Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Gavdos Island


The islet of Gavdos, opposite Sfakia, is the southern-most border of Greece and Europe. It is 22 nautical miles away from Loutro, right in the middle of the Libyan Sea. According to Callimachus, this is the ancient isle of Ogygia where, as Homer claims in "Odyssey", the nymph Calypso lived. Other names of Gavdos in the past were "Cavdos" and "Clavdos" (Ptolemens and Ierocles), "Glavdi" (the Epistles), "Gozzo" (the Venetians). In the first Byzantine period, Gavdos had a bishop, as it had many inhabitants, but, during the Venetian Rule, the islet was abandoned, as pirates sought refuge there. Until the late 18th, early 19th century, Gavdos belonged to Sfakia and was part of the Municipality of Anopolis Sfakion. In 1925, it was pronounced a separate community, and remained part of the county of Sfakia, until 1950. Then, since the majority of the locals had moved to Paleochora, Gavdos became part of the county of Selino. Bibliography mentions the existence of 172 inhabitants in the settlements of Kastri, Ambelos, Vabiana and Metochia, as well as the existence of pre-war settlements such as Drethiana, Xenaki, Galana, Fragliathana. Today, apart from the harbor Karave, there are three village on the islet: Kastri (the capital), Vatsiana and Ambelos. The year- round inhabitants number approximately 40. Gavdos is shaped triangularly, its terrain plain and semi-rocky and the climate warm and dry, with few rain showers. A big part of the island is covered with pine-trees and cedars, the products of which are known for their aphrodisiac qualities. The islet's beaches (Saracenico, Korfos, Tripiti, Ag. Ioannis, Potamos), having recently won the award "Golden Starfish", lie here proud, golden, with crystal waters.

A brief history of Crete

Greek history and Myths
Greek history can be traced back over 40,000 years . No one knows when myths were first invented. Many come before the time of writing and were passed on from word of mouth. It is probably the spoken tradition the helped them survive upheavals when writing was destroyed and forgotten.

The Changing Myths (Greek)
zeus and kouritesConquerors and peaceful settlers brought their own beliefs into Greece where they were adopted or combined with myths and god that already existed, so they changed and developed over the centuries. They probably chances less as they were written down, but different versions of many myths still survive.
At least two areas of the prefecture of Rethymno are directly connected to mythology:
The Idaison Andron Cave in the mountain range of Psiloritis and the Talarian Mountains (today called Kouloukounas in the Milopotamos Area: Rhea (the Greek goddess of the earth, mountains and forests) sought refuge from her furious husband (who was also her brother) Kronos who had swallowed his previous children. When her new son Zeus was born legendary demons of Crete danced wildly hitting their shields to hid the noise, then when Zeus was older, he tricked Kronos into regurgitating his brothers and sisters.
The second myth is that the Talean Mountains are connected with the legendary giant Talos. Talos protected Crete against its enemies, hindering them when they got close. It took the the beauty of Medea's arriving on the Argous to make him weak and by removing a nail from his foot, spilled his blood and made him fall into the Cretan soil dead.

20,000 to 8,300 BC (Palaeolithic)
Inhabiting caves from time to time the people of this period where probably seasonal hunter-gatherers. No certain gathering of plant foods is attested before ca. 11,000 BC First appearing at this time are lentils, vetch, pistachios, and almonds. Neither wild oats nor wild barley become at all common until ca. 7000 BC. Small end-scrapers for removing the flesh from hides are common. As far as archaeologists can tell there the inhabitants at that time did not produce any pottery or architecture.
8,300 - 6,000 BC (Mesolithic)
6,000-3,000 BC (Neolithic)
3,000-ca. 2,100 BC Early Bronze Age
2,100-ca. 1,600 BC Middle Bronze Age
1,600-ca. 1,200 BC Late Bronze Age

pre 6,000 BC – Hunter-gatherers
The area now know as Greece was inhabited at this time by wandering tribes, hunting and living solely off of the land. No religious artefacts have been found and very little in known of the peoples of this time.
When farming skills were developed, people started to settle in small communities and leaned how to make pots, weave and work metals. Clues to the religion of this early civilisation are found in fine object such as those made of marble, fertility symbols etc.
Greek society advanced and developed until about 2200 BC when invaders from the North disrupted the process. Fortunately the island of Crete escaped and a sophisticated civilization grew up, called Minoan after its kings, Minos. Many works of art survive, illustrating some aspects of religious life. Bulls often feature in Cretan myths and some of these were latter adopted by the mainlanders into Mycenaean mythology.

