Skip to main content Accessibility help

Ancient Sites in the Province of Ayios Vasilios, Crete

  • Sinclair Hood and Peter Warren


‘It is a singular fact regarding the eparkhia of Agios Vasiles, that throughout its whole extent not any ancient city has been discovered; and yet there can be no doubt that in one or two of the most populous of these valleys there must have been a town of more or less importance. To all my inquiries, however, in my two journeys through the greater part of the province, I could learn of no ruins or traditional site of any Hellenic city. … Notwithstanding this denial, I am induced to call the attention of any future traveller to this absence of any recognized ancient site in so large a district …’ So Captain Spratt at the end of the second volume of his Travels and Researches in Crete, published in 1865.



Hide All

1 Spratt ii. 271 f.


These sites were visited by us during the ten days from 22 to 31 May 1965. Until 26 May we were accompanied by Mrs. Hood, and from 27 to 31 May by Mr. John Falconer. To both of them we are grateful for help in noting sites and collecting sherds, and to Dr. St. Alexiou, Director of Antiquities for Crete, we are much indebted for his support and interest, and for reading through the typescript and suggesting corrections and improvements. Mr. John Hayes kindly gave us his opinion on sketches and descriptions of the Late Roman pottery submitted to him. To Mr. R. W. Hamilton, Keeper of the Department of Antiquities in the Ashmolean Museum, we are obliged for permission to study and quote from the travel diary kept by Sir Arthur Evans in 1894. M. Paul Faure visited Ayios Vasilios in the summer of 1965 and noted several other sites, Minoan and later, notably near Koxare, around Ardhaktos between Kerame and Spili, and at Ayios Ioannis west of Atsipadhes. He has kindly informed us of his discoveriesand allowed us to mention them here. The sherds which we gathered are for the moment at the new Stratigraphical Museum at Knossos, but will eventually be removed to Rethimno.

Ancient names are in capital italics, as SOULIA, PHOINIX, etc. Modern field-names and place-names (as opposed to those of towns, villages, hamlets, and monasteries) are set between inverted commas. The sketch-maps are based on the 1: 50,000 British Staff maps of Crete of the last war. Bearings are only given where they may be useful in identifying the position of a site. The dates on which we visited sites are in brackets after the name of each.

Abbreviations (other than those ordinarily in use in the Annual).

AC: Pendlebury, J. D. S., The Archaeology of Crete (1939).

Arch. Reports for …: Archaeological Reports for …, published by the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies and the British School of Archaeology in Athens.

EEKS: Ἐπετηρὶς Ἑταιρείας Κρητικῶν Σπουδῶν.

Ergon for …: Τὸ Ἔργον τῆς Ἀρχαιολογικῆς Ἑταιρείας κατὰ τὸ ….

FK: Matz F., Forschungen auf Kreta, 1942 (1951).

Fonctions: Faure, P., Fonctions des Cavernes crétoises (École française d'Athènes: Travaux et Mémoires, fasc. xiv (1964)).

IC: Guarducci, M., Inscriptions Creticae i–iv (19351950).

KK: Κρητικὰ Χρονικά.

Spratt: Spratt, T. A. B., Travels and Researches in Crete i–ii (1865).

2 It was by this route that Spratt reached the interior of the province (ibid. 270).

3 e.g. at 3. Cape Melissa, which may be the site of ancient Psykheion.

4 For the date and stages of the Arab conquest of Crete, see Panayiotakis, , KK xv–xvi (19611962) ii. 9 f.

5 Byzantis i (1909) 57 f. The surviving manuscripts are late, but the part of the Chronicle describing the Slav occupation of the Peloponnese was apparently composed in the ninth century A.D. (Lemerle, , Rev. des Études byzantines xxi (1963) 22. Thanks are due to the Director of the British School at Athens, Mr. A. H. S. Megaw, for this reference).

6 AC 217, n. 1.

7 Cf. Warren, , BSA lx (1965) 154 f., in reference to the source of serpentine west of Gonies in north-central Crete. Serpentine was used for forty-four per cent, of all Minoan stone vases from the latter part of E.M. II onwards.

8 ADelt xvi (1960) Chron. 272. Cf. BCH lxxxv (1961) 893. Arch. Reports for 1960–61, 25. Faure, , BCH lxxxix (1965) 53 f.

9 See p. 195.

10 KK xii (1958) 179 f.

11 BSA xxxviii (1937–8) 140 f.

12 BSA lix (1964) 52.

13 BCH lviii (1964) 134 f.

14 JHS lxxxii (1962) 130 and pl. v, 4.

15 Pashley, , Travels in Crete i (1837) 304. Cf. IC ii. 278 f.

16 Geogr. Griech. ii. 568.

17 AJA xi (1896) 594.

18 Kirsten, FK 136.

19 ‘Conductum procul descendente columnasque omnium colorum lapidum’, quoted by Sanctis, De, MA xi (1901 535 f. Cf. IC ii. 278.

