Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Chania: The Origin of the City's Name

Scholars have been trying for years to analyse the etymology of the name "Hania," and to decide on the time when the name was changed from "Kythonia" to "Hania". The new name is first met as "Cania" in the document "Sexteriorum Cretensiu in Militias divisio" in 1211. Then the name "Canea" is mentioned in the document which relinquishes the Hania area to the Venicians in 1252. As for the change of the name from "Kythonia" to "Hania", the most convincing point of view is that of Prof. N. Platonas, who associates it with the existence of a big village "Alhania", named after the God "Valhanos" (Vulcan). The Sarasin Arabs found this name easier to use but confused it with their own word "Al Hanim" (the Inn). After the departure of the Arabs, the syllable "Al", probably taken to be the Arab article "Al" (the), was dropped when the name was translated into the Greek "Hania" and the Latin "Canea".

Historically and Archaelogically, the hill of Kasteli is one of the most significant parts of the city, as it has been inhabited since Neolithic times. The factors which contributed to the uninterrupted use of Kasteli as a residential area were : its geographic position and the fertile plain on the south, both of which contributed to making the district an important commercial and transport junction. Excavations have brought to light remains dating from the first Minoan period (2800-2000 B.C.). The houses of that period are large with well constructed rooms. The walls and floors are painted with a bright red colour. The Kasteli area was also inhabited in the Post-Minoan period (1580/1550 - 1100 B.C.).

According to the evidence offered by the clay tablets in Linear A scripture found on the hill, the area was reserved for royal use. Between 1380 and 1100 B.C. it developed into a commercial centre which was in constant communication with the rest of Crete and Greece.A historically significant ceramics workshop, known as "the Kythonia Workshop" has also been found in the Hania area. It now belongs to the post-royal period.