1600 BC to 12000 BC – The Mycenaean
Gradually the mainland recovered and started to develop again. It borrowed many ideas from Minos and finally became more powerful that Crete. The civilization is called Mycenaean after its major city called Mycenae. The historical event that inspired the legends about Jason and the Argonauts took place during this period. The truth was exaggerated and embroidered to form the legends, but there is archaeological evidence for some of these event.

1200 to 700 BC – The Greek dark ages
Between 1200 and 1050 BC the Mycenaean culture collapses due to civil wars and more invasions from the North. The myths survived, passed on orally through the generations.
The poet Homer lived at the end of the dark Ages. He is said to have composed two great works about the ancient legends, called the Ilaid and the Odyssey. They were not written down until much later, but the stories were already 500 years old when Homer was alive.
Homer probably spoke his poems while playing the lyre. Greek schoolboys in the later periods had to learn parts of its poetry by heart and every scholar could quote him.

700 to 500 BC – The Archaic period
Between 700 and 500 BC Greece one again became rich in art, literature and commerce. Trade was established with many Mediterranean counties and coins were introduced as money. They experimented with government and society organisations but there religion was still based on the ancient myths and legends, as can be seen by their art.

500 to 336 BC – The Classic Period
This is probably the best-known period of Ancient Greek history. We know a lot about how the people lived at this time and our image of ancient Greeks is most influenced by Classical art and literature. People lived in city-states, and much seafaring and trading went on. Optimally harmony was believed to be a sign of divinity.Links Therefore training the body and the spirit to pursuit harmony was a very important part in the education of the young Greek. In the Greek grammar schools the young ones were trained athletically. In the mean time scholar were present to teach them grammar, astrology, philosophy and other subjects. The people strove for spiritual as well as physical perfection.
Many plays based on the myths were written during this Classic Period, and it is these versions that come to us today.

336 to 31 BC – The Hellenistic Period
This era is called the Hellenistic Period, after Hellen, the legendary ancestor of the Greeks, the son of Deucalion and the grandson of Prometheus.
The empire of Alexandra the Great came within this period, the Greek culture spread across the near and middle east after his death in 323 BC

The decline of Greece.
In the last century before the birth of Christ, the Roman Empire expanded and become more powerful then Greece although the Romans were greatly influenced by the Greeks. They had their own gods but did not have such complexed mythology. Gradually they mixed the Greek mythologies with their own until both mythologies where almost the same. The Romans names for their gods and heroes adopted from Greece.

Crete: 10 things not to miss

1 - Knossos
The largest of Crete's Minoan palaces, extensively excavated and controversially restored, Knossos is the island's major tourist attraction. Mythically, this was the labyrinth of the Minotaur, the half-man, half-bull imprisoned by King Minos.

2 - SamariĆ” Gorge
It's a strenuous half-day hike, but the 'Iron Gates' alone, an opening only a few metres wide between 500m high rock walls towards the end, make it worth your while.

3 - Aghios Nikolaos
It may be touristy, but for good reason: this is an attractive town set in a region of well-preserved ancient sites, picturesque villages and breathtaking coastal scenery.

4 - Rethymnon
A city full of relics from its Venetian and Turkish past, Rethymnon is the capital of a picturesque region that also contains Crete's most sacred shrine to independence.

5 - Malia
Situated between the Lassithi mountains and the coast, Malia is the third largest Minoan palace in Crete after Knossos and Phaistos.

6 - The caves at Matala
Wonderful underwater caves, used in prehistoric times as places of worship and dwellings.

7 - Heraklion Museum
Regarded as one of the most important museums in Europe, with many stunning archaeological finds on display. Located in the centre of Iraklion (Heraklion) city.

8 - Sitia
Crete's easternmost town, set in an amphitheatre among gentle mountain scenery and lush vineyards, is a laid-back place with tier after tier of colour-washed houses rising from the tree-lined waterfront.

9 - Caves
Crete is an underground paradise for speleologists: there are some 300 caves dotted around the island and the HaniĆ” Mountaineering Club runs organised expeditions (

10 - Beaches
Crete may be littered with striking relics of ancient cultures, but many visitors come for its beaches. There are miles and miles of sandy shores, but you are likely to have to share them with lots of fellow tourists.