britomartis. Many of these early specimens were actually overstrikes of coins of Aegina. Britomartis exhibits the early custom of grape cultivation in this region with grapevines enwreathing her hair.
ENVIRONMENT Cydonia is characterized in ancient literature as having a highly protected harbor, which circumstance can be witnessed today. In addition to the sizable city developed by this natural harbor there was a considerable agricultural adjunct territory governed by Cydonia.
From its center at Kastelli Hill, Cydonia controlled an expansive area: the Khania Plain to its south towards Malaxa Mountain (Verekynthos) and Aptera; the Akrotiri peninsula to the east; and towards Polyrrhenia at the west. An an area of roughly 100,000 square meters has been deduced for the Minoan settlement of Cydonia, excluding the extended farms and outlying peasant communities. For example, the hilly countryside near the city was known to have been used for growing grapes, as attested by a third century BC stone inscription found at Cydonia. (Chaniotis, 1999)
* Maria Andreadaki-Vlasiki, "Discoveries at Khania in Western Crete" with Metaxia Tsipopoulou, Athena Review, vol.3, no.3,, pp 41-52
* William Smith (1878) ''A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography'', J. Murray Publisher
* Robert Pashley (1837) ''Travels in Crete''
* http://themodernantiquarian.com/site/10854/knossos.html#fieldnotes">C. Michael Hogan (2007) ''Knossos'', The Modern Antiquarian
* Angelos Chaniotis (1999) ''From Minoan Farmers to Roman Traders: Sidelights on the Economy of Ancient Crete'', Franz Steiner Verlag, 391 pages ISBN 3515076212
Lato was a powerful Dorian city that in eastern Crete founded in the Bronze Age. Built on a rugged hill overlooking the Gulf of Mirabello, Lato's solid drystone ruins reveal temple, shrines, agora, winding walled streets, deep central cistern and acropolis. As the Bronze Age ended, a greater security emerged that allowed the population to expand into a Greek city-state and sprawl down the hillsides and into the nearby harbor. The analysis herein is based upon my on site research of June, 2005 augmented with literature review.
HISTORY The mainland Dorians colonized eastern Crete in the early first millennium BC, typically seeking inaccessible hilltop sites of refuge and defense. (Pendlebury, 1963) Lato, along with a number of other late Bronze Age sites on eastern Crete, was one of the first non-Minoan cities of the island, and likely evolved closely with the nearby city of Kastellos. (Hayden, 2005) Other Archaic Period development in eastern crete occurred on hilltops for communal safety including Dreros, Prinias, Polyrrhenia, Eleutherna and Hyrtakina. Although Lato may have been founded as early as the 8th century BC, it reached its zenith in the early Iron Age circa 600 BC, when it attained a substantial population and impressive art and architectural achievement. As the Iron Age proceeded, security evolved allowing the spread of its population to lower less protected elevations including the proximate companion harbor settlement of Lato pros Kamara. (Willetts, 2004) Lato minted its own coinage during its flourishing. (Greek, 2007)
By the early third century BC, Lato came into a turbulent period in which Philip V of Macedon became a patron of Crete, but instituted a war with Rome. Shifting regional alliances typically found Lato siding with nearby Istron, since both coastal locations were harried by pirates based in Rhodes, who at times was an ally. During some of this era Knossos was variously ally and enemy, with some Linear B writings found at Knossos bearing the name of Lato. Although Knossos had been a dominant force on Crete at its apex, (Hogan, 2007) it is not clear whether such ruling influence extended into Late Bronze Age with respect to eastern Crete, since the context of those inscriptions is not deciphered. Olous to the east was a sometimes ally, but had continuing boundary disputes with Lato settled in the early third century BC. Eventually Lato was abandoned in favor of its coastal harbor city, Lato pros Kamara, which Rome conquered at about 67 BC, a date inferred by the conquest of Cydonia, Knossos and Hieraptyna.
ARCHITECTURE AND ART The main gate and walled ascending tortuous entrance street is reminiscent of the defensive entrance to Dunnottar Castle in Scotland. Attackers who managed to reach this access to the hilltop fort would surely regret their entrapment in such a narrow space. Above one finds ruins of a stepped theatre, acropolis, agora, temple, deep central cistern and shrines. The agora is tightly set in the saddle area, allowing less expansive movement than customary for this land use. The temple at Lato consists of a pronaos, projecting at one side, and a cella. The double sided acropolis rises steeply on all sides, since it is perched on a knoll-type formation. Examination of the stonework reveals a construction most likely to have been originally drystone, with later use of mortar to repair and strengthen the structures. .
One of the important finds at Lato dating to 630/600 BC is a series of terracotta plaques with Syrian/Phoenician influence. (Richardson, 1991) One of the most striking of these artworks is a well preserved sphinx, similar to designs found on pithoi fragments retrieved at Gouves Pediada. The Lato sphinx evinces Daedalic (Orientalizing Period) features with characteristic inverted triangular faces. Many granodiorite wares have been recovered from Lato, which is hardly surprising since the site is a major source of that igneous rock.
ENVIRONMENT Lato sits in the saddle of an arid twin peaked boulder strewn hilltop. An expansive view of the Gulf of Mirabello across to the island of Pseiros greets the visitor who ascends to the top of the saddle. This outlook aided in the defense of the city, since the Lato people could watch the port of Lato pros Kamara, as well as the entire Gulf of Mirabello for invaders. The rocky slopes of Lato supplied abundant building materials for this ancient stone city. The ecosystem is a sparse Mediterranean scrub with little immediate arable land, underscoring the value early settlers placed on community security above agriculture and water supply. At Lato like most of the other Dorian Archaic Period hillforts, there are deep ravines that would have provided some water supply in periods of heavy rain.
* John Devitt Stringfellow Pendlebury (1963) ''The Archaeology of Crete'', Biblo & Tannen Publishers ISBN 0819601217
* Barbara J. Hayden, Archaiologikon Mouseion He-rakleiou (2005) ''Reports on the Vrokastro Area, Eastern Crete'', University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology ISBN 1931707596
* R. F. Willetts (2004) ''The Civilization of Ancient Crete'', Sterling Publishing Company, Inc,
280 pages ISBN 1842127462
* Greek Ministry of Culture (2007) ''Lato''
* C.Michael Hogan (2007)
''Knossos fieldnotes'', The Modern Antiquarian
* C. E. Vaphopoulou-Richardson (1991) ''Ancient Greek Terracottas'', Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England ISBN 1854440098