20 AJA xi (1896) 594.

21 Kirsten was shown another coin from the wreck in 1942 (FK 136, n. 4).

22 Panegyrici Latini viii (v) 18. Cf. Gibbon, , Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (ed. Bury, 1926) i. 359; Zosimus i. 71.

23 KK xiii (1959) 391. Cf. IC ii. 192. Steph. Byz. s.v. Κόριον. Pendlebury identified a site over-looking Lake Kournas as KORION (AC 370). Faure described the site as a Roman village (BCH lxxxiv (1960) 206), but it seemed to Hood (13. 4. 65) to be Medieval or later.

24 BSA lix (1964) 78 f. Kirsten, , FK 137, 140, pl. 110, 1; he suggests that it might be Bionnos which Guarducci more reasonably identifies at Kerame (see p. 173).

25 Bearings from the acropolis: (1) Melambes church, 261°. (2) Church of Ayios Ioannis monastery, 275°. (3) Apodhoulou village, 63°.

26 BSA lix (1964) 67, n. 25, 71 from Sybrita, Eleutherna and ‘Amnatos’. Some of those from Eleutherna, and the ones from Siteia described by Platon, , were like rattles (ADelt xvii (19611962) Chron. 290).

27 IC ii. 310 f. with references. On the map the site is placed on the cape.

28 This line with borings of sea animals can be distinguished at heights up to 5 m. or more above the present sea-level on the rocks all round the western part of Crete, (BSA lx (1965) 101 and n. 12. Spratt ii. 230 f., 237 f., 271, and passim).

29 AC 379. BCH lxxx (1956) 98.

30 AC 379.

31 FK 123.

32 Ἀφιέρωμα εἰς, Γ.Ν.ΧατƷιδάκην (Athens, 1921) 76.

33 ADelt xvii (1961–2) Chron. 300. Cf. BCH lxxxvi (1962) 902. Arch. Reports for 1961–2, 25.

34 Cf. Antioch iv. i. 51, 53 f., figs. 29–33.

35 IC ii. 310 f.

36 FK, pl. 107, 2.

37 But former harbours in the western part of Crete may have been obliterated by the rising of the land since Roman times (Spratt ii. 245 f.).

38 Pappadakis, , in Ἀφιέρωμα εἰς Γ.Ν. ΧατƷιδάκην (Athens, 1921) 72 f.

39 FK 125.

40 AC 293, 340.

41 (1941) 452 f.

42 FK 125, Pl. 108, 1 and 2.

43 For such covers, see BSA xxxvi (1935–6) 52 f. fig. 12.

44 ADelt xvi (1962) 272. Cf. BCH lxxxv (1961) 893. Arch. Reports for 1960–1, 25. M. Paul Faure kindly allows us to mention that he has since recovered a torso of a clay figurine of an adorant here. A bronze animal figurine, found here in 1965, is on display in Rethimno Museum.

45 ADelt xvi (1961) 272.

46 For this type of rim see BSA lix (1964) 93, pl. 17e. Cf. ibid, lv (1960) 4 f., figs. 1 and 2, from Karfi.

47 BSA lv (1960) 4, fig. 1.

48 BSA xxxviii (1937–8) 75 f. Cf. ibid. lix (1964) 92.

49 M. Paul Faure has noted a similar ‘refuge’ site near the village of Ayios Ioannis west of Atsipadhes at the north entrance to the gorge of the river Kotsifos.

50 PM ii. 336. BSA lviii (1963) 331. 2. Popham, , The Last Days of the Palace at Knossos (Studies in Medit. Arch. V (Lund, 1964)) 16 f., fig. 1 (c).

51 Cf. Pithos fragments from the ‘refuge’ site at Arvi, : ‘Fortetsa’ (BSA lix (1964) 93, pl. 17a–c).

52 Cf. Karfi, , BSA lv (1960), p1. 1a, b.

53 Cf. BSA lx (1965) 310 f.

54 AE 1915, 48 f. Dr. Alexiou tells us that the correct form of the name is Πέζουλος.

55 (ibid. 48 f.).

56 See ibid. 50, fig. 3.

57 Desborough, , The Last Mycenaeans and their Successors (1964), 184.

57a AC 255, 261.

58 Pendlebury thought that the tholos tombs must belong to noble families, while commoners might have been buried in pithoi as yet undiscovered (BSA xxxviii (1935–6) 65, 138).

59 Cf. BSA lix (1964) 93, pl. 17a from the L.M. III ‘refuge’ of Arvi: ‘Fortetsa’. There was a pithos in one of the tholos tombs at Karri (Astividhero T. 4) (BSA xxxviii. 109, 138).

60 all being Turkish words for a or fort as Dr. Alexiou kindly informs us.

61 IC ii. 193, 311. Cf. FK 126.

62 FK 126. KK i (1947) 638.

63 FK 126.

64 These seem to be date palms (Phoenix dactylifera L.), which are usually thought to have been introduced into Crete from Asia or Africa early in Minoan times (PM iii. 177, n. 1). They were already being cultivated in Egypt by the time of the Middle Kingdom (Dyn. XI–XII) when the first Minoan representations of palms occur (KKxv–xvi (1961–2) 105 f. PM i. 253 f. RE, s.v. Phoinix (1) Palme). But Theophrastus, (Hist. Plant, ii. 6, 11) also appears to describe as common in Crete the European fan palm (Chamaerops humilis L.) which is native to Italy and the west Mediterranean. In connexion with palm trees he mentions the territory of LAPPA, which would have included ‘Ayios Savvas’ and ‘Finikias’ (see p. 184) (Hist. Plant, ii. 6,9. Cf. IC ii. 193).

65 These seem to correspond in a general way to Antioch iv. 1. 53, pl. xl, 930–2 (Late D), and p1. VIII. 802 (Late B).

66 Bearings: (1) Maryiou village, 293°. (2) Hill of ‘Koules’ with Turkish fort, 261°. (3) Levkoyia, 152°.

67 IC ii. 192. Kirsten has suggested that Lamon is merely a false name for Phoinix, arising from a conflation of (‘harbour of the people of Lappa,) which is Phoinix (RE, s.v. Phoinix).

68 FK 126.

69 PM ii. 418 f., fig. 241 A and B.

70 See p. 181, n. 64.

71 For the situation of PHOINIX here, see Guarducci, , IC ii. 192 and map at end. De Sanctis had already suggested that there must be two places of this name, one at Loutro in Sfakia (St. Paul's PHOINIX) and the other south of LAPPA (MA xi (1901) 522).

72 In a general way, cf. Antioch iv. 1. 53, pl. xi, 940–3. Hesperia ii (1933) 298 f., pl. ix. 205–6.

73 For this type of loom-weight, see p. 189.

74 FK 126 f., pl. 108, 3.

75 IC ii. 192 and map at end.

76 KK xiii (1959) 204.

77 We were guided by Yioryios Agramis in the company of the schoolmaster and the chief of police of Pantanassa.

78 Fonctions 58, 217.

79 ADelt xvi (1960) 272. Cf. BCH lxxxv (1961) 893. Arch. Reports for 1960–1, 25.

80 AC 262. Mrs. Seiradakis has kindly shown us a photograph taken by Pendlebury of the cave which he called the Cave of Hermes Kranaios; it appears to be that of Ayios Antonios.

81 BSA xlii (1947) 187, no. 7.

82 Fonctions 136 f. and passim, pl. XVII. Other names for the cave he notes are: (ibid. 137, n. 1); in the index (ibid. 291) and elsewhere in the text also .

83 Halbherr and Orsi, Antichità dell'Antro di Zeus Ideo e di altre località in Creta (1888), from Mus. It. di Antichità Classica ii. 225 f.

84 Ibid.Later, , in AJA xi (1896) 593, he refers to the ‘grotto of Hermes Cranaeus’.

85 Evans Diary for 1894, 18 f. ‘The remains from Sybrita came from neighbouring grotto of Amari, some of the contents of which were presented by M. Trifilli to the Syllogos of Candia and are illustrated in the work on the Idaean Cave’, i.e. by Halbherr in 1888 (see n. 83 above). There is therefore no basis for the suggestion that the objects which Evans saw or acquired might have come from some other cave nearer to Sybrita (Fonctions 139, n. 3).

86 Evans Diary for 1894, 23.

87 Boardman, , The Cretan Collection in Oxford (1962) 76 f. Evans Diary for 1894, 18, indicates that the sealstone (Kenna, Cretan Seals (1960), no. 366) is also from the cave at Patsos and not from Sybrita.

88 Ibid. 78, fig. 34c. Fonctions 139, n. 3.

89 Ann. x–xii (1927–9) 460.

90 Fonctions 138.

91 Ibid. Zervos, L'Art de la Crète (1956), fig. 724.

92 Banti, however, thinks that cult in the cave virtually ended with the Subminoan period, although some of the objects found there could be Geometric, (Ann. N.S. iii–v (19411943) 59, n. 2).

93 Banti, loc. cit., claims, but without citing any evidence, that the altar was found in the neighbourhood of the cave and not in it.

94 AC 148, 175. Cf. Dunbabin, , BSA xlii (1947) 187, no. 6.

95 BCH lxxxix (1965) 53. Cf. Fonctions 70.

96 BCH lxxxix (1965) 53 f. Cf. p. 166. n. 8.

97 AC 370. Cf. Dunbabin, , BSA xlii (1947), 187, no. 8.

98 Cf. BSA lx (1965), 310 f.

99 AC 369.

100 Olynthus ii. 119 f.

101 IC ii. 103. Halbherr, , AJA xi (1896) 593, certainly thought it was from the cave, and although aware it was a loom-weight regarded it as votive with the name of the dedicator on it. Cf. Faure, Fonctions 139: ‘disc votif.’

102 BSA (1964), 70 f.

Ancient Sites in the Province of Ayios Vasilios, Crete

  • Sinclair Hood and Peter Warren


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed